Monday, January 31, 2011

In my subculture, this is like a Superbowl party

I woke up super early to make it to Ride Studio Cafe (pretty much the best cyclist hangout in the greater Boston area) yesterday to watch the UCI Cyclocross World Championships. The women were racing at 5 am EST (11 am in St-Wendel, Germany?) and the men were at 8 am EST. We watched what I think was a Belgian video stream. A great time was had by all -- we ate waffles and drank espresso and gasped every time someone crashed on the weird icy off-camber little hill after the barriers. So fun and totally worth the sacrifice of 4 hours of sleep that I will never get back.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Big House Project: Part 6

After the blizzard on Dec. 27, both crews came back for a few more days of work and then stopped, perhaps until the spring.

Here's the current status:

Ed is going to rough in the electrical in the sun room and get it inspected. Then he can insulate and put in the drywall, trim, and floor. Once that's done, Bob's crew will move the kitchen vent and cut a hole between the sun room and our kitchen, removing the door and window that are there now. Bob is also looking for a new front door (for the house, which will coordinate with the sun room doors) for us and sourcing the fireplace.

The stonemason who did the footings will also be leveling the front steps and putting on stone. Then the permanent posts for the portico can be installed, as well as railings. There's some nice white flashing to emphasize the change in pitch on the gambrel roof here (installed after the previous set of photos were taken), but it's hard to see because of the snow/ice. I've always liked how much room the gambrel afforded us on the inside of the house (vs. a traditional Cape), but found it to be rather unattractive from the outside. I think the flashing makes it much more interesting. We had also thought about putting in dormer windows on the front, but the one that would go on the left as you face the house would open up into the master bedroom closets. I think going with the one skylight on the right was a much better choice.

Bob's crew will come back to finish the two sets of stairs you see here.

They will also be finishing the deck railings and building the third set of stairs into the backyard, which will go to the left of the french door. You can see where the window in our bedroom was moved. David's guys will be coming back to finish up the siding around that window, as well as install the gutters and the remaining gable vent. (The window in the upstairs bathroom is open in these photos because the ceiling paint smelled really bad.)

Then we get to decorate the sun room! So there will be more posts about the Big House Project in the coming months, but this is it for now.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Big House Project: Part 5

Here's the nearly finished roof, in Owens Corning lifetime architectural shingles, Estate Gray. There are two skylights, one in the sun room and one in Elliot's room.

As a refresher, here's what Elliot's room looked like before the skylight.

And here's Elliot's room soon after the skylight was installed. We kept his favorite toys and many of his clothes in the living room while Ed worked on the wall.

Ed designed and finished up the wall beautifully. It's a little hard to see here, because we decided to put the crib back in the same spot for now, but there's a nice deep ledge there. We're not sure yet what it will be. Play surface? Bookshelf? Window seat? Headboard/nightstands? (Probably a window seat. But there's lots of flexibility there.) It's amazing what a difference this makes -- the room is so nice and bright now.

Ed did some other interior finishing work that I didn't get pictures of. The ceiling in the upstairs bathroom, where it used to rain, needed to be replaced. Ed tore out the popcorn ceiling and found a layer of plastered drywall below it, most of which he was able to salvage. That's been fixed and painted now. The peaked roof of the sunroom made it necessary to move one of the windows in our bedroom closer to the rear of the house. Ed fixed that all up so it looks like the window was always where it is now.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Big House Project: Part 4

The old roof came off.

The new roof went on. We decided to put a skylight in Elliot's room, which was quite dark. David worked from the outside and Ed worked from the inside.

The decking (Trex in Madeira) arrived. One of the footings had been poured in the wrong place. It was too hard to fix, so Bob decided to build us an extra set of stairs in the side yard, and we agreed to make the deck bigger than originally planned. It ended up being a serendipitous error.

Bob's crew built a bump-out for the fireplace.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Big House Project: Part 3

The siding crew, working under David, soon had the house HardieWrapped.

Here's the siding, in a lovely shade called Boothbay Blue.

With all the work that was going on, our house was no longer completely sealed off from the outside. One morning, we heard some scratching as we got Elliot dressed. I went outside and discovered a very fat squirrel squeezing his way in to the house via the place where the gutters/soffit used to be on the front. I tried to wave him off with a snow shovel but he was tenacious. (It was very cold outside.) The crawl space between our closets and the roof is accessible through a door in Ed's closet, so after Elliot and I left, Ed found the squirrel in the crawlspace and made a lot of noise to scare him off. Fortunately this was our only critter issue. :)

The siding crew was Brazilian but understood David's North Carolina-accented Spanish. Heck, we understood David's Spanish. It reminded me of the SNL sketch "La Policia Mexicana," which was "written by Miss Larkin's 4th grade Spanish class."

The contractor for the addition, Bob, had a crew whose members reminded us of undergrads at UVM.

They burned our old deck for warmth.

The framing crew made quick work of the walls and rafters.

The windows and doors went in around Dec. 17.

I've always wanted a portico; David worked on this himself.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Big House Project: Part 2

All of a sudden, it was November. We picked the contractor for the "porch," which we started calling a "sun room." We started making decisions about windows, how big the deck behind the sun room would be, what work the contractor would do vs. what work Ed would do, etc. Oh, and we picked out a fireplace.

It turns out we were actually planning on building the Davis Square Starbucks and attaching it to our house.

On December 2, according to my Twitter feed (because I really don't remember), work began.

Soon, our house was naked; the siding and deck were torn off.

On the side with 40-year-old siding, some of the framing had rotted and needed to be replaced.

A crew came to dig holes for the footings for our sun room/deck/coffee shop.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Big House Project: Part 1

It all started with paint. We had never liked the color of our house, and we've been here for 7 years now. We also had a small leak in the roof that gradually got worse over time. If it was raining hard enough outside, it was also raining in our upstairs bathroom.

So in July, we (and by we, I mean Ed) started getting quotes from painters and roofers. During this process, it became clear that even though the cedar siding was only 10 years old (on three sides of the house -- on the fourth side, it was 40 years old), it was starting to warp. The previous owner, whom we knew all too well because this was a FSBO, had done the work himself as cheaply as possible. Many of the pieces were around two feet long, which led to warping. We could paint, but would probably need to replace the siding in the next few years.

I'm a project manager in my work life. And this is the part of this story where we start something project managers call "scope creep."

I'd seen something about HardiePlank (fiber cement siding) on HGTV, so Ed got some quotes for a combined HardiePlank/roofing job. This would be the first time someone other than Ed would work on our house, so Ed was appropriately cautious in vetting the candidates. We settled on a contractor we both really liked named David. On a side note, David had recently purchased a turtle like ours. His was still tiny. Ed emailed him a picture of Benita with a measuring tape held up next to her (I think her carapace is around 8 inches), which freaked out David's wife.

Neither of us liked the idea of leaving our crappy little deck hanging off the side of what would soon be our nice-looking house.

I'd always wanted a three-season porch, similar to what our friends Steve and Mary Ann have in their lovely custom-built Cape near Bar Harbor. Our siding contractor recommended a couple of people he'd worked with before and had them contact us with quotes for the porch.

But once you've built a roof on the porch that can support a snow load, it costs just a bit more to put up some walls and insulate them, right? Then you can use the "porch" year-round.

Weeks and weeks went by while Ed tried to get detailed quotes from the "porch" contractors and he and I discussed, seemingly endlessly, what we would do with this "porch"/room if we built it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


We've had quite a bit of snow out here of late. Over the weekend, Ed took Elliot outside to try out his new toboggan from Grandma. He loved it!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Wintry mix

This is my favorite weather condition from a logophile point of view, but my least favorite from a practical point of view. It's raining/sleeting/snowing now; we're all home safe, but I think the streets will be covered in ice tomorrow (and already are west of here).

We call this temperature (right around freezing, with precipitation) the Stevens temperature. Many years ago, I did the 'cross race at Farmington, and 'cross legend Tom Stevens delivered a disquisition to Ed in the pit on which bike parts, based on metal type, attract snow at various temperatures just around freezing.

I miss that course.

The holidays

We had an early Christmas gathering at my MIL's. So fun, though it's kind of blur since we all still had our colds. Here's Elliot enjoying some quality time with Grandma.

Christmas Day was rather anticlimactic. We'd all gotten norovirus during the previous week and despite quarantining ourselves for several days after we were symptom-free, we managed to pass it on to my dad (who arrived a couple days before Christmas), my sister, and my BIL. I felt so bad for them. So, no Christmas dinner with the family. Instead, Elliot rolled around in wrapping paper at our house.

Once everyone was better, we had a nice visit to the small, lovely Griffin Museum of Photography with my dad and his girlfriend, Sherry.

We had a wonderful visit!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Swim meet at BU

'Cross season ended, and a week later, I got a cold. Then one week after that we had the New England Short Course Meters Masters Championship at the BU pool. I was sick enough that I missed several practices leading up to the meet and felt totally unprepared.

Ed's mom was coming out to take care of Elliot on Sunday (12/12), but he came with us to the pool on Saturday. I thought he would get bored after a few hours, so I only signed up for a few events in the morning.

Foggy lens due to temp change from car to the deck of the pool. :) For contrast, here's Elliot at the same meet last year.

Inevitably, someone scratched though and I ended up staying later and swimming breaststroke on a mixed relay team in mid-afternoon. Our coach "wore" Elliot in his carrier so Ed and I wouldn't have to do a quick handoff during the relays. I wish I had a photo. Elliot loves Coach Rich.

Are these track suits more Royal Tenenbaums or Sue Sylvester?

Ed kindly made this so we could keep track of our events.

Ed and I both swam lots of events, making up for our relative lack of swimming skill with lots of volume. There were a lot fewer people at this meet than at the one we did at Harvard in the spring, so events were much closer together and we didn't have much time to rest. I was hoping to PR in all my events but only did it in the a few (but Ed kept up his streak of PRs).

I was really dragging by the time I got to my last individual event, the 400 IM. My teammates all stood around and cheered for more than 8 minutes as I completed the event at roughly half the pace of the reigning world record holder. Amazingly though, I got first place points, as there were no other women in my age group swimming the 400 IM. I then proceeded to almost miss the final relay, which I didn't realize was right after. Oops! I made it through my part (I think it was a 50 breast).

Everyone on the team contributed great swims and our team was the highest scoring large workout group at the meet!

We celebrated the team's win with the traditional dunking of the head coach.

This award plaque is so shiny that it is illegible. Big Al, the team captain, will be wearing this as a belt buckle at the Minuteman winter party.

Merry Christmas from the Royal Tenenbaums!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The end of 'cross season

December disappeared -- multiple (minor) illnesses, lots of missed days of work, family visits, holidays, construction on the house... I feel like I'm still trying to get back into my normal routine. I'm finally starting to work on getting caught up with the blog.

First up: the end of 'cross season. I did my last two races, Shedd Park (Lowell) and Sterling, at the end of November. The season continued for a few weeks beyond that, but I was so exhausted that I decided to pull the plug after Sterling. I ended up doing 10 races total.

The Shedd Park race was a small 1/2/3 race. I hadn't been able to race the previous two weekends (didn't want to travel to Noho and was sick and DNS'd at Plymouth), so I was a bit nervous. I fueled up with a yummy chocolate chip cookie made by my teammate Robert a few minutes before the start.

I felt like I got a decent start on the cinder track, but I soon realized that I was last, as usual. I surprised myself by being able to pull ahead of a few people and rode a clean race to finish 12th out of 15. I think we ended up doing 5 laps. I was so cross-eyed up the very steep hill where my friend Andy (of Waffle Cross) was doing waffle handups (and someone else was doing 4Loco handups) that I couldn't find him.

I almost got the waffle on the 4th lap but didn't quite make it. Fortunately the Wheelworkers had a tent set up so I could get one later.

Here's someone in the men's 1/2/3 field who had more success than I did with the waffles.

The following weekend, I was pre-reged for both days of Sterling. It was a UCI race so I was in the 3/4 field. This tweet pretty much sums up the situation: "Elliot's (maybe?) finally teething, lost the acetaminophen, 1130pm CVS run. Sometimes my mom life is not compatible with my cyclocross life." (Indeed, he was teething.) I ended up skipping the first day but made it out for the second. I got to the venue super early to pre-ride and took note of a blind, unrideable dropoff very soon after the start. Many of the women didn't get a chance to pre-ride so I asked Richard Fries, the announcer, to tell everyone about it. (Yes, I am such a mom now.) He was super accomodating and even walked over to the spot and stood in it. No one crashed there (unlike many of the other fields).

I much prefer the small 1/2/3 races, which afford me lots of personal space. The 3/4 UCI races are more crowded and I get a little tentative at the start. I was not very aggressive off the line and ended up riding near a bunch of women I'd never seen before, so I assumed I was doing pretty poorly. At one point, the Tiny Russian was cheering for me and I smiled. She said, "If you are smiling, you are not riding hard enough!" I moved up a bit in the middle and ended up finishing about where predicted, much to my surprise. I was beyond tired and realized that as much fun as I was having, it was time to stop racing for the season.

I hung around for a while and took photos. The ground was frozen for my race but thawed and got sloppy as the day wore on.

Here's the masters 1/2/3 field going through an especially twisty section.

I ended up racing a lot more this fall than I planned, mostly because of my awesome team. Hup United made it so much fun to be out there almost every weekend. I don't miss road racing much -- I think I got my fill over 11 seasons -- but I can't wait for 'cross next fall!