The Lockardugans had a busy weekend and I think we were all paying for it Sunday evening. We were invited to the neighbors’ for a Cinco De Mayo party on Friday, which meant margaritas, Mexican food, piñatas, and staying up late. We all had a good time, although Finley had a run-in with an older boy outside which turned out bad for him; two other girls stepped in and helped her fend him off. When she was asked to explain what happened, she sat calmly and rationally outlined her side of the story, which I don’t think the other parent was expecting (her kid was hiding behind a pillow). Her story never changed, and she stood tall in the face of pressure. She is such a confounding mixture of clueless disorganization and razor-sharp self awareness, I don’t understand how the different parts of her personality exist in the same brain together. But hearing how she carried herself, I couldn’t have been a prouder father–and we made sure to tell her so.
Saturday we had the Morrisses in from Easton, which was fantastic; Finn and Zachary got along like best buds the whole day. We drove into the city to check out the Science Center, but first had a delicious lunch at Encantada, the bistro on the top floor of the American Visionary Arts Museum. Sadly we missed the kickoff of the Kinetic Sculpture Race by a couple of hours, but the Science Center was relatively quiet for a Saturday, and we got to check out all three floors of exhibits.
One area I’ve never been to with Finn was the Kid Lab, where eight tables are set up with different science experiments to accomplish. Finn and Zachary extracted plant DNA, did a blood test, and checked out a bunch of different slides under a microscope. And rocked a pair of lab coats.
Sunday I got up to mow the lawn in preparation for my neighbor and a friend to come and split more of the wood in the backyard. We’d rolled three of the big 36″ rounds on their sides last fall so that they wouldn’t suck water up out of the ground on their flat sides. With the splitter running, we made pretty short work of each of them and filled his truck twice. I was working on getting a bunch of the smaller pieces down to size when the shear bolt on the hydraulic ram gave way. Luckily I’ve got a bunch of Grade 5 and 8 bench stock from working on the Scout and had it fixed in about 10 minutes, but soon after that we called it a day. There are only a few pieces left–mainly a few medium sized stumps and one huge round that was cut too thick to go in the splitter–and a huge pile of bark.
I also took fifteen minutes to put the soft top hardware on the Scout (the hardtop came off two weeks ago, just in time for the rain) and get a bunch of smaller stuff in the garage straightened out, as well as putting a new wheel on the barrow I got from Mom & Dad (the original rusted through at the hub, which made it impossible to use).
Finally, I filled the feeders on Sunday morning and let the birds discover the new seed; within two hours a squirrel was poking around at the base of the poles. I took one shot and nailed a female, who got bagged and thrown in the trash. There were more outside this morning, and they will soon meet their maker.
For various reasons, we took a break from our traditional Thanksgiving meal last year. This year, we offset it for a week to coincide with a visit from my folks, which left us open on the big day itself. Graciously, our friends invited us to their family celebration, which we thankfully accepted.
We’ve known the extended family for years now, so there was a lot of catching up to do, but we could not have felt more welcome and comfortable the minute we walked in the door. As always, the meal was delicious, and we left feeling stuffed with food and love and thankfulness. I would have taken more pictures but I was having too much fun talking and eating and drinking.
The water filter is installed and flowing, after a couple days of engineering challenges. The broken unit is on its way back to Amazon (looking carefully, it appeared that it had been returned once before, thanks) and the new one arrived on Friday afternoon. I spent the rest of that evening getting it set up and then held my breath while cutting the old filter assembly out of the piping. Then the new unit went in without much fuss, and I carefully filled it with water before restoring service to the rest of the house.
Feeling triumphant, I got some leftover pumpkin pie and brought Jen down to inspect. It was then that she noticed a slow leak coming from the threaded fitting in the housing itself, and my stomach fell. All of the other connections are brazed copper, which means it might need to be cut apart to fix the threaded fitting, unless there’s another solution I’m not aware of. I’m out of time to work on it myself, so I have a second plumber’s number to call tomorrow morning who should be able to help us out.
Even so, running the numbers last night, we’re $550 ahead of the quote we got from the first plumber. Hopefully the repair won’t exceed that amount.
We took Finley to see the Festival of Trees at the state fairgrounds Saturday morning, and she got to talk to the Big Man. The Festival is a huge assortment of custom decorated trees, gingerbread houses, and vendors set up in the main hall of the fairgrounds, and they have events, a stage, games, pony rides, and other attractions for kids to play. On any given day it’s absolutely mobbed with people, but because Finn had her unscheduled trip to the hospital a couple of years ago, we get in early with other former and current patients. This meant there were only three kids in the line to see Santa in front of us and not three hundred.
The afternoon was consumed with shopping and errands. In the evening we threw some wood in the fireplace and started burning some of the new wood, which is a lot more combustible than it should be for only seasoning six months. After eating some leftovers, we busted out the marshmallows and roasted until bedtime.
I had a total of five days off, but I don’t know where it all went. It sure did go by fast…
- Split, stacked and covered enough wood to fill the second cradle. There’s no end in sight.
- Watched Finley make a stellar assist in soccer, resulting in a goal for her team.
- Celebrated said game with donuts.
- Went pumpkin picking and had dinner with the Morrises.
- Picked up the CSA in the Scout
- Fixed our old HP printer, which went on the fritz last year at this time. A new network board solved that problem right quick.
- Put some old electronics on Craigslist
- Watched my neighbor fly his drone 400 feet over our neighborhood with my GoPro.
- Watched the Ravens lose
- Made dinner for the family
- Worked on a presentation for this event on Tuesday evening. 90+ RSVPs. Yikes!
I’ve been slacking, I know. I’ve gone back and forth between having a lot to write about and then feeling like it wasn’t worth mentioning, but fuck it.
Jen and I are in the middle of the last season of Penny Dreadful, a series that aired on Showtime up until this summer. It’s a wild, beautiful, gory horror story set in London of the 1890s and it’s absolutely stunning in its production design, writing, and subject matter. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a series this much since Deadwood. I’ve also been trying to sort out my thoughts on Stranger Things for about two weeks now, but I’m struggling to say what I’m thinking. More on that later.
I ran into a friend on the train by chance who shared employment with me in a previous organization, and we caught up on life since we both moved on. He’s doing very well, is much happier, and we filled in some of the blanks for each other–things I was unaware of, but found hilarious and annoying. I’ll just say it was great to have some unexpected validation on a Thursday evening.
Jen and I spent some quiet time on Saturday morning looking through a bathroom remodeling book for ideas. It’s getting closer to reality, which is kind of shocking. Further research on a home equity line of credit took me down a different path to where we’re looking at refinancing the house. I spent about two hours on the phone on Saturday with banks going through the information and getting quotes, and along the way I wound up with a Navy Federal Credit Union account for a $5 minimum deposit and no monthly fee. If the math is correct, and the quote doesn’t change drastically, we could wind up dropping more than a full point, pulling a chunk of cash out to use on finishing the bathroom, and saving a bunch of money each month. I’m supposed to get the final quote by Wednesday (fingers crossed) and if everything looks good, get it on the fast track to close as soon as possible.
School starts up this coming week, and I spent Sunday finishing my syllabus, posting everything online, working on my first lecture, and sorting through admin stuff. I’m starting from scratch again this semester, so I had to work through the schedule and the workload repeatedly to make sure everything balanced correctly. This class is once a week for four hours, so the schedule is compressed, and I hope it works out well.
Jen and I are dealing with sore throats, runny noses, and overall malaise due to a summer cold. Finn doesn’t seem to be suffering the same way we are even though we got it from her.
I met up with my old friend Logan on Monday night at the Brewer’s Art, which was like a double flashback. We haven’t seen each other in years, probably going on 10. He was a fellow classmate at MICA in the day but I didn’t really get to know him until after we were out of school. I had a job at Hopkins and he was running his own screenprinting shop, and we fed each other jobs, spending a lot of time in the basement of the Brewer’s Art, which was centrally located between my apartment and his studio. He moved out of Baltimore sometime around the millenium for L.A., and has since built a globe-trotting career as a stencil artist based out of New York. We spent about three hours drinking, catching up, talking about our kids, and laughing. I got home at 1AM, long after my normal bedtime, and paid for it all day Tuesday.
I worked from home on Friday and finished my day up early so we could hit the road at 4:30. We were invited up to the Thompsons’ river house and made it there by about 7 with traffic. Mr. Scout cooked us up a delicious dinner and then lit a fire for s’mores, and we settled back under a sky full of stars, with Mars on full display. Finn met a new friend to play with, and Finnegan has gotten big since we’ve seen him last.
After a lot of great conversation, several s’mores, and several beers, we finally wandered off to bed at 11, tired and full and happy.
All of Saturday was spent in the river, which was as warm as bathwater. We floated and jumped and swam and laughed until lunchtime, when we broke long enough to get something to eat, and got right back in the water. We took a couple of rides on the JetSki, which Finn loved and hated and loved (fast is good, fast and bumpy is not). As with the previous weekend, I spent hours of uninterrupted time in the water, which is rare and wonderful and so relaxing. At dinnertime, we dragged ourselves away and made the trip back home (we all had appointments to keep Sunday morning) and went to bed tired and early.
The front yard is filled in and green again, which is a relief.
I saw a Fuji 35mm f/1.4 lens on Craigslist before I went to London for $20 minus the list price. By the time I got back it was $100 cheaper. (I actually tried a new one out at the rental shop while I was there). I took a chance, and I’ve been using it instead of the Nikon since then. Despite the limitations of the X-E1 body, the lens is beautiful and clear. As far as I can tell, any issues with the photos are a result of the body, but I’ll have to rent another pro-level Fuji to tell for sure.
Finley and I joined some friends to explore Rocks State Park in northeast Maryland over the long weekend. Mama had to stay home due to her toe, which made us sad, but this hike would have been impossible for her. The first trail we hit was almost straight up, and wound up the side of a mountain (or tall hill, really) until we found the King and Queen Seat, a promontory of rock facing a large valley. Finn and the other kids immediately started exploring, and made their way out to the edge of a 300-foot drop before we reined them back in.
Then we hopped back in the car to visit the other half of the park, which features a natural waterfall and wading pool. The kids were in heaven, and we explored the upper and lower section of the river while other people splashed and played.
On Friday, a nice man with a big truck dropped a 20 yard dumpster in our driveway. Ordinarily, this would be cause for celebration, but there was something better to look forward to that evening: an O’s game! Our friend Mr. Scout got us tickets and we met up with them in Section 66, on the third base line, about six rows off the field. The evening was damp and misty, so we hunkered down under plastic and blankets, but the game was good and the company was excellent. Finley had a great time watching the game and eating blue cotton candy, and I think she wants to go back. Plus, she got to meet the Bird!
Saturday morning, the family got to work filling the dumpster with all of the concrete, brush, yard waste, and random debris we’ve had laying around the house since last spring. With three people working we got it all moved in three hours–much quicker than the last pile. We now have our driveway back and it doesn’t look like a Superfund site anymore.
After that got done, we went downtown for some lunch, and then to Second Chance to find some brick and shutters.
Since the hedges all have come down, the front of the house looks more naked than ever and needs softening in the worst way. I started last weekend with some cardboard cutouts to see what would work best in terms of scale, held them in place while Jen looked from below, and we found a size we both agreed upon. My plan was to build something simple from scratch and fasten it to the siding permanently. Seeing me up on the roof, my neighbor brought one of the old shutters from his garage and offered them to us. We took five and used them for sizing, but it turned out they were 5″ too short and in pretty rough shape.
At Second Chance, we got super lucky and found two pair of matching white shutters at the proper size and width. They’re as close to the original louvered windows this house came with as possible, with dogging arms and hinges intact, and sturdy. After some work picking out a matching pair and scavenging a full set of hardware, we walked to the front and paid for our find–and got a discount of $35/each for being there at closing time.
The plan is to borrow our neighbor’s powerwasher and knock the flaking paint off, hit them with a belt sander, repair any cracks, and paint them black. Then I’ve got to either salvage the existing male hinge hangers from the rear of our house and pray they fit these shutters, or buy a new set of eight hinges to hang them correctly.
We were also lucky enough to find good brick to replace the exploded and cracked examples littering the end of the walk from a batch in exactly the right size and shape. When we got home Jen and I walked out front and replaced 20 of the worst ones, and the walk looks like new again.
Sunday was rainy, pretty much all day, so I spent a lot of the day getting stuff ready to toss when the weather lets up. I made all the paint in the basement inert with cat litter, put the shutter hardware into diesel fuel to clean, and organized the basement in preparation for more cleansing. I also posted the Doctor’s old wooden desk on Freecycle, but got no response–so it’s getting tossed.
We drove out to the Eastern Shore on Saturday to visit the Morrisses, and had brunch at a wonderful, quiet little spot outside of Easton. The weather was mostly lousy but the company was excellent as always, and the bloody marys were delicious.