– Ben Martens

Search Results

Ticawa Sign

As a thank you for letting us come up to Maine, I made a sign to leave at Camp Ticawa. It features their original logo which I had drawn a long time ago to make shirts (that shirt store is still alive!)

This was by far the most complicated thing I have done on the CNC to date. I spent hours tweaking the SVG file and even longer in Fusion playing with the toolpath to get it just right. In the end I did one pass with a 1/8″ endmill and then went through a second time with a vee bit to clean up the edges and do all the smaller areas. For the wood I glued to 1×8 pieces of pine together, filled in the seam with wood filler and then painted it with a nice blue enamel paint that we had previously intended to use on our front door. I was going to fill the letters with white paint, but the raw pine looked so nice that I just left it that way.

Now it sits in a place of honor between the ear rock and the butt rock! If any Ticawa fans are interested in getting their own version, please contact me. I’m happy to chat about making one of you or giving you the files so you can make your own.

Camp Ticawa 2019

If you search this blog for posts about “Camp Ticawa”, you’ll find a lot of entries. When I lived on the east coast, I frequently had the pleasure of hanging out with the Abendroth family at their place on Long Lake near Harrison, Maine.

Since moving to Washington, the trips have become a lot less frequently. Tyla and I made it out there in 2011 and this year, we decided it was time to go back. Luckily the Abendroth clan was cool with us inviting ourselves out to invade their family vacation!

Getting to rural Maine from Woodinville with a 6 year old in tow isn’t easy. There weren’t any great options, but I think we ended up with a good one. Don was kind enough to get us to the airport by about 4:30am for a very early flight out of Seattle all the way to Boston. There we rented a car and made the ~3.5 hour drive up to camp. After factoring in the time change, we arrived around sunset.

We were blessed with beautiful weather all three days that we were there and we spent it floating down the Saco River, tooling around the lake on the pontoon boat, and relaxing around camp. It was great to catch up with old friends and meet a couple new faces as well. I can’t say enough thank you’s to the entire Abendroth family for letting us crash their family time! You all made us feel so welcome and we will cherish those memories forever!

Apparently, Jay had been passing around the old videos I made of camp and I was immediately asked by a number of the kids to make another one. So here we go! It’s the 2019 Camp Ticawa montage video:

Ticawa Recap

Whew… that was a long trip. It was two layovers and both ways because I'm too cheap to pay extra for better plane tickets. I was up for almost 24 hours on Sunday because of my early flight coupled with the time change.

But you know what? I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

The weather couldn't have been much better. We had sun just about every day and it got quite warm on the weekend. Saturday night we had a great light show as some strong thunderstorms rolled through.

Activities included taking the boat through the Songo River Locks and into Sebago Lake, golfing, skiing, a water balloon slingshot, tons of great food, a mystery puma stalking Lauren and Andy's window, Market Basket pizza, and miscellaneous relaxation. My camera stayed in my room most of the weekend but I did snap a few pics. The first 20 pictures in the Camp Ticawa gallery are new.

Once again, a huge thanks to the Abendroths for letting me crash their family vacation. I'd love to come back for the 50th anniversary of camp so please keep me in the loop!

2019 Year In Review

I feel like I start these off every year by talking about how fast the year went. I still think back to those days in my early 20s when I lived alone and would actually get bored sometimes on the weekends. I can’t remember the last time I was bored. There’s a never ending list to keep me going.

However, since I realize that going full speed all the time isn’t great, I have made a conscious effort to spend more time sitting at the piano every day. Not only is it learning a skill but it’s very relaxing and enjoyable. I’m so thankful that back in 2007, I bought a digital piano (Korg C303) instead of an acoustic one. While it’s not a perfect replacement, there’s no way I could have played so much this year without the ability to plug in headphones. My biggest accomplishment on the piano was learning how to play the first movement of Bach’s Italian Concerto. It was far from concert perfection, but given how far out of my reach it was, I was happy to get it polished to the point that I did.

Elijah started taking lessons too. A piano teacher comes to his school and pull kids out of class for 30 minutes each week for a private lesson. It’s extremely convenient and Elijah is really taking to it well. As with most kids, it’s still difficult to get him to practice every day, but I think he’s having more fun now that he sees the results and can play a few Christmas songs. For his first recital he played Away in the Manger and it went great. I’ll play it with him as a duet in church on Sunday as well.

If you had asked me a year and a half ago where Elijah was going to first grade, I would have said Woodmoor. It’s less than a half mile walk for the two schools that Elijah would use through 7th grade. The proximity to the schools was one of the factors in us buying this house. It’s incredibly convenient and most of our neighbors go there. But… last fall on the marriage retreat, a Pastor suggested that we check out the Missouri synod school up in Lake Stevens. I didn’t even realize there was one and that’s probably because it’s a solid 30-40 minute drive from our house. Elijah repeatedly told us “I want to go to a school where they teach me about Jesus.” After visiting the school and praying a lot about it, we decided to give it a try, and we sure are glad we did! The drive has been even harder than we thought it would be but Tyla is doing a wonderful job with that. She’s also able to volunteer at the school with things like art class, field trips and class parties. So even though we’re probably the family who lives the farthest away, we are feeling like we’re getting connected with their community.

This was the first year that Elijah really started playing organized sports. I thought I’d sign him up for tee ball and was surprised to find out that I had missed that by two years! He went straight into the machine-pitch baseball league. As one of the youngest players on the team, it was a struggle for him to figure out hitting and stay focused, but he loved seeing his teammates regularly and forming a bond with them. He decided he wanted to try it again this year so we’ll see how season #2 goes. This fall he has been in a basketball league too. It’s a fantastic program that is run like a basketball camp that meets once a week in the evenings for 1.5 hours. So the time commitment is much lower than baseball, but he’s constantly learning instead of sitting around during a game wondering if he’ll get the ball or get off the bench. I wish we could find a program like that for every sport that he likes!

Work has been busy for me but also rewarding. There are two patent applications sitting at the patent office right now with my name on them. I met with a lawyer and drew up a patent this spring and then in the fall I was added to the list of names on a patent for a project that I worked on a couple years ago. It will be fun to see if either of those get accepted in a few years.

Tyla and I both lost a grandparent this year. Tyla’s grandma on her mom’s side and my grandma on my dad’s side both passed away. We were thankful that both had a strong faith in Jesus as their Savior so we know we’ll see them in heaven, and we were also thankful that we were able to travel (alone) for the funerals. We were each able to catch up with our respective families.

We took a long summer vacation this year that started all the way out in Maine with a return to Camp Ticawa! We are so thankful to the Abendroths for letting us invade their family time and making us feel so welcome. Elijah fit right in with all the kids and we had a wonderful time. After spending about a week there, we flew to Indiana for a week with my family. So we went from spending lots of time in the lake to spending lots of time in the pool! This trip was extra special as we flew Don out to spend a few days with us as a retirement present for him.

I feel like I haven’t done as many woodworking projects this year, but it’s still a good-sized list: custom thermostat plate, Washington ornaments, mobile strawberry tower, Ticawa sign, loft for Elijah’s bed, Modern Rogue sign, name puzzle, and spaceship. I purchased a CNC machine right around the end of last year and I got a lot more comfortable with it over the year. I have a never-ending list of ideas that i want to try on that machine! Right now I’m working on my hardest project yet which is a dresser out of walnut and cherry. The plans come from Marc Spanguolo in the Wood Whisperer Guild. The plans come with hours of detailed videos showing every step so I’m just plodding along and learning a lot of new woodworking skills. It feels kind of similar to learning that Bach piece on the piano in that this is way over my head but I think if I just keep at it, I’ll be proud of it in the end.

After being the trustee (property maintenance) at church for 7 of the previous 8 years, this year I switched to being an elder. My responsibilities are assisting Pastor with his duties and ensuring that he stays true to the teachings of God’s Word. In addition to the regular monthly council meetings, Pastor has been meeting with the elders twice a month to study through the Grace Abounds book by Daniel Deutschlander. If you already share my faith or if you’re curious to learn more about it, you’d be hard pressed to find a more thorough and pleasant to read explanation than this book.

The final thing I’ll mention from this year is that you may have noticed a decreased presence from me on this site and on social media. I’m getting more and more “itchy” when I think about all the information that our family puts out in the internet. So I made quite a few changes:

  • I unfollowed literally everyone on Facebook (unfollowed, not unfriended.) I no longer feel the urge to check Facebook 5 times a day to see if there is anything new there. When I want to see what someone is up to, I type in their name and go look at their page.
  • I deleted almost all of my comments, likes, photos and posts from Facebook. It would probably have been easier to delete my account but I still find it useful for messaging and events.
  • I’ve been archiving many of my old Instagram posts. That’s a slow process because it’s very manual. The Facebook change was faster because there are some plugins for Chrome that help automate it.
  • I flipped my Instagram account to private and dropped the random followers that I don’t know. My woodworking account is still public though.
  • I post a lot less to Instagram too. I use the Stories feature for random stuff because it disappears in 24 hours and I try to think of the photos that I post as more of a portfolio of pictures or events that I think are extra special.
  • I set almost every pre-2014 post on this site to private. They still exist so if you’re looking for something specific, I can quickly find it and flip it back to public. I’ll probably keep doing that and decreasing the amount of archive that I leave public.

In the past I’ve felt like it was fun to have such a detailed digital record of my life, but now it feels dirty to know how many companies are collecting all that info and using it for their own gain. I’m still a digital packrat at home, but I’m starting to circle the wagons a bit in public.

So now we’re on the verge of 2020… the year I turn the big four oh. I’m thankful for everything that God has provided in 2019 and look forward to seeing how he blesses and challenges us in 2020!

Previous Year In Review Posts: 200320042005200620072008200920102011201220132014201520162017, 2018

2019 Christmas Ornament

I love that our Christmas tree tells a story about our family! Each year we pick up one ornament from some big event in the year (usually a vacation.) This year our big trip was to Maine and Indiana. We didn’t find ornaments that really seemed to fit so I made one on the laser cutter. I think it’s a little big so I might make a smaller one next year, but this is a good reminder of our fun summer.

You can see our past ornaments in these posts: 2018, 20172016201520142013201220112008-2010

Indiana Vacation

I posted earlier about our trip to Maine but that was only the first half of our summer vacation. From Maine, we drove back to Boston and then flew to Midway where Dad picked us up and took us back to Indiana.We spent just over a week there and had incredible weather! We went in the pool every day (often twice a day), visited the dunes, played putt putt, rode tractors and generally filled our time with lots of smiles and good food.

One big difference on this trip was that Don joined us for the second half of our time there. It was fun to finally show him where I grew up and Elijah loved having both Grandpa’s at the house at the same time!

I put together a video for this part of the trip as well and there are a couple family photos below.

2011 Year In Review

Every year flies by faster than the one before. I look back on a long list of great experiences and some missed opportunities as well. But all in all, it was another good year and it reconfirmed the fact that I’m blessed way more than I deserve. This website might be a bit of a silly hobby, but it’s times like these when I’m very happy to have it around. It’s fun to look back through the year and remember all the things we did!

The first big trip of the year was up to Whistler for skiing with Jay. We just missed a big snow storm and ended up with high winds and icy conditions, but we still had a good time. Tim, Chelsea and Tyla came up for one night too which made it even better. Soon after we got back, the four of us headed through Stevens Pass to check out the Cascade Quest dog sled race.

I took a peek into the world of homebrew electronics when I built an LCD readout for my Media Center TV. The Arduino platform was very impressive and I have a couple more project ideas if I can find the time to work on them.

In March we began the seven month journey to our new home. Even when I bought the condo in 2006, I knew that I would eventually want something bigger, but the condo was supposed to be a stepping stone. The economics of it didn’t work out as planned, but we did eventually end up in a great new house. The first project was moving a bunch of our stuff into Tim and Chelsea’s garage so that we had more room to stage our home. They were a huge help throughout the whole process! We cleaned up the house, repainted the orange living room back to beige, and put it on the market in April. Every morning we had to leave the house in perfect condition in case a prospective buyer stopped by.

April was our first anniversary and we celebrated by heading out to the San Juan Islands for a stay at a bed and breakfast. It was a working ranch for rescued animals. We were given free run of the property and Tyla was in heaven petting all the goats, horses, sheep and dogs.

For Memorial Day, we camped with Tyla’s family at Grand Coulee Dam. While our last-minute campsite left much to be desired, the area was very impressive. I’m continually amazed at the incredible variety of terrain we can access with a few hours in the car. In April we drove a couple hours and ended up on a beautiful island in the Puget Sound. The next month we drove a few hours and ended up in the middle of a desert. And oh yeah, we drove through a big mountain range to get there. I love the Pacific Northwest!

In June we headed to Kanaskat Palmer State Park with a group from church. The weekend was fun, but right before we left we got word from our realtor that we might be receiving and offer over the weekend. That was on my mind for much of the trip. It didn’t pan out, but after dropping the price a little the following week, we received an offer! Even though it wasn’t quite as much as we hoped, we came to an agreement and the packing process began in earnest.

Between the time we accepted the offer and the day we closed, we were only at home for two weekends! It was a lot of work to cram into a short amount of time, but it all went well. With the help of a lot of friends and family, most of our belongings went into storage. A few more things went to Tim and Chelsea’s house and we moved into Logan’s apartment. Logan, we can’t thank you enough for opening up your home to us!

In the middle of the packing process, Luke, Rachel and David flew out to Washington for their summer vacation. After they left, we flew out east for our summer vacation. It began with a couple days in New York City and then ended with almost a week in Maine at Camp Ticawa. Thanks to the Abendroths for once again making us feel like family!

We closed on the sale of our home a few days after returning from vacation and then headed south to SeaQuest State Park for another camping trip. We picked this park because it was so close to Mt. St. Helens. The volcano didn’t blow and we had a great trip! This year-in-review contains never-before-released material because I apparently never blogged about that trip!

We spent a lot of time in August and September with our realtor. Typically we would look through piles of houses, pick a few to go see, and then we’d meet up with him after work to check them out. We saw a lot of instant duds and a few that made us think. I’d guess that we saw between 40 and 50 houses before settling on our current place in Woodinville. The purchase process was anything but smooth, but through it all we felt like the Lord wanted us to be in this house so we pressed forward.

Dad, Mom, Uncle Dean and Aunt Sandy came out for Labor Day weekend. By that point we were pretty sure we were getting the house but we couldn’t take them inside yet. Instead we took them on a whirlwind tour of the area including Boeing, Deception Pass, Red Hook Brewery, Mt. St. Helens and Canon Beach. I always enjoy playing tour guide and showing off this part of the country!

Church kept me very busy this year. I play the piano for our Monday night services sometimes and I’m also the property deacon. In addition to normal upkeep and repairs, we had a very large donation come through to renovate the house that is on our property. I gathered lots of input, drew up some plans, hired a general contractor, handed him a check and cut him loose. That project should be finishing up in about a month and I think the end product is going to look amazing! I’ll have to post some more information about that project once it’s done. You can spot a few photos on the church’s Facebook page.

I’ve been doing this blogging thing for so long that I completely missed the 9th anniversary of this blog in July. Roughly 10,000 unique visitors came to the site in 2011 and about half of them came back for more. Some probably came to find about one of my dozen Windows Phone apps. I’ve sold over 1000 of those this year, and while it doesn’t even come close to compensating me for my time, it’s fun to know that others enjoy my hobby.

When we look back at 2011, we’ll probably focus on the house, but we sure had a lot more going on than just that! What will be the big story of 2012?

Previous Year In Review Posts: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010

Christmas Decorations

Every year Tyla and I try to buy a Christmas ornament from some memorable point in the year. This year we bought an ornament at the top of Rockefeller Center and another when we stopped in Maine. I started posting about them last year and I think I’ll continue this ever year.

Technically this wasn’t from a trip during the past year. I put this ornament of Oskar in Tyla’s stocking last year.
It’s a bit hard to see in this photo but this is the ornament we bought at the top of Rockefeller Center. I’ve been up in the Empire State Building a few times but Rockefeller Center was first from me. It was a magnificent view made all the better having my beautiful bride by my side.
What other ornament would you get in Maine? We picked up this lobster on our way to Ticawa.

We had more than ornaments to add to our collection this Christmas. Last year Tyla’s family got us a bunch of Thomas Kinkade Christmas village pieces. This year Tyla arranged them on the hearth but I think next year I want to get a table set up for them and get a train to go around the village. There is a train set that is made to go with the village (hint hint!)

2007 Year In Review

The year is drawing to a close and that means it's time for another Year In Review post. Here are links to 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006 if you want to read posts from the past.

How can I begin to sum up the last 365 days? This was the first full year that I spent in Seattle, but I've been out here for 18 months. On one hand, it feels like forever since I said goodbye to my friends in Jersey, but on the other hand, it feels like time has been flying by out here.

The winter months at the start of the year were filled with skiing. Jay and I made our first trip up to Whistler Blackcomb for skiing on a mountain so big it boggled our minds. The snow wasn't great for those three days, but we had a blast hanging out on the mountain and in Whistler Village.

Right at the end of February, I flew to Philadelphia and rode up to Maine with Jay and Juliet for another round of skiing at Sunday River. I'll have to check my records, but I'm pretty sure that means I have been at Camp Ticawa at least once every year for the past 5 years! It's getting more and more difficult to keep that streak alive which just makes me more grateful for every opportunity.

Winter activities were cut short when the doc said I needed surgery. Recovery took longer than we had hoped so I was fairly bored for about three months. The surgery brought a host of new experiences for me. I had never been under complete anesthesia before, but that turned out to be a magical little experience. Poof! It's done! It was also the first time I can remember being under such restrictive orders about resting. That was pretty tough, but thankfully that stage didn't last too long. As the warm weather fired up and the softball team stepped onto to the field, I had to watch from the sidelines for the whole season. The motorcycle was also neglected until the middle of summer. At the time, I felt like I was missing out on so many activities, but I made it through and grew in the process. It has helped me appreciate good health and the time that I'm able to spend hiking, camping, riding a motorcycle, skiing, or hanging out with friends.

Other trips included Jay and Juliet's housewarming party, almost a full week during August in Maine with the Abendroths, an October weekend trip to Indiana to visit the family, and another October trip to Philadelphia for Microsoft recruiting as well as a quick visit with the Jersey crew. Thanksgiving was spent with three days of skiing in Whistler. I finished off the year with a week in Indiana and Illinois for Christmas. It was a special trip which included Grandpa Martens's 90th birthday party. Over 160 people signed the guest register at the American Legion building in the tiny town (~800 people) of Reynolds, IL. Happy Birthday Grandpa!

When I moved to Washington, I thought I was done having roommates. I was looking forward to having a place to myself, but that all changed when the opportunity to live with Tim arose. He moved in around Thanksgiving last year and quickly became one of the best roommates I've ever had. Now that he's getting married next January, there's a deadline set for him moving out. Who knows how I'll feel then, but right now I know that I get bored quickly when he's not around. It will be interesting to see how I feel when the next Year in Review post rolls around.

This year brought some more failed attempts at dating. Some took longer to fail than others, but they were all pretty quick. I suppose it's part of the journey. When you think about it, every one of your relationships will get broken off except for one (if there is one.) Maybe that's a dismal way to look at things, but it makes the recovery a little easier. I'm much less worried about this than everyone else seems to be. God has his plan for me and either I'll meet her some day or I won't. "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" [Matt 6:27] … or a wedding ring to his finger?

In late September and early October, I started focusing all of my free time around I was convinced that there was a market for a Seattle specific ski website. For two months, I worked countless hours digging up new content and trying to get more eyeballs to visit the site. Around the beginning of December, I called it quits. I still think the idea is solid, but I need to adjust my plan of attack. Maybe it will be resurrected some day, but for now I'm satisfied that I gave it a good try.

There are a seemingly endless supply of activities that I want to do in Washington. Activities this year included motorcycle rides to Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier and Leavenworth, a trip with the parents to Mt. St. Helens and Cannon Beach, and camping trips to Penrose Point State Park, Deception Pass, and Ocean Shores. Tim bought a book showing great hikes in our area, but we really only crossed one off the list: Tiger Mountain. Arye invited me out on his sailboat on the Puget Sound, and I got to watch the Blue Angels fly at SeaFair. I'm sure I've leaving plenty of things off the list, but even with all these busy days, I feel like the To Do list is growing.

That brings us to my goals for the coming year. First of all, I'd like to cross a lot more of the aforementioned activities off the list. It's difficult to explore new areas, because the activities I've already done are so fun that I'd like to repeat them. I'm hoping to find time to hike and camp around Rainier including a possible day hike to Camp Muir (basecamp for Rainier summit trips), ride my motorcycle along the Washington and Oregon coast, visit the Olympic Mountains, kayak, tailgate at a sporting event, ride my motorcycle up through the annual Tulip Festival, take a ferry ride, visit the Grand Coulee Dam, and generally do even more hiking and camping. Can it all be done in one year?

I've been tossing around two even bigger trip ideas. They may not happen in the next 12 months, but they are on my short term radar. I want to go heli-skiing with Jay and I've also been looking into a climb to the top of Rainier. That's part of the reason for wanting to climb to the base camp on Rainier: it's a tough hike and it marks the half way point on the summit trip. It would be a good workout and would help me evaluate my chances of making it to the peak. When I moved to Seattle, I was all set to climb Rainier. I still remember the first time I was driving south on 405 and the clouds parted so I could see Rainier. It's HUGE. At that point I realized that hiking to the top was going to be much much harder than I had anticipated. It's still something I'd like to accomplish and maybe my hiking this summer will bring me closer to that goal.

While I have plenty of words to fill up this post, I still don't feel like I've communicated a single life-changing event or overriding theme. There was no single topic that drove my thoughts each morning, and that's a very relaxing situation. Sure there were very stressful periods, but overall, I feel like this was a great year. Now that I've had a little time to reflect on my decisions to move out to Seattle and buy a house, I'm still completely happy with both of them. Maybe in the future I'll be ready for a change, but right now I hope that 2008 brings a lot more of what 2007 had to offer.

Rainy Day

It's a pretty gloomy day here in Jersey, but that's ok since I haven't had much time to look out the window. I've been too busy answering my phone and email. Apparently there was a patch applied to a bunch of servers and it simultaneously destroyed every one of the applications I support. Yada yada yada…

But on to more serious issues. I find myself bored at home. This is the first time in quite a while that I haven't had a project. Going back to the spring of 2004, here are the projects I can work on (the big ones that I remember anyway): the arcade machine, moving to the new house, the home theater, [break for a couple months for skiing], car iPod setup, motorcycle license, and the Ticawa shirts. I've been thinking for the past couple weeks and I just can't come up with a new project that really grabs me. I have a couple programming ideas but nothing that has really grabbed my attention yet. Poker has been a good diversion but I only play that for an hour or so every night. (I started with $50 and I have about $62. Not bad.) What I really want is some snow. I want to ski! Last year the first day we skied was December 18. Assuming a similar start date that means I have 4 months to wait.

Anyone have an idea for me?