Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Year in Review 2013

This won't be a terribly long winded review of the year, but I guess I'd better post something so I can move ahead into the new year with subsequent posts in proper chronological order. Random selection of pictures included...
Grace's 1st sleepover (the body-less head)

The main thing, and the only thing that matters really, is that everyone is healthy and doing well. My family is the joy of my life, and I continue to be amazed at how fast the girls are growing up. I have gone from years of "wow, they are growing fast" to "no no no way too fast, stop the bus!". They are turning into quite interesting little people, and I couldn't be more proud of them.
Something funny on Julia's 15th birthday

Julia continues to be involved in Special Olympics and the Spirit cheerleading squad, while Grace does gymnastics, piano and clarinet (both instruments new this year in terms of actual lessons). I can't believe Julia is in high school, but she must be because she has a minor role (bystander #2) in the high school's spring 2014 production of Les Miserables. She is on cloud 9, and I think that Bystander #2 is the most important small role ever in a musical production. Grace's piano teacher continues to gush over what a natural talent she has and how quickly she is picking things up. Which makes me wonder what she could accomplish if we could get her to practice...
Julia, my (big) little angel

Highlights of the year from a family event perspective would have had to be seeing Les Miserables in Philly early in the year with Julia, The Lion King on Broadway with all four of us, and the Avalon vacation in August.
Grace school picture day

Musically, it was a pretty good year. Amp and I saw three shows together: The Eagles in Philly, and Justin Hayward and Graham Nash (both in Wilmington). We also got to see Brother Dave play with the Rosewood Trio a couple of times which was a real treat as well. I am thrilled for him (and jealous of course). As for playing...short of finding some dedicated time and a commitment to practicing, I will continue to be relegated to owning several nice guitars that I can hack around on a little. For the time being I can live with that. I like having them in the house.
Brother Dave with the Rosewood Trio

Outdoor activities were unfortunately very few and far between. I did a couple of brief solo day hikes and I think that was it, outside of the guys trip to Maine in September. Someday maybe I'll go back and blog about that if for no other reason than to post a bunch of beautiful pictures from the couple of days that I was there.
Acadia NP, Maine
From a hobby perspective, I accomplished what I set out to; I followed whatever whim struck me at the moment. The end result of which is that I got a lot done and had fun in the process. I painted more buildings and made more terrain pieces than actual painting of figures, but I got a decent amount of that done as well, and without specific painting goals, everything I was able to get done was fine in and of itself. I made progress on re-basing my Crusades stuff for Impetus, I completed a good basic set of modular terrain tiles and some fleece covered multi-purpose boards. I completely reorganized and cleaned up the gaming area in the basement with Amparo's help. I did a lot of maintenance on older figures (re-basing where needed, touching up paint jobs and brightening colors). Some Ottomans got painted, and a lot more got prepped and primed for when the mood next strikes me. I learned how to play Impetus, and had some great starter games of Fireball Forward! with Leo. I also made the decision to purge myself of some unused figures/periods and actually did it. I do hope the actual playing of games picks up in 2014, but all things considered 2013 was a good hobby year.

I enjoyed taking pictures with my good camera, and slowly but surely I am learning about all those fancy things it can do beyond point and click.
Pretty dawn sky

I read a lot as usual, but not much fiction this year.

We also spent a lot of time cooking in the beautiful kitchen that Amp created for us back in 2011. It was a large and expensive project, but as much as we love to cook and hang out in the kitchen with friends and family, I think it was the best house investment we have ever made. Especially over the holidays, we tried a ton of new recipes, which I will be writing up as time allows.
Kitchen fun

Lastly, as we get ready to move into 2014, I am thinking about the Christmas tree stand project that Amp and I built together. It was a lot of fun, it looks good, and it has given us the confidence to start thinking about other things we can make. There are a million home Do It Yourself blogs out there with great plans and ideas, and I know that Amp already has her eye on a number of projects.
My sous chef

And so that, in a brief recap, was my/our year. Perhaps not as brief as I thought it would be.

My final thought relates to something that I think Brother Dave wrote about once. "Be Present". Which I interpret to mean being engaged and attentive to what you are involved in; living in the moment, I guess you could say. Time seems to be moving faster and faster every year. The kids are growing up at warp speed. Middle age is on the horizon, not over it (no! it's not here quite yet, thank you!). And so today...I shall make the most of the day.

Farewell 2013.

Christmas 2013

We had a very relaxing and laid back holiday around the Eric's Days of Battle house. We had my sister-in-law and her family here from the Sunday before Christmas until the day after, which was nice and gave my kids a chance to play with their cousins. We cooked a lot, ate too much, drank some good wine, and just generally tried to do nothing much of substance. We succeeded admirably.

On Christmas Eve, I got to hand the reins in the kitchen to my brother in law, who made a delicious (and very involved) Portugese Fisherman's Stew. One can always eat around the squid tentacles...
Amparo and bro-in-law dirtying all the pots and pans

While we prepared a late dinner, the kids anxiously awaited the arrival of gifts. I mean Santa.
Killing pre-Santa time playing Uno

Dinner was excellent, and the best part was that I got to watch instead of cook. Sometimes it's nice to just watch.
Christmas Eve table

I'll post the full recipe and more pictures of Christmas Eve dinner on my cooking blog at some point, but the stew was an amazing concoction of squid, chorizo sausage, scallops, clams, cod and shrimp. Plus lots of other stuff.
Portugese Fisherman's Stew

Christmas morning began remarkably late, with the kids not dragging us out of bed until nearly 8am. Yay, kids! The highlight of the kids' Christmas was the overly generous gifts from Santa of a pair of Kindle HDX's, the side benefit of which is that with each kid now having a tablet of their own, Amparo gets her iPad back. Since she got the iPad as a gift a couple of years ago I'm not sure she has seen it much (it's been welded to Julia most of that time). So she sort of got a nice gift too, in addition to her actual gifts.
Thing 2 shreds wrappings

As for yours truly, Santa did come this year in spite of that whole naughty/nice list thing, and I got a couple of books (a Giada cookbook I didn't already have and a Napoleonic history book on the French 9th Legere regiment...geek time), a couple of CDs (new Mark Knopfler and new Tedeschi Trucks Band), as well the previously mentioned photography lighting kit. I have been having lot of fun with the lighting kit, which allows me to take much better pictures, at least of the miniatures themselves in the sense of what amounts to "product photography". The initial results of that playing around can be seen in the Miniatures Gallery page linked off my main page at the upper right.
Impromptu photo studio

Christmas day itself was very nice, with the obligatory big hunk of beef dinner in the form of a standing rib roast. The only down side was that we didn't get to see Brother Dave and his family and my Mom and Chris on Christmas day, but would catch up with them in the coming days.

The rest of the days of Christmas week, before and after the big day itself, was a blur of...not too much. But I mean that in a good way. I got to relax around the house with Amparo and the kids and extended family and friends, watching some TV and movies, playing games, painting a few miniatures buildings, cooking a lot and trying new recipes (which I love), and just generally basking in the glow of having kids young enough that Christmas is still a really special time of year. And that is the best Christmas I could ask for...

Monday, December 30, 2013

Medieval Miniatures Gallery

I have had some time to play around with my camera and my new lighting kit today, and took a bunch of pictures of some of my medieval miniatures. Pop on over to the "Miniatures Gallery - Medievals" Page at right if you have any interest....

I will add more pictures (and more periods) and post notes here to that affect as I do.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Deathknell Watch

Front-ish view
The other thing I have been working on painting in brief spurts over the holidays has been the Games Workshop fantasy building "Deathknell Watch". This is a nice little tower building, and unlike just about everything else by Games Workshop these days, is reasonably priced and a good value. But that's a rant for a different day (when I am feeling a lot angrier...).

I assembled this kit sometime earlier this year, primed it black, and then stuck it in a box while I moved on to other things. But like with the WW2 buildings posted about yesterday, I wanted to make some progress on something during the holidays in spare moments, and buildings are easy.

I painted this in a total of perhaps two hours, but it is hard to tell exactly since it was done in a bunch of 15 or 20 minute sessions scattered over a period of a week or so. It is painted in the same color scheme as the one on the box cover, with tan stone mixed with some more orange-ish pieces. Other stone trim work is in light gray. Like the WW2 buildings, this was again mainly an exercise in dry brushing with a large flat brush (multiple layers of color, dark to light), then some washes, then some final lighter dry brushing for highlights and to tie everything together. Simple.

As to whether I will ever use this for anything remains to be seen, but it does fit in with my Empire and Vampire Counts odds and ends (for which I complete maybe one or two units per year).
Stairs and catwalk to upper story door

If nothing else, it was fun to work on and is one less unpainted thing lying around the house. And I could always sell it on eBay. Nah.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Painting Table Saturday - Dec 28 - Buildings

I saw an entry on a blog that I started following recently (here) that seemed interesting, so I decided to join in. The idea is "painting table Saturday", and the thought, done periodically it seems, is to have as many hobby bloggers as possible post what is sitting on their painting table in progress at the moment.
W.I.P. #1 - An abnormally clean workspace...

I just put my painting table back together following the recent departure of holiday house guests with little ones who require that my painting table gets stashed away during their visits, so it is much less cluttered with random bits than usual. All that is on it at the moment is the current project that I have been working on in tiny sessions at the kitchen table with a bottle of paint or two during holiday down time. The project is a trio of ruined buildings (Old Glory, 15mm scale) for use in WW2 games. These are very nice and inexpensive pieces that paint up very easily. They are basically just an exercise in layered dry brushing with a minimum of detail work. There is no intention that these be slaved over like works of art, but a competently done job will make them look terrific on the table.
WIP #2 - The Project

Sunday 12/29 addendum - After taking the above pictures early in the day, I had some extra time in and around a pair of family visits to my Mom's and my Brother Dave's to complete the three buildings. I am very happy with how they turned out, and will mix in very well with the WW2 buildings I already have.
Complete #1

All that is left to do, other than one last inspection to make sure I didn't miss finishing any spots, is to give them a few good coats of matte varnish for protection.
Complete #2

Lastly, one thing that I seem to apologize for a lot in my posts over the years is for the poorly lit pictures and subsequent bad picture quality. Following the arrival of a new Christmas toy set (more on this separately), I don't think I should have to apologize as much anymore. The above two pictures of the finished buildings were taken on the corner of my table with the setup shown below: a photography lighting kit with stands, reflector umbrellas and daylight bulbs.
New lighting toys

It should be fun playing around with these, and will help make my camera act more like the really good camera that it is...

Friday, December 20, 2013

Book Review - The Tank Killers

Earlier today I finished yet another history book that I have been working my way through over the past few weeks (ok... months): Harry Yeide's The Tank Killers; A History of America's World War II Tank Destroyer Force (Casemate, 2004).

Sideways again.... sigh...
I think I first cracked this book open sometime shortly after the Fireball Forward! miniatures games with Leo earlier this year, and a subsequent trip to Baldwin's Book Barn in West Chester that turned up a number of good deals on WW2 books.

I enjoyed this book very much. The opening section details the formative years of tank destroyer doctrine in the US Army and the training phases prior to actual combat experience. The bulk of the book works its way chronologically through the various campaigns in Africa and the European Theater of Operations. In addition to being a wargamer's treasure trove of small unit action scenario ideas, the descriptions of the combat experiences at a micro level are woven into a story of the evolution of tank destroyer doctrine at the macro level, and how the role of tank destroyers as envisioned differed so dramatically from the actual role that the TD units ended up playing.

There were also a number of things that I learned from this book in the area of equipment used and dates of service. I had always been under the impression that the self-propelled TDs in service for the bulk of the war in Europe were M10 "Wolverines" with their 3 inch (76mm) guns. This is somewhat true, but this book shows that M18 "Hellcats" (very fast, lightly armored TDs with 76mm guns) and M36 "Jacksons" (basically M10s but with 90mm guns) were in widespread use much earlier than I had thought. The first M18s were delivered in Italy in April 1944 and the M36s began replacing M10s in northwestern Europe in September 1944. By the Battle of the Bulge and subsequent operations, a mix of M10s, M18s and M36s would have been commonplace. This greatly expands the possibilities for the miniatures gamer...

There are two other Harry Yeide books that I picked up at Baldwin's at the same time as this, and I am especially glad that I did. These are Steel Victory; The Heroic Story of America's Independent Tank Battalions in the War in Europe (Presidio Press, 2003) and The Infantry's Armor; The US Army's Separate Tank Battalions in World War II (Stackpole, 2010). If they are similar at all to The Tank Killers, I will like them very much. Steel Victory is already on the night stand.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Book Review - Nothing Gold Can Stay

First off, I will unabashedly admit to being a huge fan of Ron Rash. He is one of my very favorite modern writers. So I will always pick up whatever new book he publishes as soon as I see that there is a new one to get. His most recent is a collection of stories titled Nothing Gold Can Stay (Ecco, 2013).

Rash's novel Serena is one of my all time favorite novels, and I have written about him several times in the past in other book reviews. As I have read more and more of his work (as he publishes more...) I have become increasingly unsettled by his short stories, in the sense that he often writes dark, tragic stuff. As I have noted before, the writing is lyrical, atmospheric and emotionally very raw...these are good things. But they tend not to be hopeful stories. And while I do think that the tragic side of things can make for some of the truest and most "real" writing, it can also be exhausting to read story after story that leaves you with a sense of "ugh".

Nothing Gold Can Stay continues this trend. Like Burning Bright (2010) and Chemistry and Other Stories (2007) before it, it is a work of masterful writing but one which left me drained. Despite all the things that life throws at us, and that which we bring upon ourselves, I am a fundamentally optimistic and hopeful person. I'm not sure Ron Rash is. But that being said, these are some fantastic stories, and well worth reading. And a few are even hopeful...

Despite the dark side, the publishing of a new Ron Rash book is a minor holiday for me, and this is no exception. This is brilliant work that everyone should read.

From the opening paragraph of The Woman at the Pond:
"Water has its own archaeology, not a layering but a leveling, and thus it is truer to our sense of the past, because what is memory but near and far events spread and smoothed beneath the present's surface."

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Book Review - Victory at Poitiers

The second history book I finished recently was Victory at Poitiers; The Black Prince and the Medieval Art of War, by Christian Teutsch (Pen and Sword, 2010). This is another in the Campaign Chronicles series, and much like the Shrewsbury book, the title is misleading in the sense that the book covers much broader subject matter than just Poitiers itself.

This is another relatively brief book, at 141 pages. It starts with a simple overview of France and England at the start of the Hundred Years War, covers the first invasion and the battle of Crecy in 1346, and the period between Crecy and Poitiers, including events in England and the battle of Neville's Cross. This all takes up the first 65 pages.

Sorry...tilt your head
The next 64 pages or so detail the campaign leading up to Poitiers and the battle itself, with the final 12 pages covering the aftermath. A very interesting and thought provoking section for the wargamer is the detailed discussion on identifying the exact location of the battlefield itself. As is the case with many medieval battles, the general site of the battle is known, but the exact location in terms of troop deployments and lines of battle, as well as the progression of events across the terrain, is not. This can be especially debatable in areas where low lying swampy areas have been drained, woodlots cut back (or expanded), etc... Teutsch presents a compelling case for where he thinks troops were deployed and how the battle progressed topographically. I am inclined to think his interpretation makes a lot of sense and if wargaming Poitiers (which I have the armies for), I would use his version to recreate the battlefield on the tabletop.

I was very satisfied with this volume in the series overall, and would be inclined to pick up other titles in the same series that would be of interest to me, as I have now read two of them by different authors and both were quite good. Recommended.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Book Review - War For the Throne

I have finished a number of medieval history books over the past few weeks. The first of the three was War For the Throne; The Battle of Shrewsbury 1403, by John Barratt (Pen and Sword, 2010). The subtitle is a little misleading, as it seems to be for the Campaign Chronicles series in general.

As the series title would indicate, the book is about more than the battle of Shrewsbury itself, and indeed about way more than even the campaign culminating in the battle. It is really a short history of the entire period in which this campaign and battle is a part. It begins with a brief overview of the reign of Richard II, continues into Henry Bolingbroke's coup of 1399, and his subsequent murder of Richard II and ascension to the throne as Henry IV. In a brief book of only 128 pages, this "Background" section goes all the way through page 56, or almost half the book.

The campaign itself, and Henry "Hotspur" Percy's rebellion, is set in the context of events in Wales and the Scottish marches, which are described in detail. Prince Henry (later Henry V) has his exploits covered as well. Lots of Henrys...There is more about Owain Glyn Dwr's Welsh rebellion than anything else. Shrewsbury itself takes a mere 12 pages, but given the lack of details on most medieval battles, this is to be expected.

Overall, this was a quick and informative read on a period that I did not know a whole lot about. As my  first reading of a book in this series, I expected a more narrow focus on the events of the title, but in retrospect I am glad that the book covered what it did. In the future I will have a better idea what to expect. If you are looking for a book on this battle and campaign in a narrower focus, you are likely to be disappointed. If you are content with a brief but effective overview of an 8-10 year period, then you will find this book worthwhile, as did I.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

It's Beginning to Look Too Much Like Christmas

Beautiful view out my office window (at home)
I like snow. But enough is enough for the moment. We had a nice snow on Sunday, far exceeding the forecast. We were supposed to get a few inches and ended up getting about 8-9 inches. This was great for the kids, who got to go out and play with their friends all day and have a good time. We didn't have to go anywhere, so we didn't get caught up in all the road nightmares that they were talking about on the news (and which some friends got tangled up in). The bonus was the two hour school delay they got yesterday morning because of the hazardous road conditions. Main roads didn't seem too awful on Monday morning, but side roads were very treacherous and there were a lot of fender benders, including a car which went off the road and hit a tree right down the street from us.

Last night they were forecasting more snow today, ranging from a dusting to a foot depending on who you listened to. Consensus seemed to be in the 4-6 inch range. Another two hour delay seemed certain, with a day off a distinct possibility, since the storm was supposed to start during the morning rush hour and continue through much of the daylight hours. Sure enough, we got a call from the school district at 5:25am that school was being cancelled for the day. The kids are thrilled.

It's very pretty. The kids are having a blast. But we have a lot to do to get ready for Christmas. Errands to run. Shopping to finish. And they are already talking about the next storm we could get over the weekend.

Save some of this for Christmas!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Christmas Tree Stand - DIY

I am addicted to surfing miniatures hobby blogs. I'll freely admit it. But as much as I troll the web looking for "gamer eye candy",  my wife does likewise but with home decor and home related do-it-yourself blogs. This is perfectly fine, of course, and occasionally spawns the "honey, we can make this, I know we can" conversation. Which is actually kind of fun. She has made a bunch of things on her own (sewing and craft projects), and we have made a few things together, like doll beds and picture frames. I generally get involved when carpentry and power tools come into play...

Recently, she saw a planter box plan for a deck planter that she really liked, and thought that the same basic plan could make a good Christmas tree stand. I thought so too. After a bunch of sketching and measuring and plotting and planning, we settled on a plan and bought the materials we needed. On Saturday we made the tree stand. It sort of followed a basic plan seen elsewhere, but was modified enough that I feel like it is something we came up with together, which is nice.

Materials List (roughly): (all wood was clear select pine, for eventual staining)
  • Two pieces 21" 1x6 boards (2 sides of inner frame)
  • Two pieces 19.5" 1x6 boards (other 2 sides of inner frame)
  • Twenty-four 15" pieces 1x4 boards (6 per side for 4 sides)
  • Four 15" pieces 2x2 boards (corner posts)
  • Approximately 16 linear feet of 1x2 board (top and bottom framing of each side)
  • Approximately 16 linear feet of 1x3 board (top and bottom trim of each side)
  • Cordless drill with bit for #6 screws and phillips driver bit
  • Dewalt 10" compound miter saw
  • Air compressor with nail gun using 2" finish nails
  • 1.25" wood screws (#6)
  • Wood glue
  • Fine sandpaper
The General Plan: The container would be built around an interior box (like shown in picture #1) that would serve both as a frame to construct around, as well as a 6" tall platform to raise the tree up off the ground. Each exterior side would be made of six slats of 1x4 lumber (each 4" wide nominal board is actually 3.5" wide, so the total width of six slats is 21"). Corner posts would be 2x2 to give some architectural relief. Tops and bottoms of sides would be 1x2s laid flat, and final trim framing all the way at top and bottom of sides would be mitered 1x3s. Like the raised corner posts, the final trim work is both useful for providing more architectural relief as well as hiding nails and screws. Everything would be nailed or screwed and hidden as best we could so that no visible nail or screw heads would be seen when we were done. Eventually, we plan to stain the container, but because we need to get the tree up and decorating done, we will use it unstained this year and stain it after the holidays.

Picture #1 - Lumber material and the old 24" square platform we have used the last several years. The old platform was dismantled and cut down to reuse the 1x6 boards and the plywood. Basically, we just turned the 24" square box into a 21" square box.
#1 - Materials (guitars optional)

Picture #2 - Basic components cut. 24 side slats and 4 corner posts are shown laid out around the interior platform pieces (along with one mitered piece of 1x2 framing). I was very careful to cut the 28 different 15" long pieces as exactly as possible.
#2 - Sides cut and laid out

Picture #3 - One side assembled and in place. The slats and corner posts are nailed in place down through the top and up through the bottom mitered 1x2 framing pieces. The bottom has had its mitered 1x3 trim board added to the very bottom (also nailed up through the bottom). The only visible nails at this point are those nailed down through the top of the upper 1x2, but these will be hidden when the final 1x3 trim is added. The completed side panel is screwed to the interior box by screwing through the 1x6 and into the assembled side panel from the inside using 1.25" #6 screws, which are too short to poke out the front. This first side is the front of the piece.
#3 - One side complete

Picture #4 - After having one complete side solidly in place, we simply built our way from front to back, doing the same thing we had done to the front panel, but rather than building one full side then attaching it, we worked out way down the sides one board at a time to make sure all boards were snugly together and we were not leaving any gaps as we went. We figured that any issues we couldn't easily fix or hide would end up on the back side of the piece which will be both hidden by the tree and facing the corner of the room, so nobody would ever see them. In the picture, you can see the ledge formed by the interior upright 1x6 platform framing. Since I was too lazy to cut the 24" square plywood piece down by hand (it won't fit in the miter saw and I don't own a table saw...yet...), I cut a few lengths of scrap lumber to 21" lengths and dropped them in to make the platform.
#4 - All sides complete

Picture #5 - All that remained after the four sides were complete was to add the final band of mitered 1x3 trim around the top to match the mitered 1x3 base at the bottom. We added this top trim without any visible nails or screws by screwing up into the bottom of the 1x3 trim (which is also wood glued) by coming up through the visible part of the top framing 1x2. You can only see the screw heads if you flip the whole piece over.
#5 - Top trim work complete. Done.

The Finished Product, with tree:
#6 - Stand (unstained yet) with tree 

All that remains is to stain the piece a medium brown color; something that will go OK with the family room furniture. This will happen after the holidays.

This was a fun project, which took us maybe 3 hours to complete. We could have gone quicker, but we were being very deliberate with our cuts and our nailing, and stopped a few times along the way to mull over the best next steps in our sequencing. We knew what we wanted to accomplish in general, but figuring out how to hide all the nails and screws was a bit of a puzzle at times. But an enjoyable puzzle.

As my wife noted when we were finished..."see, we can build anything..."

December Snow

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Eight inches of snow on a lovely Sunday, decorating for the holidays, cooking, and watching the Eagles play a hilarious game in the snow.
Winter Wonderland

Decorated tree with our new tree stand (there will be a whole post on that...).
Skinny tree with new stand

Friday, December 6, 2013

Home Sweet Home

Yesterday was a bittersweet day. After 46 years of ownership, Mom made settlement and sold the house I grew up in. This was a very good thing in the sense that she has owned two houses since she moved into a retirement community almost a year ago. There was a lot of work to be done to get the house into sellable shape, and most of the burden for coordinating all that fell on brother Dave and his Darling Wife. So I know they were happy that this was done and over with. Extremely happy. Finally. And Mom was relieved as well to have one less thing to worry about.

But of course we are also sad that a very long chapter in our lives is now officially closed. I have not lived in that house for more than a few days or a week here or there since probably the summer of 1986, partway through college. But for all those intervening years it has still been the family homestead. Dad, Mom and Chris still lived there. And then just Mom and Chris. And then nobody lived there but the house was still there to be cleaned out and worked on. And now it's over.

On October 10, 1967, a couple with three very young boys bought the house, moved in, and had many long and happy years there. As of yesterday, another young couple with two young boys bought the house and moved in. It seems very fitting to me that the house should have boys in it again. I wish them luck, and hope that they have as wonderful a life in that house as we did. As long as they remember that the bedroom up the stairs to the left is mine...