Mom’s porch, day 2

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Steve finished the mailbox today and planted the 3 posts that will make handrail next to the steps in the yard. Tomorrow they are installing the actual handrails.

If you look farther back in the photo you can see Chris and Jeff putting in the decking boards. 

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Those 4×4 posts at the front of the porch will be cut shorter and handrails will be added there as well.

We bought the recycled plastic decking boards for the porch. They will never warp or split or peel or require stain or painting. The main part of the porch is level with the threshold which makes going into or out of the door a lot easier. When you are 79 and use a walker this is important – but it's also nice for able-bodied persons.

Honestly I don't like the idea of mom going in and out of her front door because of all the stairs. But the new porch and the handrails will at least make it safer for her to go get the mail if she takes a notion to do that herself.

Today was also picture day at our house. Celia and Jeff hired a photographer (postponed from my 55 1/2-birthday party last July) to come and take family pictures. I cannot wait to see the photos! Between shots, while the kids were in picture-taking-mode, I pulled out my own camera and took some pictures…

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They didn't pose but it was fun to take some photos.

When the photo-taking was over Celia and Jeff helped me take down the tree and put up a lot of the Christmas stuff. I sort of miss it, but I my space seems bigger and I like that too. And Christmas will be here next year! Now our big kids are going out to dinner and we are babysitting the grandkids. Dinner, popcorn and a movie… sounds good to me!



Mom’s new porch!

Last week Christopher and I built Lorna a porch – Merry Christmas! Today Chris and Jeff started work on Mom's new porch. Steve and I bought the supplies and the boys are supplying the plans and labor – Merry Christmas again!

Here's the way Mom's house looked when she bought it last summer, sort of. This is after I painted the yellow front door dark blue.

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The new porch will cover the old concrete and be wider and deeper.


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The boys worked together  and separately on related tasks.

I sort of make Jeff crazy. We both tend to like to be in charge and this was his job, not mine. I had to make myself a bit scarce so as not to make his head explode.

Christopher finds it easier to ignore me so I don't make him as crazy. I know he selectively ignores me and that's OK. See that look on his face? He has that look when he looks at me a lot. 


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Steve has a Ph.D. and the boys will each have one. But below you can see the first PHD (post hole digger) that any of them used. Steve always advised the boys to find a profession in which they did not have to use the PHD very often. However, when you need a hole for a 4×4 post, this is a good tool to have. 


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They mixed concrete to put in the holes with the 4×4 posts. I have watched the guys mix concrete numerous times and I think I could get the correct consistency. But mixing concrete requires a lot of upper body strength so I'm glad I'm a supervisor and not an actual mixer.


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Jeff does lots of pushups, every day. It shows. He's also a math/statistics guy. He was keenly aware of the levelness of the new porch. Not that Christopher wasn't… but there is a difference between math guys and English literature guys. And I can 'feel' the difference without being able to exactly put it in words. But it's there.

One of the most wonderful parts of watching our boys work on a project like this is seeing how great at it they both are, in different ways. And they get to the same place, differently. It is a reminder to me that there are more ways to do something, to think about something, than I know. This is something I try to remember when I teach. I know what I know – but that isn't everything there is to know.


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The really tall posts will be cut off to make handrails on each side of the steps to the porch. Mom really needs handrails these days – bursitis in her hip. She is not happy that her body is trying to fall apart but to her credit she is not a complainer. And she's still exercising. Way to go Mom!


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The guys are consulting, below.

Steve took out the yellow mailbox today and I can't tell you how happy Mom is to see that go. Look close and you can see the yellow one on the ground near the pickup, below. The new, quieter mailbox will go in tomorrow. Also tomorrow Steve will put in the posts for a handrail next to the steps in the yard.


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Also today Steve put up outside backyard lights. Mom no longer has to take Taz (a yorkie) out with a flashlight to pee in the dark. The thought of Mom out with the (stupid) dog in the dark and cold with a flashlight makes my head hurt.

I'm a cat person and admit to not loving this dog. That said, Taz was Christy's dog and Mom loves him (even when he pees on the floor). He is there for her to talk to. He makes her move even when she's not crazy about moving. I guess I can sort of like the dog. But my oh my I wish he didn't pee on the floor. At least he doesn't do it often and the floors are not carpeted.

I'll post more tomorrow so that you can see how the new front of the house turns out…



Christmas candy…

I make candy and give it away at Christmas. I do this because the more I make the less I eat. It's not fair but people do like the candy.

I don't want to sabbotage anyone's diet so I give small portions of a few of my favorite recipes. I thought I'd share them with you. None are particulary hard to make but if you try to make all of these at once it takes a couple of days. Ask me how I know.

If you package an assortment of these goodies to give away be sure to wrap the ones that are aromatic in separate bags. That would be the peppermint truffles and the bourbon balls. In fact, I bag each item separately in cellophane bags and then put the bags in a bigger bag.

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Chocolate Peppermint Truffles are new for me this year and I think they may be my new favorite candy. Celia suggested that I add the crushed candy canes to the tops – and that I do the crushing in my coffee grinder. She was right on both counts. She was here to spoon the peppermint on the damp chocolate as I was doing the dipping. The recipe makes 6-8 dozen truffles depending on the size you make them.

Download ChocPeppermintTruffles

A NOTE ABOUT DIPPING CHOCOLATE: I order bittersweet chocolate from King Arthur Flour because it works better for me than semi-sweet chocolate chips. And I think it tastes better. I have an old electric skillet that I put about an inch of water in. I put a stainless steel bowl in the water with chocolate in it. I can set the heat to just below 150º. It's the perfect heat no matter what kind of chocolate you are melting. I only use this old skillet once a year and it's worth storing it just for this job.

Also new for me this year is Cayenne Pecan Brittle. If you have any vegans in your life, they will love this.

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Donna, who does my nails, gave me this recipe. It turned out differently than I thought it would but it is surprisingly tasty. I think I'd add a bit more cayenne next time. I made some notes in the recipe document.

 Download CayennePecanBrittle


Toffee

My english Toffee is always a hit. The recipe came from the Junior League of Tulsa cookbook back in the 80s. I use sliced almonds rather than the pecans in the recipe. It's better if you toast the almonds before you start.

Download EnglishToffee


BourbonBalls

Chocolate Bourbon Balls make my mouth water. They smell so good and they taste so good… I am always happy to see them packaged up so that I can't get into them any more.  

Download ChocolateBourbonBalls


ChocRaspberryTruffles

My Chocolate Raspberry Truffles are not lovely but I've made these for almost 20 years and they are a family favorite. I think I've posted this recipe when I wrote about cake balls because the base is a chocolate cake. But here you go again… Merry Christmas!

Download Truffles

Making ornaments with the guys!

I've made Christmas ornaments with my grandkids for several years. They give them as gifts at Christmas. In years past Lorna's mom, Judy, joined me. This year Lorna's dad, Kelly, and made ornaments with Jack. We made egg carton bells. If you want to do the same here's how:

  1. Cut up cardboard egg cartons to make 'bells'
  2. Paint the bells so that they aren't gray
  3. Poke a hole in the top so that you can run a pipe cleaner through later
  4. Mix glue with a little water
  5. Give the child a brush and the glue
  6. Let the child paint the bell with glue 
  7. Let the child liberally sprinkle with glitter (If you are smart you will place a folded sheet of clean paper below the bell so that excess glitter can be poured back into the bottle. We were smart.)
  8. Let the bells dry
  9. Put a bell on the end of a pipe cleaner
  10. Run the pipe cleaner up through the bell
  11. Bend and cut off excess pipe cleaner
  12. Wrap and place under the tree.

Jack is 4. We made 13 bells. He painted the glue, poured the glitter, attached most of the bells, and he was about tired of it when we were finishing the bells. Gave him a snack and he sucked it up and managed to decide who got which bell because they were not all the same. I have a lot of glitter so he went from color to color and each bell really was different. (Luckily I got the turquoise one!)

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Working with Kelly was way fun! He is just as good with the kids as Judy is. What I mean by that is that they are both way more patient with little kids than I am. I was not all that patient with my own kids when they were little and I find that, while I love them dearly, I expect certain behaviors from my grandchildren and I don't let it slide (much) when they don't comply. But they have a smile on their faces when they see me so I figure I'm not that scary. And as they get bigger I love them more – which is good because kids get bigger, not smaller. I can't wait until they are teenagers!

I had the bells ready for glueing yesterday. Kelly was in charge of a lot today. Kelly had not worked with glitter before so both he and Jack learned new things. I pointed them in the right direction and cleaned up behind. It was perfect and I say that truthfully. We all had fun!

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Kelly looks a lot like Santa Claus these days. I gave him some white glitter that I think he should sprinkle in his beard. Often. Not with glue, just a bit of sparkle. It'll fall off everywhere he goes. I think life needs more glitter, don't you?

In other news, Linda sent me a small (6"-7") optical fiber Christmas tree that runs out of a USB port. I've plugged it into my computer and it's above my screen as I'm typing now. It changes color!!!! I may leave this up year-round!

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It turns to red and green and blue… Can't wait to see it in the dark. If you have a place to plug it in, you can even put this in your car. Linda got it at Target – in case you need to have one too. Or more than one.

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What I got for Linda this year was a repeat from last year. I didn't get her anything that needed to be dusted, or stored, or eaten. I sent a card and good wishes. She was oh so happy!

We made deal long ago to not buy presents for each other unless they were the perfect thing. Truth be told, Linda nailed it for me this year. I like shiny things! I'm still looking for her present and we're both OK that I didn't find it this year. She really doesn't want any more stuff. But I'm keeping my eyes open…

 


Lorna’s porch!

It took five days (many fewer than we thought it would) and we finished the porch! There were a couple of days of work between this post and my last post. In that time we/I painted the soffits and facing boards, finished decking the main part of the porch and got the step going.

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My shadow is the only proof I was there! Chris was there right along with me doing the heavy lifting, post hole digging, concrete mixing, and more.

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And he managed the screw gun and drill. He's working on the step below.

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Today we built the framework for the roof, cut the 4×4 posts to the correct height, screwed the metal roofing sheets to the framework, and painted. I was mostly the go-behind, Chris did the hard work. Except for painting. I painted the second coat on the soffits and trim.

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We also went bush shopping. Chris planted an elaeagnus and an abelia in front and a shade loving bush that I can't remember the name of on the side of the house. It was plant sale day at Twn Oaks so he got 2 more elaeagnus for the back yard.

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We're finished! It's not flashy but it's functional and nice and clean and neat. Lorna, and Chris, are happy! Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas and happy birthday!

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One cool new sort of tool that I got is this paint can led with a closing spout. I think it's silcone but it may just be flexible plastic. It's not for permanent storage but if you have to pour paint out of a gallon can, this is the best thing like it I've used. And it was pennies less than $3. It washed up well too!

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What's next? Christmas candy making and projects with the grandkids. But not tomorrow!


Building a porch, part 1

For Christmas and birthday this year, I'm giving Lorna a new front porch. Her old front porch was truly awful. From Google Earth…

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We took off the old metal with peeling paint front porch roof and the soffits and facing boards acraoss the front of the house because they were rotten. I mixed up a bleach/water solution to spray on the brick to make moldy black stains go away. It sort of worked as you may notice in future photos.

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We bought Hardie soffit planks and they were long and heavy. Steve came to help because I really couldn't hold up my end of the planks. In the photo below they have a little more than half of the soffit and facing boards up.

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Chris dug post holes and I helped level the 4×4 posts. My other jobs include carrying stuff, putting stuff up, getting it out, consulting, and keeping things moving. Have you seen crews of guys standing around looking at a job and disucussing what comes next? I try to keep dicussions short and people moving. That said, I'm not doing a lot/any of the heavy lifting so it's easy for me to say let's move on.

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We started Monday, today is Wednesday. The old stuff is down. The soffits and facing are up. Unless we are hampered by rain, we caulk tomorrow so we can paint on Friday.

 

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We finished laying the decking planks on this framework today (but I didn't take that photo). Tomorrow Chris hopes to dig the holes for the 4×4 posts that will support the step. If that goes in tomorrow we can build the step on Friday. Friday and/or Saturday we hope to get the framework up for the corrugated (wavy) galvanized metal sheets that will protect the porch. 

The front door needs to be trimmed out and painted, and a light needs to be hung. There are a few bushes to plant and then this job will be finished! (in time for candy making next week…)


Decking the halls…

I put up most of our Christmas decorations on Thanksgiving weekend. We had a party last night which meant that yesterday was spent preparing the house for said party. While we were cleaning, I added more decorations and did some party prepping. A lot of these ideas are inexpensive and easy to do so I thought I'd share in case any of you still have halls to deck.

This table is were appetizers tend to go. Once it's time to sit down and eat, people also sit at this table. Since appetizers can be drippy, I cut a length of wrapping paper to place over the tablecloth. The idea was that I would take it off to reveal a clean tablecloth at the appropriate time but it worked out that the paper stayed put all night. The thing is that the paper looked better even with a bit of stuff dripped on it than the tablecloth alone would have. And it's cute! I folded the cut ends of the paper and taped them but I don't know that anyone noticed this touch.

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We close up the garage for extra seating. We bought several inexpensive green plastic drop cloths and Steve stapled them to the top of the garage walls. They cover the garage stuff and make the room seem less like a garage. Steve stapled the lights to the ceiling in such a way that we can leave them up until next year. 

I have a big canvas drop cloth and another smaller one that together mostly covered the floor.

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When the sun went down and the Christmas lights came on, and later when I lit the candles, this was a really nice room that seated about 25. We used two small electric space heaters which warmed the room in a very short time. Honestly, this was the quietest, nicest place to sit and eat and visit.

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I used a variety of votives holders on the each table. I realized an hour before the party that they would look better on mirror tiles. I don't have any mirror tiles but I do have foil. I wanted to cut 3 at once so I did what any quilter would do… I tore off 3 sheets of foil, layered them, put a salad plate on top and cut around it with a small rotary cutter.

Did you know that when you did that with foil the edges are stuck together? I could not separate them. So one of these is 3 sheets thick and the rest are 2 sheets thick because 1 sheet of foil was a little too limp. They did the trick and were fast and cheep and pretty.

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The orange guy is the CottonMonster I bought in Baltimore. He lives on the sofa now. To Christmas him up I pinned a red net bow to his head. I'm here to tell you, a red net bow will make almost anything holiday worthy.

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Sparlky garlands in glass bowls are easy and flashy and pretty. I added Christmas balls to them in these bowls. I did this last year, I'll do it again next year. I had one extra lenth of red garland and I nailed it around the front door trim, inside the house. It was a very nice addition that I'll do again.

I've mostly got a red and white decorating scheme for Christmas. We decided to put appetizers on this small table too. This picnic cloth doesn't scream Christmas but it worked because of the color. I could have used wrapping paper too.

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I hope you are having fun with your Christmas decorations! I'm finally done and am enjoying them. It is very possible that they will all come down on December 26 so we have 2 weeks of holiday cheer ahead at our house. To be completely honest, that's about all I can take. I like my house with less stuff everywhere – but for the next 2 weeks I can love it!