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.
Football is over and now it’s basketball basketball basketball, which is my least favorite time of year. Not because I love football, but because I pretty much despise basketball, and it’s a long couple of months before anybody starts talking about baseball, which is only marginally more interesting than basketball.
I got about five hours up in the bathroom on Saturday and had to do a bit of catching up to see where I’d left things. First on the list was to set the right-side front cabinet in place, level it, and then reset the left side to match the height. Because of the way the walls and floor slope, I had to shim the right side a fair bit to get it to level, requiring the left side to be raised up about 1/2″. Now that all of the cabinets are set, I pulled the toekick skin out of its package and started measuring. Toekick skin is the stuff that goes across the base of the cabinet, from the floor to the section that juts out. Unfortunately what I have is all sized for a flat, level installation and doesn’t give me any extra for overage, so I re-ordered a batch with an extra inch of height to cut down.
I finished the moulding in the closet, shimmed one of the doors out so that it will close properly, mudded the edge of the shower wall, and did a lot of finish work throughout, as well as cleaned up the whole room. Without the countertops, toekick moulding, a strip of cabinet edge finish, and something called scribe moulding to finish off the top edge of the linen cabinet, I’m at a bit of a standstill. All of this is on order—I’m waiting to get the quote back for the countertops this week.
I got the Scout out of the garage and made a dump run on Saturday morning with Hazel. We were able to haul all of the old windows, their weights, and two giant bags of trash out of the backyard, which is a great relief.
On Sunday I couldn’t venture far from the house, as I had the dog and the girls to watch (Finn had a friend over) so I put the dog outside and started cleaning up the basement. I’ve had a pile of lumber on the main section of the floor for months and decided I’d use some of the leftover scraps from the bathroom to build a simple overhead rack for 6+’ lengths. Once that was done the rest of the floor cleaned up quickly.
Then I went and looked at the two kegs of beer in the kegerator. Last I remembered one was empty. I figured it was time to get it out and clean it, so I disconnected everything and lifted them both, and found they both still had beer inside. So I cleaned out the hoses and taps (the taps were disgusting) hooked up the gas, and poured a glass of beer. I’d forgotten exactly why I’d disconnected the grapefruit IPA, and after having only about half a glass, just how powerful it was. Still, it’s nice for sipping.
Then I looked over the road bike. Last week I was able to get the old bars off, the new bullhorns on, and mount the brake levers. But I haven’t been able to get the old brake levers and cables disconnected. Most of the replacement kits I’ve seen have a particular type of cable and housing, with two kinds of barreled tips at the ends of the cable. This bike has neither. It’s so old the cable was custom-cut and threads through the old Dia-Compe brake system. The cable doesn’t even come off the brake levers—it’s built into them. So I cut off one end and removed the front brake lever; now I have to sort out what to do next. I’m resisting the urge to bring it to the bike shop and have them fix it, because there’s no rush and I have to remind myself that this is part of the fun.
I’ve kept my activities low-impact while I drag myself out of the hole this illness has got me in. I felt like I was up to some small stuff on Saturday, so I wandered up to the bathroom and made some forward progress. The first thing to do was to remove all of the framing around the toilet window that was put in when the drywall went in and redo it. See, Mario put it in and measured the casings at 5½” wide, when everything was supposed to be at 4½”. I left it purposely for the very last so that I could see what all the other casing and moulding measured out at, and about halfway through the job I knew I’d have to pull it apart and redo it all. It actually didn’t take that much time to fix. It was easy to pull off. I ran it through the table saw to narrow the casing, lopped the edges off the stool, and cut the top casing down before putting the crown on top. Then it all went back in place and while the wood putty dried I gave much of the rest of the new woodwork a coat of semigloss paint. I cut some small pieces to fit in where the cabinets join the doors, installed more kickplate under the back stairs, and put a coat of paint on the toilet window before calling it a day.
On Sunday I listened to the Ravens game while I painted. Pretty much every piece of woodwork got another coat of paint, and I spent a couple of hours focusing on the closet doors, which came primed from the factory. They look worlds better. The whole room really looks worlds better, actually.
Tomorrow (Monday) I’ve got to call the cabinet place to see if they can get me a short piece of fill wood for the right-side cabinet on the front wall, so that I can stand it off the side by about 2″ before putting it in permanently. I’m going to go get valves for the water supply pipes and install all of those, and get some lumber to finish off the inside doors in the closet, but I’m waiting to see how we’re going to organize the space in there before putting kickplate in. I can also set up the kickplate for under the sink.
Later in the day, I was adjusting the $50 bandsaw I picked up a few weeks ago and to my dismay the lower support guide, a cast metal part that assures the blade stays straight, crumbled in my hand. A number of searches reveals that, surprise! Sears doesn’t carry this part anymore, and pretty much everyone else who has one of these saws is looking for the same part. So, I’ll do a little digging to see if I can find another part that I can substitute, or I’ll just throw the whole thing in the fucking trash.
Saturday I took advantage of a relatively light schedule and got a solid block of hours in the bathroom for the first time in over a month. First up was to get the linen closet leveled, centered on its pedestal, and secured to the wall. Before I could do that I had to install a section of wood, included with the cabinets, to stand it off the wall by about 3″. I clamped it to the cabinet, scribed it (the wall is not straight), and tried using the new band saw, but found that the band saw was in desperate need of adjustment. Instead, I cut it freehand with the table saw. I clamped it on to the cabinet and screwed it in place, then snugged the whole cabinet up against the wall: a perfect fit. Now the extra room will allow the cabinet doors to clear the door casing when they’re open.
Once that was secured in place, I knew where the woodwork around the window could be, and started putting that back in. I’d already cut the stool, so it was simply a matter of putting the surrounds back in, measuring, cutting, and milling the casing, and setting up the top moulding. After caulking and adding wood fill to the nail holes, I leveled the small cabinet next to it and secured that to the wall. At that point it was time to wrap things up, because we had advent plans for the evening.
Jen got us tickets to see the Moscow Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker in the city, so we got our church clothes on, gave Hazel her sedative and put her in the crate, and headed into Baltimore. We got there early because they’ve begun security checks at the theater, so we had about an hour to kill before the curtain went up. We all got a cocktail at the bar and found some chairs in the upstairs lobby to relax in.
The production was beautiful. The Hippodrome isn’t the largest of stages, so I got the feeling they had to adjust the blocking to fit all of the dancers, but they did an amazing job and we were all captivated. The pair doing the Arabian Variation took our breath away. By the time we got home it was 10:30 and Finn went right to bed.
Sunday was a family day. The girls went to church while I ran some errands—a haircut and some Christmas shopping—and then did some small jobs around the house. When they got home, we went into Ellicott City for some lunch at Georgia Grace cafe, where the menu leans Greek and the food is delicious. Then we came back and took Hazel for a walk around the neighborhood. Back inside, we caught up on our Advent activities around the dining room table. First, we made our family picture, and then we cut out snowflakes to hang on the windows. Then we lit a fire and talked about our Christmas lists. I started feeling lousy and went upstairs for a nap, and by the time I woke up Finn was just settling down in bed.
I’m hoping this lousy feeling doesn’t mean I’m coming down with something, as I still don’t have a very healthy immune system. I did get a bunch of sleep overnight but woke up with the same sore throat and achy feeling.