29 June 2010

One Year Later...

One year ago today we scraped together every penny we had in the world to buy this (click here for a walk down memory lane):


You think it was rough outside...check out the kitchen:


And the living room (it didn't come with the shoes...well, not all of them):


Oh the difference a year makes!


There are a handful of vignettes like this, livable spots in a house that otherwise still screams "moving day." Our bathroom is back to looking pretty much like it was before they started down the long and winding road to fixing the radiant floor. Because workers have been in and out every day, we haven't moved into our bedroom yet...so here's where we've spent the first few nights in our new house:


As of this morning, the tile, toilet, and glass wall are back in, so we should be able to move into the master bedroom today. We've progressed to perhaps 98% moved from the temporary house and 30% unpacked. There's still a long way to go. I was hoping to go back to work tomorrow, but with so much left to do and the cabinet and lighting folks coming tomorrow, that's not going to happen.

As I sit here typing, I can't help thinking how surreal it is to be sitting here in a space that wouldn't even exist if we hadn't had a vision and then poured our hearts and souls into bringing it to life.

27 June 2010

Moving, Moving, Moved

We're about 95% finished bringing everything from the temporary house to the new house, and about 20% finished putting things where they belong in the new house. It's exhausting. I swore I'd never move the last week of June again, since that's when we've moved each time before, and it's really, really hot, but there we found ourselves again.... Although my mom's visit was supposed to be a relaxing time after (six weeks after!) we moved in, she and her husband have been an absolute godsend this weekend, as they have cleaned and packed and carried and unpacked.

More later. I'm stinky and hungry and the house is a mess, and I can't seem to make myself get in the shower or sit down to eat because there are so many boxes begging to be unpacked (or at least relocated).

23 June 2010

I Want My Life Back

We have a really wonderful, low-stress life...and we want it back.

There are things I've been waiting to do for MONTHS -- buy new socks, get a facial at Milk + Honey Spa, etc. -- but in an effort to put every penny we could into the house or because we're just going to have to pack it up and move or whatever, I've been holding off.

I WAS SUPPOSED TO HAVE NEW SOCKS IN MID-MAY.

Instead, I'm still wearing my old socks, which inevitably get dirty by the end of an evening walking around the temporary house (there is no entry area, so even though we don't wear shoes inside, anything that comes in on our shoes ends up getting tracked throughout the house).

The master bathroom is looking like...well, like April, when the original radiant floor mat was going in. Tomorrow it should be mortared in place, and hopefully the tile work will begin. We're also scheduled to close on our permanent loan on Friday. In a fit of optimism, we rented a U-Haul for Saturday.

Stress makes me really unpleasant. I get impatient (I mean, even more impatient), and I become uninhibited about sharing my feelings when I feel like I'm not being treated properly. So between things going on at the house and delays and excuses regarding our loan, I've sent a lot of sternly worded e-mails (and one voice mail that wasn't my finest moment) in the last couple of weeks. Between Monday and Tuesday I believe I sent five to the mortgage company, and while each one (and each response...or lack of response) only increased my aggravation, the result was that closing was moved up a day (from next Monday) AND we scored a 1/4-point break on our interest rate.

I know I'll never get to say this again in my lifetime: We're locked in at 4.375%! (For the not-so-mathematically-inclined, that's four and three eights!)

But the point of this post is that I want my life back. I really, really do. I miss lazy days with Steve and the bunnies.

20 June 2010

Construction-Induced Profanity

We finally heard back from R. The revised best-case move-in date is next Friday (really Saturday, since when he says Friday, that means work will still be going on all day on Friday). [Note to Mom: Management regrets to inform you that you should get used to the idea of substandard accommodations while you're in town.]

So, since our weekend wasn't taken up with moving (although we should be packing or organizing -- or anything but blogging -- right now), we decided to jump ahead to some of the details that are going to become imminent once we do move (if we ever do). Which meant that we went shopping.

First, our new compost container for the kitchen:


We've actually needed a compost container for a long time, but since we've been hauling compost ingredients -- including everything from the bunny cage -- over to the new house, we've been using a big plastic bag. Once we move (if we ever do), we're going to need a permanent system for collecting scraps and taking them outside every day or two. There are a lot of containers sold as kitchen compost pails, but they tend to be really big, ugly, and/or brightly colored (and pretty pricey). We wanted something smaller, prettier, and that would coordinate with the creams, golds, and browns of our kitchen. So when we found this little copper container at World Market -- for $9! -- we were sold. (Since we're not sure how the pail would fare in the dishwasher, we put a plastic cup in it as a liner that we can easily remove and wash.)

Next, we've been looking for a shower curtain for the mudroom. Once the showerhead was finally hooked up, we noticed that water splashes pretty far out of this shower, so we need a curtain that will go pretty much all the way to the ground. But since most curtains are only six feet tall, that would mean that the rod would have to be hung just six feet above the floor -- awkward (and hazardous for taller showerers). Some shower curtains come in seven- or eight-foot lengths, but finding one that looked right was going to take some searching. And then we found this curtain at World Market. It's a window curtain, not a shower curtain, but that's actually better -- its four-and-a-half-foot by seven-foot dimensions are pretty much perfect for a four-foot-wide shower, and its sturdy burlap-like material will be easily washable so we don't have to buy a separate liner. It wasn't cheap, but since it has grommets for hanging, I can return the shower curtain hooks I bought recently. And I think the color looks great with the tile (probably even better than the wall color, which is brighter and bluer than we wanted and is likely to be one of the first things we change after we move in (if we ever do)).


It even came with that tie to keep it tidy when not in use (which will be most of the time).

I've also been on the lookout for curtains to cover the windows so we're not living in a fishbowl when we finally move in (if we ever do -- have I mentioned that we've become skeptical that day will ever come?). The long-term plan involves top down-bottom up cellular blinds for most of the windows, but that's quite an outlay at this point, and we're not even sure what color we would want for each area. We're probably going to end up buying a bunch of those paper temporary blinds from Home Depot, but I'd love to find curtains for as many windows as possible to save the expense and waste of something I'm just going to take down over the next few months as we find permanent window coverings.

So...at another World Market store in town (yeah, we went to two different locations within 24 hours...we also looked at Tuesday Morning and Bed Bath and Beyond but didn't find any winners), I came across this in the clearance section (only $7!):


They only had one, which will span the office window in an awkward-but-privacy-providing way until we get cellular shades for that window, at which point I might do something fun like cut it in half, get out my sewing machine, and make it into two narrow curtains to be mounted on either side of the window. Unless I can find it a partner at one of the other stores....

After we finished taking pictures of all of these fun finds, we took them down and brought them back to the (I'm-beginning-to-wonder-if-it-is-)temporary house. (We're not allowed to leave things at the (I'm-beginning-to-wonder-if-it-ever-will-be-)permanent house.)

On the way back from World Market #2, we stopped by a place that housed a nursery and a pond/fountain business (and a hardscape shop...brilliant cross-promotion). The pond/fountain folks were cultivating a bunch of water lilies ($35, if you're wondering), and each of them was sporting a beautiful flower:


So, if you ignore the fact that we're paying rent, a mortgage, two sets of utilities, renter's insurance, homeowner's insurance, and property taxes...with no realistic expectation of actually being able to move, it wasn't such a bad weekend.

The Ultimate in Construction Recycling

Today the home section of our local newspaper featured a house that used to be one-story but is now a two-story thanks to a downstairs addition.

Um...what?!

Yes, a builder bought a lot (in a fantastic central neighborhood) that had a 1930s bungalow on it. Instead of tearing down the house or trying to add a second story on top of a house that wasn't designed to support all that weight, he raised the original house up in the air and built a new first story below it. Wow.

You can read the article here or look at the builder's blog here (the posts are in reverse order, of course; about halfway down the first page, you can see the end stages of building the new first story below the elevated old house).

19 June 2010

Dashing to the Food Bowl

Today, for the first time since Dash got sick three weeks ago, he voluntarily ate more than a few bites of bunny food.


And such a handsome little devil! He's lost a lot of weight but put two ounces back on between seeing the vet on Tuesday and again on Friday. We're hopeful that he'll have put on another few ounces by the time he goes back next Tuesday.

Today we didn't get much packing done (there didn't seem to be much point -- we still haven't heard from R whether we're talking days or weeks to get the master bathroom put back together). Our big accomplishment of the day was finding a good use for the thirty or so quarts of sample paint. Sherwin-Williams suggested finding a school that wanted them, so I thought about stopping by the elementary school around the block from the temporary house, but the paint containers say "keep out of the reach of children," so that seemed like a bad idea. I offered them to a co-worker who has a high schooler, but with school getting out for the summer, she didn't think they'd be interested. She suggested that a theater group might want them, so I e-mailed an actor friend; he said he'd check with his people, but I never heard back. Finally this week, R's right-hand man, R2, told me that he had heard of an organization that accepted paint for the disabled to make art. He didn't know the name or the exact location, but he said it was somewhere on the main road that passes by the new house. Enter Google. Within seconds, I had found The Arc of the Capital Area Studio and Gallery. When we stopped by, a class was in progress, and they were thrilled for our donation. It doesn't really get more win-win than that!

I'm still amazed that there were thirty samples -- not because it's so many (although it's a lot), but because thirty samples works out to about three samples per color we eventually selected. Is that all?! It seemed like a lot more than that, and we went through more like seven or eight before settling on the ceiling color (which we also used in in closets and three of the four bathrooms). But we copied the exterior trim color from another R job (without any samples) and only got one for the interior trim color, so I guess that offsets some of the rooms where we were less decisive.

On the subject of paint, the painters came back for touch-up yesterday and poured some of the leftover paint (which they buy in gallon or five-gallon containers) into quart containers for our future touch-up needs. When I took this picture of the kitchen, finally sporting a refrigerator, there were the touch-up quarts lined up (and marked en Espanol) at the micro-center.


You can build a mansion but you just can't live in it.... (Yup, it's still stuck in my head.)

18 June 2010

Inspiration, Part 2: Slated For a Workout

We go to a great gym, Pure Austin, that calls itself "The Indoor Gym For Outdoor People." It features amazing indoor amenities, such as an indoor climbing wall and top-notch classes (one of our spin instructors is a Tour de France cyclist). It's also kind of an outdoor gym for outdoor people -- one of our favorite features is the lake that is set up with buoys for a 1/2-mile swim course. (There's also a 1-kilometer running trail around the lake; this is where I Splashed and Dashed last month, and again this week.) Another feature that's better-than-average for gyms is the locker room. Its slate wainscoting and slate floors and walls in the shower area definitely make it more pleasant than the typical gym locker room:


The idea of a mudroom came from thinking about all of the gear we have for running, swimming, and cycling, and how decentralized the storage of these items was in our old place. Then there's how sweaty and dirty we get when we do races. We thought a shower like Pure's would be perfect for rinsing our wetsuits or ourselves when we come home dirty and don't want to have to walk across the wood floors to get to a shower.

You know how you sometimes get used to a particular parking space at work or sitting at a specific seat at dinner? This is the shower I always use at Pure:

We found more interesting slate and added an extra foot to the width of the shower, as well as a tiled shampoo niche and a handheld shower head on a slider bar so it would be more usable for different tasks (it would even work as a dog shower for a future owner). And voila:


Pure's shower floors are 12x12 tiles that the installer had to cut up at weird angles to follow the slope of the shower, but we chose matching tumbled marble in a 2x2 mosaic to avoid that problem (you can see a corner peeking out at the bottom of the picture). And since we were creating a mudroom for ourselves instead of a locker room for the masses, we also planned spaces for laundry (on the right below, with cabinets above), an open wall where we could build in cubbies later for all of our triathlon gear (along the left), and miscellaneous storage in the cabinets at the back left (a tall cabinet for brooms plus another cabinet above it, as well as a base cabinet with four drawers and a nice solid surface countertop).


I originally wanted to continue the slate about four feet up the walls of the mudroom to replicate Pure's wainscot, but we decided against this due to the cost (this slate was actually the most expensive tile we used in the house). In retrospect, carrying the tile up the walls might have made the space feel too much like a gym.

We also wanted a sink in the mudroom for soaking swimsuits, tri wear, and hand-washables, but we decided that a powder room with a small pedestal sink would be more practical than one of those huge laundry sinks. There have been enough times that we've been out running when nature calls us back inside that we knew it would be great to have a toilet that we could get to in a hurry without taking off our shoes to cross the wood. (In case you haven't figured it out, we don't wear shoes indoors. Ever.)

The space is looking pretty blank without the washer and dryer or the cubbies that we plan to build, but we're pretty pleased with how this mudroom is going to work for us...if we ever get to move in.

You Can Look at The Menu...

But you just can't eat.
You can feel the cushions but you can't have a seat.
You can dip your foot in the pool but you can't have a swim.
You can feel the punishment but you can't commit the sin.

Thanks, Howard Jones, for capturing in song exactly what I'm feeling today. (There's even a line that goes, "You can build a mansion but you just can't live in it.")

I'm not a patient person, but I do okay faking it for the sake of politeness. Today, however, my patience ran out. We have a fabulous house (albeit not a mansion) full of modern amenities, on which we're already paying a mortgage, property taxes, insurance, and utilities...and yet we're living in a not-so-fabulous house full of 1960s amenities and BUGS. Oh, and since we've been planning to move this weekend, there's no good food in the house. As you can imagine, the hunger doesn't help the crankiness.

In addition to other incomplete items, we've been waiting on a repair to the radiant floor in our bathroom. Since it was installed (by R's handyman, whose qualifications to do the job we questioned from the start), it hasn't worked due to a short in the wire mat. (Radiant floor systems are designed as more-or-less DIY projects. They have very detailed instructions (and even a video) that make the installation pretty straightforward...if you follow them...which the handyman -- let's call him Ryan -- didn't.) We've been arguing with R about various issues related to the floor since it went in. If we had fully understood all of the ways in which Ryan was going to botch the job, we would have taken it over from the start. Instead, we trusted that R had it under control, gradually identified additional oversights, and were appalled to learn that Ryan was charging us about as much per hour as a computer engineer with a Ph.D. would make around these here parts.

Anyway, after the radiant floor mat was installed, Arturo got to work tiling over the mat. There's a device that is supposed to be hooked up to the mat during the tile installation so that, if anything harms the mat, an alarm sounds so you don't finish the whole job and then discover that there's a problem. Unfortunately, Ryan connected that device so long before Arturo started tiling that the device ran out of batteries before the radiant grid was fully tiled. (We are pretty pleased with almost all of R's subs. Ryan is by far our least favorite. In a cruel twist of fate, Ryan is related to the woman who lives across the street from our temporary house, and he had the nerve to turn up on our temporary street on a Saturday a few weeks ago.)

Needless to say, we weren't even a little surprised when R told us that the floor had a short. He brought in his electrician (why didn't he install the floor in the first place?!), and they ordered some equipment that was supposed to find the problem so they could pull up the one or two tiles needed to fix the problem. Six or seven tiles later, they thought they had identified the short, but after they fixed it, they discovered that there was at least one more short...that they couldn't locate. This afternoon R decided to cut his losses and start over with new radiant mats and a whole new tile floor. We don't know yet how long that is going to take...but I think it's safe to say moving on Monday is out. (Ironically, however, our refrigerator did arrive today.) I was scheduled to take today and next week off from work for an easy, gradual move, but I went to the office today anyway because there was no moving to be done. Monday will be the same, and most likely Tuesday and Wednesday, too. With family coming for a visit on Thursday, I really have no idea how it's going to get done.

I realize that all of this paints a very negative picture of R. And we're amply irritated with his decision to entrust Ryan with such a technical task. But it's important to keep in mind, and I can't stress enough, that he really is one of the very best builders around. This was reaffirmed yesterday when we hired one of the best home inspectors in Texas (arguably the best) to inspect our house. While he identified a number of concerns, he was extremely pleased with the overall quality of the construction. Since he looks at houses (primarily new construction) all day, every day, and is used to having to tell builders to fix much more significant issues, his positive feedback was very reassuring.

16 June 2010

Cooking, Showering, and the Appliance Tango

A few things happened at the house today that are worth mentioning. First, the gas meter was installed.


Funny, I don't remember ordering the satellite dish upgrade. I hope it gets Bravo (we don't have cable).

We also received a package in the mail today. Sunday night I placed two orders for house things: (1) a mailbox, and (2) a special towel bar for the master bathroom. I quickly got notice that the mailbox had been shipped, but I didn't even get a confirmation of the other order, so it was a pleasant surprise when a (hybrid!) UPS truck drove up this afternoon and dropped it off.

Because of the 27" wide piece of glass between the shower area and the towel bar area (and because our arms aren't long enough to reach around the glass all the way back to the wall), we had intended the master bathroom to have the hotel-style towel rack that ended up in the back bathroom. At about 24" wide, the skinny piece of wall between the glass partition and the potty cabinet wasn't wide enough for the rack:


Which worked out fine for the back bathroom, since it's tiny and can use the extra storage space the hotel rack provides.

And now that we received our delivery, it's also working out fine for the master bathroom. This towel bar attaches at a single mounting point (on the left), and the two bars pivot to hang at whatever angle we want.


Remember that 27" wide glass partition? By moving the bars out toward the center of the bathroom, our towels will be accessible after a shower without the need to contort ourselves around the glass.


What we didn't receive today was our refrigerator, which was supposed to be delivered no later than the 7th, and then the computer showed that it would be delivered today. In one of those fortunate/unfortunate deals, it's looking like we won't be moving in until at least Monday, so hopefully we'll have our refrigerator by then. (By the way, the dishwasher was swapped out last Saturday, so we're within one appliance of a "full house.")

15 June 2010

Inspiration, Part 1: Mastering the Bathroom

Now that everything is pretty much finished (although there are still a surprising number of small-to-medium things outstanding), it's time to show you some of the spaces and pictures that inspired us in our design and cosmetic choices.

Let's start with the master bathroom, which finally got its glass wall today. (By the way, after R put up that super-awesome shower curtain contraption to pass the final inspection, a different inspector came out, sort of laughed at it, and commented that he wouldn't have written up the lack of a curtain.) Anyway, the curtain was never part of the long-term plan, and bright and early this morning, the glass wall went in. I don't have a wide enough angle lens (or a large enough bathroom) to show a great angle on it, but you get the idea:



Surely you know us well enough by now to know that no finish selections came easily to us, but you may not know that this bathroom was the biggest layout challenge of the whole house. In fact, when we sent the plans out for preliminary bidding (which didn't accomplish much except temper our expectations for pretty horrifying final bids), this bathroom was a big question mark (literally). Our designer, Janet, was going on vacation and suggested sending our preliminary plans out for some general numbers while she was away, and we decided that we would all think on the bathroom layout and regroup when she got back to town. Shockingly, she didn't spend her whole vacation contemplating our bathroom, so she returned without any ideas, but fortunately we had gone on a hunt for inspiration and landed on this as a starting point for getting everything we wanted into a long, narrowish space:


Janet suggested flipping the tub and shower, and we decided to put in a glass partition only (no door or curb), leaving a wide open walkway into the shower. I assume this room's toilet is out in the open to the right, but a separate potty cabinet was always part of our plan, and we tucked it behind the bathroom door.

So...we got the layout figured out, but we still had no idea how we wanted to finish out the space. (We're not the kind of people who spend our free time thinking about what our dream home would be like, so when we were suddenly faced with the opportunity to build it, we were kind of at a loss for ideas.) One day toward the beginning of the process, we went to a plumbing supply shop to look at bathtubs. It was, in my opinion, a horrible experience (maybe I'll tell that story on a slow news day), but the salesman who was "helping" us gave us a bath fixture calendar as we were leaving, and we tore out a few of the pictures that we liked before recycling the rest. Eventually, as we were at the point of needing to look for tile and other materials, we found ourselves returning to this picture:


I loved the soft color of the stone and the brick pattern around the tub (and presumably extending into the shower), so we started looking for a similar natural stone. Even in "cost is not a factor" mode, we kept coming up empty -- everything had a lot more variation. Then one day I found a porcelain tile that looked just like this, and it came in 12x24" tiles...which eventually we realized could be cut into thirds to mimic the look of that wonderful, spa-like bathroom. We ran the tile all the way to the ceiling on the two shower walls.

We would have loved to use a big, thick slab of stone for the tub surround, but we didn't even want to look into the cost. We did want to find a slab for the countertop, but since the master bath sink area is such a hardworking surface, we thought a solid-surface product would be best. We were pleasantly surprised to find a remnant of one of the more natural-looking solid surface styles (by Zodiaq, I think), and it all came together with our lighting and plumbing fixture selections into this:


(Of course, the cupcake light is on hiatus.)

Thank goodness these images, and then these materials, came into our lives at the right time. I honestly have no idea what we would have done with this bathroom if we hadn't stumbled upon these ideas.

I'll wrap this up with some news from the home front (er, the other home front): (1) Dash went back to the vet today, got his infected ear thoroughly flushed out, and is on all new medicines (including banana-flavored Cipro, so he's good to go in case of an anthrax attack), and (2) Steve recently finished up a test chip (his own special project), which has been manufactured and tested and is apparently exceeding all expectations. Go Dash and Steve!

14 June 2010

13 June 2010

I Can See Clearly Now

We have spent the day cleaning the windows so the screens can go up in the next couple of days (we're cleaning the insides, too). Even considering the dirt pile behind the master bedroom, the view is pretty nice:


On the other hand, I can't see so clearly in the master bathroom, where another inspection issue meant that we had to put up a shower curtain across the side of the shower area:


R put it up with a tension rod. I'll leave it to your imagination to figure out why it's not permanently attached.

We're home for a little while this afternoon to watch the half Ironman world championship. When we packed up to leave the house, the car was nice and cool from being shaded in the garage.


(By the way, we realize that automatic garage door openers have been around for a while, but we spent nine years in a condo with a carport and are now living in a house with an attached garage but no automatic opener. If you haven't had to do without one, you may not realize what a huge convenience this is, but we're thrilled to finally have one.)

11 June 2010

Crisis Averted

I'll spare you all of the frustrating details and just say that when the city told us we had to upgrade to a 3/4" water meter, they hadn't actually checked the size of the existing water meter...and it turned out that we already had a 3/4" meter. Gold star to Team R for thinking to double-check that yesterday.

Now on to some eye candy.

Here's a close-up of the glass in the front door.


In addition to the red of the poppies and the little touches of green, there are three different types of glass in the door. We chose the predominant glass (called "vecchio" -- kind of a seeded look) for the sidelights and transom for privacy. We wanted a single transom instead of the three pieces, but they couldn't get a long enough piece of vecchio glass, so we had to go with the three-piece transom.

Next, here is another of our favorite new features:

video

Gotta love that action!

10 June 2010

I Have Good News and Bad News

People always want the bad news first, but this news is just too awful. It would completely overshadow the good news. So on to the good news: our front door unit went in! With our fancy Arts and Crafts lockset!



And from the outside (where we chose oil-rubbed bronze for the hardware):


The door has been stained, and we mostly love the color, although some of the wood took the stain quite differently, and we're not thrilled with the dark parts. The painter is going to try to lighten those areas, but there are no guarantees.

...and as I type this and look back at the pictures, I see that the two square transom pieces were put in the wrong way (they should be rotated 90 degrees). We'll get that fixed. But let's take one more peek at the fabulousness of this entry:


Can you believe I get to live there?! How'd I get so lucky?! (Seriously. This is a conversation I have with myself frequently. The blessings in my life are unbelievable, and I'm certain I don't deserve all of it. If I may steal a line from Brett Dennen, in a world of suffering, why should I be so blessed?)

And on that note, to the bad news....

We may not actually get to live there until July or even August. It's been clear since we got our permit that we were being required to upgrade our water meter to a larger size, but Steve and I assumed R was already working on it (to be charged to us later, of course). We didn't learn until today -- as the inspector came for his "final" inspection -- that R hadn't even started the ball rolling on the water meter (and since this has to be coordinated with the city, the timeline is out of our hands). But that's not the bad news. After a few phone calls, I had learned that the line from the water main to our water meter isn't big enough to accommodate a larger meter, so it needs to be upgraded too -- at a cost of roughly $5,000-$10,000. That's definitely bad news, but it's still not the bad news. The bad news is that getting the design, approval, and installation work done takes 4-6 weeks. There's no point placing blame for not getting on it sooner, but we're beyond irate that this issue just came to light today.

We're looking into whether we can get a temporary certificate of occupancy (which, at $750, is less than our rent, so at least we'd be in the house and not paying rent and a mortgage while we get mugged by our elected officials). We're also exploring all other avenues we can think of -- calling in favors with friends of friends who might be able to help in any way, etc. I even stooped so low as to contact every member of the Austin City Council. (I have seen people employ this kind of tactic at my job, and as pathetic as it is, and as crazy as some of those folks are, I've actually seen it work. The squeaky wheel really does get the oil, I have learned.)

We'll keep you posted. Needless to say, we're bummed.

09 June 2010

Notice Anything Different?





Did you spot it?  Our address numbers are on the house!  We ordered this thick, handmade tile from Ravenstone Tiles, which seems to be a two-person operation in a town between Seattle and Vancouver.  (Laura from Ravenstone was wonderful to work with, even sending us color samples so we could choose just the right color.)  And now for a close-up:




In case you're wondering, the tile is cream with pine green numbers and hunter green bars on the ends...and in case you're wondering, I think the reason the numbers aren't centered from top to bottom is that the usual tile height is 6", but the piece of trim on which it is mounted is 5.5", so I asked them to make it a little smaller.  Why they didn't cut a quarter-inch off of the top and the bottom is beyond me, but it's pretty nonetheless.  (And hopefully you would never have noticed that if I hadn't pointed it out.)

As with everything else, we explored ALL of our options before settling on the idea of an address number tile, and then we explored ALL of the color, shape, and placement options (including putting it above the entry gable or on one of the columns).  I think we got it just right.

And as excited as I am about this, it isn't even the exciting thing I hinted at in today's earlier post!  That one is big.  You'll see.

Our Range Sucks

Our fancy-pants Jenn-Air downdraft range was finally installed today.



Steve insisted on a downdraft model because we wouldn't need to install a vent hood above it. He wanted the kitchen to be totally open to the living and dining areas, without any visual obstructions, so a bulky vent hood just wasn't going to work...but that clear view comes at a cost -- the range cost almost as much all of our other kitchen appliances put together. This range sucks air down through the unit into a big tube that goes through our slab and exhausts out the side of the screened porch. I'd show you a picture of how wonderfully open the bar area is, but without our fabulous pendant lights (which won't come in until after we move in), it's just not the same. But pictures will come in due time.

I also learned that something I wrote earlier this week was wrong. I had said that we needed the correct dishwasher to get our certificate of occupancy (since the dishwasher ties into the kitchen sink plumbing, and without a dishwasher, the sink isn't usable). Apparently Whirlpool is having some kind of supply problem, so R went ahead and installed the KitchenAid, and Whirlpool will take care of swapping it out whenever it arrives. (We're still waiting on our refrigerator, which was supposed to have arrived by Monday. No word on when that will come in. I sure hope it's not caught up in Whirlpool's delays, 'cause we don't have a spare!)

Otherwise, it's been a slow few days. The gas line to the house went in Monday, and other miscellaneous odds and ends have been getting taken care of, but there's not a whole lot else to report.

We've done a lot of chores, though, including more cleaning. (Have I mentioned how handy it is to have a Roomba to vacuum while we clean other areas? It comes over with us every night and puts in at least an hour of vacuuming.)

We also mounted this mirror in the powder room:


We didn't find any decorative mirrors for this space that we thought were worth the price, so we ordered a custom mirror with beveled edges from a local glass shop, and then we took it to Hobby Lobby to frame with a simple but shiny frame that coordinates really well with both the slightly purplish oil-rubbed bronze light and towel ring, etc., and the copper slate on the floor.

I also started decor shopping. Target had a shower curtain that I loved for the back bath, and with guests arriving just days after we move in, putting up a curtain is a big priority. I picked it up but wasn't able to get out of the bed & bath department with just that one find. I also bought a shower curtain and a set of curtain rings that might be good for the mudroom, and a bunch of other fun things caught my eye and just might end up in the kitchen and bathrooms as we get settled.

[Green living note: I try really hard to reduce, reuse, and recycle, to the point that I don't think I have much room for improvement anymore, but I only just recently realized how wasteful those plastic shower curtain liners are. I guess I didn't realize that cloth liners existed, and since they can be washed and used pretty much forever, that's a change we're going to make when we move.]

There is one more big development that I'm dying to show you, but it's still in progress, so you'll have to wait until tomorrow, dear reader.

I'll close with an update on the dashingest bunny in town, Mr. Dash. His ear culture revealed two bacterial infections, neither of which seemed too serious, but his bloodwork found that he didn't have the much more serious infection, so we're proceeding on the theory that he has a bad case of pseudomonas. Consequently, we're going to discontinue two of his medicines that he doesn't need, which should make him a little happier (he just says "no" to drugs every chance he gets). He's in rough shape but handling it like a trooper. We just wish there was more we could do for him.

08 June 2010

ETA

R told me today -- with great conviction -- that he will be finished by a week from Friday. (I got a little giddy at Costco today when I saw that the milk expires a day after our expected completion date.) We're definitely excited to know that we can start making plans to move -- and that we'll be out of our rental house by the end of June, that we'll be in the new house in time for a family visit the following weekend, that we get to stop living like wolves,.... R thinks we can get our final inspections by the end of this week, but I'm not so sure. We did pass the electrical inspection this morning, but we can't get the final plumbing inspection until the (correct) dishwasher goes in, so we're at the mercy of the folks who sent the wrong one the first time around. I do think the 18th sounds doable for everything, though. Tomorrow I suppose I'll set the gears in motion to take vacation from the 18th through the following week. (Why is it that the only time I get to pretend to be a housewife is when we're moving? In the heat of the summer, no less?!)

We also have a lot of other things to do. Getting our certificate of occupancy signals the end of the road on the construction side of things, but we also have to take care of everything looking forward -- turning on utilities, refinancing our construction loan to a permanent mortgage (which requires us to have insurance in place, a survey and appraisal completed, etc.), and actually packing. It could be argued that we haven't started packing (indeed, I would make such an argument), but we never unpacked at least 2/3 of our things, so there's not a ton to pack. Unfortunately, all of the things that still need to be packed are all of the things that we use on a pretty regular basis, so we can't pack much more until it's really time to move. Fortunately, we have the luxury of moving over a full week -- and we're only moving a mile and a half -- so we can pack up the high-use items and move them gradually. (I don't know how people pack up everything and move across the country. Bless you if you've done it.)

Anyway, we've been spending a lot of time at the house doing various chores. Cleaning is an ongoing project (which will probably be ongoing even after we move in). We spent some time there tonight swapping out regular light bulbs for CFL bulbs and will have to work on that some more over the next few days. Last night installed a medicine cabinet in the back (guest) bathroom. It's a tiny bathroom with a tiny cabinet and no other storage, so we thought a medicine cabinet was a must, and we found one at Costco for a very reasonable price. We may paint it white to match the cabinet and to visually "shrink" it, but we think it looks pretty great as is:


I almost added that this picture shows a completely finished vignette, but the door hardware isn't on yet.

And now for a "ripped from the headlines" Thing I'm Not Going To Miss: our current dishwasher, which we long suspected was designed by someone from a culture that doesn't use dishes, and which was actually recalled last week due to a fire hazard. Nope, not going to miss that.

04 June 2010

So Ready To Be Finished

Progress crept along today. We didn't get the electrical re-inspection scheduled, so that's pushed to Monday (at least), with the other inspections not able to be scheduled until after that one is passed. Our range still isn't installed, and our refrigerator didn't arrive today -- presumably because the supplier is waiting on our replacement dishwasher to come in so they can deliver both at the same time.

It's probably easier to list -- or show -- what did happen today.

1. More door hardware (but still not all of it) went in today. The multipoint levers on the French doors out to the back porch were installed, and they look great.


We ended up having big problems with our original hardware supplier, who also handled (or mishandled) our plumbing order, so we made a last-minute switch to a different door supplier. I'm so glad we did. Our new guy, Tim, saw that we had selected a totally different style for these handles because the catalog didn't show the Arts and Crafts levers in a multipoint lever, but he knew that the supplier could swap out the levers and give us what we wanted. A quick phone call later, it was done.

2. There was more progress on the screens of the screened porch. Except when the sun catches them (as you can see in the picture above), they're almost invisible:


3. The bath hardware installation started today. In the guest bath (admittedly a really tight space -- no room for good camera angles), the curved shower curtain rod went up, as well as the hotel-style bath rack that will be great for storing extra towels. (There will also be a wall-mounted medicine cabinet on the wall above the sink, which we hope to install this weekend.)


While we're on the subject, I have to show you how amazingly well it coordinates with the fan in the guest bedroom:


The last thing that happened today was that we met with R about that big, ugly money issue. While I'm not going to get into the specifics, I will share two lessons that I hope he has learned from this and a series of similar issues: (1) it's always -- always -- better to be sure your client is on board with any work that is going to increase costs, and (2) if your contract says changes will be agreed to in writing, writing it up doesn't just make the lawyers happy; it also ensures that everyone really is on the same page before the money is spent.

03 June 2010

The City of Austin Has No Taste

At least, that's what I take away from them saying that our cupcake light over the shower violates code. In order to keep the ball rolling, we had to buy a really unattractive exterior light (no picture) that I hope will satisfy them. If there's a silver lining here, it's that the sidewalk issue didn't hold up scheduling the inspection any longer.

So while we didn't make progress toward the other inspections, we did see a lot of the door hardware jazzing up the doors:


We also met with R's right-hand man, R2, about the placement of the cabinet and bath hardware, and by the end of the day, most of the cabinet pulls and knobs were installed in the kitchen:


Work was done out on the back porch...but can you spot it?


The left half of the picture has screens (and really nice redwood trim), while the right side is still open. We upgraded to some fancier screens -- without the benefit of our usual weeks of research -- so it was nice to see that they really are nearly invisible. (And yes, that's our fantastic Costco cart out back.)

While we were there meeting with R2 about the hardware placement, a third-party (non-city) inspector came by to test our ducts for leakage. He started by putting industrial-strength plastic wrap over all of the vents...


...then taped that air tube into one of the vents...

....and attached this duct and fan to the last one....


...so that he could fire up the fan attached to the duct and use his handheld device to see how much leakage there is in our duct system.

At least that's the theory. When I left, he wasn't getting a good reading and was still trying to find the vent that he assumed has escaped being covered. I don't know if he ended up figuring it out, and if so, what the results of the test were. I'll keep you posted.

Rounding out the day, another money issue came up with R. And it's a big one.