Monday, July 04, 2016


Lately, we have been utilizing our membership fairly extensively.

Tristan and Kassi are reasonable swimmers, easily passing the "deep-end" test. Toly can pass the test but struggles because he is one of those sinking people--no body fat and dense bones. Rome has just started swimming with complete confidence. He ventures into the deeper side of the shallow end (over his head) and easily swims back to where he can stand, head out. He can do three underwater back-summersaults in a row. Georgi is just starting her swimming career. She loves it, she clings like a monkey riding me like I'm a dolphin. She also will allow me to hold her nose and take her "down there" under water. She is so confident that she'll lay her head back while I support her, just exposing her face above the water.

The Berkeley Y.M.C.A is an awesome place. They have three pools. Family swim is in "Grace's pool" the one with the deep end.

Tabitha and Tristan plan to take swimming lessons to learn to lap-swim. I love lap-swimming. It would be a great way for both of them to get no-impact exercise.

Friday, June 24, 2016

I.M.H.O. We currently own the best cat ever.

Warning, cat story ahead...

Kosmos aka. Cosmos was a feral stray adopted as a skinny kitten by Kassiopeia's best friend. Literal skin and bones living on the streets of Alameda. They took him in and got all his medical necessities sorted. They saved his life by feeding him high a protien/fat diet. Cosmos' family had to move to Hawaii. The long quarantine required for all animals emigrating to Hawaii wasn't humane to a recovering kitten.

Kassiopeia's best friend was hugely upset having to give up her kitten. The only consolation would be that Kassiopeia adopt Cosmos. I relented, cat allergies and all. Well, Kosmos was renamed with a "K", an important letter around here. I consoled myself that He is a Russian-Blue and allegedly hypo-allergenic--loud sounds of feet dragging.

As animals go I appreciate the practical over emotional. We continued his strict diet and finally got him up to a healthy weight. He grew and grew. He was always aloof but would greet me when I woke and came home. He's weird like that. Also, he seemed super smart, a little too smart, opening closed doors and the like. I liked him, he exhibited strong signs of being a natural hunter and I am not allergic to him.

Then the hunting started in earnest. He has killed several animals. One of them was an obviously offensive song-bird. Nonetheless, he started killing rats. Rats are the scourge of Berkeley gardeners and orchard owners. Both of which we aspire. Berkeley has rat super-highways of bamboo and ivy along dividing fences.

We also have chickens which bring the rats from blocks around. Allegedly, our neighbor's house was also inhabited by a few rats. So a few weeks ago, I heard what sounded like cats fighting in the middle of the night. Kosmos is a muscly, big cat so I wasn't too worried about the outcome. In the morning there was a huge dead rat sitting in the backyard on the trash can lid--good kitty.

A week later he killed a juvenile rat and left it in Georgiana's dolly wagon--pretty good kitty. The following morning there were two more juvenile rats DEAD just outside the back door.

All the neighbors love him and sing his praises. He has left them little prizes too.

As I write, as if he knew, he just scared the crap outta the kids because he brought a barely alive rat into the house chasing it around. Everyone was yelling "DAD KOSMOS HAS A RAT IN THE HOUSE" I said just tell him to take it outside. He did.

Good kitty

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Kitchen plumbing II - Hieronymous Bosch

In this photo most of the kitchen plumbing is done, the tile is just grouted and the sink is full of dishes. Outlet covers are waiting for grout to dry. Things are really looking good--almost like a dream kitchen.
 Meet Hieronymus or Iroh for short--the benevolent grandfather fire-bender from Avatar--the last air-bender. OR Hieronymus Bosch the artist. Iroh is a convection oven with all the bells and whistles; dough proofing, temp probe and fancy lights that fade on when you open the door. Kassiopeia is an avid baker and we all know that Tabitha is an excellent baker also. Iroh should get run through his paces for many years to come.
 Here Kassiopeia is making a sandwich.
 Here I am standing on the counter and taking a work call, NOT technical support for the range hood--Matt. Tabitha named the range hood Winston.
 Meet Katara she is doing some water-bending to fill a pot to boil eggs. When I first installed Katara she leaked at the "O"-ring wall connection. I called Signature Hardware and they were awesome. They sent me new o-rings and were just as helpful and articulate as could possibly be.
 Here Tabitha has moved in. Notice the old-timey speaker? I wired the kitchen for sound. It is magisterial listening to music in the kitchen while cooking and cleaning. The old-timey Harman Kardon tuner sits atop of the fridge. I also bought a $14 Bluetooth adapter that lets me play Pandora from my phone while sitting on the charger at the USB outlet on the counter--"..modern conveniences William"*.
 Coffee anyone? One of the nicest "first-world" conveniences we are enjoying is the instant-scalding water dispenser. Instant Tea, filling water bottles for sick people with the chills and I use it to pre-fill the espresso coffee makers nearly instant coffee in the morning--YES.
 Here are the reasons we bought the extra pricey IKEA cabinets--lighted drawers, and perfectly fitting bamboo organizers for silverware.
 Having lived in our new kitchen for a few weeks I am extremely happy with it. We are still figuring things out but it is glorious.

*Bill and Teds excellent Adventure

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Kitchen Plumbing

The kitchen faucet resting in its future home--the tile backsplash isn't done yet. We bought our faucet and pot-filler from Signature Hardware. They are awesome, their customer service is exactly what you want when buying a product that you expect to last your lifetime--made in USA.
Gigi decided to "help" me plumb the drain from the sink.
She is too cute.
"I loves yous da-da--what every father wants to hear.
Here I'm adjusting the height of "fritz" the dishwasher. Yes, we are those-people, we give names to everything. Naming kitchen appliances started way back during our preparation to move to Missouri. The Wedgewood stove we bought was named Hubert by urban ore--they name all their antique stoves for sale. Tristan named our old dishwasher Fred, we wore Fred out. Luckily we bought a four year extended warranty and qualified for complete reimbursement toward a new dishwasher. We upgraded to German engineering and this one got a German version of Fred--Fritz.

  • Dishwasher = Fritz
  • Wedgewood Stove = Merrick
  • Wall Oven = Hieronymus
  • Pot-filler = Katara
  • Range-hood = Winston
  • Fridge = Sam

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Presidential cutting table

 A friend from church was moving and gave us this awesome butcher block cutting table a couple of years ago. We love it, after we first got it Rome took a butcher knife and chopped it up on the edge. I was upset at the time. The mars were along the edge and we just left them. I always knew that I'd sand them out. Eventually, the table collected more "character" this is when we completely fell in love with butcher block as a working surface.
 While we were designing our kitchen this table was always the centerpiece. It has a tag on it somewhere that claims it a replica from the WhiteHouse kitchen. As the completion of the kitchen came to a close we took it outside and I sanded out the 1/4" chop marks on the edge and Tabitha oiled it with special butcher block oil. I also repaired the loose slats across the bottom.
Here it is moved into its final resting place. The washtub sink just behind it was only employed for a few more days after this photo. It was retired almost the moment the new farmhouse sink was deemed working. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Subway Tile 9' by 9' wall

I have had very limited tiling experience. Sadly one of my attempts was a dismal failure, our bathroom in Missouri. I had to tear it all up and re-do it. 
I went to the ever reliable Youtube to try to glean some necessary skills and tricks. After watching many videos on tiling. I stumbled upon the holy grail of videos. This is a time lapse video of this guy installing a bunch of subway tile. (awesome video). Armed with my new information I set about my work.
I started behind the stove as to hide the usual initial mistakes.
Only one small mistake on the lower left.
Onto the visible courses. Stagger guidelines helped with the offset. Horizontal lines on the wall helped keep things level and straight. 
Tiling to the edge got a bit tricky. Bullnose ends made a nice edge.
I used these wonderful little wedges instead of the usual tile spacers. I blue-taped the corners to keep them secure. 
Luckily I borrowed a tile saw from a co-worker. I have since been informed that the Berkeley Public tool lending Library has tile saws for loan. 

I used thin-set to set the tile. This was a first for me. It IS the right technology. Also, we used a latex based grout. I will never use any other type of grout, albeit 10x expensive. 

Sunday, June 05, 2016

The kitchen is dreamy

With both Tristan and Tabitha are sick with some sort of evil flu I have taken over all the kitchen duties for the past few days. They went alone together this past week to sign Tristan up for college courses this coming fall. I assume they were exposed while there on campus/bart. No one else is showing any signs of weakness YET... (update: Rome now sick)

Perhaps it is partially the newness and the contrast of our old "interim play kitchen" but, I love our new kitchen. I installed speaker outlets above the cabinets and bought one of those little $14 bluetooth adapters that make my phone (pandora) play on my old harman kardon stereo. Listening to soft rich music while cleaning and doing dishes is the best.

The Farmhouse sink is awesome. We have been confined to a single basin sink for several years. It made doing a dishes difficult and wasteful of water. I also installed an industrial style flexible faucet. Rinsing food from dishes is quick and efficient. Now, the dual basin farmhouse sink and new faucet are magisterial.

Here is the sink during installation.
 The Ikea under cabinet lighting is awesome. The tile work and plumbing is yet to be started in these photos.
 Panorama in the darkly lit kitchen.
 Having never installed cabinets before, this was a stressful process. Mistakes can be costly and we cannot afford ANY.
Natural lighting plus under cabinet lights were proving to be beautiful in this photo.

Last night I just enjoyed the pleasantness of the kitchen and the efficient way things presented. Like many times in life, when things take a while to accomplish, you are forced to daily access how this or that might work. I find this especially true when money is the main obstacle. Getting deals on materials and getting the exact right thing is more likely to happen.

So we were lucky that things seem perfect. So much consideration went into this kitchen. When we spend so much money in one place we are extremely conscientious.

More photos and updates coming, the culmination will be the glorious kitchen that we are now enjoying.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Well, the kitchen is all but done.

We are still waiting for the thresholds to arrive. I bought some at the local lumber yard but they needed too much modification so I ordered the right ones and they are due to arrive soon. In the next few posts I plan to get all caught up on my kitchen construction.

Cork spread across the floor sealing things like new.

Having completed shoring the floor joists and putting down new sub-floor the first true signs of completion covered with the welcomeness of chocolate fudge on ice cream. The aforementioned hallway tangent post afforded us a true sampling of the intricacies of installing our cabinets.

Tedious planning and lucky guessing strew the myriad outlets and light switches seemingly everywhere. 

We love bright colors here at the Pile of O'Melays. The Stairs are ROY G BIV. The Hallway is bright golden yellow and the kitchen is LIME green. We plan to put up tons of frames and photos of the kids all over the kitchen walls and we wanted a bright juxtaposition. 

the moment the flooring was down we transcribed the "measuring wall" from the old kitchen trim to the new kitchen trim. 

We also moved the dining chandelier to the hallway. Albeit beautiful, it never gave off enough light in the large dining room. It really suits the hallway modeling the walls with light and shadow.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Closet in the hall

Bubbling paint in the hallway forced me to open up the wall to see if there was a leak. I found no smoking gun. I climbed to the roof and sealed around the plumbing venting. Another heavy rain later I decided that either I fixed the leak or it was a different problem entirely.

Tring to make lemonade from lemons, I decided to try to put some drawers as a sort of linen closet.

I installed a header and took out the two by four.

I made a couple of runners to receive an Ikea cabinet.

The cabinet pushed right into the hole.

We chose to use matching drawer faces with the kitchen.

Like the in the kitchen, the drawers light up when opened.

Waiting for the last piece of trim.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Sealing it up.

After insulating exterior walls and around the chimney I closed it all in (sheet-rock and plywood). Around the chimney didn't need rigid insulation since it is only exposed to the cold from the crawl space and attic. The exterior of the house needed a vapor barrier of sorts. I cut rigid foam pieces and the spray-foam glued, sealed them in place. Not a perfect vapor barrier but until we re-side our house it will have to do.
The ceiling was difficult but Tabitha and Tristan were a big help. The ceiling in this half of the kitchen is 9ft tall. I made a small scaffold--of sorts. 
This plywood wall will be tiled and will have shelves and pot holders so I decided to put plywood behind to support everything. This way i won't have to find studs and be constrained as to where I put brackets and supports. The plywood wall also doubled as a sheer-wall around the chimney--safety first.
Here is where the sink will go. It will have an outlet for the 180° hot-water dispenser under the sink.
This is the wall behind Hieronymus (the Convection oven). 
I had to put in heavy gauge 220 wire for his power needs. 
Most of the mud-work is done. This weekend will be final mudding at the transition between stages, trim, primer and painting.
We were hoping to paint the hallway but these recent rains point toward a mystery. The freshly plastered hallway wall seems to show signs of moisture. This is likely due to a mis-connected drain vent in the wall cavity. This would be the second occasion where I discovered something of this nature. 

So, adding to the above list, we have to tear into the hallway wall. Unexpected more demolition--sad, so very sad...

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Toly and my weekend under the house.

Toly is awesome help, first and foremost he is NOT scared of spiders. Second, he can be counted on. He will go get things with incredible accuracy. We finished the hot water portion of the plumbing. This involved a re-circ line back to the water heater. This keeps warm water at the fixtures.
We also did some drainage plumbing, including the vent through the roof. This shows the under sink lines. There is a hot water supply for an instant 180° water dispenser--remember the dream kitchen thing?
Toly and Tristan learned how to sweat (solder) copper pipe.

I also rewired the second half of the kitchen.

Outlets everywhere...

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Trying to get up to date.

We had to tear up the floor. There was water damage from years of leaks. Tabitha counted eight layers of flooring. The worst was the upper most layer of particle board. It was nasty, spongy and nailed with far too many ring shank nails.
I plumbed new gas line to where Merrick the stove will live. It is flexible stainless steel line. I had to get certified to install it but it is great.
The new subfloor really changed how sturdy things felt.
I used a heavy duty ratchet strap to jack up an inferiorly supported joist. Going into the crawl space is an event and must be avoided if possible.
The final piece of sub-flooring.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Closed in... it's spring 2016

The kitchen is taking every available free moment these days. Sorry for the delay in my updates.

Well, it is really spring around here. Spring in Berkeley is a special time for those olfactory appreciators of blossoms. The smell of jasmine is pervasive wafting from every direction. It is singular as the most missed thing when we lived elsewhere.

Gigi is at that fabulous age of sweet, precocious and loving joy. She is always in the fray and deeply loved by everyone in her life. In fact, she has so many fans that it has skewed her sensibilities. She demands that everyone dote on her with great success.

Tristan is taking piano lessons from a wonderful instructor. He has brought Tristan to an entirely new level in a few short weeks. Kassi is taking Violin and loves it. Toly is taking ukelele. He will make hearts swoon on camping trips in a few years. 

The kitchen is leaps ahead from my last post. It is all downhill from here. 

This is the chimney wall. 
I had to repair some of the mortar and deal with the pneumonia hole.
I entertained mortaring it shut and calling it quits but this is exactly where our new range hood will go and I decided to use the chimney as the range hood vent. 
This was my solution. I adapted some venting into a transition for the vent. 

This wall also is where we found some wonderful artifacts of significance.
Yes, that card on the right is a Ty Cobb rookie card. We sent them to a dear friend. Since we are not sportzie people we cannot appreciate them properly.

The ceiling had another treasure trove of artifacts, photos nicknacks and random tidbits. Nothing else of value but interesting none-the-less.

Here is a photo of all the rubble from the walls.
This was where the old window was. I reframed in a smaller window to sit directly above the kitchen sink.
Since this is Tabitha's dream kitchen and she thought she might want a pot filler, I plumbed it into the recirc line to the upstairs bathroom. Now she'll be able to fill large pots directly on Merrick the stove. Yes it is on the hot water line but we have an instant hot water heater that doesn't have the things that are bad for you as in normal tank water heaters.

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