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Subway Tile Patterns

March 3rd, 2008

I recently spent some time trying to find a tile pattern for the master bath shower. Here are a few things to consider before laying out your tile pattern.

First, I think it is important to be dizzy from hunger and also to be panicky because the tile guy is due to show up any minute.

It is always good to have the phone ring every four seconds and the children fighting with each other in the background.

I would also highly suggest working in a muggy hot room with a horsefly buzzing around your ears and to have a massive mountain of un-folded laundry in direct view.

These are the only circumstances under which tile should ever be laid out. Anything less is just not going to satisfy in the long run.

After I found a pattern I liked, I moved on to the main floor bathroom tub/shower tile layout.

Same hunger pangs, same children fighting, same phone ringing, same time crunch panic, different horsefly.

I am using subway tile in the main floor bath. Because I love subway tile.

Subway tile is my ideal life mate.

Its simplicity, its classic good looks, its quiet presence. We were meant to be together.

I picked out a bunch of trim pieces to try and dress the subway tile up.

But the subway tile resented the fact that I was trying to change him. The subway tile wanted me to accept him for who he was. The subway tile wanted to make it clear that he was never false with me, he never lied. He is just who he said he was, and I might have to learn to live with it.

So I started crying and said,” I was sorry and that I lost my head and he is so right and I am so wrong and I hope you can forgive me!”

Then the subway tile let out a deep sigh and said, ” dear, dear, never mind.” Then he said, “I guess I don’t really mind the blue stripe and a little of that crown…but THAT IS IT!!”. And we are both very happy with the results.

Here we have the Hyannis Port Kennedy Compound. Note the sweeping lawn, the white house, the porch and the multiple pointy roofs.

And now my house – note the sweeping lawn, the porch, the white house, the multiple pointy roofs.

Here we have a bunch of Kennedys lined up in matching bathing suits with matching parts in their matching heads.

Here we have a bunch of my family lined up with matching uh…matching um… matching arms akimbo.

Here is the famous photo of Robert and Ethel Kennedy’s family stretched out in front of a Italian Villa type mansion.

And here is the famous photo where we are sort of lined up and sort of in front of an Italian villa. Okay not really – but maybe… if you squint… really hard.

And now Jack goes for a touchdown pass in front of yet another Kennedyesque gorgeous, timeless, classic American dream house posed beautifully amidst majestic oaks on a sprawling lawn.

And here are several photos of my family doing the exact same thing.

Except it is colder.

And muddier.

And a little rougher.

I am not sure the Kennedys could handle it.

Oh and um… we have a bulldozer parked in the background and we don’t know if the bulldozer guy is ever going to come back and get it. Other than that….

The same…

Salvaged Brick Sidewalk

January 2nd, 2008

This story begins with a nice pile of bricks. A pile of bricks that our family salvaged from an old sidewalk in town which ran in front of my friend Kara’s house. Kara was having a new sidewalk put in and called to let me know that we could take the old bricks out of her sidewalk before the concrete truck arrived – if we still wanted them. We did want them and spent the next two weekends digging the bricks out of her old sidewalk, loading them into the back of the pick-up, driving them out to our building site, and unloading them.

After the immense effort of moving those bricks, I am sorry to tell you that we grew a bit prideful of them. Nevermind the new house, the quaint barn, the view, the pond and the shiny new kitchen cabinets… WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE OUR SALVAGED BRICKS?

Because we salvaged them…


And this makes us much better than most people on earth. Because WE ARE SALVAGERS…and EVERYONE in AMERICA knows that re-using old building materials is what makes you closest to God these days.

This is what our sidewalk looked like back when I was having a delirious visit from Beverley Nichols, my favorite garden author.
Over the course of the summer, the only thing that changed in this path was that the weeds got taller and taller and taller. I am very glad Beverley was not around to see that happen.
One of the reasons for the delay, was that we needed to pick a pattern in which to lay the bricks. While on the UC Berkeley campus – we found our inspiration.

In the shadow of a tall clock tower were bricks in a herringbone pattern. We thought if it was good enough for Berkeley, it was good enough for us.

Back home, the Country Doctor, tilled up the dirt in the sidewalk.

Mixed in some cement.

And then we had to move the pile of bricks from behind the house to beside the pathway.
I did not help with this step as I had seen a black snake crawl out of this pile of bricks earlier that summer and had no interest whatsoever in seeing him again.

I was further vindicated when the Country Doctor found a snake skin.

The bricks were unloaded in various piles around the pathway. You can see here the sand and the screed that the Country Doctor built to smooth out the surface evenly before setting the bricks in place.

Here’s the screed again…
At least I think it is called a screed.
And here is a live snake they found in the brick pile.

The Country Doctor lined both edges of the pathway with bricks placed end to end, and then he started working on the herringbone pattern.

It was about here that we realized how many bricks we were going to have to cut to make this pattern work.

And right about here, we realized that we would be cutting bricks to fill in the holes in this pathway for the rest of our lives.
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And when I say “we would be cutting bricks” ….

I actually mean “the Country Doctor” would be cutting bricks.
Because my hands started to sweat buckets every time I watched my husband slice one of those bricks in half. I eventually had to retreat to the porch and sit there helplessly, fanning myself with a wide brimmed straw hat, saying things like “I do declare!” and “Glory be!” and “Heavens to Betsy!”
Besides, why exactly did I have all these boys, if not to help their father build a brick pathway?

Here is Drew marking chalk lines on the bricks to show their dad where to make a cut.

The thousands and thousands…..

And millions and trillions of precise brick cuts…

Eventually, the Country Doctor wore out the blade on the big saw and for the last twenty odd cuts he used a hand saw.

This is the last brick!

This is the last cut!

But it isn’t over yet.
I was able to help the Country Doctor spread a fine layer of sand over the sidewalk as there were no snakes and no saw involved. But I did have to take frequent breaks to drink my coffee, admire my roses, practice some modern dance steps on the sweeping front lawn and oh yeah… take some pictures….
The final step involves sweeping the sand into all the cracks and crevices in between the bricks…

And using one of these thingys to… to… Heck I have no idea what that machine does.

Jack gave the new/old sidewalk a test drive.

Here is the Country Doctor standing on his new brick pathway.

Nice job Honey!
Now honey… we have to get that other sidewalk done.