Thursday, June 30, 2016

Sneaking and lying

I've been sneaking around and lying for the last couple of weeks now.  I've had good reason though.

A few weeks ago I got it into my head to propose to my girlfriend.  Her birthday was coming up on June 22, so I figured I would pop the question on that day.

First Step: I had to find a ring.  I spent the next couple of days researching rings online during my free time.  I didn't want anything traditional and boring, so I was searching all over for something unique.  I finally found a black diamond ring that I really liked and I just knew she would love.

Second Step: I had to go to the jewelers and order it.  This is where the sneaking around came into play.  I get off work a full 2-hours before she does, so this wasn't to difficult to pull off.  I waited for a day that I had to drop off my girlfriend's son at the tutoring center that he attends, and I simply drove over to the jewelers from there.  I had plenty of time to order the engagement ring, the wedding band, and the ring for myself.  Now the trick was going to be picking them up when they were ready.

Third Step: I wanted to get my girlfriend's parent's blessing before I asked her.  This wasn't as easy as it sounds.  It was summer break during this time, and they were watching her son during the day while she and I were at work.  My job was to pick up her son from her parents house everyday after work, but I couldn't ask them in front of the boy because he's 10-years-old and not the best secret keeper.  I would have to do it when the boy wasn't around.

My girlfriend works for the city, and office she is in works 9-hours a day and gets every other Friday off.  I waited for a Friday that she had off, so that she would have her son with her, and her parents would be free to talk.  I asked my boss to let me leave 30-minutes early that Friday so that I could rush over to her parents house and speak with them without raising any suspicion.  She wouldn't be suspicious if I came home a little later than usual, but when it comes to surprises I am as careful as possible.

I drove over to her parents house that afternoon, only to discover that they weren't at home.  I would have to figure out a different way to pull this off.

The following Saturday I had an event out of town with a local club that I am a member of (E. Clampus Vitus).  It was an all day event, but I knew that I could fit a visit with her parents into that days schedule.  I rode up to the event with a buddy of mine.  When the event was over and we were back in town, I called my girlfriend and told a little white lie.  I told her that my buddy had purchased a new awning for his RV and that I was going to help him install it.  Of course, my buddy was in on the planning, so he wished me luck and watched me drive off.

I got to her parents house around 7pm, and this time they were home.  I was much more nervous that I had imagined I would be.  I am already pretty close with her parents, so I thought I was going to be calm as a cucumber.  Wrong!

Her parents invited me in.  They were both in the kitchen making dinner when I arrived.  I basically cut to the chase and said, "I'm here about Chrissy's birthday.  You both know that it's coming up in a couple of weeks.  I plan to ask her to marry me on her birthday, but I would like to get both of your blessings first."

Her mom was pretty quick to say "Well, of course.", but her dad just leaned up against the counter stroking his goatee, and didn't say anything.  Finally, he said "Well, you know that Chrissy is her own woman...."  I cut in right there and let him know that I wasn't concerned about her saying No.  I just wanted his blessing to ask her.  They both gave me their blessing.  I told them about the rings and promised to bring them by and show the rings to them when they arrived.

Fourth Step: Her rings came in 5-days earlier than expected.  I got lucky though, and the jeweler called me on my cell phone while I was at work.  I simply drove over to the jewelers after work and picked up her rings before driving over to her parents and picking up her son.

My ring didn't come in for another week.  I was sitting at home after work on June 21, the day before Chrissy's birthday.  The jeweler called me to inform me that my ring had arrived.  They were open until 8pm, and I was going out of town for a week the following day, so I had to get the rings that night.  I was going to have to come up with another little white lie.  I quickly thought one up and waiting for her to get home.

I saw her pull up in the driveway, so I went outside to meet her.  I told her that I had to run over to my mothers house real quick because her pool pump was leaking water somewhere.  She and I both knew that my mom was currently out of town, so I told her that my aunt had dropped by the house to leave some fresh vegetables for my mom, and that my aunt had heard water splashing from the pump while she was there, but she didn't know anything about pumps so she called my mom, who in turn called me.

I rushed over to the jewelers and got my ring, and headed back home.  It took me significantly less time than I had imagined so I had to make up a story of where the pump was leaking from and how easy it was for me to repair the leak.  I knew that I would be proposing to her the following day, and that I could come clean about all of the sneaking around and lying.

HER BIRTHDAY: That morning was special for several reasons.  It was her birthday, I was going to propose to her, and her son and I were leaving for our annual father/son camping trip that my friends and I have been doing for years.

Her son and I took her out to breakfast to celebrate her birthday before we left town.  I told her that I had a birthday gift for her back at the house, and that I would give it to her before I left for the camping trip.  We had a nice breakfast and headed home.

When we first got home she was looking around the house for whatever gift I had gotten for her.  Her son was looking around even more frantically.  I got down on one knee in the dining room, and held out the open ring box to her.  Her reaction was priceless.  It went a little something like this, "Are you serious?....... <heavy breathing, hold back tears> .......Are you kidding with me?........ <half sob, heavy breathing> .......Are you joking? You're not joking...... <tears of joy, half sob>.  At this point I stood up.  My knees don't do good on hardwood floors.


As you can see in the picture above, the ring still needed to be sized.  She took it down that day after her son and I left for our camping trip.  She was told that it would take 2-weeks to get her ring back.  She hasn't been too happy about that.  As of this writing, it has only been a week.  She still has 1-more week to wait.

...and on a final note....  Her son and I had a blast on our week long camping trip.  When I got home and really took the time to look at the picture that I posted above, I had to shave off that nasty beard.

...until next time :)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Camping in style

Shortly after selling my girlfriends older Saturn Vue, we decided to use the proceeds to purchase a used camper.  I am a huge fan of the small vintage campers, but my girlfriend was dead set on something with a bathroom in it.  Most of the "smaller" vintage trailers don't have bathrooms in them, so the search was on.

After several weeks of watching Craigslist for a good buy, we finally found a great little vintage camping trailer.  It had the 3 qualifications we were looking for: small & vintage (for me), an onboard bathroom with shower (for her), and affordable (for both of us).

We got a 1973 Shasta SC16.  It is 16 feet long, claims to sleep 5 (but 3 is more realistic), and has all of the amenities of home.

The kitchen has plenty of cupboard and drawer space.  There is a sink, oven, and refrigerator, and there is even a little chandelier above the sink.

The dining set and the couch both fold out to make separate beds, but if you fold them out together they make one giant bed.  The cupboards above also lay down to create a top bunk bed.  The mattress to that bed is hidden behind the cupboard doors.

The bathroom isn't much to look at but it has a toilet and shower head on a flex hose to clean yourself up.  The entire floor of the bathroom is a large shower tray with a drain that goes down to the black water tank.

The only downfall to this trailer in my opinion is that there is only one catch tank underneath, which means ALL drains lead to the same tank.  So... if we overfill that tank we will have sewage backing up into the nearest drain, which is the floor of the shower.

Here are a few more pics of the outside of the trailer.

As you can probably guess, we are pretty excited about our little find.  We plan to restore her back to original, with the exception of the bathroom shower, which is not original to the trailer.  I do plan on replacing that shower with a better faucet/shower combo.

Once we put some time and money into our little camper I will post pics.  But for now I have to finish the landscape in my backyard. many projects, so little time.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

We got a new truck

Well...... Truth be told, my girlfriend got a new truck.  This is my girlfriend Chrissy, and that is her new toy.  We had been discussing it for a long time.  I drive a newer Dodge Caliber and she was driving a 13-year-old Saturn Vue.  The Saturn was a decent little SUV but she was ready for a newer ride also, and we both agreed that as a couple we could really use a truck.  She works close to where we live, and I commute 35 miles to work everyday, so a truck for her would be the wisest choice.

We searched around for about a week before we found the truck she really loved.  We got it at Carmax.  We visited our local Carmax to look at a Ford F150 truck that we saw on their website, but after test driving it we decided that the backseat just wasn't big enough for her son.  The sales rep at Carmax found us two trucks with larger backseats located at other stores and had them shipped over for us to take a look at.  Chrissy really had her eye on a Dodge Ram 1500 with the 5.7 HEMI, so after it arrived and we got a chance to take it for a test drive, she had to have it.
The backseat in this truck is massive.  Plus it has 2 cup holders back there and rear air conditioning.

Now we finally have something that we can haul things in, such as paving stones for our backyard project.  Plus, we have been dreaming of buying ourselves a small used camping trailer so we can spend some quality family time camping in the woods.  I owned a vintage popup trailer when she and I first met, but I sold it when I bought my little car.  I no longer had a vehicle to tow it with.

We decided not to use Chrissy's little Saturn Vue as a trade in at the dealership because we figured we could get more money out of it if we posted it on Craigslist.  We were definitely correct on that guess.  The Craigslist post was less than 30 minutes old before we received our first call, and shortly after that we sold the Vue to the first guy that called.  He gave us full asking price, which gave us a little play money.

Time to look for that small trailer we promised ourselves....

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Summer is coming fast.....

I've been spending most of my free time over the past few weeks working in the yard.

Summer is coming fast, so we installed a fourteen foot round, above ground pool in the backyard.

In order to do this correctly I needed to lower the lawn by at least 6 inches.  At it's original state, the lawn was a few inches higher than the concrete, so every time it rained the water would run off of the lawn and flood the patio.

I started by lowering the area where the pool would be sitting.  I ended up removing the lawn and lowering the ground elevation approximately 8 inches.  That doesn't sound like much, but considering that I had to do the entire thing with a shovel, plus the fact that my backyard is surrounded by trees that have an over zealous root system, it was not an easy chore.  It took me an entire week of digging and moving dirt just to clear a 15' x 15' spot for the pool.

 To hide the visually loud pool liner we surrounded the pool with bamboo reeds to create a "tiki bar" feel.

Next I had to start on the remainder of the yard.  I still had 30 feet of old lawn to go.  I started working at it with my trusty shovel, only to get discouraged when I discovered that this new portion of ground was covered in river rocks only a few inches below the surface, so digging with a shovel was pretty much impossible.  I was going to need mechanical help, so I decided I was going to rent a rototiller.

I got lucky and found out that a buddy of mine owns a rototiller and offered to loan it to me for free.

The work was still hard but it sure saved my back muscles.

Two days, and a gallon of sweat later I finished tilling the yard.  I had to dig one portion of the lawn down deeper than the rest because we plan to lay paving stones to make a porch around the pool.  Our plan is to space the paving stones at least an inch apart and fill the gap with dirt before planting Spanish Moss between all of the pavers.  I dug the deeper portion out first and had to fight all of those river rocks.  Even with a rototiller it wasn't easy going.
As you can see in the pic, I threw a tarp over the pool to keep the dust out.  We keep the tarp over it permanently now when we are not swimming because of all of the trees surrounding the pool.  So far it has saved me a huge headache in pool care.  By the end of each day that tarp is covered with leaves, twigs, and other tree stuff that would have otherwise been sitting at the bottom of the pool.

The last portion of the lawn area was much easier.  Since I didn't have to dig down as deep, I didn't have to deal with the river rocks again.  On this portion I only lowered the area by around 3 inches.
Our original plan was to grow a small patch of lawn there, but we have since decided to create a koi pond.  The koi pond is definitely going to be the last portion of this yard renovation, so for now this area is going to be just dirt until we can get the paving stones laid and the Spanish Moss planted.

My next step is to use some of the removed dirt to level out the area where the paving stones are going to be laid.  The struggle of removing all of the river rock left the ground terribly uneven.  I have "pot holes" anywhere that the river rock was more stubborn to remove.  Plus I now have an exposed sprinkler system running right down the middle of the yard (see the pic above).  I am going to be trenching those pipes up and using them for the planned koi pond.

The weather here in the Central Valley in California has started hitting the 100's, so progress is slowing some.  Plus, with as many pave stones as I am going to be needing we are going to need something to haul them in........