Home Improvement: Fireplace Edition, Part 10

Here we are, at the two-month anniversary of the start of our fireplace project, three days into spring, and we are basically done with our little project. Pat has spent a couple days finishing up details, and one set of bookshelf doors had to go back to be refinished, but it’s essentially complete!

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Thanks to Rachel for the drift wood and the lovely decorative bowl.

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Sunday morning, reading the comics.

I won’t mention the fact that we have to have Mr. Personality the Bothell building inspector come examine our final product.

Home Improvement: Fireplace Edition, Part 8

Happy (belated) St. Patrick’s Day! We had a happy day – the tile got finished on our fireplace! Also finished are the final repairs to the wall, adding texture and paint.

Here’s where we were on Monday:

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And here’s where Pat left it last night:

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Finished tile!

It’s hard to capture the colors accurately, but you can see the pattern. Those shelves off to the left will go next to the fireplace on either side, and the two boards (you can see them better in the first picture) will become the mantle. So close! But I suspect we’ll still hit a two-month anniversary for the project on March 23.

Oh, gosh, I should mention the mantle. All along we’ve been ambivalent about what to do – never wanted anything elaborate, but what would be right? Finally, last Wednesday, Pat and I went to a place called Crosscut Hardwoods and looked at wood. A lot of wood.

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After looking at every piece of wood in the place, we found a couple boards of walnut that would be perfect. They have an organic light and dark grain that echoes the light and dark tile pattern. I can’t really describe what we’re going to do – it’s a kind of naturally split skirt with a thick beam on top – but when we came up with that idea, it felt just exactly right.

Then, when we finally got home (through absurdly slow traffic, taking perhaps not the must efficient route), who should be there but the delivery guys from Bothell Furniture, dropping off our bookshelves.
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They are really nice, and will look great when installed.

In unrelated news, last week Colleen and Jordan came to visit for a few days and Benji had a very fun time getting to know his aunt and uncle a little bit.

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Meanwhile, at Benji School…

We’ve started consistently riding our bike to Benji school. On Tuesday, I drop Benji off, unhook the trailer, go ride hill repeats for an hour, then hook the trainer back up and ride us home again. It’s a nice system and I get a hard workout in before evening, when my motivation wanes. On Thursdays, we ride, but I bring my laptop and do work while waiting. All this unseasonably dry, warm weather has certainly facilitated this plan.

Thus far, I’ve parked our rig in the entryway, where it’s dry and a little more secure. I tend to leave things like helmets and extra clothes in there.

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Parked inside at Benji school.

Today when I pulled up, this sign greeted me.

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"Friendly" sign in our parking spot.

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Hmm, passive-aggressive much?

In case it’s hard to read, it says, BICYCLES ARE NOT PERMITTED INSIDE THE BUILDING. Very friendly and collaborative, and particularly amusing for a building that doesn’t provide any bike parking whatsoever, not even a rack stuck outside in the rain.

Here’s what I decided to do:

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My note says, “I would love to use a bike rack, if you would provide one. I would love to discuss it more – covered would be helpful.” And I signed my name and phone number. Not my most eloquent missive, I grant, but hopefully not inflammatory, either. I really would use a rack, especially a covered one, but there are none.

In fact, there aren’t even any sign posts or other handy stationary objects to lock up to. I can lock my bike to itself and put the brake on the trailer, but that really won’t stop someone from stealing the bike or trailer. I like parking inside because it’s much more secure, just by virtue of having fewer people go through there. In any case, I don’t think requesting a bike rack is unreasonable.

I mentioned this nasty-gram note to the gal at the front desk of Kindering when I borrowed her sticky note and pen. When I returned an hour later, she said that Kindering would request a bike rack. She pointed out that there are lots of paths around (indeed, our route is probably 75% trails), so it’s not unreasonable to provide parking for bikes. I was touched that they would go out of their way like that for us, and I thanked her profusely.

For now, when we ride, I may park just outside the front doors and lock my bike to itself. Hopefully that will suffice. It is a tad frustrating to get kicked out of a building when we weren’t even in anyone’s way or making a mess or, in fact, doing anything but using some otherwise empty space. Oh, and we did make lots of kids happy just by the presence of a bike. We’ll see what happens.

In happier, less whiny bike parking news, my work moved offices and the new place has secure bike parking and lockers. The parking is in the garage, but in a chain-link enclosure that opens with a key card. It has several racks to lock up, and lockers that you claim by putting your own lock on them. I’m going to snag one next week and leave my shoes and helmet and stood in there. Now I’m doing a bus/bike commute for that and it’s working out well. Bus in (to stay clean and presentable), bike home. Good enough!

Home Improvement: Fireplace Edition, Part 7

Tile work has started! Actually, Pat started cutting time last week, an exercise in the most complicated puzzle imaginable, where you have to make the pieces to fit this precise space and shape.

I didn’t get a picture of it, but he started by laying out all the tile and figuring out how to match the patterns on each tile. Then made this curved pattern with a flexible piece of wood, traced the correct curve onto each tile, and eventually started cutting, very carefully and precisely. Each tile was then laid out again to make sure the curves matched each other.

These are some of the pieces cut and staged, waiting over the weekend.

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On Monday progress leaped forward dramatically. Earlier in the day:
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Later in the day:

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By the end of the day:

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The color of the material doesn’t really come through very well, but here are a couple shots of the curves. I’m really impressed by how perfectly matched the curves are. Also, I love limestone, with its little fossils still visible.

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We are all pleased with how the tile work is turning out. Pat is happy with the design and with the tiles themselves, which he says are excellent to work with. We are happy with everything, but especially the way the design stands out but doesn’t massively dominate the room, thanks to the more neutral colors. Also, hopefully this will help it not look too dated 20 years from now.

Interesting tidbit: The limestone tiles are 5/8″ thick, twice as thick as Pat expected, and this caused us some concern as to whether the extremely tight clearance bookshelves we ordered would fit into the space – it’d be a real bummer to have them be 1/8″ too wide. But some phone calls to the shelf makers established that our shelves will fit even with the thicker tile. Also, the extra-thick limestone means more work making the face flush with the thinner porcelain tile. You can see the thickness difference on the edge around the face of the fireplace:

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But Pat is equal to anything unusual; in fact, I suspect that the trickier the job, the more he likes it.

Anyway, still to do: Texture and paint the repaired wall; finish tile work; finalize a design and make mantle; receive and install bookshelves, and, finally, track down carpet. The end is near! … Although I still deem it fairly likely that we’ll celebrate a two-month project anniversary.

Then, last of all, we get to schedule a final visit from the charismatic and delightful City of Bothell building inspector, who gets to sign off on the final product. Honestly it is hard to imagine what we’d do it he found something we should change – by then it’s done. But hopefully he’ll just take a look and leave promptly.

Sugar Swirls

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I made snickerdoodles yesterday, and thought rolling them in colored sugar would be fun. I swirled the colors together and got the above. For the record, though, that large decorating sugar doesn’t stick well to snickerdoodles. They aren’t sticky enough. Cookies turned out fine anyway.

Springtime Curmudgeon

Strangely, it’s looking quite like spring around here, and has for a number of weeks. Even our camelia has gotten into the act (not to mention our grass, which desperately needs mowing already, in the places where it’s still prevailed against the more dominant moss).

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We’ve had weeks of mostly dry, sunny weather with highs in the 50s or even 60s, so much so that I’m not biking every day it’s sunny (read: not raining) the way I normally would this time of year. Frankly, I’ve started wishing for some more rain and cold weather, just because this unnaturally pleasant pattern is so far from the norm. Not that I’d trade for six feet of snow, or sustained temperatures in the single digits, mind you, but I’d just like a little more seasonal weather. Plus, the lack of snow pack in the mountains, which mostly confounds skiers for now, is likely to presage a summer drought, never a good thing. Climate change, northwest-style?

Edit to add: I guess I should be careful what I wish for, as today turned out to have a high of about 50 and had drizzle on and off all day, including the 20 minutes total I spent riding to/from my dentist appointment.

Anyway, on that bizarrely pessimistic note – yes, I did just find a way to complain about our spectacular weather – let’s have some lighthearted Benji pictures from our trip to the aquarium last week.

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Oh, and not at the aquarium, just around and being silly:

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Dulcius Ex Asperis