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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Remodeling Stairs with Decorative Risers

When my family and I decided to redo our floors, I knew that our stairway would be a challenge. Do you remember the scene in Pee Wee's Big Adventure, when Pee Wee Herman came across the pet store that was on fire? Pee Wee ran in and opened the puppy cages. Then he ran by the snake terrariums, gave a look of disgust, and continued to save the kittens. On and on he went, passing the snakes, making a face, and saving other animals. Finally, he knew that he could no longer pass the snakes, so he grabbed two fistfulls of them, ran outside, and passed out.

That was how I felt about the stairs. I would walk by them, shake my head, and move on to some other part of the flooring project. I worked in the kitchen, looked at the stairs, and moved on to caulking. Then I looked at the stairs, and moved on to the living room. Then the laundry room, bathroom, dog, and ceiling fan. I floored things that should never be floored. And then I had to face the stairs.

Carpeted stairs - they look happy in spite of the old carpet.
The first thing I had to do was pull off the carpeting, the tack strips, and the 3.7 million staples that were used to attach the carpeting to the stairs. Next, I had to cut the bullnose off of each stair (this is the overhang that would have interfered with the flooring on the deck [the horizontal surface]). Finally, in preparation for covering the stairs, I had to cover the risers (vertical surface) with pieces of plywood, just to give some evenness to the stairs for our covering.

Here is where I had a wonderful conversation with my five-year-old. My son was working with me and helping in the fantastic way that five-year-olds can help. He would take staples and put them in a bucket. He would use the pliers and try to pull staples out. And then, when we pulled off some carpeting, he discovered a knothole.

I wonder what's going on in there.
That boy sat there staring at the knothole for minutes. He looked at it from so many different angles. He poked his finger into it. And then he said, "Daddy, please don't cover that hole. I think it's a knothole like Ralph (from The Mouse and the Motorcycle) lived in." We then had an entire conversation about what the mice that lived in that knothole might do. Did they ride around on his motorcycles? Play with his Legos? What did they eat? How many were there? He was so fascinated, and I loved watching him and listening to his imagination spinning and thinking and creating. It was great! I almost forgot that I had stairs to work on.

Back to work... After the risers were covered with plywood, I laid the new floor on the deck. Because they are stairs, the pad had to be removed and the flooring had to be glued down with a construction adhesive. Finally, a few nails with the nail gun to keep everything in place, and we had new stairs.

The finished product!
For the risers, we didn't want to install more of the flooring. I thought this would be too dark, and between the flooring and our furniture, we have plenty of wood around. After spending irretrievable hours on Pinterest, we decided that it would be really cool to wallpaper the risers. We found a wallpaper store (yes, they still exist), and after getting several samples, settled on two different colors of the same wallpaper, alternating them in a 1-2 pattern. Installing the wallpaper was a breeze.

The result is a wonderfully light and classy stairway, which really highlights the banister that need to be replaced and the walls that need to be painted. But at least the snakes are safe! And the mice have their hole underneath the wallpaper.

Now on to the next project.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Renaissance Dad Product Test: GreenWorks 60V Self Propelled Cordless Mower

I have many bizarre quirks, and one of them is that I really love research. When I am in the market to purchase something, or when I am just interested in finding out about a new product, I love to read reviews, look at specs, got to stores to fiddle, compare, and push Google to new limits with the amount of comparison that I do. In fact, this is one of the reasons that I started Renaissance Dad. After extensive amounts of researching, I wanted to share what I had learned with the entire Interweb.

That being said, I spent years researching lawn mowers, purchased and owned several different brands and varieties (battery, corded electric, gas, self-propelled, push). Three and a half years ago I fell in love with the GreenWorks G-Max 40V Lion mower. And in three and a half years my love for this mower has not wavered.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Homemade Nachos: A Healthier, Tastier Alternative

Our family life is filled with traditions. One of my favorites is Friday Family Movie Night. It starts when I get home from work and yell at the top of my lungs, "IT'S FRIDAY!" That is the signal for family time.

We usually begin with either a family swim (still loving the remodeled pool - thank you Above & Beyond) or a rousing round of Just Dance on the Wii. After we have spent what little energy we have left from the week, the kids get into their pjs, dinner and popcorn are made, and the movie of the week begins.

For Family Movie Nights, there are only two options in our house for dinner - pizza and nachos. Of course, being the pseudo-health nuts that we are, both of these are homemade. While the pizza came fairly quickly and somewhat easily to perfect, the nachos took some finessing to get the perfect recipe. But as we perfected the recipe, we quickly discovered that all other nachos left something to be desired.

Warning!!! If you try these nachos, you will most likely lose all respect for any other nachos,

Friday, August 18, 2017

A Carton of Eggs, a Gallon of Milk, and a Scoop of Poop: Quality Time with My Daughter

A couple of years ago I started occasionally helping my friends Bob and Sheri on their farm. I learned to milk cows, take care of their chickens, and do all of the fun things that take place on a small farm in the morning. For the past several years, when they were out of town and needed somebody to take care of the critters, I jumped in whenever I could. It is something that I really enjoy, and it keeps me on my toes, since the only thing constant on a farm is change.

Two weeks ago, Bob and Sheri asked me to milk for the weekend. My two girls were in the play Annie, school was getting ready to start, and I was in the middle of a sizeable flooring project. It was quite hectic around the house. Nevertheless, I jumped at the opportunity to work at the farm.

Then my nine-year-old asked me if she could help. My initial response was to tell her that she needed to sleep in (and I use the term "sleeping in" very loosely, since my kids are almost always awake by 6:00). I needed to leave the house by 5 a.m., and I didn't think that Big E would be able to handle this on top of everything else that was going on. But the softie in me said that this would be a great Daddy-Daughter memory, and I told her that she could help me one of the days. I woke her up at 4:45, asked her to get dressed (and found out that she slept with her clothes under her pajamas so she would be ready more quickly), and we headed out.

Big E helped get the cows ready to milk. She carried their food. She scooped the poop from the pastures. She fed and watered the chickens and checked for eggs. And not once did she complain. It was hot and humid, even at 5:30 in the morning. There was a rain storm the night before, so everything was muddy. And yet she kept a smile on her face all morning.

As we were cleaning up, and then driving home, we started talking about the time on the farm and her experience. She expressed her desire to someday live on a farm and have horses and cows and chickens. Her face lit up as she dreamed her wonderful nine-year-old dreams.

And I thought to myself, "Am I Tom Sawyer? Did I just dupe my child into doing work by making her think that it was fun?" I don't think that I tricked her, but I do think that I showed her how much fun the work is because of my enthusiasm. And my enthusiasm was even greater because of the one-on-one time that I got to spend with my daughter in the midst of an extremely busy time in our house. I love taking my kids on dates and spending time with them. But for Big E, spending time scooping poop with daddy was just as great as a date.

Do you think it will work if I pretend like I really enjoy folding their laundry and make that a date?

Friday, July 7, 2017

What Type of Flooring is Best? A Stress Test of Bamboo, Laminate, and Engineered Floors

We love our current house, but we are still in the process of making it our home. As you may have read in one of my previous posts, the addition of kids really slows down the home project process. However, one of the biggest advantages of taking projects more slowly is the amount of time I can spend researching products before deciding what I want. This is my gift. This is my curse... All of that to say this: I hate my floors. Our carpets are so old and worn that we have stopped cleaning the stains. The tile is standard builder's grade beige with hints of beigeness, with beige grout. We have been fine with this for the past four years, but I say to these floors, "No more!"

But back to the process part of the project.

So before we tackled this project, we had to decide what to replace it with. We knew that we wanted something that was wood or wood-look, and we needed something relatively inexpensive (Remember, I'm an educator. We're famously underpaid.). So we had four contenders.