New Year, New Bathroom

This fall, we demolished the old tub and shower door, replacing it with a new cast iron tub, shower curtain and subway tile. Then, in December, we removed the vanity, vinyl floor and fixtures. We replaced them with cabinets that I built, new tile floor and a quartz countertop.

The cabinet doors and face frames were build with maple that was harvested from our neighborhood 2 years ago.

The Layout

The first thing that we did was define the layout using Sketchup:

A small layout with a narrow vanity. The angled countertop allows the door to open into the room.


There are a few problems with the old bathroom:

  • there are stains on the fixtures
  • the colors are awful and the walls have been discolored by condensation drips
  • there is mold and grub around the tub, especially along the shower door
  • the floor is vinyl and cracked
  • the tub is 28″ deep and really cramped
  • the closet shelves are made of oriented strand board and could be improved
  • the shower doors do not slide without serious effort


It’s nice to paint before the floor goes in.


Affordable College Selection

This is a big topic, but I have a few tips for students and parents on how to think about selecting and paying for a college education.

Be Ambitious

Work hard, be yourself, get involved in your school, get good grades and go to the best school that you can get into and afford.

Be Realistic

As an exercise, remove all emotions from the decision. When you are done with college, you will get your first real job. You will be responsible to pay all of your bills including student loans. Here is an interesting article on budgeting with a $40k salary. Here is an excel budget that I made. It uses percentages of income instead of hard values. Here is a student loan calculator.

Enumerate Your Values

Know what you are looking for in a school. Here are some factors to consider: size of campus; size of student body; concentrations/majors available; internship opportunities; cost; flexibility of learning; opportunity to study abroad; city vs country; reputation; athletics; activities.

Other Tips

  • Debt payments are difficult to understand – especially when it is your first try at it. Currently, loan rates are at 4.53%, so that means that for each $10k that you borrow, the first $453 per year that you pay does not reduct the “principal” or the amount that you owe. This article shows the problem with student debt. The discussion started with this tweet:
  • Parents: the Fidelity Rewards Visa credit card will deposit 2% of spending into a Fidelity College Savings 529 account. This will really add up over time.
  • If you Google “<college name> common data set” you will get standardized information about your college. Each college provides the data on their website.
  • Consider whether you will get a Master’s degree. They only take 18 months. Assuming the reach school net cost of $30k per year and a state school net cost of $10k, look at this math:
    4 years at reach school = $120k total net cost
    4 years at state school plus 18 months at reach school = $85k total net cost
  • Most adults who went to college have some student loan debt, but high school students don’t have the life experience to understand what is a lot and what the implications are. How much student loan debt is too much? (72% of borrowers have less than $25K in student loans)
  • President Obama made it mandatory for colleges to offer a net price calculator on their website. It’s easy to find it if you google it – example
  • Interview some college graduates. Here’s some good questions:
    Where did you go to college?
    What was your college major?
    What do you do for work now?
    What do you value most about your college experience?
  • How to find and apply for scholarships

A Double-Batch of America’s Test Kitchen Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies in 6 steps

These are amazing cookies. For the most part, the process is similar to other cookies, but the browned butter caramel is special here. I’m not listing all steps because most of the steps are really mundane.

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Brown 2 ½ sticks of butter until nutty and golden brown (this takes a while. Don’t rush it.)
  3. Put 1pound, 1 ½ oz (by weight) of flour (or 3 ½ cups) in a large mixing bowl and mix in 1 teaspoon of baking soda.
  4. Make a caramel:
    -Put the melted butter in a bowl and add 1 stick of non-melted butter
    -Add 1 cup granulated sugar to the butter
    -Add 1 ½   cups of dark brown sugar; or if light brown sugar do the same but add a little molasses
    -Add 2 teaspoons of salt
    -Add 4 teaspoons of vanilla extract
    -Stir to combine for 30 seconds
    -Add 2 egg yolks plus 2 whole eggs
    -Mix in 2 additional sessions [for each session, stir for 30 seconds and rest for 2 minutes] until a caramel is formed.
  1. Stir in the flour and 2 cups of chocolate chips.
  2. Note: do not multi-task while baking the cookies – they will burn. They should take 10-14 minutes per batch. Only use the middle rack and don’t do two batches at a time because the bottom batch will burn on the bottom.



Just a note to my avid followers to share my readiness for winter. A lot of bucking and splitting to get to this point featuring two new Holz Hausens.

Chillin’ and Millin’

I’ve lived across the street from a WWI era elementary school for a decade now. The town has decided to tear it down and replace it. As a part of the process, they cut down all trees on the property.

Over the years, I have developed a habit of asking if I can have felled wood from storms or projects like this. In this case, the construction team obliged and gave me all of the trunks!

For a while, I bucked and split the wood for firewood, but some of the trunks had a higher calling – two nice sections of sugar maple, 14 foot in length and 24 inches in diameter and a Norway maple of similar length, 36 inches in diameter.

I brought in Rob Swanson from New England Portable Sawmill. Rob really knows his stuff and is a hard worker. We spent a full day milling boards out of the best tree trunks.The last trunk we did was the most impressive. There were many branches on the Norway maple and each revealed a curly figure near the crotches.

For now, the firewood shed is full and the wood is drying out in this hot summer weather. Assuming 1 year per inch of thickness, the thinner pieces should be ready to work this winter. I have a few projects in mind:

  • Cutting boards
  • Bowls and plates
  • A Roubo workbench
  • A bed
  • An armoire
  • A desk
  • Face frames, doors and panels for cabinets