Friday, November 16, 2012

A Youthful Etiquette Night


I’ve had a new job at church for the past few months now. I help with the Young Women, ages twelve to eighteen. I really enjoy it, though I was initially worried about missing Relief Society. I do miss those ladies, but it’s like a switch kicked over. Now I know that I am needed in Young Womens, and I am really digging it.

Every month, we have a combined activity with the Young Men in our ward. Tonight, we hosted an Etiquette Evening followed by a dinner to practice everything that they learned in the classes.


We went simple and rustic with the table decorations. Butcher paper with leaves and pumpkins as the centerpieces.

Please don’t assume anything here with the presence of frat beer Dixie cups. I promise… we only had water to drink tonight!


In the background, you can see chairs set up for one of the mini classes before dinner. We had three classes total on Introductions and First Impressions, Telephone and Dating, and Dining. Guess which one I taught? (Put your napkin on your lap, please).

As part of their recent loss in our name indexing competition, the boys cooked and served us dinner. Which meant that they also got to set the tables.


It was fun to listen to the boys talk each other through such a monumental task.

“No, the salad fork goes here.”

We’ve got a pretty good group of kids, even if there aren’t nearly as many as we would like. The turnout tonight was incredible!


Some even patrolled after the fact to ensure that proper setting was taking place. This really was fun to watch them in action.


After three successful classes, it was time to practice what they learned! The boys helped the girls with their chairs. Conversation was rampant, with helpful “starter” questions in the green bowl in case they got stumped.

Lots of these kids are approaching their awkward dating age, and we want to send them out into that cruel, cold world with lots of good information to make dating a fun experience for them.


Luckily, the kids all really enjoyed themselves. We, as leaders, patted ourselves on the back afterwards because it seemed like everyone had such a nice time. And I think that they learned some valuable lessons, too. And not just the youth…I got to correct some of the adults in their 15% tipping habits.

20% is the new 15%, people. Never leave less than 20%. Servers only make $2.13 an hour. And if you can afford to eat out, then you can afford to properly tip!


We even made the kids sit boy-girl-boy-girl to make sure that they had to have conversations with the opposite sex. It’s amazing the lack of social skills these days because of all the technology! Tonight, the kids were forced out of their comfort zones in order to initiate conversation. It worked like a charm!


This was one of the tables full of leaders. Guess which hottie I sat by?


I get to work with lots of amazing people in these organizations. I really love my church “calling,” as they are known. We all have different unpaid responsibilities in our church organization to make it work properly. Before this, I was teaching all of the grown-up ladies for an hour on Sundays.

This calling with the Young Women is great because I can do it even with my crazy work schedule! If I miss an event because I’m out of town, there are several other rock-star leaders to help carry the load! It really has been a blessing these past two months to have this new, wonderful, perfect-for-me calling.


I have to put it in writing, but the dinner was absolutely incredible. They intentionally made spaghetti so that we could teach the kids how to properly eat long pasta. It was fun to teach some of the adults, too! Just for the record, it is much easier with a wide, metal pasta spoon and not some tiny plastic thing like we used tonight!

A salad course was first, and some of the kids corrected the others with proper manners when they tried to take the spaghetti too early. Hey, they listened! It’s salad time now, then we will eat the main course!


I hope that in addition to learning something, they also had a great time. According to these two gals, fun was had by all!

It was incredible to see so many kids at the event tonight, and I really think that they learned some valuable tools to be successful. Manners go a long way in life. I am reminded of that each day!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Backyard Sprinklers and Pyrotechnics


Hubby has been working hard on our backyard. We are gutting it to do some landscaping from the start…the right way. They kind of only did half the yard when they installed the original sprinkler system pipes back here, and they did a crappy job on the few that were installed.

The first thing to do it so get the new pipes ready to go. You can see where the water comes from the house here. Hubby built the custom cover to protect it from the harsh Phoenix sun. Today, he has installed the new pipes and is now backfilling the trench that he dug to do it.


These four pipes will now cover our entire backyard with proper water coverage and even add a drip system to our future garden. He did some planning with his brother, who used to install watering systems for a living. Hubby has been spending lots of time with rulers and compasses to ensure that every corner of our new lawn will be watered. He drew it all out on graph paper, to scale. Of course. It’s awesome!


You can see where he moved the gravel and weed protection to dig his trench. After the hole is filled back in, we will place the weed protector down again, then cover in gravel once more.

The weed protector has worked like a charm, by the way. Remember when we did that project? My hands still remember…


New, shiny PVC pipes are now ready to send water through the new lines, once he gets those in.

But I kind of interrupted his project after these pictures were taken by suggesting that we work on the front yard first, since it is seen by everyone. And looks terrible, in my opinion.


You should see the front yard right now…our neighbor asked if we were building a moat! I don’t think that’s a compliment!


In preparation of getting the yard ready for some landscaping, I took down part of our falling-down-anyway pool fence. Can I just tell you how much I love it being gone? I would love for the whole pool to be gone so that we could landscape and use this entire backyard!

I keep losing that battle…


While Hubby was working on the piping, I stacked the garden boxes to get them out of the way for our projects. We also moved the composter to this side of the yard. I’m so glad that it isn’t the first thing that I see in the backyard any more! It’s not exactly pretty…

The weed whacker ran out of whacking string just as I went to chop all of these weeds up. Pretend that it’s all nice and neat and trimmed right now!


Look how much bigger the yard feels without that awful fence! Can we please just get rid of this pointless pool? We never use it. And the yard would be huge without it!

I don’t feel strongly about this at all. Why do you ask?


Any ideas on how to convince Hubby that this old thing needs to go? I know that we lose a little bit of value on the home by filling it in, but the cost of operating the ancient pump and chemicals for the pool would more than pay for that loss in just a few years! It makes perfect sense to me to build a backyard that we can use and enjoy and not just ignore half of it that looks terrible and never gets used.


This is a pile of rocks, obviously. I think they just ended up here when gravel was being moved for the new garden box location. Which simply means that I will need to move this gravel again, once we figure out what to do with it.

I am still debating what to do with this little corner. I think a water feature would be cool!


This is just a slap in the face as to how awesome I am at growing things in pots…or at all, for that matter. At one point in time, each of these pots had something pretty or edible growing inside. Other than a few leaves of basil, we didn’t get a single thing out of all that work and money. I guess I’ll wait to be at home to water things before I try to grow stuff again. Water helps in the desert, I’ve heard.

Can you see my cactus? I found it under the gravel and put in into a planter this past spring. Thanks to it being a cactus and not caring if we forget about it for a few weeks, it has tripled in size since when it was discovered. How fun!


Please ignore the tools and large machinery. The backyard doesn’t always look like this! I was weed-whacking, and Hubby’s dad brought down his rotor tiller for us to use when we start tearing up this entire place. I’m so glad that we can use a rotor tiller for free!

And I’m excited to get the backyard done this winter so we can enjoy it more. I think that a lot more outdoor dinner parties will be enjoyed on this patio once the yard is looking like a yard again!


With evening quickly approaching, Hubby covered the exposed pipes and called it quits for the day. Or so I thought…


I went inside to make dinner and came out a few minutes later to find this: my husband holding a fire stick near a bunch of flammable dead grass.

Should I be concerned?


Thanks to no water all summer (we did that on purpose, I promise!), the grass burned pretty well. Hubby will till this all under in hopes that the ashes will give the new grass even more goodness to help it grow.

We need all the help that we can get, remember?


What is it with men and fire?


It took care of most of the dead grass back here. We plan to move all of those river rocks from around the perimeter of the fence and put in a pretty winding cement border. Inside the border will be plants that we will kill to add beauty and color to the yard, and outside of the border will be nice, green, properly-watered grass.


This is an appropriate picture showing how tiny the yard will be without getting rid of the pool. Man, I wish I could talk him into it!

Oh crap. Did I bring that up again?! Amazingly, I haven’t mentioned it to Hubby in weeks. That’s pretty good for me.


I was the joy-kill worried wife who insisted that a hose be nearby in case this thing got out of hand. That would be an awkward call to the insurance company…

“Yeah. I just burned my house down because of some backyard grass burning. Yes, I’ll hold.”


He started some more fires in places that didn’t quite get attention from the first pass.


You can almost hear Hubby grunting satisfaction in this picture!

So we are on our way to a new backyard. But first, we’ve taken a side road to finish the front yard first. I didn’t know this, but he is putting in all-new pipes in there, too, with rotary heads instead of sprayers. We are also adding drip systems to the planter boxes and even creating a new planter box in front of the two front bedrooms. It’s going to look awesome!

In the meantime, we have a moat. Feel free to drive by to honor its sheer awesomeness.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Neighborly Love with Paint and Power Washers


You have probably figured out by now that I am married to a rather thoughtful man. He is always looking for ways to help others. In this case, he decided that the youth in our church could help with a service project for a great family.

He pitched an idea to the owners, and they decided to go along with it! We are painting a house!


On our first day of official work, it was cleaning-and-scraping day. The plan was to prep the house to get it entirely ready for primer and paint. Just like with everything, this step took longer than expected. But we still got a lot done!


The house, built in 1968, has had two coats of paint on it. This latest coat has been on at least since the early eighties. It was flaking off and was ready for a makeover!


If you look closely, you can see the original house color! When the house was first built it was green, and now it’s blue. The owners have picked out a beautiful warm gray and darker gray for contrast. It looks slightly dark olive green under the right light. It will be a beautiful update to this beautiful home with beautiful people inside!


Some of the prep work involved taking down some rotting wood. With no paint to protect it and the relentless Phoenix sun baking it, this wood didn’t stand a chance. Here, Hubby is pulling down the rotted stuff to replace it with new.


Paint was coming off the brick on the side of the house, too, which meant that lots of scraping had to happen to get the old off. Here is Tom, scraping away! We had lots of wonderful help today, which always makes any job easier.


CJ tackled the side of the house with wood. Once all of this old paint is off, we can power wash and prep it with primer. The original goal was to primer this past weekend, but rain threw a wrench into that plan. Now, we are headed over tomorrow to prime it so we can do the first coat of paint on Saturday.


Tony was here to help today, too. He spent most of his time wandering around telling people how hard he was working! Cracked me up.


This is an up-close shot of the trim surrounding the front of the house. It is a great view of the paint coming off in some places. With some power washing and a light sanding with a power sander, this will be ready to go with a new coating!


We will also paint the iron work. I have already spray-painted the house numbers, mailbox, and doorbell a beautiful brushed nickel metallic. No one is surprised by that, I’m sure.

I went shopping with the home owner, and we found a gorgeous porch light to replace this probably-original fixture. I even spray-painted the new light to match the same finish as the “new” numbers and mailbox! Everything matches and looks great! I can’t wait to put it back up on the house!


Everything that is dark will be painted the dark gray. We won’t be painting the bricks below but gave them a good scrubbing with the power washer. Just getting some dirt off made them look better. We have had lots of dust storms this past summer!


Isn’t this house adorable? I love the porthole window. And not just because I scrubbed off all the paint surrounding it with a wire brush!


Here we can see the power washer in action. This amazing machine did a lot of work for us today, saving us from even sanding some spots.


And now I want one. This thing was so cool!


Dave was the power washer extraordinaire today, but he taught the boys how to do it, too. Hubby’s goal through these service projects is not only to help others, but also to teach the boys things that will help them in their lives down the road.

See? Thoughtful!


The whole house got a washing, but it really made a visible difference by removing the flaking paint in lots of places.


Here is a corner that could use some loving.


And after a little wash, lots of that cracking paint was removed!


Dave was soaked by the time the house was clean. What a trooper!


To prep for painting, I removed the house numbers, mailbox, doorbell, and light fixture. This is going to look incredible when it’s all said and done!

I casually mentioned a fun color for the door, and I think that they are on-board! In their color palette is a beautiful red that would really pop against all of the new gray paint. We will be painting the door whatever fun color they choose and updating all of the trim in the light gray.


Who knew that power washing could be such a great preventer of sanding? We will still sand to prep the surface for primer and paint, but the power washer removed a lot of stuff that would eat through a ton of sand paper. I’m so glad!

IMG_4907  IMG_4908

Here Tom and Nathan exhibit perfect scraping skills still. This whole brick surface will look brand-new by the time they finish.


Here is the front after a good power washing! Hopefully, you won’t even recognize this house once all of the paint is up. And hopefully these boys will know how to paint a house after everything is finished!


Marshall is supervising Dave’s washing skills here. “You missed a spot…”


I removed lots of nails throughout the trim of the house. Some, like on these corner, simply needed to be hammered back into place. The others had been for Christmas lights forty years ago.


Payton worked hard while enjoying some music. I was impressed with some of these boys’ willingness to work.


Many hands make light work!


Some of the back patio trim had rotted away. We took down the old piece, and the new one has since been put up by another guy from church who does wood trim for a living. I love how everyone pitches in to make things happen!


Ted was pretty excited to be working so hard today. He is such a great man and a dear friend of ours!


Tom grinded some old nails to prep for the new wood. I love how the sparks are flying everywhere…including his glasses!


As you can see, we had some good workers today. We were just happy that people showed up to help. We got a lot done today, even if it wasn't entirely ready for primer and paint by the time we left this afternoon.


And the weather cooperated…unlike this past weekend. I hope we get some primer and paint on in the next few days! Even in the fall, exposed wood sitting under this sun is not a good thing!


And hopefully soon, this house will have a total facelift!

Do you think that Hubby’s crazy for doing this? You should have seen the looks he got when he first suggested it. I’m glad that it is all coming together and that so many people can learn from this and pitch in. It has been fun so far, and even more fun to help wonderful people and neighbors.

They certainly deserve it.

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