We could live in here some day (soon!)

Even though it’s the heart of summer, best not to let academic writing skills lag! Thus, a topic sentence for you: In this blog post, you’ll learn about the completion of the bed/dinette AND cushions, light fixture installation, another successful flea market trip, and a problem-solving hole! Maybe we’ve said this before, but it feels like we’ve made real progress and are getting to the final push. See how proud we are, not exactly lounging, but definitely posing for the very first time in our living space on the completed dinette/bed.

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So, about that hole. A little animation would probably illustrate this much better than I can explain, but let me try. Once the dinette / bed was done, we sat down in it and our planned cushion thickness was too high – our feet just barely grazed the ground. After some concerted thinking and lots of “What if we tried…?”, the answer miraculously appeared (answers to these kinds of questions have been slow lately, given the heat and humidity). Here’s the process that seems to work when solving these dilemmas:  First, we ask ourselves, “What are the elements of this situation we can’t change.” (Forces you to recognize elements that are cast in stone and to focus only on what you can change. A structure materializes.) Second, we try to remember to keep it simple. In the case of the cushion crisis, we soon realized we could not change the height of the dinette seats, but we could adjust the table height (get out the drill) as well as the seat cushion thickness.  It all flowed from there, as the next picture illustrates.

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Ben cut a hole in the subfloor (as best we could tell we weren’t going to cut into anything important but it was a real nail biter!) so we could lower the table pedestal into it, thus reducing the table’s overall height, as seen in the picture below. This also allowed the tapered pedestal to fit into the base securely as designed, and eliminated the need for Ben to do another customization. (The apple was for effect.)

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Then we reduced the cushion thickness to allow our feet to touch the floor!  When all was complete (ta da!) the thickness of the fill-in cushion on the table had to be adjusted to make everything level. Lots of moving parts in decisions like this, and our measuring/arithmetic skills get tested! In the end, we’re usually still crossing our fingers as we reach for the power tools (or checkbook).

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As soon as I finished the last two cushions (the curved corners – not any harder than the others, but don’t tell anyone!) we realized, indeed, we need back cushions, too. Short ones that won’t cover the windows, but will provide a base for said lounging. So I am off to my fabric and foam haunts today.

Now, the lights. When Ben first acquired these marine light fixtures (out of India where they salvage retiring cargo ships, strip every nut and bolt from them, then sell it all on ebay) I wasn’t sure they would work in the Airstream (I’m always imagining bumping my head on them – on everything really) but was I wrong. Ben installed them this week, with lots of persistent wiring and rewiring, and we think they look AWESOME!
IMG_0319IMG_0114The pic on the right also shows off the now completed overhead cabinets, complete with magnetic closing latches and gas piston supports to keep the doors open.

This week’s day off took us to the Long Beach flea market. We picked up this vintage “KampKold” cooler – aluminum, in great shape, 50s era. Also, to the right, a just-right piece we’ll use for our “junk drawers”. It’s some old industrial metal drawers with a cool piece of beat-up walnut on top. Around here, any flea market trip is considered a roaring success if we buy something we need (not just something we want) and Ben is relieved of the need to build said item(s)!

I love you all so much and it was all I could do to get up from sitting on the cooler to take this picture. It was so hot and I was waiting in the shade for Ben to get the car.

I love you all so much and it was all I could do to get up from sitting on the cooler to take this picture. It was so hot and I was waiting in the shade for Ben to get the car.

Finally, we had a lovely farewell dinner with Mrs. Blackmun, our former neighbor (mother of my friend Michelle). She sold her house and is moving on (as many of my parents’ friends are doing now). We reminisced about the good times – jumping over a king snake that blocked our path while walking their dog Smokey, and the neighbor with PTSD who shot up some cars one night. Mrs. Blackmun and my parents have always been there for each other through the years. In one story, Mrs. Blackmun (who is my sister Sara’s godmother) recalled Sara’s colic as a baby, saying only, but so empathetically, “Your poor mom.” I know her empathy, prayers and more have helped my parents immeasurably.

Dinner was a composed salad (on my grandmother’s china platter) inspired by NY Times – featuring white beans with lemon zest, walnuts, beets, goat cheese, cherry tomatoes, grilled onions, asparagus, radishes, raw corn, and peaches. We also had grilled flank steak with chimichurri.

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Sara, right, is the hostess with the mostess while Ben and the older generation dig in. (Ben’s editorial note: Thanks for including me with the older generation). Older people don’t like arugula as much as my generation. They like quiche, soup, and meatloaf. (From Ben: I like gruel and mush of all kinds.) But I digress.

Sometimes relentless cushion sewing requires a little break for art therapy. This birthday card for a friend was created using 40-year-old construction paper, still in the same cabinet we used for art supplies as kids. What would you put in the speech bubble? Are you wondering why there isn’t a cat in the picture? Does the image foreshadow anything about our future? Where will we go shopping next? Stay tuned!

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Some Quintessential LA Experiences (alongside, of course, Airstream restoration)

Despite getting our first noise complaint from a neighbor (and so agreeing to limit the use of all saws to between the hours of 930am and 4pm, Sundays off), we’ve made major headway on our respective projects. Ben is well into the dinette/bed project which started as the sketch below. Getting the measurements to fit within the space but also the norms for sitting, eating, sleeping, etc has been challenging but fun – gets you really thinking about and imagining using the space.

Rough sketch of bed/dinette

Rough sketch of bed/dinette – just turn your head a little to the right….

He zipped the framing together pretty quickly, puzzling over the joints and posts the most. After a casual conversation with Mr. Peplow on a trip to borrow his band saw, Ben came away with the idea to use birch plywood for the panels instead of luan and to clear finish them instead of painting. Ben gave the birch panels the beadboard treatment by running them through the table saw at 2 inch intervals (as he did on the closet and bathroom doors) and as of this very moment, the two side benches are complete and permanently installed. He’ll tackle the back bench next, and oh, those corner curves. Between 930 and 4, not on Sunday.

In the meantime, my cushions have seen much progress, with help from Rebecca at Sew LA, where I went to an open workshop class.  She thoughtfully pointed out not only what was wrong with what I had done so far, but two ways to improve- cramming more piping into my corners, so when you turn them right side out, there is plenty to go around; and more painfully, in order to get more accurate measurements on my cut pieces, I had to make and use paper patterns. You’d think a rectangle is a rectangle – how hard can it be to cut accurately? But fabric is slippery stuff, whereas paper isn’t. If you pin your fabric to paper, then cut, you’ll do better. Rebecca (with a third tip!) also suggested I up the quality of my fabric to something thicker, with a denser weave. So, my Project Runway dreams were, I won’t say fulfilled, but explored as I first trekked to LA’s garment district for better fabric, then patterned up.

Finally, we had some visitors this week, and while they are all special, some were actual celebrities! (A quintessential LA experience!) All agreed to pose for pictures below. Mr. and Mrs. Anderson, who live up the street and I used to babysit a ton for, came by for happy hour and Mrs. A. was the first to sit on the completed napping couch cushion! Cousin Michele Steele, based in Boston for ESPN but also a sub on SportsCenter, Uber’d over from work meetings in LA. (When I drove her back, traffic piled up because of a brushfire – sadly, like earthquakes, another quintessential LA experience.) A friend from high school was in town to give a book reading – you can purchase Liam Callanan’s latest on Amazon or preferably your local independent bookstore. And finally, Michelle, my neighborhood BFF from when I was a kid, was in town. I hadn’t seen her in years and hadn’t ever met her kids, to whom she is a celebrity, and to me too because she is getting her Masters in Math! Lots of catching up about our whether or not purple and red were still our favorite colors, Little House on the Prairie, bike riding, candy eating, Dodger games and Barbies. And about who dared who to eat (dry) cat food (she dared me, and I did). When Michelle was nine and I was eight, she moved four miles away (ugh) to a house with a pool (yay!) and we wrote each other letters. How sweet!

Last but not least in the construction updates, below is a little project that turned into a medium-sized one. Ben put the cabinet doors on the aluminum overhead cabinets. We used the same Union Jack aluminum sheeting that’s on the endcap shelves. Somehow completing this project just makes the interior look a ton more finished. Don’t you think?

Knobs and latches still to come on those upper cabinets.

Knobs and latches still to come on those upper cabinets.

And to round out the recreation and shopping department, we finally made it to the Rose Bowl flea market – say it with me: another quintessential LA experience! It was not overwhelming, as we were fortified with breakfast burritos and lemonade. Some scenes below, including a few items that caught our eye, but were not purchased.

We DID however purchase the lovely Pyrex refrigerator dishes below. Prices really varied, but we were happy with the collection and deals we got. They will be put to good use, starting with looking pretty in this little vignette with a finished cushion and the dinette in progress, atop the now restored Westinghouse cabinet from last month’s flea market! So much progress! Until next time….

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