So the other week, I went with my family for a trip into the rural parts of my state. We packed picnic stuff, copious amounts of food and drink and we piled everything (and everyone) into the car to take off into the country. The trip began in the early hours and everyone was still very bleary eyed as we made it to our first stop of the day, a lake that I used to visit as a child. I remember this place as being a brilliantly fun place for myself and my friends as a kid, and it didn’t seem like much had changed. It was owned by the church and so gift store sold a variety of religious trinkets and my wife (even though she’s not religious) bought a very intricate set of rosary beads to hang from the cars rear vision mirror. The main attraction at the lake was a slide that sat on a pontoon right in the middle of the lake, I remember it being much larger than it appeared today and also much safer looking, it didn’t seem to be doing well in its later years. Nonetheless I allowed the kids to take trip after trip down the slide while I sat in the shallows and drifted in and out of sleep. After a few hours there we headed for the mountains, another 2 or so hours drive from the lake. When we arrived it was well into the after noon, so we set down our picnic gear and got to chewing. We were sitting in a national park area that had a visitors centre, everyone took a lot of interest in the animals that were being house there (namely, a python named Dennis). After ogling at Dennis for a few hours we started to pack things up and head home. The trip home took us all night and almost into the morning, but very worth the experience we had that day.
Yesterday I finally had the chance to take my sister shopping in the city after promising to buy her a birthday gift at the party. I normally don’t particularly like shopping but I must admit that I enjoyed the train ride in and even didn’t mind the crowds at the exit to the station. I don’t often get into the city central because of the lousy parking and how much I loathe public transport but on this particular day I was in a really good mood to buy Katy something special. She had said she would choose because she wisely knew my taste in home decor was highly suspect and left to my own devices she would likely have found herself with a new set of bar stools or tyre pressure pump. Luckily we had already discussed budget so she knew she only had a $100 to spend and me to carry it home. We hit the cafe before shopping and bought a great lunch of antipasto for me and she had a strawberry smoothee and a salad wrap , nothing very adventurous but the antipasto was great, just the right amount of salt and oil on the artichoke hearts, I wish i could make one that good at home. Finally we got going and as i feared she dragged me from one dress shop to another and I found myself hovering outside of changing rooms waiting to be instructed to get a smaller size or a larger size of some outfit. They all looked pretty much the same to me but she seemed quite determined to find something special. Eventually we went into this small homewares stall and she noticed this really great dream catcher hanging on the wall. She loved it and bought this huge purple one with a giant piece of amethyst in the middle. the owner said that the dreamcatchers were sure to make all her dreams happy so she spent almost all her money on it. All I can say is she had a great time and I feel good about finally getting my sister the present she really wanted.
Its taken me a while but I’ve finally gotten around to renovating the back yard, although my neighbours think its probably five years too late. I admit that the long grass down the back has taken on forest like proportions and the rock pool has long since been lost in the before mentioned forest. Somewhere back there is also a washing line, one of the old rotary ones with the rusty wire and the hoist to make it go up and down. I miss that washing line, it was perfect when the kids wanted to hang there cricket balls in stockings and use them for batting practice. They spent hours at it every day, along with all the neighbourhood kids just belting away practicing all their cricket shots. Front foot drive , slice, pull over midwicket even ducking the bouncer all the best shots were played under that washing line. So as part of the renovation the wife wanted to make the backyard more serene, somewhere we could have friends over to entertain, have a few drinks and enjoy the serenity. In her mind she saw a virtual piece of Bali with thatch huts, wandering streams and Buddha statues. I was okay with all that but put my foot down about the incense because I’ve always hated the smell of Sandalwood. One of the other things she wanted was a few large wind chimes she could hang from the new thatched deck that would send spiritual sounds around us whenever the wind blew. Luckily she found one that seemed to play greensleeves when rattled rather than some Elvis song. The whole makeover took about three months but I’m glad to say that she got what she wanted, lots of cushions, decking and wandering stream, even a fire pit which will come in handy should we ever decide to baste a full pig for an evenings festivities. She has started to add all the girly touches and my suggestion of a beer fridge was met with a stern look and a shake of her head which means it will be my old esky stashed out the back on party nights again. All in all I’m happy, she’s happy, that’s all that counts.
Well it was almost built, the wife thought it was too big but I thought it was just perfect. I mean can you really ever have a deck which is too big, you need space for the BBQ, the outdoor kitchen, all those chairs and tables to hold all the food the wife will make every weekend and of course plenty of drinking room for your mates. No, it was perfect, and I could see all the spots where I’d bent over a nail in the hope no one would notice or where I’d had to take a screw out because I’d put it in the wrong place. these were all beauty marks to me, perfect flaws which made my deck a classic, something to be cherished through the years. My mates, especially the tradies laughed at some of the design. They offered lots of good advice on how I should have sanded off the curves or thought to varnish the wood before I put it down, all good advice I said, but useful two weeks ago..!!! Still at the christening of the deck there were no loud groans from the wood with twenty people on it, although the wife did advise people not to lean against the railings as she looked worriedly at me and rememebered I’d run out of the longer screw around that section. Didn’t matter , I’d put in the longer nails to make up for it, this deck will be here long after the old house has been blown away by a cyclone or the whiteants have digested the house. At the final deck party my wife put a beautiful candelabra out on the table lit with eight candles and it made the whole area glow like sunset. I’m proud of this deck, I wish it looked more like this one.
But in the end it is what it is, a home deck built with blood sweat and tears, lots of blood actually if you count the time I split my thumb with the chisel, luckily that part of the deck is hidden by a large pot plant. Its my deck and all is good, now lets start on the rumpus room.
So yes, the wood was clearly too long because of my measuring stuff up so the only thing for it was to cut it all back to the right size which of course would leave me with lots of three foot cut offs. Luckily I realised I could build a comfy box chair alongside the deck with all this wood so in the end it wasn’t a disaster, just me being adventurous and planning ahead. Where things cam unstuck was that I don’t own a power saw so after doing twenty cuts by hand it was back down to Bunnings and out with the credit card to invest in my first ever circular saw which the assistant said would either be the best thing I ever bought or see me in hospital after cutting off some fingers. Being now frightened as hell the assistant then signed me up for a Saturday morning class at the store to learn the safe way to use my power tools especially the store. When I arrived it turned out that the same assistant was also teaching the class so I spent the morning both learing the proper use of my saw as well as admiring this guys skill in getting his class filled. So now I was ready, wood and saw setup on my sawhorse it was time to make some sawdust. But, no power, I’d tripped the switch with my saw, too much load on the circuit which I must admit also had my two beer fridges and a ton of stereo and AV gear plugged in. All fixed, saw going fast I chopped all the wood down to size in thirty minutes. But now I was hooked, I wanted to cut more so ended up doing all the cuts for the chair as well, sawdust covered everything, in fact some stray screws showed through the dust forming a crude design of the Southern Cross in the dirt. Wood cut I got started building the deck and progressed well until I realised I had built myself into a corner and had to crawl out under the structure.
Well it was time to finally build the deck on the back of my house and those of you who have read my blog ( or my old blog) would realise that this is going to take a masterstroke for it to ever turn out ok. Its been over two years since I decided to pull down the old deck and the debris pile from that lasted for over six months to be joined by my bathroom renovatio0n pile and kitchen renovation pile. This is my first lesson for newbie renovators , pick one job and complete it before moving on to another job, otherwise you will just find yourself living in a permanent building zone which will not make you popular with the wife or neighbours. Anyway, after finally getting rid of the old deck and being tired of tripping over the now two foot drop from my backdoor down to the grass I’ve decided to build a low level deck which will someday connect up to the inground pool if I ever get around to putting one in. Given my lack of building skills I went to my favourite learning centre youtube and found this great video on how to build a deck. Between following this guy and the friendly advice from my Bunnings carpenter guy I feel more than comfortable kicking off the job. The buying of the wood went well, I’d measured the deck site as per the video and even hung string lines and some basic laid out pattern painted on the ground with paint. I’d even calculated how many nails and screws I’d need and considered hiring a nail gun so I didn’t get RSI from hammering over 1500 nails would definetly incur. Unfortunately I didn’t do the conversions from my tape measure which is imperial (inches) to centremetres very well and when I got home most of the wood was way to long and I’d have to cut it all down. I will continue this story later in the week.
It’s been a long time since we had the dinner party at our house, and I wondered if we were really ready this time to hold one either. My wife had gone away for two weeks to see her parents up North and the kids thought it would be a good time to hold a dinner party and see if their father would make a mess of it or not. I was ready for the challenge, the kids often makes me do things like this and I’m happy to have a go because it keeps me young and also keeps them off my back. So I said sure let’s have a dinner party while mums away, but let’s go where us and make it a silver service to the party wedding guests have to come in formal gear. The kids were particularly happy with this idea because many of their friends will come if it was formal so they had to talk me out of it. On the night I made the kids put on aprons and help out in the kitchen with the preparation of food and drink. The main course was going to be a state dinner done on the barbecue but the desert was going to be my specialty key lime pie. The kids thought I was cheating a bit by using the grill but I said I had to work to my strengths and clearly the casserole cooker was not it. Anyway the guests came and I cooked my meet and everybody was very happy, but when it got to the desert I noticed that the key lime pie hadn’t set properly in the pan. This was clearly a disaster, so a quick trip down to the cheesecake shop was required but I had to hide it from the kids who were at the front with all the guests. Luckily they didn’t even notice so I got away with it and when mum came home they said it was one of the best dinner parties ever.