Category Archives: memories

What’s in a Name?

How did this blog come to be named “The House on Rynkus Hill”? It seems obvious, since the house is situated in a neighborhood on top of a hill. But, it’s more than that – Grandma used to talk about all the things that happened when they were younger and had just built the house. At the time, the neighborhood had many, many more children in it than it does now, and they had three kids they were raising too.

As it turns out, this lot provides a really great place to go sledding in the winter. It’s relatively tree-free, and has a nice sloping run from the street all the way to the tree line in the back – the perfect distance to sled down but not be daunted trying to walk back up. So, the kids used to say they were going to go sledding – “over on Rynkus Hill.”

My brother, sister, cousins and I sledded on the hill too when we were kids. Coincidentally, we still do. This was in January, shot with the Polaroid:

Going to the Chapel…

It’s been a few weeks since we last posted an update, but for good reason. First, there was some update to WordPress and the NextGen gallery tool – and now it won’t let me upload images to it. Pretty annoying and I haven’t figured it out yet. I have a great post with the house plans all ready to go, but can’t put the gallery into it yet. Soon it shall be posted.

But, more importantly – this blog is now hosted by Douglas and Mary Grace Camin! We got married on August 10th. Family from across the country came and we had lots of people at the house. My brother and sister and their families crashed the house here for a week, we hosted a spectacular catered (by Antonio’s Galleria and Cafe) rehearsal dinner for 40 Friday night at the house, got married on Saturday (the church was great and the Owego Treadway did an awesome job with a reception for 175), then hosted people again Sunday morning for brunch throughout the afternoon. I’m pretty sure this house hasn’t seen activity like that since perhaps my parents were married in 1976.

We’re spending this week in Waikiki, Hawaii and taking a bit of a break before jumping back into the grind.

In the back of Robin Alpaugh's 1964 Lincoln Continental convertible, our chariot for the afternoon.

In the back of Robin Alpaugh’s 1964 Lincoln Continental convertible, our chariot for the afternoon.

The Picnic Table

Mary and I are big into hosting people and events at our place. We liked to do it in the loft and, while different, we like doing it here in the new house. Since we have a very large lawn with a great patio out back (something we never had at the loft), we set up a Memorial Day BBQ and invited family and friends.

The BBQ turned out great, but before that we had to do something about our outdoor seating arrangements. We inherited some great wooden patio furniture from my grandparents, but we were missing one critical element: a picnic table.

I resolved I would rectify this situation the only reasonable way one can: I would built it myself. One of the reasons I chose to do it this way, besides the obvious enjoyment of knowing I did it (assuming it came out right and didn’t collapse when people sat on it) was that you really can’t purchase a picnic table with a detached bench anymore. They are all the single piece numbers where the bench and the table are a single unit. Ugh.

That series of tubes, the Internet, provided me with what I needed: sweet plans for your own DIY picnic table. The original plans are from Popular Mechanics and are very easy to follow. I decided to not use pressure treated wood because it’s being used as seating and a table, and pressure treated lumber is loaded with chemicals. We plan to paint the set when finished anyways, which will protect it, and it will be staying on the patio, under cover.

So, off I went to get a pile of lumber and a bag of bolts and screws at the local hardware store. It cost about $100:


I borrowed a circular saw from my neighbors since I don’t have one yet and set to work in the back yard. The key element from the plan I found was to use the template drawn on a sheet of plywood to mark off the cuts for the legs. It made it much, much simpler.


Like any good project, this one took far longer than I anticipated. I began doing this work around noon the day before the BBQ. 14 hours later at 2am, I was finishing in my garage:


In the end, it all came together. The bench is awaiting its paint, but it looks great and fits in well on the patio. Only one leg was a little bit off, a quick shim nailed to the bottom corrected that:


Coincidentally, I seemed to have just rebuilt what was already here:

That’s my brother Derek and I, circa 1984.

Retro Martini Night

Few things make a house yours in my opinion than throwing your first awesome party or event. We’ve actually done a few things in the last several months – the Good Friday Sushi Feast, and a birthday or two. But Retro Martini Night was the coming out party. Somewhere between 50 and 60 folks showed up, including most of our neighbors, our family and a whole bunch of friends, to both check out the house, meet us, and have a great time. Many broke out their best duds and came dressed up. We had a special menu of martinis for the night, and the last person left just before 3am. Sounds like success to me.

Funny story: later in the week I was talking to our awesome neighbors next door who couldn’t make it because they had family in from Connecticut. The husband was telling me that they heard the music (we had the windows open) which was a relief because they had thought it was Friday but the house was dark, so at first they thought we threw a party…and no one came. At one point later in the evening, now knowing the party was really going on, he was outside and took a peek from their driveway into our picture window (similar shot below) – he asked if I was wearing an all black suit because he saw someone whip off their suit jacket and tie, then slide on their knees across the living floor to the music. I explained that that would have to be our buddy Mick Mastroianni. He may have gone to stunt school (not kidding) and currently he and his brother Mason (who was also there) draw the well-known comic strips B.C. and Wizard of Id, both started by their grandfather Johnny Hart, as well as The Dogs of C-Kennel.

Penance for such a great event was paid in cleaning the living room floor the next day. Ouch. A special thanks to our friend Mike Duke for taking great photos (there are a few interspersed iPhone camera shots as well.)

Party for 60?

It’s time for us to have a housewarming party. After much decision and my ill-fated desire for a toga party, Mary and I decided we would host a martini party – a Retro Martini Night, to be specific. We drafted up invitations and went around and met all of our neighbors to invite them, got the Young Professionals involved, and invited all the people that would come have a great time at the loft when we would do this. Turns out basically all the neighbors are coming and now we’ve got another 50 friends on top of it. Fun, and dangerous. There hasn’t been an event here this size since the early 1980s. As with all things we do, Retro Martini Night is a classy affair. It has it’s own graphics, font, and menu. A picture or two will surely follow.