Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A low key Labor Day weekend.

As Alexe and I swap out dinner making nights, we are both letting our competitive sides leak out a little bit.  She raised the bar with some amazing tuna steaks.  I responded with an apple pie.

The weekend started for three of us on Friday night.  Alexe had an early Saturday morning of making party platters at the BTC, (as in 4:30 am) so she was not on board with my evening agenda.

But as I had finally talked the contractor on the Bank renovation into selling us the remaining facade blocks, I had 6,000 pounds of landscaping materials just sitting on pallets by the pond taunting me.  (Each block was 90 lbs.)  With the kids keeping me company, (they made themselves dinner and brought it out, hidden here by the cloth towel.)

I started leveling and laying the perimeter blocks.  This is intended as a fish/pantry pond, but the kids had other ideas.

Looking for tadpoles and catching frogs.

A little bit of dirt work left to do, along with replanting grass up to the edges, and filling the upper edge of exposed plastic with potted plants.  Also on the way will be a carbon filtration system that will keep the algae down.  

The kids spent hours swimming and playing in their new "pool".  Followed by running around the yard with towel/capes.

Followed later by family movie, which for the start of the long weekend was the first in a mini-marathon of Mission Impossible flicks.  

I've had this t-shirt since I was 17. 

Alexe took a little nap, and though she was not a fan of the movie, she was bright eyed and bushy tailed, and merrily stitched her blanket while mocking every aspect of the film.

This is the most alumni-pride I've ever experienced.

Naps became a theme for Alexe throughout the weekend.  Saturday, after her very early start, she passed out in the late afternoon. 

The weekend took on a rhythm: a little project work, (see the shower construction post below,) with drawing and swimming by the kids, followed by a Mission Impossible flick in the heat of the day, followed by farm chores, a trip to the country club pool, lots of snacks, reading, a bit of housekeeping at the hotel, and other various puttering activities.  


More swimming. The kids fluctuated between best friends and mortal enemies.  Annaliese lost Caspian's tad pole net at the bottom of the pond, (she retrieved it the next day,) and there was an explosion.  (He's underwater in this picture.)

Later during family movie (MI III!) she drew this for him.  And still later that evening, while I was mowing, they were on such bad terms that he crumpled this up and threw it at her.  Many tears on all sides after that.

But all in all, everyone was happy and relaxed and we started the week read/movie-ed/relaxed out, and ready to get back to it.  

And the Mission Impossible movies are not that bad.  It's particularly fun to have the films stopped every 5 minutes when the kids need further clarification on who the bad guys are, if that is really that person or if he is wearing a spy-mask, did that happen now or was that a flashback, etc.

Also fun to hear them giggling every time John Woo shoe-horned in another shot with birds moving in slow motion.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Our shower.

On the long list of fun things around the homestead that is floating out there has been the shower in our master bath.  Not only is it something I stubbed in the plumbing for 3 years ago and left until inspiration hit me, we also can't deal with the kids' bathroom until we have an alternate functioning shower in the house.

So on a hot day I went shopping in my various stashes of stuff around town and came home with a pile of raw materials.

Then I started fiddling with a design and some fun math to see what was possible.  We really like the open layout of our room, and a big box in the middle of the bathroom, even with glass walls, wasn't making me enthused for where we hope to spend the next many years.  So fun with geometry ensued, and I ended up with a command center/shower with no glass or curtains.

13.5 degree angles around the base, 10 degree slope on the top of the perimeter wall...

2.5 degree angle on those top pieces that are cut at the 13.5 degree angle on the second plane to create a tight fit for the top plate.

12.5  inches of spacing on the inner sides of the polygon to accommodate a selection of tile options...

A marble step at the exit, hardi-board around the inside and on the floor.

Tongue and groove pine 3/4 x 8 inch around the outside.

Red oak as the final top plate to the perimeter wall.  At this point I was out of my spare building supplies, and had to make a shopping trip.

I had stubbed out the water and drain years earlier, but still had to install backing plates for the shower head and faucet, and instal both.

Followed by backer board for the wall, several coats of urethane and stain for the oak, and a couple coats of exterior bright white paint for the outer wall.

At this point I was 12+ hours in, and surprised at how long this was taking, and how much farther there was to go.  With the worst parts to come.

There was the building of the shower pan, out of a strong mixture of sand and portland cement to provide the proper slope to the drain from all points around the perimeter.  Then several days for that to cure before applying several coats of this handy bright pink paint on rubber compound that creates a water proof barrier.  It's good stuff, expensive, but apparently can turn anything, even plywood, into a code-compliant water-tight shower pan.

Then the dreaded tiling.  I found this slate-ish tile at a supplier in Oxford.

Alexe came for a visit.  At this point she was no longer complaining about my design.

Much, much later.  Pretty slate, but it does not cut well.  Doesn't like to snap, and the sharpest diamond blade would still shatter 2 out of every three.

The small floor tiles come in sheets of 12x12, and were relatively easy to snip to size in the thousands of little crevices my lovely polygon made.

(In case you didn't notice, that banked piece of oak on the left is a particularly lovely piece of routing, planing, and shaping.)

Several days for the mastic (tile glue) to cure, followed by 5 miserable hours to grout.  Grout can be a tricky thing, and with several batches needing to be mixed so the timing of the application allows for each to be applied before it gets too stiff, and then a couple timely rub downs with wet sponges per batch, I was not enjoying myself.  I earned a couple mean blisters from the grout trowel, and when I didn't have a good pair of rubber gloves and went ahead with the washing for a couple hours, my hands were killing me.  

A few hours after I was done the top layer of skin on my hands decided it was not up to the challenges, and decided to leave.  Apparently they're not kidding when they say to wear protective gloves around the stuff.  

Anyhow, a couple days for the grout to cure, and this morning the whole shower was sealed with a heavy duty grout sealer, the shiny parts of the faucet were installed, a fresh coat of white paint was applied to the surrounding walls, and one of the mahogany and old sap spigot hangers was put up for bathrobes and towels. 

A couple hours for all that to dry, and we all took our first showers.  

It's an awesome shower.  No over splash, good shower head height, and we all fit in it at the same time.  

The second shower I've ever built, and hopefully the last.