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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Thursday, September 09, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 262: Prematurely gray

10,806 steps

ANOTHER day of MAP and drywall mudding/sanding. I especially hate sanding. I came upstairs for lunch and my hair had gone gray. I got my hair color back with a vacuum cleaner 🙂

I was very happy when my school pickup alarm went off at 4:20 pm. There's a seemingly endless amount of sanding and mudding left, but it will still be there tomorrow. And the next day.

We got to bed really late last night due to Eric's soccer match. He came home shortly before midnight, and then he needed to shower, etc. My solution to not sleeping well at night is to not stop moving during the day. You can't fall asleep if you never sit down, right?

Ivy, Inga, Eric, and I went for a quick swim after school. Summer has definitely lost its grip. The beach has only a quarter of the people it had in August. The water is cool and refreshing. Not chilly but that will be coming. From our last full year here in 2014-15, I remember that we swam until the end of October.

After dinner I went to the big supermarket to buy school supplies for Zari. It is now open SUPER LATE until 10 pm, which in France is very unusual. Except for restaurants and bars, stores all close in the early evening.

Zari really wanted one of us to snuggle her tonight, but she was already 45 minutes past her optimal bedtime. We told her, "We love you, but you need to get to bed."

"But I need my nightly therapy session! Pleeeeease?"
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Wednesday, September 08, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 261: Another Wednesday

8,082 steps

Zari and Dio were lucky that Eric woke up promptly at 7 am because my alarm was turned off. I vaguely woke up when the kids were getting ready but mostly I slept and slept. I needed it.

Inga requested Zari's Viking warrior hairstyle, so we spent a good long time this morning doing 3 French braids and one regular (but upside-down) braid, all pulled together into a ponytail. 

Eric mixed me up a batch of MAP and I put up the last pieces of drywall in the upstairs hallway room. Really truly the last pieces! 

Then we had our usual soccer-grocery shopping-orthodontist afternoon. Everyone enjoyed practice. Eric is now off playing adult soccer somewhere. Ivy and Inga are in bed and Zari and Dio have half and hour before they have to head in. Maybe I'll go for a walk!
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Tuesday, September 07, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 260: Ouch my head

5,505 steps

I got a headache in the afternoon and I've been nonfunctional this evening. Lucky Eric has never had one in his entire life. He will never know the feeling of having a knife stabbing through ones eyeballs or temples.

Anyway I am not going to post a video today. But we got a good amount of work done. In the morning I chaperoned Inga's class to the municipal swimming pool. They had to do a test to see how comfortable they were in the water, in advance of having class swimming lessons.

We framed the big window(s) on the mezzanine and took out the boarded-over transom window. It's crazy how off-square the openings are! From one side to the other, it is off level by almost 2"!

We realized we needed to put drywall in the upstairs hallway room (closet with the potential to be a WC in the future). So I misspoke when I said we had put the last pieces of drywall up. We did some, then we ran out of MAP. Eric got some at the local brico store at the end of the afternoon, but by then we were out of time to work on it.

I went to a parents' meeting with Inga's teacher. He's great, and they have so many amazing things planned for this school year, including horseback riding, bike riding lessons, and "ecole de mer" (marine school). In May, the whole class will go to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat for a week and stay in these dorms at the "ecole de mer," where they'll learn all about the ocean, do various water activities, etc. I've heard from other parents that it's an amazing program.

What else? School seemed to go well for everyone. Zari's school issued her a tablet so now she doesn't have to keep borrowing my computer. Her English teacher has a very strong French accent (very typical) and makes mistakes typical of a French speaker. France is not known for producing strong English speakers, unlike other European countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, and many of the Scandinavian countries.

Ok, gotta go lie down very still and turn any bright lights off. Ciao!
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Monday, September 06, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 259: Square and level

We decided to reframe our window openings to make them square and level. Over the centuries, the original openings had gone askew. So now we have two neat, clean rough openings and a wall that is now 4 cm deeper, filled in with insulated drywall.

We are going to do the same in that bigger opening (the one with the diamond metal grate and the transom window). But that one was really weird, because the wall narrows from one side to the other. So we ripped custom lumber to fit the opening as it both narrowed and tilted. The pieces are all cut to fit, treated against woodworm, and ready to install tomorrow.

After a full work day (with a lunch break and mini soccer practice between Eric and the two younger girls), we had a crazy busy evening as well. I brought Ivy to the park. Eric took Inga and Dio shopping for swimsuits and soccer cleats. Then I had to hurry home and make dinner and then supervise the kids' piano lessons. Meanwhile Eric had to go to a meeting for the coaches in our soccer club. He's still not back yet (9:30 pm).

Meanwhile Zari is crying on the couch because she's stressed and worried about the first impressions she's making and feeling like she doesn't deserve anything (her grades, her place here as a privileged person in a developed country). "I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders and I have an obligation to not be big, not take up space. I feel like I have to shrink into myself to let others have more room. I feel like awareness comes with a price, and the price is I have to not be assertive."

Change of subject: Zari's hair was huge today

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Sunday, September 05, 2021

French apartment renovations, Days 257-258: 11 kids, 2 trains, & Tende...and a baby

I was gone all day yesterday at Tende. Even though the forecast was gloomy (rain all afternoon), we decided to brave the weather and hope for the best. We ended up with a good crowd: 11 children and 4 adults.

It turned into a gorgeous day, mostly or partly sunny for much of the afternoon. We had a few drops of rain at the end, but nothing to even warrant taking out our umbrellas.

After a 2hr 20min train ride, we arrived and immediately headed to the river. One of the adults has gone several times before and has a favorite spot, to we followed him about 1 km out of town.

This village was heavily hit by tempête Alex, a huge winter storm last year that wiped out roads, bridges, and houses. Even where we were playing, you could see large areas carved out by the flooding.

I really, really wanted to do a hike with the kids. But when we arrived at Tende, I looked up more information about the hike. It turns out to be fairly dangerous and is intended to be done with climbing equipment. So I had to cancel that plan!

It's the hike to the Chapelle Saint-Sauveur overlooking Tende. Part of it goes over a suspended bridge, which you can see in my video if you look closely. Or for fun, you can watch this drone video:

We spent the entire day at the river, and the kids still didn't want to leave. It was amazing. Just hours and hours of playing in the stream, throwing rocks into the water, building a little fort, wandering around the countryside, peeing in the bushes. You know, good old-fashioned fun.

We got back to Nice around 8:20 pm. I was totally wiped out. Kaput. Then of course I slept terribly last night so was even more wiped out this morning. But that's okay. I took it easy and had a little nap.

This afternoon, I went and visited the family who had their baby almost 2 weeks ago. It was fun to see their little boy and see how he has grown. They were really interested in elimination communication, which I did with all 4 kids. I showed them how I did it and their baby even did a pee for me right away!

Then I took the bus home since we had a picnic on the beach for dinner. We ate with the family that we house/dog sat for two weeks ago. The dad was telling us all of these stories about the family he works for as a private chef. He had just come back from a 7-star resort Turkey, invited by the family so he could learn fancy culinary techniques such as putting real gold on food...because apparently that's what rich people do. I didn't even know 7-star resorts existed!
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Friday, September 03, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 256: A whirlwind day

5,592 steps

Wow, one of those days where we wonder how we fit everything in. First thing in the morning we gave away a huge pile of wood beadboard paneling--probably 300 planks--that we had salvaged off of the walls of the Communist apartment. We held on to them for a while, but finally realized that we weren't going to use them.

At the same time, our plumber arrived to make a few final connections so we could install the rest of the drywall. He's so awesome. Every time he comes, we remark to each other how much we like him. He is friendly, optimistic, flexible, and more than happy to work around our (slow) renovation schedule.

And then...we got ALL of the remaning drywall up in the apartment. Every last bit. I filled in big gaps with MAP and then taped and mudded all of the new joints/angles/corners.

Zari had her first day of school. She met her "professeur principal" and got a tour of the school. It's a massive complex.

Inga and Ivy came home for lunch today; they eat at the school cantine twice a week.

Eric had a meeting with someone in Saint-Paul-de-Vence regarding a James Baldwin conference. Then he had to hurry back home for a Zoom meeting about a textbook he's writing. Then he had to hurry to the grocery store to go shopping since we were running low on food and many basic supplies.

Meanwhile I got Zari off to soccer. 15 minutes before she was supposed to leave, she realized that her soccer clothes from the day before were still in the dirty laundry pile. We did a rapid 15-minute cycle and then dried her socks with the hair dryer. She put on her damp shorts and her one remaining clean soccer shirt. We got the socks dried in 4 minutes total and were out the door with enough time to buy her a tram ticket and get her on her way.

I was planning a big trip tomorrow to Tende, a village up in the Alps near the Italian border. After the big floods last year, the train from Nice to Tende was made free (2 hrs 20 minutes each way, and really beautiful scenery). We have a huge group of families plannning on going.

However, I just checked the forecast and it shows rain all day starting at 11 am, which is about when we would be arriving. So we might need to cancel and go another weekend. Boo...I really wanted to go! I won't make a final decision until tomorrow morning. And maybe we'll just go for the train ride and back 🙂
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Thursday, September 02, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 255: La rentrée!

Ready or not, school has started up again today. Ivy and Inga came back very happy with their teachers. Dio just had orientation today and has his first day of classes tomorrow.

Zari has her orientation meeting tomorrow. She's currently going through her drawer of clothes trying to find something to wear. "This is too tight. This one is too loose. This one is too short."

She's mostly a soccer jersey or plan t-shirt kind of person, but I sense that she's wanting to expand her clothing styles. However, she also does not like clothes shopping (like me!) so I'm not sure how to actually find her clothes.

Zari was very pleased with her hair. After we took pictures, I braided the rest of the loose hair into a fourth braid. She had soccer practice today and wanted it all contained.

More of the same kind of work in the Communist apartment: sanding, mudding, taping, filling in gaps with MAP...we are in drywall purgatory.
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Wednesday, September 01, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 254: Back to school braids

4,651 steps

We now have 3 Viking warriors in our household, complete with complex French braids and serious attitude. This is Ivy's. Pictures of the rest coming tomorrow.

For those of you who weighed in on our window question, here is a video with more context, including interior & exterior views of the apartment.

Today's renovation work was more filling in gaps and cracks with MAP (me), more hooking up electrical outlets (Eric), more sanding (me), more cleaning and tidying (Dio and Inga).

Zari and Dio had soccer practice today. While Dio and Eric were gone, I had a Zoom meeting this evening, complete with kids bringing me in written notes in an effort not to disturb me.

Here is our conversation via notes, complete with their funny spellings.

Kids: "Zari is being extreamly mean!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Kids: "Zari wants us to come get ice-cream with her but we do not want to!"

Kids: "She is still refusing to go if we do not come! Can you just write to her that she has to go and NOT force us to go?"

Kids: "Write here -->" (they give me a scrap of paper and a pen)

Me: "I don't care either way"

(I hear sounds of arguing for a while)

Kids: "Never mind, Zari went to buy ice-cream."

She came back with dark chocolate, mint chocolate, raspberry sorbet, and vanilla. Good choices.
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