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Adventures in pressure washing and other outdoor projects

July 19, 2014 at 3:04 pm

After the trauma of having our house tented for termites

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and having a dozen of our pool cage screen panels cut, then repaired…

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things were feeling somewhat back to normal around here. And by normal, I mean covered in dirt and mildew after a year of Florida heat and humidity. We had not pressure-washed the pool deck since last summer and you could tell.

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The pebble stone decking was looking pretty grungy, even after I swept it all after the pool cage repairs.

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You may remember that Chad got a pressure washer for Father’s Day.

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Apparently the gift included labor…mine. I knew we would have lots of friends and family to entertain this summer so I could not wait to put the pressure washer to use. That thing is an amazing tool and gives great instant gratification.

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When I first started my pressure washing adventure the boys and a neighbor friend were in the pool.

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They wanted to get in on the act…for about five minutes before they realized that it was actually work.

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I realized that I needed to buy an extension for my hose in order to be able to reach the other side of the pool, but I spent hours the first day doing all of the areas that I could reach.

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Much better, right?

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It was still wet in these photos, and looked like new after it dried, I swear.

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One of the worst areas for mildew and algae was the area where our lounge chairs sit. Before and after:

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It feels so good.

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The area where our old picnic table sits is a low spot and also had tons of mildew and algae. Before and after:

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That was about as much as I could do in one day. Good thing we have an outdoor shower.

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I probably put in about 4 hours, but my hands were in a permanent claw position by that time and my whole body was vibrating from holding the sprayer for so long. I worked in my bathing suit so that when I was done I could shower off and jump in the pool. Awesome. Our pool deck covers quite a bit of real estate, and it took me three days to completely pressure wash the pool deck.

I saved the worst section for last.

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This was the part of the deck that really had no planter that I could “push” the dirt into.

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I removed the brick border in the little planter at the end of the deck in this photo:

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but there was just too much mud to push it all into there. It was amazing how much pure mud was collected after pressure washing this area of the deck.

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It’s not like the deck was muddy before. This is just the concentrated mildew, algae, and dirt that previously had been evenly spread across the whole deck. I had to resort to scooping it out and carrying it out into the yard.

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This was so fun. Doesn’t this look like a good time?

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I meant to come back out at a later date and take true “after” photos, but we got so busy enjoying the space over the summer that I forgot. So I snapped a few just now of what it is looking like today, about three weeks after I cleaned it all.

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Ignore the green pool. We’re working on it. But if you scroll up and compare it to our usual beautiful turquoise water, you can see that we are having issues. It’s been raining non-stop for days, and we had a broken filter in our pump. It is has been repaired but will take a few days to clear up. Just focus on the clean pebble decking.

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The green pool is not stopping the boys and friends from swimming. Don’t worry…it’s safe!

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It was pouring down rain when I took that photo. Kids don’t care.

At some point during all of my outdoor cleaning frenzy I took a break and helped Mack reorganize his room.

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We cleaned his whole room, but he was most psyched about his new Nerf gun wall.

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After finishing the back I could not overcome my pressure washing addiction and moved around to the front porch, but I got sidetracked by this huge vine growing on one of the posts for the gate to the side-yard. I started by just cutting it back a bit and didn’t take a “before” photo because I didn’t realize this was going to be a project…but imagine the post to the left of the gate below completely hidden, and a vine blocking half of the gate.

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This vine always drove me crazy because it grew so fast. I would cut it back A LOT and by the next day the walkway would practically be blocked again. It was basically Little Shop of Horrors over there and I don’t care for the overgrown look. In our tropical paradise, it’s hard to stay on top of the overgrowth.

This entire pile is comprised of just the vine that was covering that post (and a few palm fronds I picked up from the planting bed as well):

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The vine was well-attached to the post and was hanging on for dear life.

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I hacked away at it for an hour or so until I was down to this:

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That was one crazy vine. I had to pry it away from the brick.

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It felt great to obliterate that vine. I paid the boys an allowance to haul all that yard waste back to our dumpster trash can in the alley.

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It took them about 10 trips with the wheelbarrow.

Finally I was ready to return to my precious pressure-washing. The front porch was my next victim.

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I had swept the front porch a few times, but we had not cleaned it since we moved in over a year ago. It was pretty gross.

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Mildew and algae everywhere.

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We had the shrubbery that was against the front porch removed in April as half of it was dead. New flowering bushes were installed and were starting to fill in until we had the house tented for termites. The tents crushed the plants and also burned them…afterwards they were noticeably thinner and feeble and the cracked and mildewed wall of the front porch was very visible where before it had been hidden behind shrubs.

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The front porch was very sad.

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But the pressure washer is a miracle-worker.

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Who knew that the grout was not supposed to be black?

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This was the ultimate in satisfaction. Tell me that this tile and grout do not look brand new:

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All of the stains on the front of the porch wall did not come off with pressure washing, but it looked much, much better.

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I also pressure-washed all of the porch furniture and the front steps.

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I considered painting the front wall of the porch, possibly a similar color to the tile or some color that would make it blend in rather than stand out. But then I decided that I didn’t feel like tackling that particular painting job in the heat. Maybe this fall. The new bushes are starting to recover and should fill back in eventually so that the white porch wall will not be so visible. In the meantime I’m just ignoring the cracks and stains.

I also have plans to paint all of the porch furniture so that it doesn’t disappear into the house color like it does now. That will also wait for cooler, dryer weather. Paint won’t dry outside right now, I don’t think. It’s like a sauna out there.

That was four intense days of outdoor work and we have been enjoying it ever since.

Cya.

Playing with the AT&T Samsung Galaxy S5

July 15, 2014 at 2:16 pm

A few weeks ago a friend of mine who works for AT&T asked if I’d be interested in trying out a Samsung Galaxy S5 for a week or so and sharing my opinion.

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Since I currently have a Samsung Galaxy S4 (through Verizon), I had been paying attention to the buzz about the S5 and I was interested in seeing how different it was than the S4 so I said, “Sure!”

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Other than getting to try out the phone for a week, I was not compensated for this post and all opinions are my own.

Of course the first thing I did was compare the S4 to the S5 in size and appearance.

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It was just a little bit bigger all the way around. The back of the S5 has a dimpled texture and a matte finish, unlike the smooth (and sometimes slippery) back of the S4. The texture of the back of the S4 shows every smudge and fingerprint, so sorry that my phone looks disgusting in all of these photos. I guess that’s a plus for the S5.

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The S5 has a multi-beveled edge, rather than a smooth edge like the S4, which I suppose also helps in the grip department.

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In addition to the flash under the lens, the S5 also has a heart rate monitor. You just place your finger over the monitor for it to detect your heart rate.

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The heart rate monitor is a fun toy, but since you have to stop whatever you are doing and take your heart rate, I’m not sure I would actually use it that much but some people might. I have used the Samsung health app before, as it will work as a pedometer assuming you are always carrying your phone with you when you are walking. I was able to sync the loaner phone to my existing Samsung account, so that was pretty cool. I don’t use the app religiously, though.

When I first got the loaner phone I spent some time getting used to the new look of the operating system. While the S4 does allow multiple apps and multiple tabs to be in use at one time, the way multiple apps/tabs are accessed is different. The S4 has a side task bar that you can collapse, while the S5 has a dedicated multi-pane button on the front of the phone.

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Recently used or currently in-use apps are displayed as large tiles rather than as small icons, which means that you have to scroll through them more. I guess it’s 6 of one, half dozen of the other…depending on whether you like bigger tiles or less scrolling.

The things I use most on my phone are the camera and the apps, like most people I guess. The camera on the S4 is pretty great, and the S5 was very similar. The main difference was again how the options were displayed (small tiles or icons vs. large tiles).

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Some functions were moved to different areas in the menu, but most of the functions seemed to be the same.

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There was a camera option on the S5 for “dual camera” which I could not find on the S4. It lays the rear-facing camera view on top of the forward-facing camera view. Kind of neat, I guess…trying to think of when I would use that.

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Here is a test shot I took…same exact shot in the basic auto mode with the S4 and the S5. No editing.

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So the S5 has a wider angle lens (good) and the color is better. I like it.

When I cropped both photos in closely on the fireplace, it looks like the S4 actually had better resolution, but that could have just been user-error camera shake. I would have had to use a tripod and a timer to really be able to compare the two.

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Photos of homemade beef bone broth and some Faux Pho that I made.

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Photos on a plane to Kentucky:

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I got to listen to this kitty’s unhappiness for an hour and forty-five minutes! Poor kitty.

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The Yelp app worked perfectly on the S5 (one of my most-used apps for sure).

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We had to travel to Kentucky unexpectedly right after I got the loaner S5. Chad’s grandmother passed away in June. She was a wonderful person, and my grandmother for over 20 years. As with my Dad’s funeral in March, the whole trip was a mixture of sadness and grief and happiness at being with family and seeing so many people that we love whom we had not seen in many years. Like with my Dad, I can not properly express the love that I had for Jackie or the sadness at her passing. I am not a talented enough writer. I won’t even try. But we were happy to be with family.

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We flew to Lexington, then drove from Lexington to Jenkins in eastern Kentucky.

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The AT&T Drive mode kept warning me not to text and drive…

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until I shut it off since I was not driving.

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It had been several years since we were in Jenkins, so it was great to get to see Chad’s other grandparents and relatives.

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It seems kind of strange to take photos before or at a funeral, but we did the same thing at my Dad’s funeral. Everyone is together and looks nice. You want photos.

The funeral service was very nice and Jackie would have liked it. It was obvious how much of an impact she had on so many lives and how much she was loved. We got to spend time before and afterwards with lots of family which was so great.

We spent a couple of days in Lexington before our flight back to Florida. I used the Galaxy S5 to take photos of one of our lunch outings…Critchfield Meats, which is kind of a Lexington institution.

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They have a sidewalk barbeque for lunch once a week which draws a big crowd.

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You can read my review of Critchfield Meats on Yelp here, but we had a nice picnic on the sidewalk.

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My NSNG (no sugar, no grains) burger:

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Of course we had to hit up Fan Outfitters while in Lexington (hey, there’s the S5!):

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Overall, I thought the Samsung Galaxy S5 was pretty cool. I kind of used it simultaneously with my S4, and didn’t really notice that AT&T had better coverage than Verizon or vice versa. I’d have more bars with one service at times, and more bars with the other service at others. I didn’t notice any features with the S5 that made me think, “Whoa, I can’t wait until our service plan is up…I need this phone NOW.” It was a super nice phone and I loved getting to try it out, but I’m pretty happy with my S4 for now. I know that I’ll also be happy to upgrade when the time comes…probably to whatever the newest Samsung Galaxy phone is then!

Thanks for letting me try out the Samsung Galaxy S5 AT&T.

Cya.