Sunday, July 28, 2013


The new and improved dog run

This year July has been the most social month of my life since moving from New York City.  My twin brother, Scott and his fiancee, Bernadette, came up for July 4th.  I had been getting lots of things done in anticipation of their visit, including chopping down a huge and invasive holly tree. I was sick to death of raking up holly leaves and pruning it every year. My side of the fence had the male holly tree, while my neighbor had a female and between them, the leaves and branches had taken over. Time to call a halt. It's not as though Portland isn't awash in this annoying shrub. The Pacific Northwest's damp climate seems to make them grow as though they were on steroids. The tree was located in the dog run on the east side of my house. It was now time to clean out the weeds and make it presentable. I called in a garden service I use and they did a sensational job. I've planted tall, ornamental grasses, and moved a viburnum that was in a pot at the entryway to the house and planted it as well. This gives my new tenant something pleasant to look at from the egress window. There is now a brick path to the central air conditioning unit on that side of the house as well as the garden hose. And speaking of hoses, I have switched over to the new flexible synthetic garden hoses that are on TV. What a difference. The old hoses were heavy, kinked all the time, and knocked out everything in their path. I was sick to death of twisting out their kinks and hauling them around the garden. These new hoses are light as a feather, never kink and when you're through, you simply empty out the water in them, which makes them contract. It's easy to wind them up and place them on a hose caddy. I bought one at Walgreens for about $20 for a fifty-foot hose, but saw an ad on TV for 100-foot lengths and ordered one of them as well. Fantastic.

Before and after shots of the new backyard stairs

While I was on a tear, I decided the old stairs from the kitchen to the patio needed some updating. The stairs were very shallow and dangerous and ugly. I asked my contractor to cover them, giving me a wider step, a new handrail, and to use Trex, a petroleum product that mimics the look of wood without the splinters and upkeep real wood requires. My balcony is all Trex and it's minimal upkeep requires nothing more than hosing it down when the warm weather arrives. It's durable and attractive.

Scott and Bernadette arrived and set about the yard. I had bought a pressure washer, and Scott unpacked it, demonstrating how to pressure wash dirt and grime off of the patio, the house, windows, get rid of moss on the driveway and walking paths. Quite a good appliance. Scott comes up for a visit about once a year and he always re-organizes my garage, which is really more of a workshop. The previous owner had lots of power tools and set the garage up as his home-improvement space. I don't really do much in the way of projects. While I do have a generous number of power tools, shop work isn't really my thing.  Scott, on the other hand, came out of the womb with a drill, a sander, and tool belt. He's pretty good at fixing things, which is a huge benefit to me when they visit. Once Bernadette had the patio to her liking, she and I sat down with a glass of wine and gossiped while Scott did his manly thing in the garage. He fixed the pegboard, which was coming off the wall. He put everything to right (which I'll un-right after he leaves). I decided I hated the gas mower John Baker had so generously given to me. It was a beast to mow grass with and Scott took me to find a more manageable mower for that tiny plot of grass in my back yard. We found an electric "green" mower which can be controlled by fingertips. So much easier.

Scott and Bernadette have determined they like Portland and want to move here. So part of the time, we spent looking at houses with my real estate buddy, Brad Wulf. They want a two or three-bedroom ranch house with a small back yard, a large master bath, a two-car garage. The cost of California's real estate  has priced them out of the market and they can afford a nicer home here. We saw a few homes we liked, looking in the Beaverton area, which I thought might be better for them as the location would be close to Bernadette's job, if she's lucky enough to be transferred up here. But they have determined they want to be in-town, so when Bernadette is here in the fall, we'll look at more houses. Meanwhile, I'm checking out the real-estate market for them. I love looking at houses. The market is rebounding a bit here and it will be tougher to find a house as inventory has been low (very little building has been done during the housing/economic crisis), and many houses on the market are receiving multiple offers.

It will be nice to have family closer. 

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