Here's what happened today: the cement truck pulled into the alley behind our house.
The decking crew came too and got right to work. They spread more sand and taped off the house so that it wouldn't get dirty from the cement. Then they started moving wheel barrows full of cement.
This is not easy work. The only guy standing and watching was Bill, our pool contractor. And me – I took pictures.
In the photo above you can see one guy smoothing the surface of the cement. There were 2 guys spreading it into place and making it level. And then there were the 2 guys with the wheel barrows. And their boss, Al, who was overseeing and doing whatever needed doing.
After the cement got set enough, they stamped the pattern into the concrete. The stamps aren't at all what I imagined. They were thin and flexible. One was 3'-4' square and the smaller one might have been about 18" square.
That hole you see is a drain. They put 3 or 4 in and connected them to a french drain to move the water off the deck, away from the house.
We chose a pattern that looks like sandstone in a sandstone sort of color. Bill said to go darker than we want because over the course of the first year, it will lighten. The way it works is that once they smooth the concrete, they spread the concrete stain "dust" over it. As the concrete sets up, it draws in the color. They also added dark highlights to make it look more natural. It should be set up and looking good in a couple of weeks.
We've also been working on the fence. Here's a shot from Sunday…
And this is what it looks like on the outside:
Sue Conrad has been making and selling pies in Sherman, TX, for a very long time. Her pies are legendary and it's because of the crust. Her pie crusts almost taste like a cookie – buttery and perfect. I bought her cookbook this summer and am just now getting around to using it. I'm making her famous strawberry pie tonight.
For those of you about to bake a pie, try this. It's amazingly good and easy. I've added to Sue's instructions, answering the questions that I had as I made mine.
Sue's Pie Crust
(Sue says to use the exact amount called for. Don't get sloppy.)
- 1 3/4 cup flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 stick butter, melted
- 1/4 cup Wesson oil (I wouldn't substitute unless you absolutely have to since she is very specific)
- 1/4 cup buttermilk
I used my Kitchenaide mixer and it worked perfectly. Put the flour and salt in the bowl and stir it with a fork. Attach the mixing blade. Add butter and oil, blend well on low. Add buttermilk and mix well. Form into a ball.
Roll out between waxed paper – don't add any flour. (Wipe your counter with a damp cloth first to keep the waxed paper in place.) Makes one 10-inch pie shell.
Carefully put the crust into a pie pan. (This was the tricky part for me but if I can do it, so can you.) Trim the edges, add crust where you need to by pressing more into place. Make the edges pretty.
When preparing crust for cream or fruit pies, prick the bottom and sides of the crust in a few places with a fork. Bake the crust at 350 until golden brown – it took mine about 25 minutes to reach this stage.
For pies that require an unbaked crust, Sue recommends baking the crust for 8-10 minutes before adding the filling.
Sue also says to start baking your pies on the bottom rack. Move it up as the pie becomes firm.
My son, Jeff, is taking part in Movember. Participating men are growing mustaches and raising money to fight the "man" cancers, prostate and testicular. Jeff's page is here and it's easy to click to donate. There are more photos, including the one below, of Jeff's mo in progress on Celia's blog.
I'm back from OKC. My sister is better! She was sitting up and eating some and is mostly coherent so Mom sent me home. I got home to find that they have leveled the yard and built the forms for the concrete decking. The drains in the deck are set and the electrical work is finished. The green tags are in place – meaning that the work has been OKd by the inspector.
That red dirt you see is actually sand, probably from the Red River. It's very iron-rich sand. They were supposed to bring the concrete this morning but rain in Dallas has kept them away. It will be Tuesday before the deck gets done.
This morning after my walk I went to Lowe's and bought 250 fence pickets – 1×6's and 1×4's. The helpful folks at Lowe's loaded them into the pickup for me but then I unloaded them from the pickup when I got home. Steve would have done it but he's at work and I want to get as much as I can done today because we don't have a lot of time to work on the fence tomorrow. That meant me doing some manual labor which doesn't hurt me a bit.
I proceeded to cut the boards to the correct lengths with the miter saw. What a great power tool! I used the table saw to cut the 1×4's in half, lengthwise. As I was doing all this cutting I couldn't help but think that the saws were an awful lot like rotary cutters – except that you could cut your hand off with them. I was very careful.
Our garage smells like cedar.
Dave and his co-worker are working on the wall with the waterfall here:
The waterfall will be 2' wide and it's centered in this wall. If you look close you'll see a bright yellow strip of plastic where the water will fall from.
It was chilly and windy – not a good day for this sort of work. But they did it anyway! The back side of the wall is pretty too.
We chose 1' iridescent glass tiles for the front of the wall. They were not easy to install. They aren't all cleaned up yet but they are going to glow in the sunlight.
On another note – my sister, Christy, has been in the hospital for the last week with pancreatitis. My mom kept saying that she didn't need me yet and now she does so I'm going to go tomorrow and will be gone for at least a couple of days. I'll let you know how she is when I get back (or when I'm gone if I have time to post).
Have you been to My Parents Were Awesome? Cracks me up. This is a "Steve", posted by Paige,…
…who reminded me a lot of my own Steve back in the day. Except that my Steve could grow serious hair. He still can.