Hazel is now averaging around 27 lbs. and stands 18″ tall at the shoulder. Contrast this with a 15 lb. puppy at 12″ when we first brought her home. I used to be able to scoop her up in one hand when she was loitering on the front lawn at 11PM, impatient for her to come back inside, and now I’ve got to grab her with both hands and lift with my knees. She eats twice a day but her favorite thing is to see if we’ve forgotten to move the cat food to the counter, because that apparently tastes better than the $70 puppy food she gets. Meanwhile, Nox is in the office horsing down whatever might be left in her bowl.
We’ve settled into a regular daily routine. I get up in the mornings and walk her first thing. Sometimes the ladies come with me and sometimes we sneak out before they wake up. We have a standard route: first we walk over to the church so she can find a good place to poop on their lawn. Then we walk behind the church into the stand of trees where she can chase squirrels and listen to the acorns drop. Then we loop back around on Beechwood Ave. and head to the backyard, where I put her on the long lead to hang out while I get coffee and breakfast together. In the evenings we go for one last walk before closing up the house. She’s accepted that the crate is her nighttime bed; I take the leash and her harness off inside the front door and she trots right inside and lays down for sleep. Jen bought her a couple of fleece jackets to wear when the weather gets cold, and I had her in one for the majority of the day yesterday. She looks fashionable!
The issues with the cats haven’t worked themselves out much. Some days she’s super-chill with the two of them, and other days it’s one big furball of scrabbling claws on the floor as they all try to simultaneously occupy and avoid the same space. We’ve done four pet training classes that have taught us some coping techniques, but everything flies out the window when she sees a squirrel or another dog on our walks.
We’ve found new and interesting ways to try and exhaust her before bedtime; our friends down the street have a puppy roughly her size and practically beg Jen to bring Hazel down to let them run around the backyard and wear each other out. On the days we’ve been able to schedule this, she crashes out as soon as she gets home. On other days, I’ve found a method of wearing her out: I take her over to the playground at the school where there’s an enclosed area about the size of a tennis court with one entrance. I bring a couple of sticks in there, take the leash off, and we play an abbreviated game of Fetch (more like Chase) where she goes after one while I pick up the other. Come to think of it, I suppose I’m playing Fetch. She should be giving me $9 salmon-flavored treats every time I pick up the fucking stick. I guess it’s OK because she is absolutely beautiful when she’s running at full speed. After a half an hour of this, she’s worked her ya-ya’s out and we head for home.
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Much of the grass in our backyard is gone, because we had the landscaping guys come and dig a drainage trench Wednesday afternoon. We tied the downspouts from the back of the house into one pipe going out to the middle of the lawn so that the runoff doesn’t keep flowing past (and into) the garage. This should move even more of the water away from the house and hopefully prevent further flooding. They also pulled all of Jen’s plants from the circle garden and leveled it out across the middle of the yard and trimmed back all of our planters in preparation for fall. They are coming back today to level out all of the divots and low spots and humps in the lawn and hopefully make the whole thing flatter (or, at least, sloped all in the same direction).
Along with that work, I approved a contract to have the driveway dug up and replaced with real asphalt. The idea is to widen the whole thing out to two car widths so that we’re not constantly dealing with parallel parking. We’re also putting in a drainage trench toward the back that will move all the water flowing down the driveway from the side of the house out to the other side of the garage.
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Up in the bathroom, we’ve got the linen cabinet sitting roughly in place, which is a huge relief. Brian helped me hump it up the stairs last Saturday and we were able to just squeak it into place in the corner. Now I’ve got to figure out how to get the toe kick pedestal underneath it—but that will come a little later. The next big step is to finish off the trim on the front windows. I’ve been holding off because I wanted to see how much free space we’d have with the cabinets in place—there was a chance the countertop would be in the way of the woodwork. I’m going to get that in place and sealed up so that the whole room will be airtight and keep as much heat in as possible. Then I’ll start modifying the piping behind the sink.
Finally, I bought two more windows for the living room on Monday. I’ve got a couple of weeks before they come in to get other stuff done, and then I’ll call my brother in law Glenn to come over and help me get them installed. He’s keen to learn, and now that I’ve done four I feel like I’m clear on the process; having another set of hands will hopefully make the job go faster.
Fed up with the lighting situation in the master bathroom, Jen put some suggestions for vanity lighting in browser tabs and showed them to me last week. After wading through hundreds of listings—apparently dimmable lights are dangerous and are prone to explode in flames at any point, but most online vendors make it impossible to filter out “dimmable” as a keyword—we found a set that we liked, and got them shipped to the house last Friday. I measured the wall and the mirror seventeen times and drilled some new access holes to mount each fixture on Saturday, hoping I was on the correct side of each wall stud in an attempt to get them to line up symmetrically to the mirror and the sinks. They went in relatively easily, once I identified the correct breaker, and we are now just waiting for a skim coat of drywall mud on the vestigial holes in the wall.
Jen’s done a lot to finish off the bathroom. During her bout with COVID she kept the floor heated for most of the day while she was quarantined, and I think she fell in love with warm toes during bathroom visits. Over the break she framed some artwork we bought in Austin and has been adding plants and rugs to get things to tie together, while I made some adjustments to the closet door to get both of them to close properly and fixed a leaky flapper in the toilet.
This morning I finished my shower, dried off, and stepped out onto a toasty floor. Morning sunlight reflected off the wall through the south windows, and the new vanity lights brightened everything up. It’s nice to have a grown-up bathroom.
So 12+ years after we first broke ground on the new bathroom, and 2 years after the actual cabinetry and countertops went in, we’ve got a mirror on the wall. The story of how it finally got here is long and winding, and there have been many detours and delays along the way, but it’s up and permanently affixed to the wall.
To fit the odd dimensions of our room, I had to custom order the mirror. We didn’t want to just stick a mirror on the wall, so I built a frame to fit the mirror—I actually built two frames, the first using a router, back in early December. The cuts on that didn’t come out clean enough, so then I cut the second one the way I should have from the start, with the table saw. There was some experimentation with how it would be joined securely (the mirror itself is something like 40 lbs.) but once I had that figured out it went together quickly. I then assembled the whole thing and hung it on the wall and then realized that we could see unpainted wood reflected in the mirror because I hadn’t painted the backside of the channel the mirror sat in.
So I took it apart, sprayed the inside, reassembled it, and hung it back on the wall. Screwed it to the wall, actually; I don’t trust simple hangers to hold it so I put six exterior screws through the wood into the 1/2″ sheathing behind the drywall and covered the holes with wood putty. The whole thing got taped off, sanded, and repainted. That fucker ain’t going anywhere.
Then I touched up the paint around the whole thing, hung a towel rack to the left, and glued and screwed both thresholds down for good. It’s really coming together! Now we need to settle on some lights for over the mirror.
On Wednesday of last week, I started cleaning up the full-size closet in the new bathroom in preparation for installing our closet system. As mentioned earlier, this involved fixing the crappy old outlet box hanging from the wall and painting the walls with two coats of eggshell white.
I started building the middle cabinet on Friday and got the whole thing assembled, in place, and leveled by dinnertime. I had to find a stud on the back wall to mount into, and then shimmed up the base. Then I started trimming and cutting wood for the baseboards when I knew the middle cabinet was in place.
On Saturday I hit the whole thing with a vengeance, finishing off the baseboard trim, cutting side supports for the clothes racks (I don’t know in what world they think 300 lbs. of clothes will hang on a couple of drywall anchors, but I ain’t buying it) and cutting the rods to fit. Everything got nailed into place, caulked, and painted. I cut two of the supplied shelves down to size, glued the moulding in place, and let everything dry overnight.
Sunday morning Jen and I had the pleasure of moving the contents of two overstuffed 1920’s closets into one adult-sized lighted walk-in.
When that was done and Jen was organizing her space, I moved our giant IKEA dresser out from in front of the back bathroom entrance and opened that door for the first time in (5? 6?) years. We’re reorganizing our bedroom space, and now that the closets are opened up that allows us to move other things around and make some changes. It’s going to be hard to reprogram my brain to look for certain clothes in certain places (when we moved the silverware drawer in the kitchen, it was a full two years before I mentally made the change) but I’m excited about our new space and the upgrade to our quality of life.
I spent some time on Saturday measuring out the bathroom wall for a mirror and looking over the closet situation based on the designs I’d built, and I think it’s time to order the former and go back to the drawing board for the latter. We’ve got a plan for the mirror which will involve some construction, so I’ve got to find someone who will cut one for us.
The closet is another story. Our current closets are 42″ wide, and we each have one—Jen in the blue room and mine in the back bedroom. They are barely 7′ tall, while the new closet is more than a foot higher (in many old houses around here the closets don’t share the same ceiling height). The doors on the current closets are only 24″ wide, so it feels like you’re reaching in to a cereal box. The new closet is 84″ wide, so we don’t gain any width, but with two large doors, 1′ more depth, and interior lighting, it’ll be a completely different experience.
All of the closet solutions I’ve found want to divide the space into three areas, and after talking to Jen about it, I’d like to split it in half. She wants a rack for long clothes and I want a short rack with shelves underneath. All of the online tools I used don’t offer this, so I’ve got to keep searching for something that will work the way we want.
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Monday afternoon we grudgingly put real clothes on, packed the entire family in the car, and drove to the karate dojo for testing. They’ve been doing the best they can with Zoom karate but I know instructing kids remotely is a terrible substitute for in-person training. Finn has been reasonably good about keeping up with it, and when she was done she walked outside with a huge smile and her new blue belt: the next step up!
While we were waiting, Hazel started whining and crying at a plastic owl sitting on the picnic table outside the dojo. I walked out to spin it around so it wasn’t staring at her, and the sensei came out to say hi to us and explain that they’re going to have to go back to in-person training soon. We chatted about the realities of teaching during the pandemic, and I understand his predicament—I’m glad they’re still in business, they are a fantastic dojo.
As the weeks go by my attitude on in-person classes has changed. Finn needs to be around other kids, even if it’s highly compartmentalized. The last couple of months have been really hard for us all, but she’s suffering the most. She needs more formalized structure and to be in a different building interacting with different people, not just for her grades but for her sanity. We’ve started talking to her about it, and where we were dead set against it before, we’re trying to explain why we’ve changed our minds. She’s terrified she might get me sick and doesn’t want to be responsible for killing me (which I appreciate) but I think her mental health is worth the risk.
On the way home, to celebrate the belt, we stopped at a Starbucks to try something Jen had heard about: a pistachio latte (decaf, naturally). I was underwhelmed. Coffee changes flavor at different temperatures, so I understand it may have been the wrong temperature when I got mine, but it just never got better. It was a weak latte with some pistachio waved at the cup; hardly worth $4. Their PSL is unimpeachable but I’d rather save my cash for some ice cream instead.
And, an update: I reheated the second half of my latte and then proceeded to spill it all over my desk this morning. Swell.
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The seedlings in our basement are already going nuts, which is fantastic, but they’ve already outgrown the trays I bought to hold them. Specifically, the clear domes that go over the soil are only 2″ tall, which is great for getting them started but now they’re all bent over looking for somewhere to continue growing. I bought a set of 7″ domes for the trays in the hope that they will provide more room, keep the heat and moisture inside, and keep curious cats out.
Also on the delivery list: a queen-sized mattress for our bedroom. We bought a Sleep Number bed ages ago, and while it was nice back in the day it’s pretty much used up now. We all tried the Sealy twin we got for Finley and deemed it acceptable, and the return policy from Wayfair is excellent, so I pulled the trigger this morning. It was relatively easy to get Finn’s bed up the stairs by myself because it came packed into a round plastic burrito, and this one will theoretically be packed the same way, so hopefully it won’t be difficult to move myself. And the price was great!
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Our Valentine’s Day was quiet but fun; I made bacon egg & cheese for breakfast (one of the culinary foundations of our relationship) and we spent a peaceful afternoon around the house. For dinner, Jen organized a pair of giant delicious steaks, potatoes au gratin, and Brussels sprouts, followed by a fantastic molten chocolate tart with crème fraîche. While she was putting dinner together, a lovely bouquet of flowers arrived for her, and we enjoyed a candlelit dinner together at the table. I love you blondie!
Having done some more research, I’ve found four closet configuration tools with varying approaches to dividing up the space available in our still-empty master closet:
This solution looks like it might be the easiest of them all: it’s two stacking containers in the center of the closet, with a high/low clothing rack on the left side and a long rack on the right side. This would give Jen a ton of space for long clothes and a lot of space on the left side for shorter stuff. The downside to this one is that the center column is pretty narrow, meaning there isn’t much room for anything, but at least there’s a shelf across the top. No pricing given
This one has a lot of components, but seems to do a lot with the space that’s available. The drawers are wide, and there’s a good wide space on each of the short racks for the bulk of our hanging clothes. the middle rack is narrower and frankly doesn’t allow for much space for long dresses. Estimated pricing: $1355
The Swedes use two 23″ wide frames to contain the his and hers sections, leaving 38″ of space in between for a long hanging rack. I chose a set of five drawers for the bottom half and spent an extra $60 on four glass front drawers, but otherwise it’s pretty simple. I’d prefer a couple of taller deeper drawers down below but this is the only size they offer. This also doesn’t allow for a center rack install, but I’d just buy one separately and install it myself. Estimated Pricing: $670
The Container Store
This one doesn’t use any kind of frames or containers at all; it’s all set up as wire racks hanging off the back wall and separated into three odd-sized sections. They actually offer two product lines, but the more expensive line wastes 4″ of space on either side due to its prefabricated origins. Here I’ve got a rack up top, and the his and hers racks on the right side. One is narrower than the other for reasons I wasn’t able to alter in their tool, and they don’t offer drawers in any of the configurations so it’s all shelves. Estimated Pricing: $456
We haven’t made a decision yet, but these four approaches are much less expensive than I thought they might be.