Here’s where we stand in the kitchen right now. The grout is sealed and ready but there are two plugs in the corner that aren’t working for some reason—they were fine before I put the tile in but I can’t get them to work. I replaced both of the outlets with new units; sometime GFCI outlets fail over time, but I can’t for the life of me understand what’s happening with these. Strangely the one in the back corner works fine because it’s on a separate circuit. The other big update is that I replaced the rope lighting above the cabinets. Over fifteen years the original filament unit had slowly died, so I pulled that out and replaced it with an LED version. It looks strange in the photo because the under-counter lights are bright white LEDs while the rope is warm light, but in person they warm up the whole kitchen dramatically.
Jen and I were talking this morning about how much brighter it is in there during the day, due to the light reflecting off the shiny white surfaces. It could all be wishful thinking, but I know there’s a big difference when I walk in there every day. Best $200 spent this year.
Finn and I drove from one end of Baltimore to the other to find an early Christmas present: a full-size bike to replace the awesome but now tiny Diamondback Santa brought in 2015. The bicycle industry has been hit hard by COVID-19, as all the factories in China have been closed and dealers sold out of their stock pretty quickly this summer, but apparently they’re doing a great business fixing and upgrading what people already have. Finn has grown several inches since the beginning of 2020 and Jen’s bike was just too big for her to ride. I considered looking for used bikes but I wanted to get her something she’d have for high school and college, so I thought we’d hit the stores before everything gets completely locked down again.
We started at one store in Ellicott City and got her sized for a Diamondback model that was in stock; the color was an odd earthy mauve and it was several hundred dollars above the price point I wanted to pay. The saleslady was awesome and super helpful, but I figured we might be able to find a bike at a better price elsewhere. We put a hold on it and continued to our local store in Catonsville, which is tiny, just to see what they had. He was completely out, but told us a store in Arnold had just gotten a shipment of bikes in, so we drove down there in the afternoon to check out the situation.
The Bike Doctor had a bunch of shiny new Trek models in stock, and we quickly sized one out for Finn in the parking lot. I hesitated over settling on a small or medium frame, worried that she’d either outgrow a small or never size into a medium, but in the end we went medium and I had the mechanic cut about 2″ off the seat stem so that it would drop enough for her to feel comfortable. (Seat stems are cheap and easy to replace).
This bike is a beautiful red, features disc brakes and beefy 29″ tires with a knobby but not aggressive tread, and weighs lighter than it looks. And, it was $150 cheaper than the first bike. Plus, it’s got lugs for a rear pannier on the frame—something the Diamondback lacked—and should be easy to upgrade.
We got it home and took a ride around the school to get her comfortable with it. She’s still struggling with the size but I think as we practice some more in the spring she’ll grow right into it.
A few weeks ago, Jen was at Lowe’s shopping for something and stumbled upon a tile pattern she liked. She sent me a picture and we talked it over, and I bought a few to bring home and test-fit. You see, we’ve been thinking about a tile backsplash in the kitchen since 2005 when we had the whole thing redone; we just never decided on what we wanted back there.
This is a large (2’wX1’w) tile with a repeating wavy pattern, sort of a knockoff of the large architectural panels that were popular 10 years ago. It’s meant to be sort of a subway tile for an entire wall, but for our purposes it was perfect: a minimum of grouted area to have to clean, an organic pattern to break up all of the right angles, and a shiny surface to reflect under-counter lights back out into the room.
The big problem was the number of outlets we have surrounding the counter and how I’d cut holes in the tile to bring them all through. I did some digging and found an Italian-made sawblade designed to fit an angle grinder that got stellar reviews for cutting small holes, so I ordered that from Amazon and then bought two boxes of tile.
Saturday morning I rented a wet tile saw, cleared the counters off, and got to work. For the most part it was easy going, and after I figured out the best way to cut outlet holes right the first time it went smoothly. The corner by the range was the only place where things got tricky, but I found a way to make it work and proper application of grout should hide any sins.
There’s a full size tile on the bottom and then a ~2″ slice around the top edge that meets the underside of the cabinets. With some creative engineering I was able to get a medium-size tile saw to cut an oversize tile exactly how I needed.
So, next up is grout; I’m already planning to get a tub of white grout to fix a small stain in the new bathroom floor (one of the cats knocked over a can of purple PVC pipe primer, and that shit stains everything) so I can use some of the remainder to grout the kitchen.
For a grand total of ~$200 and a full Saturday, I’m pretty pleased.
When we were up at Mom’s house, I finished a roll of 120 film that had been sitting in the Yashica since 2017, and I sent them out to be developed last week. From the results I see here, it’s pretty clear I can’t leave film in the camera for that long.
That having been said, some of the defects in these photos are kind of cool.
I can easily photoshop out the two dark spots around Zachary’s head.
This one is from the winter of 2017 when Jen was making galettes with Finn.
This is the last shot on the roll, from up at Mom’s house.
While I was in New York, I fully intended to load up the Ikoflex with film and shoot more. But looking across the internet I found a bunch of conflicting information about how to load it, what film to use, and what film it was designed for. The big issue is loading the film into the camera and aligning it so that the frames align up with the shutter. The Rollieflex and Yashica have two arrows on the back that align with markers on the film. The Ikoflex doesn’t have that set of arrows.
Further investigation is obviously required. I’ve got a couple of rolls of ooooooold film that came from the Mildew House along with the Yashica, so there is some sacrificial film I can use to practice.
We split up Dad’s remains on Mom’s front porch into small Tupperware containers while Finley sang Funkytown. Don’t ask me to explain.
My bones are creaky this morning because Finn and I camped out in the Chic Shack last night. Before dinner I built a screen for the second window so we could open them both and have a little cross breeze, and that was just right until about 3AM when the temperature dropped. I put fuzzy blanket over Finn’s sleeping bag (and took a corner of it for myself) and fell back asleep. I would have slept sounder if I hadn’t needed to pee at 4AM, but oh, well.
+1, Recommend, Would book a stay again
Yesterday was my fall cancer checkup in Baltimore, so I drove in to Hopkins for a CT scan and consult with my oncologist. Everything looks OK on the scan, and my bloodwork is trending upwards—I’m still not in the normal range for white blood cells but I’m knocking at the door for the first time since 2018.
My stamina has reflected the low blood cell count; I’m still not at my pre-cancer ability to crank on house projects for two days straight, but I can go for about 4-5 hours solid before I have to stop, and it takes me most of a Monday to rest up before I feel back to full strength. This is all good news, though, and I’m going to continue to push myself in the belief that the work I’ve been doing is making me stronger.