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Mary Mary Quite Contrary

June 21, 2011

No silver bells or cockle shells here…

…but there is a pretty maid.

And if you’re wondering why Lulu looks as though she smelled some stinky cheese, it’s because she’s whining…

“Can we go to the pool now, Mom?”

But I had to get this photo as I was celebrating the first ripe offering from my meager garden this year.

And the garden is meager.

Nothing there but the six tomato plants.

And yet I’ve enjoyed fresh vegetables all season long. Spring onions and early peas. Cabbage and Irish potatoes. Squash and zucchini. Carrots and turnips. I could have even enjoyed some rutabagas if I knew exactly what a rutabaga was or how the heck to cook one.

All that bounty comes courtesy of…

And what a garden it is!

This field is lovingly tended by the members of my church, including my family. Every Saturday morning a large crew gathers to work and and to operate a mini farmer’s market in our church’s parking lot. The profits from the market are split 50/50…half is reinvested in the garden, and half is donated to our community food bank.

(Editors Note: Any gardener knows that a garden requires daily care…especially this time of year. Our garden is blessed by a few very committed gardeners who give unselfishly of their time and talents each day. You know who you are, and I pray you know the rest of us recognize your efforts and appreciate all that you do.)

When we gathered on that first planting day back in mid-February, our pastor led us in prayer. We prayed that God would bless the soil and its crops, that the work of our hands might be a blessing to others.

God surely heard and answered us. Despite the heat, despite the lack of rain, the garden has thrived and flourished. He blessed our garden, and He blessed us.

For not only has our garden grown, but we have as well.

Something about working next to someone, digging and planting, weeding and harvesting, brings you closer. Shared sweat is like compost for relationships.

So today I offer thanks to God…for the sun and the rain and the soil and the seed.

And I give thanks to all those sweaty people who’ve put such a bounty of fresh food on our table.

God bless you all!

Addition and Subtraction

June 21, 2011

So ya’ll know I’ve been working on the new front porch.

I know you’re tired of hearing about it.

I know it’s taking forever to get the dern thing done.

But I am making progress…in small steps.

And I guess that’s what every big project is about…small steps.

Someone way wiser than me once said that a journey of a million miles begins with a single step.

I’ve taken a few more than that first one, but I’ve still got a few to go…

At the beginning of last week, my Front Porch To Do List looked something like this…

  • install remainder of screws in deck boards
  • pour concrete pad for steps
  • repair cracks in posts with wood filler
  • sand deck boards
  • sand posts
  • prime rim joists
  • prime posts under porch
  • prime posts above porch
  • paint rim joists
  • paint posts under porch
  • paint posts above porch
  • wash deck
  • wash siding
  • stain deck
  • remove old caulk
  • caulk where needed
  • design post trim
  • install post trim
  • prime post trim
  • paint post trim

After a few hours of work last week (between trips to the pool and the movies and the library with the kids) the list now looks like this…

  • install remainder of screws in deck boards
  • pour concrete pad for steps
  • repair cracks in posts with wood filler
  • sand deck boards
  • sand posts
  • prime rim joists
  • prime posts under porch
  • prime posts above porch
  • paint rim joists
  • paint posts under porch
  • paint posts above porch
  • wash deck
  • wash siding
  • stain deck
  • remove old caulk
  • caulk where needed
  • design post trim
  • install post trim
  • prime post trim
  • paint post trim

As with any to do list, things get added, things get subtracted. Right now I’m adding faster than I can subtract, but one day before Christmas in the near future I will mark the final item off the final list (I’m wishin’, and hopin’, and prayin’, and dreamin’).

Off all the things I’ve done so far, washing the deck and siding was the easiest.

I started with a gallon of this stuff…

…and my trusty and very well-rinsed sprayer.

The deck wash didn’t have to be diluted, so I just emptied the whole gallon into the sprayer and used it to soak the siding and the boards (yes folks, this stuff is safe for vinyl so you can kill two to-do’s with one step…boo yah!).

The whole process is idiot me proof. Just soak the surface, let it sit for about ten minutes and rinse. No scrubbing required.

A note of caution here…if you use a pressure washer, make sure you adjust the nozzle to fan spray and keep the tip well away from the wood. The stream from a pressure washer can damage the surface.

Also a “whew” word here…the manufacturer suggests you wet any surrounding plants before applying the deck cleaner and that you rinse them well after cleaning. I forgot to do the first step so I made sure I rinsed them exceptionally well after I’d rinsed the porch. No harm done.

Now you may be wondering why I had to wash a brand new deck.

I wondered the same thing.

I knew the boards had a bit of sanding dust on them but nothing a good vacuuming with the shop vac wouldn’t take care of.

According to This Old House, new boards have what is known as “mill glaze”. Basically this is just a sheen that’s left on new lumber after the planing process, and on the day I washed the wasp spray off the siding, I noticed that the water that landed on the porch beaded up.

The mill glaze has to be removed if you want stain to penetrate the wood fibers.

So I washed the deck.

I’ll let it dry for a couple of days before I try to stain it.

If my mad painting skills transfer to staining, it should be an adventure.

My New Best-est Friend

June 18, 2011

If I were a cash register I’d be going, “Cha-ching! Cha-ching!” right now.

(Nope, didn’t win the lottery…again!)

But I did get…count ’em with me…one, two, three, four, five things off my Front Porch To Do List done today.

And I still had time for a lengthy dip at the pool with Lulu.

Go me-ah…go me-ah…go me-ah.

Pardon the excessively giddy giddiness.

I’m just so gosh dern happy right now.

And…as if five things off my list isn’t enough to make me happy dance in a way that has people worrying I’m gonna swallow my tongue……I have a new best-est friend…

And if you think having a power tool as my new best friend makes me weird…let me just  say…it’s not the tool that does that.

It’s the DNA.

I’ve been wanting a random orbital sander since the day I crawled out of my crib but for some strange reason I just never scratched that itch.

I think I was a little afraid.

I mean, these babies aren’t terribly expensive, but they’re not free either.

And I wasn’t sure what the experience would be like. A session with my little mouse sander leaves my entire upper body numb and tingly for days. And The Hubster’s belt sander? If it were any more aggressive they’d saddle it and ride it at the rodeo.

But this baby…even a five year old can use it…

…while wearing a dress and heels.

I’m not going to spend an entire post waxing poetic about just how much I heart this variable speed random orbital sander that I picked up for less than seventy bucks. I’m not write a sonnet about how I ordered it online and picked it up at the store twenty minutes later. I’m not gonna brag about how Ebates is gonna give me 5% of my purchase price back in August…just in time for a final summer fling with the family.

I am gonna tell ya’ how it’s transformed me from a woman who’d rather rip out her molars with rusty pliers than sand anything into a woman who can power through this ugly wood filler job…

…in under three minutes.

And those decking boards? Smoother than the butt cheeks of the baby who helped sand them.

Yeah. My new best-est friend.

Welcome to the family.

A Gal’s Gotta Do

June 16, 2011

Slow and steady wins the race.

That’s what I’ve always heard.

It was probably said by someone just like me who takes forever to get much of anything done, and it was probably said just so they’d feel better when everyone else around them was DIYing at record speed.

But a few items got crossed off the porch list today.

Rim joists are now painted.

Found this can in my stockpile. Don’t know where it came from. Don’t remember what I used it on. It was white, and it was oil based, and it was already paid for. White + oil-based + free = perfect paint for porch.

Once again I took the lazy woman’s way out and used a cheap brush (found a set of three for three bucks at Wal-Mart today) so I didn’t have to deal with the nasty clean-up that goes with oil-based products. Normally I’m not a big fan of cheap brushes…I believe in buying good tools and taking care of them…but sometimes you just need cheap and easy.

There’s more painting to be done so my two other cheap brushes already have bounties on their heads, and in a perfect world I’d have painted all the stuff that needs painting in one swoop with one brush. But my posts are no where ready to be painted and the rim joists had to be finished today.

Why today?

I’m so glad you asked!

The brick mason is coming tomorrow, and I couldn’t risk breaking out my mad painting skills around our brand-spanking-new brick steps.

No that’s not some weird fungus growing on my liriope. That’s paint. This plant is at least two feet from the porch. See what I mean about mad painting skills?

Also got my make-any-plumber-proud cracks filled tonight.

I was not thrilled that this was the only wood filler I could find at Wal-Mart. I used their regular wood filler (not the stainable type) on another project and hated it so much I tossed it in the trash when the project was complete. I hated it so much that thought I should run over to Lowe’s to pick up a different brand, but then I looked at Lulu realized she’d had her fill of shopping and I’d had my fill of whining. So I bought the Elmer’s.

Let me just say…I loved this stuff.

It spread like peanut butter…nice and smooth and even. Nothing at all like the last batch I had.

I’d show you a picture of my now-filled-cracks, but I filled them in the dark and there wasn’t enough light to get a good shot.

If there wasn’t enough light to get a photo, how was there enough light for you to see to fill the cracks?

I’m so glad you asked!

I held the tub of wood filler in one hand, the putty knife in the other, and held a flashlight with my teeth.

This is a family show so I will never ever ever post a pic of me pulling that trick.

It just ain’t fittin’.

But sometimes a gal’s gotta do what a gal’s gotta do.

At this rate this porch will be done by Christmas before I know it.

Bupkiss

June 15, 2011

A while back I bragged posted about my new laundry center table.

I have a confession to make.

Recall the load of laundry that was piled on top of that table?

That load is perhaps the only load of laundry that got folded on top of that table.

Since I folded and put away that clean, fresh load of laundry, the top of my laundry center has grown a pile of  tools, paint, stain and paint brushes… amongst other things.

All those things are very important things I’ll need when I get around to finishing the laundry room face-lift…sometime around the turn of the century.

(Warning…whining ahead) I started this face-lift way back in February, and I was sure I was going to knock it out in just a few weeks. Now here I am mid-June, and what have I gotten done? Bupkiss…that’s what. (Please don’t ask me what bupkiss is because I’m not for certain, and don’t ask me if I’ve spelled it correctly because I’m not for sure, but I think it means what I meant it to mean…nada, nothing, zilch, zero). I’m an avid follower of several other DIY blogs, and it seems like those people are churning out new projects every sixty seconds or so, and I wonder what’s wrong with me. Why am I not making more progress? Why are my grand plans not producing grand results?

I don’t have the answer to that question.

I’m sure all those other people are juggling kids and jobs and community involvements. I’m sure they’re cooking meals and scrubbing bathrooms and folding laundry. I’m sure they’re sleeping at night and cutting the grass and doing all those other things that keep me from my Want-To-Do List.

But since I seem unable to increase my productivity, I’ve decided I’m simply going to have to celebrate whatever small steps I make.

And while I haven’t made any small steps in my laundry room, I have made some small steps on some other projects.

One of those projects was to figure out a way to share my plans for that laundry center with all those who have asked for it.

I promised I would.

And I haven’t been keeping it a secret like some family recipe that I don’t want to share.

It’s not that I haven’t tried to draw up some share-worthy plans.

I have.

But the learning curve for SketchUp has proved to be more than I was able to navigate. I’ve had more than one screaming hissy fit while sitting at my computer.

But then I found a link somewhere (I wish I could remember where because I’d send the linkster a five pound box of Godiva chocolates for saving my sanity) for some awesome SketchUp tutorials.

Armed with this new knowledge, I’ve actually managed to begin those plans I’ve wanted to share for so long.

So below is Step 1 of the Laundry Center Plans.

The entire plan isn’t complete yet, but it will be.

Now that feels like a small step worth celebrating.

Sneak Attacks and Dive Bombing

June 14, 2011

Okay. So what I’m wondering is this…

Was using an entire can of wasp spray to get rid of the hoard of insects behind my shutter a little over kill? (No pun intended…really!)

When I finally mustered up the nerve to face my front porch again, I grabbed a brand new previously unopened can of this stuff, took a deep breath and let it fly.

And the moment the wasps (or hornets or whatever the heck they were) starting swarming out over the top of the shutter, they began dropping like…well…like wasps that had been sprayed with an entire bottle of Spectracide.

Mr. Video would have yelled, “Cool!”

Lulu would have shrieked and ran like I did earlier today.

I just stood my ground and shot spray until my can was empty.

Afterwards I hit the siding with a good dose of water from the hose to prevent any staining that might occur, and I got down to the business of today…

…priming the rim joists.

I had this primer left over from another project, and since I prefer oil based products for exterior projects I decided I’d use it.

The moment I opened the can I remembered why I hate this stuff.

It stinks.

Bad.

Even outside.

And cleaning up oil-based products is a pain, so I decided to use a very inexpensive brush…one that I didn’t mind tossing when I was through.

Just as I opened the can I had a moment of self-doubt. Was I sure I wanted to paint the rim joists white?

I mean, I knew I had planned on attaching white lattice under the porch, but what if it staining the rim joists and the lattice the same color as the deck would look better?

But no…that would mean using wood lattice, and I did NOT want wood lattice.

I hate it when that happens. When I’m about to start something and I think I know what I want, but then suddenly…I’m not sure and I find myself second guessing. The only thing worse than having that happen as I’m starting a project is having it happen when I’m in the middle of one.

After a lengthy “yes-I’m-talking-to-myself-out-loud-like-a-crazy-person” debate, I decided to go with the original plan.

And now I’m glad I did.

Yeah, I know my landscaping looks like crap.

That’s what happens when I spend zero time out there during the spring because I don’t want to do anything until the porch is built.

I’ll get around to that sometime next week…or the week after…if I can somehow get rid of the two wasps that survived my sneak attack and who are now dive-bombing my front door like kamikaze pilots.

Good thing I’ve got another whole can of unopened spray.

I’m going to need it.

Run, Forrest, Run!!!

June 14, 2011

In case you haven’t noticed, we built a new front porch.

And it has become THE place to hang out…

…for spiders.

Ugh. Double Ugh. Triple Ugh accompanied by a full-body shudder.

I’m sorry…but those crawlies creep me out to the extent that I couldn’t even bring myself to snap a picture of one.

I can, however, reveal to you the cheapest, easiest, and most surefire way I’ve found to get rid of them…

Now if you’re wondering why my trusty outdoor broom is lying across my new porch instead of being neatly put away with all my other outdoor tools…

It’s because of this…

As I was brushing away the creepy spiders and webs, a hoard of these flying beasts came swarming out from behind one of the shutters, and I did the only thing I knew to do…

I ran.

I dropped my broom and I ran.

And now I’m afraid to go back on the porch. (I did, however, gather up the guts to poke my head out the front door and snap of photo of my broom. I’m just too afraid to actually step back onto the porch to get it.)

Dang.

Love the summer. Hate the bugs.