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I Needed a Little Christmas

Instead of a Wrist to Forehead Sunday nor yet a Sunday Cinema, I will post about our up and coming Christmas decorations. Today was a little warmer than the past two days, so we seized the opportunity to get some lights onto our front porch.  The results fall short of other front lawn and porches, yet I feel they are worthy of some notice.

Oh yeah, we put up a couple of wreaths, too.

After impatiently waiting for the sun to go down (yes, much earlier this time of year, let us not begin that lament!), I stood across the street in the road and got this picture.  Actually, I walked into the middle of the road, but no cars were coming, so it was all right.

He looks better in real life than in the picture.

New this year, I put one of our Santas in an upstairs window.  Full disclosure:  I thought of this after I had carried said Santa from the attic to our second floor.  I did not want to carry him down another flight.  Our other Santa has been on the landing, three steps up from the ground floor, since last Christmas.  I think this Santa looks cool in the upstairs window, although he is a little washed out in the picture.  These things happen when one is not a professional photographer, as obviously I am not.

He’s older, he’s awesome, thanks Mom and Dad!

We put our older, better Santa on the porch. My Mom and Dad found him at a second hand shop when they were visiting my sister in Pennsylvania.  I just love a vintage Santa Claus!

“I’m just an angel in disguise!”

It is difficult to get a good picture of our front porch with that large tree in front, but Steven will not hear of cutting it back. Nonetheless, I tried to get a picture of the angel that graces the middle of our lights.  I hope she shows up enough for the pic.

So here is my little bit of Christmas, for the end of Thanksgiving and my birthday weekend.  Tomorrow I go back on overtime, so I hope I can still manage somewhat decent blog posts.  Time will tell (Time is certainly a blabbermouth, although I have already done that joke).  Happy Sunday, everybody!


I Get Fenced In

I said yesterday I would try to offer a more substantive post today. Previously I mentioned that I owed a better blog post about a fence problem I recently had. This is what I came up with:

My mom had told me she, my dad and my sister Cheryl would be over to take a look at our fallen fence section and help us with repairs. I had gotten the bright idea of getting some of that plastic orange mesh stuff you sometimes see put up as a temporary measure. My main concern was to keep my dog in my yard and not running over into my neighbors’ back lot, which is where they park their cars (it is a multi-family dwelling). She has shown no disposition to go over there, but you never know what might catch a dog’s interest. Mom said to don’t buy anything yet but to let Dad take a look and advise us. I was good with that; my dad give excellent advice.

Since I’m a big advocate of “the more the merrier,” I was delighted when Cheryl showed up with her daughters Kimberly and Jenna. She said Dana, her married daughter, and her husband Dan were also coming, and Mom and Dad would be there soon.

“Grandpa’s coming?” asked Jenna.

“Who do you think’s going to tell us what to do?” said Cheryl.

When Mom and Dad arrived, we trooped out back where a section of wooden fence lay flat on the lawn, near a big space between two sections staying up with varying degrees of success. While Dad assessed the standing parts, I looked sadly at the fallen section. It did not seem in good shape to be put back up.

“Let’s just leave it here,” I said. “It can be a boardwalk.” I started walking back and forth on it, demonstrating. Kimberly started singing “Under the Boardwalk.” That’s a woman after my own heart. I stopped after a couple of boards broke under my feet. I knew I should go back on the South Beach Diet.

While Mom, Dad and Cheryl headed to the hardware store for supplies, Dad put the rest of us to work dismantling my boardwalk. I continued to sing the chorus of “Under the Boardwalk” as I pounded and pulled nails. A little music always helps the work go pleasantly.

My family did me better than my orange plastic idea with a roll of wire fencing and green metal posts to hold it up. We even took down and dismantled another section of wooden fence that looked about to fall. My new fence was soon looking beautiful. Alas that I do not have the right equipment to post a picture.

“I love it,” I said. “It’s the best fence that ever lived.” I thought I might even plant some pole beans to climb up the fence next spring. My mom suggested cucumbers, too. “And then I’ll make pickles to give everybody for Christmas,” I said. Now that would make a good blog post: me learning how to can something.

I am very happy with my new fence, and I feel so blessed that I have a family who helps me out so much.

More Deck Drudgery

So there I was, with a scrubbed deck (just a week ago), a can of stain (stain and clear coat in one!), a brush, a roller… everything I needed except ambition. My husband was due home at 6:30 or thereabouts. I had a three day weekend ahead of me. Wasn’t it acceptable to make my blog post and futz around on Facebook or watch World’s Dumbest for Friday night? NO! It was NOT!

I told myself, I’ll just get started. I’ll do the railing. That would be the pain in the buttest part anyways. Won’t Steven be pleased to come home and find me hard at work, not sitting on the couch enjoying my Thirsty Owl Chardonnay (from a New York State winery)?

Of course nothing is ever easy with me. I have that quality. First I had to search for clothes I didn’t care if they got stain on them. I had already worn the Hummel’s t-shirt (purchased at a church rummage sale) to scrub the deck and had not washed it yet. It was definitely shorts weather. I grabbed a pair of bicycle shorts that I like to run in. I could run in stained shorts (nothing could make me look worse running than I already do). At last I found a t-shirt. Some slip-on sneakers my sister Diane gave me some 20 years ago that have never been particularly comfortable. I was ready.

I should have bought one of those little hooky things you open paint cans with. I managed with the edge of an old pair of scissors. I carried the can and brush to the far side of the deck and began staining. The top of the railing was no problem, but the edges were a little tricky. Leaning over to get the far edge, I was sure to hit the top I had just stained. The spindles (are they called spindles? Uprights? I’m sure you know what I mean) were sons of bitches. I quickly realized I could not conveniently get the far side of those. I would do all I could standing on the deck and worry about the other side subsequently.

Slowly I worked my way around. Stand, crouch, sit. Move the can of stain. Go back and get that spot I missed. I started to feel pretty ill used. Where was my husband, who ought to be helping me? (At work, earning money to pay for my stain and accessories.) Where were my family and friends? (Staining their own decks, which I did NOT help with.) I knew I was being unreasonable. Anyways, I would be proud of myself when I was done. In about a hundred years.

Then I went to pull the can after me instead of picking me up and the bastard spilled! At least I didn’t knock it right over, but that comforting thought did not occur to me till later. The best thing I could think of to do was to take my brush and spread the spilled stain around as quickly as I could. Well, I meant to stain that part of the deck anyways. I was just getting a jump on tomorrow’s chore.

I was nearly all the way around the railing by the time Steven came home. I had been working maybe an hour and a half (typically for me, I had failed to note what time I started). He immediately asked was there another paint brush. So much for me grumbling about him not helping! But I thought it would be a better idea for us both to enjoy what was left of the evening and leave the rest for the bright, ambitious morning. For one thing, Steven had to work. For another, I had a blog post to make and I was hungry.

Saturday morning after a long but satisfying run and an invigorating shower, I assessed the shade that covered the deck. Ruth at Aubuchon had cautioned me not to work in the bright, sunny heat of the day. I thought it looked good. It was a little after eight. Steven had gotten out the six foot stepladder for me, so I started on the outside of the railing.

And realized that was the biggest pain in the butt of all! I couldn’t get in the corners. I kept missing places. I had to keep brushing away cobwebs that had grown there since I had scrubbed. Eventually Steven suggested a smaller paint brush and even found me one. That worked better. I was still on the railing when he left for work, but working with determination.

I thought the deck part of the deck would be the easy part. I had a roller, with extender attachment, so I would not have to bend over or be on my hands and knees. Rollers were fast. This might even be fun.

Of course it was not. The roller did not put the stain on smoothly. Ruth had warned me I would have to brush over it after I rolled, and I still had my big brush that had been so poorly adapted for the outside of the railing. It looked better after I brushed it. Unfortunately, I only had one extender attachment. I could roll in a semi-comfortable position, then had to bend over in a distinctly un-back-friendly posture to brush. Oh dear!

At last I took the extender off the roller, put it on the brush (which had a place for it; I think I mentioned in my last post the brush’s package had said it was the Best), and continued to stain with sweeping movements. It really was not going too badly. Not too swiftly, but not too badly.

As I went along, I couldn’t help noticing that it was not looking wonderful. There were large spots on the deck from where my container garden had leaked, and the stain did not obliterate them as I had hoped. I guess that’s from the woodgrain-showing-through quality I thought would look so nice. It just goes to show, we can’t always think of everything.

Then I noticed how the sun was moving. It was pursuing me. And it was not pursuing me like a movie villain, giving up after I managed to stay one step ahead of it. It was relentless. I checked where it was coming from in relation to what was blocking it and changed my tactics. I stained where the sun was now and started working my way back to the shadier shade. Oh, I just had to finish! I could not leave till late afternoon when the shade returned.

Closer and closer to the end I got. I was well into the shade; the sun would never catch me now. Only my own fatigue and frustration could do me in. I encouraged myself with promises of beer and bragging rights. I made it.

In all honesty I have to say, the deck looks less awful than it did before I stained it. And I enjoyed the beer I subsequently rewarded myself with. I would like a beer now. This has been a long damn blog post. If you’ve stuck with me, thank you. I’ll have more deck doings in future posts.

I Get Decked

And of course I mean decked as in knocked on my keester, not all decked out to go on a fun date. Some of you may recall my last week’s post about how I scrubbed the deck. This week I was determined to get it stained.

First I went to Aubuchon Hardware in Herkimer, NY, to buy the stain. I love to go to Aubuchon, because they are so helpful there. First I tried not to ask for help. I looked at paint cans till I saw some that said “stain” or “deck,” then I read labels till I found a can that looked good. I hesitated between two paintbrushes, but chose the less expensive one that said “Best” on the package. I thought, why would they lie? I looked at rollers, but decided it was time to ask advice. I was tired of carrying the paint can around with me anyways.

A young man at the register said he would let the resident paint expert, Ruth, take care of me. Ruth has helped me before with other stupid questions (I pretty much don’t have any other kind), so I was glad to wait for Ruth.

She looked at my can of stain and pretty much told me it was the wrong thing. She suggested something that would let the wood grain show through. Did I know what color or would I want to leave with some samples and decide? Oh, no, I would decide NOW. And, Ruth said, I would need a clear coat over top of it.

“I need two coats? Do I have to wait 48 hours for it to dry?” The thought was appalling. But, no, I could do both coats in one day. My plan to begin my container garden next weekend could still happen (I’m not saying it will; you know me).

Ruth shook up both cans (stain and clear coat), and we talked about rollers. She told me I could put the stain on with a roller then brush over it, doing the deck in sections. The manager came over at that point, and she told him there ought to be a video to show customers how. He said there was and called it up on the computer.

The video was actually a training session for employees. It turned out there was no application demo, but in the course of looking at parts of it (we did not watch the whole thing, thank goodness), we discovered there was another kind of stain with the clear coat built right in. I could do one coat! Yay! Ruth found that one for me in a color I thought was nice.

She advised I get liners for the roller tray, a thing I had not even considered but decided she was right: they are a good idea. She found me a tray with came with a roller handle (that I thought I needed) and a roller I can use another time when I paint something. Ruth also found me the roller specifically for stain.

I thanked her profusely for her help and patience, and I praised her knowledge. Graciously accepting the compliment for the whole store, she said she was glad to and that was why they had such training as the video we had looked at.

It was a tiring session at the store, especially after a long day of work, but I felt I was prepared for my upcoming adventure. I’ll continue the tale with another post, and you can hear about me really getting decked.

Aubuchon is at 105 N. Caroline St., Herkimer, phone 315-866-4931.

What the Deck

Anybody who was reading my blog last year in May and June (was there anybody? I dare not hope) knows I love to have a container garden on my deck. I grow flowers and herbs, and generally go overboard and have to search my house for things that can be used for more containers. I’ve been noticing, though, that my deck has been looking pretty shabby. I’m trying to do something about it.

My first move, as usual in these cases, was to consult my father. He knows many things. He suggested I stain the deck after first scrubbing it. I should scrub it with a powdered cleanser made for such a purpose, possibly containing tri-sodium phosphate, if I could find any.

Dad said I would have to let the deck dry thoroughly between scrubbing and staining. I could scrub one weekend and stain the next. I thought I might better purchase the stuff I needed to scrub it with right away. The sooner it started sitting around my house till I got sick of looking at it, the sooner I would get to scrubbing.

After working till 11:00 Saturday morning I stopped by Aubuchon Hardware in Herkimer on my way home. Aubuchon is our go-to place for many things garden, pet and home. They are so helpful there. I was pretty sure somebody would advise me. I thought it would be OK to go straight there in what I think of as all my blue collar glory. That means my steel-toed work shoes and BDU pants from the army.

They were doing a booming business when I arrived. Well, mid-day Saturday is prime shopping time. I should have remembered. I made my way to the paint section and started looking for myself.

I finally located something called TSP-PF, phosphate free heavy duty cleaner. I supposed phosphate free is what they replaced tri-sodium phosphate with when they figured out it was bad for some reason. You know my father’s generation. They didn’t know anything was ever bad for you. That’s why they all smoked and/or ate bacon for breakfast every day. Who says they weren’t the good old days? But I digress.

The stuff said right on the box it was good to clean decks with prior to staining. I perused the box carefully, to be sure I had everything I needed. Then I pondered buckets. I chose one to mix in, handily marked with quarts, ounces and liters; and a larger one to pour the completed mix in.

After unsuccessfully looking for a scrubber and staring indecisively at gloves, I found a lady free to help me. She found me the right scrubber and recommended some heavy duty, reusable gloves. When she rung me out, she said to come again.

“Oh, I will, when I go to stain the deck,” I assured her. Actually, I’ll probably also be back to purchase dirt for my container garden. Like I said, the go-to place.

I got hit by an inexplicable burst of ambition when I got home and mixed up the cleaner (you add water and bleach; I already had the bleach). I put on the gloves, carried everything out to the deck and got to work.

What a pain in the butt! And I could have used a pair of knee pads. However, I persevered (a skill I learned from running) and got the deck scrubbed. Now it is out drying in the sun. I like the steps of projects that require only patience on my part.

Aubuchon Hardware is located at 105 N. Caroline St., Herkimer, NY. Phone number is 315-866-4931.