I haven’t been around here much lately–there’s a lot going on in the leadup to Christmas. Work is going full-bore (it hasn’t really let up since July) and by the time I get home I’m pretty beat. I signed papers with UMBC to be a teacher in the spring, so that gig is official. I’m in the middle of interviewing candidates for the Jr. Designer position at WRI, and I’ll probably pick that up after New Years’. I’m just about done with shopping for the holiday, just a few more things to order and we’re done. I wish I had more to show for things, but right now I’ll just be happy to make it to the 25th.
This weekend was filled with lots of Christmas time together with family. We spent a couple of much-needed mornings starting out on the couch being together, with no rush to get the day started. Saturday we ran some basic errands, cleaned the house up, and had some friends over for drinks and dessert and a screening of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Sunday we did some food shopping and decorated our tree in the evening, after hanging on the couch, watching football and playing with Legos.
I wish it had been another two days longer.
Our front stairs have been an ugly mess since before we moved into the house. Originally overgrown by huge car-sized shrubs, we waited for years until getting up the nerve to clean things up. First we hacked the bushes apart and dragged them out with help from a jackhammer, shovels, chains, and the Scout, which only uncovered how poorly they were constructed (unfinished brick on either side, sloppy concrete work, and mismatched materials).
The weekend before Thanksgiving I bought a sledgehammer, dug out my masonry chisels, and got to work. Frighteningly, the only thing holding them together was the concrete adhesive I’d applied to the larger chunks back in 2009 before we hosted R&K’s baby shower.
As I tore them off and broke apart the larger chunks, I realized that as lousy as they’d been constructed, they covered up an even larger problem: the foundation under the doorway is open to the elements, meaning the crawlspace under the right side of the porch would be exposed if I tore the whole thing off. So, I figured I’d leave the first layer standing, shore up the side where it was open, and let Mr. Scout come in to build over the whole thing.
His first day’s progress looked great; he put a header on the sill plate, dug two footers, and built the platform under the door.
The second day looked even better! With a little help, he got the second footers in, risers installed, and the whole deck framed out for use, knowing that it was going to snow the day before Thanksgiving and he wouldn’t be able to work on it. We spent some extra money to use Trex as our flooring material, and it looks great so far. I also spent some money on new light fixtures and installed them, and I think they go much better with the look of the house than the old plastic coach lights we inherited.
He came back yesterday and got the railings cut down, sheathed, and in place so the whole thing comes together nicely. Additionally he was able to reuse some of the leftover aluminum siding we saved from the side to cover both of the holes left by the old iron railing, which really cleans up the facade. (I’m going to spend some time this weekend hauling the old concrete away from the front of the house and filling in the holes).
Next up is the front door. We spec’ed out a twelve-lite over a single panel, which will open up the front hallway to light, stay architecturally true to the rest of the house, and make the whole entrance much friendlier. We might be able to get it in before Christmas, but I’m not going to hold anyone to that.
This whole project has me thinking about the brick I’ve got squirreled away under the back porch. This spring I want to rip up the rest of the concrete, put a solid substrata down, and replace the walkway with a careful herringbone pattern from the front sidewalk to the stairs to warm up the front of the house.
- Ran the Scout up for the first time in two weeks. With the battery conditioner I bought this fall, there’s plenty of cranking power, so the trick has been learning how to prime the carb correctly. She’s running well when she warms up, and she feels completely different with the top on. It was dry enough that I wasn’t worried about salt, so it was nice to sneak out and home again in the sunshine.
- Started reorganizing the basement to fit our stuff better. I moved a large shelf from the center of the floor to one of the side walls and it opens the whole center area up to more sunlight and space. I’m going to buy a second shelf and continue organizing this week while I dig out the Christmas gear from the iceroom.
- Organized and shortened cable runs and our punchdown block. When I ran network and coax cable through the house in 2003-2005, I left several feet extra on each line so that I could orient the block in the right space. Fast forward ten years and it had become a rat’s nest, both up in the ceiling and over the network board. So I pulled all the extra out to the wall, disconnected and re-ran some of the hairballs up in the ceiling, bundled the main runs of cable together, and started shortening ends at the block. Most of the coax I ran is unused so that will get tucked back up into the ceiling. I’ve been putting this off for years, but now that I’m working on it, I’m happier than I should be to be working on it.
- Took in a friend’s opening at Union Brewery, across the street from my old office in Hampden. Union makes some very tasty beer locally, and we got an unguided tour of their space as well as pours of their latest seasonals. I stayed and caught up with a bunch of friends until 10:30 and then found my way home over an all-too-familiar route.
- Used a $12 laser temperature gauge (thanks, Amazon!) to discover the microclimates within each of our rooms; We’re losing heat in most of the places I already suspected–the weight pockets on either side of our windows, around old doors, the floor of our pantry, some of the sill plates in the basement.
An interactive explainer I’ve been working on with our Climate team and a firm in London went live today on the Guardian–it’s a primer on Carbon emissions: past, present and future, just in time for the climate talks happening in Lima this week.
We celebrated another great holiday here in the ‘Ville with our folks and local family; this year featured a dry-brine turkey with stuffing, potatoes, homemade (read: alcoholic) cranberry sauce, beans, and lots of red wine. We set the table with a new set of plates from Target, which marks the first upgrade of our tableware since we moved in, and the four chairs we bought from IKEA came in very handy. We even had snow the night before, which made our last-minute errands more interesting but the whole day very festive.
Once again, it was great to have everyone around our table, and we have much to be thankful for.
About two weeks ago, I got a LinkedIn digest email with career-related job openings. On the top of the list was an opening for adjunct professors in UMBC’s design department, which caught my attention. So quickly, I put together an updated resume, made some updates to my portfolio, and sent it in.
Last Friday I found myself wandering a chilly campus looking for the Fine Arts building (all gray brick buildings from the 70’s look the same), and the ensuing interview went very well. Today I got an offer, and cleared it with my boss: this spring, I’ll be teaching a lecture class called Word and Image, where “Students apply their knowledge of typographic and visual forms to projects that encourage the introduction of word and image with visual hierarchies.” It’s going to make for an interesting schedule, as I’ll be getting up super-early to get into work and out by 2, then be on campus by 4. The nice thing is that UMBC lies almost directly between my train station and home, so it’s not a painful commute either way.
I have no idea what to expect, and this may very well kick my ass. But I have a lot of fun teaching, and I’m hoping it goes well.