Finn got the wild idea about two weeks ago to have herself a yard sale. In typical fashion, the thought struck her on a Thursday, and she announced her plan to us to hold it the following Saturday. We quickly advised her to put it off a week for both logistical and commercial reasons: the neighborhood across the street was holding their spring yard sale this weekend, and that always gets lots of traffic.

Jen and I started making lists of stuff to drag down from the attic and up from the cellar, and by Friday night we had a sizeable stack of stuff piled on the front porch ready to go. We lucked out with good weather. I ran out to get breakfast and by 8AM we had two tables piled with goods on the front lawn flanked by furniture of all shapes and sizes. We get lots of eyeballs on Frederick Road, so the cars lined the street pretty much all morning. We said goodbye to a lot of toys, kids’ clothes, large furniture, and other stuff; Finn sold a lot of jewelry and some books. I tried to get people interested in the futon frame but nobody would bite. By 11:30 the traffic slowed so we hauled everything inside and counted our earnings: about $175 plus a ton of quarters.

As the sky got dark I went upstairs to roll a second coat of paint in the old blue room and then went down to the basement to rebuild a carburetor for the Travelall. The wind picked up and the rain came down all afternoon. Jen and I watched the first three episodes of the Mandalorian season 3 and then we all hit the hay.

At around 11:30 we heard booming and crackling very close outside, and opened a window to see one of the transformers behind our house alternately exploding in green flame and then barfing hot red lava down the side of the can. As I was looking up the I’m-not-calling-about-a-gas-leak number for BGE, our lights went out. I reported the issue and we went back to bed. In the morning our electricity wasn’t back and the estimates were saying 4PM for a return to power. Jen and I took Hazel for a long walk and then we hit the road in search of a generator.

We’ve had our fair share of electricity outages here at the Lockardugan Estate; in the first ten years we must have lost power five times. It’s been better since they replaced the transformer directly behind us (that one used to explode every time it rained) but we’ve lost an entire fridge and freezer full of food twice in the last ten years, and that shit ain’t cheap. I decided to look for a portable generator/inverter both because I didn’t want another huge object taking up space in the garage, and I also wanted something we might be able to take camping. After visiting two stores we drove to Columbia and found a nice Craftsman 2200W unit (basically a rebadged Generac) to bring home.

On the back lawn all went well until I pulled the “don’t start this without oil” tag off and looked for the manual to tell me where the oil fill was located: there was no manual. Nothing on the side of the box, and nothing on the web page for the model I’d just bought. Noting it was manufactured by Generac, I looked on their site and found what I needed. Once it was full of oil and gas it fired right up and I plugged the fridge in, and it never skipped a beat. So that’s a nice bit of insurance to have out in the garage.

Date posted: April 23, 2023 | Filed under family, house | Leave a Comment »

I was in Lexington Park on Saturday to finish grouting my father-in-law’s bathroom floor, get the water hooked up in the sink, and replace the original-to-the-house vent fan, which involved suiting up in Tyvek and crawling around in his hot attic for an hour fighting the wiring. The pipe valves on the supply lines were original to the house so when we hooked up the sink they both immediately started leaking. Being simple compression fittings, this wasn’t surprising, but it also made their replacement with new SharkBite fittings much easier. The bathroom is about 95% complete, which is a relief, and with the end of that project, I’m going to be stepping back from major initiatives two hours away from my house. I think I’m going to refocus on getting the Chrysler started, maybe working a little bit to fix the janky deck on the back of the house, but not taking on huge remodeling projects moving forward.

Sunday morning I primed the walls in the old Blue bedroom to cover a very bright coat of red. The girls had originally picked out a beautiful shade of what we all thought was coral but showed up as a vibrant red that made our eyeballs buzz, so we had to rethink the  color. They found a lighter shade containing a little more orange, and I rolled one coat of that on in the afternoon. It’s bright but not as anxious as the red was, so I think we’re going with it. It’ll be good to get the trim painted in there as well; it’s been almost twenty years since it was originally painted and so it’s getting dull and dirty.

Finn has been making noise about organizing a yard sale to generate some cash, which got me thinking about all of the crap I’ve got clogging up the basement: spare bedframes, the old sandblaster, an unused weed whacker, an old handcart, old furniture, unused  electronics, and countless untold other items. The yearly community sale is happening next weekend across the street, and it wouldn’t be that hard to set up a table out front to take advantage of the extra traffic; the big issue is the forecast, which was for a solid block of rain but now seems to be moving back towards the evening. 

Date posted: April 18, 2023 | Filed under family, house | Leave a Comment »

From the Baltimore Sun, the original obituary for Dr. McGrath, the previous owner of our house. I like this part, and it confirms other reports we’ve heard:

“He had an early [racially] integrated practice. Long before other doctors opened their waiting rooms to all, he did.”

Date posted: March 24, 2023 | Filed under house, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

My sister sent us a Christmas care package filled to the brim with amazing, thoughtful gifts. The highlight for Finn was a Kanken backpack covered with cool metal and cloisonné pins; she immediately ditched her black LL Bean backpack and moved everything over to the new one. One of the things she gave me was a 4-pack of AirTags, which I’ve been curious about for years but haven’t ever pulled the trigger on. Intrigued, I set two of them up and put one in my travel messenger bag and the other on a keyring.

Since then I’ve been getting messages on my phone whenever we leave to walk the dog to tell me I’ve left my messenger bag, keyring, iPad, AirPods and Apple Watch behind (I don’t wear my Apple Watch all of the time). Somehow activating the AirTags kicked off a bunch of notifications for all of the location-aware Apple gear I own; my phone vibrates constantly. I’ve got to figure out how to turn off all but the essentials, I guess.

* * *

As part of our remodeling in the Living Room, we’re opening up the space for new furniture and a new layout. Now that the built-in bookshelves are installed, it’s time to remove the bulkier furniture we don’t need or that doesn’t fit. I broke down the IKEA Expedit bookcase we’ve had in there since before I changed jobs and listed it on Craigslist for $20. The next step will be to disassemble Jen’s oak library table and store it safely in the basement, and move my carpenter’s trunk upstairs in the blue bedroom. There’s no way we’re getting rid of either of those items, but they are too big for our current living room. The West Elm chairs could be here anywhere between this Friday or the middle of March; we have no idea but want to be prepared.

* * *

On Saturday we drove down to Bob’s to bring food and spend some time with him. The three toilets I delivered two weeks ago are now all installed, including the one in the bathroom I’ve been working on. While the plumber was in there working we arranged to have him lower the flange to floor level, so that wrinkle has been ironed out. We’ve got a new 36″ vanity on order and waiting to be delivered this week. The plan is to head down on Sunday, set that in place and hook up the sink. I may rope my brother-in-law in and have him come in to help; we’ll see.

Date posted: February 27, 2023 | Filed under apple, family, house | Leave a Comment »

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve begun to notice an appreciable difference in my teeth. I’m in Week 37 of 70 Invisalign trays, and I can finally look in the mirror and see the changes in my lower teeth—they’re spreading out and beginning to fall into place. The biggest change I feel is in my upper eyeteeth, which are being pushed forward and outward to make room for my molars behind; on the first and second day of new trays I need to wait about a half an hour after taking them out to eat anything, due to the soreness. I’m beginning to get excited about a straight, even smile, and even looking forward to some kind of whitening treatment. My teeth have been yellow since I was a boy, and having done some research on Diazinon, it turns out exposure to the herbicide can trigger all sorts of health effects, including yellowed teeth. Dad used to spray that shit around the house, and I spent a good portion of my childhood on the floor directly in contact with it.

The shelves are painted and complete save for one small area at the bottom left where I need to fit a section of wood. I’ve been waiting for a day when Hazel is outside to run up the saw; she gets very nervous when I use power tools, especially now that she’s got the ear wrap on again. We’ve already started putting books on shelves but I’m waiting until Jen organizes it the way she wants to snap a picture. I’ll say this: it makes a HUGE difference, and it really anchors that entire side of the room. All that wasted physical and visual space is now fully utilized, and we can move on to Part 2 of the plan: getting rid of some old furniture. Meanwhile, I got a notice that our two West Elm chairs are shipped and on their way. 

Date posted: February 25, 2023 | Filed under house | Leave a Comment »

I took advantage of another oddly warm and sunny day in February to spray out the shelves with two coats of high-gloss white paint. My efforts were mostly successful; the gun I’m using is the second one I bought when I was painting the house, and I’ve found that this particular model has about one full house in it before it starts getting gummed up irreparably. I had to do some adjusting to get a good spray pattern going, and in the time between the first and second coats the needle got clogged up, which then covered my new sneakers with a fine mist of white paint. Great.

Once I cleared the gun, it went on well, and I got everything back inside after it cured in the sunshine and up against the walls. I cleaned up the joints with caulk, used a brush to touch up the problem areas and put a second coat on the high-traffic parts after knocking down the high spots with sandpaper.

So at this point I’m at the installation phase. I’ve got to go get some angle brackets and wood putty to secure it to the wall in the most hidden way possible, and start with the finish carpentry. When that’s all complete I’ll hit everything with a brush one last time to clean things up.

Date posted: February 16, 2023 | Filed under house | Leave a Comment »

I took advantage of some rare warm sunny February weather and shot the shelving units with some white primer yesterday afternoon in an effort to keep things moving. With all of the practice I got spraying the house out, it only took about 15 minutes to set up the compressor and gun. The most difficult part of the whole thing was getting the sections outside without letting the cats out. The whole process took about an hour and a half from the time I fired up the compressor to putting the last of the shelves back up in place.

Next up I need a whole day of solid sunshine and ~60˚ weather to shoot two coats of high gloss white on everything before it goes back in permanently. The forecast doesn’t show anything like that coming for a while, which is a drag—I’d really like to get to the finish carpentry part of this project and put it to bed.

Date posted: February 15, 2023 | Filed under house | Leave a Comment »

Well, this week has been a real test of my sanity; there were points when I felt like I was doing OK and at other times I was a terrible husband, father, and Co-Acting-Director-whatever. I’m not used to the sheer amount of meetings coming at us now, and the immediate need to be caught up with all of the inside information we don’t know is overwhelming. My friend Lauren comiserated with me last week, saying, one day you’re looking around for the adult in the room to make a decision, and you suddenly realize that’s you. So much truth in that observation.

Stories to Watch launched on time after an intense three weeks of shooting, editing, organizing, and producing. This year’s production was, in a lot of ways, easier than last year’s (and I wasn’t trapped in my bedroom with COVID, which was nice) but other stressors were still front and center up until the morning of the event. The video portion, if I do say so, looked fantastic. We got a lot of great feedback on the presentation, and when I was in the office later that day, my CEO found me and shook my hand to thank me and the team for all our work. That felt very good.

I was in the office not for the event, but because I had to help another team mix epoxy and glue laser-etched plaques to the front of five trophies that had been 3D printed with sand and shipped from Germany. Don’t let ’em tell you different: the life of a Co-Acting-Director-whatever is full of glamour. Due to some internal production confusion we had to source the plaques and some laser-cut felt to complete the pieces in-house, so I brought tools and a pile of nitrile gloves and we got down to business. They made me glue and set the plaques: no pressure. This coming Tuesday I’m headed up to New York City to help produce the awards event itself, where I’ll be shooting video. Two nights in Manhattan ain’t so bad, I guess.

Meanwhile we visited with Jen’s Dad last Saturday, and I got to work setting a subfloor in the common bathroom. This involved cutting and fitting two sheets of waterproof hardi-board, mixing a bed of thinset, and setting them in place before screwing everything down. It went in with only a few small hitches, and should be good to go for the next step: this coming weekend I’m renting a wet saw and laying the tile. It did involve a ton of work on my knees, cutting, fitting, troweling, and screwing, and I felt it in my back that evening. Between that and 9-hour days at my desk my whole body is pretty pissed at me right now. Hazel got her first walk in 5 days this afternoon; it was like we’d sprung her from Solitary.

And the built-in project is moving along. I found a decent 12′ board for the top shelf and cut it into place. Then I cut and fit small insets under each of the shelves that dress up the horizontals and give them a little visual weight. Jen and I discussed how to finish off the top and after some negotiation we agreed upon a solution to box in and frame out the top shelf with a section of moulding that matches the stuff above all our windows. So I’ve got to get a 12′ piece of that from the mill in Glen Burnie on a dry sunny day ’cause it won’t fit inside the car.

Date posted: January 27, 2023 | Filed under family, house, WRI | Leave a Comment »

How it started:

How it’s going:

Both of the main structures are built. Now I’ve got to attach them both to the wall permanently, build boxes in below the last shelf, bring the kickplates around the boxes, and find a 12′ section of 10″ board for the top shelf.

Date posted: January 16, 2023 | Filed under house, projects | Leave a Comment »

I ran down to the dump this morning after we made sure Finn got on the bus for school; I’d filled the back of the CR-V with construction debris yesterday and tried to drop it off, but everything was closed for the holiday.

All nine new replacement windows are installed, caulked (inside) and painted, and the window treatments are back in place. I’ve noticed a drastic difference in the amount of noise pollution they block out in all of the rooms upstairs. I began installing them at the tail end of the cold snap, and then the weather rocketed into the 50’s in the middle of the job so I can’t yet say they are keeping things warmer, but I notice the drafts have disappeared and the light coming in is brighter and clearer. It feels great to have that project complete.

Next up is one of Jen’s Christmas presents: she’s wanted a built-in bookcase in the living room for years, so I came up with a plan to put one in against the south wall around the main windows. It’s going to take some engineering and a lot of specialty carpentry, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. What we’re doing is a floor to cieling built-in with a small boxed section at the bottom to hide (and keep intact) the original kickplates. The biggest wrinkle is the radiator pipe on the left side going up to the back bedroom, which I’ll have to fit the shelving around.

The other thing we’re doing is leaving all of the original woodwork alone—I don’t want to chop the edges of the crown molding or the windowsill off like they did upstairs in the back bedroom. And the radiator cover isn’t exactly the width of the windowsill—it’s slightly larger. So there’ll be a tiny gap between the inner edges of the shelves and the window moulding.

Date posted: January 3, 2023 | Filed under house | Leave a Comment »