Monday, August 29, 2011

How to build a franken-deck

Our back step had gone from being softly rotting to actively dangerous. If you didn't step exactly in the middle of the step the whole thing would cantilever over to the side and pitch you into the bushes. We eat outside every night and we both started to feel like we were tempting fate, having someone as clumsy as me going up and down it in semi-darkness, usually with my hands full.

My sister came this weekend and took fancypants pictures of my dried-out garden! We ate crawfish and relaxed in the backyard and drank too much champagne. 

At one point she asked us, "Wait. You don't have kids. What do you DO all weekend?" And we were like, "Whatever we want. Nothing or a bunch of stuff." Actually, Sissy, this is what we do. We build franken-decks.

You'll want to remove the old rotting stairs, taking care to salvage the fern growing under them. You already have thirty ferns in the yard but that's not enough. Swear when a wasp comes flying out from underneath the deck. In case there's a nest under there, dig out the can of Raid from the basement. Put on a hoodie and gloves and watch as Greg arms himself with nothing but a hammer. Welding a hammer instead of protective clothing isn't stubborn at all, GREG. I'm sure that hammer will protect you against a swarm of stinging insects.


We're all good! There's no nest. There IS a pair of socks, a Pepsi bottle, a Ball jar, a broken coffee cup, a yogurt container (Yoplait strawberry), and a can of A&W cream soda. The former home owners were hungry and a little bit sloppy, apparently.

You know what else they were? Lazy. These posts aren't sunk into concrete. In fact, they aren't connected to the main platform in any meaningful way, they're just kind of wedged under there. Cheerfully remind each other than this is a stopgap measure, and that you're going to replace this whole deck next summer. Drive some extra nails into the posts.

Decide to use two of the old piers you found in the yard and two new piers, just to make the measurements more complicated. Start digging a hole and realize you didn't buy enough gravel, prompting your second trip to the Home Depot in less than an hour. Make sure to forget your phone! When you're en route and you're thinking, "He might need me to pick up something else, I should turn around and grab it," ignore that impulse. JUST KEEP DRIVING.

Get home and learn that you need a different kind of bracket. Head to Lowe's this time, just for variety. Take your goddamn phone this time, okay? Enjoy the fact that you're driving around in air conditioning while Greg is digging holes, tamping gravel, and measuring things in the blazing sun. This is kind of the best thing ever, actually. Get back just as he's finishing up the crossbeams for the new step.

Your timing is excellent.

Decide that you should actually help build this thing. Here baby, let me nail in the treads. Be sure to drift! Greg didn't labor all afternoon just to have you drive nails in a straight line. Also, don't pay attention to the boards moving out of line.

Decide to reclaim the facing board from the old rotting step, just to give it more of a shabby chic feel. Also: bragging rights. Oh, you bought new wood for your deck? We reclaimed wood from the old one because we actually care about the environment. Get an uncontrollable case of the giggles because it looks so franken-decky. That's okay though, because the new step is SOLID.

Eat so much chicken at dinner that you suspect Greg is wondering if you're pregnant. (dude. no.) Driving to the hardware store that many times and hauling bags of gravel is tiring! Never mind that he did most of the work.

Seriously though, I love doing home improvement projects with Greg. We always laugh a lot and there's nothing more satisfying than putting your arm around the man you love while looking at your completed project and thinking, "We built that fucked-up looking thing together."

I need these now.

Spotted at Lowe's. Please notice the chair for size reference. They
are PLANTERS. They are also $150 per boot. Damn it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

It's all part of my evil plan.

Last night Greg and I were eating in the backyard on the someday-deck. I had that same feeling I think everyone gets in places where summer is very short. I grew up in California where summer basically lasts forever. It starts in March and can last well into October or November. There's no rushing to go camping or spend time outside because you can always do it next month. But in Portland summer is over almost as soon as it begins. I felt antsy and disappointed--we haven't kayaked this year! I haven't eaten a single artichoke! We haven't had a dinner party in the yard (though we had a barbecue and a birthday party). September has been swallowed up by travel plans, not that I'm complaining, but it shortens the summer even more. The only upshot to shortening days is an excuse to eat dinner by candlelight.

Then Greg admitted to me that he's been cheating. He's been looking at other houses online. "For someday, don't freak out!" he explained. Oh, for SOMEDAY! That makes me feels so much better that you've been secretly researching real estate! That doesn't make me nervous at all.

As an aside, does anyone understand that familiar plot in TV shows and movies where a dude, as a surprise to his lady love, buys a house for them? I would be livid if Greg did that, and we're not even married. You made a quarter million dollar investment (or more) and didn't bother to let me weigh in on it? I don't know if we'd ever recover from that. And how do you go through house hunting and escrow without letting anyone else know? Come on.

Anyway, our house isn't in a very walkable neighborhood. We have two grocery stores within a mile but we don't have any great bars or coffee shops or restaurants. In a city of forty thousand thai restaurants, we have none in walking distance. If you are drunk at two in the morning, however, we have the *best* taco shop. Greg lived in the NW 23rd area before I made him move into North Portland and we miss the walking options we had for eating out in that neighborhood. If I were to move I'd probably go no further than Kenton, which is a great little neighborhood about two miles away. They have a coffee shop, a library, a salvage shop, and a homebrew exchange. But Greg is plotting to get us back to his former stomping grounds, with its fancy shops and lack of street parking.

But! He admitted that every house he looked at paled in comparison to mine, mostly because they all had tiny yards. That's right, baby, you might think you can do better but no other house will love you like this one. We have room to spare and we're only five minutes from downtown. The whole thing makes me laugh because Greg always tells me how condo living is better, how he hates yard work, how he comes from a family of farmers and he's rebelled against his heritage by refusing to garden. And now he can't live without our enormous yard.

We're planning on bumping the fence out a ways toward the front of the house on the west side. Sometimes we say it's going to be a place for the compost bin. Sometimes we say it's going to be the hammock spot. Last night Greg said we should plant corn there because corn is delicious and also we could create a corn maze as an entrance to a Halloween party.

You guys, my plan to turn him into a North Portland home ownership-loving gardener is working! He wants to grow more vegetables AND he wants to create a corn maze entrance to a party! That's some Martha Stewart level awesome shit right there. I'm so proud.

We both agreed that we want to get the deck built early next summer, hopefully by May so we can spend the rest of the summer just enjoying it. And having dinner parties on it. Maybe kayaking on it. Definitely eating artichokes on it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

On nature

I awoke one Saturday morning and opened the curtains to greet the day. We settled back in bed with our coffee and watched the birds flying by and the squirrels frolicking on the lawn. One leaped onto the planter! So cute! He adorably reached into the planter with his little rat-hands and PLUCKED A STRAWBERRY OFF THE VINE.

Son of a bitch.

I ran out into the yard in my underwear and cursed that tiny animal out. He retreated to the fence where, I swear to god, he made a big show of eating my strawberry. Mmmm, so good! So juicy! Wouldn't you like one? Too bad it's in my belly and also covered in squirrel disease.

I know I got my yard certified by the Audubon Society and I love animals and all that, but lately I've had it with nature. Some critter recently ate every single blueberry on both bushes. The crows, in addition to being noisy as hell, like to divebomb me when I'm weeding. I keep finding neighborhood cats lurking in the back, which would be fine if they would eat the crows (circle of life and all that); instead, they just poop in my beds. My yard is not a goddamn gas station, guys. You can't just use the restroom and leave.

The boy found water pellet rifles online and offered to try his hand at controlling the crows. I won't let him . . . yet. Because last night I successfully harvested a bowl of strawberries and they tasted like victory.

Score one: Heather.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Random updates

1. I've been a little scattered lately, my weekends thrown off by the fact that the boy has been traveling for work a ton. Like, half of last month he was gone. So instead of getting my projects together, we're staying in bed until noon on weekends so we can catch each other up on our weeks. I think we finally decided that we're not going to build the deck this summer. It seems to make more sense to wait until we paint the house. Why would we paint the house when it looks so awesome in back? Yeah, I don't know.

2. We booked a trip to Amsterdam in the fall! THE ONE IN EUROPE, oh my god. I think we're going to hit Paris and Cinque Terre but please feel free to chime in with your favorite cities/sites/activities. I've never been to Europe and I can't wait to embarrass Greg by yelling loudly, "The LOOV-ruh! I liked Disneyland better!"

3. There has been no movement on anything tree-related with my next door neighbor. She cancelled our sit-down with the neighbor from around the corner and I haven't heard a word since. Greg and I wave and yell "hi!" every time we see her and we're going to keep doing that, pretending that nothing is wrong. And no one came to rip out her tree, so that's good. We may never know what was really going on.

4. I found this recipe for washing sheets that's supposed to make them very soft. It involves washing them in vinegar with very little detergent. I'm a big fan (it doesn't make your sheets smell like vinegar, I promise) but Greg has not been convinced. Then when Portlandia shot at our house they filmed a scene in our bedroom and Fred Armisen had to climb into our bed. As he got situated he murmured, "These sheets are really soft." If that's not the laundry equivalent of a double-blind randomized trial, I don't know what is. I think we can safely say that I WAS RIGHT.

5. My friends throw a county fair every year, held at the Kenton firehouse. There are competitions for ribbons in lots of categories from butter sculpture to pie making. I won a blue ribbon two years ago in pie making (blueberry sour cream) but this year I didn't even place (banana cream, shame on you). I'm not gonna lie, I'm competitive enough that this was a bummer. Luckily I hedged my bets and entered some of the lillies from the yard in the "gardening: flowers" category where I tied for first in a category with three entries.

I feel a tiny bit robbed because I used spent penstemon seed pods and how cool is that?

I shouldn't have to share my honor with some stupid zinnias (which really were beautiful). Greg guessed within one number how many items were in a sand jar, which garnered him some beads! We're both winners!

6. I installed a sliding screen door off the bedroom. It doesn't open or close smoothly, but hooray for fresh air in the bedroom. A cool night breeze is just the thing when you're drinking your wine and watching The Bachelorette together. Oh god, did I write that out loud?

7. The boy requested that I plant some orange tulips in the yard. I was going to plant "Sensual Touch" bulbs but I decided that it would be more embarrassing to order him "Orange Princess" bulbs. Do you like our princess bulbs? Greg picked out these pretty princess bulbs!

Because I'm not a totally horrible girlfriend, I also ordered him some Bastogne bulbs. Bastogne is featured prominently in Band of Brothers, which he loves. This has nothing to do with the fact that I think they're gorgeous and he never asked for red bulbs in the first place. I'm just being thoughtful.

8. My sister is coming up this month to visit and take photos of the garden. She is a fancy-pants photographer and she's going to document the yard better than I can. You know what would've been a great idea? Watering the lawn so it won't be all brown when she's here with her fancy-pants camera. Hopefully she can just photoshop that out.

Hope you're enjoying your summer!