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.
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.
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!
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
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.
I got thinking about closets while I was stuck in a long Zoom call Friday afternoon and started searching for an online closet builder. Within about 20 minutes I had this basic structure designed, and after I re-measured everything and showed it to Jen, this is what we came up with: his and hers built-ins with hanger bars above and storage below, and a center section for long dresses. This is the best usage of the space in there possible; I could add a second set of bars below or a set of shoe racks, but we both like the idea of shelves instead. Now to find someone who we can order the parts from…
But one thing I’m going to have to do before any cabinetry goes in is have my electrician come back in and move an outlet from its current location behind where the right-side cabinet would go to the center of the wall. I’ve been having problems with that outlet anyway—it’s a legacy circuit from the Doctor and it has no anchor so it’s been hanging out of the drywall since we enclosed everything. This will be a good excuse to get it moved properly and professionally.
Saturday morning I measured out some spare lumber from the workbench and the area in the basement and started constructing a new sorting table by the laundry area. The original table was a 5′ section of countertop resting on two of the old cabinets from the kitchen. This was functional but wobbly, and the counter overhang prevented the top drawers of the counters from opening. I put together an 8′ cantilevered table with a storage shelf, screwed both of the cabinets together, and tucked them under the near edge. The top is smooth MDF, and I beveled the edge with the router so there’s nothing to snag delicate fabric on. Now there’s room for six sorting baskets on the top and the whole thing is level and sturdy on the floor. The top will get painted when I can open the back door (MDF expands with water-based paint, so I’ll use some auto primer) and when the electrician comes we’ll have him upgrade the lighting down there as well.
My last expedition out into the world before total COVID lockdown was to go pick up two pieces of trim for the bathroom. I ordered two lengths of wood that I could cut down for custom kick plates under the sink and cabinets, because the pieces that originally came with our order were about 1″ too short. I had to shim the cabinets up a fair amount to get them to be level to the walls and the floor. Today I got cracking on getting them cut down, fitted, and installed. Both of the cabinet pieces went in pretty easily, and the sink section took some trimming before it went in completely.
While the paint and caulk was drying there I rolled another coat on the ceiling and touched up the walls. Then I hauled the miter saw and the compressor back down into the basement and scrubbed the tile with a mop.
Without all the junk in the middle of the floor, it looks so much bigger and cleaner. The closet is still a question mark, and the left sink drain is still being a leaky bitch, so there’s some things left to tackle. But I think one more day in there will get the rest of the big stuff sorted out, and then we can figure out what to do for mirrors and lighting over the sinks. And how to get it here…
I did more grocery shopping on Sunday morning for the stuff I couldn’t find/had forgotten on Saturday. I took the Scout, and it was nice to stretch her legs a little, even if it was only around the neighborhood. When I got home, I washed my hands eight times, and then did some cleanup in the basement. I set up two trays of seedlings under a grow lamp on the workbench: three varieties of tomatoes and a bunch of lettuce. Hopefully they will appreciate the light and warmth.
Then I headed upstairs to the bathroom, where I was mortified to find that a bottle of purple PVC primer had spilled on the floor, staining the grout in a saucer-sized area by the closet. I cleaned it up with some acetone but found that the chemical in the primer had made the grout pliable, so I dug the stained grout out with a putty knife and got to as much of the white as possible. I’m going to have to take a Dremel to the edges and clean things up, and then I have to call the tile distributor to find out what grout was used and how I can get some more.
Once I’d cleaned that up and calmed down, I continued with a bunch of trim and carpentry work, putting a spacer in between the left side of the sink and the wall, and then finishing off the kickplate around the perimeter of the room. I’m still waiting on the toe kick panel for the fronts of the cabinets, which I’m told will be in on April 1. Once I’ve got that in hand I can finish off all the rest of the trim and nail the thresholds in place.
I also added yeast to the beer, and by bedtime there was an inch of krauzen on the top and the airlock was burbling happily.
After dinner, we lit a fire in the living room and read four chapters of The Amber Spyglass, the final book in the Golden Compass series, while the dog snored at our feet. It was a lovely way to finish off a busy weekend, and I was happy to have my girls safe and warm with me.
That’s water coming out of those taps! The plumbing under the sink is 95% complete; both drains are assembled and functional. The left side drain has a slow leak I need to sort out, but both are working. All of the drawer pulls are now installed, so we can actually open and close the cabinets, and I told Jen we’re OK to start moving stuff from the hallway linen closet into the new bathroom. I stained both of the thresholds and put them in place, and when I go to the cabinet dealer this week to pick up two pieces of trim I can knock off some more of the little elements that are left on the to-do list.
When we had Sam, our landscaping guy, do the drains out back, we had him level off the slope while he was out there, and when he was done he seeded it all. That seed developed into lush green grass, and in the last week it suddenly shot up six inches into a thick jungle in the middle of the lawn. I fired up our lawnmower on Saturday morning and slowly chopped it back down, eventually moving three heavy wheelbarrows of clippings to the mulch pile out back. It makes a huge difference out there, and I’m looking forward to having him seed and cultivate the rest of the lawn to match. Now if the dog would just stop digging holes everywhere…
I also used the second half of the afternoon to organize the garage, which had become a dumping ground and forgotten since September or so. Now that the old compressor is out from under the workbench, I decided to reclaim some of that lost space and installed a shelf underneath, which helps with a lot of the stuff that was floating around on the floor. I lifted a bunch of larger elements up into the rafters, reorganized the far wall, and made a better place for the compressor and refrigerator to live.
Among other errands, we went to Lowe’s and Home Depot this weekend to scout out hardware for the bathroom. It took two trips to find faucets we liked, and we bought several different pulls before we settled on the ones that worked best in the space. I was able to get a bunch of them installed before I had to kick off for the day, and I’m really happy with how they’re looking. The countertop installers are coming back out tomorrow afternoon to drill holes for the faucets, and then I can put the drains together and hook up water.
The installation folks showed up on Friday morning and put in two counters in the bathroom that match the seat and ledge in the shower, and it looks fantastic so far. We chose white round undermount bowls for the sinks, and due to some scheduling mixups we didn’t have the faucets purchased, so we’re looking at those and they’ll come back out next week to drill the holes. Then it should be a not-so-simple matter of setting up the drains (I’m not looking forward to that bit of under-counter gymnastics) and hooking up the water supply, and we’ll be able to use everything in there.
Finley and I took a drive into Baltimore to hit the MICA Bookstore for some art supplies in the afternoon. She was making linoleum cuts in art class at at school and decided she wanted to make a T-shirt design of her own, so we needed to find clean linoleum to work with. I figured I’d look and see what kind of scratchboard supplies they still carried, as it’s been forever since I’ve picked up the pen and I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much I miss it, and whether I could get similar results from an iPad Pro. The store is in a building directly across the street from my first Baltimore apartment, and I told Finley that my roommate and I used to throw frisbee in the parking lot (and under passing buses on Mt. Royal Avenue) out in front of it.
We found her supplies quickly and then split up to check out the rest of the store. I found scratchboard in the back, manufactured by a different company (I used to use Essdee exclusively, this is made by Ampersand), picked up some new nibs, and then found Finn a pin in the student goods section. Then I took her on a quick tour of the neighborhood and showed her some of my old apartments.
At home we set up a craft work area at the dining room table and she worked on her design for the rest of the afternoon while I tested out the scratchboard. I wasn’t going to overthink things so I just transferred a picture of the truck and started working with it, and found that I really like it. It has a good feel—the last few sheets of Essdee I used had a harder surface, harder to work with, and didn’t make clean marks. This cut cleanly and felt good under the nib, and after a lot of initial hesitation (oh, I remember that feeling clearly) I started to work out what I was doing and lost myself in the image. We broke for dinner after a test print of her design, and when we were done I pulled out my silkscreen inks and we printed her design on a blank shirt, then ran off several Scout shirts for Brian. (Linda, I still owe you several shirts).
I sold my old compressor on Saturday afternoon, and made back 75% of the money I spent on the new one. While we were out for some supplies in the morning I picked up fittings, hose, and a water filter, and installed them while I was waiting for the guy to show up. It’s going to take some serious reorganization, but when I’m done I think the garage will be much easier to use.
I’ve been on a Stephen King binge for the last two weeks after watching It: Chapter Two, which involved reading the book over again and listening to a companion podcast that discusses the book by section. It was one of his books I enjoyed the most, and it’s been decades since I read it last. There’s so much I appreciate about his style of storytelling, and apart from the problematic section toward the end, the story is as good as I remember. Listening to the podcast was a fun way to dive deeper and think about stuff I hadn’t considered when I was reading it (the perfect introvert’s book club, really).
The movie was better than the reviews would have made us believe; I don’t know who was complaining about the length or the lack of scares, but I could have stood for another half hour (or honestly, if they’d blown this out to a 6- or 8-episode Netflix series, which would have captured all of the detail better). The casting was spot-on, except, I think, for James MacAvoy, who I like, but wasn’t Bill Denbrough in my mind.
I’ve spent a tense couple of days trading emails with my target hosting provider trying to hammer out the details of migration and transfer. As of right now they’ve migrated WordPress over to an instance on their servers and I just now got them to understand that I want to move the domain over as well. I sent over the Auth code Friday morning and got the ball rolling, so let’s see how fast it takes to get the rest of it moved. While this is all happening, I’ve been juggling tabs in my browsers like a circus clown, switching from account to account to communicate with the various companies involved. It’s making me feel schizophrenic. One minute I’m using my namesake account, next I’m using my idiotking account, and then I have to switch over to Gmail for authentication, which means logging out of my work account…
It’s been weird because the content is frozen while we sort things out; not having the site there to record on is like not having my phone in my pocket—I feel like there’s something missing. I have a problem with losing things, as documented here many times, and when something is unavailable or out of my reach I feel unmoored. This site has grown into something more than just a place to post pictures or links to funny websites; it’s an imprecise digital history of my life. Here and on Flickr are how I mark the years of my life, because I can’t keep track of it all in my head. It’s one of the only good habits I’ve ever been able to keep, and even when I’m having a slow month of posting, I’m still thinking about posting something. Even if it’s a list of shit I did over the weekend.
I’ve finished up a pile of small but time-consuming tasks in the bathroom. There’s kick moulding all the way around the perimeter of the bathroom, finished off with toekick at the bottom edge. Various holes and dents in the wall are patched and painted. There’s a coat of eggshell white on everything except for a few places I can’t see without direct sunlight.
I have the wall heater hooked up to a thermostat as of this afternoon, but for some reason the thermostat isn’t waking up. I called my neighbor and double-checked the wiring diagram it came with, and he confirmed my research. I’ll have to track that issue down later this week when I’ve got some time.
I ordered the sinks on Friday, and the marble folks are going to be here on Wednesday to measure for the countertops, which is a big relief. Once that’s all in I can hook up water and get the last big utility working in there.
Jen hit the Costco on Friday for bulk quarantine supplies, and Saturday morning Finn and I hit the store for the remainder. I’m watching the news with a wary eye not because I think it’s the second coming of the 1918 Spanish Fever epidemic, but because I know I’m standing square in the crosshairs of the virus: a low white blood cell count and a commute that takes me to and from a heavily trafficked city in a thin metal tube. Our leadership has been very cool about keeping people informed and offering telecommuting as an option, and I’m going to take them up on that when the first case hits D.C.
Sunday I took Finn and a friend to the mall for the afternoon. We walked inside and I asked the two of them to meet me at the same spot in two hours, and then I walked away and let them figure out where they were going to go. Then I texted Jen and said, “I have set them free on the mall. Should I be worried?” because I was a little worried. We texted back and forth and she made me feel better about it, and I put the worry out of my mind. We’ve been trying to give her more freedom in small doses. Apart from some stupendously dumb choices she’s made on her own in the last two weeks, we know she’s a good kid and normally does the right thing, so I put it out of my mind and looked for some work clothes. At 5:00 I walked back to the rally point and found them sitting on the floor drinking bubble tea, chatting happily with each other.
Laying in bed at 9:40 with a snoring dog next to me. I took Finn and Zachary snowboarding today (more on that later) so I’m a wee bit tired and emotionally wrung out; the two of them could not have done better today.
Meanwhile, the guy came to measure the counters and recommended two smaller sinks, so we’re changing the order to reflect that. We also need to buy the faucets before they come to install, as they’ll cut the holes for those while they’re here.
There’s been a round hole in the floor of the new bathroom for several years now, covered over with duct tape, and yesterday we decided that something needed to be done about it. We dropped Finn off at a friend’s house and Jen and Hazel and I went toilet shopping at Lowe’s. We settled on a nice American Standard chair-height model with cleaning jets (but not the one with electronic controls, because WTF) and loaded it in the back of the Scout.
I’ve installed multiple toilets in my day and I have to say, this one was by far the easiest to put together. The parts are all built with care, the box came with every tool I needed, and the directions were clear. The only snag I hit was that the quick-connect water bib I’d bought was about 4″ too short, so a quick run back to Lowe’s was needed to source parts at the correct length. This time I went with SharkBite connectors for the water lines and I was pleasantly surprised at how easy they went together. If that hadn’t been an issue, the whole toilet would have been ready in an hour.
Sunday’s task is to repaint the walls and ceiling in a uniform color, and cover those areas that are still bare drywall mud. There are a few more places where I can put wood trim in, but until the countertops and some special-order trim sections come in, I can’t finish the rest of it.