Friday, December 31, 2021

French apartment renovations, Days 373-374: The end of the year...

1,116 steps

Well that was fun. I'm mostly back to normal now, just a bit weak. I was in bed last night and just about to turn the lights off, when I realized I hadn't written in my journal. I shrugged and went to sleep.

I was able to help Eric cut the shelves for the bottom bookshelf. I had lots of end-of-year breech work (mostly financial, to get all of the accounts balanced) as well as writing a "2021 In Review" for Breech Without Borders.

Once Ivy and Inga went to bed, we spent a while looking at old photos with Zari and Dio. I think we're going to do more of that tomorrow with our photos and videos. I also want to take a family picture with us all lined up in a row. It's been way too long since the last one.

I'm going through my phone and finding a lot of random things on it from the past several days. Enjoy!
- a drawing by Inga
- Iny winning a tropy at her soccer camp last week
- our afternoon at the beach yesterday 
- trying to weigh Zari's hair...a bit tricky since it's attached to her head
- the kids using features on my new phone to look like The Flash

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Wednesday, December 29, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 372: Still sick

Well, I am down around 4 kg (8 lbs) from 3 days of a) hardly eating and b) GI issues. Not fun. I still have no appetite but forced myself to eat a little bit. Still feel nauseated all the time.

And to add to the fun, I went to bed last night and was wide awake until about 6 am. For no reason I can figure out. I didn't nap at all yesterday either.

Ok, enough complianing. I know it's not interesting to anyone else but "it's my party, and I'll cry if I want to" is running through my head.

Everyone had soccer practice today and I managed to drop Zari and Inga off and bring Ivy home. That and some light housework tapped me out.

We were hoping to go skiing tomorrow but with rapidly warming temperatures this week, it looks like the overnight low at the top of the mountain will be 7 or 8 C, and the high tomorrow at the base will be 14! So we're still waiting to decide. I won't be going short of a miracle but Eric might take the kids for a half-day.

I'm more of the mind to wait until the conditions are better. It's still along drive and money to factor in, just to ski in slush.

Ivy's journal has been missing for several days now. We're not exactly sure how many but some time around Christmas we couldn't find it. We've been turning the house inside-out trying to find it. Ivy has been crying because it has over a year of her entries and it was a leather journal that I hand-made years ago. We've run out of places to look and I'm not sure what else to do.
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Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Catamaran net installation

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French apartment renovations, Days 370-371: Sick

712 steps

Ugh, I've been super sick for the last 48 hours. So much that I could barely move yesterday. After about 16 visits to the porcelain throne, my GI bug settled down but I still am feeling nauseated and feverish and weak.

Anyway that's it for updates.
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Sunday, December 26, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 369: Walks and runs (not the good kind)

~16k steps

Zari wasn't feeling well this morning and spent most of the day on the couch. Headache, fever, chills, body ache. Then this evening something hit me hard and fast and now I have the runs (the GI type, yay).

But before that I was feeling great. I walked to/from Cimiez as usual. Inga walked home with me and slid down every possible railing. 

After lunch I brought Ivy and her friend rollerblading. Ivy had been begging for rollerblades, so it was an easy choice for her Christmas present. I approve of gifts that are useful and get kids outdoors!

I'm currently encoding our catamaran net installation video. I'll probably have it ready tomorrow...but in the meantime here are a few pictures of Le Catamaran in its (almost) finished state. I am not showing the kitchen since it's not done.

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Saturday, December 25, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 368: Christmas!

It's been a wonderful happy lazy day (except for the hours spent cooking brunch and dinner). The kids were all thrilled with their presents. I like having the siblings buy presents for each other. They come up with some good ideas!

I didn't even take any pictures today. Just spent time with the family, ate delicious food, and did some video editing (mostly while sitting at the table with Ivy and Inga as they put together laser-cut wood constructions).

This year's Beef Wellington was even better than last year's, Eric declared. I upgraded the mushroom duxelle and made a new sauce. The brown butter & creme fraiche mashed potatoes were amazing even by themselves. Usually potatoes are just a bland vehicle for the sauce. But not these ones.

Each child got a box of 16 Ferrero Rochers. Dio announced that he had eaten FIFTEEN today. "It averages out to one every 45 minutes," he told me. As if that was a good thing?!
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Friday, December 24, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 367: Naked oyster boyfriends

We had a delicious seafood dinner: langoustines, giant shrimp, smoked salmon with capers, and oysters. Last time we had oysters (2 years ago in Chamonix), Zari couldn't eat them and still has memories of gagging on them. But she wanted to try again.

And somehow over the course of dinner, this evolved into a joke about "naked oyster boyfriends." Much hilarity ensued over something that was so nonsensical I couldn't explain how it came to be in the first place.

Eric is wrapping the last present. The house is reasonably clean. The chairs are draped with several wet sheets because one of our laundry lines snapped this evening. Fortunately the clothespins held everything in place. I hauled all of the clothes up and decided that tomorrow is clothesline replacement day.

Dio, Eric, and I went to the big Carrefour at lunchtime to buy things for dinner. I don't remember the last time the two of us were together with just Dio. With 4 kids, that doesn't happen often.

I went out the door first thing in the morning, hoping I could beat the lines at the butcher shop. Nope! I still had to wait in line for 30 minutes. But I came home with a "filet de boeuf" and many Euros lighter. It's worth it, though, to make a delicious Beef Wellington.

Eric drove our friends to the airport this morning. Maybe this will motivate us to visit La Réunion some day? I can't imagine moving that far overseas, and then back again just a year later.
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Thursday, December 23, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 366: Après-midi bricolage

10,158 steps

I braved the grocery stores this morning to buy food for Christmas, all except the butcher. The lines were outrageously long so I'll try first thing tomorrow morning as early as I can.

I prepped the mushroom duxelle (morelles, ceps, & button mushrooms) and a "Grand Veneur" sauce today. Tomorrow I will sear the beef filet, make the crepes, and assemble the whole thing (beef / mustard / duxelles / crepes) except for the puff pastry.

Eric went spearfishing but saw hardly any fish. He came home with just a few sea urchins, which we'll eat tomorrow.

The dad of the family staying in Le Catamaran is a big DIYer, and he offered to help with any renovation projects today. So after lunch we installed all of the base cabinets in the kitchen. Maybe Eric and I will do the upper cabinets tomorrow.

Ivy and her friend went out with her family for one last tour de Nice, including a stop at the Christmas village to jump on the big bungee trampolines. Then we had a pizza dinner with 6 kinds of pizza: Turkish, Norwegian, seafood, Reine, Alsacian, & vegetarian.
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Wednesday, December 22, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 365: 1 year of renovating and no work today

I did something I haven't done for a long time: took an entire day off of renovating. I read a book in the morning and did some breech work in the afternoon.

We're 1 year into our renovation project. I'm not sure if we're ahead or behind schedule at this point. Our goal was to finish both apartments before July. I suspect the 2nd apartment won't be entirely done by then. But all we can do is keep going.

We finished our Christmas shopping with a combination of local purchases and online orders. Now I need to start thinking about Christmas breakfast (probably homemade waffles) and dinner (Beef Wellington). Eric will do Christmas Eve dinner (seafood).

We have one more day with our friends before they leave on Friday morning. We've been eating lunch and dinner together up here. It's nice to have people to share meals with. Tonight they cooked: quiche, tomato tart, and apple crumble. I steamed some green beans because our family always eats so much.

By the way, the tomato tart was amazing and so simple. He made a quick olive oil crust but any savory crust will do. Spread a generous amount of Dijon mustard ("fine et forte," if possible), then a generous amount of Emmental or Gruyere, then a layer of sliced tomatoes with salt, pepper, & thyme. That's it! Bake until golden brown.

I'm working on our catamaran net video. So far I've cut over 2.5 hours of footage to less than 9 minutes. Whew.
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Tuesday, December 21, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 364: It's beginning to feel a little like Christmas

For me, the Christmas season feels real when I make Lebkuchen, a German spice cookie that my German grandmother always made and that we made growing up. I mixed up a batch last night and this afternoon the kids helped roll out, bake, and decorate the entire batch. No small feat given how big the recipe is!

We've put off Christmas shopping until this week and are now trying to catch up. We're giving each child one gift & one stocking stuffer, more or less. Then we give each child some money to buy presents for their 3 siblings.

I went to one of the flea market thrift stores and found a lamp made out of sea glass and wire. Perfect for the bedside table in Le Catamaran! (And I know, you haven't even seen the bed yet...or the curtains...or the finished staircase...I'll take pictures as soon as our guests are gone.)

After dinner, Ivy went to see a movie with her friend who is staying in Le Catamaran and her older sister (Zari's age). She might be a bit tired tomorrow morning.

I made French onion soup for dinner for us & our guests. It took me at least 6 hours since I was slow caramelizing the onions in the oven. They needed to be stirred every half-hour. After dinner, I was beat. So I did something that felt way too transgressive: I went into bed and read a book for the rest of the evening!
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Monday, December 20, 2021

French apartment renovations, Days 362 & 363: Getting ready for guests

So many steps...

No, I wasn't in Facebook jail yesterday. But I was up late helping Zari finish a big assignment, and then I decided to spend time with Eric instead of writing in my journal. Priorities. 

Yesterday I worked on Le Catamaran, getting it ready for our friends who are staying for a few days before moving to La Réunion. So many little things left to do. My short-term memory is so bad that I can't exactly recall much of yesterday! 

Today was much of the same, mostly dedicated to getting curtain rods installed and the last few curtains sewn. Our friends dropped off their suitcases in the morning and then came back late afternoon. Ivy and Inga disappeared and, surprise, they were in Le Catamaran playing with their younger daughter, who is one of Ivy's best friends. 

I went to two Lidl stores hoping to buy a vacuum that came to stores today. Despite going first thing in the morning, they had none left in either store! 

We ate dinner together (since there is no kitchen in Le Catamaran): she made a delicious dish with authentic smoked Réunionnaise sausages (shipped by her mom). I made rice to go with it. While we were chatting after dinner, I mixed a batch of Lebkuchen. We'll bake it tomorrow or Wednesday. 

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Saturday, December 18, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 361: Slave labor, 1800 kg, & a party

21,984 steps

We left first thing this morning to pick up supplies for leveling the floor (Fermacell dry leveling system, called a "chape sèche"). The store had enough of the fiber cement boards, but not nearly enough bags of granules. We bought everything they had and will do as much as we can and I guess wait for the rest (which won't be here until some time in January).

This was way too much for our own car to hold. Remember way back when I bought the cement mixer from a random guy and got into his delivery van? His name is Yann and he looks a lot like Daniel Craig. Well anyway he gave me his card and said to call if we ever need things delivered. So I called him up this week and he said he'd do it for 50 Euros. He met us there and we loaded up the bulk of the supplies into his van. We put 10 bags (350 kg) of sand into our own car.

The fun part started when we had to first unload everything from his van into the hallway of the apartment building. We called all the kids down and got it unloaded as quickly as possible to avoid blocking traffic and taking too much of Yann's time. Then we had to carry all 1800 kg of materials up 2 flights of stairs.

The kids were chipper at first and then lost motivation midway through. "This is the first day of vacation! It's like we're your slaves!" Dio helped with one board and declared he was done. I declared that no one was done until it was all done. "We're a family and we're all working together."

We had everything upstairs by 1:45 pm. I vacuumed the entire staircase & entry hall and then had to run off to look at a mirror. It was a half-hour walk away and I did it in just over 20 minutes. I can walk fast :)

The mirror was amazing--the perfect thing to put above the bathroom sink in Le Catamaran. Excatly the right size and shape with amazing Art Deco detailing, and only 10 Euros.

While I was gone, Ivy went to a friend's house and Dio and Eric went off to his soccer game. I came home, dropped off the mirror, and went out again with Inga to do some Christmas shopping. We didn't buy any presents but at least we got some good ideas. We went to the big shopping mall in central Nice, called Nice Etoile, and I insisted that we ride the glass elevators while we were there. Inga talked me into buying us a pain au chocolat to share.

Then, soon after we got home, Eric and Dio came back from teh soccer game and we left immediately to go to a Christmas party at our church. They had presents, games, and a movie for the kids and game tables set up for adults. I was already feeling overwhelmed and exhausted from our busy day and after a while I had to escape to a quiet place. Introvert life. My sciatic nerve is also bothering me and after a while I was desperate to just go home and not be sitting or standing.

Oh, when Inga and I were walking home, we saw a marching drum squad dressed like Santa and his elves.

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Friday, December 17, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 360: Lime day & vacation!

We are getting very close to 365 days of renovations. Still not done with the first apartment! But at least we're close. 

I worked all day patching up the floor with lime mortar. Most of the floors have a layer of lime mortar about 1-2" thick on top of (and inbetween) the floor joists. But in a few areas, that layer of lime was crumbling or removed entirely during the big floor removal. To give the floors a bit more stability before we put the dry leveling system on, I'm patching all of those areas with lime. I worked until I ran out of ingredients (3 cement mixers full). I still have lots more areas to do but that will have to wait until we buy supplies. 

Later in the afternoon, Eric came down to help. We started cleaning up Le Catamaran and getting little finishing things done: curtain rods & curtains, toilet paper holder, shelf brackets. We need to enlist the kids to wash & dust all of the walls and floors. Ivy helped me put up the first set of shelf supports in the lower bookshelf area.

Zari is stressing about choosing her 3 areas of specialty. She has to choose fairly soon. 

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Thursday, December 16, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 359: 2/3 cm per meter

9,324 steps

The main floor area of our front apartment will slope at a rate of 2/3 centimeter per meter. I spent most of the day mortaring in metal rails at that exact slope to make a guide edge. And then I realized that the last rail was only 1/3 cm per meter so I had to rip it out. Gah. 

We have guests coming to stay on Monday (they're moving back to La Reunion and need a place to stay for 4 days once they leave their apartment). We won't have the kitchen in, but we're trying to get everything else done. Today's focus was curtians & curtain rods. We're mostly done. We need to do a deep cleaning and devise some sort of curtain for the shower since it's a family and the parents might not want to shower naked in front of the kids :) 

Dio's Spanish teacher announced a huge homework project & test for tomorrow. He was supposed to put the assignment up at 6 pm. It was big enough that Dio cancelled his soccer training so he could get it done. And then we waited...and waited...the teacher never posted it! Finally at 9:30 pm, Dio gave up and went to bed. 

Time for bed. One more day of school before Christmas break! 

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Wednesday, December 15, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 358: A dusty day

8,123 steps

I had a solitary work day while Eric was busy with soccer nearly the entire day. Most of my day was spent moving the laser level to various heights to figure out how we're actually going to make a flat floor out of something that now looks like a series of hills and valleys. 

Over the 7.5 meters that the room spans lengthwise, we're going to put a gradual slope of 5 cm total. This will allows us to keep from having to build a step up into the apartment (all due to two high spots near the front windows). Then we'll have a step down into the kitchen area. 

Most of my day was spent shaving off high spots verrrrrry carefully. Sometimes I used just a hammer & chisel if the lime was soft enough; other times I had to score the lime multple directions with the rainureuse and then chisel it away one square at a time. 

I also wired 6 temporary work lights onto the ceilings. It's amazing to have good lighting! Why didn't I do this in the back apartment? 

Inga's ankle started hurting yesterday, and she's been hobbling on it all day. She tried to play during practice but had to stop after a few scrimmages. Then Ivy started complaining about her thigh hurting this evening. So now we've got two girls limping and hobbling dramatically.

We got Zari an appointment with a kinesiologist (a speciality that's a cross between massage therapy and physical therapy and a dash of chiropractic). He says it just feels like muscle tension. He gave Zari a series of stretches to do every day and told her to check back in after Christmas vacation. His daughter used to be one of Dio's closest friends about 3-4 years ago. And he didn't even charge us for this first visit! 

I'm still in Facebook jail. Yay?

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Tuesday, December 14, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 357: Grownup toys

10,309 steps

We picked up the first part of our kitchen order, which was mainly the flat-pack cupboards and the dishwasher. We had fun assembling them. I'm not super impressed with the quality, but nearly everything is made out of chipboard & melamine these days. Oh well. We even went to a local carpenter and cabinetmaker, and even he makes pretty much all custom kitchens out of chipboard covered in melamine (at least the frames & bases). 

I tell you, this makes me want to make my own cupboards out of better quality materials. But that's one thing I'll have to give up for now. At least our door & drawer fronts are real wood. 

Dio and I tightened the net ropes again. There isn't much room left to tighten; the net is very close to the anchors after this last tightening. I hope we can keep it taut enough! 

I made a batch of fire cider tonight. Who knows if the health claims are accurate, but it looks delicious! I've got to wait a month for it to be ready. 

I'm going to get working on the front apartment floors tomorrow. First thing: building & anchoring the frame for the step down into the kitchen area. Then reinforcing some of the weaker areas. Then anchoring the perimeter frames where we need to pour a bit of self-leveling cement. If I can get that all done by Friday, we'll be in good shape. 

Dinner was salad, then duck breast with shallots, balsamic, & honey. 

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Monday, December 13, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 356: Floors, appliances

10,967 steps

Eric had some (academic) work to do, so I mostly puttered around by myself in the front apartment. It's going to be very interesting getting these floors level and flat. There is a 17 cm difference from the highest spots to the lowest dip! Because the lowest area is in the kitchen, we're going to make a step down in the kitchen area, keeping more overhead room in at least that part under the mezzanine. I think with the right finishing details it could look really cool. 

I patched up some of the holes in the floor with MAP, then put MAP around the bottoms of the walls where there were cracks. That took most of the day. 

Tomorrow we pick up part 1 of our kitchen--most of the cabinets minus the doors & drawer fronts. 

After dinner, I went to Darty and bought all of our kitchen appliances: fridge, induction cooktop, oven, 2-in-1 washer/dryer, and range hood. We already bought the dishwasher when we ordered the kitchen. 

Zari is working on a report about Tempete Alex, a huge storm in October 2020 that destroyed many villages in the mountains behind Nice. Some areas got as much as 22" (571 mm) of rain in 24 hours. 

I helped Dio learn the song Ameno for his music class. He was okay on the normal verses but the rhythms in the chorus kept tripping him up. 

Oh, and I am banned from Facebook again for uploading a birth video. I haven't found any way to appeal it, and I requested a review but they never reviewed it. So now I look like a creepy serial offender posting "nudity/sexual content". Ironically, I invited someone whose FB page is dedicated to birth videos to post the video in question, and she was able to put it up with no problems. 

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Sunday, December 12, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 355: Sunny Sunday

17,279 steps

I finished the last dining chair upholstery! By the 3rd one, I was getting quite good at hammering in the upholstery tacks straight and evenly spaced. Not sure when I'll do this again...but now I have all the tools! (Hmm, a key theme in my life right now.)

Besides my usual walk to/from Cimiez, Eric and I also took a walk with Ivy in the afternoon along the Promenade des Anglais. Of course we ran into several sets of friends because that's life in Old Nice.

Inga went rollerblading with a friend. Zari and Dio couldn't be convinced to go outside. It was gorgeous and sunny.

Now that she has a new journal, Zari has been writing pages and pages to catch up for the several days she missed. I'm glad she likes writing so much, but sometimes I want to make her put it down and go to bed.

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Saturday, December 11, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 354: Supercharged Saturday

6,015 steps

Let's not repeat today. Way too busy. All 4 kids had soccer games today in various cities around the region. Eric had to bring them all to their games and watch (that's the fun part for him).

I would have helped out, but I was playing my violin at a nursing home and I was gone from lunch until after dinner. I still don't know how Eric managed to get everyone in the right place at the right time.

I came home from playing violin and had a breech live session 10 minutes later! By time I got done, it was bedtime for Ivy and Inga.

In the morning, I brought Zari to buy a new journal. She had the hardest time deciding, but when I said, "Okay, how about I choose for you?" she didn't like that either! She finally settled on a plain turquoise hardcover.

Our downstairs neighbors messaged me this morning that there were problems in their ceiling. I was thinking, "Oh no! We've caused parts of their ceiling to come loose!" but it wasn't quite so bad. I went down to see what was happening: some of the corner drywall tape had detached.

I called the contractor who took up our floors, and he said it was likely due to the 4 tons of weight being taken off the load-bearing beams, causing them to flex upwards slightly. That makes sense, since the areas where it happened were places that had been mostly undisturbed. Still, you never want to hear that you have caused issues to your downstairs neighbors! Too much stress.

Anyway the contractor recommended waiting to repair the tape until we've put all of our subfloors on, since we're adding some weight back (although very little in comparison to what we took off). So we'll have a bit more of expenses but hopefully no more unpleasant surprises.
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Friday, December 10, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 353: Floors and covers

8,118 steps

Our floors in the front apartment are all dug up. It looks way worse than before, but that's life with home renovations over here. Too busy for pictures or videos.

I ended up doing tons of sewing today. The bed in Le Catamaran needed a comforter and duvet cover. I had one of each, but they were both too big and both different sizes. So I decided to customize both to fit the bed exactly. This necessitated a trip to the fabric store since I was out of several colors of thread and velcro.

I rescued the duvet cover from the garbage several months ago (people often leave things there to give away). It turned out to be 100% linen in a color that matches the lime mortar exactly. And I had enough left over after resizing the duvet cover to make 4 pillowcases!

I also put 2 coats of finish on the staircase treads. I was going to do the final coat this evening but it was too busy with all of the other things going on. I'll do that in the morning and then the staircase will be useable starting on Sunday.

Dio and Zari both had evening soccer practices, and Eric is gone to a late night soccer match.
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Thursday, December 09, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 352: Playing violin in luxury villas

12,093 steps

Being a musician opens doors--figurative and literal--to worlds I would otherwise never have access to. This afternoon I had a rehearsal with 3 other musicians in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. One of the violinists is a housekeeper/property manager for a luxury villa.

The family has houses all over the world, and they haven't been to this one since the summer. They thought it was great that their housekeeper wanted to rehearse there: "You're welcome to bring a whole orchestra!" they told her.

This was an ultra-modern house that felt more like a modern art museum than someone's home. All raw concrete and steel and huge sliding walls that could open huge parts of the house to the exterior.

So for two hours we played a mix of Christmas music and crowd-pleasers. (It's for a nursing home...need to make it fun!)

Other news: we ordered our kitchen this morning: cabinets, counterop, & dishwasher. The other appliances we need to buy separately.

The floor is all dug up and 3/4 of the rubble is gone. They'll finish up tomorrow morning and then we have the pleasure of figuring out how to make the floor flat again. We're both feeling back to normal again after the booster shots.
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Wednesday, December 08, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 351: Goodbyes & immune responses

My parents left this morning...but not before helping with one final thing: moving the bed up onto the mezzanine. Wow, the furniture is finally all in place!

Both Eric and I have been feeling progressively worse today (post-Moderna booster shot). I've been wrapped up on the couch with a hot water bottle since this afternoon. For me, this is similar to when I got the Pfizer shots.
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Floor plans!

Some of you have asked to see the floor plans of Le Catamaran and the other apartment (called "The Front Apartment" for now until we find a better name for it). So here you go!

Obviously we still have to install the kitchen in Le Catamaran.

There's an open-air staircase in the middle of the building. The two entry doors are on either side of the landing.

The Front Apartment has 2 big windows that look over our street.

Le Catamaran's windows all open into the staircase. The tiny window in the kitchen opens another small open-air courtyard that is part of the adjoining building. Not much light but at least some ventilation.
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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 350: Last day--stairs & excavations

12,662 steps

We got the staircase installed this morning--yay! This evening we removed all of the tape, rope, & weights. Then we countersunk the screw holes and attached everything with heavy-duty screws.

The two side beams and the undersides of the steps are already finished, but the tops of each step are still raw wood. So we have to sand and finish those, as well as the plugs covering the screw holes. But it's nearly done!

While we were working, a 2-man team started excavating in the front apartment. They removed the old tomette floors, as well as 15+ cm of earth and lime. They estimate they will pull up 4 metric tons of rubble. Then we begin the laborious process of leveling the floors, or at least making them flat if not perfectly level. There's a 10-15 cm difference between the center and the periphery of the room.

By the end of the day they had 75% of the floors removed and bagged. We'll go with them tomorrow to the dechetterie (dump) since it will go onto our account.

After dinner we took a walk to the Christmas market in the Place Massena. It's a market-carnival-street food event. We went just to look but Inga and Ivy were begging to go on the rides. So we had grumpy children on the way home since we didn't have our wallets with us.

My parents leave tomorrow morning. We will go through grandparent withdrawal.
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Monday, December 06, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 349: Burning the (almost) midnight oil

7,792 steps

Wow, with only 1 more full day left, my parents have been pushing to finish the projects we started. My mom finished upholstering the chair seats and moved on to the chair backs. One is done, one is in progress, 4 more to go. Inga helped my mom put on the upholstery tacks. 

And my dad and I powered through the staircase project. He built a template for the router, which we tested on a scrap of wood (perfect!). Then we routed all of the channels for the treads to fit into, 9 on each side. We had to re-build the template for the other side since it couldn't just flip over. Eric then worked on sanding all of the treads and the two boards.

Because we have people coming tomorrow morning to dig up the old tiles and about 15 cm of lime and earth, we wanted to get all of the coats of finish on. And we did it! We sanded, raised the grain, sanded, primer, sanded, 1st coat, sanded, 2nd 10:30 pm.

Eric made salmon caper quiche and quiche lorraine tonight, plus green beans.

I think that's all the news for the day. Oh, our German friends with the uber cute baby stopped by and got to try out the catamaran net. Baby approved! 

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Sunday, December 05, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 348: Sunbathing for lunch

13,594 steps

We had a potluck picnic lunch at the beach for a family who's moving back to La Réunion. The sun was out, which means the sunbathers were also out en masse. It was warm enough, especially being sheltered against a tall rock wall, that I stripped down to my tank top. Ahhhhh. 14 C / 57 F never felt so good.

I sewed the two back cushions for the chairs, so now I have just one more cushion to sew: the back of the couch. It's cut out and ready to put together tomorrow. The couch and chairs look amazing! I need to take a picture with all of the decorative pillows in place.

A picture after Inga's soccer tournament yesterday.

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Saturday, December 04, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 347: Head wounds and hard work

Too much excitement today! My dad and I were building the staircase for Le Catamaran, and we had the two side planks cut to size and in place. We were lining them up with the laser level when one of them fell and hit my dad on the head. These are heavy pieces of wood, 5 cm thick, 15 cm wide, and almost 3 m long. Luckily the edge of the board just brushed his head, breaking the top layer of skin but not really hitting him full-on.

But it was a head wound, so it bled prolifically for the first 5 minutes. I ran and got him a few washclothes to press on his head. He was pretty cheerful about it, joking to Ivy and Inga: "Look, I have red hair now!" I called the Medecin de Garde (on-call doctors who will come to your house) but they don't do stitches at home. So then I got on the phone with the French equivalent of 911, because you can ask to speak to the on-call doctor.

By that point he had washed his head off and I had a better look at the cut. It was about 2" long but the skin was not separated at all. It was just a really long, deep scratch. We got confirmation from the doctor that if it wasn't "profond" (deep) and if he hadn't fallen or lost consciousness (he hadn't), then we should disinfect and let it heal on its own. 

My dad said, "It's too bad I don't have my first aid kit with me. I have a do-it-yourself staple kit in there. You could just staple me up." He was serious. He totally would do that on himself. 

Head wounds aside, it was a great day. Really busy because my parents leave in just a few days and they're trying to get as much done as possible. My mom finished reupholstering all 6 chair seats and is now working on the chair backs. I sewed 8 decorative pillows for the couch and chairs in Le Catamaran. I also made a pattern for the back cushions and cut the first one out. Inga had a soccer match in the afternoon and did very well, scoring several goals. 

A friend came by to pick up 7 full sheets of insulated drywall, several large scraps, and piles of wood. We're getting ready for the big floor demolition on Tuesday. 

I helped my dad cut the stair treads, using leftover merbau wood flooring. We ripped off the outside tongue and groove and then he rounded over the front edge. We'll put two pieces of flooring together to make an 18 cm wide tread.

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Friday, December 03, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 346: Nets and stairs

We got our big planer out again to smooth the sipo wood we bought yesterday. We flipped the blades over to the other side: good as new! The wood is gorgeous and should go well with the merbau we're using for the treads. 

We got the boards measured and cut an old floorboard to the correct angles, to check before cutting the real boards. And then...our circular saw gave up. Huge clouds of smoke, blade not cutting. We couldn't change the blade despite doing everything recommended and some things not recommended.

A friend came to the rescue with his own circular saw. We have one board cut and the other to do tomorrow. 

Oh, and we also got the first two boat lights up on the ceiling. Pictures later as I forgot to take them today. 

But the most fun thing, for the kids, was the net. We laced up the 2nd set of ropes. It's done, except for needing occasional tightening. Ivy had friends over after school; they did homework and drawings on the net. Inga read up there for a while too.

Other news: my mom reupholstered 4 of 6 chair seats. I cut out fabric for the decorative cushions.  

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Thursday, December 02, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 345: The net!

 4,405 steps

Lots going on today...but the most exciting thing, by far, was putting up the catamaran net! We fastened all of the "pontets" this morning and laced the net in place after school. We still have to add the second set of lacing tomorrow. The kids all helped stretch the net out, which you will see in the video.

This is just a little sneak preview because we are going to make a fabulous video of the entire net installation.

Eric and I had an adventure this afternoon. We needed two long thick pieces of wood to build the staircase. The biggest home improvement store, Leroy Merlin, didn't have anything. We got recommendations for two lumber yards. After visiting both, we decided on rough-sawn sipo, an exotic hardwood that looks a lot like the merbau we used for the floors. We will have to plane and sand the boards, but that's a small thing compared to the beams that we sliced, diced, and planed already. 

Oh, when I picked Ivy up from soccer practice yesterday, guess who was featured on the poster for winter soccer camp? Inga!!

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Wednesday, December 01, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 344: Too much homework

6,302 steps

Busy day, Zari and Dio are up way past their bedtime doing homework (it's almost 11 pm!). I am so tired that I need them to leave so I can relax.

My dad and I got all of the holes marked for the catamaran net supports. They are installed every 15 cm (6") with two holes per support. Lots of holes! Tomorrow we'll drill the pilot holes, attach the supports, and then FINALLY put up the net. The kids really want to help, so we'll try to get everything ready by time they are back from school.

It's been cold (for Nice). Time for warm coats and gloves.
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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 343: Organizing and so much walking

19,285 steps

We organized the front apartment and put almost everything up onto the mezzanine. We have a pile of stuff to give away before next Tuesday--wood scraps, iron grates, leftover bags of mortar and wall smoothing compound and sand, etc. I hope we can find takers for it all! 

I had tons of errands to run this afternoon, enough that I got blisters on the bottom of my feet. But I found a nice mirror for Le Catamaran, a silk rug for the front apartment, and got other important errands taken care of. 

Right before bed, Inga helped me mark where to drill pilot holes for the catamaran net installation. She is so excited to keep working on it. We might have it up by Thursday! I'm not sure who filmed this little video of me marking the spots. Either my dad or Inga. 

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Monday, November 29, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 342: Shower & shelves

4,768 steps

We finished the mezzanine flooring in the morning. I did some caulking in various location in Le Catamaran. Then it was time to tackle the shower door, which should have been easy and ended up taking the whole day. It woudln't slide all the way into its aluminum wall bracket. We tried everything to get it to go in. Finally we just gave up and left it in where it was; ideally it should have gone in another centimeter or more. 

Also we had to cut a little channel in our ceiling because it was just a bit too low in one spot! 

Ivy and Inga were hoping that we'd start on the catamaran net today, but we'll probably but that off until tomorrow or later. Lots of other things to do. 

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Sunday, November 28, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 340 & 341: Out of jail

I got put into Facebook jail for 24 hours because I posted a birth video. The computer bots auto-flagged it and got me into trouble. I'm waiting for a real person to review the case because it clearly doesn't violate their community standards. (I go through this often when I post birth videos.) 

Anyway, that's the reason for yesterday's radio silence. 

So, yesterday was a nice day at home, with just Ivy having a soccer match in the morning, which Eric and my dad attended. I sewed our couch & chair cushions much of the day, enjoying the kids as they did their activities around me. 

In the afternoon we bought another "new" door that will be the front door to the front apartment. This one comes with the original frame/casing, so we shouldn't need to mortise out new hinges. Yay! We have several weeks' work before we'll be able to install it. 

Today I finished the fourth seat cushion. So exciting! So now I have the back cushions to sew and then the decorative pillows. It's coming together. 

We went out in the afternoon to enjoy the sun and the beach. It was windy and cold--as cold as it typically gets here in the winter, which is around 11-12 C (53-55 F). But the sun felt great, and we were somewhat sheltered by the tall rock wall. 
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Friday, November 26, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 339: We have a mezzanine!

 3,631 steps

Amazing progress today: we got the entire mezzanine structure up and 2/3 of the subfloor laid. We also carried our steel door down to a local metalworking artist. He cut it down to size for just 10 Euros.

The beams weren't too heavy to lift into place. I thought we'd have to use pulleys and a few more adults but it was totally doable with just us 3. 


I started sewing the first cushion cover today. My mom has made slow but steady progress taking the old upholstery on the dining chair seats. There are hundreds of staples in each one, many of them deeply embedded. Ivy and Inga took turns helping her. 

Dio is not feeling well today. So we have a 2nd round of something making its way through our family. 

Dinner: turkey noodle soup. We have just a small container of turkey left. Yum! 

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Wednesday, November 24, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 337: Windows, joist hangers, & upholstery

 5,054 steps

Another momentous day. I started off the morning by cutting out the fabric for the first bottom chair cushion, with Ivy helping. Then we had a RDV at the window factory with Comrade; he brought his little delivery van to help us transport the windows home. We were very impressed with the quality and sturdiness of the windows. 

Oh, and our car battery might need replacing. We put our flashers on for about 15 minutes while loading the windows. Our battery was nearly dead when we tried to start the car. We've been having issues with the battery going dead quickly for the past few weeks, enough that we recently bought a portable battery charger. It's brilliant--so much easier than jump-starting. Comrade was impressed. 

With the windows dropped off back home and deposited in Le Catamaran, Eric had to leave for soccer practice. My dad and I got all of the joist hangers installed--another huge step forward. My mom started taking apart our dining room chair seats for reupholstering. 3 of the 6 now have no seat bottom, so we are sitting on small pieces of plywood. She also helped with the usual soccer dropoff/pickup and grocery shopping on the way home. 

Once Eric came home, we installed all 3 windows. One of them has a fixed pane that we had to put in place after the frame was installed, and we can't figure out how to snap in the trim pieces that hold the glass in place. So for now it's wedged in with some small strips of wood until we figure it out. But otherwise, we have WINDOWS!!!! 


I got ready to sew the first cushion this evening, but I realized I needed to take a break. I just got Zari to bed--with a nice long back massage and back scratch--and it's already 10:30 pm. My first down time of the day. I know I should maybe stop work a bit sooner, but it's so satisfying to see significant progress. 

Tomorrow we're having Thanksgiving dinner with some friends. I'm making sourdough and my mom will make something with brussels sprouts. This will be fun! And we get a day off from renovating. 

On Friday's to-do list: 
- Take off the steel door on the front apartment and have the top 30 cm cut off (it will be in the way of the mezzanine). This will be a temporary door until we put a new wood one in
- Install the joists! 

My parents leave in 2 weeks. It's been going way too fast. 

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Tuesday, November 23, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 336: Saved by the Italians!

12,289 steps

Wow, today was so momentous I feel like I need to write a novel to fit it all in. 

It started with me going on a run--it's been far too long!

Then I came back and started helping my dad install the shower door (really more of a wall) while Eric sanded and painted shelves. We got holes marked, drilled, and anchored. I also installed little shelf brackets for the shoe shelves, to the left of the electrical cupboard. 

Then we got a call after lunch: the joists were arriving! Eveyrthing else paused. This was a big deal: 10 5.6 meter joists that someohow had to get into Old Nice and up 2 stories to the front apartment. The driver was fast and fearless: he didn't hesitate to drive right into the narrow streets here. 

Getting them dropped off onto the street took lots of careful maneuvering. Then the real fun began: how will we get them up inside the apartment. My original plan was to use 1 rope & pulley above and 1 guide rope from below. But when we saw how massive these joists were (4" thick and 16" high), we realized we needed 2 ropes and 2 pulleys, plus a 3rd guide rope. 

Our first try was a bust. We got it lifted vertical, but then were was too much friction against the windowsill. It would go no further despite 2 adults putting all of their weight into. I moved the pulleys one beam over so they were right above the window. Still didn't quite work. 

While we were head-scratching, two Italians wandered over from across the street and asked if they could help. I heard Eric starting to politely decline--thanks, we're fine, we'll figure it out--but finally we brought them up and gave it a try. They brought one beam up with just the two of them. "It's the technique," they kept saying. (I should mention that they spoke hardly any French and of course I don't speak Italian at all, except musical terms.)

After the first one was up, they made some adjustments and then we were on a roll. 10 beams lifted in about an hour! Wow. I seriously thought we'd have to buy lots more equipment and wait several days before we'd get them upstairs. 

We finished right as school got out. We gave each of the Italians 20 Euros as a thank-you, and I exchanged phone numbers with one of them. I think they're both looking for work and honestly they were amazing. 

While Eric picked up the kids, my dad and I went to finish the shower door. We were frustrated to discover that BOTH of our caulk guns were broken, including the super fancy expensive one. So we couldn't install anything more until we could apply silicone. 

Anyway, we had dinner (salad, masaman curry with basmati rice, yogurt) and watched some fun random videos together. I worked on a lifesize pattern for the couch cushions. And it's nearly midnight and I definitely need to get to bed! 

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Monday, November 22, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 335: Shower, sink, doors, & more!

11,750 steps

Ack, I wrote a super long post about our adventures and FB just flashed an error message and lost the whole thing.

Short version of what I wrote: we did tons of stuff, we have hot & cold running water in the sink and shower, we have a water heater turned on, we have a new front door. Also my mom went to the doctor and got the full French cultural experience and is now a convert to socialized medicine.

I'm sorry that you only get the short version because the long one was way more entertaining.

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Sunday, November 21, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 334: Flash and dinner

11,409 steps

We had truly lazy afternoon with nothing scheduled. We ate lunch and watched two episodes of The Flash. Then we had last-minute dinner guests with just an hour to prepare. We got the house all clean in a half-hour so that wasn't too bad!

Our dinner guests were a German couple with the cutest baby ever. She's almost 1 year old, just starting to walk, and soooooo happy and energetic. Ivy and Inga adore her.
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Saturday, November 20, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 333: Front door & Mont Boron

17,664 steps

We found a "new" old front door for Le Catamaran. It's solid wood and beautiful--and only 40 Euros! We'll install in shortly.

Zari had a soccer game all afternoon. The rest of us hiked to Mont Boron, about 3.5 hours round-trip. It was an idyllic day. The sea was glassy smooth and clear. Full sun, no wind, high of 17C.

I love this hike because a) you don't have to go in a car, bus, or train to start and b) once you're up above the houses, you feel like you're in the middle of nowhere. You'd never guess there's a major city just down the mountain!

During the hike, we foraged for prickly pears. I still got tons of spines in my fingers despite my best efforts!

My mom made fajitas, which is a big underaking. You can't find Mexican ingredients here, which means you have to make everything yourself, tortillas included. Yum. We didn't have time to make a proper salsa so they were pretty tame. But still delicious.
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Friday, November 19, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 332: We have a shower!

11,697 steps

We were hoping to see the lunar eclipse this morning. We knew it would be tight, since the moonset and the eclipse would be happening at about the same time. Ivy and Zari got up with me at 7 am, and we hurried out to the beach. Surprise surprise, my dad was already there! We had just missed moonset, but the eclipse still hadn't started. Unless we were standing on a mountaintop, we couldn't have seen it.

But it was fun anyway to be walking around at dawn. My dad bought several pastries on the way home to share with everyone: pain au chocolate, briche au sucre, brioche framboise, and triangle aux amandes.

We grouted the rest of the shower in the morning. I experimented with piping the epoxy grout in with a pastry bag. It worked well but was so taxing! In the end we spread the rest with the normal grout float and a putty knife.

My dad and I had another walk to the hardware store in town. We needed finish nails and some plywood (for reupholstering our own dining room chairs--a project my mom has volunteered to do). I told him, "Next year, I'm going to send you all on your own!" We go there often enough.

In the evening we came back and cleaned off the epoxy residue with a special chemical. We also got the electrical door trim painted, cut, and installed.

Dio was more than an hour late coming home from soccer. I was busy putting kids to bed and catching up on work, and then I had a moment of panic: "Where is Dio?! Did he ever come home?" I called his coach and he had just been dropped off a few minutes previously.

Eric went spearfishing today--only 1 fish. He's now playing a late night soccer match.
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Thursday, November 18, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 331: Grout, lime, and errands

11,381 steps

We grouted the shower today, or rather we applied half of the grout today. I find epoxy grout tricky to work with, so I wanted to let this first batch dry and then do the rest tomorrow. Most of the pebble mosaics are grouted; tomorrow will be mainly the thin lines between the tiles.

I have this *brilliant* idea to pipe the grout in with a pastry bag--you know, the DIY version of a caulk gun--to avoid the mess of spreading the grout everywhere with a float. Will it work? We'll see!

My dad helped me mix up a small batch of lime mortar to fill in the gap between the wood floors and the stone wall. We packed it in and then beveled the mortar 45° so it slopes downward and meets the edge of the floor. My dad was surprised at how simple it was: "You can make mortar with just sand and lime?!?"

We also got the door to the electrical panel installed and painted. Tomorrow I'll install the little latch plate for skeleton key and clean up the mirror (which got some paint on it). It looks great! I also did some other odd painting jobs.

This evening we rearranged the furniture so the bed is now in the kitchen. And finally...we put the rug in Le Catamaran and arranged the living room furniture in the proper places! This felt like a significant milestone. Pictures tomorrow, I hope, since my parents are already in bed.

My mom and I ran errands in the afternoon to the post office, fabric store (thread and zippers for the reupholstery), and ,ocal home improvement store.

What else? Dinner was brussels sprouts, salad, roast chicken, potatoes, and pomegranates for dessert. The kids loved how the juice looked just like blood, so Inga posed for this silly photo. (*No children were harmed in the taking of this photo.*)

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Wednesday, November 17, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 330: Work soccer walk

11,507 steps

Today felt very sedentary, even though I was working most of the day and went on a walk in the evening. I definitely need to do more proper exercise. I miss the endorphins.

We did little putzy things: mortised and hung one door to see if it fit (it did!), installed the WC door (it locks!), installed the WC lights (they work!), and painted the door frame. We also ripped and cut the wood for the bookshelves. The AC guys came to finish the install, but our upstairs neighbor wasn't home and they couldn't get up to the compressors.

Dio was so tired and begged not to go to soccer practice. "There's no way I can run; I'm way too tired." They had a race during practice from one side of the field to the other. Guess who won by a large margin, even though all of the other boys are a year older than him? Yes, Dio!

Zari has a big math test tomorrow. I helped her study as much as I could, given that I never learned formal mathematical proofs. In the States, we just learned how to solve the problems. As long as you have the right answer, how you get there doesn't matter. Here, you have to write the proofs correctly, line by line, otherwise you'll lose points.

My dad gave Ivy a lesson about body organs and systems this evening. A few days ago he did a lesson about the blind spot in our eyes. The kids really liked that one.

I drafted a mini pattern for the bottom couch cushions this evening. These cushions have a number of curves on both the front and side faces. Very tricky. I think I got everything down to a few millimeters' accuracy. The new cushions (for the backs) are rectilinear and will be much easier to draft and sew.

I went on a walk with my dad after Ivy and Inga were in bed. He is constantly astonished by the beauty here, in particular the sea. I love being able to share this place with others. (Hint: if you a friend or family member, PLEASE come visit us.)
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Tuesday, November 16, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 329: Tiling is done!

2,439 steps

The shower is all tiled. We'll let the mortar harden tomorrow and apply epoxy grout on Thursday. Today was a bit of a battle, since we installed the marble pebble mosaic tiles and then the last big pieces, each of which had very complicated cuts. I love how the mosaic reminds me of the rocks on the beaches here in Nice.

Mosaic tiles are tricky because the mortar tends to squish out between the tiles and then you have to clean it out piece by piece with a toothpick. Despite our best efforts, this happened to us. C'est la vie.

But it's done and it looks great. For the shower to be entirely finished, we have a few more steps:
1. Grout
2. Seal the marble & grout
3. Install the glass shower door
4. Install the shower valve and shower head

We did a few more odds & ends: mortised 3 sets of hinges into the door that will hide the electrical cupboard, finished the "floor" and "ceiling" in middle of the bookshelf area, and painted the WC ceiling where we cut holes for the spots. We have more of the same on our to-do list tomorrow as we wait for the mortar to dry.

We got two large packages today: the new foam cuhions and the fabric! I have SO much sewing to do now.

On non-renovating news, we baked sourdough bread and got lots of advice from my mom's friend, who makes it professionally. I've always bought T45 flour (all-purpose) because it's what is available at Lidl and Aldi. But I'm going to try T65 (a higher protein flour more suitable for bread) and see if it makes a difference. My mom's friend also suggested that I increase the amount of starter in my recipe.

We had quiche lorraine today (made by me), plus salad and green peas. I was going to make tiramisu for tomorrow's dessert but I ran out of time.

The kids have been practicing every day and making amazing progress. It helps to have a live-in music teacher who ensures that the kids practice every day and do everything they're supposed to! Inga has been working on a series of Spanish songs and loves to play them. They're very catchy; maybe I'll film her playing one of them. Ivy told us tonight, "I don't practice because somebody makes me or because I'll get in trouble if I don't. I practice because I like it!"
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Monday, November 15, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 328: Tiling!

7,310 steps

A week later than anticipated, we started tiling the shower. We got all the way up to where the decorative tiles will go (little marble pebbles, reminiscent of the beaches here). We back-mortared that section because the tiles are slightly thinner.

This is the first time I've used a tile leveling system and it's a game-changer. Wow. I would never tile again without it.

We had strong winds and pouring rain today. The parks and beaches were closed due to the weather!

I made purple risotto today, and my mom cooked flat beats (long, flat, and about a foot long) plus apple crumble. Yum.
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Sunday, November 14, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 327: Rest, beach, eat

2,503 steps

I took it easy this morning, physically, becuase I was feeling a bit icky. Since I had benched myself, I decided to get more breech-related work done on the computer.

We had a relaxing afternoon. Ivy went to a birthday party. Zari, Dio, and Inga read books and did origami and worked on homework. The adults went to the beach to read and bask in the sun. It was quite blustery out, and little dust tornados would occasionally blow in our faces. The sun was mostly out, but big menacing clouds were piling up in the hills behind Nice. I'm re-reading Dune; the last time I read it, I was probably in my 20s.

I had a breech live session during dinner. I got salmon fennel soup 3/4 prepped, but then I had to go.

We watched The Flash after dinner. Zari treats The Flash like a sports fanatic. She's always yelling at the screen and giving the characters advice.
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Saturday, November 13, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 326: Soccer and beaches and book clubs

14,982 steps

I'm healed! My mom is feeling a lot worse today, though. I brought her to the pharmacy for some decongestant and she got the full cultural experience. Here, if you want decongestant, you get the full package deal: 3 medications at once. Nope, you can't just buy decongestant! You have to buy a pill that combines Tylenol, pseuephedrine, and some sort of antihistamine. And then you also buy a saline nasal spray at the same time, highly recommended by the pharmacist.

While Eric was at a soccer match with Ivy, the rest of us went on a walk/scooter ride to Coco Beach. And Zari was NOT wanting to go. So much teenage drama and grumpiness and feet-dragging. (Was I like that? My memory is terrible so honestly I can't say.)

But once she was out the door, she had a good time. I let her and Dio head back as soon as we reached Coco Beach because she had a soccer match to get ready for. The rest of us (my parents and Inga) stayed and enjoyed the beach for a while. We had sun on the coast while the back country was overcast.

After lunch we headed to the coulee verte and met up with a German family who have the most adorable baby, almost 1 year old. Ivy and Inga love playing with her. Also: were my kids that energetic at that age? This little girl moves constantly. My mom says yes but again I just can't remember the specifics!

Eric, Inga, and my dad left for Inga's soccer match. We gave the Germany family a tour of our two renovation projects. It's fun to show off the (almost) "after" alongside the "before."

I worked on my DIY birth simulator. I have now drafted a printable template, a tool/parts list, and checked the template against the real thing to be sure it was scaled appropriately. I am SO excited about this project!

Zari came back quite happy from her match, which took place in Juan-les-Pins. She scored 1 of the 2 goals, helping her team win 2-1. Inga scored 3 or her team's 7 goals, winning 7-1. Ivy's team one one, tied one, and lost 3.

Dio was the only one not at a soccer match today; he invited a friend over for the afternoon.

After dinner Eric had a book club discussion via Zoom about his most recent book French Dive. I joined in with my parents; a lot of the attendees were people I knew back when I lived in Minnesota. Fun times.

Well, I hope to get to bed a bit earlier tonight. Eric didn't get home from his soccer match last night until almost 1 am...which means I didn't get to bed until 1 am either!
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Friday, November 12, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 325: On the mend

10,391 steps

I finally feel better, rather than worse! It's a miracle! I can actually walk more than 10 steps without feeling like I'm going to fall over. Still a bit weak but improving throughout the day.

I helped my dad with several projects in the morning. We were going to tile the shower today, until we realized we were missing parts of the self-leveling kit. Time for another trip to the home improvement store.

Instead we organized our workspace and hung most of our miscellaneous hand tools on hooks or nails, rather than having them be all piled up in a constant jumble. We also planed down two doors, checked their fit, and sanded the planed edges down.

Eric had a tenure review for a colleague, so he was tied up until mid-afternoon. And then we had the *joy* of going to Leroy Merlin. My dad came along for the cultural experience. He certainly will appreciate how calm, empty, and relaxing home improvement stores are in the States, compared to here in France.

It turned into a fairly big trip: we bought wood for the bookshelves, lots of assorted hardware, wood and parts for my DIY birth simulator, doorknobs, epoxy grout. We tried to buy two big pieces of wood for the staircase, but the outdoor lumberyard was literally empty, except for a tiny handful of very damaged pieces.

It was like the zombie apocalypse had descended, but only on Aisle 11 in the wood section. So bizarre. If you were wanting to build anything out of wood or OSB, turn around and go back home. Don't even try.

I called up the sawmill that is making our web joists and asked if they had the dimensions we were looking for. Yes, they did! So they'll add it in to our order and we'll get it in a week or 2.

I was feeling well enought that, on top of braving Leroy Merlin, I prepared dinner AND walked Dio to his soccer carpool spot AND stopped by a store on the way home AND went on a walk to the beach after dinner with Ivy, Inga, and my dad. Most of the beach is rocky, but the girls found the volleyball area and played in the leftover sand. My dad loves watching the waves; he's lived in landlocked places most of his life. He often goes out on walks by himself to enjoy the ocean.

When we were walking down the stairs at the beach, three big fat rats jumped out of the trashcans and scuttled past us. It was a Ratatouille moment.
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Thursday, November 11, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 324: Sick day 4, ugh

670 steps

I am still confined to the bed or couch: low fever, achy body, and super woozy if I'm up for more than a few minutes. It's so frustrating! Whatever this thing is that's been making the rounds of the family (not Covid, if we can trust the first person's test), I have it the longest. Most everyone else is recovered.

Today was Armistice Day, a national holiday, so everyone was off of school. Eric took Inga and Dio out for a very belated birthday lunch to one of our favorite restaurants, L'Eau de Vie. I wanted to come but definitely was not well enough to walk there, let alone spread my germs.

We commemorated the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald yesterday; my mom gave the kids a history lesson and played them the hit 1976 song written about the disaster. (We are from Minnesota so this is important regional history.)

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Wednesday, November 10, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 323: Sick day 3

1,694 steps

Another day of mostly being on the couch feeling useless. On the up side, I've gotten a lot of breech-related work done.

Oh, my dad and I made a DIY Birth Simulator 1.0 today. Baby is chilling in it right now--the photo is not really anatomically accurate! It's just a rough prototype to get the angles and dimensions right.

Sim 1.0 is an adjustable stand that clamps onto a table and holds a cloth or bony pelvis. It will allow birth workers to practice by themselves without needing someone else to hold the pelvis. It can be adjusted into 3 birth positions (standing, hands & knees, and supine).

Our goal is to make it simple: as few tools as possible with parts available at any hardware store.

It's been so nice having my parents here. They have helped out with cooking (especially while I've been sick) and grocery shopping and picking kids up, not to mention renovating. Our long-term plan, once the Communist apartments are finished, is to have them come 3 months per year Jan-March (a good time to avoid Minnesota winters).

Also all friends and family are invited to come stay!
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Monday, November 08, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 321: Sick leave

9,022 steps

Whatever cold is going around the family, I definitely have it. I made it through the morning but then had to put myself in bed for the rest of the day.

I was hoping to tile the shower today. My dad and I got the shower area prepped before I had to call it quits. There's always tomorrow...

In the morning we visited two kitchen design stores (Leroy Merlin and Ikea). I liked the cupboards more at Leroy Merlin, but they had limited choice for the sizes I needed on the upper cabinets. Ikea had all the sizes I needed, but I didn't like any of the cupboard styles! What to do?

We'll also explore other options, such as custom-made cabinets at local woodworking shops, but I fear that will be far too expensive.

I rested in bed but didn't really rest--instead, I did lots of breech work that needed my attention. That counts as rest, right? (I would say "no" to anyone else who asked me!)

In the afternoon we got an estimate from a contractor to dig up the tomettes and about 15 cm of lime & packed earth from our floors. We'll go down to the tops of the original solives (cross-beams or joists) and then re-level from there. This will take off tons of weight from the floors (literally tons; I'm guessing around 4-6 tons). Then we'll make the floors level, since there is a significant sag in the center from where the big beams settled over the centuries. We should also gain about 10-15 cm of extra head room.

This contractor was from some other country--I couldn't place the accent. I'm very curious, and a bit scared, to see what it will cost. He said it would take a team of 4-5 men two days to dig it all up. We *could* do this ourselves but it would probably take us weeks. We have another person coming tomorrow to do an estimate.

My mom made homeade falafel sandwiches. Everything was homemade, from the hummus (me) to the falafel, pita bread, and various sauces (my mom). My kids were moaning with delight as they bit into their sandwiches. We are so spoiled. We eat well, but I don't usually choose time-intensive things like that. I simply can't with all that I have going on! Ivy carefully arranged all of the toppings and made the table look perfect.

Dio had two tryouts at Cavigal and, sadly, they have too many people on the team already and can't take him. Why did the coach invite him to come when he knew they were too full already? Dio is really sad because he was exicted about Cavigal and now we are back to the coach he doesn't like.
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Sunday, November 07, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 320: Zee couch

12,816 steps

I haven't taken many pictures recently. But to assuage your curiosity here are pictures of "zee couch." It also has 2 matching chairs.

The original cushions are horrendously ugly. The back cushion actually had a 2nd cushion on top that went way over my head! I'm getting rid of the back cushions entirely and ordering a ones that goe just underneath the wood back and that aren't so rounded looking.

The next picture shows the fabrics that we chose for reupholstering: dark olive green faux leather for the cushions and then 3 really fun fabrics for decorative pillows: peacock velour, apple green canvas, and striped teal velour.

Yay me--I get to reupholster a couch and 2 chairs! Yet another job on my to-do list.

Today was nice and relaxing. My mom brought Ivy and Eric geocaching. Inga, Zari, and Dio all had homework to catch up on for "la rentrée" tomorrow.

Right now 3 of the 4 kids are in bed and Zari is learning electricity from my dad. She missed the electricity unit last year when we were in the States and is feeling totally lost. But now she's catching up, thanks to having a grandpa who is an electrical engineer.
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Saturday, November 06, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 319: Sentier Littoral du Cap d'Antibes

Today's "hike" was more of a 4-mile pleasant stroll along the rocky coastline south of Antibes. It was gorgeous out and my parents loved it. A big change from Minnesota, where snow and ice predominate.

The kids were griping about going, but it was mostly due to inertia. Once we were there, they had a great time. It's always better being outdoors! I wish I didn't have to force them out the door, though.

Zari is watching Dune with three friends. I want to see it! Maybe some time this next week.
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Friday, November 05, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 318: Wrapping up another week

We are looking forward to a day off tomorrow. The forecast is gorgous: 18C and full sun. We're going hiking and exploring in the area.

So, what did we do today on Le Catamaran?
  • Installed 3 more fixed-pane windows, which involved way too much work getting the windows ready. Most of the openings were just a wee bit off square and thus needed to be planed larger in situ.
  • Planed and primed the WC door
  • Oiled the beams (1st coat) that will support the catamaran net
  • Signed the estimate and paid the deposit on the web joists
  • Ordered fabric for reupholstering a couch, 2 chairs, and 6 dining room chairs (the latter is for our own apartment, not for Le Catamaran), plus fabric for lots of decorative cushions. Total was 21 meters of fabric and 8 zippers.
  • Ordered custom foam cushions for the couch & 2 chairs

We also got Culture tonight thanks to my mom. She bought tickets to a candlelight piano concert for the whole family, featuring arrangements of famous film compositions (The Godfather; The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly; The Mission; Cinema Paradiso, La Dolce Vita, and more). Zari was gone at soccer practice so Inga got to invite a friend.
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Thursday, November 04, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 317: Nous sommes bricoleurs

8,431 steps

Joists are ordered! The first window is installed! The plumbing is (mostly) done! My parents have a working toilet!

Our four fixed-pane windows arrived last night, so we got the first one installed today. But of course we had to do last-minute painting and prepping before we were totally ready. It's amazing to finally see a window in what used to be an open void.

The toilet and shower base are installed, but the plumber needs one more part in order to install the sink. He'll be back early next week for that. But we are ready to tile the shower now.

What else? Oh, Dio did a tryout at Cavigal today because he has really been disliking his current coach (plus it's really far out of town). One of his friends from school--someone he has known since kindergarten--was on the team! Dio was a nervous wreck all day but once he actually got there, he had a good time. I hope this new team will work out, and it would be great to have all 4 kids at the same club.

While my mom and I were watching Dio, Eric went to the Café Simone to do a book reading and discussion. Inga and my dad came along. It was supposed to be in both French and English, but nearly everyone was French so Eric ended up speaking in French the whole time for their benefit.

Ivy is at a sleepover tonight and the house feels way too quiet.
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Wednesday, November 03, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 316: Like father like daughter

15,465 steps

Well, my dad and I had a great workday. First thing in the morning, Eric and I put felt pads under all of the furniture and then moved it into Le Catamaran. We have a dining table and 4 chairs, a couch and 2 matching chairs, a side table, and a bed. Next week once the floors have cured, we'll add the rug.

The plumber comes tomorrow morning, so we'll get the toilet, sink, and shower base installed.

Eric and the girls headed off to soccer, with my mom playing chauffeur mid-afternoon. My dad and I stayed home to work: we took out the big window in the front apartment that will be bisected by the mezzanine, then covered the opening with bubble wrap. Then I cut wall channels for the electricity that will be passing under/through the ledger boards.

And then FINALLY we installed the ledger boards for the mezzanine. This is a big steps because it allows us to order the web joists that will support the entire mezzanine structure.

After we got both boards attached on each end, we needed more threaded rods. We walked to the first home improvement store and they didn't have big enough ones. So we had to walk to another home improvement store in a different part of town. And it was ranining the whole time! Still it was fun to walk all around with my dad.

And OF COURSE we chose the harder path: instead of buying pre-cut rods (for 6 Euros each), we bought 1-meter lengths and cut our own (0.75 Euros each). I just couldn't handle paying 8x more for the pre-cut items. We saved at least 80 Euros becuase we needed 18 rods.

We'll cinch in the boards tomorrow morning and then send the measurements off to the sawmill (scierie) that makes Easi-Joists.
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Tuesday, November 02, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 315: Halloween round 2

11,555 steps

We had our rescheduled Halloween party this afternoon at the chateau. We had a good crowd of friends and their families. The homemade pinata was a success and took many, many rounds of beatings to break. Other games included eating cookies on a string and make-a-mummy.

In the morning I went shopping for furniture felt pads and party snacks. I stopped by the foam store but the foam specialist wasn't in.

The floors in Le Catamaran are dry and absolutely gorgeous. We walked around in our socks to enjoy our handiwork.
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