30 September 2010

Close Call

People sometimes ask if there are things we would do differently if we had it to do over again. Of course there are. I probably have an entire post in me on that issue, but not now.

To highlight the fact that we don't make our bed, here's our bedroom window again:


Steve loves it just the way it is, but if I could turn back the clock, I'd make the middle part of the window the same as the left and right. While the large picture window is nice, three identical pieces would, I think, make for a more traditional look, and it would also leave a little more wall space on each side, where we could put a piece of furniture or maybe hang some art.

The fixed-pane panel is also noisy. Since it doesn't open, it doesn't have a screen, and bugs fly into it all the time. Big bugs, apparently -- big enough to make an audible "thud" that we hear from inside. Sometimes little birds even fly into it. But this week, a larger bird upped the ante, and I came home to see this:


And the close-up:


The detail is amazing. And kind of horrifying. As soon as I saw it, I walked over to the window, held my breath, and looked down, fearing I'd see a little body. But fortunately, I found none. The bird lives another day.

And I'm hoping that the collisions will cease once we have blinds on the windows. (I finally ordered the first few today. If they work out, I hope to have the whole house taken care of in the next few weeks.)

28 September 2010

Preview of Coming Attractions

This weekend I bought a gallon of paint. (Sherwin-Williams was having a 40% off sale.) But I'm not going to tell you where it's going just yet.

In other news, I just read that HomeGoods is opening its first Austin(ish) store on October 24, down in Sunset Valley. I've only been to HomeGoods once, when I was in San Antonio this summer, but it was love at first sight. Particularly when I first spied the pear lamp.

And in news that has nothing to do with the house, tonight was the last Splash and Dash of the season. I finally made a dent in the not-so-impressive times I've been posting all summer -- about two minutes off, despite a slower course this time around. All of the running (and some swimming) I've been doing is finally paying off. Hopefully that bodes well for this weekend's triathlon, a 10k in a few weeks, and the rest of the races leading up to February's marathon.

23 September 2010

Day 11

Nine days left in the 20-day challenge. It's definitely been a challenge to get the gym every day and still fit everything else in. Yesterday, for instance, I had marathon training (not at the gym) in the evening, so I was planning to go to the gym at lunchtime...but then I remembered that I was spending the morning in bankruptcy court*, so I wouldn't be able to make it there at midday. My only other option was to go to a 6 a.m. class that ended up being heavy on leg work, so I had to ease up on that part of the class so my legs wouldn't be too tired for a 6-mile run (with 400-meter speed intervals) 12 hours later.

Just one more week and two weekends.

* This is my absolute favorite part of my job. Seriously, I love bankruptcy court. I don't do typical bankruptcy work, and I don't deal with any of the emotionally draining parts of bankruptcy (which I don't think I'd like very much at all). When I go to bankruptcy court, it's for a very specific, unusual kind of proceeding, and I work with an amazing litigator from the best law firm in the state, so it's always a fantastic experience.

17 September 2010

They Don't Even Pay Me To Say This!

Today we received the photo book we ordered from Shutterfly to chronicle the construction process. Here's a sampling of some of the pages we created:







We made our first Shutterfly photo book at least five years ago, and since then they've continued to improve their options and features. There are so many different layouts, backgrounds, fonts, etc. to choose from. These books can take a ton of time to put together, so we went with the same background for each page. (However, there is a new feature that will organize all of the pictures automatically, although I have no experience with how well it works.)


14 September 2010

Use It or Lose It

Fitness is SO MUCH HARDER to gain than to maintain. Seriously, people, if you have it, don't let it slip away. After a year almost totally off from swimming, biking, and running, I'm trying to regain my fitness, and it's such a challenge (especially since it's still in the 90s in Austin).

Today I went to a short core class and than ran about 2.5 miles on the trail behind the gym. Yesterday our gym started a 20-day challenge, where members who come every day for 20 days are eligible to win prizes. I'm not too excited about the prizes, but I'm a sucker for that kind of challenge. Tomorrow I'm planning to swim in the lake at lunchtime (and my marathon training group is doing a group run in the evening).

The trail around the lake is 1.1 km, or 2/3 mile, and is marked at 300 m, 600 m, 1k, and 1.1k. Because the best way to regain running fitness is, in my opinion, interval work, I ran four laps on the trail, picking up the pace from the 300 m mark to the 600 m mark on each. Soon I'll go back to the track for my Tuesday runs, but during the 2o-day challenge I'm using the trail.

It was HARD. Track work is going to be even harder. Days like today make me wish I'd never stopped running (or, more accurately, make me wish I'd never taken a break from track work). Learn from my mistake, dear reader -- whether you're a runner, swimmer (oh goodness, that's a whole other realm of fitness I need to regain), basketball player, ballroom dancer, whatever, keep at it. Not only is it hard to get back to where you were, it's kind of demoralizing, too (the last time I was this slow, it was the fastest I'd ever been. This time it just seems kind of pathetic).

On another topic, have I mentioned how much I love our garage? It's huge, but there's still some moving debris in it, so it doesn't feel quite as roomy as it will once we get the patio furniture set up, etc. Steve has been out of town, and I've been parking in the middle, which takes it to a whole new level of fabulous. (Steve, stop reading now. Nothing to see here.) He's coming home tonight, but when I came home from the gym, I pulled into the center...and then as soon as I closed the garage door, I realized that I was going to have to move the car before Steve gets back from the airport. (Don't tell Steve.)

13 September 2010

MIA

We've been here for two and a half months, and I still haven't found my tweezers. In addition to the pair that were in rotation in the temporary house, I know I have at least a couple of others, so I'm not going to buy more, but it's getting pretty ridiculous...and needless to say, things are pretty touch and go in the eyebrow department.

In other news, I had another fantastic stretch at the gym today. (Yes, I'm referring to lying on the ground and just...stretching...although I also had a really good run/circuit training class.) I think my best running skills are nutrition (eating before, during -- yes, during -- and after), stretching, and tapering (cutting back on running in preparation for a race). The actual running? Not so much.

11 September 2010

Marathon Training

I am now one week into marathon training. This morning we ran seven miles. (If you're thinking that's a lot for week two, I agree.) I am also trying to ramp up my training for the TREK Triathlon in three weeks (I have a free entry from winning my age group last year), and Steve and I are trying to get back into a good run/bike/swim routine. So there's a lot going on.

After my seven miles this morning, Steve and I were originally planning to go for a ride. (We usually ride on Sundays, but our schedule won't allow it tomorrow.) Fortunately, we rethought that plan and decided instead to go to the gym for a swim and then spin class (which, while rigorous, was a lot shorter -- and cooler -- than our usual 20-mile route). After all of that, I'm exhausted. (I'm also hungry, but getting up to find something to eat seems like a lot of effort.)

My tally for the day is as follows: 7 miles of running, 1/2 mile of swimming, and 22 kilometers (about 14 miles) of cycling. What's sad is that, as exhausted as I feel, what I did today totals less than an Olympic-distance triathlon, which I could easily complete just one short year ago (pretty fast, too). What's amazing about it, though, is that we live in a country where all of our basic needs are met, we don't have to fear for our safety or work to find clean water, and we get to do things like running hard enough to throw up just for FUN.

09 September 2010

Exercise Room?

When we moved in, we knew we were going to have to stash most of the boxes somewhere while we work on getting them all unpacked. We had house guests from the day we moved in (just for a few days), and we were going to need to get the office up and running, so the exercise room was the easy choice for all of the boxes. To back up a bit further, when we designed the house and decided to add a fourth bedroom, we certainly didn't need it but thought it would be a good addition. For lack of any other use, we decided it would be the "exercise room." We obviously don't need an exercise room, although we do have a decent amount of random exercise implements that will be great to have in one place. Since we've never had a good indoor space for exercising anywhere else we've lived, and since we do a lot of swimming, biking, and running around town, I'm not sure how often we'll actually use it.

We also go to the gym two to three times a week. Today I went to an ab class before our usual spin class, and in the few minutes before class started, I laid on a mat on the ground and stretched. It felt so good. Even if we never use the exercise room for anything else, I really want to spend some time stretching in there regularly. Once we get the boxes cleared out, what I envision for the exercise room is a mostly-empty room with some shelves to hold our exercise gear (assuming it won't fit in the closet, which it might), a table or desk to hold the computer for when we use exercise videos, and two yoga mats on the floor, inviting us to come in.

Makes me want to stretch right now.

08 September 2010

Heartbreak

The news of the wildfire in Boulder County has been tough for me to take.

I grew up in Boulder. (I don't know if I've mentioned that on the blog before. I also grew up (until I was ten) in Hawaii. Sometimes I say I grew up in Hawaii, and then later I'll say Boulder (or vice versa), and I sound like a liar. The truth is that I am one of the luckiest people in the world to have grown up in both amazing places.)

So, between being from Boulder, having just built a house that can be fairly characterized as a "dream home," and having done it on a piece of land that was made available because of a fire, the stories of people who have lost their homes to the wildfire hit me pretty hard. In the nearby mountain town of Sunshine, Steve and Dee Spencer were in the middle of building a deck to host their son's wedding reception when they got the evacuation call. When Dee said in the news story that the loss of their dream home in nearby Sunshine seemed surreal, I was struck by the contrast between the pleasant surreality of living in a house that was, just a year ago, a crazy dream, and the horror of fire turning it into nothing but a pile of ashes and memories.

Hurricane (or Whatever) Hermine

It's been raining for more than 24 hours. Hard. It's unreal.

At one point last night the back yard had 4-5" of standing water. I realized that it wasn't draining because R left the 2' tall silt fence (pictured below) in place to prevent runoff until we've landscaped -- and it was indeed preventing runoff. I had to go outside (in my fantastic whale galoshes) and an umbrella and cut holes in the fabric with a utility knife so the water would drain.


Needless to say, it was treacherous, but I prevailed.

Maybe I should wear my whale galoshes to work today...?

07 September 2010

Hoarders

I've started watching Hoarders on Netflix. (As you may recall, we don't have cable. It might be on Hulu, but I never thought to look until we got Netflix.) Watching the show is influencing our unpacking. And making me a bit paranoid that I might be a hoarder.

I should say that I LOVE identifying things that we can get rid of (although I'm much happier when those things can be recycled or donated. I don't like clogging up landfills). So I don't really think I'm a hoarder. But when we decided, for instance, to put all of our books (11 office paper boxes worth) up in the attic to deal with later, I was reminded of the lady who wasted her two days with the professional organizer/therapist arguing for putting things in boxes to sort through later. And when I come across boxes of papers that I threw together as we were packing up to move from the temporary house, I am reminded of the guy who couldn't manage to throw away a single fast food wrapper. (Actually, I don't think that guy was a hoarder at all. He was just a lazy slob...am I just a lazy slob?) And when I find a storage bin or shelf or organizational item that I'm pretty sure we're not going to need (we have tons more space here than we've ever had before), but I decide to hang onto it anyway just in case, I feel like pretty much everyone on the show who hangs onto things just in case they might find a use for them one day.

We continue to make progress, slowly but surely, and while the attic really is a mess (along with some other areas), I know that we will go through everything, get rid of what we don't need (after we're settled enough to know for sure what is no longer of use to us), and live with only what we need and/or really want. But this process is going to take time. Before we moved, I estimated that it would be 18 months before we were completely settled in, and two months in, I still think that estimate was accurate. So check with me next Christmas, when there won't be any unpacked boxes, we'll have all of the right art on the walls and rugs on the floors, the yard will be landscaped, and we won't have any extraneous junk in the attic. (No, no, not this Christmas. Next Christmas. Christmas 2011. Check back with me then.)

Interesting note: I recently read a review of the book Stuff, which used the metaphor of video games to illustrate what it's like to be a hoarder faced with an item. It said hoarding feels like being a kid wrapped up in playing a video game -- it doesn't matter what else is going on (dinner time, etc.), the rest of the world fades away and the only thing that matters is getting to the next level of the video game. When a hoarder is faced with, for instance, a rug, it doesn't matter that there's already a room full of brand new rugs at home, the hoarder just has to have the rug. Or broken toaster oven. Or whatever.

06 September 2010

Attic Escapades

Now that we have good light in the attic, we have been able to move more things up there (thereby freeing up space to get organized downstairs) and work on projects.

What projects, you ask?

Well, remember back in February when we did all that wiring? Of course not; you have a life that extends well beyond memorizing the minutiae of this blog. So I'll just tell you: back in February, we spent entire weekends putting in wiring and, when our patience (and time) grew thin, we installed conduit for future wiring (speaker, cable, etc.). And in a moment of genius, I decided to put a piece of orange tape around the top of each piece of conduit so they would be easy to find when we're digging around in the dark later (the open storage area of the attic extends over the great room and mudroom, but not above the bedrooms, so those attic areas are dim and cramped and not at all easy to get to).

Case in point: To run cable and speaker wire to the master bedroom TV outlet, I had to go over the river and through the woods to get to the conduit that runs down the wall where we put the TV armoire:


In this picture I had just climbed over one of the horizontal 2x4s and was standing above the master bedroom. The open attic space is just outside of the picture to the right.

And here I am feeding the wires into the conduit. See the orange tape?


Without it, that piece of conduit would have blended in with the other pipes, ducts, and miscellaneous building materials up there, but with it, we quickly and easily located our target. I think that orange tape earned us our Planning Ahead merit badge.

By the way, it was SO nice not to have any fiberglass insulation up there. Spray foam and cellulose was definitely the way to go.

05 September 2010

Out of the Darkness

The electrician put one light in the main attic area. The switch is right at the top of the stairs, but the light is by the HVAC equipment (as required by code), waaay on the other end of the 40-50' long space. This picture was taken from the top of the stairs (there's another 10' or so of storage on the other side of the stairs); the light hadn't been installed yet, but you can see the blue box peeking down above the HVAC unit:


All the light you're seeing in the attic is from the camera flash; even once the light was installed, it wasn't nearly that bright. Plus, the top of the open space in the truss is less than 7' tall, so the light hanging down like this isn't ideal:


(If you're wondering about those black pipes, they're for the geothermal system -- they go down the chimney space on the left side of the picture, then down through the slab and almost 300' underground in the yard to transfer heat to or from the ground to heat or cool the house, depending on the season. The pipes along the floor on the right side tie the water heater in to this system as well.)

We decided to add two lights in the attic. While we were doing that, we also moved the existing light up so we wouldn't hit our heads on it. Since the lights are up in the trusses, you can't see them, but you can see the pool of light above the HVAC and another at the top right of this picture (plus empty boxes, golf clubs, spare paint, and the tools we used for this project):


(As we've been unpacking, we've stashed all kinds of stuff in the attic. While the attic space is semi-conditioned, it's a bit warmer than the living spaces, so we're putting off organizing the attic until this winter, when we'll have a better sense of how much, and what, needs to find a home up there.)

Last, here's the light we added at the top of the stairs, slightly to the right, to illuminate the other end of the attic:


Although the lights are up in the trusses, there really aren't any shadows because there are three lights, and because the white foam insulation reflects so much light back down.

I think our attic gets the award for "most improved."

03 September 2010

Big Week

Not much house-related to report this week. Shutterfly sent us each an offer for a free photo book, so we spent two full evenings amassing and organizing pictures from construction and our trip to Hawaii last fall -- and, therefore, not a lot of time unpacking. (By the way, Shutterfly's photo books are fantastic -- if you've never made one, you should try it out. And after we placed a couple of orders with them, they started sending us offers for free books, cards, etc. every few months.)

I've also been spending some time each night studying Spanish. A co-worker arranged lunchtime Spanish classes at the office, which started this week. Eight of us are in the beginner class, and so far, we're having a lot of fun. (To demonstrate what I've learned, yo soy abogada, y el libro es amarillo.)

And rounding out this week, tomorrow (Saturday) morning I start marathon training with an easy five miles along the lake. Although this is purely running, I expect that it's going to feel a lot like training for the New Orleans Half Ironman last year -- in the last couple of months before the race, I was hungry all the time and absolutely could not eat enough. Not a bad problem to have....

02 September 2010

Mind In the Gutter

I learned a valuable lesson today. Two, actually.

1. The fact that our lot doesn't have any trees is not the final word on whether our gutters need screens to keep leaves out.

2. Cleaning gutters is about as fun as it sounds.

After no rain for I-don't-know-how-long, there's finally rain in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow. Since I noticed leaves poking out of one of the gutters the other day, I thought I should clean them out before the rain comes. (Especially with 1" wide holes in the gutters for rain chains instead of 4" openings for downspouts, any leaves could clog up the works pretty quickly.) So I dragged our new 6' ladder out back and pulled out a surprising volume of leaves (from the neighbor's huge tree, with which we have history). Fortunately, it didn't take long -- the rain was only minutes behind me, and it's really coming down.