28 February 2011

Green Building Doesn't Have to Be Ugly

I'd like to think that the story I've been telling over the last year and a half about the construction of my house has proven that "green" building doesn't have to be minimalist, ultra-modern, or stark. (Yes, I realize that, for some, minimalist, ultra-modern, and stark is the opposite of ugly, but there are plenty of examples out there of green homes with ultra-modern styling, so my purpose here is to demonstrate that green building can successfully coexist with traditional architecture.)

While our builder, R, was getting started on our house, he was finishing up another house that I sometimes think of as our house's big brother. It's a lot larger, much more expensive, and was designed by a super-fancy architect, but it's very similar in both its Craftsman styling and its emphasis on energy-efficiency and sustainability (it also achieved a five-star rating from Austin's green building program). Since it was a few months ahead of our house in the construction process, we frequently borrowed ideas from it on both the Craftsman and green fronts.

So, without further ado, here is another house that successfully melded state-of-the-art technology and traditional aesthetics (and, incidentally, is apparently much more moved-into than ours):

(Pictures from www.builderonline.com.)

27 February 2011

Retail Magic

Yesterday I dragged Steve to West Elm for their We (Heart) Handmade Art event, where West Elm brought in a handful of local Etsy artists to sell their wares right in the store.

We happened to be at West Elm around the same time last Saturday, so we had a good frame of reference for the number of shoppers who are usually there -- and this event brought out a huge crowd. I never get out of West Elm without finding something good in the clearance area...and this time I also found a lovely handmade print of pear trees set against a background of pears from Etsy shop Kimball Prints:

I put it in a black Target frame and hung it in the guest room, where it will look great with our someday West Elm duvet cover.

The synergy of the West Elm/Etsy event was pretty amazing. Plus there were food and drinks. If there's a West Elm in your area, look out for it. (Oh, and they gave an extra 20% off of all purchases yesterday, plus a coupon for 20% off our next purchase.)

26 February 2011

Buried in Linens

It was time.

Time to finally organize the linen closet. It wasn't a pretty sight, and it had gotten to the point where we had a perpetual laundry basket in the master closet with linens that we never folded because we knew there wouldn't be anywhere to store them in the linen closet...because the linen closet looked like this:

Pillow cases were colonizing not one but two shelves:

So I took everything out and started over. The spare pillows stayed on the top shelf, but everything else was moved around and pared down.

I wrangled the pillowcases into two wooden boxes on a single shelf. There are a lot of them.

My favorite part is that sheets are now organized by the room they serve -- guest room above the pillowcases and master below. No more pulling out each set and unfolding sheets to see if they're queen or full.

There's a big stack of things for Goodwill (including a few more pillowcases):

Tablecloths/cloth napkins/place mats moved into kitchen drawers, and a handful of random items went into a storage bin to go up to the attic. The linen cabinet in the front bathroom even got in on the re-org action. There's no before shot, but trust me, it's a huge improvement. The towels, too, are now arranged by the bathroom they go in (newer, fluffy white for the master bathroom, older, less fluffy white for the front bathroom, and patterned for the guest bathroom), with extra blankets stacked below:

It really is the little things in life....

25 February 2011

In Print

Little known fact about me: I have a 100% success rate with letters to the editor. In the past, I've written to the Austin newspaper about such topics as medical malpractice reform and the lack of garbage cans at water stops in a local 10k race and to the editor of the University of Texas newspaper about rising tuition costs (and how -- at least as of writing about eight years ago -- UT tuition was still one of the best values in the country). Each time I've written in, the editor has seen fit to publish my letter.

After the marathon last weekend, I just had to put my perfect record on the line to write a "thank you" to the community for the support the people of this fair city showed to runners. Especially over the last six or seven miles, where dozens of ordinary citizens stood out in front of their houses with buckets of pretzels, tubs of candy, and trays of oranges to give runners a boost to make it to the finish line. So I typed up a short note to the editor of the Austin paper -- and they published it!

I cannot tell you how amazing those oranges were. I had thought there was only one time during the year when it was okay to take food from random strangers, but now I know there are two times: (1) Halloween and (2) marathon.

24 February 2011

Construction Recap: Tiling the Master Bathroom Window, or The Importance of Planning

I've written before about how important it is to have the best possible contractor for any construction project. (I'm all for DIYing things, but I know my limits...and this post further illustrates that.) In addition to being familiar with all of the technical processes, materials, code requirements, etc. that go into building a house, our builder, R, was also sincerely interested in doing what he could to ensure that even the cosmetic decisions we made turned out the absolute best they could.

At R's suggestion, we used Marvin Integrity windows. They weren't cheap, but he has had a lot of experience with them and is a big fan. (The most common brands for the type of house he usually builds -- Kolbe, Pella, and regular Marvin -- are significantly more expensive and, in his opinion, are no better than Integrity.) One point for R for getting us great windows at the cost of good windows.

Integrity windows are made with a proprietary vinyl-like (but better) material (called "Ultrex") on the outside for easy maintenance and are available with either Ultrex or wood on the inside. To further complicate the decision-making process, Ultrex comes in a handful of colors. We knew that the inside of our windows would be wood, painted to match our interior trim (a shade of white). We were leaning toward white Ultrex exteriors because we were planning to have white exterior trim as well, but R pointed out that the stark white of the Ultrex probably wouldn't match whatever not-pure-white trim color we chose, so it made sense for us to choose the tan option (called "cashmere") instead. Another point for R.

Then, months before we needed to make any decisions about tile, he took a look at the plans for our master bathroom and thought it would be nifty to take the tile all the way to the ceiling on the two walls surrounding the shower. To skip to the "after" for a moment, here's how that looks (since the tile blends into the walls, this picture shows the absence of a transition from tile to bare wall more than anything else):

We hadn't given a moment's thought to how far the tile would go on those two walls, so we really appreciated his ability to think ahead on that and loved the idea of continuing the tile to the ceiling. But what to do about the window in the back wall? R had a solution for that. Because he thought of it so early in the process, we were able to order an all-Ultrex window for the back wall so that we could wrap the tile all the way around the window so there's no wood at all -- just a tile sill butting up to the Ultrex interior. (That makes three points for R.) Here's another view of the three windows, with the Ultrex one on the right wrapped all around with tile:

In case you're wondering, here's the tile pattern:

As shown in our the picture that was our tile inspiration, we wanted a brick pattern. When we finally found the right tile (a porcelain from Ceramic Tile International that was remarkably affordable), it only came in 12x12 or 12x24, so we decided to go for the 12x24...and then we realized that, if we cut each tile into thirds, we could create a better proportioned (and much more appropriately scaled) brick pattern. Here's how it looks wrapped around that Ultrex window in the shower:

Versus the two other windows, which have wood frames on the inside and have the same trim that all of our other windows have:

If R hadn't been so on top of these issues, we would have ordered a wood window for the shower -- not a great idea -- and there's no telling where we might have decided to end the tile. The arrangement that we ended up with is just one example of the value and beauty a true professional can bring to a construction project.

(Side note: See how close the light fixture is to the window trim in the last picture? We had ordered triple-light fixtures, thinking that the bathroom windows would have more minimal trim to downplay the difference between the shower window and the others, and only realized after the trim went up that the three-light versions weren't going to fit in the space, so we called in an emergency change to the lighting shop. But even with a point for that Hail Mary move and a point for cutting the 12x24 tiles into thirds, R still beat us 3-2.)

22 February 2011

Landscaping, Take Two

Last week we met with our landscape designer for the final plan. To refresh your memory, here's the first draft:

And now the (more or less) final version:

The main changes are as follows:
  • We added the oak tree in the front yard (which should always have been there...two of them, actually).
  • We extended the planting bed around to the left side in the front to accommodate an agave (which also should have been in the first draft). What's an agave? It's a cactus-like plant that might look like this variegated specimen:

Or like this all-green one (back when it was dressed up for the holidays):

  • We moved the raised vegetable garden beds closer to the house so we could extend the bushes all the way across the back of the lot.
  • We extended the planting bed on the back right side of the house.
Many of these measures were due to the need to reduce the size of our lawn, as the green building program requires that we have no more than 2,000 square feet of turn grass in order to obtain a five-star rating. (Fortunately, the first 18 feet of "our" yard, measuring from the curb, is the city's right-of-way, so it doesn't count against our 2,000 square feet. Good thing, too, as that's about 1,000 square feet right there.) The weird thing about that requirement is that we could fill up square footage with a pool -- which uses tons of water and electricity -- without any green building penalty, but even low-water, drought-resistant grass is offensive beyond the 2,000th square foot. Likewise, we are required to use certain native plants; in theory, a single "illegal" plant would keep us from getting that coveted fifth star, but if we replaced that plant with a huge, inefficient swimming pool, that's A-OK. But anyway....

The landscape designer gave us a quote for most of the work, but we have serious reservations about going forward with her, so we're exploring other options. In particular, we're looking at bidding out the site preparation (grading, dirt removal, and soil prep) and/or sod portions of the work and handling a lot of the rest ourselves...on a more extended schedule than we had first planned. So we're switching gears from writing a check to have everything done in a week or two to thinking about:
  • the order in which all of the steps need to take place (including the concrete work, for which we already have a quote, and the sprinkler system)
  • our soil preparation needs (the dirt in this area is pretty poor, so it's imperative that we amend it with better soil -- plus the green building program requires us to use 6" of topsoil with 25% compost under all lawn areas)
  • what equipment we might need to rent for the parts of the work we're considering doing ourselves
  • other landscapers we should contact for bids for the work we don't want to do on our own
It feels like the start of the construction process all over again...and we're still weary from the last time.

21 February 2011

Well This Couldn't Have Come at a Worse Time...

I spent 2800+ calories in the marathon yesterday, and my kitchen is off limits today.

This morning the wood floor company came back for step, oh, 8 in fixing the scratches in the finish that resulted from construction and other warranty work. If I had really thought it through, I would have figured out a lunch plan in advance -- the work started around 10, and it won't be safe to walk around in the kitchen until about 4. I could always pick lunch up from a nearby restaurant or grocery store, but my legs are still feeling pretty sore (walking down stairs is the worst), and I don't feel like going out. So I'm limited to whatever I can reach from outside the kitchen -- a banana on the long island, a granola bar from the marathon expo, etc. Fortunately, I'll be able to get back in soon, and there's leftover lo mein in the refrigerator with my name on it.

I don't like to blame anyone (or anything) but myself for a poor race performance, but apparently the weather really did play a huge part in the difficulty of the day. Here's an excerpt from an e-mail one of my coaches sent today:

I don't know what to say, runners, except that was probably the toughest, most difficult conditions (weather and course) I've ever encountered for the Austin Marathon. As far as the course is concerned, I didn't fully appreciate the difficulty of the course until actually running the entire course from start to finish yesterday. The double San Jacinto hill, the long, grueling stretch up Congress Avenue, and the exhausting slog up Exposition made this by far the hardest Austin course I've seen in my eight years of running it.

Then there was the weather. By themselves, both the wind and the heat were bad enough. But put both of them together and it made for some miserable running, especially when one was looking to the later downhill miles for some relief. The headwind coming back south was relentless and knocked out many seasoned runners. To give you some perspective on how brutal a day it was, we had seven pacers drop out this year, making it the highest total ever for pacers not making it to the finish.

Holy cow. The pacers are such experienced runners that they volunteer to run the entire race at a certain pace while holding a sign so runners can stick with them to reach their goals. And for a coach to say that the wind was severe enough to make the race noticeably harder, well, I guess it really was. (I felt deflated every time I felt a headwind, but I didn't really think it was slowing me down.)

Yesterday's marathon also marked the end of my two-week donation drive for the local food bank. I am pleased to announce that I received 28 comments, plus two more that appeared to be spam but I will include anyway, for a grand total of $30 to the Capital Area Food Bank. Thanks for your contributions!

20 February 2011

The First and Only Marathon I Will Ever Run

How was it? Here's the short version: I am so looking forward to getting back to triathlons.

Now for the long version.

The night before the race, I came to the conclusion that my difficulty mentally preparing for it was because it amounted to running the easiest half marathon of my life, followed immediately by the hardest half marathon of my life. If only. In fact, it turned out to be the hardest half marathon of my life followed immediately by another half marathon that would blow the difficulty of the first one out of the water.

We've known for a week or longer that it was going to be a freakishly warm day. (The race booklet said that the average low temperature over the last five years is 35 and the average high is 61. Today's low was 62. I don't care to know the high, but it was about 65 by the time I finished.) The only upside to the weather is that it was overcast, with the sun only peeking out a couple of times.

The race starts (and ends) at the Capitol, which made for some nice pictures. Because it was pretty dark at the start, none of the pictures of me with my running buddies turned out too well, but this one is quite nice:

There were runners everywhere. Although the start was seeded by pace, runners didn't necessarily put themselves in the right spot, so the first few miles were really congested. My training buddies, Kelli and Christina, and I agreed that we would start together but each plan to run our own race, hoping that our "own races" would happen at the same pace and next to each other but aware that we might get split up at the beginning due to congestion on the course. The first mile in particular was way over our goal pace, but we managed to stick together -- or find each other quickly after getting caught behind someone slower or having to take the long way around someone. In this picture, around mile 2, Christina and I were together (just behind the guy in the maroon shirt), and Kelli was temporarily ahead or behind:

Everything went pretty smoothly for the first 8 miles or so. There were uphill miles and downhill miles, but overall we maintained our goal pace and managed to stay together. Then there was another uphill mile that put us close to a minute over pace for that mile. The next mile was even worse for me. I've run half marathons at faster paces with similar hills and in similar weather, so I don't know why it got so hard so soon, but I quickly fell behind Christina and Kelli. Here they are at mile 12, looking great:

And then me at the same spot, looking like I felt:

Which was exhausted. Nothing hurt, but I pretty much hit "the wall" around mile 10 and was soon running 1-2 minutes/mile slower than my goal pace. (I was prepared to hit the wall somewhere between miles 15 and 20 and intended to push through to try to maintain my pace, but with 16 miles to go, it would have been foolish to try to keep it up, so I had no choice but to go with it.) Getting to the 18th mile, where I knew family, neighbors, and friends would be, felt like a death march, but when I got there, I was happy to find my brother, Kevin, holding the "Hello Devon" sign that my dear friend Ursula made for me when she came with me to a triathlon in Alabama:

Standing next to Kevin is our friend Joc, who lives nearby and agreed to run a couple of miles with me, starting there. But as we approached Joc's street, where he was going to peel off and go home, he could tell how beaten down I was and offered to run the rest of the way with me (another 6 miles or so) -- making him my favorite person of the day. Here I am running alone, still looking how I felt, as Joc had run ahead to let Steve, my dad, and my other fans know what was up:

Have I mentioned what a godsend it was that he was willing to run with me? I was much slower than expected, but having him there to take my mind off of my misery over those eight miles or so probably saved me five minutes and definitely made those miles feel less awful.

At the end Joc left my side so I could run through the finishers' chute alone. I tried to speed up more in the last mile or so, but there was a big uphill -- plus, have I mentioned that I had run 25 miles at that point? -- so it wasn't until the last few hundred yards that I was really able to pick up the pace:

I even managed a smile at Steve as I passed by:

All in all, I averaged almost a minute per mile slower than my goal pace and still have no idea why anyone would ever run a marathon. (My reason is far too personal to share here, but just know that it had nothing to do with a passion for running or wanting to accomplish a longtime -- or shorttime -- goal.) The best part of the whole crazy experience was that Kelli came in a couple of minutes under our shared goal time -- a huge feat given the heat and humidity of the day and the difficulty of the course.

16 February 2011


One of the reasons people always give for living in Texas is the weather. The mild winters theoretically make up for the HOT summers. But there's actually a lot more cold than people realize (such as the blizzard we experienced a couple of weeks ago), and temperatures in the 30s-50s are great for running. Especially when you're running for hours on end. Like in a marathon.

But nooooo, it's going to be in the 60s on Sunday. Why? Why?! WHY?! 40 degrees is probably my sweet spot -- cool enough to be comfortable, warm enough not to chase away all of the spectators. But 62 will be okay, too, I guess.

Oh, and did I mention there's a decent chance of rain? Warm and humid. Awesome.

Reminder: just four days left of my comment drive for the Capital Area Food Bank. I'll donate $1 for each comment you leave on any post through the day of the marathon. So get to it!

15 February 2011

Green in Action: Bathroom Vent Fan Timers

Yesterday I wrote about our humidity-sensing bath vent fans. (In sum, we have two of them, and they've been a big disappointment.)

Today I'm going to write about the other piece of technology we are using to "green" up our bath vent fans: timer switches. Instead of regular light switches that we turn on before we get in the shower and turn off some time after we get out, these switches have a built-in timer that can be set for anywhere from 5 to 60 minutes (plus a regular "on/off" setting):

See the red dot to the left of the 15-minute mark? Pressing the button once on the way into the shower will ensure that the fan stays on for some time after to ensure that all of the humidity is gone. (If you turn your fan off as soon as you leave the bathroom, it's likely that a lot of moisture will remain, but if you leave a modern, super-quiet fan on after you've left the bathroom, there's a good chance you'll forget about it and continue to suck conditioned air from the house long after the humidity level has returned to normal. And by "you," I mean me. There's a good chance that I'll forget to turn it off.)

The switch shown above, by Lutron, is easy to program (just touch the narrow buttons on the right to increase or decrease the set time). It's also easy to install, as it goes in just like a regular outlet, so it can easily be retrofit for existing construction and any fan (just remember to take all appropriate safety precautions when messing with electricity, or call in an expert).

The one shortcoming of this bath fan solution is that, unlike the (theoretically) humidity-sensing fans we looked at yesterday, you have to remember to turn it on. I give it a solid A.

(For anyone still interested in trying out the humidity-sensing option, I hear Panasonic has just released a humidity-sensing switch, which turns any fan into a humidity-sensing fan. I don't know if it has the same issues as our humidity-sensing fans -- which are Broan/NuTone -- but I'm enthusiastic enough about this technology that I'd be willing to give it a try.)

14 February 2011

Green In Action: Humidity-Sensing Bathroom Vent Fans

Let's talk about the evolution of bathroom vent fans. Before we do, though, I think it's important to point out that bath fans aren't just to keep the room from feeling steamy or to ensure that you can see your pretty self when you get out of the shower. They're actually really important for maintaining the integrity of the materials in your home.

Many older houses don't have bath fans at all, which is okay if the room has an openable window (on the theory that the occupant will open the window to allow steam to escape even in the dead of winter). Other houses have fans that vent into the attic space, which is wrong, wrong, wrong. (This allows moisture to build up in the attic, where it can get trapped and turn your roof decking and insulation into a soggy, moldy mess.) The only proper installation of a bath fan is one where the duct leads to outside air. In most cases, that's up through the roof, but it may also be to an exterior wall or, in our case, up through the attic and out at the eave. (I wouldn't want to put it at the eave if the house had soffit vents -- which would likely just suck the moist air back into the attic -- but our sealed attic doesn't.)

We have a few different kinds of vent fans. Some of them are standalone units that have a plastic grate against the ceiling (which can also be installed in a wall). Others are disguised in light fixtures. Of those, there are a couple built into recessed lights, and the one in the front bathroom is hidden in a not-bad-looking ceiling-mounted fixture:

But there's another feature that sets two of our vent fans apart from the others. One ceiling-mounted standalone fan and one recessed light fan have built-in humidistats. This kind of fan is designed to be left on all the time, and when the shower is turned on, the humidity level will rise and turn the fan on automatically.

Unfortunately, this hasn't really been our experience. The fan in the master bathroom, which we have used the most, doesn't always come on when we shower. Sometimes it doesn't come on until five minutes after we turn the shower off (long after the humidity should have triggered it). Sometimes it comes on when it should but stays on for three hours. Sometimes, if we leave the switch turned on -- which we try to avoid -- it comes on in the middle of the night, waking us up. Our builder has replaced the unit, but the new one has all of the same issues. The sensitivity is adjustable (through a dial that, unfortunately, can only be accessed by removing the guts of the unit from the wall), but making it more sensitive would seem to worsen the nighttime wake-up calls and making it less sensitive would probably make it even less likely to come on during showers.

The builder is waiting to hear from the vent fan manufacturer for a solution, but I'm not hopeful that there's going to be a way to get these fans working for us. My suspicion is that this technology just isn't there yet. It's a great idea -- forgetting to turn the fan on won't result in moldy drywall, and forgetting to turn it off won't waste energy -- but it just isn't working. D-.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a much better solution for bathroom vent fans. (Spoiler alert: I give it a solid A.)

13 February 2011

Bright Lights, Big Neighborhood

Our neighborhood may or may appear in a movie later this year. The word on the block last week was that filming was going on in the park behind my house, but I swung by to check things out and only found a staging area. On a typical winter weekday, this parking lot would usually only have a handful of cars in it, but on Friday there were a bunch of trailers bearing the names of local movie support companies, as well as dozens of cars:

I'm not one to get stars in my eyes over celebrities -- which is just as well, as there were none to be found -- but I am always interested to learn about new things. How movies get made is pretty foreign to me, so it was neat to see some of the support vehicles, including the trailer where the director apparently hangs out (you know, when he's not directing stuff):

The huge truck in the center of the first picture turned out to have two restrooms on the right and what appeared to be four dressing rooms on the left, each marked with the name of (I assume) one of the characters in the movie. Every night last week, we could see lights on above each door from our bedroom window. (I wonder if they were filming nighttime scenes in the park?) Here it is after they were finished using it for the day and had folded up the staircases leading to each door:

It could also double as a jail for bad actors and actresses....

Last but not least, there was the hair and make-up trailer, appropriately labeled "Hair & Make-Up":

It would have been fun to see some actual "lights, camera, action" action, but this wasn't bad for our sleepy little neighborhood.

12 February 2011

Status Saturday: The Office (Part 3)

Last week, Steve and I got a bee in our metaphorical bonnet to rearrange the office furniture. Here's a reminder of what used to be where (during the brief period in December when we were trying out that round rug, which we've since returned):

See the desk on the right? Steve made it a few years ago out of a piece of nice plywood and set it on two shelf units that he built to store tools in the condo. He loved the size of the desktop -- three feet by seven feet -- but the height of the shelves made the work surface too high for comfort. I have a long-term plan in mind, but it's going to require a lot of work. In the meantime, I generously offered Steve my desk, so we moved it over to "his" side of the office:

That left a big gap on the other side of the room, so we moved the shelf to the other wall and brought in the plantation chair from the guest room to create a sitting area:

(Oh, those pillows on the two chairs? Same pillow, different coordinating fabric on each side, $3.74 each at the Dillard's clearance center near us. If there's one near you, check it out for unbelievable deals.)

We put the plywood desktop in the garage but kept the shelf units in the office to help us get all of our paperwork and office supplies under control (it's an ongoing effort...). Here's one of them, which we put on the wall between the doors to get the wire organizer off the floor:

Not too bad for a temporary storage solution....

So that's the current state of the office. If you're wondering what we did with the corner of the guest room that was newly plantation chair-less, we put the second desk chair (dining chair) there. (We figured our guests can recline on the bed, so a regular old chair would be just as good in that spot.) That corner is still a work in progress, but it'll do for now:

That pillow is really special. It's a traditional Ukrainian design, and Steve's Aunt Helen gave it to us.

11 February 2011

My DIY Valentine

I just came across this old Valentine's card in a bin of Steve's stuff:

I think I gave it to him in 2001 or 2002.

If your lover is a DIY lover, he or she is sure to love a paint swatch love note from you!

09 February 2011


It's been a busy, busy week, so let's keep the words to a minimum and take a minute to enjoy these:

06 February 2011

Full Circle

Last February Steve and I spent hours and hours every weekend in the cold, dark shell of our house working on wiring projects (audio, internet, etc.), rushing to get these special upgrades done before the insulation and drywall went in. Toward the end of the month, we decided to just install conduit in many locations, either because we were not yet sure exactly what we would want in each wall or, eventually, because we were simply running out of time to get everything done (and one piece of conduit was easier to install than 2-4 pieces of wire).

We first made use of the conduit back in September, when we ran internet and/or cable (I'm not sure which; Steve's our tech guy) to the TV armoire in the master bedroom, but it wasn't until today that we really put the conduit plan to the test. This afternoon, while rearranging the office a bit, we decided to run Cat 6 (internet) wire to one of empty low voltage boxes in an exterior wall.

Sure, everything is wireless these days, but we're still using a pretty old computer that depended on a power-hungry wireless router, so this change should save some energy and might also ensure better service for the computer and our printer.

I took about a zillion pictures of the walls before insulation and drywall went in but apparently didn't get a picture of the exact box before the insulation and drywall went in, so here's another one we put in on the other side of the office:

And here's the upper part of the conduit that we wired today, reaching up into the attic space:

Because the attic was going to be insulated with several inches of spray foam, it wasn't enough just to run the conduit up through the top plate (the horizontal pieces of wood at the top of the vertical studs). We also needed to route the conduit toward the middle of the space so the end wouldn't get lost in the foam. Here's that other one again, after the insulation and drywall went in.

(It's covered in cellulose insulation -- made of newspaper -- which was blown into the walls but pretty much got everywhere.)

I felt like we were in good shape to run the wire down the wall, but I wasn't entirely certain I could get myself and the wire to the conduit because of a lot of rather serpentine HVAC equipment impeding our access to that end of the house. I knew I was going to need to climb over and through and around all of this:

The space above the office is directly behind all of that. As I made my way across and under the ducts and truss members, the conduit into which I would run the wire was barely visible (right in the middle of this picture):

Once I got myself and the wire there, it was actually really easy to run the wire down the conduit:

Steve went downstairs to catch it and pull it out of the box. I also ran a piece of string to make it easier to pull another wire through the conduit if we ever need to do that.

If only actually organizing the office were this easy....