What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Jay_Johnson_d2s2.jpgJay Johnson -- You know that Summer is over, don't you? Labor Day and all the Back to School store specials are dead giveaways. It's a bit depressing.

Philosophers tell us that the best life is one lived in reflection, so I wanted to look back at a few highlights of Summer and summarize some lessons learned that have relevance to our home design audience.

How Did Your Garden Grow?

This was a big success story. With moderate rain and mild weather, even a temperate August, our perennials jumped for joy and added feet to their height and width. We're enjoying the jungle in our yard, but I know I have to do some quick research on how and when to prune so things don't get completely out of hand. I'm talking 8-foot-tall butterfly bushes!

The weeds also thrived. Like most gardeners, I have been weeding the entire month of August and will continue to do so during Labor Day weekend. I've gotten poison ivy this year, but my partner suffered severe outbreaks on the arms and legs. Lessons learned? Aveeno makes a soothing oatmeal bath treatment that helps. Tecnu makes a nifty spray that helps wash away the oils and take the itch out of the ivy blisters; and they make a cream that helps keep the rash under control. See a doctor if your outbreaks are severe or if you need quick relief; physicians can give you a complete arsenal of products, both internal and topical, to take the sting of gardening away. You've got to love your yard to continue to expose yourself to all the weeds, insects (love those ground bees!), and irritants. But nothing is better than sitting down and looking out over your green and growing yard, watching the birds at the feeders, and thinking you helped add beauty to your family's life.

Did Anything Shocking Happen This Summer?

Funny you should ask. Our neighborhood power transformer was struck by lightning early in August and a power surge went through everyone's homes. It happened during the few short hours that it took us to run some errands in a nearby town. The meter that gets read outside the house was blackened and smoke-filled. Power charged into the house wiring and killed many appliances that contained transformers to modify electricity to handle digital circuitry. We didn't suffer as much as the house down the road that had black marks all over its walls, singed records of the in-wall wiring that was burned away; their whole house will rewiring, so we were lucky.

We did, however, lose a dehumidifer, a new washer and drier, our pool pump, two flat-screen TVs, a DVD player, and a coffeemaker. Worse yet, our thermostats for central air and heating were knocked out and the hot water heater needed a major repair as much of its circuitry was fried. Our old microwave made it through unscathed, which was a shame. We spent hours replacing things and arranging service visits and repair estimates so we could file an insurance claim.

Lessons learned? Lightning can wreak havoc in even the best wired of homes. Go to an offline or online electronics or office supply store and invest in surge protectors. A cheap surge protector saved the lives of everything plugged into our home office: my laptop computer, desk lamps, and our copier/fax/scanning machine. The surge protector was fried, but it saved everything that was plugged into it. It was a great investment of less than $20 that saved thousands of dollars of electronics, not to mention all the work on my computer. After the lightning hit, we bought one of the special home entertainment surge protector systems, the Monster Cable PowerProtect, that handles heavy electrical surges for our new flatscreen, amp, and DVD player. We bought smaller surge protectors for other appliances, from the dining room and bedrooms to the kitchen and laundry room. They come in small and large sizes and are very versatile. I now know that they are a cheap alternative to having to replace everything that gets zapped by lightning or other power surges.

How About a Fun Summer Highlight, Jay?

Well, not all of us had the best time, but we decided to try hot air ballooning. It was actually an amazing experience to be able to look down on houses and whole towns from over 4,000 feet in the air. We just wish the basket that held the five of us had much higher sides; they were only coming up to a bit above our waists and we easily imagined accidentally pitching over the edge. I've never held on to a railing tighter in my life while my other hand held a video camera to record our adventure.

I encourage you to check out our Design2Share YouTube Design2Share video channel and our new Blinkx Design2Share video channel and 5min Design2Share Studio. We showcase over 600 videos about architecture, design, and everyday life in both of those channels. Click on the links and watch these Design2Share videos to see our ballooning trip:

Hot Air Balloon: Blowing It Up will show you how our adventure began. It was amazing to see a bunch of flat nylon puff up into a huge balloon that was buoyant enough to life us high into the sky! The photo above shows the balloon we rode in.

Hot Air Balloon: Up, Up & Away takes you from our starting point, ever higher into the air, where we stalled a bit midway during our ascent. Tim, our captain, was wonderful and in retrospect I'm glad we had someone like him to pilot us. He had that great combo of experience and humor that made it a fun ride.

Hot Air Balloon: Going Down documents everyone's favorite part of the trip. We lowered to just-above-treetop level from our former height in the clouds. It was fun waving to cars that honked at us on the highway. Look for the footage of our balloon passing over a still stream; it was beautiful!

Hot Air Balloon: Champagne Landing takes you through our landing in a deer-filled field and our celebration at the conclusion of our adventure.

And here's a great photo gallery of our trip (thanks, Michele and Dave, for the excellent shots)!

Lessons learned? Check off those things you want to do before you die. I think I can tackle just about anything since I have been deathly afraid of heights. I'll never go sky diving, but I must say that it was truly enjoyable floating effortlessly in the air with good friends, my family, and Captain Tim in our hot air balloon. What a way to end the summer!


Photo credits: Remove the Labels, Hunterdon Ballooning

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