Sunday, October 31, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 313: Halloween and Zari is 15!

In the morning Eric read Zari's birth story--our family ritual--and a few other journal entries from when she was a newborn. Ivy and I stayed home this morning while everyone else went out. She was still quite sick, but better than last night. I'm feeling icky, too.

After lunch, Zari opened her birthday presents. From us she got a new Adidas school backpack, shinguards, and soccer gloves. Plus a raincheck for a Cavigal backpack that she's been asking for. She got some clothes from my mom (that she picked out).

I ended up having to haul my sewing machine out again for more last-minute adjustments. We turned our papier mache pinata into a fabric-covered ghost.

We had an early dinner and birthday cake, and then our family went to Inga's friends house for a little Halloween party. We left Inga there for a sleepover. I only have a blurry photo of Zari's cake; she made a stencil out of cardstock and then sifted cocoa powder on top of white frosting. It worked out quite well!

The kids were so proud of their costumes. This year I only had to make two! But they were both sooooo time-intensive. I forgot to take pictures until it was already dark outside, but nonetheless I got some that turned out after a lot of photoshopping the color/light parameters.

Details on the costumes in case you are curious:

Inga: Viking warrior
  • I made the leather armor (vest & wrist bracers) from a thrifted sheepskin jacket. Inga helped with the blanket stitching. The jacket is laced with 2mm leather cord and the decorative stitching is waxed polyester thread. 
  • The belt is one I already owned (originally thrifted)
  • The embroidered tunic was thrifted
  • I sewed the fur collar and boot cuffs from a long faux fur scarf. Inga picked out the metal buttons at the fabric store
  • Boots: thrifted locally
  • My dad made the sword from renovating scraps and wrapped the handle in leftover leather
  • ~ One of Inga's 3 braids has a piece of leather cord braided into it

Ivy: Medieval girl
  • I bought two ribbon embroidered curtains about a year ago in the States, thinking I could make something interesting out of them. They came with me to France and, voila! Perfect for Ivy's costume. I made the whole dress without a pattern and it worked out. Underneath is a sleevless linen dress with an embroidered hem, made from an old thrifted sheet. 

And Zari finally tried on her leather motorcycle jacket that I found in the garbage depot last year. She put on a pair of Eric's jeans that fit her perfectly (garbage depot), one of his old t-shirts (garbage depot), and a pair of his thrifted designer shoes. And now she loves the whole outfit. "It's like a goth/biker version of me!"

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Saturday, October 30, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 312: A very good day

✔ I finished Ivy's Halloween costume

✔ I finally put away all of my sewing supplies

✔ We repaired several tears in our leather couch with leftover leather from Inga's costume

✔ My dad finished Inga's wooden sword, complete with a pommel and a leather-wrapped handle

✔ We found, bought, and had delivered an awesome wood couch & two matching chairs for Le Catamaran. Right now they have horrendously ugly coushions, both in shape and in fabric, but hey, I can change that! But the wood frames are amazing. Pictures coming later because it's late. Bonus: the couch has a hideabed.

✔ We drew up plans for the kitchen and put them into Ikea's 3D program

✔ Eric and I applied the primer coat and the floors look AMAZING. I am so happy with the floors now. We have two finish coats to apply on Monday.

✔ We cancelled the Halloween party and rescheduled for Tuesday, when we should have full sun.

✔ Zari went shopping with my mom and actually found some things she would wear. It's a miracle!

✔ I baked a 2-layer cake and 24 cupcakes for Zari's birthday tomorrow and the Halloween party on Tuesday

✔ Zari will be 15 tomorrow. How does this happen?

✔ Inga is feeling better, but now Ivy has it. She got worse over the day and went to bed with a fever and chills. We're fortunate to have moved the party to Tuesday.

✔ We started watching "Escape to the Chateau," which I am really enjoying. I've seen other "English-speaking people move to France and renovate properties" shows in which they throw a lot of money at a place and pay people to do everything. That doesn't impress me. But this show--at least the parts that we get to see--the couple actually do the work. We're like a miniature version of them, but we have 2 rooms rather than 45 and twice as many children.

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Friday, October 29, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 311: Popping the grain

2,955 steps...that doesn't seem right!

First thing this morning we returned the floor sanders (which took an inordinately long time because the clerk kept messing up the paperwork). Then we picked up the table and four chairs from the flea market.

My dad and I then popped the grain on the floors (a UK expression for "raising the grain"). This is when you dampen wood with water and then sand them down once it is dry. This evening my dad sanded all the floors down with 180 grit. Thank you dad!

We tested out the new finish, a water-based polyurethan (Bona Mega), on a few scraps of wood. So much better than the Osmo oil, which turned the wood dark red and black. The wood still intesifies with a water-based finish, but it's the lightest possible option and reveals the natural colors of the wood.

A lot of my day was spent working on Halloween costumes. I finished Inga's and got her seal of approval. "This is definitely the best costume you've ever made!" Ivy's is almost all done except the bottom hem. Whew.

We have a busy day tomorrow preparing for the Halloween party: baking cakes and/or cupcakes, making frosting, finishing the pinata, and planning games. Oh, and doing elaborate hairstyles because I don't know if we'll have time for that on Sunday.

And...we have a 100% chance of rain all day on Halloween, so we will likely need to do it indoors....which complicates things.
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Thursday, October 28, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 310: Floors 2.0

Soooo tired. I slept only 3 1/2 hours and then ding! I was awake at 4 am and couldn't get back to sleep. I putzed around on the internet for a while with my phone on the dimmest setting.

And then, we had a huge work day: we sanded down the wood floors completely. Oof. I did the big machine, Eric did the edger machine, and my dad did the corners and hand sanding. By dinnertime we had done 4 passes on the floors: 80, 80, 100, and 120.

Tomorrow we'll return the machines and do a final sanding with the orbital sanders on any spots that need attention. Then we'll raise the grain. We're hoping the wood will be dry enough by late afternoon to do a quick sand, vacuum, and then apply the undercoat.

Then, if all goes well, on Saturday we'll sand down the undercoat, vacuum, and apply two top coats. And then it's done! We can walk on it after 24 hours, put furniture after 48, and put down rugs after at least 5 days.

And...if we stay on schedule, then we can call the plumbers in early next week to install the toilet, sink, and shower base. Which then means that my parents can move into Le Catamaran. Right now they're sleeping on a mattress on the living room floor.

Oh--something fun: we found a dining table and 4 chairs at a local flea market store. I paid for them tonight and we'll pick them up tomorrow when we return the sanders.

Inga is feeling sick, so we're going to get her tested tomorrow morning before soccer camp.

Tonight we started our papier-mâché piñata using newspaper strips and wallpaper glue. I have fond memories of doing this as a kid with flour & water paste. 

Wow, I sat still for the first time today and my fatigue is catching up with me. I should probably go to bed.
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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 309: Floors & beds

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

7,912 steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, October 25, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 307: Parents!

13,235 steps

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

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

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

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

French apartment renovations, Day 306: Boo-hoo

11,582 steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

French apartment renovations, Day 305: Regrets and falls

13,334 steps

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

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

Okay, moment over.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We should be ready to sand tomorrow morning.

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

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

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

French apartment renovations, Day 301: Mostly on schedule!

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

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

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

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

French apartment renovations, Day 300: On schedule!

17,816 steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

11,530 steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4,904 steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

French apartment renovations, Day 296: Feeling overwhelmed

8,705 steps + almost an hour of biking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7,864 steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, October 10, 2021

French apartment renovations, Day 293: Sans titre

14,653 steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

French apartment renovations, Day 292: Soccer season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11,639 steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

French apartment renovations, Day 290: Back-breaking work

9,549 steps

Whew! Today was a big work day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

French apartment renovations, Day 289: Shells on the walls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

French apartment renovations, Day 288: Ahead of schedule

11,108 steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10,349 steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

French apartment renovations, Day 286: Lighting advice please

5,483 steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

French apartment renovations, Day 285: Laid-back Saturday

15,297 steps

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

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

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

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

French apartment renovations, Day 284: Time for lime!

10,239 steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inga went to a friend's house.

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

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