Sunday, April 29, 2012

Woodworking interlude

Before tung oil application:

After the first coat. 

I'm thinking an oval-ish coffee-type table for the next project, we'll see.

Child interlude to the woodworking interlude.  They're basically of a weight now.

Canoeing in Tishomingo

We made it back to Tishomingo state park on Saturday for a family canoe trip down bear creek.  We had a late start, Alexe had to work a few hours in the morning, but when she came home around 9:30 with a BTC-provided picnic lunch, the kids and I had wrapped up our 3rd breakfast, (waffles) and packed the car with the canoe, paddles, flotation devices, and changes of clothes, swim suits, bug dope and sunscreen, ziplock bags for our cell phones, (just wait,) and my bike.

A 2 hour leisurely car ride later, filled with songs and story telling, a bit of napping, a random stop at a cool old brick warehouse in New Albany that was an indoor flea market with nothing worthwhile inside, and we made it to the park. 

Park arrival some time around 1:30, we had lunch at the spot where we would be ending our canoe trip. The purpose of coming here first was to drop off my bike.

Hoop cheese and bologna sandwiches, chips, water, and the first peaches of the season.
Boatie in the background, what a champion little car she is.

Gearing up for the boating leg of the adventure.

Leaving my bike locked to a tree, we drove 6 miles upstream, (in water distance, the road was 10-ish, though when I biked it later, I was able to exit the park by a dirt path and shave 5 of those miles off.) This is the put in point, off route 86, East of Dennis, MS.

Leader of the mother-son navigation team.  

Leader of the steering, rock collecting, pushing brigade.

We set sail.  Or paddle.  Struck out.  

It was beautiful.  The water depth ranged from six inches in a few short stretches, to four feet or more.  The water was clearer than any I've seen in MS, the sun was out to play without being harsh, and the water clipped along at a decent rate.  The kids were in high spirits for almost the entire 4 hour journey, and we made plenty of stops for swimming, rock collecting, nature spotting, and pushing when needed.

We pulled out the magnifying glasses to try to spot some big fish Alexe said she saw.  From her description I didn't believe her, she held her hands three feet apart, but a while later we saw a half dozen massive fish swimming under the boat.  They looked like thin salmon, very long, the girth of my forearm. We learned from some folks fishing downstream that they're river alligator gar.  Don't look for images online, you'll never go swimming in rivers again. We saw a few turtles, and heard many others plop into the water before we were close enough to see, were flown over by a duck, and had more than enough bugs to look at.

At one point the navigators were recruited for pulling duty.

The navigation team never mentioned the big rock in the middle of the river, possibly thinking we could run it over, (their instructions were generally "pick up speed" for other obstacles,) but this one turned us over.  This was just a few bends from the end of our trip.  The current was moving along, and I was just able to catch up with the paddles a hundred yards downstream or so, running/swimming through the 3 ft deep water with bare ft over a very rocky bottom.  They got a head start while we righted the kids and the boat.

The head navigator did her best to sell this as a fun part of the adventure.  The rest of the crew was not sold.

We made it to the end, took a final swim, then I hopped on my bike and rode back to the car.  Took me 25 minutes to reach the car, another 15 to drive back.  We came out of the water right next to the swinging bridge, (see pictures from my first trip to Tishomingo,) and there is a playground right there where Alexe and the kids waited for me.  It worked out very well.

We headed home at around 7:30, and stopped in Booneville for dinner.  Only Annaliese's change of clothes didn't get wet in the impromptu dip, so we had to find somewhere to eat with outdoor seating.  This place fit the bill, a setup like Sonic, but not Sonic.  Hot dogs and fries for dinner, with promises of ice cream in New Albany, halfway home.  The other patrons were in their cars, and enjoyed a free show when Annaliese started dancing to the piped in music.  

The kids passed out by the time we made it to New Albany, but the ice cream shack was open, so we stopped. We then shook, tickled, pried open eyelids, and stuffed spoons with a little ice cream into sleepy mouths to wake the kids up for their dessert.  Yes, we knew/know how insane it was, but the prescription for out adventure had included celebratory ice cream for all.

A wonderful day with my family.  Home at 10:30, kids popped into their beds, and relaxed unpacking of the car this morning.  

Fun note: Alexe spotted an iphone on the bottom of the creek, and we fished it out.  First generation in an otter creek case.  Those otter creek cases are nicely made, but NOT water proof.  The phone looks mint, not a scratch on it after removing the very encrusted case, but all the ports drip muddy water.  

Thursday, April 26, 2012

First coat of tung oil applied to the kitchen island, split 1/1 with spirits to get deep penetration with the first coat.  Looks pretty, eh? A few more coats in the next few days, add three weeks of drying time, and we'll see how it looks in the kitchen.  

I'm just calling this thing the chess table now.  Fully assembled, doweled and glued, drying.  It's going to go through the tung oil process as well.

Side note, this 150+ year old wood killed another random orb sander earlier this week.  I've been elbow-greasing it since, resulting in a much closer emotional bond between me and these pieces of furniture.

Walking home for lunch after french lessons.  That little boy has been looking pudgy recently, and eating non stop.  He can barely make it from third-breakfast to lunch without a snack.  Yesterday he took a 2.5 hour nap, and I had to drag him out of bed.  He stood up, and I swear he was an inch taller and looked gaunt.  He's growing faster than the grass.

Afternoon presents from Ms. Dixie, a bug book for Caspian, and plastic kitchen knives for Annaliese to use while helping Ms. Dixie in the BTC kitchen.  Many pictures taken, this is the only one where the book was covering the right parts to make this picture acceptable for posting.  They were swimming moments before.

Kiwi prep for dinner.  She's very focused and often helps with chopping, it's nice to be less worried about her fingers with these new knives. 

Alexe's garden in full bloom. Sunflowers in the background, starting in the foreground: parsley, carrots, oregano.

A few local musicians have started up a twice-a-week music event in the upstairs of an old barn.  Usually three acts, from 7 to 9:30 on weeknights.  We went for the first time, the kids made it through the first act, which was short, a young girl singing in a pop-star-country vein.  The second act, another young girl, was gifted.  Guitar skills, a relaxed, effortless and rich voice, and a good library of songs.  I heard most of those form outside while watching the kids play on the surrounding playground that is part of the venue.  Good time, all around.

Talented girl, can't remember her name...

View from outside.  Luckily the old barn didn't contain the music at all; it sounded just as good standing outside.

Nicely organized, with a self serve refreshment area, we enjoyed some hot tea and chocolate cake.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I have no idea what day of the week it is.

Well now I do, but for most of the day I've had a vague sense that it was probably Tuesday.

This picture shows a litte taste of how charmed our kids' lives are.  Notice their sandwiches are cut in the shape of butterflies.  Notice Caspian's sliced apples are arranged in a lovely pattern, and after his tray was set down in front of him by Ms. Dixie, she made sure the middle apple slice was standing straight up.  Notice Annaliese has TWO pickles, and a slice of swiss cheese.

These kids order their meals this way.  Before I even came downstairs, they were sitting in a booth, and the kitchen staff told me they had already placed their orders.  

I got some mowing in, and I'm fiddling with a new fence around the front section of the garden.  Not so sure about it, but we'll see.  Mowing is one of my favorite things, the most immediate gratification I get.  Look at how manicured and crisp that yard is!

We're boat-rich. Canoe trip planned for this weekend, and the other one is hooked up and ready for an adventure with the kids tomorrow.

Continuing my love affair with my boy, we had a boys morning yesterday, and he volunteered for a haircut.  He's pretty good for 3 minutes of these haircuts, and after that it's a combination of distracting him with conversation, promises of treats, and quick snipping.

And then he won't stand still for an "after" picture.

Unless you put a bugle in his hands.

Strawberries that Alexe buys from the Amish in large quantities for the store, sometimes pitching in on the picking process when they haven't picked enough to meet the BTC's needs by the time Alexe gets to their farm in the early morning.  Strawberries straight out of the field taste.  I'll leave that as a complete sentence, and let the implied criticism of store-shipped fruit stand.

I liked how Alexe's desk design turned out, so...

1) We've wanted a kitchen island, but one we can move out of the way whenever we want.  Thus the casters.
2) I have one room left full of old wood I saved during all our projects, what remains after re-using much of it for all sorts of other projects.  Using the old wood is both beautiful, and taps into the strong joy I feel whenever I use things up and they're gone.  Plus very soon I'll have another room emptied out. 
3) I like projects, and am fending off the drive to start another big one with these little ones.

There are challenges to using this beautiful old wood. It is very hard, often brittle, and almost never straight.  This tabletop is forcing lots of individual boards into a cohesive whole, after much straightening of edges, clamping, re-clamping, doweling and gluing together.  That top was sanded more than a little bit by this time.

The next project is on the right there, clamped and drying, pre any surface sanding.  I think I'm going to turn that into a low little table, 37" by 15" or so, 21" high.  (It will make a perfect chess table for my office.) The table top is 5/4", made from one long board I found under the roof on the fourth floor of the building. It is amazing how dense and heavy this particular board is, feels like oak and yet it's just old pine from a time before we built with fast-growing sap-wood trees.

After a long session with a belt sander, running a router around the outer edge, and hand sanding.  The tung oil (pure, no varnish-cocktails added) I was waiting on just arrived, and I'm looking forward to seeing how that works with this wood.  

Monday, April 23, 2012


Friday at the park. We're working on solo swinging.  If either gets a push, the trip is shot, and they only leave the swing in tears.

This park was overhauled a few years back, and is on the other side of town.  To be blunt, the black side of town.  Both Alexe and I try to take the kids there whenever we have a chance; not only do we like the new equipment and the layout, there aren't many opportunities for integrated play.  One of our prouder moments as parents, pulling up to the park one day when it was packed, with our kids about to become the only white children present, Annaliese squealed with delight and said, "Look at all the friends to play with!"

Maybe their generation will get it right.

Family walk, headed to friends' house for a bonfire.

I'm having a love affair with my handsome, chatty little boy.  Yes, he's sitting on the toilet, but during this episode he talked non-stop about the rules of a new game Madeline had taught him.  (Madeline is his french tutor, and it turned out every word he told me here was made up.) 

Her feet used to be so small.

Handsome, right?

Unless you cross him.  Both these cherubs have been blessed with healthy tempers, courtesy of one grandparent or another.

The girls finished planting the garden ahead of the boys fixing the boat.  They retired to watch some shows in bed while we finished up.  The garden is now fully planted, and the boat is running like a top, starting on one pull. 

Another family walk.

Practicing for the paparazzi.  

I had a choice here, the pre-throw picture, or the post-throw picture.  The stick she just tossed is out of frame.