We are a “no shoes in the house” family. It is dry and dusty where we live in the summer and the trails near by that I run and that Stamps-With-Foot and Brodie walk on are shared with horses. We don’t want to track dirt and poo into the house. There is a great spot right by the front door to take your shoes off, but no place to sit down to do it. I decided a rustic little 5-board bench was in order. I spent five hours from the initial sketch design to putting on the final coat of polyurethane over a week’s time. No nails or screws were used, just through-mortises, wedges and dowels. We now have a small piece of furniture outside the front door that is functional and matches the house and the style of our other furniture – you never know it might someday find its way inside.
Last spring (2013), I was at the West Seattle Fruit Market and asked if I could snag an oak pallet that was sticking out of their dumpster. “No worries. Sure. Take whatever.” When I pulled out the pallet, I found an old trunk/chest under it that had the top ripped off and was in sad shape. I almost left it where it was, but then decided it would be good for tool storage in the shop as the top was under the box and all the pieces were there. I drug it all home and after I cleaned some old lettuce and a rotten beet out, stuck the thing under a wing of the table saw where it promptly started collecting sawdust.
Removal of the old bent and broken hardware
old hinges from some other scavenged project installed
Top refitted and put on
a little glue was applied to some trim
1″X4″ slats to reinforce the bottom…
A few well-placed screws
From the pieces of left-over pallet wood found on the same day, I glued up some 5″ blocks and turned them down to make bun feet.
Installation of the new feet
a quick light all-over sanding
Two coats of Teak tinted tung oil.
Stamps-With-Foot saw it up on saw horses in the yard and claimed it for the house. Apparently, it was too “rustic & French & crafty” to be vanquished to warrens of my dark little shop to be abused with tools, dirt, dust, grease and boyness. When I first started putting it back together, I found stained receipt from a outdoor store (no date) and a cub scout pin wedged in the bottom. I surmised that this was a young man’s camping/scouting trunk that he or his dad or both built it together. From the construction and the materials used, it looks like it was put made in the late ’40′s or early 1950′s. It now sits in our living room in the south of France and serves as a coffee table and blanket/hammock storage chest.
I love my Single Speed Bike. I built her in 2007, pieced together out of found, used and scrounged parts – all Bride of Frankenstein-like. She has been loving and trustworthy since our first spin together. We have ridden in five separate countries, in three States, through crazy German and Amsterdam traffic, in cities, on lonely country roads, commuted to and from work together, vacationed together, up horrendous hills, and down at least one set of subway stairs. She has never left me stranded, bruised and bleeding a little, but never alone and lost Now, we are riding single track together.
There is a network of mixed use trails near our house (lots of horses) that go on for miles and they have screamed for me to bike them. Right after our stuff was delivered in February, I got my big ol’ butt on my bike for a “quick run” to the store for milk. It was not quick. I had grossly over-estimated both my level of fitness and the slope of the road leading to said store. It did not help that I tipped the scales at nearly 200 pounds and my former peak cycling weight was ~165. My head was spinning by the time I got to the store and I had to fight with all my dignity not to puke. It was bad.
The very next night I put a set of 33X700 cyclo-cross tires on my bike so I could ride the trails by the house, work off some of the belly, and puke in private. The tires BARELY clear the chain-stays on the frame and are 1/8″ away from the brakes, but they DO clear and that is the most important part. Fvck buying a mountain bike! Me and my Single are just fine on the trails here. Even with the new tires, she weighs a whopping 22 pounds and I can throw her over my shoulder and walk by anything real shitty. Try that with a 40 pound full suspension monster!
We went for a muddy 10+ miler after work today and I had a ball! I am down to 181, the sun was shining, there were hard-packed trail sections that I was able to peddle like crazy on and there were some NASTY sections that were caked in slippery mud. We got dirty together.
This is a long one, but really detailed…
Have you ever seen a guy whip out a Montblanc Meisterstück 149 and flourish his writing hand a little before jotting his name down? Did he look at you with a winking smile after he lifted pen from paper? He was a douche bag.
I do love writing with a fountain pen. I don’t care if people look at it or like it or not. I use it to write with, sign checks, jot down notes, scribble, draw, doodle,
formulate my plans for world domination, etc… I like how it feels to write with, I like my penmanship better when using one, I like the look of my letters and I like brown indelible ink – try getting that in a fvcking ball point from a plastic pack.
I have carried and used a cheap blue plastic LAMY Safari as my everyday writer since 2007. I picked it up in a Thalia book shop in Hamburg and promised myself that if I wrote with it until I wore out the nib or until it stopped working forever, then I would “deserve” an expensive pen. I don’t mean a gold pen or a flashy pen, but one that writes like an angel whispers, doesn’t clog every other time, won’t leak all over my hand during a meeting (I used to have a Pilot that was cursed). That sort of performance and reliability does not come cheap and is not found at Target.
Well, that day has come! I went to refill my blue friend a couple days ago and found that the threads for the barrel had broken off at the base and the pen wouldn’t go back together. It was kinda sad for me sad as it has been a constant companion for 6 years, but I rallied, pulled the broken in F-nib off and put it on a Stainless Safari that Stamps-With-Foot gave me for our either our 2nd Anniversary or Valentine’s the same year. That pen is now my daily writer and I will keep using it until a Sheaffer Roaring Twenties, Porsche Design TecFlex, or a a Montblanc Chopin happens to fall into my pocket. That last sentence was a hint for my Pretty wife…
Soon after we moved into La Maison du Talley in Seattle, my lovely bride decided that “we” needed a place to hang coats by the front door. I looked a little at coat racks and hall trees in the shops close to the house, but I just couldn’t stomach paying $250-300 for a semi-crappy coat rack that was the wrong color or wood for our house. I had one of those “light bulb” moments and decided to build one for us. Normally, I would have cut the raised panels (I tried to convince Stamps-With-Foot to let me do linen-fold panels) and added a little fancy trip work, but as I was recovering from shoulder surgery (#4), I decided to go with the re-use route. Second Use is a used hardware and reclaimed building material store in Seattle that I frequent and I cruised over for a used fir 6-panel door. Right away, I found the perfect one that set me back a whole $30. While pushing the cart loaded with the door to the front, I found a couple of cast off cabinet doors, a few odd sections of trim, and a bundle of old tongue & groove fir flooring. A plan formed in my little head…
I cut two feet from the top of the door, then flipped it over. I built a bench and shoe rack from the cabinet doors (raised panels turned in to match the adjacent hutch and the flat panel cabinets in the rest of the house) and attached it to what became the bottom of the door/hall tree. I ringed the top with a flooring plank, tongue down, and then applied some 100 year old left over fir crown molding on the top. The whole thing was sanded down and stained a deep red mahogany and finished off with 3 coats of exterior grade polyurethane.
For the hooks, I sourced a set of coat and helmet hooks from an old Seattle firehouse and small round dog leash hooks from Rejuvenation Hardware. When all was said and done, this was the very first project finished for our home in Seattle, I spent a total of $94, and I wrote a little love note to Stamps-With-Foot on the top of it. My little wife was giddy when I brought it into the house and she raved to friends for weeks about handy and awesome her husband was – made me puff out my chest like a Banty rooster.
If I did this again, the only thing I would change would be to make the shoe shelves movable as they are about 1/4″ too narrow for my running shoes, but perfect for her shoes, which I guess is the most important feature.
Just before we left Seattle for Toulouse, Stamps-With-Foot and I went to San Francisco to secure our French Visas. While there, we spent an afternoon visiting friends and family. At one point, we found ourselves at my wife’s non-biological little sister’s house (Becca) and I noticed a couple of chunks of wood sitting out on her patio. My wood lust made me wonder over and take a look… HOLY CRAP! She had 4 huge chunks of Aromatic Cedar Burl – like $450+ in exotic wood sitting out in the rain. I immediately ran inside and told her to get it on eBay right then. She and her husband found the chunks sitting on the side of the road with the trash and just picked them up. I tried explaining to her how awesome and rare her find was, but Becca didn’t really have the will/time/interest to sell the pieces to some other lumber-jock and I was told to take some home if I wanted it.
I tried to tell her how to sell it.
She was firm.
What was I to do??
I packed two hunks into a diaper box, taped it up, and checked it as luggage on the flight home.
The wood was a little wet still, but I couldn’t help myself – I HAD to cut into it to see what the figure looked like. I was a little heart sick on the first cut when my saw hit rotten heart wood. I managed to cut out a few (6) big wedges and a couple of blocks. I sanded one of the wedges smooth and applied a little walnut oil and OH MY!! I do not believe that I have ever fallen in love with a hunk of raw wood before that instant! I didn’t have the time to really do anything detailed, so I cleaned up the two sanded wedges and brought them in the house for bookends and left the other bits to dry and season in the garage until we move back and I can give them a some proper attention. I will make a little lidded bowel for Becca and maybe some bookends out of the other sections for her dad.
When planning our move to Toulouse, I came to the realization that I would not be able to take my entire shop with me. I didn’t relish the idea of replacing all my power tools and saws with 220vt/60Hz versions, only to have to sell them in a couple of years when we move back to Seattle. I decided that I would bring mostly my hand tools and and spend some quality time working small projects, cutting dovetails, tuning my planes, etc… There were three 24″X24″ boxes and one wooden chest full of edge moulding planes, Stanley Bench Planes, 4 rolls of chisels, mallets, Japanese saws, hand drills, dovetail tools, axes, draw knives, my half set (#2 – #18 even) of 1850ish Gleave hollows and rounds, squares, jigs, rasps, and assorted joinery paraphernalia.
My plan is to use the time here to do the detail work that I am usually in too much of a rush to even contemplate: carved scroll-work, mortised frames, insets, layered stain finishes, edging with the moulding planes, some light carving, maybe even cutting a few linen-fold panels. I have done a couple of little things already, but my first big task is to build a HEAVY work bench so that I will have a proper work space: I am going with a split top Neo-Roubo without a leg vise. I will be installing a cast iron Front Vise and a Screw Vise on the tail of the bench instead. No cabinets underneath so that I can store a shooting board and a Moxon vise. It WILL BE coming home to Seattle with us.
In the interest of full disclosure: I am not a neo-Luddite – I did buy an orbital sander right after we got here and I shipped my Ryobi 18vt tool set (circle saw, 2 drills, reciprocating saw, flashlight, & jig saw). The same sets are sold here and I got a 220vt charger that works with my existing batteries and picked up a couple of fresh new lithium-ion batteries in the process. Aside from the battery tools, I ordered a large wood lathe so that I can make furniture legs, tool handles, bowls, jar lids, platters, etc. I brought all my lathe chisels and chucks with me and I got a model that uses a DC motor that I can change over to one that runs on US current when we move back. It is much larger than my lathe in Seattle and will be a valuable addition to the shop there when we return.
We had a pretty good weekend:
The house is coming together and I got a couple of small projects done. I hung a hand-tool only built pull-up bar outside to facilitate working out at home. With help from Stamps-With-Foot, I hung what used to be an old rickety wooden ladder in the living room. I sanded, stained, and varnished it into what is now a sweet bookshelf. We also picked up a couple of chairs, a wooden chest, and a large stone BBQ grill from a couple that are moving from France to Spain soon. The grill is moulded concrete and stone, came in 6 pieces, and weights close to 350 pounds. It super sucked getting it moved into place!
Part of Saturday was spent trying to update and setup my new work computer. There was some sort of sync error and all my previous back-ups are gone from the work server so I am starting with nothing. It is somewhat depressing and a metric shit-ton of work! At one point I had to take a break and we took Brodie for a long, muddy walk on a nearby trail. He was all in until it started raining and sleeting sideways on our way backup the house. He WANTS to be a giant farm dog right up until the reality of it smacks him in the face. Then, he wants to go home and snuggle under a blanket…
Saturday night was spent out in Toulouse. We had a Vietnamese dinner with 10+ people from an English speaking group. It was really nice to get out of the house and not think about my computer woes.
We went for a drive in the country Sunday, stopped by a craft market so that Stamps-With-Foot could peruse fabric for quilt pieces. After the crafty thing, we ate very long lunch in a tiny village restaurant 40 minutes north of Toulouse. We were seated at a table with a very sweet French couple who were very happy to talk to us, let my sweet/adorable wife try her new French vocabulary, and the food was Excellent! Brodie went and was perfectly mannered – he sat under the table the whole time while his mommy slipped him slivers duck breast.
Sunday night was filled with more work on my computer and some dirty words and wishes of bodily injury for the person that jacked my other computer.
Dear thieving bastard;
While I can understand a want/need in life and lacking the sources to make it happen – I really can: I once lived in a shack on the edge of an alligator and snake infested swamp with no job, no car, an absent partner, a negative bank balance, three cans of chili to eat, and a crying baby. I can see how my computer just sitting out in the open, behind my locked hotel room door, could be tempting for you. If you stole my computer to feed your children or buy medicine for a loved one, then please ignore the rest of this letter and may God hold you and keep you. I pray that my laptop, or the proceeds from its sale, is the catalyst, the first step, to a better life.
If that is not the case and you jacked my shit because you wanted a quick buck, well then… I hope that this theft is part of a life of petty crime that will eventually lead you to a small cell in a damp prison with a very large cell-mate that has aggressively amorous intentions for the part of your anatomy that you are currently sitting on. I wish this from the bottom of my deep dark soul due to the headache, frustration and lost time/effort you have caused me. Almost two months of work -12 hour days – gone. Hours that will be spent filling out paperwork, the finger wagging disapproval from the powers that be and my J-O-B. You son of a bitch…
Still Love France.
My French has gotten SO bad.
I did forget how slow things are to get done here.
You want a buy/lease a car? Three weeks-ish.
You want cable and internet? 1 month.
Want it to work? 1 more week and 14 phone calls
Love my J-O-B
No such thing as coffee to go… even if you get it in a tiny paper/plastic cup, there is no lid.
Really like the house here. The 16″ thick concrete walls and steel shutters give it a homey crypt-like feeling.
Miss our house in Seattle.
There are doctors who speak English, but their receptionists who book the appointments don’t…
You want groceries on Sunday? Nope, not going to happen
I also forgot how amazing the eggs and meet are.
Want to sit and have coffee and talk to my mom, miss that.
Bread goes with EVERYTHING! Awesome bread.
Having a really hard time finding a shop that sells wood lathes – only power tool I want/need here.
The weather here in winter is better than summer in Hamburg.
Miss my furniture. We have been “Camping” since Halloween and I am about 99.9999% done sitting on the floor to eat my dinner.
Want my tools like a junkie wants their cooking spoon.
Stamps-With-Foot is buying enough cheese to make the regional sale figures blip.
Our dog< Brodie, has fully integrated and will cop a squat in the middle of the street, sneering at anyone who dares to question his right to do so.
He goes to restaurants with us like he is a little prince.
The wife slips him duck breast, cote of Beaof, and aged cheese under the table.
I had 2 glasses of $4 wine that we bought at the grocery store with dinner tonight.
It was awesome. No, truly.
Wish my kids were here.
I miss Starbucks, but I have a Killer espresso machine in the kitchen.
Can now watch Netflix and BBC One with country specific VPN accounts - sticking it to the man!
Miss my bikes. Can't wait for them to arrive next week (insert giddy face)
The designer dog food here is sold in breed specific bags - really. It is crap, but it is packaged well.
I have lost a little weight because I am not eating crap and started running again.
Very, very nice wooded trail near house - miles and miles long.
Flying to Florida for work next week and am bringing home coffee beans, dry dog food, and Cajun Seasoning.
Packed an extra duffle bag...
Went for a drive in the country today and happened by a 16th century chalet with turrets and a moat about an hour form the house.
The thought of Stamps-With-Foot driving in France scares the Hell out of me!
Life is damn fine on the whole.
We have a house in a small, ancient (as in Roman) village outside of Toulouse. It is all ready and waiting for us. The only problem is that the house is completely empty. No stuff, no where. Our kitchen things and bed are being sent to us via an air shipment sometime in December and we will be able to move in as soon as that happens. In the meantime, we rented a small apartment in the heart of old Toulouse on a street that was laid out in 1164. Our place is full of hand-hewn timbers and exposed brick archways, and sits in the gate-house of a block of homes built between 1200-ish and 1840. There are two small court yards, two Victorian water-pumps near our door and in the brick causeway, and there are still iron rings in the brick once used for tying up horses. Very cool.
We are also walking distance from most of the inner-city sites and churches, and we have found a VERY yummy bakery just up the street. Stamp-With-Foot stops every few feet to take pictures and marvel. She loves Toulouse!
Moving from one country to another, the actual process, is a huge pain in the ass. So much to do and so many details… The complexity of our move was increased because we will continue to own our place in Seattle and we had The Nana move into it. Separating the stuff that would go and stay, fixing small issues like that leaking faucet, winterizing the garden, trimming trees, installing railings and additional locks, and organizing yard and house maintenance contacts was enough to make my head explode.
There were 4 specific and different to-do lists that were drawn up in June and added to as time went on. I would like to tell you that it all got done, but the state of my backyard, the unsold table saws, the uninstalled basement railing and the incomplete bookshelf in our bedroom say different.
Things that were accomplished:
- Trimmed our vine maple (see pictures below of Stamps-With-Foot with the chainsaw)
- Winterized the pipes and garden
- Installed the front stair railing
- Installed a speak-easy in the front door, so Nana would not have to open the door to a stranger
- Leaves were raked
- The raspberry cage was retied
- Junk was removed from the backyard
- Bills were transferred
- The heating-oil tank was filled
- Rebuilt bathroom faucet and valve
- Cancelled our car insurance
- Trimmed the bushes
- New tires were purchased for the car we left for Nana to use
- Squeaky doors were oiled
- Wired a motion detector light in the back yard
- Installed an additional basement door lock and metal security screen
- My shop was cleaned and organized
- Had extra keys made
- Upgrades made in the alarm system
- We sold one truck and donated another
- My father-in-law planted a fig tree and served as grunt labor during Thanksgiving
- I drained and prepped the hot tub for 2 years of alone time
- Basement became slightly more organized
- I hauled two entire loads of brush and projects-that-will-never-be to the dump (and found a very nice Fender guitar and new oak office chair there, but that is a story/post for another day)
- Household paint was retouched
- Replaced burned out bulbs
- Blackberries were trimmed
- Removed rust and repainted the front door railings
- Did some final cabinet work
- Moved two houses worth of furniture and a storeroom into our basement, first floor and garage
- Unpacked my mom
- Had Cable TV and a home phone installed (we only used cell phones)
- Repaired outside wall where cable installer poked extra holes
- I busted some plaster in the living room that will wait until I get back in the summer
- Hung the TV over the fireplace
The images below are proof of some of the work and evidence of what did not get done as well.
I was at one of the architectural salvage places in the SODO area of Seattle one fine summer day 3 years ago and as I was leaving with whatever small treasure I had found (picture Sméagol with his Precious…), I spied a bit of white cabinetry and what looked like a paneled cabinet door in their free/meant-for-the-dumpster pile so I went over and looked to see if I could salvage a bit of whatever it was. The hope was for a door that I could re-purpose or some cool hardware left intact, but I struck gold! Some idiot used a pry-bar and a Sawzall to rip a built-in painted hutch out of a house’s wall during a remodel. It was taken to the salvage shop without a back, one side missing, no top, zero trim left, and with rough recent tool/pry marks all over it. All the shelves were there and the door that I had seen was one of four heavily painted paneled oak doors. I saw some promise and had an exact spot for it, so I piled the wreckage in the back of my truck, roped it down, and sped away before someone could tell me no.
It languished in the basement for part of a year before I tightened the joints, squared it all up, made a back from pine bead-board, built a matching side panel, reinforced the structure and installed it on one of our basement den walls. What used to be the open counter-top space between the original built-in base and top, became storage for boots or snowboards or books (which is what is there now).
I wanted to include Stamp-With-Foot in the project, so I took her with me to pick out some trim. She found a section of fancy scalloped-cut chair rail/case molding that she REALLY liked and I went home and used it in a custom buildup: adding a section of ripped down base molding and a length of popular wood that I ran over with two different router bits to make the top trim.
After getting the piece installed, I realized that I would have a 5″ gap of dead space between the inside top of the cabinet and the finished top, so I rabbited in two shelf lips and built matching hatch covers to provide storage for long or seldom used items in the top of the cabinet. The hatches were finished with brass ring pulls from a local boat supply hardware shop. After some light sanding, Stamps-With-Foot and I put two coats of white cabinet paint on it and I had The Ruminator help me install antiques glass pulls and keyed latches while he was visiting for Christmas. The piece looks like it was built with the house, the top is already filled with mountaineering books, and is a fantastic addition to our basement and home.
There was a flurry of activity to get our kitchen done before our move to France. I got it 99% of the way – with serious help from Mr. Flood and my sweet wife. It just needs a little paint on the overhead fridge pullouts, slight pull-out slide adjustment and the installation of the custom milled and matched cove molding. That will all keep until we get back to Seattle though. My mom will be able to cook in there just fine as-is.
I feel that the upper cookbook shelf ties the old and new sides together and adds that part of the overall kitchen that was missing. The shelf also seems to lighten up the space a little as well. The wine rack was put in specifically for my wife. It started as a discussion in the breakfast nook one mid-morning, transitioned to a napkin sketch, and four hours later, the carcass was built, bottom brackets cut, and block top was in the clamps with the glue drying. After the paint was on and top installed, my wife swooned. It made me smile from ear to ear!
The paper towel holder was a bit of a conundrum. With low upper cabinets, there was just no good spot either on the counter or under the cabinet. I toyed around with a couple of ideas before I decided to mount the paper towels on the old ironing board (now spice cabinet) lower door. I used some scrap popular and turned a section of oak down on the lathe for the rod. It is inserted all the way through the shelf and both wedged and glued in place. My grand kids will still be able to use that towel holder when they are my age. yes, I over built something again… On the brighter side, the paper town holder bracket, the small round shelf brackets, the cookbook shelf brackets, and the wine rack brackets all match, again marrying all the different kitchen elements together.
Almost as important to her as the wine rack was the trash and recycling can drawer. After it was in and painted I caught her pulling it open and closing it over and over with a giggly smile. The curves on the side match all the shelf brackets – I couldn’t help myself.
We are a house of books. Every room of our home – including the kitchen and bathroom – has books living there; on the shelf, tucked into a nook, behind a cabinet door… It feels like there will be a raid from Ray Bradbury’s Firemen at any time. Years ago we shared a home where a huge pile sat at the end of the bed, there were mounds in the living room, and stacks on the kitchen table. It drove my wife insane. Taking a lesson from that, I have tried very hard in the ensuing years to not do that again by building of buying bookcases and shelves aplenty – happy wife, happy life.
To that end, we have a bookshelf that has now lived three distinct lives: it started its existence as a staircase bookcase in our first rental house in Washington State. It was the very first thing I built when we moved back to the US and my wife was amazed at my woodworking ability – she had never seen me really do anything beyond fix a chair or hang a picture. She was super impressed with the recessed dados and the router work. I removed it from our rental and cut it down in size when we bought our house in Seattle, putting it in my wife’s basement sewing room for pattern and costume book storage. I just couldn’t stand to see the work put into it go to waste. It now lives on our bedroom wall, after being cut down once again. It has been painted to match our bedroom furniture and I sheathed the outside in 3/4″ birch recycled from existing shelves with edge banding. Both will eventually be stained and finished to match our headboard – giving it a mid-century modern look. Reusing original pieces and re-purposing the parts of existing furniture makes my heart happy. It offers about 14 feet of shelf space and keeps Stamps-With-Foot’s Harry Potter and Twilight out of the living-room – sure make fun…. He who is without literary sin cast the first stone…
It was one of the MANY projects that I just did not get finished before our move to France. The bookshelf is completely usable and when Last I saw it, my mother had filled it with James A. Mitchener, Deddie McComber, and biographies galore. It will keep until we get back to Seattle in a few years.
After our house was packed up and loaded on a container-ship bound for the Panama Canal and on to the Port of Marseilles, the only tool I had were my lathe chisels, so I made use of the time and spun out a few odds and ends: a few cord pull handles for the florescent lights in the basement. two jar lids for Stamps-With -Foot, a wooden pestle (2 actually) for kitchen herb grinding and a short honey dipper for her as well.
From the same section of wood as the pestles, I turned some small bun feet for Brodie’s new food & water bowl stand. I re-turned my ash carving mallet to change the handle profile and add some ring details. As I was in the mallet mood, I made general use wood working mallet for my brother-in-law out of a Baseball Bat and reused the bat’s pommel and turned it into a foot massage nubbin for my wife. I got points in the ledger for to wife-specific items. Always a good thing.
I appreciate quality handcraft. Not the funny pottery you find at Saturday markets, no I am talking about the fruit of a master craftsman’s hands: A perfectly out of proportion tatsu chest, a bespoke suit jacket, an art nouveau mirror, stained glass, brazed bicycle lugs, quality tanned and stitched leather, a hand-bound book, a teak and brass campaign desk, laminated steel knives, a sharp chisel, a fine motorcycle, beech moulding planes, Victorian ironwork, etc…
I have drug my wife into more stores and museums than I could ever count, just to look at a piece or snap a few pictures of an obscure detail. She puts up with it because she both loves me and has a tiny bit of the same fever as I do: she inspects seams and refuses to buy “cheap” cloths if they are not made well. Every now and then I get to sample the wears, caress a bit of dovetailed wood perfection or buy a little piece of hand-made love. The experience usually is the highlight of my trip.
We were in San Francisco a month or so ago, getting our visa’s for France, and after dinner one night we just happened upon a store window filled with treasure! There were tailored jackets, tiny toddler-sized suits, amazing hand made leather boots, hats, and vests. There were shoe-making foot forms in the window corners and a small wooden sign stating without ego or fanfare, “Al’s Attire. Custom Tailoring. North Beach.” I was in lust and took pictures of all the windows, of the sign, the address, and the cross street. We had an appointment the next day, but we were going back when the shop was opened. Stamps-With-Foot mentioned seeing the shop to a friend who lives in that Bay Area later that evening and her nonplused response was, “Yeah, there are pretty famous, you should stop in.”
Because of a scheduling win, we were there when they opened the next morning. It was a dark, shop that smelled of leather and wool, with dark corners, exposed brick, 100 year old working sewing machines, sunshine beaming through the windows, a resident puggle, and the most amazing wares. I showed up just wanting to buy a hat maybe and take some pictures… Then I saw the place, smelled it, felt the wooden shoe forms, and I turned into the adolescent who saw boobies for the first time. The shoes and boots were all individually and as a group calling to me. I took picture after picture and then we meet Sarah… She is part of the sales & design team at Al’s and with one look and a sweet manner, up sold me from a flat driving cap to a pair of bespoke buffalo hide wingtip dress boots. I regret nothing!
“Have a seat, we’ll measure you. “It only takes a little while.” “Yes, those ARE beautiful boots.” “Of course we can do a triple layer sole…”
My wife first words in French: “May I have a glass of red wine?”
My wife’s second phrase spoken in French the next day: “I would like a glass of the hot spiced wine.”
First declaration about our temp apartment in the heart of Toulouse: “HA! They have a wine opener!”
At lunch: “What!? I am in France, I can feed my puppy duck breast from the table if I want.”
There is a theme in there somewhere….
We are almost French residents.
There was sun and left-over snow on the ground when we left Seattle. We made the 9 hour Amsterdam flight without issue and are sitting in the KLM lounge waiting for our Toulouse flight. The sun rose as we were landing and gave us a spectacular show for our first morning as nouveau European: the whole new beginning theme seemed appropriate. Brodie was a CHAMP and slept through the whole flight. Stamps-With-Foot had to clear customs and go outside the airport for his potty break because he REFUSES to potty under a roof. Such a good boy! At this very instant my cute wife is taking his picture to post on Facebook. Today happens to be his birthday and he has been promised steak for dinner…
Holy Jiminie-Joe-Bob it has busy around La Maison du Talley! We finally got the green light from the French authorities for our work and residence visas. A week later, the movers showed up, packed our place and loaded most of our possessions onto truck that drove away, hopefully to be seen sometime again in February/March in Toulouse.
We have a list two pages long of stuff to get done before we take our flight around the first of December. Yard work, paint touch up, moving The Nana, small fixes at the house, selling vehicles, etc…
Speaking of the last point: I FVCKING hate car dealers. For me, they rank right up there with lawyers, who hand out cards at accident scenes. You walk in the door of a dealership and you are a mark, like a rube in the big city for the first time. Big smiles and hand shakes, innocent questions, a free coffee or coke, all to gauge how much they will be removing from your wallet. No matter how informed you are of how much research you do, you will be bargaining from a position where they hold all the cards. This is doubly so when trading a vehicles.
We are trying to sell my truck preparation for our move and I want to strangle someone a little. Because of our time table, a private party sale is not going to happen, so we have to take the dealer route. The first dealer I went to offered me $16K for my 20 month old truck and had the identical model on his lot for $23.5K. Even with fees, he stood to make 7 grand on the deal!?!!
I get it. Everyone is in business to make money, but come on… Hate car dealers.
Brodie took his first flight this week – a training flight for the Seattle to Toulouse journey that is coming up. Stamps-With-Foot has made the proper arrangements for him to fly in the cabin with us and we wanted to both see how he would do and practice dealing with his needs as well. She packed his bag the night before and included snacks, his sock-monkey bed, sweaters, etc. He looked suspiciously at the luggage tag with his picture on it more than once.
On the day of the flight, he did better than us in the taxi on the way to the airport – I wonder if they teach drivers in Seattle Taxi school the proper break/gas/break/gas/break stomp technique or if you have to take a pre-test for making passengers car sick before you can qualify for a hack license. One of life’s little mysteries….
Brodie did great at the security checkpoint and was fine right up until we went into the jet-bridge: he decided it was then time to crawl into his mommy’s lap and then into the sweater with her – she had to carry him to our seats. Both the flight attendants and the passengers around us liked the shit out of him! Everyone was all smiles, like the ones the ladies in my office get when someone brings in a new baby.
He was a little nervous during take-off, but settled down into the monkey bed and took a nap.. The drugs from the vet probably helped with that. He napped most of the way and a had a little snack of airline cheese and salami – airline food for dinner. Brodie really didn’t like the landing! We came in a little fast and there were some bumps; he was not amused.
Brodie did great in the city, down at the wharf, in City Lights Books, at lunch he sat quietly under the table, and was even OK in Chinatown, but we had to pick him up a few times because of the crowds. All and all it was a successful trial run and we learned not to get him high too soon, to plan airport potty breaks and to get a luggage cart (no matter how much it goes against my grain) as trying to manage a roller bag, a shoulder bag, and a puppy on a leash is somewhat nerve wracking.
Brodie has now been to Amsterdam and has flown into France to become an official French resident. For Christmas, he is going to Germany. He needs his own travel blog, but it would mostly feature places he napped, food that was handed to him under the table, and good spots to pee on.
I got home from another Toulouse trip (third in 3 months) on Friday and after my sweet wife picked me up at the airport, we headed to a local BBQ joint for Brisket. I had read in a cast off magazine I found in the Amsterdam Sky Lounge about the 10 best places to find BBQ in Texas that made my mouth water. Seriously, Pavlov-esq. It was all I could think about for 5400 miles.
We ordered a full pound, the sweet sauce and a square of cornbread to take home and go all caveman on. It was not slow-smoked Hill Country perfect, but it scratched an itch.
After dinner, there was puppy play time – rough housing and fetch, Stamps-With-Foot and I watched a little TV, there was singling and the I passed out for the best sleep in 6 nights. It was so good that I slept late and with the jet lag – it felt like I had been out for 20 hours. It was only 9, but it felt so good to be home and in my own bed with my own pillow, warm wife, and snoring puppy.
Went to C&P Coffee with wife for brunch
Stayed 4 hours – finished book
Halloween costume shopping at Goodwill & St. Vinson DePaul.
Wrote a couple of letters to family
Chinese for dinner
A little TV watching.
I heart Barnie Stenson.
Finished book I got for my B-day
Said “thank you” again to wife
Special breakfast of coffee and Apple pie tarts Sunday morning
iPad decided to imitate a brick
Said curse words until I remembered I did a cloud backup Friday night
Not as unhappy
Cleaned and refilled hottub- Winter is coming
Top of cover was GRODY
Wife helped clean. Wore a bikini and a sweater.
Have learned the hard way not to ask questions…
Put most of garden to bed for winter – no hot houses this year.
Stamps-With-Foot had hair appointment
I remained calm and begged her not to shave it all off
I went over to my mothers for dinner
Chocolate chip cookies for an appetizer, Frito Pie as a main course, cranberry juice to drink, and chocolate cheesecake for desert
Like it was 8 again
Came home and fired up the hottub. A piping 59 degrees by 10 PM.
Might have to wait till tomorrow night to get in…
Wife came home… Hair looked great.
Sigh of relief.
Told her repeatedly how pretty it was and ‘thank you’ for not chopping it off
Watched 10-12 movie trailers – don’t judge me!!
Off to bed.
Ever since Dr. Shipman converted me to Moleskine notebooks many years ago during a climbing trip, I have coveted little black notebooks to record my thoughts, doodles, designs, to-do lists, etc… I drank the Kool-Aid and now I share a little “problem” with what seems to be a quarter of the world’s population: finding the perfect notebook.
The Moleskine was great for a couple of years, but they do not work great for fountain pens, the binding is lackluster, and I wanted some paper different options. Thus began my hunt for the perfect little black notebook. I have used Field Notes, Moleskine (pocket, large & cahiers), Blank Books, Knox-Japan (only sold in Japan and France), Pocket Blanks, Gallery Leather, Rhodia, Guildhall, No Names, Rite in the Rain, Piccadilly, Leuchtturm 1917, etc… Some have been great and some have come apart within weeks. I have fallen for the paper of the Rhodia and love the Leuchtturm format – dots, page numbers, and index. The Moleskine blank sketchbook has great paper, but not enough of it – I also keep busting the binding. The Leuchtturm’s paper will bleed a little, even when using an EF nib – as will most everything but the 90# Rhodia. The Gallery Leather has tear-off corners, but no page numbers and I can split the spine on a Webbook without even trying. In the last ten years I have come to decide that no one journal works for me for everything. Here is my current quiver of little black notebooks:
Knox-Japan A5: calendar and work notes/design
Gallery Leather: pocket notebook
Leuchtturm or Rhodia A5 Dots: Travel Journal
I am still looking for a 90g, acid free, sewn binding 32-64 page A5 Cahiers for everything but my pocket notebook, which I would switch to a 3″X6″ sewn Cahier. I would prefer to have single signature/section, using them up before they were utterly destroyed, and I would like to have the ability to bind then together if the mood were to ever strike.
Tools rolls are awesome at organizing and keeping what you need readily at hand, they make moving them safely from place to place a breeze, and you know I instantly when an item is missing.
I have a tool roll problem. I have rolls for wrenches & auger bits, rolls for bike tools, my carving chisels live in a new canvas roll, assorted lathe chisels, carving knives, bench chisels, mortise chisels, road-side emergency tools in my truck, computer cables, and even my fountain pens live in a snazzy canvas roll.
If you add the 3 parachute nail bags full of screws and nails and bolts, I have an entire shipping crate full of lumpy canvas bundles that we are moving to France: it makes the OCD part of my brain giddy.