Archive for the ‘Home Improvement’ Category

Open pit

Welcome to the pretty new landscape that is my back yard.

I knew it was going to happen yesterday, but I really wasn’t expecting to actually see the pool gone when I got home. It was a hot day, and who really has the energy to disassemble and haul away a 16 X 32 foot swimming pool in a single afternoon?

Our next door neighbor suggested we harvest the sand for a play area for Autumn. The massive clump of crab grass that is our front yard has obviously not convinced him we’re a little lazy when it comes to yard maintenance. Nathan is thinking about it, though. Nathan is the man. Nathan is the man who tore apart the entire deck while his lazy wife sat at her computer and blogged about her hair.


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Every summer at least one of the local news stations will air a horrible story about a child drowning in a swimming pool. It always amazes me how some of the parents of these children can stand in front of a camera with swollen, tear-stained faces and admit they screwed up. “We only took our eyes off her for a second,” they say. I never really understood how turning your head for just a moment could mean the end of your child’s life. At least I never understood until now.

Autumn has been walking for a year and a half now. As of Memorial Day weekend she knows how to work the sliding screen door the leads to our deck. Those two skills, when combined, could mean disaster for our little family if Nathan and I forget to lock the door. Autumn loves the water. She loves to swim and on more than one occasion last year she pounded on the screen door as she lustily eyed the sparkling blue water below. “Zoom! Zoom!” (“Swim! Swim!”) she’d say.

When I’d bring the issue of the pool’s inherent danger up to Nathan, he’d dismiss my concerns by saying Autumn could run into death anywhere. He loved the pool. The pool was one of the reasons he wanted to buy the house and he didn’t exactly see the threat in it that I did. “Autumn could walk out the front door and get hit by a car,” he’d say. As true as that is, the swimming pool seemed to be more of a lure to our daughter than the street, although she still seems to be irritatingly drawn to that as well.

Last summer was the clincher though. It was a horrible year for our pool. Our equipment kept breaking, we had, what seemed, a perpetual problem with algae and our chemical costs were through the roof. The algae problem kept us out of the pool most of the time and by the end of the season Nathan had finally had enough. When we slipped the winter cover on in October, we did it knowing we would not be swimming in this pool again.

As luck would have it, Nathan’s dad has a friend who’s in the market for a swimming pool. We talked about the prospect of this friend taking the pool off our hands last year, but our conversations usually ended up with my father-in-law saying, “I’ll talk to Martin and see what he wants to do,” leaving Nathan and me wondering if we were going to have to find some other means of disposing of the thing.

Well, it turns out Martin is ready for the pool. He and my father-in-law stopped by the house yesterday afternoon to take some measurements and assess how they’ll be able to remove the pool from our yard. The plan right now is for them to tear it out the last weekend in June and I couldn’t be happier.

The really great thing about this deal is that Martin will be providing fill dirt for the hole that will be left after the pool is removed. He and my father-in-law are recruiting their drinking buddies to assist in the tear-down and will be hauling away the wood from the deck as well. At least that’s my understanding from what Nathan told me yesterday.

Being lazy people, Nathan and I are thrilled with the prospect of not having to take on this project by ourselves. Of course it will take a couple of years to get our yard in shape. Our deck was built around the pool, and with the pool gone we’ll have a deck that surrounds pretty much nothing. Next year we might be able to afford a completely new deck, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Still, I’m so excited to get rid of the thing. No more high electric bills, chemical costs and listening to my husband grumble about maintenance. Now if we could only be rid of the screaming kids living behind us it might truly be a peaceful summer.

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In the midst of all this family drama I realized I have yet to show off my new fridge. It was delivered Saturday and I finally got around to taking pictures of it tonight because you know every family photo album must include pictures of the new refrigerator. First though, I need to show you our old fridge:

This was one of the blurry pictures I took during the inspection before we moved in. This picture is pretty much the only evidence that this kitchen was ever this clean. My brother reads this, and though he’s only been to our house about a half dozen times in the three years we’ve been here, he knows what kind of housekeeper I am. Nathan, on the other hand, would take great offense to my suggestion that the kitchen has never been cleaner than it is here. Whatever. If I had panned over to the left a bit I could have captured the very spot of carpet a certain toddler would stain with pasta sauce three years later.

Anyway, there’s the fridge, all 18.6 cubic almond-colored feet of it, looking very much like it did the day we had the new one delivered. Even though we were getting rid of if, we decided to not be totally disgusting and cleaned it up a bit. I think a packet of Old El Paso taco sauce may have been left inside when the Lowe’s delivery guys hauled it off to their truck. Oops.

Before cleaning the inside of the fridge we pulled it out and took a gander at what was hiding underneath:

I’ve seen similar disgusting displays in episodes of “Law and Order”, only in that show there’s usually a corpse and a crack pipe nearby instead of Chex Mix and ant traps.

Now let me ask you this…If you were moving out of your house, would you not clean this up? I’m only asking because this is very much what this patch of floor looked like when we moved in three years ago (except I believe the Chex Mix is ours). For some reason we pulled the fridge out and saw this. We also found family photos of the previous owners under there. Those were returned with a mention that they were found UNDER THE FRIDGE. We didn’t clean it up then because we had just cleaned under the fridge in the duplex we rented from one of the most disgusting slumlord assholes ever. And he had the nerve to keep half our security deposit. But I digress…

Here’s our lovely new 21.8 cubic foot Whirlpool in all its ebony splendor:

Notice it has already become cluttered with what Nathan calls “crap.” It’s still lovely though. In case you can’t tell how lovely it is, let me show it from a different angle:

Let’s take a look inside, shall we? The roomy shelves in the door can hold two whole gallons of milk.

The doors don’t hit the counter like the old fridge did. Does a family of three really need this many condiments? Notice the convenient toddler-height shelves. Time to start putting her to work, I think.

Would madame desire some marinade?

Look at the head room. We can set a 2 liter bottle of soda up there without having to tip it on its side.

Our very narrow freezer. But look! We have an ice maker! (and burritos!)

And last but not least, my oft coveted fount of ice and water. After this was set up it took Autumn all of five minutes to figure out those paddles do “something.”

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So yes, the neighborhood rabble rousers kept me up all night, but the day was not all that bad. It was actually a great day, the most significant reason being that I was not at work. Gotta love that.

Nathan and I dropped Autumn off with her Grandma and Grandpa, who were very happy to watch her, and went to the theater to see Transformers. Yes, we’re big geeks, but that movie kicked ass. It’s everything you’d expect from a Michael Bay film and more because it was actually good. I didn’t find myself cringing at most of the dialogue and felt concerned for the well being of the humans and the computer-generated robots.

And that Shia LaBeouf? Oh my, can I take him home, please? I just love that kid, you know, not in the naughty chained to the bed kind of way but more of the I’d let him eat everything in my fridge and throw his dirty clothes on the floor kind of way. He’s just sooo cute. I think I’m going to have to start watching those “Even Stevens” reruns now.

Speaking of fridge, we bought a new one yesterday. It was serendipitous, actually. We went to Lowe’s just to look and see what our options were because we have limited space between the counter and the wood support for our cabinets. We really wanted a side-by-side with water and ice in the door and ended up finding a Whirpool model that fit the bill. We weren’t planning on buying one then and there, but Autumn was in meltdown mode and they just happened to have the black model we wanted in stock. Add to that the 10% off, free delivery and free removal of the old fridge and we couldn’t resist.

Our house is 20 years old now and we’re pretty sure the fridge we have is the one installed when the house was built. It’s the same brand as the stove, runs all day and makes a hell of a lot of noise. It also runs very warm and you get a blast of heat whenever you pass it. I’m rather surprised Autumn’s Fridge Phonics haven’t melted and dribbled onto the floor yet. Also? Lettuce placed on the bottom shelf will emerge from the fridge perfectly preserved but inedible because it’s frozen solid, and y’all know how gross frozen lettuce is, right?

I’m so geeked about this. For the rest of the week I’ll be singing “Water in the door! Water in the door! Hi ho the derry-o I’m getting water in the door!”

Good thing it’s Thursday.

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As promised, here are the pictures of the finished basement.

First, let me show you what it looked like before

These pictures were actually taken three years ago when I went through the house for the inspection before we bought it.  All that furniture and the pictures on the wall belong to the people who owned the house before us, as does the cat in the second picture.  I never took more pictures of the basement after we moved in because it quickly became cluttered and was more or less used for storage.  We certainly did not spend a lot of time down there.

Here’s what it looks like now:

We committed a decorating faux pas by painting over the wallpaper, but it was intentional and so much easier than trying to pull the paper off.  I’m a little foggy on the decorating details since we’re the third family to inhabit this house, but from what I understand the owners who lived here before us loved wallpaper.  Just about every room in the house had some sort of wallpaper when we moved in.  Even our garage is completely wallpapered with a hideous collage of Pandas playing with beach balls.

All that wallpaper wouldn’t have been a problem if the walls had been properly sized.  I knew nothing about hanging wallpaper and sizing walls and such until I tried to take down the wallpaper in the master bedroom.  Much of the drywall paper came off as we tried to strip the walls of paper and soon realized we had a bigger job on our hands than we originally thought.  The walls in the bedroom still don’t look right, but it’s our room and we don’t much care.  I imagine we’ll have to fix it if we ever want to sell though.

Nathan has since repainted the downstairs bathroom, another project that involved stripping wallpaper and much profanity.  That one did not turn out as expected and we will, at some point, repaint and rethink our vision for that room.  Now that the snow has melted we get to concentrate on our yard, what little of it we have.

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Puke and paint

Yesterday I had the day off and wouldn’t you know I got sick again.  Why is it I only get leaning-over-the-toilet-wishing-I-were-dead ill when I have vacation time?  The last time I was this sick was Christmas Day and the day after.  I have no idea what happened.  I never get sick like that and here we are less than three months later feeling just as miserable as before.  Thankfully I had only eaten a breakfast sandwich on an English muffin and not an entire holiday spread.  Made my job much easier this time.

I do have a theory that perhaps Autumn is contributing to the frequency of my sickness.  She’s a toddler and touches everything and I have to admit I’m not as vigilant about washing her hands as I should be.  Add the other kids she hangs with at daycare into the mix and you’re looking at a whole mess of germs.  Note to self; pick up more Purell.

I was feeling much better last night after I begged Nathan to bring me home a ginormous Frosty from Wendy’s.  I’m trying not to indulge like that anymore, but seeing as the one thing I ate during the day made a return trip I felt I deserved a treat.  I was nearly recovered by the time I hit the sack last night, but I was mad about losing the day because I had plans to get so much done.  Our couches are being delivered tomorrow and I needed to shampoo the carpet because the odor of dog pee smacks you in the face as soon as you walk in the room.   I also needed to put the finishing touches on our fireplace.

Nathan painted the fireplace last weekend.  I was supposed to do it during my three days off this week, but I’m so glad he decided to do it when he did.  It turned out better than I could have imagined.  The website had all sorts of testimonials about how great this paint is, but I figured since we’re sloppy painters it would more or less come out looking like a Jackson Pollock experiment and not much more.  I should have given Nathan more credit.

Here’s the before:

Fireplace before

I didn’t get a chance to take the picture before Nathan had everything taped off, but you can pretty much get the idea how it looked.  The surly looking toddler at the bottom of the picture is holding a paintbrush but that is not fresh paint on it.  We’re not that stupid.

Now take a gander at the after:

Fireplace after
Is that not gorgeous? Nathan did a fantastic job and the color of the bricks compliments the new wall color so much better than the red did.  My only complaint is that I hung that wreath off center.  I’m not about to change it right now because hanging that thing involved drilling holes into the mortar and I think I’ve tapped into all the testosterone I’ve got right now.  Besides, there will probably be only a handful of people who will see it anyway.  Well, them and the internet.

There will be more photos to come as the room gets put together.  Have I mentioned that the couches arrive tomorrow?  Yes?  Well, I’m just really excited.  I feel like such a grown up.

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One weekend about a year ago Nathan and I were keeping busy doing random household chores. I was in the kitchen loading our no-good-soon-to-be-replaced-dishwasher and he was outside on the pool deck sucking up leaves with a wet/dry vac (because we haven’t sprung for an actual leaf blower yet).

It was a nice spring day and the windows were open. I heard Nathan call out my name.

“Yeah?” I called back.

“Heather!” he shouted again.

“Ye-es” I called again, this time inserting a little inflection of impatience and irritation.

“Heather, come here, quick!” he shouted.

Since we’ve been married for almost nine years, Nathan and I have found unique ways to irritate each other. I irritate him by correcting his grammar and singing to the piped-in music at the grocery store. He irritates me by leaving his dirty socks on the kitchen island and expecting me to come running every time he has something to show me.

I opened the slider door and poked my head out. I was ready to unleash my inner bitch until I saw there was something…wrong.

It looked as though Nathan was being eaten by our deck. In the process of cleaning, one of the deck planks broke in half underneath him and one of his legs fell through. He was caught in an awkward pose; one leg folded against his chest and the other dangling above the rocks underneath the deck.

“I need a little help,” he said.

Well duh. Except I was newly pregnant and figured trying to get a six foot five, 260 pound man out of a hole probably fell into the category of “heavy lifting.” So I asked him what he wanted me to do.

“Well come here and give me a hand,” he said.

I sighed and slowly made my way toward him down the deck stairs. I figured if I took my time he might figure out I wasn’t going to be any help at all and he’d try to get himself out. And that’s exactly what happened. By the time I reached him, he had managed to stand back up and was examining the rip in his jeans and taking stock of any cuts and bruises. He was in one piece and we didn’t have to call 911.

Since then, another plank has broken (no one fell through that time) and numerous others buckle underneath us every time we walk over them. In short, the deck is falling apart.

I really, really didn’t want to buy a house with a pool. I grew up with a pool and knew how much work they were and knew I would have to actually do some of it if I was the pool’s owner. When I was a kid, I could get away with enjoying the fruits of my dad’s labor without contributing because he never trusted me or my brother to clean the pool correctly. But it was all over when we first looked at this house and stepped out on the deck to see this:

I remember showing this picture to my friends. They were surprised. “Wow, that’s a big yard,” they’d say. Um, no. That swingset you see there is the neighbor’s yard. Our backyard is the pool, two small fruit trees, some shrubs and about four square feet of grass for Molly to poop on. Makes for easy mowing, though.

Nathan was smitten right away. I warned him that pools were expensive and a pain in the neck to cover and uncover every year. If you don’t get the chemicals right you’re either going to have problems with algae or burn your eyeballs out while cheating at Marco Polo. Not to mention we live in Michigan where you get three whole months use out of a swimming pool each year. However, since the rest of the house suited our needs perfectly, we bought it, pool and all.

So back to the deck. As you can see in the above photo, the deck was already pretty worn when we bought the house two years ago. We’d talked about replacing it completely, but since we’re spending our money on such indulgences as a mortgage, groceries and daycare, we really don’t have the bucks for a brand new deck. So what are we going to do instead? Destroy it, most likely.

Actually, we just want to make it less of a hazard. Plus we wanted to re-claim a little bit of our yard so we decided to take down the east side of the deck that border’s our neighbor’s yard in back of us (the one with the swingset).

The thing is, neither of us are handy people. Nathan spent some time in the Air Force, but the Air Force really didn’t teach him practical uses for a hammer. He can guard nuclear weapons like nobody’s business, but when it comes to home repair he frequently calls upon his engineer buddy Ryan for help. Ryan has installed four ceiling fans in our house so far. Ryan rocks as a handyman but wants nothing to do with our deck project, not that I can blame him.

Me? I have a degree in English. I think that says it all.

So far, Nathan has completed some modest demolition on the deck wall. He still wants to get Ryan over here to at least judge whether we’re jeopardizing the structural integrity of the deck. My guess is that it’s going to be okay.

In the meantime, Nathan wanted me to post a few pictures so his friends can see how the project is progressing:

He’s planning on using the planks he’s taken off here to replace some of the ones rotting beneath our feet.

More loosened deck planks. He made a lot of noise doing this. I’m sure our neighbors were ready to call the cops seeing as it was a weeknight and all.

Here’s the hole Nathan fell through. There’s another one like it a few feet away.

Here you can see the corner where we plan to keep the deck and where we plan to pull it apart. I asked Nathan if we were going to put a new railing up. He said no. So instead of falling through our deck you’ll just fall off. It’ll be easier to get to the filter though.

This is what the pool looks like now. Makes you want to jump right in, doesn’t it?

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