Allen Assembly Time

We’re doing some reconfiguring at our house and purchased some new bar stools on-line that were delivered in boxed-up, do-it-yourself form.  Today’s project is to assemble the bar stools by following instructions that appear to have been written in Vietnamese and then loosely translated into English.  The assembly process involves, among other things,  determining whether the “flat washer” mentioned in the instructions is the same as the “plat washer” that is labeled in the parts bag (that seems like a safe assumption, doesn’t it?) and using the dreaded “Allen wrench” that was not a known tool back when I took wood shop in high school.  

Who was this “Allen” guy, anyway, and why couldn’t he figure out a way to use a crescent wrench, instead?

When I first sit on one of these I’m going to do it gingerly.

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Saturday To-Do

I’ve let some household chores accumulate for a while, and this weekend seems like a good time to tackle some of them.  One of the jobs was washing down and cleaning off our lawn chairs, and I decided to do that first, before the predicted rains come.  A little deft hose work, using the thumb-blocking-the-water-flow-power-wash method, a few well-calculated swipes with a rag from the rag bin, and the chairs look sparkling and bright.

It’s only 8 a.m., and already I’ve put my first check mark on the to-do list!  Why, the sense of deep personal accomplishment is almost overwhelming.

Tree Fail

When we moved in to our house we had our back yard landscaped.  Kish hates direct sunlight, so a key element of the design was a new tree planted at one corner of the patio.  It was supposed to grow tall, leaf out, and provide lots of the glorious shade that Kish likes so well.

For the first year and a half, things went according to plan.  The tree grew like crazy and looked to be doing fine.  Then late last summer, the tree started to visibly struggle.  Beginning at the top of the tree, the leaves wilted and died.  We hoped that the tree would recover this spring, but the top half remained dead and the only new leaves appeared at the base of the tree trunk.  As a last-ditch salvage effort, the landscapers cut off the dead top part of the tree — leaving us with the pathetic looking elongated stump shown above — in hopes it would spur new growth at the bottom of the tree.  Unfortunately, that effort also failed.  Our little tree has given up the ghost.

I like trees.  I hate to see them struggle and I hate to see them die.  This tree death is particularly weird because there’s no apparent cause.  It wasn’t struck by lightning, and every other plant and shrub in our back yard is thriving.  I guess sometimes death just happens.

I’ll miss our little tree.

Umbrella Upgrade

When you know you’ve got important house guests in your future, it can motivate you to finally do some stuff around the house that you’ve been meaning to do for a while.  In our case, that meant paying some attention to the backyard.  We picked up some brightly colored cushions for the patio furniture and replaced our faded and cracked Cinzano umbrella — which had served us nobly for two and a half years — with a bright red Campari umbrella.  The combination of the cushions and the umbrella bring a lot more color to the back yard.

To my knowledge I’ve never sampled either Cinzano or Campari, but I do like their umbrellas.

Basement Reboot 

We’ve got guests coming for a visit later this summer, and the first part of our Glorious Fourth was devoted to projects related to the visit — first, figuring out what we need to do to spruce up the house and grounds between now and then to properly welcome our guests, and second, actually tackling one of the projects.  

I’m a big believer in starting with the worst project first, so things get easier as you make progress on your to-do list.  That meant starting today with the basement — the municipal landfill of every household, where every item of currently unused stuff eventually finds a home.  If you don’t stay on top of the basement, it inevitably ends up as a horror show.  So today we threw out, cleaned, organized, and put away . . . and the basement ended up like this.  And I only smacked my head against low beams and pipes about five times, too.

So the basement is done, and we can scratch one entry off the task list.  We may not voluntarily take our guests to the basement, but if they turn out to be aficionados of old basements and want to see it, at least it won’t be a horrible embarrassment.  Now, it’s time to crack open a beer.

For Whom The Clock Chimes

We have an old clock in the front foyer of our house that we inherited from Kish’s Mom.  It’s a lovely piece of craftsmanship from days gone by, with careful wooden carvings and delicate clockwork mechanisms.  It’s a bit temperamental, too.  It needs to be wound, pursuant to a yellowed set of instructions kept inside the clock cabinet, and only Kish can do it in precisely the right way.  

But what I really like about the clock is its sound.  On a morning when I wake up early and come downstairs, like this morning, the sounds of the clock fill our quiet, darkened home.  The steady ticking, the whirring made when the hour or half hour are ready to be struck, and finally the hollow gong that marks the passage of another 30 minutes — these are reassuring sounds that are good company for the early riser.

Ask not for whom the clock chimes.  Why, it chimes for me!

Family Yard Art

There are tangible benefits to having a talented artist in the family.

Yesterday Russell presented us with a combination birthday/Mother’s Day present: this very cool granite piece for our backyard flower beds.  He made it using a machine that project a stream of high pressure water and a sand-like substance and can cut through just about anything.  The shaped pieces of granite then fit together to form this beautiful three-dimensional sculpture that shines brilliantly in the morning sunshine and changes in feel and appearance as the sun moves across the sky and shadows play upon its surface.  We love it and think it fits perfectly in our yard.

Thanks, Russell!