Jen is always a tricky woman to buy Christmas presents for. She really doesn’t want for much, at least, not in the way of stuff, so it’s hard to find just the right thing for her every year. I’ve taken to writing down gift ideas in February so that I don’t forget them in November. Two years ago I was super-romantic and bought her a 40 gallon fish tank to replace the yard-sale sourced starter tank she was working with. She was surprised and it went over well, I think. Last year sucked ass but I was conscious enough through pain meds to buy her a couple of items from Emily McDowell, including a tote bag emblazoned with the words “Groceries and Shit” in beautiful hand lettering.
This year she’s asked for several house-related things, including some shelves for the living room. We’ve had a blank wall in there for years, waiting for some mystery artwork to appear, but she’s sick our shrine to emptiness and asked me to make something to mount to the wall to put stuff on. I looked around Amazon and found some invisible hangers for shelving, and Sunday Finn and I hit the Home Depot for supplies. We got a sheet of 1″ MDF and cut it down to 4′ x 4.5″, then glued and double-stacked four sheets for two shelves. Next I’ll be cutting down a 3″ furring strip and mounting it to the front for a slipguard. When the mounts come in I’ll drill holes and set them up staggered on the wall so that there’s some space on the end for something tall.
Another thing she’s asked for is if we can finally finish the woodwork in the office and den. Sometime between the installation of the front porch windows and the big side window, Lowe’s/Home Depot stopped carrying the equivalent cap molding to our windowframes in stock. This is somewhat short-sighted, because I’d wager EVERY HOUSE IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD uses this same cap molding. I’ve looked into setting up a router jig and making it myself, but I’d probably spend several thousand dollars on the jig and I’d honestly much rather have a finished bathroom. I found a woodworking shop over in Glen Burnie who I’ve been told can make this molding for me, and hopefully it won’t be too expensive, because I need 65+ linear feet of it.
I spent a little time kegging beer last night. My intention was to get the grapefruit IPA in the cooler, but for some inexplicable reason I transferred the session IPA and added grapefruit extract to that instead. So it’s going to be an intense batch of beer. I doubt it’s ruined but now I’ve got to figure out what to do with the base beer for the original grapefruit batch–it’s probably a lot milder than the session, so it won’t be as good on its own. Looks like I might wind up with two grapefruit batches instead of one, unless I decide to dry-hop this batch for flavor.
I spent a good chunk of the weekend grading my first class project. Friday night I reviewed work, looked over their files, and filled out a checklist for each project. Saturday morning I fed that into a spreadsheet which averages the score from the checklist and converts that to a letter grade, and from there I adjusted up or down based on attendance. Saturday evening I filled out most of the comments at the bottom of each grading sheet (because what are grades without feedback?) I built this system after realizing how time-intensive grading is during my first semester, and it’s paid off really well.
Some signs I designed for the University of Baltimore have gone up around the city; I spent some time last week hunting them down and getting some pictures. When I was stopped on the side of I-95 shooting the billboards with a long lens, and heard the distinctive chirp of a patrol car siren behind the Scout.
The officer (a Transit Authority cop) was very nice; when I explained what I was doing and why, he somewhat apologetically asked if he could see the shots I’d taken, and then explained why. I thanked him for his time, asked if I could shoot the final billboard, and we both went on our way.
Below is the product of three coats of normal oil-based polyurethane on our office floor. When we originally did the floor we used a water-based polyurethane, but after four years of usage it wasn’t holding up at all. After moving all of the furniture off the porch, I sanded the edges with steel wool, knocked some of the high spots down, and laid better product down. Tonight I’ll begin the process of putting furniture back where it belongs (we counted the number of times we’ve moved stuff out there; we’re up to 4).
The thought is that we’re going to paint the ceiling a light sky blue, to bring the whole thing back to its original roots as an outdoor porch.
Here’s a comparison, for old time’s sake:
The Lockardugans had a busy, busy Memorial Day weekend. First up on our dance card was Aunt Christi’s graduation and celebration dinner. I could not make the ceremony but caught up with everyone later at Sascha’s for the celebration dinner. As we were eating, we recognized the girl in charge of our wedding, who came over to say hi right about the same time I was going to get up to say hello to her.
After the main course, I took the restless girl out for a walk to the Washington Monument, where we made friends with a kennel’s worth of dogs and ran around the empty fountains while couples strolled and chatted in the evening breeze.
Saturday we worked to clean the house up for more guests; my old college pal Chris and his family stopped over for a crab feast at the dining room table, and we shared parenting tips and home renovation stories. Who would have thought that twenty years ago, wandering back buzzed from the jazz clubs downtown at two in the morning, that we’d one day be comparing families and kids and jobs?
We had a bunch of crabs left over on Sunday, so Mama and I made short work of them after a long day in the den and chasing after the girl. Note to the Internets: To reheat crabs, throw them in a covered roasting pan and cook it at 350° for about 15 minutes. Delicious!
Meanwhile, the den is ever so much closer to being finished. All of the small molding is in place, the fireplace is surrounded with clean quarter-round, and the threshold over the bathroom door is in place. Mama rolled the first coat of wall paint over the primer, and I followed behind cutting in with a brush.
We also put a coat of yellow paint on the bathroom wall to see how it looks. At first we were a bit dubious, but I think it’s growing on us. We have some minor stuff to do in order to finish up:
- Putting a second coat of eggshell on the walls, and cutting it in
- Fixing the tape and spackle behind the radiator
- Cutting the toe molding around the back door threshold
- Fixing imperfections in the polyurethane on the floor
- Touch-up on the trim paint
- Replacing the switchplates and covers, and adding a timer to the porch light
On Saturday morning, Mr. Scout and I ventured down to beautiful Jessup to buy some metal. We’re going to make bumpers for our Scouts, and we needed raw materials to get started. Based on measurements taken from a plan I built in Illustrator, some nice bluehaired ladies in a dark bar-enclosed shed sold us lengths of box steel and plate, and we loaded up the truck with our booty. This place was a picture straight out of 1960, from ancient brick and wood paneling to the yellowing xeroxed cartoons taped to the walls. There were no computers in sight; our order was transcribed into a three-ring notebook and estimated with a calculator. Mr. Scout told me he’d priced out the materials online and what we got was dirt-cheap, which makes me feel good. Now to find the time to get over to Chestertown to start building it all.
Later that day, I bought some underlayment for the bathroom and began the tiling process. Sadly, this meant the sink and toilet had to be removed, at a crucial time for our household: Finn is on a potty-training program which means we have to get her upstairs every 45 minutes or so before she leaves a puddle somewhere on the floor. She’s doing really well, though; there were only a few accidents and she woke from both weekend naps completely dry. She’s also sleeping in her big-girl bed, which is a huge step for all of us. Saturday and Sunday morning she peeked in our room before dawn and woke me quietly, and both times she was dry—this after about 8 hours of sleep. Then I’d hoist her into our bed and she’d thrash around between us until I took her downstairs; clearly I need to get to sleep much earlier if this is how the pattern is going to change.
The underlayment went down quickly and with minimal fuss.
Waiting for the adhesive to cure, I finished off the kickplate, top trim, and other bits of carpentry and slapped a first coat of gloss white on as much as I could see clearly at 11:30PM. Mr. Scout brought a 1/4″ router bit with him, and we quickly milled a piece of wood for the space between the two right-hand windows. He also pointed out that I’d been using the wrong gauge nails in my pneumatic gun, which is information I could really have used about two months ago. (Thanks, Mr. Scout!)
Sunday morning Finn and I let Mama sleep in as long as she wanted, and we all spent the morning together before I got started tiling. It went in pretty easily. Mama suggested laying it with the points facing inward, so the hexagon shape stands out in the pattern, and I think it was the right move. We have a bit more trim work to do, and I need to cut about twenty pieces in half for the threshold, but we’re almost ready for grout.
It’s somewhere in the high 60’s/low 70’s today, and so last night I hand-sanded the entire floor with 00 steel wool to knock the bumps off. This morning at 7 the second coat went down, and it looks more even already. I’m using a satin finish so the gloss won’t be too bright, but the goal is to have one solid, even look across the whole thing. If we can get one more warm day in the next week, I can put the final coat down and be done. Compare and contrast with the shot below (and I realize the lighting on the first day was not as bright, but wow)
And just for kicks:
As noted in the picture from Saturday, Finn had a blast at the playdate. That place is pretty amazing—imagine a space the size of an aircraft carrier’s hangar filled with thirty different themed areas: dinosaurs, space, a pond, a post office, a beach (with real sand), and a real fire truck, among other things. She wasn’t afraid of anything, either; when faced with a gaggle of kids, she walked right over and got in on the action, whether it was dancing, climbing, or exploring. I was happy to shadow her around until our stomachs started audibly growling, and even then she didn’t want to leave. For $15, it’s a ridiculous bargain and something that I will surely be taking advantage of on rainy days when Finn and I are looking for something to do. Gold stars, Mama.
Finn did great as my co-pilot all weekend while we let Mama catch up on her paying work. We hit the bank for cash, got breakfast, did the week’s grocery shopping, picked up primer for the porch (more on that later), and played together while I also tried to help straighten up the house and fix an ailing laptop for a friend. By 9PM, I was exhausted and couldn’t face any other physical activity. I don’t know how Jen does it every day.
As promised, the drywall guy stopped by on Friday and sanded the entire den, so it’s out there waiting for me to get started. The tentative list goes as follows:
- Repair the floors with the boards Mr. Scout saved for us (thanks!)
- Have Mr. C come by and help wire up all the outlets
- Prime the walls
- Sand the floor
- Find some tile for the bathroom
- Pull the sink and toilet and lay the tile down
- Find the right beadboard and install that in the bathroom
- Choose a vanity mirror and lighting for over the sink and the center of the room (I’m leaning towards one of these)
- Start milling and installing finish molding
- Pick a paint color
- Choose a ceiling fan and install it
- Paint the trim and doors
I also have to block out some time in the spring or early summer to buy and shoot more Tigerfoam up into the sill plates in the coal room, as well as install some simple stud walls and R-19 insulation to keep the chill from coming up through the floor, but that’s not immediately critical.
Just standing out there with the girls this morning was a revelation; the walls are clean, the floor is mopped (mostly), and I tore the plastic off the walls on Sunday, so the full amount of light can shine in. Even on an overcast day, it’s the brightest room in the house. It’s really exciting.