29 December 2010

Bag Lady

Ages ago, when she heard I’d gotten into quilting, a friend in DC sent me a couple of dozen Marimekko fabric samples. They’ve been maturing in my stash until two or three months ago when I decided to make little purses from them. Most of the swatches measure about 8 x 9 inches which, trimmed and sewn, is just the right size for a bag to hold the walkabout essentials: cell phone, reading glasses, house key, kleenex and, for dog owners, a plastic bag or two. I have tons of commercial printed fabric for lining, and a vast collection of ribbons for shoulder straps, plus my grandmother’s button tin and random embellishments I’ve accumulated over the years. It’s time to use some of this stuff up!

Since the Marimekko samples are one of a kind, the front and back of each purse is different, which I guess makes them reversible. It’s fun playing mix-and-match, pulling out yardage I’d once considered star-quality quilting material to use as lining, inventing loops and closures, maybe adding a flap or pocket when I find a scrap that works.

I’m quilting each bag, just a bit, with perle cotton, to keep the layers together. Some of the samples included tiny patches showing additional colorways; I’ve left those on. The overall effect is funky, but functional (hey, there’s a marketing slogan). Each purse is slightly better constructed than the last, and takes less time to put together, since I’ve figured out the basics. The first one (below), which doesn’t have batting, I’m calling “summer-weight.” The others are all padded.

This one (below) is lined and trimmed with a plaid cotton that used to be one of my favorite skirts. I still like the muted purples, browns and grays. The closure incorporates the buttonholes from the original waistband. I love this kind of recycling.

I feel like I could crank these out indefinitely while half-watching TV or listening to podcasts, but I’ll probably stop once I’ve exhausted the Marimekko stash and move on to something equally exciting in another realm. The downstairs sofa is calling out for pillows.

08 November 2010

It’s an... egg! No, it’s TWINS!!

I found two eggs in the nest box yesterday, two months to the day after we got our chickens. The farmer told us the girls were four to five months old at point of sale, which meant they were on the verge of starting to lay. For the last few weeks I’ve tried not to obsess about when, or to worry about all the possible weirdnesses -- shell-lessness or other malformations -- that occasionally happen with novice layers. This is probably the small-scale chicken keeper’s equivalent of counting your newborn's fingers and toes and hoping their chromosomes are okay.

But these eggs were perfect. Of course I immediately cackled all over Facebook and The WELL, and someone asked if we were going to eat them. No, I said, we’re going to bronze them, like baby shoes, duh.

Jerry had his egg sunny-side-up this morning, with a commercial egg alongside for comparison. The homegrown one (on the left in the pic), aside from being smaller as pullet eggs typically are, had a much perkier yolk, and the area of the white immediate surrounding it was visibly firmer than the outlying portion. This is normal, and you can sometimes see it in commercial eggs, if they’re fresh enough.

I don’t generally enjoy runny yolks, so I cooked mine in the shell, starting in cold water and timing it for three minutes after it came up to a simmer. Peeling the egg without breaking it was a challenge, but the consistency was exactly what I wanted. I smeared it on a slice of toasted Dave’s Killer mega-grain bread and added a grinding of pepper and a sprinkle of kosher salt. It was possibly the best egg I’ve ever tasted. Thank you, chickens.

More specifically, thank you Maxine and, possibly, Rachel. Maxine is a Barred Rock and Rachel a Partridge Rock. Though they don’t look at all alike, they’re considered variants of the same breed. Finding two eggs in the nest box yesterday, I assumed for no particular reason that the Rocks had synchronized their cycles. (Michelle, the third chicken, is a different breed, a blue-laced Wyandotte.)

This morning, though, I surprised Maxine on the nest. The other two were standing nearby, kibitzing, just like when you go to the ladies room with your girlfriends. I excused myself while she completed her business: another lovely egg, identical to the earlier two. So now I’m thinking that Maxine, whose comb and wattles are notably larger and redder (an indication of maturity), might be the only layer so far. Conceivably I’d managed to overlook her debut offering on Sunday, which would account for Monday’s double surprise.

I’d actually almost resigned myself to not seeing eggs til spring. Egg production is highly dependent on the amount of light chickens receive, and in these days of dwindling sunshine, it’s not uncommon for laying hens to slack off or even stop entirely, and for pullets to postpone the whole affair. After researching the pros and cons of adding a few hours of supplemental lighting during the darker months, we decided a couple of weeks ago to install a light on a timer. It comes on at 3 AM and goes off at 8, after the sun has risen. (That was one more clock we had to remember to turn back last weekend.) Perhaps it made a difference.

Or maybe the dummy eggs had something to do with it. Some chicken keepers put a fake egg (a plastic Hanes pantyhose shell or even a golf ball will do) in the nest box, to show their pullets what’s expected of them, and where. It’s a fairly common practice, I gather, though the chickens usually manage to figure it out on their own. Last Saturday, on a whim, I removed the “demos" -- a pair of quite pretty Mexican onyx eggs I’ve owned for years -- that I had optimistically placed, one in each nest box, shortly after the chooks arrived. By Monday we had our first eggs.

I was surprisingly verklempt when I opened the yolk-yellow egg door and found two actual eggs, well, nestled there. The phrase “today you are a woman,” sprang to my warped mind. I’m still kvelling for Michelle (and maybe Rachel), and I have no idea why Yiddish words seem most apt to describe my feelings. Perhaps egg-laying brings out my grandmotherly instincts. If so, I don’t what to think about what eating them implies.

10 September 2010

New chix on the block

I hadn't quite pictured acquiring my chickens this way, hanging out in the Trader Joe's parking lot at 7:30 AM, waiting for the farmer's wife to show up. Another woman was sitting in her car, too; I sidled over and verified that she was there for a transaction similar to ours. Apart from the schmoozing about coops and breeds, it felt like we were parties to a drug deal.

We'd been instructed to look for a dark-green Buick sedan, and to bring a crate and cash. Ms. Farmer slid smoothly into the space between our vehicles. I checked the girls over with an unpracticed eye as we shuffled them from her pet carrier to ours. A barred rock, a partridge rock, a blue-laced red Wyandotte. Young birds, pullets, on the verge of starting to lay. Yup, that was our order, all right. I caught myself expecting meowing from the carrier on the short ride home. I wonder if the poultry smell will linger to drive the cats wild on their next trip to the vet.

Here are the barred rock and the blue-laced red Wyandotte. The latter is a pretty fancy breed, though reputed to be as good a layer as the more common rocks.

I'd been negotiating with the farmer, who goes by the nickname Cooper, for several days about varieties and delivery options. There was a chance they'd arrive over the holiday weekend, so I quickly finished painting the coop and went to Naomi's for a galvanized feeder and waterer. They're such simple, pleasing, farm-y looking devices; the design probably hasn't changed in decades. Jerry picked up a couple of carabiners -- apparently raccoon R&D hasn't yet figured these out -- to secure the nest box and human access doors.

Here's the finished coop, shortly before occupancy. The area behind the blue door and under the solid box is open but fenced with hardware cloth. The ladder on the left leads up to the enclosed roost. The yellow door is for access to the nest box (and eggs!) from the outside. There's another, slightly larger door, on the right-side wall, inside the enclosure. That one is for cleaning and replacing bedding material. The theory is that the chickens will climb the ladder and roost inside at night. So far they haven't gotten the idea, though a combination of coaching and cooler weather will probably help.

My uncle Sol is probably rotating in his grave, but of course we had to name our chickens. We seem to have settled on Maxine for the black-and-white barred rock, Michelle (as in Obama) for the bellissima textured Wyandotte, and Rachel (as in Maddow) for the chestnut-colored partridge rock. Though the nuances of their individual personalities have yet to reveal themselves, Max has roosted, the last two nights, on the perch we installed in a corner of the run, with the other two snuggled on the straw bale underneath. So I'm calling her marginally more dominant for now. I could be entirely wrong. What do I know about chickens?

28 August 2010

Hens and Chicks

When I was a kid, I spent part of several summers at my uncle and aunt's chicken farm in Vineland, New Jersey. I helped feed and water the chickens. I collected the eggs, sometimes from under the bellies of the recalcitrant hens, placing them gently, one by one, in the enameled wire basket. I learned to work the simple but ingenious machine that candled the eggs -- shining a light through them to inspect for blood spots, embryos, and multiple yolks -- then chugged them along on a tiny conveyor that gently tipped each one into the appropriate chute, sorted by size and weight. On at least one occasion, I accompanied Uncle Sol on a trip to the slaughterhouse. Aunt Hansi was a fabulous cook and baker; most of the double yolks went into her cakes.

Though I loved going about my chores in their dusty midst, the chickens themselves seemed to me, for the most part, an undifferentiated white clucking mass, sometimes somnolent, sometimes excited. My vacation reading at the farm one summer was a thick, profusely illustrated manual of poultry diseases. I was particularly fascinated by the color plates of Newcastle Disease. I intended to be a doctor at that point, so the interest was professional.

Years passed. In the early '90s my friend Mary Carter wrote a charming series of essays about her small flock in Marin County. The "Chicken Lady" writings are archived as part of The Best of the WELL, and available to members of that pioneering online community (www.well.com). Chickens came in colors, I discovered; some breeds were temperamental in one direction or another; individual birds might have personalities as unique as humans.

Mary was a forerunner of the urban poultry movement. Now, at least here in Portland, it's a chicken on every plot. Actually, we're allowed three hens (more with a permit), though roosters are forbidden within city limits. Our back-fence neighbors have constructed what they refer to as a chicken Taj Majal; neighbors two doors up have a coop; a couple of houses up from them there's another. I hear telltale clucks from yards throughout the neighborhood whenever I take a walk.

Two years ago, my friend Jackie gifted me with the charming couple at the top of this page. They've been living in the southeast corner of the backyard, exactly where the coop is going now. I thought of them as mere garden ornaments, but it's clear that they've been placeholders all along.

Here's a shot of the coop in progress. I bought the plans from theGardenCoop.com and Mike, our builder, modified the design to fit our somewhat-constrained space.

The most labor-intensive part of the job was trenching the base around the perimeter, avoiding damage to major tree roots in the process. The bottom edge of the hardware cloth -- a sturdier, finer mesh than so-called "chicken wire" -- that covers the coop will be buried several inches, as a barrier to burrowing predators.

When the coop's completed, I'll do some exterior painting, cueing off the colors I used on this old and extremely tall wooden ladder I found a couple weeks ago, which I plan to place picturesquely... somewhere. After that we'll turn to the serious matter of acquiring chicks, pullets or full-grown laying hens. What and when depend on timing and availability. I'll keep you posted.

The giant ladder is currently sharing deck space with several container gardens I potted up last week, following a trip to Xera Plants, a remarkable local nursery that's generally wholesale-only. (Hardy Plant Society members got a special tour plus discount shopping opportunity; that alone is worth the price of membership.) Most of the plants I bought are succulents, a broad and fascinating family. One of the best-known species is sempervivum, which typically grows as a central rosette surrounded by smaller offshoots. Its common name is hens and chicks.

16 July 2010

Dating myself

Yesterday I indulged in what my friend June termed an art date with myself. R. Crumb's Genesis drawings are on display at the Art Museum, and I wanted to hear what chief curator Bruce Guenther had to say about this icon of my misspent youth. He lectured for an hour, engagingly, before turning us loose in the exhibit. A little over a year ago, The New Yorker published an excerpt of Crumb's work; I happened to lay my iPhone on the opening page, floating in God's void.

Crumb spent five years researching and illustrating all 50 chapters of Genesis. Granted, a Bible chapter is, what, a few paragraphs at most? -- it was still a lot of material to absorb. I'd figured I'd cruise through and look at the drawings, maybe read a bit of the text when something caught my interest. But damned if the story didn't suck me in, even the begats, over and over again. Genesis is juicy material, and Crumb, (Mr.) naturally, illustrated some of the begettings. Of course, the book was for sale in the museum gift shop, but I didn't want to schlep it all over town and on public transportation (I'd taken the bus in). It is a must-purchase, though. My birthday's coming up; just saying.

A wall-size Sol LeWitt piece was in the final stages of installation in the main-floor sculpture gallery. It consists of six primary geometic shapes superimposed on each other in pairs, white on a black ground, in all possible permutations. Very simple, but it grabbed me in a cool, rational, satisfying way. What a totally different aesthetic, and intent, from R. Crumb.

As long as I was going to be downtown anyway, I'd made a Genius Bar appointment to have my iPhone, which has been hiccuping since I "upgraded" to OS4, diagnosed. I had a couple of hours to fill before then, and I was hungry (must have been all that begetting). Southpark, one of our favorite default downtown restaurants, is just down the street from the museum. It was a gorgeous day, and they had tables set up on the sidewalk. So I ordered lunch and spent an hour or so eating a tuna salad sandwich and reading the book I'd brought with me.

A California friend had emailed me about a local gallery show featuring the work of two artists she knew, so I walked down 9th, across Burnside, and a few more blocks to the venue. En route I saw this conceptual art installation. Only in Portland, I hope.
With a couple of exceptions, the paintings (small format watercolor abstracts) didn't engage me. The gallery next door, though -- this is in the Pearl District, which is art-scene central -- had an intriguing exhibit centered on the graphic representation of editing, literary analysis, cultural history, and classroom teaching. Highly conceptual, hard to explain, but it spoke to my English major/editor heart. Here's a link: pdxcontemporaryart.com/anna-gray-ryan-wilson-paulsen.

I still had some time before the rendezvous with my Genius, so I dropped into the Contemporary Craft Museum, where I've been a member since shortly after we moved to town. There's usually something intriguing on display. The current exhibit hadn't piqued my interest when I read about it in their newsletter, but in person it was provocative. The title of the show is Dropping the Urn; the artist, from Beijing, is Ai Weiwei (I'm trying to put out of my mind the declarative English sentence that sounds like). He takes centuries-old vases and urns and repaints them, or reproduces their form but with the decorative glaze on the inside, as if they'd been turned inside out, or -- literally iconoclastic -- drops and breaks them. Here's a writeup: www.museumofcontemporarycraft.org/exhibitions/index.php?f=2010_07_weiwei

Finally it was time to hit the Apple Store. I pawed iPads for a short while, and then handed my phone over to Kid Genius. He ran some diagnostics which revealed very little. His advice was to sync the phone (which also does a backup), then do a full reset, which wipes all data and restores the phone to virginity, and then sync to reinstall my data. This is not as scary as it sounds, but I was hoping to avoid having to fiddle with all my settings again; I'd done a Reset without Erase earlier. Of course, today Apple released version 4.0.1 of the software, which might have helped with my problems. "Minor bug fixes" indeed. We'll see.

I left the A-store, resisted checking out the sale at Chico's across the way, and was rewarded, up on the transit mall, with the almost immediate appearance of the 19 bus.

I really should take myself on art dates more often.

02 July 2010

Happy Birthday, Sophie

Hard to believe that it's been a year since this little critter attached herself to us while we out walking. She was dirty, disheveled and limping -- not at all like she is in this photo, fresh from a birthday bath. The beginning of the saga is here.

We knew almost nothing about living with dogs, and even less about integrating them into a household ruled by cats. We had no idea how old she was, or even what breed. Her record at the vet, last time I checked, still said "cockapoo mix."

Once we decided to keep her, we declared July 2nd, the day we found her, her birthday. After several months of waffling on the breed question by saying "We dunno; we think she's a Lhasa Apso or maybe a Shih Tzu mix," we sprang for a doggie DNA test. She's almost purebred Lhasa with a touch of Pekinese; the Peke part explains why she's on the small side for a Lhasa, and accounts for all her bad qualities, which are few.

Of course we've grown to love her. The cats would probably choose a somewhat less effusive verb, but still. The video features China Rose, who was so spooked when Sophie joined the family that she hid in the laundry sink for two weeks.

21 June 2010

Flipping the mattress: Not a euphemism for anything

I don't think this is what they mean by Sleep Number Mattress (tm), but it's the key to an important ritual in our household. Longer ago than I can remember, the engineer in the family numbered the 4 short edges of our mattress -- head and foot, top and bottom -- consecutively. Every quarter, on the solstice or equinox, we turn and/or flip the mattress so the next number is at the head. When 4's up, we return to 1, and so on ad infinitum. The object of this exercise: even wear, longer life. For the mattress, anyway. Thrilling, I know, but it's one of the quirky little dances we do. I'm sure you have yours. Happy summer.

18 May 2010

Thinking Outside the (Vegetable) Bed

Thanks to the towering Port Orford cedar in the southeast corner of our lot, and the mature pink chestnut that dominates the west side, our back yard has grown noticeably shadier in the five years we've lived here. Any given spot in the narrow herb and veggie bed along the south side of the house receives no more than a couple of hours of direct sunlight a day. The yellow climbing rose in the middle of that space is flourishing; it's as tall as the eaves this season, and casts its own shadow on the garden below.

The herbs, most of which are perennials, do fine here. We have more sage and oregano, especially, than we can use. This year I direct-sowed cool weather crops -- lettuces, spinach, beets and snap peas -- from seed in mid-March, and again in early May. I got poor germination from everything but the peas and, so far, very slow growth. It's been a cold, late spring. I'll go back to starts (a.k.a. plantlets) next year, or bite the bullet and find the room/rig up the lighting to start my seeds indoors. I've done it before; I've just gotten lazy (and space has gotten tighter) in recent years.

Given its iffy exposure, it's amazing that I even attempted to grow tomatoes in our backyard. The first year, I had beginner's luck with Brandywines and a couple of other heirlooms. Since then, I've had lackluster results, except from the cherry-type varieties. In retrospect, I realized that my veggie patch has grown progressively more shady over the years; do you think there might be a correlation?

Meanwhile, out front, the sweet gums on our parking strip dropped a few large limbs in various winter storms. Apart from the hassle of having to Deal With It, these losses were not unwelcome. They meant not only less raking, but more sun on the front garden. Last winter also vanquished several large ornamentals, opening up plantable real estate here and there. In early spring I watched the progress of light and shade across the garden, and realized: the tomatoes go in front this year. That's where the sun is; duh. Sometimes I'm a slow learner.

So here's what I'm trying for Tomato Season 2010: The huge black pot in the driveway contains three cherry-types: Sweet Million, Oregon Cherry, and Sun Gold. At this point the tomato cages look delusionally optimistic. The pot itself once housed a camellia that graced the back patio when we bought the house in 2005. I think it was placed there by the sellers to hide a crack in the cement. After we moved in, I transplanted the camellia to the west end of the yard, where it seems happy next to my Marathon Conifer, and stashed the empty pot next to the compost bin. (Sometimes it pays to hang onto stuff.) The pot should be adequate, I'm thinking, for three healthy, mature tomato plants. I set it on a wheeled stand (guaranteed to hold up to 500 pounds) so I can move it around, if necessary, to maximize solar exposure. At this point in the season, the driveway is sunny all day.

On impulse, I bought an EarthBox (tm) on my most recent nursery shopping frenzy. I'm sort of embarrassed about this. It's an expensive piece of plastic, albeit sturdy and well-made. It comes with bags of soil amendments, a watering and drainage system, and an elastic-edged rectangle of black plastic mulch that stretches over the top of the bin like a fitted bedsheet. Just add dirt, seedlings and water, and stand back for explosive growth. We'll see. It's on wheelies, too, in case I need to move it. On the far end, above, is a Siletz tomato, on the near side, a Stupice. Both are reputed to do well in the Willamette Valley. The latter looks a little peaked, though it is already bearing (a) fruit and might just be stressed by the rigors of early pregnancy.

I bought all five plants I've mentioned as seedlings from Territorial Seed Company, which has a fine reputation for breeding and selling varieties that do well in the Northwest. They were spendy ($5 and change each, once you factor in shipping); for the price, I was hoping they'd be larger. If they do well I'll hunt around at local nurseries and buy them in person next year.

I plunked a second Sun Gold, purchased at a neighborhood plant sale ($2 for a seedling already almost a foot tall), directly into the garden. We'll see how it does relative to the one in the big black container. A few feet to the east of that, I found room for another, smaller pot. This one (above) is a Black Krim, Russian in heritage and reputed to do well in our relatively short growing season.

A couple of weeks ago I started zucchini and yellow summer squash seeds (also from Territorial) inside, in the dressing-room garden window. They look vigorous and eager to get growin'. My plan is to colonize some of the bare spots in the front garden left vacant by my deceased euphorbia, kniphofia, ornamental grasses and the few not-hardy-enough phormiums that survived the snows of '08-'09 but succumbed to this past December's dry, windy arctic chill. Maybe I'll plant some squash among the irises on the west side of the house, which gets some afternoon sun. I'll have enough seedlings left, I'm sure, to plunk a few in the so-called veggie bed in my ever-more-challenging backyard.

06 May 2010


Berry Botanic Garden is on the endangered list. I’d been wanting to go, and when a visiting friend asked about it, seized the opportunity. We went this morning and saw dozens of new-to-me plants, including the exquisite Agapetes serpens from the Himalayas (above) and a kiwi relative (below) called Actinidia kolomikta, which appeared to be suffering from a beguilingly lovely fungal blight, but is actually healthy and normal.

I’m nowhere near knowledgeable enough to qualify as a plant geek. You think I knew these names? Any civilized garden -- and Berry is certainly that -- like any civilized social gathering, offers name tags to its guests.

My friend and her husband are staying downtown, in the Park Blocks, and I asked her to drop me off there so I could check out the current exhibit at the Portland Art Museum. The show is called Disquieted, and it lives up to its name: skewed, often creepy, images involving the human body. This highly detailed and realistic sculpture of a boy, for instance, by Ron Mueck. For scale, the mirror behind him, which is part of the piece, is about 18” tall. It’s like some freakish taxidermy, and yet so realistic that you half expect him to turn his head and start talking. Deeply disturbing, yet I couldn’t turn away. It reminded me of that plastinated cadaver exhibit that toured a couple of years ago, only without the flaying.

The show was interesting, though off-balancing and ultimately kind of depressing. I knew I’d find a welcome counterpoint downstairs, in the permanent Asian collection. I spent a few minutes with Quanyin, strolled through the hall of Buddhas, and headed for the bus, quieted.

29 April 2010


The glass shower door was installed on Tuesday. Take a good look; it’ll never be this clean again.

The double towel rack we ordered arrived yesterday and Jerry mounted that. He also did a neat job of encasing the cord for our electric toothbrush -- another small, why-didn’t-we-do-this-years-ago? adjustment.

Our towels are hanging, there’s a new rug on the floor. The skinny cabinet is loaded with our toiletries and sundries (there’s a word you don’t hear much anymore).

On the one hand it’s slightly depressing to clutter this pristine space with our funky old stuff; on the other, it’s fun to organize, shake things up, view objects in a different light.

Moving into a re-built environment involves a process of adjustment: Oops, the door opens that way now. Oh right, the mirror’s over here. Band-Aids are on the middle shelf of the upper cabinet. One must now place one’s front paws in the sink to get a drink of water.

When we completed our big Berkeley remodel, Stewart Brand came to the addition-warming party and asked us a lot of questions. He was writing a book called How Buildings Learn, and was interested in the adaptations that structures make, over time, to meet the needs of their inhabitants. At that point all I could tell him was that we’d most likely never close the pocket door on the walk-in closet and probably shouldn’t have spec’d it. What we didn’t know at the time was that the new flight of stairs would become magnificent loge seating at singthings, the magical musical gatherings that we would eventually host.

I don’t expect any profound social opportunities to unfold from this simple bathroom remodel. But we’re already starting to think about the next project. That’ll involve knocking down walls and dramatically altering spaces. Who knows what might happen then?

26 April 2010

Fairy Condos, Hobbit Houses and Troll Sheds

We’re not the only ones involved in a construction project this spring. A developer named Emily just put up a condo complex for fairies on SE 36th Ave. It appears to be loaded with amenities. If you lived here, you’d be home by now.

Elsewhere in the ‘hood, a treehouse for hobbits appeared and, on the same lot, a funky troll shed sported a new coat of paint(s). This is infill housing I can live with.

23 April 2010

The Hammered Glass Cannot Be Tempered

We’re just about done with this project. The tile backsplash is set. We thought at first we’d go with a single color but I’m glad we decided to mix it up, loosely echoing the tilework in the shower. Steve did a good job of transitioning from the slight curve required to fit flush with the ledge at the back of the sink to a straight line along the top. He also cut the end tiles so they’d line up with the edges of the sink; extra work, but it looks much better that way.

The upper door of the skinny cabinet now has its patterned glass panel. I love the ripply effect, even empty. The pattern is called “Hammered.” We’d considered another called “Rain,” as well as the vertical ribbed type I associate with cabinets in old-fashioned drugstores and medical offices. Originally we wanted glass in the lower door as well, but code dictates that glass installed close to the floor must be tempered so it doesn’t shatter into a million lethal shards if you accidentally kick it or something. Steve checked to see whether the pattern we wanted was available in a tempered version. The answer appeared as an email subject line: "The hammered glass cannot be tempered.” That sentence seems to resonate like a poem or proverb.

The shower has been user-tested and found delightful. We’re using our old shower rod and curtain until the glass door arrives next week. We spec’ed this fixture largely on the basis of its sleek design and apparent functionality. One of the plumbing showrooms had a spray booth set up, with a dozen or so shower heads and an external control for each one, so you could observe the jets in action and get a general sense of how they worked. But that’s not the same as taking off your clothes and getting in. This one is adjustable in four different directions, not just the spray but the height and angle of the shower head. Everything works smoothly and the spray options are optimal. The shower head is Grohe, by the way, and the control is Delta. We wanted independent temperature and volume settings integrated in the same control; Delta seems to be one of the few companies that still makes them.

I love the look and feel of the faucet, also by Grohe. It goes beautifully with the sink. As with the shower, we went by appearance and manufacturer reputation but with no guarantee that it would actually function the way we wanted. China Rose finds the arrangement satisfactory, too. That, of course, was the goal of this entire project.

Since I took these photos, we’ve begun settling in. Jerry remounted the medicine cabinet, now painted to match the trim, and the small glass shelves on both sides. We sacrificed one of the six shelves to make room for a hand towel holder. He fixed the funky electrical outlet and replaced the decorative switchplate, the colors of which go perfectly with the tile. My job was to load and organize the new storage cabinet. Other incidentals, like the bath towel bar and a wall-mounted swiveling mirror, normal on one side and merciless 8x magnifier on the other, will go up shortly. None of this is very exciting, but I’ll put up a few more pix later.

Steve came by this morning to install the grab bar and hooks in the shower. We wrote him an even larger check than the last one, reserving just enough to cover the cost of the door. Funny; that was the first item we spec’d, and it’s the last to be installed.