Wednesday, October 27, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 309: Floors & beds

We're probably going to sand down and refinish the floors tomorrow. On top of not liking the color, this finish is really troublesome. It attracts dirt like nothing I've ever seen! There are footprints all over the floor, whereas when I walk on our own floors upstairs you don't see a thing.

Anyway I'm going to call a floor finishing expert tomorrow for advice. We need to be sure we can get all the finish off before putting on a water-based polyurethane (which will keep the floors much lighter).


We did more cleaning and organizing of the front apartment and accomplished small tasks, such as cutting wood plugs with my new plug cutter. Fun tool!

Eric and I found a bed today, though! It's fun and unusual and perfect for the feel that we want. We had to drive almost an hour away, way out in the boonies, to pick it up. I wish I had a picture but you'll just have to wait.

Ivy's foot was hurting today, so she helped the other coaches but didn't play. I hope she's able to participate tomorrow.

After soccer, Inga went to a friend's house to help her decorate for Halloween.

Zari and Dio sat around the house all day and did nothing. Okay, they went outside with my parents while Eric and I were picking up the bed. But otherwise they didn't want to move. Dio looked so bored but we couldn't persuade him to do anything. Zari was reading a book.
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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 308: Cleaning, shopping, & organizing

7,912 steps

We cleaned the floor in Le Catamaran; there was some gummy residue left, oil the didn't absorb fully. With a good scrubbing and toweling with white spirits, it is now ready to go.

We're still waiting for the plumber to come to hook up the toilet and sink and install the shower base. My parents can go down there as soon as those things are done.

We took a trip to the various used furniture stores and found the perfect little piece that will be turned into a sink. I forgot to take pictures but it's fun and unusual. We also found a possible dining room table but decided to think about it first.

My parents helped this afternoon by cleaning and organizing the front apartment (the big, messy, unnamed space that we're going to finish once Le Catamaran is done).

I'm super tired because, yet again, I didn't sleep well due to fretting about the floor.

Dio had practice this evening and had another crisis before going. He does have reason to be frustrated--we are not at all liking his coach. He's super mean and negative and demoralizes the kids rather than helps them improve. We're really like to find a better option for Dio.

Here are some fun pictures from today's soccer camp.

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Monday, October 25, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 307: Parents!

13,235 steps

My parents arrived today. They'll be here for over 6 weeks and we're so excited. The floors in Le Catamaran are still drying but I think they'll be good tomorrow so they can move down there.

We spent a lot of the day going on walks and showing them around, in part to keep them moving so they can reset their circadian rhythms.

Ivy and Inga have soccer camp this week. They're mostly playing with boys and the occasional girl. Zari and Dio get to be free labor.

We're hoping to measure and order the web joists tomorrow; these will support the front mezzanine, which will span about 5.5 meters. We're also going to install the new front door tomorrow, or maybe Wednesday once the set of chisels I ordered arrives. (Yes, one tool I didn't have yet!) We'll probably also go check out some used/antique furniture stores.
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Sunday, October 24, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 306: Boo-hoo

11,582 steps

I just wanted to go hide in a cave and cry today. Carryover from yesterday's disappointment, I suppose.

Zari helped me put on the 2nd coat of oil; even though I'm not in love with the results, we have to finish the floors so that my parents can stay in Le Catamaran.

I did lots of work on Inga's Viking warrior costume. She helped do a blanket stitch with waxed cord along the neck opening. She's good at it!

Zari had a "match amical" with a team from Paris today and they tied 3-3.

Eric caught a small fish while spearfishing; conditions were choppy and he didn't stay out as long as he'd planned.

Inga made two 3D paper skulls with a Minecraft aesthetic (printed from a downloaded template). Everyday she and Ivy put up more decorations: paper chains, cobwebs, skulls, pumpkins, and whatever else they can craft from the supplies we have on hand. Seriously, these kids are as excited about Halloween as they are about Christmas. I hope we can deliver a party that meets their expectations!
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Saturday, October 23, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 305: Regrets and falls

13,334 steps

I'm having a moment of regret...I think the floors are too dark with this finish. And it's too late to change. Argh. I mean--it's still beautiful wood but I look at it and just feel a huge sense of disappointment.

All these months of work, and now the most visible feature of the apartment isn't right.

Okay, moment over.

Also I fell off the mezzanine. That was fun. Here's how it happened:

I went in today to check up on the floors and see if they were ready for the next coat of oil. I got up on our wood ladder (as I've done hundreds of times), leaned it at exactly the same angle as we've always used, and started inspecting the mezzanine floor and rubbing parts to see if the oil was totally absorbed. I was standing on the ladder because I didn't want to walk on the mezzanine floors.

About a minute into doing this, the ladder slipped out from under me with a bang. I somehow hung onto the edge of the mezzanine for about a half-second, then fell off.

I was graced with luck, or something, because I missed hitting the ladder on the floor beneath me and made a beautiful landing on both feet. Nothing broken, nothing sprained, nothing sore.

The ladder made two horrible scrape marks on the floor. I managed to rub them out with a bit of white spirit (the solvent for the floor oil). The floors must be way more slippery than I imagined becuase this ladder even has rubber caps on the bottom!

So no more using the simple ladder--back to the more stable folding stepladder.

Today was relaxing, besides the falling off the mezzanine part. I sewed Halloween costumes, went to the fabric store with Inga to find some buttons, ran errands, and even had a few minutes to read a book.
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Friday, October 22, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 304: From sanding to oiling, all in one day!

We did it! We stayed on schedule and got all of the floors sanded, vacuumed, washed with white spirit, and oiled. We didn't finish until after 11:30 pm, though. Reminds me of our graduate student days when we'd renovate until 10 pm, 11 pm, sometimes even midnight if we had a pressing deadline.

Once the oil was applied, the floors became darker than I would like...but it's too late to change! They are still beautiful.

I also put a double layer of bubble wrap on all of the windows and installed safety bars so that my parents don't fall out. The real windows arrive in about 4 weeks. Inga helped me with the staple gun.

We both took a bit of time off to bring kids to the park after school. And we watched an episode of The Flash together during dinner.

Still, I don't want to do too many of these super long days. 9-5 is enough!
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Thursday, October 21, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 303: Ready for a catamaran net!

I am SO tired! I told myself that I need to get off computers and just lie in bed and read. So I have a few more minutes left to update before my self-imposed rest.

We powered through the next big task today: getting all of the wood planks up on the walls (they will serve as the support boards for the catamaran net). They are all up!

We should be ready to sand tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile enjoy this before & after video, from the day we bought the apartment to today.

My parents arrive on Monday. The floors probably won't be done curing until Tuesday or Wednesday, at which point they can move into Le Catamaran. They'll have a bed and a toilet down there and, within a week or so, a shower.

For windows, we'll staple up a double layer of bubble wrap and install curtains. Good enough until the real windows arrive!
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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 301: Mostly on schedule!

We finished the entire bottom floor before noon today. Wow! But then the finicky stuff began: the bottom of the bookcase, the edge pieces on the mezzanine, and the little WC rooms in the hallways.

By dinnertime, we had everything but the last WC room upstairs done. I think we can do that tomorrow. So we're still on track to sand on Thursday, provided a floor sander is available to rent. (Defintitely NOT a tool I would buy!)

And then right after dinner (spicy crab sushi with eggs & avocado), I had to catch up on my other job, aka my "real" job, with Breech Without Borders. Phew. I finally finished going through my emails and it's 10:23 pm.

Dio had a pre-soccer meltdown today and was crying and begging not to go. I think it's more related to him having a frustrating day at school. When he came back from soccer he was in good spirits. I literally had to push him out the door, though. Mean mama. When he got back, I apologized that I had to be so firm, but I knew he had to leave if he wanted to be on time for the carpool.
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Monday, October 18, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 300: On schedule!

17,816 steps

Even though I was only able to help for a few hours today, we are still on schedule. Half of the living room flooring is laid. Tomorrow we have a long workday and we should be able to get all the flooring done.

I'm preparing something fun to commemorate 300 days of renovating. But it's too late to finish tonight. Maybe tomorrow...

I chaperoned Ivy's class on a trip to Park Phoenix, a botanical park & small zoo. So much noise and energy. How to teachers do it?

Oh, I also went running this morning before school. I have definitely been neglecting my exercising, although I definitely stay active just with renovating. Still, it feels good to get "proper" exercise.

Dio had a stress moment tonight, trying to memorize "Emmenez-moi" for tomorrow's music class. They've only had one day to learn the entire song, and random people will have to sing it by heart, at normal tempo, tomorrow. For a while he got discouraged, but then with some help he pulled through. By 10 pm (past his normal bedtime) he was singing confidently.
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Sunday, October 17, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 290: Cyanotype, barracuda, & bœuf bourguignon

11,530 steps

An idyllic day: beautiful weather, friends, and relaxation. Crisp and cool in the morning, warm in the afternoon sun. A nice walk to Cimiez and back in the morning, with Ivy walking home with me.

After lunch we went to a friend's house for a cyanotype workshop, the same person who did linocuts with us a few years ago.

Once we got home, I got working on dinner (bœuf bourguignon and dark chocolate mint cookies) and Eric went spearfishing. He came back right after we finished dinner with a barracuda and a limon. When he was cleaning out the barracuda, he found an intact fish inside its belly!

We had time to watch one episode of The Flash right before bedtime.
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Saturday, October 16, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 298: Reading & costumes for me, soccer for everyone else

Eric had a marathon soccer day: Ivy had a tournament in the morning. Inga came along to help Eric. Ivy's team won all of their games and Ivy scored 8 times. Then he got back, grabbed a few bites for lunch, and left immediately after to go to Zari's game at Cavigal. Dio also had a game in the afternoon.

Inga went to the ice skating rink with a friend and then to the coulee verte. She was happy but so tired when she got home!

Eric make a salad and balsamic-honey-shallot duck breasts. Always a favorite.

We watched two episodes of The Flash and finished Season 3.

And me? I folded a huge mountain of laundry, read a book, caught up on emails, took a little nap, and then got serious about sewing Ivy's costume.

I'm using two thrifted curtains and one thrifted sheet, and the end result will be a ribbon-embroidered medieval dress with those big bell sleeves that laces up the back (from the curtains), plus a linen underdress with an embroidered hem (from the sheet). No pattern of course, but I would like to find a basic sleeve pattern to get the shape right where it attaches to the arm hole.

We're waiting for all of Inga's thrifted purchases to arrive so we can start on her costume.
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Friday, October 15, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 297: Finally we have flooring!

4,904 steps

I guess my fitness tracker doesn't consider installing hardwood flooring as movement. We worked all day and I am beat!

Our mezzanine now has the flooring installed, except for the very last strip. The boards for the last row are now ripped to the correct width and need to be routed to round over both outside edges.

Given that it took us a day to install 11 sq m on the mezzanine, it will probably take us 2 days to do the downstairs (23 sq m) plus the two little hallway rooms. Optimistically that puts us at finishing the install on Tuesday, sanding on Thursday, and applying the finish on Friday & Saturday (Weekends are out because weekends, and Wednesdays are out since we have soccer in the afternoons). Optimistically!

I can't wait to apply the finish; it brings out the grain and the color in the wood (merbau, which is a tropical hardwood).

Not much else going on today other than the usual. Ivy has a soccer tournament tomorrow morning and Zari has one tomorrow afternoon here in town (playing versus Monaco).

Ivy wants me to work on her costume tomorrow. Maybe we'll even finish it!
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Thursday, October 14, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 296: Feeling overwhelmed

8,705 steps + almost an hour of biking

This evening I felt really slow and tired. "Why am I so tired? Oh yeah, it's because I took a long bike ride and then I put in a full day of renovating."

So we figured out a solution to the car & chaperoning: I would ride my bike and thus avoid having to drive! It was 20 minutes by car and 25 minutes by bike. What I didn't realize was that the last half of the route was a steady incline. I definitely got a workout!

Why was I riding my bike? I was meeting Comrade at a window factory to order our windows. They will be done Nov 19. Normally turnaround time is about 3 weeks but Covid has created all sorts of delays.

Meanwhile Eric accompanied Inga to a class trip to a photography exhibit by a world-famous photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand ( ). "There was this lake that had colors, and one time it looked like a tree. Behind the tree it was the night." A few weeks ago her class got to meet him in person, and it made a big impression on Inga.

We both got home around the same time, and then it was go time for renovating. We finished planing the last 3 boards, just a bit on the edges. I cleaned up the back apartment (again) and did some little painting things here and there, mostly touch-ups. Then I cut yet another wall channel and jack-hammered out the rocks to move the AC lines over about 18".

Eric routed and sanded the new planks, which took a while to get everything perfectly smooth. Then I oiled the backs and sides (we'll oil the front once they are installed and have the holes filled with wood plugs).

When my school pickup alarm range, we were both in the middle of our jobs so I went to the school in my beautifully dusty work attire. No time to change! Then I went back and finished my task, which took another half-hour.

I have to admit that today I felt overwhelmed with how much work we still have left on the back apartment, not to mention the front apartment that we haven't even started yet.

Zari and Dio are both at soccer, and Eric is putting Ivy and Inga to bed. I am really to stay awake until bedtime 🙂
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Wednesday, October 13, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 295: Another day...nothing really that exciting

Ugh, I have to drive our car tomorrow. I am not a fan of driving here in Nice. I can do it, but I avoid it whenever possible. Eric has to accompany Inga on a class trip, unless I can get him to switch with me. (We have to drive to a store tomorrow morning at a set time to order windows.)

I did painting and electrical work today, when we were not doing our usual soccer shuttling. We might start laying wood flooring tomorrow! We have to vacuum the floors super well and then I think we can start.

Ivy and I took a trip up to the fabric store to buy some supplies for her Halloween costume. Both Ivy's and Inga's costumes are going to be pretty epic, provided I can turn what's in my head into reality.

Eric is playing soccer and won't get back until close to midnight. I'm helping Zari with her French homework (questions about a passage by Emile Zola).

I've been playing around with doing a penny floor in the little WC. But I cannot find any bank that will give me pennies! I need 40-45 Euros of pennies. I have visited or called multiple banks with no luck. So I might need to abandon that would have been so cool.
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Monday, October 11, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 293: Easy as 1 2 3

7,864 steps

Another big day: the AC guys finally came and got 2 of the last 3 interior units up on the wall. One of them needs the lines moved over about 18", so we have to jackhammer out the existing lines and move them over. (We didn't install the lines in the first place, and they put them in the wrong place. But we get to fix it, which is actually fine since I trust my own technique more than theirs and I definitely want to be the one patching up the wall.)

They'll be back next week once we get that last area done, and they'll also fix the leaks in our drains.

Oh, I forgot to mention that yesterday I finally got fed up wtih avhing to empty the washing machine by hand. It's been a few weeks now and we do laundry every day.

So I got out our new drain auger and managed to clear out 7 meters of pipes, enough to get everything flowing freely.

Today we fired up our friend's chainsaw in the hopes that it would make cutting the last 3 planks faster. After a test run, we realized that the chainsaw wouldn't stay in the pre-cut channels and it made a mess of the boards. So it was back to the reciprocating saw and lost of muscle power. Eric is a champ for cutting through all of that!

We set up the planer and got one board planed and trimmed on the sides. We planed part of a 2nd board until we ran out of time.

I also worked on the first finished plank, the one that will go against the mezzanine edge, and figured out the hole placement for the carriage bolts. We got all the holes drilled and a few places in the back routed out where there are pieces sticking out of the mezzainine. It's totally ready to put up--we just need a child to help hold it. We were going to do it tonight, but it was just 2 mm too long! We need to wait until tomorrow to trim it.

After dinner Ivy and Inga helped me wire the other two shell lights. So now we have 2 pairs, one upstairs and one downstairs. It's so exciting when I flip the circuit for the first time and the lights turn on!

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Sunday, October 10, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 293: Sans titre

14,653 steps

I had my usual walk to/from Cimiez this morning. It's starting to get a bit chilly in the mornings. I had a sleeveless shirt on and needed a scarf to stay warm. I've put on long pants the last two days but am still mostly in summer clothes. Meanwhile people on the streets have broken out their puffy winter coats 🙂 It's really not THAT cold. But it is time to get our winter clothes out of the attic.

I also got 9 hours of sleep. That's usually unheard of because I have had to adapt to Eric's bedtime (which is midnight, later than what I would choose). But last night I informed him that I couldn't stay up and I was out by 11 pm.

Our friend came by today and dropped off a chainsaw. We will be lumberjacking tomorrow!

We watched The Flash together in the afternoon, then Eric and I went on a walk with Ivy. Dio had a game later in the afternoon. Eric is frustrated with his coach, who doesn't use the players very wisely.

My two new shell lights are all spray painted and ready to put up tomorrow. So excited!

Every day, Ivy asks, "So are you going to make my costume now?" Finally we got started cutting it out this evening. I don't have a pattern but has that ever stopped me?

Dinner was stuffed chicken rolls in mustard & cream sauce and plum tart. I was so busy between making dinner and making Ivy's costume that I forgot to make a vegetable. We almost always start with either a salad or vegetables.

Hint: if you have children, serve one course at a time. Always start with salad/vegetables. It's a game-changer. Our kids all love vegetables and argue over who got more and beg us to make more of them. I also think that treating vegetables as they deserve to be treated--as something to be savored and looked forward to--models to children that vegetables aren't a gross thing to force down because they're horrible-but-good-for-you.

(Said with the huge caveat that this is not meant to be preachy. Just our own experience.)
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Saturday, October 09, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 292: Soccer season

3 of the 4 kids had soccer matches today: Ivy in the morning, Inga in the afternoon, and Zari all afternoon and evening until 11 pm. Dio has one tomorrow. It's soccer season and Eric does the bulk of the work (after all, he is the head coach for Ivy's team...and a soccer it makes sense).

I put up ads to give away all sorts of renovating stuff: a huge pile of drywall scraps, a half-full 12 liter bucket of paint (left from the previous occupants), and 3 iron grates. It's now all GONE and we have more space in the front apartment. One of the people gave me a nice bottle of wine as a thank-you.

I did a bit of work--the 2nd coat of oil on the oak plank, some sanding and re-mudding. Nothing super intense but it will get us closer to some big steps next week like installing the hardwood flooring.

In the afternoon, Ivy and I ran errands: spray paint for some of our light fixtures, carriage bolts for attaching the oak plank to the edge of the mezzanine. And on the way home, we stepped by the flea market place where I found the rug. Last week I bought a 3rd shell light there and noticed there was a matching chandelier with the same glass, 3 pieces held together in a frame.

Well, today the shell chandelier was on sale half-price, and I noticed an empty matching wall sconce next to it--the same that I bought last week. I tried one of the glass pieces from the chandelier and it fit! So now we have 2 pairs of shell lights (and 2 extra glass pieces, a good idea in case we break one)! One pair of shell lights is in the living room and the other pair will be in the bedroom (one on the wall, the other above the sink/mirror).

Oh, I also bought a solid brass porthole mirror via the classifieds. It even opens up. We have a fun idea for it...will share later.

Anyway we're waiting for Zari to come home. I'm exhausted because, oh yes, I was woken up at 3:30 am when one of our neighbors came home. That means the entry door downstairs bangs shut and the hall lights turn on for a few minutes. And then I couldn't get back to sleep for a long time.

So I'm going to treat myself to a book in bed. Bonne nuit.
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Friday, October 08, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 291: Mama and Papa's new toy

11,639 steps

Wow, today was super intensely busy! I started out working in Le Catamaran, doing little touch-ups on the paint and prepping the wall in the front apartment for the AC/heat units. Then we got a call that we could come look at a bed that was for sale on the classifieds.

So we drove waaaaaaaay up into the hills behind Nice, in places I had no idea were even accessible. Tiny little winding roads barely wide enough for one car. We ended up in a dead-end road, and the house was at the very end up a super steep driveway. (You'd never see this anywhere that has snow or ice; think Olympic ski jumping kind of slope).

So we finally got to our desitination, and the bed that was advertised as a "lit en merisier" (birchwood bed) was in fact not wood at all, but MDF covered with fake veneer. Ugh. I told the woman, sorry, but I'm not interested since it's not solid wood. She kept telling me, "Oh, but at this price it wouldn't be solid wood! I paid a lot of money for it. I even have the receipt."

Nope, not interested. Well, that was a whole morning lost. Oh well. Eric dropped me off and then went directly to play pick-up soccer. It was last-minute so he just played in his street clothes and barefoot. Meanwhile I did as much work as possible until it was time to pick the kids up for lunch.

Once Eric came back, I went to work again and Eric joined me as soon as the girls were back in school. Then we got to the fun part: setting up our new toy. I mean, tool. A super nice planer.

We had to build on- and off-ramps to support the wood and OF COURSE our floors sloped significantly so these ramps had to be sloping to make everything end up level over 8 meters. Such is life in a 500+ year old building.

Then we got to planing. At first it was pretty easy when only the top bits of the board were making contact with the blades. But it got really tough once we were planing the whole board down. We took a total of close to 2 cms off in some places! Wow. Maybe even closer to 3. Eric was pushing and I was pulling and we were putting maximum effort into it. I don't even know how many passes we had to do--keep in mind we were only going down about 2 mm each time. I probably underestimated in the video.

But we got the board planed smooth in the end! Then we had to rip one end straight (because of course the whole board was curved. Of course.) Then we ripped the other end parallel. Then we planed each end with the hand planer. Then we sanded. Then we routed one of the edges with a rounover bit. Then we sanded. Then finally I vacuumed the beam and oiled it.

And that, my dear readers, was our day. Normal people would probably just buy a new board and call it good. But no. We have to cut a beam that is probably centuries old and make our own board. (And then do this 3 more times...another day.)

Plus of course we had kids to take care of, dinner to cook (zucchini fritters and scrambled eggs for those who were still hungry after the fritters), run errands, and more.

It's almost 11:30 pm and I haven't even taken a break yet today except to eat. I am going to go in bed and read for a little while!
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Thursday, October 07, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 290: Back-breaking work

9,549 steps

Whew! Today was a big work day.

Remember that big beam that we cut down waaaaay back in the winter? We had a system of ropes and pulleys to cut & lower it. That beam.

Well, today we sliced that beam into a board. We have two large leftover beams, actually, and each one will turn into 2 boards. Only 3 more boards to go!

These 4 boards will then be planed smooth and will get mounted onto the walls of Le Catamaran's living room to serve as the attachment boards for the catamaran net.

But boy, was it a lot of work just to cut one board! We didn't have the right tools for the job (short of having a portable sawmill or a professional woodworking shop, no one would have the right tools for this job). Hence my proposed workaround that I drew a few weeks ago. First, cut as deep as possible on both sides of the board with a circular saw, then use a reciprocating saw to cut the middle section.

These boards are old growth oak and VERY dense and VERY heavy. I'd say they are 2-3x heavier than pine.

Then the boards need to be planed down, have the edges straightened, and then everything needs to be sanded and finished. Which meant that today we also bought a big planer. When it comes to tools, my attitude is "Buy the tools. Buy all the tools."

After it took Eric over 2 hours just to cut the first board free with the reciprocating saw, we messaged our friends and asked to borrow their chainsaw 🙂 I think that will be much more efficient. We're going to lend them our cement mixer so it will be a good exchange for both parties.

While Eric was laboring away with the saw, I scraped 23 square meters of flooring, tile by tile, getting off all the accumulated renovation residue off. Then I swept and steam mopped. It is super clean now, ready for the hardwood flooring.

I also did some little paint touch-ups and last little projects on the walls.

And somewhere in there today we fed the kids, went to the park, made dinner, did homework, etc.
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Wednesday, October 06, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 289: Shells on the walls

This morning I picked up the two shell lights we had ordered. I had to modify that back parts to make holes that lined up with the outlet boxes. Then I installed them on the living room walls, with some help from Inga.

I had a minor moment of panic when I flipped the light switch and nothing happened. Turns out the light bulb was burned out. Phew.

Ivy and Inga went thrift shopping with me to look for things that could work for their Halloween/Carnaval costumes. We found Inga a nice pair of brown leather boots, which she can use for "real" life as well.

After our usual soccer afternoon, Comrade came over to give us the estimate for our windows and to take some final measurements. He can get us a wholesale discount because he's a contractor. Sweet! We have one other window company coming to do an estimate tomorrow, and then we'll make our final order.

Comrade seemed impressed with all the progress we've made. We chatted for a while about authors and intersesting books. He remarked that we're kind of the inverse of each other. "Here you two are, PhDs and intellecturals, doing renovations. And I renovate buildings for work but am very active in intellectual activities on the side."

The newer lime mortar is much lighter today. I'm guessing it will be indistinguisable after a few more days of drying.

We FINALLY heard back from the AC guys, after leaving 4 different messages (remember, because they installed the drain lines improperly in our staircase area, we haven't been able to run our washing machine for almost 2 weeks).

Today I checked the drains with a laser level, and part of it goes back UP by a few millimeters over a 1-meter span, rather than going down the required 1+ cm per meter. No wonder it's been backing up and then overflowing through a connection that *should* have been watertight. We're ready for them to finish the AC installation in the Communist apartments so they will call us on Monday to set up a time next week.

I think I have photos or videos from the last few days but I'm too tired to look for them. Later.

To do tomorrow:
- clean the floors & get everything prepped for installing the hardwood flooring
- slice the big leftover beams into 4 lengths and pray that it works!
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Tuesday, October 05, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 288: Ahead of schedule

11,108 steps

So after my massively long workday yesterday, I fell asleep quickly and woke up in the middle of the night (which happens on occasion). I got a drink of water etc. and then went back in bed. At which point I had something that felt suspiciously like a small panic attack, out of the blue.

I think my body is telling me that it's not good to work 12-13 hours a day on the apartment! But we were in a bit of a pinch yesterday becuase we had to finish cleaning the lime mortar and it couldn't wait until the next day.

The newer mortar is still visibly darker than the old mortar. I used the exact same proportions of lime to sand so I am hoping it's just because the mortar is still drying! Otherwise I have no explanation for it. It was the same batch of sand, the same lime, the same mixing time.

By this evening, Eric and I were ahead of schedule for our renovations. We got the last part of the beams oiled and the walls washed down (there were drips of woodworm treament and lots of sawdust). There are one or two spots we'll need to touch up but otherwise it looks good. We cleaned up and emptied out the entire back apartment. We took out the two metal grills (the ones with diamond shapes). Wow, it is amazing when it's all cleared out!

Ivy helped me scrape bits of mud, paint, and MAP off of the floors. I steam mopped while she scraped. We have to get the floors totally clean in preparation for installing the hardwood flooring.

Eric and I also moved the scaffolding over to the front apartment. We want to get the AC/heating units finished so my parents--who are arriving in less than 3 weeks--can be comfortable. This meant we needed to install a small piece of drywall on one of the walls where we will have one of the blower units. So we got that piece cut and applied to the wall with MAP. I had to cut another wall channel and embed the coolant/eletrical/drain lines. I even got the Crack Tape up over the junction between the concrete walls & the new drywall.

Tomorrow morning Ivy and Inga are going to hit the thrift stores with me. Inga is eager to make a Viking warrior costume for Halloween. (It's not celebrated in a big way over here, but one of her friends wants to have a small party). It will get re-use during Carnaval as well. (Something like one of these pictures, minus the chainmail because I'm not THAT hardcore.)

So we've been looking at all sorts of pictures for inspiration. Now we have an idea. I need to find a linen tunic (bonus if it has some cool embroidery), and old leather jacket that can be cut apart for various parts of the costume, and a piece of fur or faux fur. The rest we can make with supplies we already have at home.

I wish I had my leather working tools that are back in the States. I have grommet makers, hole punches, copper rivets, etc....oh well. We'll have to get creative!
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Monday, October 04, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 287: More chaux and way too much work

10,349 steps

Facebook is currently not loading on my computer (just Facebook, nothing else) so this journal entry is appearing on my blog and who knows when it will show up on Facebook?

Today we set a goal of finishing the lime mortar (chaux) and we did that and more. We mixed up a big batch after the kids went to school. It was big, but not quite big enough for the entire wall. We finished applying all of the chaux mid-afternoon. 

Once the mortar was all up and drying, we both got paintbrushes and put on the second coat of oil on the big beams. It's all done except for a few small areas. Then the next big job was to clean up the joints. I worked on that on and off until almost 10 pm! Way too long of a work day.

Ivy and Inga came up to help in the evening. I let Inga paint one of the small beams. Ivy helped to clean up sand and bits of leftover chaux that came off when I brushed the joints.

Oh, all of the kids got sent home at noon. No afternoon school because of a storm in the forecast. I think school in the entire department was cancelled. The storm didn't hit us until the evening. It was a normal (but quite dramatic) downpour and thunderstorm. Back in Minnesota, where I grew up, or in any of the Midwestern states I have lived in, we wouldn't blink an eye. But here school got cancelled!

Since we had a time-sensitive project today, we had to let the kids fend for themselves. We heard lots of thumping and laughing and sometimes arguing coming from upstairs. They really needed to get outside but we simply did not have time today.

So now we're done with lime and cement mixers for a good while. We'll probably have an exposed stone wall somewhere in the front apartment but that is undecided. It's a lot of work, but I love how beautiful the stone walls are when they're redone.
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Sunday, October 03, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 286: Lighting advice please

5,483 steps

So we're looking for lighting. We want the apartment to have an Art Deco nautical feel without being kitschy or tacky. Remember, it will have a catamaran net going off of the mezzanine, spanning the entire living room area. Hence Le Catamaran.

We need to buy 4 ceiling lights and a wall light (for the upstairs closet). We also need a light above the upstairs sink & mirror, which doesn't necessarily have to match the closet wall light, but it could.

The ceiling lights (2 above the living room, 2 above the bedroom on the mezzanine) need to be flush to the ceiling since there isn't a lot of overhead clearance. I have searched and searched. There are some modern LED fixtures that are the right dimensions, but I don't like them.

Our kitchen spots have a satin nickel trim. The shell lights have a brass finish (which I can spray paint nickel if needed).

We bought a pair of these awesome Art Deco shell lights for our walls sconces (via leboncoin). They will be downstairs in the living room.

Given all of that info, which ceiling and wall lights do you like best? Which finish do you like best? Is it mortal sin to mix finishes and have nickel spots & brass lights? I usually don't like brass but I admit I'm kind of in love with the brass nautical lights a bit more than the nickel (although I haven't seen them in person).

In other news, we went to an exposition in the port this morning. It had all sorts of booth set up promoting local cuisine, travel, tourism, sports, etc. We got to sample several delicious items and play fun games. It drizzled a bit but we stuck it out.

We watched two episodes of The Flash after lunch and took it easy the rest of the day. Eric went spearfishing and came back with...nothing.
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Saturday, October 02, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 285: Laid-back Saturday

15,297 steps

Amazingly only Zari had a soccer game today in the early afternoon, and it was a local one. The rest of us took it easy. Dio didn't get home until close to 1 am last night, so he slept until we woke him up at 10:15 am!

I did some work downstairs; I just couldn't help myself. I took the temporary wood board off that marked the edge of the stone wall, and then I prepped the big beams that we cut down. I scraped off all of the old paint and pulled all of the nails I could get to. We're hoping to try slicing our first board out of the beam this week.

So yeah, otherwise a very low-key day for us. Eric went swimming by himself in the late afternoon. Ivy had a friend over and Inga was immersed in a new book (the 2nd in The Books of Elsewhere series). I made "what's in the cupboard and fridge?" dinner, which ended up being 3 hamburger patties, Provencal eggplant, and plum tart.

Zari is babysitting tonight, so she'll be home quite late. Her game went well; they won 7-0 and she scored one of the goals.
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Friday, October 01, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 284: Time for lime!

10,239 steps

Well, we did it. We figured out how to repoint an exposed stone wall with traditional lime mortar: 3 parts fine sand, 1 part hydraulic lime. I have watched lots of YouTube tutorials.

I am so glad I bought a cement mixer. You're supposed to mix lime mortar for 30 minutes, and I would not like to do that by hand.

It looks really messy when it goes on. But it cleans up beautifully with a stiff bristle brush (chiendent). Some people clean the joints with a wire brush, but you have to wait until the lime is much harder and thus it's a lot more work to clean. With a bristle brush, you can clean the joints as soon as the surface has firmed up, about 3-4 hours after application.

Right before bedtime, Inga and I smoothed over the joints with a wet brush. I'm not sure if that was necessary but it seemed like a good idea (and I've seen some people do it).

Between the two of us, we got half the wall done today. Eric also spent a while cutting, planing, and sanding the remnant of the wood beam that we cut down waaaaaay back in the winter.

I feel like I hardly saw the kids today! We sent Dio to pick them up for lunch and they mostly fended for themselves.

After school Eric took Ivy to the beach, and they met up with several friends from school. 

Inga went to a friend's house.

I joined Eric and Ivy at the beach and enjoyed a brief swim. The water is a bit cool but still very doable. As usual Eric came back with treasures: a dive mask, sunglasses, and a single shoe.

Zari and Dio had soccer practice in the evening. Then Dio went right to a movie night with a youth group and won't be back until around midnight.
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Thursday, September 30, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 283: Let there be light! And oil!

4,760 steps

You guys--we tested our electricity for the first time (besides the two outlets on the circuit breaker, which we've been using for the past few months). IT WORKS! So far we've just tested a few light switches but it is so exciting to see things turning on just like they are supposed to.

Eric finished machine sanding the beams, and then I took over applying the Osmo Oil. It will dry to a clear matte finish. I wish the beams could stay lighter, but there's really no helping that once you apply a finish! Lots of character embedded in these 500-year-old beams (give or take a century). Axe marks, woodworm holes, old square iron nails...

The AC guy still haven't returned my texts or phone messages about the huge leak in the hallway plumbing (due to a faulty connection that they installed). I am frustrated because we've had to disconnect the washing machine and empty it by hand. This meaks 5 trips with a big bucket back and forth to the toilet every time I run the machine. And I have to stay right next to it the whole time to avoid flooding the apartment.

I finished around 6 pm and then I had to rush make dinner (veggie-packed bobotie). I ran out of oil before I finished the first coat. Grrr...I have ordered more but it will be several days. So I guess we'll start doing the lime mortar next and get back to the beams later.

Ivy and Zari both got new braids today: 4-strand braids. Next I'm going to try a 5-strand braid. I think it will look especially nice in Zari's thick, long hair.
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Wednesday, September 29, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 282: Le tour de Nice

14,650 steps

I've walked all over Nice today.

First, some shorter walks to the tram, to Cavigal, to the grocery store, and back home.

Then Ivy and I walked to the far side of the port to visit a marine supply store, in the hopes of finding some cool light fixtures for Le Catamaran. They had a ceiling light that we really liked, but it was wired for 12V systems and there wasn't space to retrofit 220V wiring.

Soon after we got back, Ivy went swimming with friends nad I headed out again to pick up an order at a Point Relay 1.5 km away. On the way, I stopped by the big Carrefour and then on the way home, I popped into one of the furniture consignment stores.

This oval table caught my eye: it has gorgeous burled wood on the top with intricate inlays on the edges and sides. And only 99 Euros. It's probably too big for Le Catamaran, but I love looking! For this apartment, I'd like a table that can go flush against the wall and ideally something that can fold down on one or both sides.

This morning I treated all of the big beams for woodworm. The sander arrived, so we should be able to finish the sanding tomorrow. I did a bit more wiring as well.

Eric is gone playing soccer after a long afternoon of coaching. I spent much of the evening helping Dio and Zari with homework. Dinner was 3 different fish with a Provencal sauce & gnocchi. "Artisanally caught fish" aka speargunned by Eric.
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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 281: From electricity to biking, from sanding to zooming

11,948 steps

I snuck in an hour of work on Le Catamaran this morning before I had to leave to chaperone Inga's class. Once a week they walk to an elementary school on the other side of the port to take bike lessons.

The lessons were held in a small asphalt courtyard. Somehow they managed to teach a class of 30 students! There were two groups: one for advanced riders and one for beginners. They had little "obstacle courses" marked out with chains and cones and bars. I was impressed with what they were able to do in a constrained area.

Back home, I tackled more electrical work while Eric continued hand sanding. This was the really complex part--hooking up all of the switches and outlets--but I think I have it all sorted out. The most complex connections are the "va-et-vient" (2- or 3-way switches).

When I wired the outlets, I went a bit overboard and used 2.5mm2 wires for all of them, even though you only *have* to use that for kitchens. I am regretting that now, since it is really hard to get those thicker, stiffer wires to fold into the outlet boxes!

Ivy requested a new hairstyle, which turned out well on the first attempt.

Today's work day was a bit shorter because I had a Zoom meeting at 3 pm. Then after school I made dinner and ran errands.

After school, we all ended up in different locations, on land and in the water. Ivy went with friends to the coulée verte. Inga went to a friend's house. Dio went to a friend's house, and then went to soccer in the hills above Nice. Zari was at lycée until 5 pm, and Eric was spearfishing.
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Monday, September 27, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 280: 2 sanders down

We sanded the big beams today. Our orbital sander--a cheap one we bought several years ago for small jobs--is terrible. The Velco on the sander is so weak that the sandpaper barely sticks. It will stay in place for about 2 minutes and then refuse to stick at all. (It's the sander, not the sandpaper-- we tested 2 brands of paper).

So then we tried an air-powered sander lent to us by Comrade. The air flow was never quite enough to keep the sander going at the ideal speed.

So after two failed sanders, we were frustrated. I really, really want a Dewalt random orbital sander. I have one back in the States that has been a workhourse through nearly 2 decades and I don't even know how many houses. Alas, there weren't any in stock so we ordered a Bosch Professional sander instead. I hope it does the job because we are eager to keep going.

We also did a lot of hand sanding where the beams meet the ceiling. We pulled out our set of dental picks, which worked amazingly well to get all the tiny bits of paint out of holes in the wood.

I primed several areas this morning with shellac to keep the tannins from leaching through. A few spots still were leaching so I had to put a few more coats of shellac on. I really hope that is sufficient.

Oh, and another fun thing: we wired the kitchen spots today! I have to wire the switch tomorrow and then we will have LIGHTS. Real lights, not random lamps hooked up to extension cords.

What else? Piano lessons this evening. Eric did dinner tonight: peas cooked with bacon and 2 kinds of quiche: salmon and bacon-leek.
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Sunday, September 26, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 279: Dead batteries, jumpstarts, rain, and hail

9,045 steps

We were heading out this morning and we saw that one of our car lights was on. Only one and not the main beam, just the small day lamp. Sure enough, when we tried to start the car, it wouldn't turn over. We can't figure out why the light was on since we haven't changed a single setting or switch for years! (We've always had our car lights on the "auto" setting.)

Luckily we were taking care of a friend's car that needed moving to a better parking spot, so we had a second car right there! And after having a dead battery several times over the past year, we had also invested in a pair of jumper cables. Of course it started raining during this whole process. We got our car started, our friend's car well parked, and ourselves en route, arriving only 7 minutes late in the end.

Eric and Dio hurried off later in the morning to a soccer match. The rest of us walked back home from Cimiez. We had a dramatic storm blow in after lunch, with it looking as dark as evening in the early afternoon. Apparently it hailed while Dio was playing. We got big splats of rain on the coast--enough that my dry laundry turned wet again.

I stumbled upon a documentary about minimalism and it inspired us to clean out our bookcase. We got rid of a pile of books we don't use any more. I told the kids they need to do the same thing in the attic with all their little knick knacks they have collected.

We had time to watch two episodes of The Flash as a family. I cooked roasted fennel & sausages with mustard, thyme, & red wine. Dessert was the tiramisu I made yesterday. I'm also making sourdough bread for the first time in almost a month. I tend to bake less in the summer, but the weather has cooled off enough now.

Oh, after the AC guys installed the flexible drain pipes into our drain lines a while ago, we've started getting leaks in the staircase area. At first it was just drops and we didn't even realize it was coming from our pipes. We thought maybe it was a few drops of water from where our upstairs neighbor had watered her plants.

But when Comrade was over on Friday taking window measurements, we heard a massive waterfall of water in the building's staircase. What on earth?!? We ran out to see, and water was fountaining up from the connection that they had installed. (Our washing machine was running.) Liters and liters of water were on the floor a few stories down.

I sent off a text to the AC installers with a picture and left a voice message. I haven't managed to connect with them yet, but I did see one missed call that afternoon.

For now, we've had to disconnect the washing machine drain and run the hose into a big bucket. During every cycle, I have to babysit the bucket and empty it periodically, usually 5-6 times over the cycle.
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Saturday, September 25, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 278: Queen of the flea markets

11,812 steps

I found a treasure: a gorgeous wool rug at a consignment store (more flea market than antique store). It is 2.5 x 3 m and the nicest rug we have ever owned in terms of density and knots per inch. There's a small stain on one edge, but otherwise it's in great shape. And only 80 Euros!

This rug was HEAVY. It took 3 of us to carry it home about 1 kilometer.

I admit, I just went ahead and bought the rug without having Eric come see it. I knew that if I waited, it might be gone. Fortunately he really liked it.

While I was thrift shopping, Zari headed to Frejus with her soccer team and Eric was taking Inga to her soccer match. Eric came home as I was finishing a thorough vaccuming of the rug. Ivy helped, too, as you can see in one of the videos.

After lunch, Dio had a soccer practice. It was only announced a few hours beforehand, and Dio was very upset because he was wanting to do something with his friends. But he went, very grumpily.

Zari was gone all day. So the rest of us headed off to another huge furniture consignment store (think XXL flea market) on the outskirts of Nice. Lots of amazing stuff but nothing quite right for Le Catamaran. They have a rapid turnover so we'll probably stop by regularly.

I did find an amazing carved chest/trunk (coffre fort) made in 1758 that I loved. Loved. It was something like 125 Euros and it would be amazing as a TV console in the front apartment. We're going for a medieval/gothic feel in that one, I think, versus an Art Deco feel in Le Catamaran. We didn't buy it but I am tempted to go back for it...

Oh, so I'd love your input on choosing a couch for Le Catamaran. Here are some finds that are currently available on leboncoin, which is like craigslist. (I found an amazing leather Chesterfield sofa sleeper, but alas it is no longer available).

I'd strongly prefer to have a couch that also turns into a bed to allow us to have more guests in this apartment. Bonus points for something that is actually comfortable to sleep on. On the other hand, aesthetic appeal is important, too.

So out of these current choices, which ones do you like? The gray Chesterfield and the ivory leather couch are just couches, not sofa beds. The medieval looking bed/bench is just for fun and could be for the front apartment. I call it the "boob banquette" because the arms have carvings of bare-breasted women.

Wow, this is turning into a long post! So after the super-flea-market trip, Eric went spearfishing and I went to some antique stores in the port. On my way I ran into an anti-vaccine anti-covid-regulation protest and kept hoping people wouldn't think I was participating. I am in favor of getting rid of the pandemic, not extending it.

Inga and Zari both had great soccer games. Inga scored 6 goals and Zari scored 2 (out of 4 goals total on her team). Zari's coach told Eric that he's very pleased with Zari's performance and integration into the team.

In the late afternoon, Ivy and Inga helped me take off the masking tape. I had to work with a long-bladed knife and tweezers as the edges tended to stick and not come off with the rest of the tape. It's all down, now. Next up: sand and seal the beams.

Eric came home with a Sériole (Amberjack), which we ate for dinner along with paella. Dessert was peach ice cream floats. I prepped a tiramisu for tomorrow's dessert.
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Friday, September 24, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 277: Painting done, windows measured

9,432 steps

So excited: the walls & ceilings are all painted! 1 coat of primer and 2 coats of real paint. The ceilings are flat and the walls are satin. I like being able to wash the walls, even though the satin shows imperfections a bit more.

You can't tell at all where the old bumpy concrete walls join the new drywall. It's amazing. You also can't tell that any of the walls in the hallway started out super bumpy and crumbly and uneven. I am a big fan of enduit garnissant.

Comrade came by this afternoon to take rough measurements of the windows. He has a supplier who can give us wholesale prices on PVC windows. I'm also curious to get estimates for aluminum and wood, just to see what the price range is. My parents are coming in late October and I hope we can get the windows in before that...otherwise they'll have a chilly apartment!

Next up: take off all of the masking tape and sand the beams. Apply woodworm treatment and then put Osmo oil on the beams to protect & beautify them.

Also coming up soon: tuckpointing the stone wall with lime mortar.

I ran errands and cooked dinner in the late afternoon. Eric brought Ivy to the beach and found tons of treasures while freediving. I made masaman curry with chicken, onions, bell peppers, carrots, and peas on basmatic rice. Dessert was "fake ice cream": frozen fruit blended with cream, vanilla, and a dash of sugar.

Inga and Zari have soccer matches tomorrow. I'm not sure what I'm going to do. Maybe a bit of prep work downstairs (a few bits of wood trim need to be sealed with shellac, since the tannins are leaking through the paint). I don't know...maybe I will just do fun stuff instead 🙂
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Thursday, September 23, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 276: Furniture makeover

8,769 steps

I went to Lidl first thing in the morning to buy outlets with integrated USB ports. Then painting until 2 pm. We are almost totally finished. Ceilings are done (2 coats). Walls are part way done with the first coat. I can't believe we're already at this point! For so long it seemed we were working but not progressing.

Mid-afternoon we cleaned up and went to look at an Art Deco side table. It needs just a bit of TLC but it will make an awesome sink. It has a marble top, so we'll install a vessel sink & tall faucet to complete the transformation.

In this back apartment, which I am calling "Le Catamaran" (The Catamaran), we are going for a 1930s yacht vibe. We've been looking at Art Deco lighting, chasing down finds on the classifieds, and browsing through marine suppliers. I don't want it to feel kitschy--I'm going for elegant and subtle.

We ordered a used swimsuit for Ivy, girl's size 10, and this is what arrived today. It would fit a 2- or 3-year old! There are no size markings on the suit and I'm not sure it's worth trying to return. Shipping would be more than the cost of the suit.

After running errands in the afternoon, Eric and I played hookey from renovating and went swimming ALL BY OURSELVES before the kids got out of school. The water was crystalline and cool and just lovely.

We had time for one episode of The Flash this evening.
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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 275: How to slice a beam

4,629 steps

We had a slow start this morning and got to work by about 9:30. After I woke the kids up for school, I spent a while looking at light fixtures while Eric snuggled on the couch behind me.

I did some spackling of larger holes and dings that we had missed while Eric painted the ceiling top coat. We might be able to get away with one coat on top of the primer; we'll take another look tomorrow and see if any shadows appear.

One thing we need to do fairly soon is slice through the big beams that we cut down several months ago. We need to turn them into thick planks (around 5-6 cm thick) that will form the support structure for the catamaran net. This is going to be a challenge without specialized equipment. But here's my plan:

1. Cut into each side with the circular saw. Probably do 2 passes per cut to avoid taxing the saw too much. This will cut about 8 cm deep on each side.
2. Using a 30 cm carbide blade, use a reciprocating saw to cut through the middle part. In theory the blade should stay in the channels that the circular saw cut.
3. Use the planer to smooth the cut surface, then sand.

Will this work? I hope so! The biggest concern is that it will burn out the motor on the circular saw. But, as I keep telling Eric, "Don't worry, it's under warranty!"

I had a podcast interview with Dr. Nathan Riley this afternoon ( ). I'm not sure when it will be released, but it was really fun to record! And guess what--it was NOT about breech birth.

I'm helping Zari study for a math test. Math over here is done differently than in the US. You have to know all the formal proofs and exact definitions and do every step of the proof correctly. Getting the right answer isn't enough. It's tricky!
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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 274: Paint, paint everywhere!

7,114 steps

The first coat of paint (primer) is DONE!

Here's to hoping we only need one more coat of paint...but paint is quick. If we have to put 2 top coats on, it will still be done soon.

It's getting late. Time for sleep and another morning of painting.
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Monday, September 20, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 273: Ahead of schedule

15,900 steps

This rarely happens, but we got ahead of schedule and started painting by mid-afternoon! Well, I started painting while Eric continued to do final sanding and cleanup. We found a few spots that needed little touchups with mud, so we have a tiny bit of sanding for tomorrow while I continue to paint. But we are PAINTING!

Oh, and I also went for an early morning run before school. I haven't done that for way too long. It's nice to run before the sun is heating things up.

Zari babysat for a new family today. She was nervous because it was her first time with these kids, but it went well. The older sister is in Ivy's class and seems very happy to explain everything to Zari.

What else? I prepared dinner (roast chicken with wild rosemary, plum tart for dessert) and went grocery shopping while the chicken was roasting.

I also ordered underlayment & glue for our hardwood floors; we are using an acoustic underlayment system that will reduce noise to the apartment below us. (Basically this but a different brand: ). We have to glue the wood down anyway on the main part of the floor, so why not add some soundproofing at the same time?
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Sunday, September 19, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 272: Relatively restful day

5,321 steps

Today seemed so restful after yesterday's hike, but ironically we still had a lot going on!

Ivy was at a birthday party much of the day at the Village des Fous. 

Dio had a soccer game in the afternoon, which Eric and Inga went to. Zari schose to stay home and read/rest/listen to relaxing music.

I read a book--a real book made from paper. It's been a while since I've read a physical book. I went up to the chateau for about an hour to read and enjoy the wind and sunshine.

Once everyone was home, we watched two episodes of The Flash. I'm ready and rested for another big work week. Tomorrow will be the final sanding and vacuuming. We will also need to wipe the ceilings and walls down with a damp cloth to get all the drywall dust off. Probably painting on Tuesday! I love painting. Instant gratification.
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Saturday, September 18, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 271: Hike day

23,797 steps

Depite getting off to a late start, we made it out for a big family hike. Minus Zari: she had a soccer game way over in Marseille. Plus a friend of Ivy's.

This hike, the Circuit de Lourquière, was 9.7 km with a 400 m elevation gain. Ivy's friend had never done a long hike like this, but she did well, albeit a bit slowly.

It wasn't particularly hard, but the first half of the hike was up and much of it was in the full sun. At one point everyone but me was talking about turning back. Nevertheless I persisted and insisted we all keep going. We were near the halfway point anyway. Eventually the path went into the shady side of the mountain and then leveled out.

Eric's phone camera is getting more and more cloudy and unable to focus. I got a short video and then the quality became so bad that it was not worth trying. But we had a lovely lunchtime serenade in Peillon, the first stop along the way.

We got home and watched two episodes of The Flash. Ivy and I went shopping for a birthday present for her friend. Zari just came home from a long day away. She scored a goal and had a great time on the minibus with all of the girls. Lots of goofiness and laughing.
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Friday, September 17, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 270: Queen of existential crises

I just got done putting Zari to bed, which turned into the a long snuggle during the Mother Of All Existential Crises in which Zari bemoaned her priviliege, felt like was was running out of time to figure herself out, and generally sounded like a 50-year-old in a very young body. But at least she knew much of it was irrational and just letting off some steam.

We had another big work day down in the Communist apartment. But wait? Is it the Communist apartment, now that the giant hammer & sickle is gone? If not, what shall we call it? Or them--since there will be 2 apartments down there? Hmmm....

The one we are working on (smaller apartment in the back) will be reiminiscent of being inside of a boat, with the wooden beams, the tropical hardwood floors, the catamaran net. We need a name for it.

Anyway, we sanded and sanded. All of the main room is now done. The walls look amazing and you'd never know they had started out as bumpy concrete.

We just have a little more sanding left in the two hallway rooms and one or two tiny spots on the ceiling, where I noticed a few spots that needed a wee bit more mud.

This means that we finish all of the sanding on Monday. Then we have to clean up all of the dust, wiping down the walls & ceilings, and then we can paint!

What else? Eric went to the big book festival currently going on near us. He met with an author/translator about a big James Baldwin conference he is helping to organize for next year.

After school Zari and Dio headed off to soccer practice. We took the other girls to the beach and were joined by several other families, as is typical on Friday evenings.

I was going to put together a video from this week of renovating, but Zari's existential crisis lasted until 11 pm. So no, that's not going to happen. Eric is gone playing a soccer game and will be home late.

We're hoping to go hiking tomorrow. The forecast looks good.
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Thursday, September 16, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 269: Ups and downs

9,638 steps

Today we carried all 950 kg of wood flooring upstairs into the Commmunist apartment. More specifically, I carried up 8 boxes and Eric carried up 40. My tendonitis has been acting up recently so I stopped once it was hurting too much and worked on the apartment while Eric finished the rest. He gets gold stars for his effort today.

So that was the up part. The down part is that we picked up our visas this afternoon, and yet again we were denied the visa we applied for and given a 1-year visitor's visa instead. We're so disappointed since it's the second time applying for the carte de resident and the second time being denied.

So yeah, the rest of the day was a down day for us. We got home with a little time before school got out. I prepped dinner and picked the kids up while Eric had a meeting. Then I went to a parent's meeting at Zari's school that lasted 2 hours.

Now Eric is in another meeting. Zari just came home from soccer. Dio is doing something on a phone, having finished his homework and piano. Ivy and Inga are in bed.
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Wednesday, September 15, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 268: The wood flooring has arrived!

9,656 steps

We had an early morning RDV with a delivery company to drop off two pallets of hardwood flooring. I set my alarm 15 minutes before the scheduled time. Then was awoken by a telephone call 30 minutes early: "Ma'am, I am here. Let me know where to drop the pallets off." Okay, well, that got us out of bed in a hurry!

Originally they were coming with an 18-ton semitruck and a crane lift. Then they downgraded to a smaller truck, which made access easier. They went as far as the access road into Old Nice. Eric met the driver while I was still getting my shoes on. By time I got there, the driver was on his way out. All business. Rush rush rush.

We don't often see Nice in the early mornings when just a few brave souls are wandering the deserted streets.

We brought our car and loaded up the back. It took 3 trips in all. I stayed behind and guarded the wood while Eric unloaded it into the downstairs hallway. 62m2 of merbau tongue-and-groove unfinished flooring.

One cool thing: one of the pallets was constructed out of exotic hardwood scraps, wood like kempas and merbau. You bet I'm keeping that one! It will come in very useful somewhere in the apartment.

After all that excitement, we were back upstairs an hour later. Zari and Dio were heading off to school; in fact, I ran into Zari while I was carrying an empty pallet up the street.

Then a bit later...fatigue set in. Eric and I both had naps mid-morning. Oops.

Then our usual soccer-shopping afternoon, finished off with a breech live session for me and late evening soccer for Eric. He will probably get back around midnight.
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Tuesday, September 14, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 267: Erasing the Communists

6,825 steps

Today I changed in and out of my work clothes 3 times. After a morning of work, we had to run to the home improvement store (change #1). Then I worked again in the afternoon and changed once school got out (#2). Then after dinner I did some final work and then came back up (#3).

We ended up going to the big home improvement store Leroy Merlin. We needed several more pots of enduit de lissage and the local bricolage store didn't have the right kind or enough of it. So off to the big store we went!

We spread the smoothing compound on ALL of the walls in the main room! I have the two small hallway rooms to do tomorrow. We no no longer have a giant hammer & sickle on our wall. Goodbye, Communist symbols.

I will do a more comprehensive video later on this week, but here's a quick fast-motion of me applying the compound.

Our huge wood flooring order arrives early tomorrow morning. It's coming on a big truck with a crane lift, which means they can't get into Old Nice. They're hoping to drop the pallet off right at the entrance into the old town. From there, we'll have to shuttle the wood bit by bit into our apartment.

Right after school, Eric went to a parent meeting with Ivy's teacher. I watched my friend's toddler. It was his first time being watched by anyone but his parents, so of course he started crying. Inga and I tried everything to distract him but he wouldn't have it. So finally we brought him to the coulee verte, where Ivy and her friends were playing. He saw his big sister (one of Ivy's friends) and was immediately happy.

Once the meeting was done and the toddler handed back to his mama, Inga and Eric went swimming. It rained in the morning but cleared up by the afternoon.

We had some time this evening to go on a walk together. Or rather, we made some time. Life has been busy.

Oh, this other video has the kids doing their best impression of Zoom, a super villain in The Flash.

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Monday, September 13, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 266:

9,651 steps

Another long workday of mudding and sanding. We are SO close to being done. I've done the final coat on nearly every angle and seam.

Now the next few days we will be applying "enduit de lissage" (smoothing compound) on the bumpy concrete walls and smoothing them out. You can either roll or trowel it on, then you smooth it with these great big blades. Then after it dries, you sand it.

We applied some enduit de lissage on a test area. After machine sanding (hooked up to the vacuum to keep dust down), it looked amazing! Not quite as flat as drywall, but we'll never get that with the old walls in this apartment.

Other news of note: the forecast showed today being the last sunny day for a while. We took advantage of the beautiful weather and went to the beach right after school with everyone but Dio, who was at a friend's house.

Zari went to meet a new family that she is going to babysit for after school on occasion. They live just a block away so it's really convenient. She still feels uncomfortable being paid the going rate for babysitters (8-10 Euros per hour). "But that's way too much!" I think she's worth it!

We canceled piano lessons today since most of the kids hadn't practice at all. Oops. It's been really busy for the whole family.

I did a bit more mudding this evening after dinner so it would be ready to sand in the morning.

I don't want to make any promises, but we might be able to start painting by this weekend. It depends how long the smoothing compound takes to apply and sand. No promises but lots of hope!
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Sunday, September 12, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 265: New old front door

15,124 steps

I had a nice walk to Cimiez and back in the morning. Then after lunch Eric and I picked up a new front door for the back apartment. It was back in the hills behind nice, near the big soccer stadium. The current door is a cheap hollow core door that is cracked and broken and probably dates from the 1950s or 60s. The one we found is solid wood, very heavy, and very old.

I've heard good things about the documentary LulaRich. So I started watching it today and then all the kids wanted to see it, too. Zari was jumping out of her seat because she was so upset at the maniupulation and sketchy sales techniques going on. I had to keep shushing her so we could hear the TV.

Dio and Inga had friends over in the afternoon. Eventually I pushed Dio and his friend out the door and told them to go play outside and be back for dinnertime.

I had a Zoom meeting (podcast interview) right at dinnertime, so I fixed everything beforehand and then told the kids to be quiet and not disturb me unless there was a fire or someone was gravely injured.

We also snuck in one episode of The Flash right before bedtime.

Zari and I had a nice talk during our evening snuggle. She's really enjoying being here and expressed strongly that she doesn't want to leave after next year. A big change from even a few weeks ago.
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Saturday, September 11, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 264: Last-minute wedding (music)

9,371 steps

I got a call yesterday afternoon from a friend of mine, who is a violinist. "Rixa, would you be interested in playing your violin for a wedding? The violinist we had lined up can't come."


Then I realized I hadn't asked her when the wedding was.

"Tomorrow afternoon."

Of course I said yes. Not knowing what I'd be playing. Because that's the way I roll. And it turns out I had played all of the pieces before.

Only one of them needed any significant degree of practicing ("Arrival of the Queen of Sheba") and that's solely because every time I play it, my left hand cramps up. Every time. I HATE that piece! I'm always playing an arrangement where I have the melody the entire time, so there's not even one measure where my hand can take a break.

So less than 24 hours later, I was playing my violin in a traditional Catholic wedding in a 17th century Franciscan monastery. I snuck a quick video while the vocalist was rehearsing. The musicians were me, an organ, and a vocalist.

The great big pipe organ was broken, so our organist/pianist had to use an electronic keyboard. Such a shame.

Life is never boring over here.

I walked home (40 minutes) and the house was empty. I did some deductive reasoning and guessed that everyone was at the beach. I was right! I had a refreshing swim and a nice long talk with some neighbors who live across the street. We've known them for a while but this is the first time we've really talked and gotten to know each other.

Eric and I are watching the US Open match between Raducanu and Fernandez.
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Friday, September 10, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 263: Covered in mud

This is what I look like by lunchtime most days. Covered in dust, splattered in mud. Yay. Plus we had some tension between the two of us in the afternoon. It happens on occasion: disagreements on how to do something. But it's okay.

Eric took Ivy and Inga to the coulee verte for a lunchtime soccer training. I had a late lunch and then was back at it until school got out.

Our friends messaged that they were going to the beach right after school. We weren't sure if they were going to stay for a picnic dinner (which is often the case on Fridays) so I hurried and made a batch of spicy crab sushi with cucumber and avocado. I cut up a melon and packed everything into a bag. We were out the door in record time.

It was windy and overcast, but I still swam. The water is getting chilly! I think we need to start swimming at mid-day now instead of avoiding the warmest hours like we do during the summer.

Once everyone was back home (Zari had a soccer practice), we watched two episodes of The Flash. I had agreed to only one because the second one interfered with bedtime. But I got outvoted. "Come on, it's Saturday tomorrow!" Okay, okay.
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