Would you believe we had our 3rd basement leak in 4 years this month?

Water is crazy. Water is formidable. Water is life-giving. Water in your house where you don’t want it to be is a pain in the ass.

Our first Spring in 2015, we had a bad leak from a pipe that feed the backyard hose. Sorry, not a leak — it was water spraying an entire basement room. Later in the summer of 2015, the bottom of our hot water heater sprung a leak and flooded our basement. This month, Lily walked into a basement room and found a small flood and water dripping from the ceiling. It was a team effort for us to catch the water, turn off the water, and clean up the mess.¬† We caught the water in buckets and bowls, and I raced to the garage to grab the big ladder, and sprinted with it from the garage, into the house, down the basement stairs, and into this room. There were hot and cold water valves and I turned them off to stop the water.

Why would this pipe start leaking like this? Where did the hole come from?

The prevailing hypothesis is that when the contractors were nailing in the baseboard in the bathroom back in August, a nail shot through and punctured this pipe. The nail acted as a plug with maybe minimal leaking, but there’s no way to know. In the following months, the nail may have slowly rusted until it finally fell out from the pressure, resulting in all that water dripping out this week.

It’s a crazy story, but that’s all we can figure out. I’m glad we caught it in time. This is the 3rd leak in the basement since we’ve moved in, and we don’t go into the basement every day. Now I’m considering setting up water sensors all around the basement so that we have more of an early warning system.

We had some minor damage from the water, but nothing too terrible. I guess we lucked out a bit. The plumbers ended up charging me $500 to cut a whole in the powder room closet, cut the section of pipe, and replace it with a new section with a better quarter-turn valve.



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We’ve begun our final home improvement project of the year – updating our master bedroom

You know what’s ironic to me? This year, we had planned to add recessed lighting to the family room, and paint the interior walls for the entire main floor. If we were lucky, we wanted to paint/stain the railings as well. That was the priority. That was what we were going to budget for, save up for, and get done.

Yeah, that never happened.

Instead, over the past 6 months, we updated the main floor bathroom because all our guests used it, we replaced and installed brand new landscape lighting around the house, we replaced our garage doors and all of the associated hardware when the main garage door broke, fixed a broken pipe, removed some horseshoe pits, and decorated.

What happened? We looked at these areas and realized they seriously needed updating (and cost more than we planned), or something broke (garage doors, plumbing). We’ve gotten good pricing on the recessed lighting and painting, and we have the contractors selected, so that’s something.

It’s November and we were looking at our master bedroom. And we asked ourselves is this really the bedroom we want? It’s old. It’s dated. It had stained carpeting. The closet and its builder-grade wire shelving didn’t work for us, and it was dark. Here are two sample pictures from before we moved (not our current setup), and a current picture of the closet:

From what I read online, the master bedroom is generally the last place that people renovate. Yet it’s the place you spend a lot of time in. It’s supposed to be relaxing to us. We get dressed up here. And why are we living in a dark room? It was a hard decision, but we pulled the trigger on updating our bedroom in November. We sat around looking at this room we’ve had for four years, and it was depressing. I think it was the dark discolored drapes, and the closet that threatened to toss my clothes my back at me every time I tried to put my clean clothes away.

Seriously, do you see those piles of clothes precipitously stacked on top?

  1. First up, the the flooring. We went back down to Wholesale Flooring in Lawrenceville, and picked out a dark engineered wood with nice wide planks. The floor would be installed in early December.
  2. Next up, we spoke to a representative from Closets by Design, and we designed a brand new walk-in closet. Closet will be installed in late February and will accommodate all sorts of shoes and belts and ties and save the planet.
  3. Third, we had some fits and starts trying to find contractors to help us do lighting, changing up our sitting area, painting, etc, but contractors are flighty and hard to nail down. We briefly considered merging the sitting area with the closet, but we’ve decided to leave our sitting area as-is. We are turning it into a dressing area with future-state full-size mirror, places for shoes, etc. For now, new floor, new lighting, new paint. Dressing room furniture later.
  4. Fourth, we found a new electrician down in Englishtown to remove our single ceiling fan light, move our 2nd floor thermostat (located in our room) to accommodate a future TV, and install 10 new recessed lights in our main bedroom area and extra sitting area. We’ll have them back to add lighting to the closet in February.
  5. Fifth, we had our bedroom and the extra area painted, and Josh’s room as well (as he’s been asking.)

That is a lot done in a few weeks. Here are pictures below. I think it came out so nice so far. I love the amount of ambient light in both rooms, plus the floor and paint look great. It feels cool and modern.

We are still waiting to install a 55″ TV on the wall, Ethernet jacks and power, and get a TiVo Mini. We spent a lot so taking a breather.

The closet won’t be installed until February. That gives us time to save up a bit before we work on that room. What that will involve is replacing the two flush mount ceiling lights in there now with 2 – 4 recessed lights. We have to remove all of the clothes, remove the wire shelving hardware, spackle and then paint.

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We saw Ralph Breaks the Internet and I found it worked on two different levels

It took us a week after opening weekend, but we went to Freehold to watch Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018). The film is a sequel to the original Wreck-It Ralph that came out six years early. That’s kind of unheard of. I mean, six years later in this day and age? I walked in knowing very little of the film, which is a little unusual for me. I’ve been so busy with work and other life stuff that I haven’t had time to keep up with upcoming film spoilers or even updating my blog. It’s not a bad omen, so don’t worry. I plan on being here for a while longer. ūüôā

The film stars much of the same core cast members, but it’s really Ralph and Vanellope and the new characters that you’ll see from the Internet. Yes, the characters of Felix and Calhoun are in it, but it was probably a day’s worth of voice over work as they have a very minor subplot that could have been dropped.

Long story short -> The arcade game Sugar Rush is physically damaged, and it’s going to be discarded. To save Vanellope, the two of them travel through the Internet to buy a replacement part via eBay before the deadline. Typical. However, what helped the film stand apart was at the same, Vanellope is getting bored with racing. She wants to move onto other things, and gets introduced to the new exciting world of Slaughter Race (a mobile game.) Ralph, on the other hand, is happy having everything in his life (including this relationship) stay the same.

There’s a whole subtext about friends growing up, growing apart, evolving, letting go of the past. The movie is chock full of Internet-related jokes, which I thought were funny. I thought the Disney princess scenes were also funny. But this whole theme of letting your friends go was a smarter route and gave the film more to it.

Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)

Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)

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Raj’s surprise 40th birthday party

My friend Raj recently celebrated his 40th birthday party. His family threw a surprise party for him at Spice Rack in Franklin Park. We met up with some old friends and acquaintances, plus a little dancing to boot.

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A photo shoot in Central Park after Thanksgiving

For our Christmas / holiday cards, we have tried Sears and JC Penney with middling success. Often the photos need a lot of editing and cleaning up in Photoshop (by me) to make them decent. Last year, we were so fed up that we did our own photo shoot in our house and went with a candid shot that looked the best.

This year, Nums found an offer where we would meet a photographer in Central Park at a specific time slot, pay a flat $15 fee, take a number of photos, and then we only pay for the photos that we liked the best. Nums looked into finding a local photographer, but they were all charging $300 for an indoor photo shoot, so this seemed like a great idea. I also liked the idea of an outside photo.

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We bought the clothes, made the plans, etc. Unfortunately, the Friday after Thanksgiving was looking to be freezing. I mean, we’re talking 20 degrees Fahrenheit. And we were asking the kids to take off their coats and smile? Up until maybe that morning, we were having serious doubts. However, we said we’re Ipes, and we soldier through crazy ideas all the time. We drove into Midtown, found parking near 59th Street and 5th Ave. Right on time, we met the photographer at the General Sherman statue, and we took a number of photos near some trees, and also down at a pond. I think many of photos came out really nice.

Lunch (dinner?) at Katsu-Hama

Afterwards, we took a brisk walk to Katsu-Hama for a late Japanese lunch / early dinner. First time there, and we expected to find sushi/sashimi and hibachi items, but it was totally different than what we expected. We stayed and tried new types of donburi and katsu dishes, and it was all good. Wow, photos taken, no frostbite, and we tried new dishes. Win win!

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The rest of our Thanksgiving weekend was sorta laid back with some minor running around

I hope everyone else out there enjoyed their Thanksgiving weekend. On Saturday, we tried to relax a bit during the day. Except Toasty as he avoided us for some reason.

Saturday evening, the four of us drove down to south Jersey for a wedding reception for friends Kitty and Connor, who got married earlier this year in Ireland. We weren’t able to stay for the entire evening (just appetizers and entrees) as we had to drive back home, drop off the kids, change our clothes, and head up north to New Brunswick for drinks and dancing and to celebrate our friend Lenny’s birthday at La Esquina. We took a Lyft there and back in the rain, which was an interesting experience.

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The Ipes kept Thanksgiving simple this year and we were cool with that

Thanksgiving weekend was shaping up to be a bit busy, but Thanksgiving day itself was turning into a low-key day. We hosted for ourselves and my wife’s parents this year. Simple was good, because Nums and I were working pretty hard to finish a lot of own work by that Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

We all helped with the food prep and cooking. Instead of buying a monster turkey for six people, we purchased a turkey breast only portion, which cooked faster and was more manageable.

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Part 3 of our Midwest road trip – Saturday activities in Michigan and the drive home

On Saturday morning, I was up super early to grab breakfast downstairs, and to relax and read. Paul and I had made prior plans to to meet up early for a class at his local Orangetheory Fitness gym. We each braved the wintery conditions to get to his gym location.

I’ve forgotten how intense and demanding those classes are. It was good but I had some irritating issues with pairing and using competing heart rate monitors. 15 mins in, I was able to pair the Orangetheory chest strap monitor instead, and it worked. Huh? Well whatever I didn’t have time to keep futzing with monitors and watches – I was gonna miss more of the class. I focused on strength training (which was intense) and the cardio (running) was easier for me.¬† I was extremely sore for the next few days.

We met up with friends Sean and Rechana for lunch at the Henry Ford museum, and a tour of the nearby Ford F-150 Rouge River factory. Lunch was nice and then we took a shuttle bus to the factory. We watched one movie about the factory, sat for an interesting laser light 4D show about the truck, then we walked into the factory itself. We had planned to see the factory in action, but the factory floor ended up shutting down for the long weekend a few minutes before we got there. Rats. At least we were able to walk around to see the complexity and size of the place.

Afterwards we tried to see a movie and/or go bowling but the timing didn’t work out for either. We also tried to get dinner at this restaurant called Union Woodshop in a cool little town called Clarkston but there was a 3 hour wait. 3 hours! Next time.

We ended up going to this BBQ place with a shorter wait called Bad Brads BBQ¬†in Lake Orion. We couldn’t get a single large table, so we split up into two tables. While the appetizers were really nice, I couldn’t eat much so I had a salad for my entree. Can you believe that? A salad.¬†Good food, and it turned into an early night.

The Ipes chilled out in the hotel. Overall, I though the hotel was excellent. Very good food, really nice rooms, and excellent facilities.

In the morning, we had breakfast, finished packing up, and we were on the road by 8:30 AM. The rest of the 10 hour went extremely well. Maybe because it wasn’t a major weekend, but we sailed through Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Few cops, no traffic, good weather. We made a few pit stops along the way for an early lunch, gas, and leg stretching. We were home by 8 PM.

It was a good weekend road trip overall. A little disappointing with the aborted or not quite successful parts, but what can you do sometimes. Things don’t always work out the way you want it to be. However, we spent a good 4.5 days away as a family, we got to relax, hang out with friends, and do things we haven’t done before.

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Part 2 of the Ipe road trip to Michigan and Pittsburgh (Friday)

We work up in Michigan Friday morning, and it was hard to not notice the blinding white light bleeding out from between the window curtains. Color me surprised to see snow everywhere. Snow? Wait, it snowed? That wasn’t in the forecast for the week. We didn’t bring any clothes or boots for snow. Argh!

What can you do at that point? Not much except roll with it. The kids and I grabbed breakfast downstairs, and then we had a few hours in the morning dedicated to unstructured free time. My wife slept in, the kids took showers and played on the Nintendo, and went downstairs in the hotel gym. They had the fanciest LifeFitness treadmills and Peloton stationary bicycles I’ve ever seen. I stuck to the treadmill, followed virtual courses in New Zealand and northern California, and ran 6 miles. A personal best!

We got out the door after 1 PM or so, drove down to Troy, and met our friend Paul for lunch at a Nif Naf Grill restaurant for Mediterranean lunch. The Ipes went to the Somerset Collection mall to waste some time and get Joshua a better-fitting coat from Abercrombie & Fitch.

In the evening, we drove up to Orion Twp to Paul’s house to meet other folks for a low-key dinner and conversation.

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The Ipes took a road trip to Pittsburgh and Michigan in November

Getting on our way for another road trip

It’s been a while since we have seen friends out in Michigan. We didn’t have any plans for the long 4-day weekend in mid-November dedicated to the NJ teacher convention. Why not drive out to Michigan for a few days? We also thought about the time we drove through Pennsylvania in 2014,¬† stayed outside of Pittsburgh, and never saw the city. What if we checked out Pittsburgh for a day?

We made plans to pick up the kids from school early on Wednesday, leave by 2-3 PM, and try to reach Pittsburgh by 8 PM. Check into our hotel, have dinner, walk around, see more of the city Thursday until 3 PM, be in Michigan by 8 PM.

Best laid plans….

By the time we actually finished packing, got Josh a haircut, picked up both cars (from two separate Nissan dealerships), ran our errands, dropped off the key to the pet sitter, and got snacks, it was almost 5 PM. How? Why? Argh, every time.

A free massage near Harrisburg, PA

Thankfully, the road to Pittsburgh from NJ and the nearly entire length of Pennsylvania was clear on a mid November Wednesday night. No traffic! We stopped halfway near Harrisburg for a fuel tank refill, some chicken nuggets and drinks, and an unplanned free massage.

By the time we got to the outskirts of Pittsburgh, it was 10 PM, and we were ready to get out. We had mapped out a few nearby locales once featured on the TV show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives starring Guy Fieri, and based on the late hour, we selected Nadine’s for some tasty comfort / diner food. Funny, it was more seedy dive bar, grill off for the night, and no minors allowed. Sigh.

Luckily we found a nearby fast-food place called Wings Over Pittsburgh open until 1 AM (open until 3 AM on Saturday nights — thank goodness for college towns), and picked up takeout to eat in the hotel room.¬†The next time we come out here, I want to try¬†Hofbr√§uhaus Pittsburgh — the German menu looks interesting.

And checked into our hotel room at the¬†SpringHill Suites by Marriott Pittsburgh Southside Works. It’s your basic decent hotel with suites and basic complementary breakfast. Not a lot of amenities, but the room size is good. Our hotel room had a nice view of…. an industrial rail line.

In the morning all refreshed, we had breakfast in the lobby, packed our belongings, got ready, and drove to the Carnegie Science Center to tour the museum for a few hours. It’s an interesting museum but I think it skews towards small children. We enjoyed the Hall of Robots and a water exhibit. I was disappointed that the miniature model train village was closed for renovation. Rats.

Afterwards, we took a walk along the riverfront to find the Fred Rogers statue, but that was covered up to protect it from nearby renovations. Really? Back to the car, and drove to the Starlight Lounge for lunch, another restaurant once visited by Guy Fieri. Let me tell you, while the food was tasty and served with in large portions, the decor was pure dive bar. I’m getting rather incredulous about this particular reality TV show.

And that was it for a quick less-than-24-hours in Pittsburgh. We would have preferred more time, including seeing a Steelers game, but we were expected in Michigan later that night. The drive to through the rest of western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and southern Michigan was pretty uneventful. No traffic congestion, no accidents. Cool!

We arrived at our hotel around 9 PM and it was rather cold. We checked in, made it to our room, then grabbed some drinks and small plates for a light dinner in the concierge lounge. Oh and we simultaneously watched the Steelers play on Thursday Night Football, and two episodes of Shark Tank.

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