Tag Archives: Home improvement

MHH Column May 2017: Siding suspicions

I have some concerns.           

      Two weeks ago, I noticed that the siding on my house needed cleaning. My esteemed counterpart and I made a pilgrimage to the hardware store to purchase a few bottles of “house wash” which could be attached to a garden hose. Sounds pretty simple, right? It’s a one-hour job…two at the max, provided you get right on it and don’t let anything distract you.

It is fourteen days later and I am watching as the nozzle of a rented, pressure washer is being hoisted to an open second story window by way of a 50-foot wet extension cord. Does anyone else see a problem here?

It was bad enough that the job had to be postponed the first week due to rain, but it was further delayed by Johnny-On-The-Spot’s procrastination skills. Not only did he have to watch a few Saturday morning cartoons and catch up on his online video games, but then he felt compelled to take his mother out to lunch and waste 30 minutes playing me snippets of the Beatles’ greatest hits.

“Look, I love you but seriously… either play all of ‘Hey Jude’ or none of it. Don’t jump tracks midway through. It’s hard on my ears,” I told him.

“I’m just killing time waiting for you,” he replied. “I need your help.”

“What do you need me for?” I asked.

“I can’t see the dirt.”

Of course he can’t. He only managed to turn the entire side yard into a swamp, rent a power washer and rig a dangerous system for reaching the top of the house that will result in either his electrocution or the flooding of my bedroom. Yet he hadn’t actually done anything. I firmly believe I am present solely to bear witness to the forthcoming tragedy and have an appropriate statement for when the EMTs or insurance adjuster arrives.

Over the next several minutes, I took several pictures in order to point out certain problem areas and then left him to it. An hour later, my colleague came inside and turned on the TV. He announced that the job was finished and he had returned the equipment. However, I remained suspicious.

“So all four sides of the house have been cleaned?” I asked.

He seemed genuinely surprised by the question. “Well no, I only thought one side was dirty.”

The moral of this story is that if you want something done right, do it yourself. It will be less dangerous. The job will be completed in full and your relationship will be a lot stronger for it.



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Fabulous Fridays: #52lists project

This week we are asked to list all of the things we would like to make: 52lists

I am really pretty creative but I create as a go so…it’s hard to make a list of things I want to do. Still, I’ll give it a go:

  • A Cross stitch of Main Street USA at Walt Disney World
  • A cross stitch of the buildings at Epcot
  • The 15 foot Doctor Who scarf for Vincent
  • To finish my wedding scrap book (I’ve only been married for 2 years so what’s the hurry
  • To make a good grade on the GRE test so I can apply for doctoral programs
  • Make clothes for Sara’s emily doll
  • Finish my basement
  • Finish my closet
  • To make a retractable clothes line
  • to install a screen on the porch
  • To create a good landscape

Take action: Start one new project this week and set a time to complete it.

Hmmm….I am working on the first one as we speak but in order to start a second one…I’m going to go with the closet and I’m going to give myself until October (so that I can save the money for the project as well as complete it.

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Michiana House & Home August Column: Down the Drain with Dad

Me and Dad      My dad was a brilliant man who could do a great many things. Over the 24 years I spent with him, I saw him perform wondrous feats. However, he drew the line at auto mechanics, electrical wiring and plumbing. He also possessed no expertise in garbage disposals. I learned about this deficit the hard way.

A few months after moving into my first house, my garbage disposal rotted out and was lying on the bottom of the cabinet. I went to the hardware store to pick up a new model and took it home fairly confident in my ability to install it. (The guy in the store said it was easy.) I took the gizmo out of the box, read through all of the instructions and assembled the components. However, the little booklet failed to tell me exactly how I was supposed to attach the canister to the sink and the accompanying picture was of no help whatsoever. Even though it looked like it should just pop on, it didn’t. It was too pooped to pop.

I called my father and explained the situation. He agreed to come over and take a look at it but warned me that he didn’t know if he would be able to fix it, as he had never owned one himself.

“Of course you can, Dad,” I cajoled. “If you can’t fix it, it ain’t broke!”

When he arrived, my father took one look at the assembly and pronounced that I had done it wrong. I handed him the instruction book and watched while he undid my handiwork and reassembled the apparatus exactly as I had it in the first place. Then he shimmied under the sink to pop the new canister in place and…stopped. He didn’t know how to do it either. He turned it. He pushed up on it (the stainless steel sink offered a groan of protest) and he looked in the box for some spare parts. Finally he asked me if I still had some scrap wood in my shed.

“I think so, what for?” I wanted to know.

“I’m going to make a catapult,” he replied, heading out the back door.

I honestly thought the man was joking. A catapult is something used to storm the bastille, save a damsel in distress or launch medieval artillery over a castle wall, not for installing a garbage disposal. Yet, two minutes later, Dad came back in carrying an assortment of lumber and a cinderblock with the intention of hurling my new appliance into the stratosphere. Against my better judgment, I let him attempt this stunt twice before insisting that he take a break lest my sink become a casualty of his campaign.

“That’s probably a good idea,” he said, his face bright red with frustration.

While he went outside to collect his thoughts, I started playing around with the disposal. I noticed that the rubber ring appeared as though it would fit as a coupling between the sink base and the appliance and after carefully raising it a few inches, I had it attached and the whole thing seemed stable. I gleefully went outside and told my father “By jove, I think I’ve got it.”

Ever the doubting Thomas, my father was convinced that I had not found the solution and remained that way even when I proved that without the rubber ring, the disposal wouldn’t stay on.

“Well maybe it will work,” he declared at last. “But it seems like a load of garbage relying on a rubber ring to hold everything in place.”

A load of garbage indeed…but it worked and in the 16 years I was in the house, I never had another problem.



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MHH Column: Restoring a labor of love

IMG_7971       It is hands down, the most ambitious home renovation I have ever embarked on. The property is a charming fixer upper that has been in my family for more than three decades, but in the past 16 years or so, has fallen into a state of disrepair due to abandonment and neglect.

There is no electricity and no running water. The windows are long gone, the roof deck is missing and the only hint of the structure’s former glory lies in the faded yellow paper still clinging to the walls in a variety of patterns like some kind of tribute to bad taste.

As I survey each room, I can’t help thinking about the family who called this place home once upon a time. They were a lovely, lively group who made many memories in the three-bedroom mansion and I have no doubt that there would have been many more had they not been unceremoniously evicted when the owner of the property did the unthinkable: She grew up.

IMG_7973    No question about it. Restoring the dollhouse my father built for me is a unique undertaking. As I strip the old wallpaper from the gutted structure and clean the furnishings I collected over several Christmases and birthdays, I am flooded with memories of this labor of love that my father spent two years of his life constructing.

This was no ordinary dollhouse. This was a massive structure that featured ¾” plywood, removable roof panels and individual shingles made from old slatted closet door material that my father seemed to have in limitless supply. It was a far cry from the cute, decorative (read: flimsy) models I was used to seeing in Frank’s Nursery and Crafts. My father was determined to make his strong enough to withstand the energy of an accident-prone nine-year-old. He succeeded and when I retrieved the house from the garage loft after my mother passed, I was thrilled to see that my father’s work, for the most part, had stood the test of time.

IMG_7976     There are certainly things that need to be done and challenges to be met over the course of the endeavor to freshen the house. I have no doubt that most of those challenges will shorten my life and cause more of my hair to turn gray, but I’m willing to take those on one room at a time. I’ve discovered that the windows and doors are not a standard size making replacement parts difficult to find. There is the formal dining room that is all-but-impossible to reach and I can’t help wondering how I will finish out that space without calling in the talents of a reputable, flea-sized paper hanging company, but I remain hopefully optimistic.

Because I know that in my quiet moments, when my mind is still, the answers will come. Perhaps out of my own ingenuity, or perhaps it is Dad offering me the solution to the situation in an effort to contribute something to this posthumous father/daughter project that will be enjoyed by generations of our family to come.

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