Friday, February 07, 2014

A place at the table (An exhaustive look at making a very simple table by me who can barely hammer a nail)

It is winter. It is colder and snowier than usual. I tend to go stir crazy.

Also, Malcolm has been eating his food more or less directly off of our current dining table. Since May. Technically, he does have a placemat on which his food is placed. However, there are occasions when, somehow someway, his food gets on the table. Over the course of the past eight months, Malkie's free-spirited eating style has left our table "beaten to shit," as they say.

So we need a new dining table.
But, turns out dining tables are really expensive.

Kristin said "You should make one," and thus began my first attempt to build a piece of furniture.

Now, HUGE disclaimer here: This is by no means a difficult table. It is probably the easiest piece of furniture that a person could put together.
Since I have very few handyman skills, this seemed like the place to start.

Makeshift workspace in the garage.

STEP 1: Wood. 
I had three 10-foot lengths of douglas fir 2x8 cut in half, to use 5 widths across for the table. A 2x8 is actually like 7.2'' wide, so the table will be 36 inches wide.
Then I used a palm sander (a gift from my father in law Ken), first with a 60-grit and then a 150-grit paper. I had a 220-grit too, but douglas fir doesn't take stain well if it's sanded too much, so I stuck with 150-grit.
This was fun. I spent five hours with my headphones on, in a 20 degree garage, drinking hot coffee (with a generous helping of Bailey's for creamer) from a sweet plaid Thermos that my Mom got me for Christmas, sanding up a storm.

The penultimate, much darker cross-board is oak, because I had it around and it's strong as. . . oak.

Step 2: Screw those things together. Use a LOT of screws. Like, nearly a hundred. 2 inch woodscrews. I used a drill for guide holes, but those weren't really necessary, the power screwdriver bit was enough power. 
The boards on the ends are closely spaced together to create a little nestling space for the table trestles, which you'll see later.

(l-r): Homemade stains, gunstock stain, walnut, red oak stain.

Here's where it got more complicated. Everything post-sanding was done in the basement, since the wood is insanely heavy, and we use the whole garage for Alex the nanny's car during the week.

This is fine until you get to stain.

Good stain is made of oil. Good stain made of oil is full of insanely smelly, kinda-toxic fumes that take a long time to dry and "out-gas." These stains also need temps above 55 degrees to dry and cure. 
So staining indoors would stink up the house and maybe be bad for Malcolm. 
The three stain samples on the right of the board are oil stains. I liked the middle one, but staining indoors is just not a good option, and staining outdoors in winter is not an option at all.

What to do? Turn to the internet!
After some exhaustive research, it seems many people have had success making stains with coffee/vinegar/steel wool. 
I experimented with a variety of combinations ---- more or less coffee, white or apple cider vinegar, different sizes of steel wool. Ended up going with 2 tablespoons of coffee, 16 ounces of apple cider vinegar, and a rather worn chunk of steel wool that I had used two years ago to sand my stair finish.

Initially it is pretty light. The first coat looks like nothing until it mixes with the air, then it gets interesting. The second coat gets really java-ish, and brings out some interesting stuff with the wood.
There is an intense difference between the way that a regular oil stain covers douglas fir, and the way that this coffee stain covers. The oil stain creates a very intense stripe look on the wood, while the coffee stain covers a bit more evenly while still letting the knots and weird parts differentiate.

These are the trestle legs. These are from everyone's favorite Swedish furniture/meatball purveyor, Ikea. They cost ten bucks each, so that's why I am using these. Someday we'll get some very solid steel legs, something heavy and expensive from an Etsy metalworker that costs a ton. For now, these.

And. . . using Minwax polycrylic, which is water-based. I prefer oil-based polyurethane, but as we discussed before, oil-base ain't no option.

I did 5 coats of this, sanding lightly (by hand, not with a power sander) in between.

And then it was done.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

The World's Greatest

"In the ring of life I'll reign love, and the world will notice the King"

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Self-aware hipsterdom strikes

Tonight I was wondering two things: What kind of beard wash/beard conditioner do people like and recommend? And what are good coffee stouts/coffee porters that are readily available in Chicago?

I was about to ask this Facebook. But it struck me that I would be not just "wading into" the waters of absolutely mockworthy hipsterdom, but fully diving in and immersing myself, never to return.

So, to Google I go. I may have to wait a few days to have a better conditioned beard and thick coffee beer, but it's probably worth avoiding the social media hipster-backlash shitstorm.

You know what they don't make anymore? Lagunitas Capppucino Stout. It was/is maybe the best beer I've ever had.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Blogging on the iPhone.....hmmmm

How odd. I haven't blogged since April. Blogging may be dead. Maybe I'm just old and busy? 

The picture above is a fair representation of how I spend a large amount of my days. I have read a book called "Put Me In the Zoo" about four hundred times in the past two months. It's about a dog who has moveable spots that he controls and who wants to live in a zoo. It's a Dr. Seuss type of book. It's actually pretty good.

But guys, I've read it four hundred times. Kristin and I can recite it pretty much verbatim.
It is Malcolm's favorite book. And it is very long.

IMG_0002.jpg (400×286)

The boy can crawl now, so the days of him playing in a stationary area are over. The best is when I want to wash my hands in the kitchen. Then he will attempt to crawl to me, by going under the dining room table and chairs. 

We went out to Tulsa for the week, and it was very fun. I am very lucky to have in-laws that I genuinely like, which can be rare apparently. 
The only downside to Tulsa is the heat. I'd never been there in the summertime. I'm thinking that all future trips will be in winter, early spring, or late fall. Whew.

The best album I've heard in multiple years is "Southeastern" from Jason Isbell. If you like Ryan Adams 'Heartbreaker' then you will like this one. Just incredible.

And it's nearly fall. I am wearing pajama pants for the first time in months. Finally.


I think Malkie will enjoy his first autumn. He is, like his dad, a fan of sweatshirts and not sweating.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Since mid-February, we have been attending a church in our neighborhood, Grace United Methodist. It is a six block walk from our house, straight down the lovely boulevard.

Back in February, Kristin had indicated her desire/plan for our family to find a church home. I thought this was stupid, because I did not want to go to church. I am a longtime agnostic leaning towards a bit of faith, with a strong dislike of most religious practices and a strong affinity for the rational (though it's worth noting that I find the "new atheists" to be as appalling in their jackassery as most religious zealots are). It would be fair to say that I've leaned slightly more towards the direction of faith since Malcolm was born, also.

But, as many of us are aware, Happy Wife=Happy Life.

So as a compromise to steer us far away from the evils of Roman Catholicism, I suggested that we audition some churches in the neighborhood, to see how it went.

Our first and last stop in that audition process turned out to be Grace.

Much of this is because our pastor, Mark, is welcoming without being aggressively welcoming. He is friendly for the sake of friendship, not for the sake of salesmanship. This goes a long way.
The congregation is tiny (maybe 40 on a good Sunday), but friendly, and easy to talk to. There are kids and young parents. It's welcoming.
His first sermon was serendipitously relevant to both Kristin and I at the time. That first service (and every one since then) begins with a strong statement of reconciliation from Mark, stressing the radical inclusiveness of our church.

So we've just kept going since that first Sunday in February. In March we had Mark and his wife over for dinner, and it felt just like having two new friends over to hang out.
Last week Mark and I went out for beers, and had a solid three hour conversation/debate about things like nonviolence/self-defense, the role of our church in the community, and other things of that nature.
In his sermon last Sunday, he even shared (without naming me) some of my thoughts on fatherhood and how it changes one's perspective, and tied it into his sermon. I appreciated it.

So that's the newest thing we've been up to.
Lots of Malcolm pictures are available here:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Daddyhood and other observations

Malcolm is now 7 weeks old. As babies are wont to do, he changes literally every day (ok, I suppose all humans do technically, but his changes are very evident).
For example: The boy can really cry now. Before he had a pretty mellow yelp, like his lungs weren't too strong (which they weren't, of course) or that he wasn't really hungry/upset. But now, goodness, he can hit the strong high notes when he is hungry.
And he is hungry a LOT.

He has become aware that he has a tongue, which makes it slightly easier for him to keep a pacifier in his mouth for more than two seconds.
He smiles a LOT now, especially in the mornings which have become playtime for him. As of a few days ago he likes to lay on his back on a blanket and make funny faces at Kristin or me, or stare at a stuffed animals.

We took a weeklong vacation in Tulsa, so Malcolm could get some quality time with his Freeman side of the family and Okie/Kansas friends. He was really, incredibly well-behaved on the car ride both ways ---- he slept mostly, and nursed quickly at various gas station/Subway parking lots, and didn't complain too much that I was changing his diapers by making him lay awkwardly on the passenger seat of the Corolla.
In Tulsa he got to meet his cousins, and his aunt Clare and Uncle Brandon, and see some friends of Kristin's that came down to see him. He played with a four month old fellow baby, and they babbled incoherently to each other.
We went out to the Freeman's 160-acre wooded property in the middle of nowhere, and it was great. Malcolm rode in his sling on my hip for a long hike, and he loved it. Mostly because he was asleep.

We like it the most when he sleeps or cuddles on our chests on the couch. This is when he is at his most peaceful.
He really is a mellow, sweet little baby. He eats a lot and is growing really well. He's gained 3 inches in length since he was born, and more than 1.5 pounds. We think he got even bigger in Tulsa; it seems like he fits into his car seat more snugly each time. And his newborn clothes are all getting way too small.

Today we strolled down to our insurance agent, enjoying the balmy 60 degree weather. He really likes strolling, and typically stares up at trees, or falls asleep.
Like a proper bourgie hipster, I attached the sweet Bugaboo cup holder to the sweet Bugaboo stroller so I could put my New Wave latte into it while strolling him. Luckily my Timbuk2 diaper bag wasn't too heavy.
Yes: We Are The Gentrifying Yuppies you've been warned about.

I kid you not: Our insurance agent was playing Jay-Z on the office sound system. There were Banksy-style prints on the walls. Every employee had motivational/spiritual quotations on the dry erase board at their desks.
And this was at fucking STATE FARM!
Logan Square has officially tipped. Thank goodness we own our place.

We got ourselves some good, solid term life insurance, so that if anything happens to Kristin or me the other person will have plenty of cash to survive on, and Malcolm can be provided for.
Hopefully this is the last "Serious Adult" purchase for a while. Car insurance, refinancing, life insurance, etc.
My biggest concern when I was 24 was whether nor not I could afford the large guacamole or just the small container from Taco Grill on Taylor Street. This has now morphed into "20 year or 30 year term life insurance?"

A change for the better, to be sure.

 Current nicknames for Malcolm: Peanut, Sweet Pea (Kristin's favorites), Malki, Mookie, Malki-Moo, Stinker (my most-used)

Anyhow, he is the greatest. All the shit everyone says about parenthood and babies is completely true.  I really love it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Baby time

I'm pretty sure that anyone who still checks in here is well aware that we had our baby, Malcolm, on December 8, at 10:07pm. He weighed in at 8 lbs 6 oz, 20 inches long, and is a good little boy.

Random parenthood notes:

*Those fold-down changing tables they have at restaurants and other public places are kind of disgusting. They're helpful, sure, but then you think about how many diapers have been changed on them and wonder how often they use them. Yuck.

*Other parents welcome you into the secret world of parenthood. In the restroom yesterday (where I first used the aforementioned changing table), I had one guy fold down the table for me as I entered, saying "I've got three of 'em, you need every hand possible." Then a security guy peeing said he was having a baby in two months, and asked me how it was. I told him it was totally worth it and he seemed really relieved. Then a third guy came in holding his toddler daughter to change her, and he was very patient as I explained that I was taking so long because Malcolm had somehow peed a circle on his onesie while laying down (while leaving the rest unscathed), so I had to take off his shirt which is a dramatic process for him. Malcolm reacts to a shirt going over his head like he's watching a great tragedy unfold in front of him and he can't stop it. If he was an actor, the reviews would say he is laying it on way too thick.
Two seconds after the shirt is over his head, he's fine. Of course.

*My coworkers bought me the fanciest diaper bag ever created. It's wildly expensive and awesome. By using this, I've given Ben a load of ammo to call me a hipster forever. But is is really awesome. The changing pad is bigger than most, it's got lots of waterproof pockets, and it's a Timbuk2 which means it is indestructible.

*Malcolm eats. A LOT. Just this morning, we woke up from a 6am-8am nap on the couch, and he was hungry. So he had half a bottle of pumped milk, and then a bottle of formula. Fifteen minutes later, he was hungry still, so now he is nursing with Kristin. Dude can eat.

*His umbilical cord fell off on Day 8 of life. This was nice, because on Day 7 it was starting to smell a little bit, and when you are diapering a kicking infant eight times a day it is not so easy to gently avoid the belly button area.

*He shows awareness of loud noises, but doesn't freak out when they start/stop. When running the coffee grinder, his eyes just bug out and he slowly looks around to find out "What in the hell is that sound???"

*The shelf above his changing table, gifted by Mom and Dad and installed by Ken and Dad, is incredibly necessary. As Mal kicks and screams on the changing table, I'm glad I don't have to dig below for wipes/vaseline/balm/gauze/rubbing alcohol/cotton balls/the socks I took off so they dont' get kicked in poop.

*Malcolm was the star of Kristin's office Christmas party on Sunday night. He wore a red/white striped outfit with a reindeer on the bottom, and everyone was super impressed that Kristin was at a party and looking so vibrant only 8 days after birth. Very impressive. I think that going all-natural probably had a big effect on her quick recovery.

*I guess I didn't yet do any birth details. We got into the hospital at 2pm, and Malcolm came at 10pm. Kristin did her final laboring and pushing in the water, and was lauded by the midwives for being the most calm and quiet laboring woman they had ever seen. She was VERY impressive and strong, and I am so proud of her.

Well that's that for now. Just wanted to jot down some thoughts. More to follow I'm sure.