Monday, May 31, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 161: Another day, another wall

13,154 steps

After a morning run, I went through our receipts and added up how much we've spent on our communist apartment renovations so far. More than I expected but honestly I wasn't even sure where we were at all. It's amazing how quickly things add up. We've probably spent 300 Euros just on screws, washers, and nails!

I had an in-person meeting at the sécurité sociale office to sort out my carte vitale. The woman pulled up my files and exclaimed, "But this is a mess! You've submitted all the documents two, three, or four times! You have everything here, but it's all over the place in our system! I don't understand!" I kept saying, "yeah, I know!"

I think we got things sorted out. Like I've told them every time I've called, I have sent in all of the requested documents, some as many as 4 times. They indeed had multiple dossiers under both my married & maiden names. I even have a temporary number that I can start using. Now I wait for the final number...

This morning I treated a few more areas with the wood treatment (insects/rot). Once I got back from my meeting, Eric and I built a wall to divide the upstairs hallway. We built an extra-wide hollow double wall, wide enough to pass a 10 cm (4") sewer pipe through to train the back-to-back toilets. We got it in place but haven't attached it yet. Even better, we were able to build the whole thing out of scraps from our demolition.

I made saag feta for dinner. Yum. Then I had a Zoom meeting that took the rest of my evening. I'm working on a paper about twin birth outcomes at home attended by an obstetrician (Dr. Stuart Fischbein). A fun project!
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Sunday, May 30, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 160: Piano recital

11,570 steps

We had an international Zoom music recital this evening with my 3 sisters and their kids, my parents, and two other families that are either related or that my mom teaches. Zari was stressing way too much. "I'm going to be the oldest one there and everyone else will be playing much harder songs than me! I'm going to make mistakes; it's not going to be perfect."

But it was fine. She wasn't the oldest and she didn't have the easiest pieces. And everyone made mistakes, even the most advanced musicians.

We watched a few episodes of "The Story of God" with Morgan Freeman and one episode of Queer Eye. We ate lots of fish for dinner tonight.

Dio had soccer practice in the afternoon.

Overall today felt relaxing. I'm ready for another week full of renovating and meetings and work and school.
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Saturday, May 29, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 159: Miracle of the fishes, attempt #2

I wrote a long post about today and it got lost when I hit "post" on Facebook. I see a little spinning thing that's been going on for the past 20 minutes. I think it's unsalveagable.

So instead of writing it all out again, I'm going to type a list of highlights: 
  • family soccer match at the chateau 
  • Ivy had a friend over to play, first time since this lockdown 
  • Inga went to a sleepover, first time ever 
  • Dio worked on a Bob Ross painting 
  • We let the kids watch the Champion's League final tonight 
  • Eric caught 11 fish this afternoon, mostly dorade royal

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Friday, May 28, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 158: Goodbye, wood worms

14,054 steps

I had a hard time waking up this morning. I laid in bed and pretended I was asleep until just before 8 am. Eric was kind enough to wake the kids up and get them ready. He came back in bed for a cuddle.

I went for a run and worked on video transcriptions most of the morning. Tedious but necessary.

After lunch we tidied up the communist apartment in preparation for wood treatment. I suited up and covered all of my skin, put on my respirator and safety google, and went to work. I sprayed all wood surfaces with a product that treats against wood-eating insects, rot, and mushrooms. Except for the main beams, which need to be sandblasted first to get the paint off, it's all treated in the back half.

Back home, I threw everything in the wash and took a shower as soon as I got in the door.

I took Ivy to the temporary gardens after school, and Eric took Inga to the coulee verte. I like having that down time in the late afternoon, where we just sit outside and talk with other parents while the kids run around. Eric's version of downtime is playing soccer with our kids, and often a large group of other children as well.
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Thursday, May 27, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 157: Braving the wilds of Leroy Merlin

Lots of steps and too many €

Well, today was the day: another big shopping trip to Leroy Merlin. It took us 5 hours and lots of €. We ordered a truckload of larger supplies, to be delivered in about 10 days (ugh I hate having to wait so long): regular drywall, insulated drywall, sound-proof drywall, water-resistant drywall, a soundproofing system to go underneath the ceiling drywall, and subfloor for the front mezzanine. And that was just the delivery order!

We filled our car up with things we could carry: drywall compound, drywall tools, plaster, wood treatment for woodworm and other insects, more electrical supplies, sandblasting kit, mortar for tiling, universal primer, a big sifter for cleaning our sandblasting medium...and the list goes on...and on...

We didn't have time or energy to haul toilets or shower doors home today, plus we didn't bring our roof racks this time. That will be another trip (ugh).

We also arranged for an estimate for heat pump heating/cooling systems. The technician was available this evening, so he came over and looked at the communist apartment, then we had him come to our own apartment, and then he looked at our upstairs neighbor's apartment as well! The exterior heat pumps would all be mounted on our roof, so we climbed out of our neighbor's window onto the roof. I've never been up there before--it has beautiful view of the tiled rooftops of Old Nice.

The technician was great: "Tout est possible." I told him I liked hearing that. More often than not, you hear, "C'est pas possible, c'est pas possible."

We also had our syndic (building co-op) meeting tonight and talked about several projects in our building, some small, some bigger. Fortunately we only have 3 families and one business, so it's easy to get things done.

Inga constructed a "kingdom" for Dolly, complete with a green flag waving in the breeze, thanks to an artfully placed fan. She's been obsessed with setting up the flag and the fan just so.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 156: Soccer with an unexpected twist

7,682 steps

I woke up very early--before 6 am--and wasn't ready to be awake. Once Zari and Dio got up at 7, I brought their toothbrushes out (so they wouldn't come in and wake me up) and went back to bed.

We had our usual soccer + grocery afternoon, but then Eric found out that Dio's team at the chateau had been disbanded and combined with a team in La Trinité, a neighboring city north of Nice.

With just a half-hour notice, I had to get ready to drive Dio and Ivy over there. We missed the exit and spent another 20 minutes on a long detour to get back to the right exit. I really dislike driving over here, because there are so many bizarre intersections with very little warning about which way to go.

So until soccer season is over, my Wednesdays just got a lot more complicated. I'm hoping he can carpool so we don't have to drive him every Wednesday and Saturday.

The soccer field was in a gorgeous area, way up in the hills near the top of a small mountain. We were next to an equestrian center so Ivy and I got to watch people taking riding lessons. 

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Tuesday, May 25, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 155: On the 2nd day of plumbers...

12,314 steps

My true love gave to me: a toilet drain hidden in the wall!

They managed to chisel out enough rocks to recess the entire 10 cm drain pipe into the wall. It's all connected and is awaiting the final tees when they come back. The rough coat of plaster is in.

They also installed the shower/water heater drain lines and started plastering them in as well.

They're done for this week and will be back next week to finish the rest.

We didn't do anything on the apartment since we didn't want to be in the way. I feel bad for not getting work done, but I suppose work *is* getting done, right?

I went running this morning and did a lot of sedentary computer work. I finally needed to get outside and stretch my legs mid-afternoon. Eric and I read on the beach and I got some good Vitamin D therapy plus a cat nap.

I brought Ivy to a new place after school, the Jardin Albert 1er. We've been there many times, but not as an after-school play spot. There are these amazing temporary garden exhibitions, so the group of girls and fun running around in them.
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Monday, May 24, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 154: Invasion of the plumbers!

11,737 steps

Lots of noise and excitement today: the plumbers arrived. Cue the jackhammering all day long. It was a bit odd because they arrived and said, "ok, we need you to cut the wall channels here, here, and here." Eric and I were surprised as we figured they'd have the tools for it! They had lots of other tools, but not a wall chaser (rainureuse). So we got our tools out and cut the channels in the floor for the main water line and in the wall for the water/drains.

Then we left them to it. See the video for details.


Dio had a school assignment due this evening: a movie & narration of the poem "La Cigale et La Fourmi." Zari and Inga helped create the "set." Ivy had a big meltdown because she wanted to hold one of the puppets but we only had 2 puppets and 3 holders. Then she had an even bigger meltdown because we put her name on the credits. "But I didn't even help! You wouldn't let me."


Oh, and speaking of meltdowns....Inga had a 30-minute sob fest yesterday after Zari discovered a little slug on a piece of lettuce she was about to eat. Zari pulled the lettuce off her sandwich, showed the slug to everyone, and then rinsed off the lettuce in the kitchen sink. (Then ate her sandwich.)

But Inga was devastated because "Zari killed the slug. She doesn't even care about nature or wildlife!" So for a long time we heard her moaning and sobbing about the poor slug that didn't get a chance to live.

We had rain all day and school holidays. By mid-afternoon, we were going crazy with the kids running around inside the house. They were happy, but it was crazy-noisy-chaotic happy. We tried to send them out but they wouldn't go until I came along and forced them out the door with me. This reminds me of lockdown a year ago.

We went to the coulee verte, which was almost completly empty except for our across-the-street neighbors (one of Inga's best friends) and maybe two other children. One of the benefits of rain--everyone leaves the parks as soon as a drop falls. It was barely misting at that point.

Eric went spearfishing and came home with 4 fish! A sar, a dorade, a labre, and a saupe. Dinner tonight.
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Sunday, May 23, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 153: Silly movies

13,029 steps

We had a family movie afternoon and watched "The Mitchells vs. The Machines." The movie was silly and predictable, and Zari kept up an exasperated commentary of how ridiculous it was. I think that was kind of the point.

We refilled our water bottles at the village "well" (sparkling water fountain). Ivy and Inga did 1-2-3-swing with Eric and thought it was hilarious when he pretended to be the "baby" swinging between them.

The plumber is coming tomorrow morning--hooray! Once we get the electricity in, then we can start doing things that will look dramatically different very quicky, such as drywall.

Well, I guess we still have other steps before that: reinforcing and treating the rotted wood, sandblasting the beams, treating any wood with xylophene as a preventive. THEN we can install drywall. Always so many steps!

Tomorrow is a holiday so we get to turn off our alarm clocks.
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Saturday, May 22, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 152: Birthdays and soccer

8,848 steps

Ivy and I went to a friend's birthday party at a park about 20 minutes away, while everyone else played soccer at the chateau. I forgot to take a picture of the sea glass art that we made.

We left after over 3 hours and were only the second people to leave. But it was nearly 2pm and I hadn't eaten lunch yet and was getting hungry. I also was feeling people-fatigued.

I like being around people but it also tires me out and I have to recharge from it afterwards. If you're an introvert, you'll understand what I'm talking about. I'm not at all shy but I find making small talk, even with friends, challenging. Give me something serious or deep or important to talk about, and I'm fine. But chit-chatting? It's so exhausting!

Eric had a virtual conference presentation in the afternoon, so I took Dio to his soccer tournament at Le Ray, a municipal soccer stadium in northern Nice. So I was outside most of the day. It was cool and overcast and I wasn't quite well enough dressed for the weather.

All I want to do now is curl up in bed under the covers and get warm and snuggly with a book.
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Friday, May 21, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 151: Nearing the (ceiling) finish line

20,116 steps

Not a bad exercise day, between going running in the morning, running errands the rest of the morning, and jack hammering in the afternoon.

I helped Ivy make some sea glass art for a friend's birthday party tomorrow. I did more of the designing than normal and, of course, all of the glueing since it's an epoxy and not easy to work with.

Zari didn't have any afternoon classes so she read books and exercised via PE With Joe. She deserves it after the last several stressful weeks of preparing for her brevet blanc.

We were planning on having a dinner picnic at the beach with several friends, but the weather turned chilly, cloudy, and windy by late afternoon. We all decided to cancel as we would have been shivering and trying to keep our food from blowing away.

Renovation update: We went back to the first half of the ceiling that we had removed a few months ago. There were lots of places where the old cement hadn't gotten removed to the level of the wooden cross-beams. (I'm not sure what it's made of, but it certainly isn't plaster. It looks and feels a lot more like concrete or cement. It's really hard, and it's the same material that the terrazo floor upstairs was laid into--it serves as a tile bed, a solid fill between each ceiling beam, and the ceiling plaster underneath. Weird.)

We're going to attach the new drywall directly to the wood, so we needed to take off every bit of plaster sticking out. What did that mean? Lots more jackhammering! Eric wanted to put it off until we were ready to hang drywall, but I said, "Let's just do it now and get it DONE." So now it is done, except for two small areas.

We also cut a few more channels for electricity. We're now ready to run wires for all of the ceiling lights on the upper ceiling.

We have a good 30 bags of debris to dipose of even after many trips. The plumber is coming on Monday so our weekend goal is to get everything cleaned up and vacuumed so it's not such a dusty mess everywhere.

Now that curfew has been moved to 9 pm, Eric and I were able to go on our evening walk! We put Zari and Dio in charge of getting Ivy and Inga to bed. What a luxury to come home without the circus that is bedtime.
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Thursday, May 20, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 150: 2 shower day

11,365 steps

Today was a two-shower day. Eric and I were determined to finish hackhammering the rest of the ceiling, so we worked in the morning, cleaned up for lunch, and then I went back again for the afternoon. I got it all done and about 15 bags of debris filled.

By that time it was around 5 pm, so I called it a day.

It was so dusty that a cloud of dust leaked out into the hallway and created a haze in the staircase. We waited for the dust to settle and then washed the entire staircase down, top to bottom, including all of the handrails.

Zari spent her lunch hours prepping for the big oral presentation, the "brevet blanc oral." She came home smiling just a half hour later: it went great and the examiners asked her lots of questions, but fun ones. (We had prepped her by asking all sorts of questions, which in retrospect were university-level ones. Because that's what you get when both parents are PhD professors! Sometimes it's easy to forget that she's just 14.)

After I got cleaned up the second time, I watched Ivy and Inga at the park and chatted with other parents.

I didn't exercise today but I think jack hammering overhead for 6 or so hours counts as a decent workout.

These pictures are from yesterday. Note that Eric's jacket was black, underneath all the dust.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 149: Getting serious about the ceiling

12,674 steps

It's the first day that restaurants and bars have been allowed to open for more than 7 months. Outdoors only for now. But they are packed! What a difference from the quiet streets we were used to.

Ivy was begging to go out and dance. We brought her out several times in the afternoon and evening and she still wasn't satisfied.


I felt much better today. Plenty of energy to work on the communist apartment in the afternoon. We decided to chisel off the other half of the ceiling. Yes, it's an enormous pain but there isn't really a good alternative. We got a bit more than 1/3 done in 2 hours.

I didn't have goggles on and I got all sorts of stuff in my eyes. I think I scratched my left eye. Oops. Why was I not wearing goggles? Well, because they fog up and I can't see! I haven't found a solution to that yet. But I've got to be better about wearing them when working overhead.

Zari has her brevet blanc oral tomorrow. She's looking forward to getting it done so she can celebrate and be done with the stress.
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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 148: So, so tired

12,197 steps

What's wrong with me? I've been exhausted all day. So tired I went on a walk instead of running. So tired I fell asleep three times during the day. So tired there was no way I could work on renovations.

On the up side, it was Eric's birthday! Honestly we it wasn't the world's most exciting day, but Eric and I did have time to go the beach this afternoon and read in the sun. (That was one of my naps.)

That's all for tonight. I'm going to lie in bed some more.
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Monday, May 17, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 147: From zzz to zoom

Yesterday was a Very Hard Day for me emotionally and that carried over into a poor night's sleep and me feeling jittery and exhausted this morning. I did PE With Joe, feeling way too sluggish, and then went on a walk.

I realized that my body needed some down time, so I decided not to work on the communist apartment today. I did breech work all morning, read for a bit in the early afternoon and snuck in a short nap, then more breech work until school got out. I was prepping for a big webinar with ICAN this evening.

I made baba ganoush for the first time and gave some to Dio to sample. He put it in his mouth, his eyes lit up, and he said, "How is this so good?!?" We also ate two kinds of grilled sausages, artichokes, and tiramisu.

I was in absentia the rest of the evening for my Zoom webinar, which went fantastically. We had people from all around the globe: Nigeria, UK, New Zealand, India just to name a few.

Zari's big oral presentation is this Thursday. It's the practice version (but still graded) for the REAL oral presentation later on this school year. Her stress levels are ramping up, and I had to help defuse her enough to get her to bed.
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Sunday, May 16, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 146: Swimming in a church

10,221 steps

We attended the baptism of a family we're friends with: a son who is about Ivy's age. While they were filling up the font, someone forgot to keep an eye on the water level, and it spilled all over and flooded the church. So that was exciting! Inga and Ivy had a hoot being on the cleanup crew.

That's about the most exciting thing that happened today. I had my usual walk to and from Cimiez, by myself both ways this time. I didn't mind--I had a good podcast to listen to.

I helped Zari all afternoon with her oral presentation for the brevet blanc. She is presenting about the differences between the French and American educational systems, mostly research-based but also with some things based on her own experiences. She is very glad that I have been lending her my awesome Powerpoint skills.

It wasn't my day to cook, but I ended up grilling eggplant (to be turned into baba ganoush) and making tiramisu for tomorrow.
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Saturday, May 15, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 145: Soccer & barbeque

7,014 steps

My Zoom meeting ended well after 12:30 am, and then I couldn't fall asleep for a few more hours. I still woke up around the same time but didn't have the energy or motivation to play soccer for 2 hours. So I dropped kids off at the chateau and then took a quick jog back home.

We got invited to our friends who live out in the foothills above Nice. They mentioned they were going to fire up the barbeque, so I stopped by the butcher and got some sausages and shishkebabs.

It was a wonderful afternoon of being outdoors; nibbling on bread, olive oil, & cheese; getting the fires going in the barbeque area and in their outdoor bread oven; lounging in hammocks and sitting on stools. And we did some "work," too, helping chop firewood. Zari, Inga, and Dio all gave it a try. Well, me too 🙂

What was supposed to be lunch turned into an early dinner by time we got everything cooked. This was the friend who is a professional chef, so we ate very well. Zari was making appreciative noises of delight. "Mmmmm, oh, this is SO good!"

We had to be back for a 6 pm Zoom meeting. Definitely a great day for recharging and socializing.
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Friday, May 14, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 144: We've got fiber

12,386 steps

We had another appointment to get fiberoptic installed, and this time the technicians did their job. We had the exact same problem of not being able to get into the "local technique" a few streets down.

The first guy who came 2 weeks ago just shrugged and said, "Well, sorry, I can't get in so I can't hook up the fiberoptic. You'll need to find the key." Today, these new guys ran over to the mairie (town hall), found the person responsable for such things, brought the person over, got the access doors unlocked, and completed the install.

I went for a run this morning and then worked on my computer the rest of the morning. And again, in the afternoon, Eric and I worked on the communist apartment. We ran more wires and had a lot of discussions about what to do with the ceiling. We still haven't figured it out.

I had to do more drilling into the rocks, but I managed to wire the outlet boxes that will be embedded into our rock walls. The wires will be completely hidden inside the lime mortar.

I have an 11:30 pm Zoom meeting tonight. I hope I can sleep in tomorrow morning!
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Thursday, May 13, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 143: More wires, more soccer

8,192 steps

Eric brought the 3 oldest kids to pickup soccer this morning. It was a bit too advanced for Ivy, so she stayed home with me. She read and played games while I worked on breech stuff.

Our electrician friend came over to look at some of the main hookups and gave us advice on how to connect the two circuit breakers to the main power line. We have to upgrade the main breaker downstairs from 45A to 60A (something that the electric company does, not us).

Our main power supply lines are only 10mm2 (8 gauge), a bit on the underpowered side. 16mm2 (6 gauge) would be more ideal. Our electrician friend said we could get by with them and only replace if we start shorting out circuits. Or we could replace them right now and not worry about it in the future. He's going to give us an estimate.

But otherwise our wiring looks good so far 🙂

After lunch Eric and I ran more wires, mainly lighting and ethernet (green cables). I stayed a little later to install wood slats over the bigger wall channels to hold everything in place. They'll stay in place until we've filled everything in with plaster on either side. Then we take them out and fill the voids with more plaster.

We took a family walk after dinner. The kids were complaining, "I don't want to go to the Promenade des Anglais! I don't want to go to the port! It's boring!" What a terrible boring life our children have. I almost feel sorry for them. I should specify that Zari wasn't complaining. She wanted me to write that!

Oh and a random video & song Inga made. She's getting ready for Eric's birthday in 5 days.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 142: Soccer, sun, and wind

14,535 steps

I baked bread this morning, then went for a run when the last batch was in the oven. It was super windy and I felt slower than usual. I did breech-related things the rest of the morning.

And the rest of the day sped by, as Wednesdays usually do: soccer, grocery shopping at Aldi on the way home, mid-afternoon lunch (for me), prepping dinner (I forgot that I cooked yesterday as Eric gets 2 days in a row). We let the kids stay up late to watch the first half of the Champion's League semifinals.

Eric and I went on a walk before curfew. Whitecaps all the way to the horizon, gusts of wind almost enough to knock a person over if they weren't being careful, and brilliant sun. Great day for a walk.
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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 141: Pulling wires

9,210 steps

Okay, today the rain came in earnest! I brought the girls to school this morning. We walk up a long, shallow staircase going up the side of the chateau hill. There was so much water that we were essentially fording our way up a river! Several gutters were overflowing, creating waterfalls that we had to duck under.

Free waterpark!

I'm sure Inga and Ivy had wet feet the rest of the day. I thought ahead and wore my beach sandals because I knew I'd get wet just from the short walk to & from school.

Zari left early for her first day of big exams, the brevet blanc (basically, a practice version of the big tests they take at the end of the school year). Oh the stress. But it was better once she got started. She came home at lunch having done the French part and said they had used the 2019 brevet, which she had read and practiced!

We did some math practice during lunch, specifically sine-cosine-tangent (sohcahtoa!) and formulas for the volume of spheres, cylinders, cones, and triangles.

Dio has no school the rest of the week, since the entire middle school is taken over by exams today and tomorrow. And Thursday and Friday are holidays so everyone is off school. I'm not even sure what the holiday is!

Eric and I ran more circuits and cut holes for the ceiling lights in the upper ceiling. We couldn't line them up exactly because the old joists are offset, interlocking a bit where they rest on top of the central beam. We have to drill into the plaster between each joist to not weaken the structure of the ceiling.

We also cut channels along the ceiling for the electrical conduit. In a building that's 400-500+ years old, nothing is simple!

Today was a 2-shower day for sure.

I took a quick walk to the hardware store to buy flexible plastic conduit (une gaine), which is how most of the wiring is done here. I usually buy it pre-filled, but we needed a special color combination that isn't sold pre-made. However, we had all of the wires already, so I just bought the conduit and pulled our own wires through!

We first tried it inside our apartment, but it was nearly impossible, even just doing 10 meters at a time. We finally brought the rest out and pulled 40 meters quite easily, with help from all of the kids.

We were technically breaking curfew and Ivy was so concerned that we would get in trouble. I don't think the police would care if we're just outside our front door. Plus we didn't see any police; they have more important things to do than stop young electricians-in-training.
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Monday, May 10, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 140: More wires, more saignées, and last-minute test prep

12,186 steps

Another misleading meteo: we had rain and storms forecast all day. Which, right on the coast of Nice, translated into occasional sprinkles of rain, not even enough to truly get wet. Back up in the hills it rains a lot more, but we have a microclimate that keeps the bulk of the rain away.

My new headphones arrived, so now I can use them for more than 15 minutes without the battery dying and only one side working. So nice!

After my run, Eric straightened out my haircut; it was lilting a bit towards the left. It's now straight, more or less.

We ran some more circuits this afternoon. We had some head-scratching moments, but I think I figured most of them out this evening after reading my electricity manual. We might have to hire out the main hookup downstairs in our apartment building, as we need to run a second power line for the 2nd circuit breaker all the way from the main floor meter to our apartment. I'm not sure if we're allowed to do work in the common areas ourselves. Fortunately we have an electrician friend. I'm hoping we can hire him to do everything we can't.

But we have lots to do inside the apartment. I cut several more wall channels and drilled holes for the outlet boxes. I keep finding more that need to be done! But we're getting closer.

Zari takes her brevet blanc tomorrow and Wednesday. She's so stressed that sometimes she gets paralyzed and despondent. I spent the evening helping her to study for math and French. I think we've got the math stuff down. I haven't done some of these things since high school! You know, things like sine, cosine, & tangent. I had to remind myself how to do them so I could help Zari.
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Sunday, May 09, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 139: Birthday party at the park

10,606 steps

Ivy's friend had a birthday party at the chateau. Ivy, Dio, and I went up in the morning. Eric and the others joined us at noon. It kept going...and going...I went home with Zari around 2 and the last people came back at 4:30 pm! Good times, though. It's nice to have days where we talk with friends and the kids run around and play and there's nothing else that needs to be done.

I wore my turquoise ombré dress for the first time since I dyed it last fall, along with a hammered silver necklace and my hair down. I like feeling more put together on occasion 🙂

I came home and got hit by a wave of exhaustion. I had a short nap and woke up feeling groggy and slow-limbed, like I'm walking through a vat of honey.

Dinner was country tomato bisque that I had made earlier and frozen, plus zucchini fritters. Nothing too heavy or complex since we had lots of snacks at the birthday party.

Eric and I had time to go on a longer walk this evening before curfew. I'm eagerly awaiting a later curfew so we can do our nightly walks again.

Some pictures Zari took for her art class.

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Saturday, May 08, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 138: Soccer & haircuts

13,255 steps

Normally everyone but me goes to play soccer on Saturday mornings, while I go running. Today I decided to join the rest of the family. Zari no longer has Cavigal practice on Saturday mornings, so everyone was able to come. We had a great match with many new kids. We had 8 on 8, almost too many for the field.

After 2 hours of playing, we were all happy to come home, eat lunch, and rest. Then we went out again, everyone except Dio, to the beach. I took a brief nap in the sun and woke up quite hot. I went into the water up to my thighs...and chickened out! The water felt colder than when I swam in March.

I was the first to go back home. I couldn't convince Dio to go outside. But I was able to persuade him to get a haircut. I think I did pretty well :) I'll take pictures tomorrow.

When everyone got home, I was in a haircut mood. I let all 4 kids have a go. It was time for a generous trim, about 8" (20 cm). It might need a bit of straightening up but it was an adventure!

I've decided that I like my hair no longer than my waist. Anything longer and it just starts getting in the way. Now Zari's hair is well over 18" longer than mine!
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Friday, May 07, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 137: Well grounded


We've had a hot, dry wind blowing through Nice the past few days. Eric said it's coming northward from the Sahara. Pots are falling off windowsills, doors and shutters are banging. If we open our windows, the wind whistles through our apartment, like a giant blowing across a glass bottle.

I did PE With Joe after our school dropoff. Eric went to to the basement to work, and I stayed upstairs and got a huge grant application submitted! It's taken us over a half year to research and write the application. Now we wait (and submit many more applications).

After lunch, Eric and I installed the ground wire to the ground terminal in our building's staircase. We had to drill a hole through the exterior wall. (And yes we've got to patch up the outside wall where a chunk of plaster broke off when the drill bit came through. But the plumber did the same thing so it's not just us!)

Then we ran the first four circuits into the kitchen: dishwasher, washing machine, oven, and fridge. We're waiting for the thicker wire (6mm2) to arrive for the induction cooktop circuit, which will be #5. Then #6 is all the outlets, #7 is the undercabinet lighting, and #8 is the vent hood.

After the kitchen, we'll have 4 or 5 more circuits to run in the rest of the back apartment, plus our ethernet lines.

It's fun to finally *do* something constructive, rather than destructive. And as much as French electrical norms are somewhat puzzling to me, it makes more sense once you start doing it.

Also enjoy this picture of me and my current favorite tool: my Boschhammer SDS+.

Inga and Ivy went to the park after school with Eric, as usual. I ran errands for some essential supplies, plus a bag of potting soil and four large terra cotta pots. Zari has been asking to replant several items.

We met with our other two neighbors to talk about some issues with our buildings: repairs, maintenance, etc. We left the kids with instructions to clean up the kitchen and get Ivy and Inga to bed. They did pretty well when we came back downstairs. Dio and Zari had just put them to bed, a bit late but it's Friday.
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Thursday, May 06, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 136: Circuit breaker is on the wall

17,156 steps

During my run this morning, a woman stopped me to ask about my shoes. I have run with Vibram Five Fingers shoes for many years now. I feel like a walking advertisement!

Eric played soccer this morning, so I decided to get some other work done and run errands. We are upgrading from DSL to fiberoptic, as is France in general. Pretty soon DSL won't be an option anymore. So I went to pick up our new internet/TV/phone boxes.

The fiberoptic technician was scheduled for early this afternoon. He showed up and said he couldn't get into the building down the street where all of the main fiber lines get hooked up. Someone pried open the lockbox and took the key that the technicians use. So we're still waiting on our fiberoptic!

We got a bit of work done before school got out. First, we cut a little channel into the edge of our subfloor and a little notch out of the edge of our joists. This won't affect the structure at all, but it gives us more space to lay multiple cables. They'll all be covered up by the hardwood flooring that will go on top of the subfloor.

Then we attached the circuit breaker and main shut-off onto the wall. We ran the big cables within the breaker to each rung. We started running the first circuit but ran out of time. None of this is hooked up to the power yet, but we do have the main power cable in place.

I figured out which size ground wire we needed (16mm2), so I measured the required length. The building has a ground wire installed inside the common area, and on every floor there is a "distributeur de terre" that you can hook up to.

Once kids came home from school, Eric took Inga and Ivy to the park. Dio stayed home to practice piano and then play Minecraft online with a friend. Zari and I took a walk to the hardware store to buy the ground wire, nails, and wall anchors.
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Wednesday, May 05, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 135: Not just Cinco de Mayo

6,252 steps

It's really late so this will be short. I'm so tired that I can't even think of what to write about. I did stuff, we went to soccer, I cooked dinner. But how to write about it coherently? Not happening right now.

Today is also the International Day of the Midwife and my mom's birthday. Back in the States we'd cook some delicious Mexican food (usually things from Rick Bayless' cookbooks) but it's hard to find ingredients here. I mean, life isn't all that bad in France. It just doesn't include chipotles en adobo and masa harina and tomatillos and queso fresco very often.

Zari has the brevet blanc next week and her big 'épreuve orale the week after. She's really stressed right now. Tonight when we were snuggling in bed, she talked about wanting to just escape civilization and live on a deserted tropical island (with the 6 of us) and have food delivered every week and have no other cares in the world. Wouldn't we all.
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Tuesday, May 04, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 134: What has 3 hearts and 9 brains?

10,417 steps

I just couldn't get out of bed this morning at 7. Eric kindly got the kids up and I slept for another 45 minutes and felt much better. I had a nice run in the morning. It's getting warm enough that I didn't need to bring a light jacket. (Even in the winter, I end up taking my jacket off, but it can be chilly at the beginning.)

Eric saw the gorgeous clear water and couldn't resist spearfishing. He came home with an octopus, which turned into tonight's dinner. He could have caught 3 but he didn't want to take more than we needed.

We started running wires but found ourselves stalled: we need one more size of wire, and we need to install it first, before the others can go in (we have a few spots that have very limited space and we need the important wire to be there first). So yeah, that was frustrating. We ran the main power cable and hung up the electrical panel. And that was it because we had a videoconference at 3:30.

We're looking into installing solar electric panels on our roof, so we had a video consultation with Ikea/Voltalia. The big question is: will the mairie allow solar panels in our location? All of central Nice is under historic preservation, and Old Nice has an additional designated historic zone. Voltalia does all of the administrative legwork, so we will know fairly soon if it's even possible. And of course we have to vote on it among all the building occupants. If so, we'd be installing a 5-6KW system with 18 panels. 

I went to the coulee verte with Ivy and Inga after school. It's nice to take a break and just chat with friends. When I'm home, I have a hard time putting my work aside.

Dinner was octopus salad, shrimp, and French fries. I'm on dinner duty tomorrow. I'm going to do roasted fennel & sausages, provided I can find fennel.
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Monday, May 03, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 133: Doggone

15,531 steps

I tried running with Baya this morning, and she only made it a few hundred meters before she quit. She would walk, but NO RUNNING. Nope.

Yes, a dog that weighs maybe 5 pounds won that contest.

Eric brought Ivy and Inga out during lunch, while I stayed home and worked (computer stuff). Then after lunch break, we worked on electrical prep, cutting more outlet box holes and more wall channels.


Baya's owner came this evening. Happy dog.

We delayed piano lessons so Eric could bring Inga and Ivy to the park after school. They need that exercise so badly! Dio played tag for an hour at school, so I counted that as good for the day. I made Zari do something this evening--her choice. She chose PE With Joe.
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Sunday, May 02, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 132: Dog tired

16,412 steps

We walked Baya for 7 km this morning. Poor girl was tired out when we finally got home! She played with a foofball puppy (2 1/2 months) that looked like a stuffed animal. 

We left her at home to sleep while we went to the chateau in the afternoon for Dio's birthday party.

As usual, we ran into tons of friends and gave away every cupcake and still had more kids wanting some. Ivy and her group of friends were climbing on the ruins. Dio and his two friends did parcours and played other games with Inga. Zari laid in the sun, read a book, and took a little nap. (She claims she didn't sleep...but I suspect she snuck a nap in there somewhere.)

It was full sun all day, a welcome change from yesterday's constant rain.

"Real" school for everyone tomorrow! And me? I plan on running electrical wires.
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Saturday, May 01, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 131: Rain

6,516 steps

Rain all day. We had to postpone Dio's birthday party (which was just 2 friends at a park). He was very disappointed and kept asking if we could do it inside. Sorry, no. Not with the Covid situation.

We frosted the cupcakes and put them away in the fridge for tomorrow.

I went on a walk in the morning, mostly just to get out and to see if Lidl was open. It wasn't. But I'm glad I got out when the rain was light.

Ivy saw one of her friends carrying a bouquet of flowers home for her mom--a tradition on Labor Day. She begged and pleaded if she could buy some. I said no. But sneaky Eric let her and Inga choose two bouquets for me once I was gone :)

In the afternoon we had a family movie party and watched Passengers. Zari: "It was one of those average sci-fi space movies. It had many problems, like the fact that the guy totally did not deserve the girl."

I was reading Obama's memoir later in the afternoon and had an involuntary nap on the couch. But it felt so good!

I still feel groggy after the nap, even though it wasn't very long.

After the movie, we heard loud drumming and music outside our apartment. Eric went out with Ivy to check it out. It was the Festival du Chapeau as part of the Fête du Travail (Labor Day) and everyone was wearing these huge outrageous hats, dancing in serpentine lines, and playing music. Apparently it's an Italian tradition (and remember, Nice was part of Italy not that long ago). Ivy got very disturbed because they were all packed together and not wearing masks.

The kids were bouncing off the walls by the end of the day. It's hard being cooped up inside!

We're watching Baya, the Pekinese dog, this weekend. She provided welcome entertainment today.
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