It’s been a tough few months – Sandy Hook broke my heart (and everyone else’s), and now whenever they talk about guns at all on the news, I have to turn it off completely (for or against, I just can’t take it. Children died. It’s not about politics and your rights. What about their rights to grow up?). The thirteen month old child in Georgia who was shot and killed made me so physically ill I had to leave the gym when the news story came on again. I can’t look at that child’s face, I just can’t. And now three people died while celebrating an achievement that is monumental in their lives. I know I’ll never run a marathon – I don’t have the desire, stamina, or quite frankly, the healthy heart – and I’m jealous of those who can. But i still am thrilled for friends and family who finish their marathon. It’s something to be proud of.
We all need to look for the helpers right now. And we all need to find a way to be helpers in our own lives. Being good is a conscious choice – we can all be better. Although we’re far from good Christians – Hub and I will often comment on our thoughts and actions, “We need to be more Christian about this.” And it helps. Thinking about the example that Christ set – it helps me.
Let’s be helpers today.
So, he’s not really riding it here. He’s attempting to walk while the tricycle is underneath him. But hey, it’s a step in the right direction. Also, unrelated, but can you believe that this is mid-March? Brr.
Living in “Capitol Hill” (I put that in quotes because we live “near” Capitol Hill), you get used to hearing certain phrases as a parent. Even though our child is not yet two, we have already entered the worry race that is “Where will he go to school?”
Bub’s godparents have two lovely children, and as it turns out one was not accepted at the school of their choice. As it turns out, it is also the school of our choice, and even though they – and we – meet all the qualifications, it seems as if it’s no longer a sure thing. In discussing school options, the mom commented to me that several people have said (rather snobbily), “It’s too bad you’re not in-bounds for Brent.”
Brent Elementary School, the creme de la creme of public elementary schools, has a reputation as being the end-all-be-all elementary school on the Hill. People use parents’ addresses, buy apartments in bounds and live there during the week, and game the system in all kinds of ways to get in-bounds for Brent. People will pay substantially more for a house in-bounds for Brent. All of this for an elementary school.
Nothing in life is certain, and it seems as if those are extreme measures to go to in order that your child go to the “right” school with the “right” people. I’m not sure if the pressure is there on political figures to send their child to public school – because if you can afford to live in-bounds for Brent, it certainly seems as if you can afford private school. The mania that surrounds elementary school also seems foolish, since the kids still have to go to middle school and high school. In the District, at least, the public options for those are much less appealing.
Clearly, our educational system is broken if the only people who can go to the “good” schools are the ones lucky enough to afford certain neighborhoods. As a parent, I want to balance the obvious importance of education with a more laid-back view that there is no one, end-all-be-all school. No matter where Bub goes, I will educate him myself in addition. And I don’t want him to think that money is the only way to success – although our society keeps trying to prove me wrong on that score.
Thanks to all of you who have kept up with our blog in my absence. Every time I had an idea for a post, I thought, it’s been too long since I’ve written so I won’t write. A lot of sense that makes. I decided today to just go for it, and to aim to write once a week as a more modest and hopefully achievable goal. As many of you know between starting a new job and dealing with a major health crisis, it hasn’t been an easy year for us. Thanks for all your support and we look forward to continuing to share with you.
See what I did there in the title? The famous song is called “Tu Vuo Fa L’Americano,” which translates, “You wanna be an American.” But I turned that on its freaking head and renamed it “Tu Vuo Fa L’Italiano!” Word play!
Because I do want to be Italian. I spent a semester in Venice my Junior year, and have taken a total of four trips to Italy for school and vacations. I freaking love it. So I would love to become an Italian citizen, and honor the aspect of my origins I find the most interesting. I’m also Dutch, German, Irish and English, but beyond clogs and golf, those countries strike me as pretty vanilla.
Part of the song referenced above goes, “sient’ a mme: nun ce sta niente ‘a fa’!” which translates, “Listen to me: there’s nothing you can do.” But I’m an American, and there is something I can do. So tu stai zitto! Translation: Shuttupa yo’ face.
I am 1/4 Italian via my Grandfather, Anthony. His father, Rocco, came to gli Stati Uniti from Sant’Arsenio, Italy in 1910 via Ellis Island, with his wife Anna, and I think two of their children.
My Grandfather was born three years later. According to an Italian law called Jure Sanguinis, which is actually Latin, not Italian, and is literally translated: “by the law of BLOOOOOD,” (a less literal translation — Citizenship by blood rights), I can get my citizenship via my great-grandfather as long as no one renounced their citizenship along the way. A post on Design Sponge about Italian citizenship alerted me to this awesome law, and now I’m going to take steps to get Italian/EU citizenship for me, my wife, and our son.
It is not a simple process. First, my Grandfather must have been born BEFORE my Great-Grandfather became a naturalized citizen. Luckily, though there are some veteran exceptions, since the repeal of the Alien and Sedition Act, a law from 1795 generally rules naturalization law in the United States. That law states that you have to be a resident of the United States for five years before becoming a naturalized citizen.
Using my math scientist skills, I took 1913 (the year Anthony was born) and minused 1910 (the year Rocco arrived and presumably began residing in gli stati uniti) and it equals 3. 3 is less than 5, so Rocco could not have naturalized by the time Anthony was born, so Rocco’s blood remained Italian, and was passed down to Anthony, which was passed down to my mom, which was passed down to me, which I can pass to my wife and son.
All I have to do is find a bunch of original documents proving all this, some of which I have to request from Sant’Arsenio, Italy, where my Great-Grandfather and Great-Grandmother were born, some of which I have to find at the National Archives, and some of which I have to find in Jersey City, where my great-grandparents settled and died; then I have to translate anything written in English that is related to my Italian blood relatives into Italian; and then fill out three additional forms, one of which I have to fill out twice.
Instructions can all be found at your local Italian consulate. Note that some consulates differ re what documentation they require. For me it’s the DC consulate, and they require:
1) FORM 1
2) YOUR MATERNAL GREAT GRANDMOTHER’S BIRTH CERTIFICATE (from Italy)
3) YOUR MATERNAL GREAT GRANDFATHER’S BIRTH CERTIFICATE (from Italy)
4) YOUR MATERNAL GREAT GRANDPARENTS’ MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE
5) YOUR PATERNAL OR MATERNAL GREAT GRANDFATHERS’ CERTIFICATE OF NATURALIZATION AND PETITION FOR NATURALIZATION
6) YOUR MATERNAL GRANDMOTHER’S BIRTH CERTIFICATE
7) YOU PATERNAL GRANDFATHER’S BIRTH CERTIFICATE
8) YOUR MATERNAL GRANDMOTHER’S MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE
9) YOUR MOTHER’S BIRTH CERTIFICATE
10) YOUR FATHER’S BIRTH CERTIFICATE
11) YOUR PARENT’S MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE
12) YOUR BIRTH CERTIFICATE
13) FORM 2 — YOUR DECLARATION THAT YOU NEVER RENOUNCED ITALIAN CITIZENSHIP BEFORE ANY ITALIAN AUTHORITY, listing all your places of residence and relative years. Your signature must be notarized. Copy of your passport and proof of residence (driver’s license and utility bills, etc.) are requested.
14) FORM 4 — DECLARATION THAT YOUR PATERNAL/MATERNAL GRANDPARENTS NEVER RENOUNCED ITALIAN CITIZENSHIP BEFORE ANY ITALIAN AUTHORITY, listing all places of residence and relative years. If living use FORM 3, if deceased use FORM 4
15) FORM 4 — DECLARATION THAT YOUR FATHER/MOTHER NEVER RENOUNCED ITALIAN CITIZENSHIP BEFORE ANY ITALIAN AUTHORITY, listing all places of residence and relative years.
16) ANY PERTINENT DEATH CERTIFICATE/S RELATED TO THE ITALIAN ASCENDANTS.
With no basis, I estimate this will take me 18 months, but I figure that if I put this out on the internet, some of you will ask me about how the process is proceeding, which will spur me on to get this done.
We bought two task lights at Ikea during the kitchen renovation in 2010. But we never installed them. It was another project I always meant to do, but didn’t. We could plug them into the walls, but the wires were obvious and ugly. So I had to figure out a way to hide the wires so we would be willing to plug in the lights and use them regularly.
We had a regular double plug for the microwave in the cabinet above the microwave, leaving one extra plug. So I figured that if I could snake the wires to that plug through the cabinets, the wires would be all but invisible. I would just have to drill holes through the cabinets large enough for the wires to snake through.
That’s one hole on the underside of the corner cabinet, a notch on a shelf of the corner cabinet to feed the wire up to the cabinet above the microwave, A hole through the side of the corner cabinet to the adjacent cabinet, and another hole on the other side of the adjacent cabinet to reach the microwave plug.
Here’s the task light:
I installed the lights so their wires were closest the corner cabinet, where I fed both lights’ wires through the bottom of the corner cabinet to meet at a three-input extension cord, which I then fed through the cabinets to the microwave plug.
I used nail-in wire brackets to hold the wires against the bottom of the cabinets and out of sight.
Through the bottom of the corner cabinet via a hole made with a drill and paddle drill bit:
(Nearly) invisible wire behind the cabinet contents:
View while standing in the kitchen:
I miss going to my parents’ house in the Western Catskills. But living in DC instead of Northern NJ, it’s a 6-8 hour trip instead of just 2 hours.
When we renovated our kitchen and finished a first-floor powder room, we had enough room left over behind the bathroom for this nook in the dining room. Our contractor framed it out and added some shelves. It was functional, but it never looked all that nice.
So we decided to add a door and some trim to finish it. But first I had to find a door that fit.
We considered a glass door. Since a custom glass door was out of our price range, we though maybe we’d use old windows cut to size. But that seemed unlikely to work. We eventually decided to just make it a solid door, since the nook was always messy.
Of course there are very few doors that would fit such a short and narrow space. So I had to find a door with panels so I could cut off entire chunks. For example, a five-panel door would be good because I could cut off as many panels as I wanted and still maintain a structurally sound door (as long as the door was a solid core, not a hollow core door).
I found a good short and narrow door at Community Forklift that I knew I could cut down even further. The only problem was that I had to cut through the middle of the holes where the old door knob and lock went. It ended up looking fine, and I feel like it gave it more character. It was difficult to get the right dimensions, as the space was not completely square. But after about five shavings here and there, it fit nicely.
For the framing of the door, I measured, cut, and nailed into place a couple of pre-primed 1×4′s to either side of the nook.
For the handle I used a doorknob I also found at Community Forklift that matched the rest of our house’s doorknobs, and found a screw at the hardware store to attach the knob to the door. It did not have to turn, since I was just using a magnet to hold the door shut.
I attached the hinges after recessing their outlines with a chisel. I used hinges that once hung the interior doors throughout the house, till I refinished all thirteen of them and bought new hinges.
Then I added the trim, primed, and painted semi-gloss white (I pre-painted the door, but painted the trim and supporting pieces in situ. And done!
Here’s the mess:
Here’s the before again:
We’ve been told by a lot of people that it “looks like it’s always been there.” I agree, assuming it’s a compliment.
We put in a new kitchen in 2010. While talking to the contracter to determine the scope of work, he asked whether we wanted a backsplash. “How much would it be?” I asked.
“$500 in labor costs,” he told me. “Plus the tile.”
“That’s ok,” I told him. “I’ll put one in as soon as you guys are finished.”
Cut to just under two years later, and I was ready to go!
First, we had to chose the tile. I had pinned this tile by Ann Sacks over the summer because I loved the shape:
Maybe it’s because we went to a wedding in Marrakesh in 2010. But it began at $31.50 psf. Even though we were only covering 22 square feet, that would still be $31.50 x 22 = $693. Not ideal. Then my sister-in-law happened to show us this tile from Home Depot:
It was $6.95 a square foot. $6.95 x 22 = $152.90. Much better. The general rule is that you need the number of square feet you’re covering with tile, plus 10%. Somehow that worked out to about 33′ in my very rough calculations, which meant I needed all of three boxes at 11′ per box. So I order four to be sure I had enough. Then I ended up returning two of them. Home Depot’s return policies are very, very, very easy and lenient, so it was not a problem. I also ordered a whole bunch (34) of border tiles that I only ended up using 2 of, so I returned them too. I ended up returning so much stuff that by the end of the project I felt like I’d made money. Note well — I had not made money.
I already co-owned a wet tile saw, and had a lot of leftover thin-set from an earlier tiling job. I also bought some unsanded bone-colored grout (though I probably should have gotten sanded grout, since the space between the tiles ended up being a little more than an 1/8″ when you stretch the backing the tiles come on).
Here are some non-glamour shot of the kitchen before I began the installation of the backsplash:
The plan was to tile the area between the counter and the cabinets, all the way up behind the oven, and behind the sink.
I started by cleaning up thoroughly, and removing any switch or plug cover plates.
Next I sanded the walls so the thin set had something grab onto.
Then I started laying tile. I started in the most visible corner, so that I could ensure the pattern looked its best from there.
The space of the tiles worked out so that half tiles went on top and on the bottom to complete the pattern. So I just calculated the number of half tiles I needed, and pre-cut them with the wet saw so I had a ready supply. Helpful hint — remove the tiles from the netting before cutting them. The netting will disintegrate in water.
I came back later with the custom cuts for the areas around the outlets. That ended up being a lot of tiles with just the tops or sides cut off, or just the tops or sides installed. It was easy to notice if you missed any when you put the outlet covers over the outlets and looked for errors. I got this far the first day:
Behind the sink:
However, note that the tile on the far left edge and right edges left the cut edge of a couple tiles exposed. I didn’t like that, so I pulled them down, cut them back, added a border tile, and re-installed them. It was easy to pull them down while they were still a little wet and the grout hadn’t been added yet.
Then I had to let it dry for 24 hours or so, then scrape out any excess thin set from between the tiles with a screwdriver (note, you should probably use a lighter thin-set with a lighter grout, but I already had the dark gray, so it was fine).
Time for grout!
First I covered the outlets in painters’ tape to protect the outlets from grout and myself from electrocution.
Then I mixed the grout.
It dries lighter. I then applied the grout with a float, and even used a metal scraper in the hard to reach places, being careful not to scratch the tile. I wiped off most of the excess groat with the float, and went over every tile carefully with a sponge. I used a task light to ensure I had filled in all the gaps, and cleaned off all the tiles. Here’s how it looked applied while still pretty wet:
Since the tiles were an 1/8 of an inch thick, and the thin set another 1/8″, I had to get all the outlets to sit a 1/4″ or so higher. To do that I got these little inserts that don’t allow the outlet to rest flush with the box. Youtube has a good video description. They push the outlets out an 1/8″ every time you fold another over and add it to the box.
You can kind of see them in action in this shot:
Be careful not to screw in the outlet plates too tight. They crack easily.
And now the money shots.
Wide Shot Before:
Wide Shot After:
Corner Detail After:
Another Detail After
Behind the Sink Before:
Behind the Sink Without Border After:
Behind the Sink With Border After:
You might have noticed that there are some task lights that were not evident before. They were always there, but we didn’t have a good way to plug them in that didn’t look bad. But I figured it out, and will post about that soon.