Wainscoting and crown moulding

Dining room renovations

For some time, Jackie has asked me to renovate our dining room to include crown moulding and wainscoting. After finally agreeing to a long-requested new flooring (that is a sore point itself), Jackie got her wish and selected some wonderful wood flooring. With new flooring coming, Jeff had to get after designing and creating the new dining room.

I began by looking at Houzz to see all of the wonderful photos of homes, both inside and outside, they post. I found a particular type of wainscoting that I liked where it had two panels stacked together. I am not sure that I did the same wonderful quality that was shown in the Houzz photo, but I did my best.

I did a three-component crown moulding where I had a base board on the wall and ceiling and put the traditional crown moulding on it. I had put up crown moulding before, but never a multiple component one. For the wainscoting, I used rough poplar for the most part and milled the wood myself. For the late stages of the work, I did get some milled poplar from Lowe’s to finish the work. I used the Kreg system of joinery to put together the stiles and rails for the wainscoting. That helped me be more consistent than in the past.

Thanks to Thomas for helping me with so much of the work and for Jennifer and Jackie for providing assistance at various times in the project. Thank goodness for Carlos Martinez, the painter, for plenty of caulk and putty and doing such a good job of painting the room.

Below are photos of the completed room. I am glad to be through!

Jeff, Lauren, and Jackie

Lauren has first recital

Lauren had her first recital tonight in Garland. We enjoyed it immensely as only grandparents and parents can. She did quite well and was especially excited to receive flowers afterwards.

We made it to an ice cream shop in Plano to celebrate the big event. When Jennifer would have a dance recital, we would go to Swensen’s in College Station to celebrate.  This is how memories are made, finding ways to celebrate these important events in our lives through simple tasks such as sharing ice cream together.

Lauren Larriviere

Lauren’s dance shoes

When Jennifer was growing up, she took dance lessons all the way through school. In fact, even after high school, she continued to work for Ella Trumpfeller at Dance Centre in College Station so dancing is something that she loved to do. Jennifer wondered if she ever had a daughter whether dance would be a part of her future. Well, Lauren came along three years ago, and dance is a part of the very present.

Lauren has talked about dance for some time, and Jennifer decided to sign her up this fall. She knew that there was only one place to get her first dance shoes and that would be from Ella. Jennifer and Lauren came to College Station over the Labor Day weekend to get her outfitted. Of course, Mama J and Papa J had to tag along, Papa J to provide photographic documentation and Mama J to pay for everything as a gift to Lauren from us.

I should have recorded some of this in video because once Lauren put on her new tap shoes, she just could not stop dancing!  She was lovely in her new outfits and with her ballet and tap shoes. Mama J and Papa J look forward to going to her recitals and remembering fondly the times we watched her mother dance so many numbers at Rudder Theatre and in competition around the state.

Lauren's sweater

Jackie’s projects

Jackie has been producing some great-looking projects now that she has been taking classes at Homestead Heritage in Waco.  Here is a quick sample of her projects, which include a baby blanket, sweater for Lauren, cup towels, pillow, and a table runner.  Watch for more great things as she spins and weaves her way through new projects.

Jackie making butter


Jackie and I traveled back to the Ploughshare Institute for Sustainable Culture to further expand the skills we are learning from them with a class on cheesemaking.  On Friday, we took the soft cheese class, and on Saturday, we learned about hard cheese.

Here are the soft cheeses we learned to make:

  • Butter
  • Buttermilk
  • Yogurt
  • Sour cream
  • Cream cheese
  • Mozzarella
  • Labneh (a yogurt cream cheese)
  • Cottage cheese
  • Traditional Feta cheese
  • Ricotta
  • Cracker spread

Here are the hard cheese we learned to make:

  • Monterrey Jack
  • Pepper Jack
  • Chipotle cheddar
  • Colby
  • Colby Jack
  • Parmesan
  • Caraway Gouda

Jackie and I had a blast!  We ate more cheese than we have in some time (if ever!).  We especially enjoyed the soft cheese workshop because you can get to the end of process in several hours rather than months later for the hard cheeses.

Of course, we had to purchase some cheesemaking equipment to take home with us.  I know that it is cheaper to purchase cheese from the supermarket, but these days, if we cannot make it more complicated than that and make it ourselves, we seem not to be interested.  Stay tuned!

Ray, Don Baylor, and Jeff

Visit with Don Baylor at Rangers/Diamonbacks’ game

Earlier posts had described our trip to see Nolan Ryan before the Texas Rangers/Arizona Diamondbacks game in June and our providing cow bones to the Arizona Diamondbacks to use to bone their bats with.  After the Rangers/Diamondbacks game, we had the chance to visit with Don Baylor, the hitting coach for the D’backs.  We were in baseball heaven to meet with two great legends of baseball and see a great baseball game.  It just does not get much better.

Frank Seale, who was Don’s high school baseball coach, along with his wife, Ann, were at the game.  We met up with them and Becky, Don’s wife, and went down to the area outside of the visiting team’s locker room.  After a bit, Don came out and greeted Thomas, Ray, and me, and we had the chance to go into the locker room to see the memorabilia room that the visiting locker room attendant has assembled over the years.  I cannot describe how many autographed baseballs, photos, bats, along with other sports memorabilia were there.  I took photos of the room so I could try to process the information, but I think it was in vain!

We ended the evening leaving the ballpark with Don and his family along with the Seales.  A gate attendant asked Don to see his rings, which were quite large and impressive.  We told everyone goodnight, wished everyone well, and went our separate ways.  What a great evening of creating lifetime memories!

Examining the bone

Aggie Cow Bones Sent to Help Arizona Diamondbacks’ Hitters

Here is the original story that ran in the Texas A&M University Department of Animal Science’s newsletter about Ray Riley and my boning bat adventure beginning in May, 2011:

The E.M. “Manny” Rosenthal Meat Science and Technology Center received a strange request recently:  cow bones to hone baseball bats for the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Jeff Savell, Regents Professor and E.M. “Manny” Rosenthal Chairholder, received a call from friend Frank Seale, a retired coach and administrator who lives in College Station.  Seale stated that he needed some cow bones for the Diamondbacks to hone their bats.  Savell found out that one of Seale’s former players from his days in Austin is Don Baylor, long time Major League player and manager, who is now the hitting coach for the Diamondbacks.  Baylor knew that Seale had cows and thought that he may have cow bones lying around in the pasture.  Fortunately for Seale, no cow bones were to be found and so he thought about contacting Savell to see if he could provide some bones for the team.

Savell got with Ray Riley, Manager of the Rosenthal Center, to begin the process of figuring out what the purposes of the bones were.  Searching the Internet revealed that Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig of the New York Yankees used to sit in the dugout and rub their bats with cow bones to hone them so to close the wood pours and make the bats denser.  Riley found a photo of another famous Yankee, Joe DiMaggio, rubbing his bat on a cow’s shin bone to hone it.  Some articles refer to “boning” or “to bone” a bat, and some of today’s boutique wooden bat manufacturers use cow bones to hone bats before they are shipped to their customers.

In June 2011, an array of cow bones, both cooked and uncooked, was assembled and shipped to the Diamondbacks for their use.  A couple of weeks later, Savell along with graduate students, Haley Grimes and Melanie Moore, were in the Phoenix area conducting research, and through Seale, received an invitation to come to the Diamondback versus Cleveland Indians game as guests of Baylor.  After the game, Baylor invited them to the batting cage area behind the dugout to see the Aggie cow bones in action.  One of the cow femurs was attached to a sawhorse-type device between the batting cages and dugout for the players to hone their bats.  Baylor demonstrated how bats are honed, and he said that several players wanted to have similar devices made for them to hone their bats during the off-season.

Do honing bats with Aggie cow bones work?  Well, since June, the Arizona Diamondbacks have moved into first place in the Western Division of the National League.  Maybe there is something to the magic of honing bats or maybe there is magic to the Aggie cow bones.  Can requests from the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros be far behind?

Brazilian barbecue

Brazilian-style barbecue

Jackie and I invited our fellowship group to come to the house on Saturday night to enjoy some Brazilian-style barbecue with us.  We have learned to prepare this dish from Dr. Flavio Riberio, one of our former grad students in the Department of Animal Science who is from Brazil and who just loves to prepare these wonderful dishes.  Flavio has been coming to the UGST 181 Texas Barbecue class to demonstrate Brazilian barbecue for our students, and his trip and the food he prepares has become the event of the semester.

I have replicated the cinder-block pit in our backyard (to go with our pig pit), and I purchased some Brazilian skewers to hold the meat during cooking.  Preparing the meat for cooking is rather simple:  just use coarse sea salt and salt the meat immediately before cooking and after slicing the cooked portions off and before putting the piece back onto the pit.  It is that simple and it is that good!

I cooked two products:  chuck short ribs and sirloin flap.  I did not have any pichanha, the typical cut used for Brazilian-style barbecuing, but this is not our last go-round with this fun way to cook and serve meat.  Flavio also showed us how to prepare the dipping salsa (I am not sure how to best describe this), which is diced green bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes placed a in bowl with olive oil and a some apple cider vinegar and a little salt.  Slices of the cooked beef are dredged through this salsa so that the oil and vegetable mixture gets on the meat and you eat it immediately.  It is simply wonderful.

I am enclosing photos of the products during cooking so you can see how they changed throughout the evening.  I look forward to many more Brazilian events with our family, friends, and students.


Shuttles from downed post oak tree

Several years ago, we had a major wind storm come through our neighborhood and took down some of the trees. Our neighbors, the O’Neals, had a large post oak blown down and because of its large diameter and straight trunk, I decided to get it. Well, I was not very well prepared to do so since all I had was my Ford Expedition so I went to Wal-Mart and purchased a large chain, attached it to the log, and drug the log across the street to our driveway. The trunk set there for over a year before I found out that Dr. Chester, one of our friends from Aggie Baseball, had a saw mill. Dr. Chester came and got the trunk, sawed it into planks, and I put the planks in the garage to dry where they have been being stored and generally in the way for years now as I tried to decide what to do with them. It is rather hard to get excited about post oak wood when you have been working with first hard maple and now African mahogany!

With Jackie’s weaving, she uses wooden shuttles to take the fiber through the vertical trends on her loom (I am way over my head right now), and I had made her some additional shuttles to use a couple of months ago. This weekend, she asked me to make her some longer shuttles as she was working on the widest project to date on her loom, and the existing shuttles were not long enough to allow her to weave very comfortably. I told her I would make her some longer shuttles and decided to do this while she was out of town on Sunday.

As I looked at what wood to use for making the shuttles, I saw these post oak planks in my garage and decided to see how they would work. I picked one out that was fairly straight and began running it through the planer. When I got it planed on both sides, I ripped into smaller pieces to allow easier resawing on the band saw and then I planed the individual pieces until I got them to about 1/4 inch in thickness (the smallest setting on my planer). This plank had some spalting in it, which is a fungus that does add character to the piece. After about four hours, I had three finished, messed up one of them so I will make a shorter one later, and have roughed out four others for future use. I am getting better at doing this, and it may be cheaper to just purchase them from a weaving supplier, but both of us on into doing things by hand these days, which adds a tremendous amount of satisfaction and accomplishment to our lives.

By the way, those boards that I kept thinking about throwing away ever so often produced wonderfully looking shuttles. There is some analogy to this story about outward and inward appearances, but I will let someone else post about that.

First mohair product

Here is a photo of Jackie’s first mohair product.  Wow!  She is looking at how much it would take to make a sweater out of it.  I think I will put my order in now.  mohair