As I’m writing this, we are almost through the first month of 2021, so I’m a bit late to the game here. With that said though…wow, we survived 2020. I have been working to update my portfolio page (https://www.jesseearley.com), but realized it had been quite a while (July of 2020 actually!) since I wrote a blog post, so I wanted to remedy that.
What have we been up to?
With the pandemic in full effect in 2020, we stayed pretty close to home. We did however make an exception for our yearly trip to Mackinaw City. On a normal year, we would go up around the Labor Day weekend. I’ve been making that trip during that time period since I was really little, with only a few years in my teenage/early 20’s where I didn’t. My family and I used to camp at the Mackinaw Mill Creek Campground with my grandparents (from my dad’s side). It was a near yearly tradition until it wasn’t for those years that I mentioned. I do remember going camping with my grandparents there the very last time they went though, it was the three of us and their dog staying in their old 5th-wheel trailer.
I picked that tradition up again in my 20’s, though in those years it was often staying in a hotel, and usually not over the Labor Day weekend. Eventually I started camping again, and have stayed at the campground ever since. In fact, there were several years in a row over Labor Day that the campground gave me the same exact campsite, ‘Site: 2005’. It’s a great campsite in a secluded area of the campground, I highly recommend it if you go.
This year we wanted to avoid the crowds, so we opted to go after Labor Day, but before the Fall Color Tours. Rather than staying in a tent, we rented a lakeside/bridgeview cabin
While inside the cabin, we had a lot of fun. Who doesn’t bring a projector for a large screen TV with them for camping?
And when you have enough TV for the day, it’s time to bring out the games. In our case, it was an escape room game. Riley really enjoyed helping to solve the puzzles.
But, when you go north, you don’t go to watch TV or play games, you go outside to enjoy the natural beauty. Rest assured, we did plenty of that too.
When you wake up before everyone else, you have time to venture down by the lake to capture a no-filter photo of the sunrise.
And when everyone is awake, we can each get our photo taken by the water.
We also ventured into the park downtown to get Riley some play time on the playground. Meghan even decided to get in on some of the fun.
Overall, it was a much needed time away from home, I just wish it could have lasted longer.
Halloween 2020 was Riley’s second Halloween, but the first where she might actually grasp the concept of dressing up. We knew she wasn’t going to be able to go trick-or-treating, but we still wanted to celebrate with her.
Donning her mystic llama costume with a unicorn horn, she went back and forth between our front-door and our back-door trick-or-treating with Meghan. I think she enjoyed the knocking on the door part more than anything.
And here is a picture of yours truly as I was handing out the candy to her.
Gearing up for Thanksgiving
Early in November, there were several warm days, and Riley got to venture outside to play. She really enjoyed the leaves…
As well has going to say “Hello” to her favorite trees in the yard.
Towards the middle of November, we had really high winds…which lasted about a week. On one of those days, we started hearing something outside the house, almost as if something was brushing against it. Turns out, there was something…broken siding. Upon investigation, the wind had gotten behind siding on the west end of the house and ripped it out from the house. The first picture below here shows only a single piece missing, but if you look close enough, you can see many areas where the siding is bubbled out from the wind that had gotten behind it.
To remedy this, well, first I had to wait for the wind to stop…which again, it lasted about a week. To not make matters worse, I screwed some wood into the side of the house, overlapping the siding where the missing piece was. This held it in place until I was finally able to fix it.
Once the wind stopped, I had to pull the siding off, starting at the top, all the way down to the top of the windows. Many pieces I was able to reuse, some I had to scrap and replace. Luckily we had some extra pieces leftover from when we sided the house.
Here is the the siding after the fix.
Thanksgiving was fantastic. I’m just going to leave this picture here for you, nothing else needs to be said…
Preparing for Christmas
It was time to shoot our annual Christmas card photo. I had an idea in mind of what I wanted to do for the front, and surprisingly, it worked pretty well. Below is what the front of our card looked like. Would you believe it’s actually 3 photos composited together? Shhhh, don’t tell anyone.
Christmas was certainly different this past year…as with the other holidays, we didn’t celebrate it in-person with family, just our own little bubble. We did have FaceTime and Zoom calls with family however, so we weren’t in complete isolation.
The day before Christmas, Meghan went on a baking spree and made all sorts of gingerbread cookies. Needless to say, they didn’t last long.
On Christmas day, Riley was very excited to open her presents, which we had been hiding for fear of her opening them early. We celebrated Christmas, first together, and then with each of our respective families via one of the aforementioned technologies above.
New year…new water heater
With the new year, comes new projects. You may be thinking, “Aren’t you done with projects yet?”. The answer is…almost. The water heater that came with the house was installed in 2008, so it was roughly 12 years old…plenty old enough for a water heater to be replaced. Again, with the pandemic in full-effect, we are limiting who comes into the house (meaning nobody but the 3 of us), so I opted to install the water heater myself. Having no experience with gas (we have a gas water heater) or plumbing, I figured what the hell, no better time to learn.
We purchased a new water heater from Home Depot, and got it into the house and down the stairs. The install seemed simple enough, the issue…the new water heater was a number of inches taller than the old one (mainly due to added insulation for better efficiency). This meant that the old exhaust pipe was now too low…I’d have to bore out a new hole in the concrete chimney. OK, easy enough, let’s get a concrete hole saw!
The hole saw arrived from Amazon and made quick work of the concrete…but it didn’t make a scratch on the flue tile that was lining the chimney. Nope…needed a diamond tipped hole saw for that. A few days later, that too arrived from Amazon. Finally, I was through the concrete and tile, and had access to the chimney. After that, the install was pretty painless.
Drain out the old tank into the sump pump, disconnect the old tank from the gas and water lines, and carry it up and out of the house. New tank goes into place, connect the new water lines, connect the new gas lines, turn on the water, fire up the tank, boom, hot water.
The new water heater is a 12-year model, plenty long enough to last us the rest of the time we plan on being in this house before moving.
The new year also brought with it snow, which meant we could finally get Riley outside to play in it for the first time. I had purchased a sled for her, and she had a lot of fun being pulled around the yard. She really got a kick out of the small little hill we were able to make and sled off from, and liked it when I got a running start and jumped on the sled.
And that about wraps up what we’ve been up to. Not only did we survive 2020, but we survived the last 4 years, and I’m ready to move on and see the country move in a better direction. I’m hoping we can put an end to this pandemic and get life back to “normal”, even if that normal looks different from the past (though I would love to continue working from home, I never want that to end!). I do plan on blogging more again though, so stay tuned!