Monday, January 25, 2010

New Year. Now what?

It's daunting to say the least to start a new year when the previous one was one of such extraordinary achievements and creativity. I mean, now I've got to find inspiration short of knocking down another wall because, seriously, I can't handle any more dust and we're broke.

So, it's onto finding and nurturing the creativity, inspiration and growth in the wonderful little nest we've built here.

It's been a great start thus far: a great holiday with all the family, a fun New Year's open house to welcome friends in and back to school for 2010 with backpacks, mittens and homework stored tidily in the mudroom making it so easy to get out the door for school(well, 2 out of 3...). And of course, we're making it our own: Audrey somehow got toothpaste globs smeared into her carpet, there's a really strange smell on Henry's carpet and we have 4 times as many picture hanger holes in the walls as pictures (it take a while to find just the right spot).

The good news is that there are still plenty of house projects into which I can channel my energies (just how many Container Store boxes can one house hold?) I'm still working on having a laundry room that does the laundry by itself and perfectly the tchochke arrangement on the mantel.

So, thanks all for the support and views in 2009. Wait till you see what 2010 has in store!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Home Sweet Home

Perhaps you all heard the champagne cork pop last week? Yes, it's true. We are in the house. 5 months later and we finally got back to a decent bed.

Don't worry, the blog isn't going anywhere--there are still plenty of jobs to finish here (still no counter top from Portland--apparently the weather up there is different than Austin (??!!) and wacky counter-top man didn't adjust for the humidity the first time so he had to re-pour. Seriously.)

But here, for the collective sigh of relief, are some pictures of the house in all it's glory. And, as I promised Audrey and Henry we would be back in time to hand out Halloween candy from our proper house, are some shots of Disco Devil and her Clone Trooper.

Enjoy. I'm off to unpack some more boxes.
Check this beauty out. So far it's warmed up day-old hamburgers and brewed my coffee. But there are big plans in store....

A kitchen view with 2 of the three pendants hung. Problems with the 3rd one. Stay tuned...

View of the living room from the kitchen. For those of you who have been tuned in since the beginning, the dining room table takes up the spot that used to be the kitchen. Yup, that's right. My kitchen was the size of a table.

Tree Bomb! Fabulous wallpaper in the foyer.

Disco Devil and Clone Trooper. Do NOT mistake him with a Storm Trooper. They are very different...although I'm a bit fuzzy on how.

Rounding out a fabulous Halloween back at home. I think they have almost as much fun handing out the candy as getting it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

It's all in the timing

Extended periods of inaction. Hurry up and wait. Spurts of action. Missed connections and then 4 hours in the Frankfurt airport. Quick decision-making that make all the difference. Captured opportunities. One missed detail and painful delays.

I've seen it all in the past month. I suppose we ultimately wind up in the place we're supposed to be--even if it looks a little bit different than initially intended--but it's hard to keep centered amidst the whirlwind, isn't it?

After several months of delays, it took the new plumber 1 week to get the trench filled back up again. The trench turned into a canyon--you know your remodel is taking too long when the forces of erosion begin taking place in your home--but this plumber clearly knew what he was doing.


It wasn't without drama however as we failed the inspection (again!). Turns out the temporary plug put in place to test the new pipes is a pressurized ball. The plumber set it all up in the morning, but 4 hours later when the inspector arrived, the air had leaked out of the ball, the plug was gone and the pipes didn't hold water. Four hours of leakage=failed inspection=another weekend with a trench. That was probably the hardest weekend thus far. To be so close, to set all the right things in motion, to have the sense of momentum only to have it stalled.

Monday morning bright and early, the plumber was back again. The inspector showed promptly and gave us the thumbs up. With the inspection passed and the trench filled in, it was quick work for the cabinets to get fully installed. And what beauts they are:

It was quick work then to move onto the painting. Found a great crew who have full time jobs and have spent their evenings and weekends busting their tails on a great paint job. These guys are really great and demonstrate just how lucky I am to spend my evenings lolling about watching Glee and 30 Rock. Double-time work for these guys=happy times for me.

Then we move into a rather dark place. The trip to Florence with the girls, in the planning for 5 months, strategically scheduled for dates when "surely we'll be done by then..." only to have them fall smack dab in the middle of the remodel. In a sign that I am doing too much, squeezing too many activities into too short of a time--I never actually received confirmation that the tickets I THOUGHT were booked went through. Turns out, when I was booking them at Expedia (1st time...and last with Expedia) they didn't actually confirm them. Pushed the reservation request through to American Airlines, but then never followed up to say the tickets didn't actually get issued.

In the whirlwind of my life, I never connected the dots until 2 days before the trip. God bless my lovely girlfriends who would not let my missed confirmation stop this trip and by sheer force of will got me on another flight. So...12 hours after I was supposed to leave (and double the original ticket price) I hit the skies for a wonderful time in Florence. (TransAtlantic flights will definitely force some serious time introspection. Not to mention the missed connection in Frankfurt and 4 hours of attempted napping in the main terminal amidst many German people). Truly inspiring time and a blast. Puts my 5 month remodel into perspective--hundreds of years of the dark ages followed by another hundred years of the Renaissance to produce such moving works of art. Perhaps my remodel is just not so bad (although those cabinets really are a work of art...)

So now I am back to a whirlwind of activity, albeit severely jet-lagged (and my suitcase finally made it, just 48 hours after I made it back home). The counter tops are in in part of the kitchen. Backsplash tile up. Floors going in on Friday. Carpet next week. We've even got a POD to make the flooring process a bit smoother.

We've hit a bit of a snag with my recycled glass countertops--the one-of-a-kind piece that I just can't live without. The guy making them--while a gifted artisan--is a complete flake. More on that next post--I need a little time to process that one effectively.

So now we've been so bold as to set a move-in date. Or rather a move-out date on the apartment. We've got to vacate by October 31. I am feeling tremendous trepidation on setting something in stone. I've spend so many months steeling myself to shifting deadlines, adjusted expectations and fluid timelines that a hard and firm date is causing a good bit of anxiety. But, I suppose, I'll eventually get to my destination. Here's hoping. I mean if USAir can get my luggage back to my door, surely I can find my way home too. Right?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sh@#...and cavities...happen

It's been a week of exploring some inner sanctums. First I got to see a cavity. You know your inner peace is really on the skids when a trip to the dentist to fill a cavity is a nice little respite from remodeling. I was downright giddy to grab an opportunity to numb my entire face during the day since it's just really not appropriate to drink at your desk. My dentist showed me just what a cavity looks like before it's filled. Kind of brownish, very small but really a crater in your tooth. And great motivation for diligent flossing diligently which, as for most, will last for another week and then drop off the radar for four months until it's time to get back to the dentist.

And far too quickly the novocaine wore off and I got to have the undiluted, unedited, unbelievable joy of watching a camera snake through my sewer.

So, Chris, the #$%@ plumber--remember the one who disappeared--reappeared long enough to inform us that we had a sewer line leak that was preventing him from pressurizing the kitchen lines and passing inspection. He declared we needed to scope the sewer lines. So, out he trotted with a camera, shoved it down my toilet and showed me the inside of my sewer pipes. Nothing terribly interesting to report, other than the point at which the camera was completely submerged in water. He quickly pulled the camera out of the toilet, rolled up the cable with the camera and his friend hustled it out of his house. He then proceded to give me a song and dance about what was causing this and, of course, how much it would cost. Either $2000 to put on a band-aid so he could pass inspection or $6000 to tunnel under my house and replace the entire sewer pipe.

The next day Bennett, Tom and I realized we had more questions than answers. And, we started comparing notes that Chris was wearing an Olshan's Plumbing shirt and the camera arrived in an Olshan's plumbing van. We deduced a few things: 1) Chris had taken a full-time job which explained his absences. 2) He was full of...nah, it's too easy...baloney. 3) We needed a second opinion and real answers.

So, Chris the plumber has been officially fired. New plumber arrives today to put on the "band-aid" and give us a legitimate sewer scope. If only fixing the sewer was as easy as filling a cavity--or I could at least get full-body novocaine that would last until we could move back in.
The good news: I discovered a decent yet inexpensive wine-in-a-box (the closest I can get to the whole-body novocaine to get me through the next month without going totally broke) I'm still flossing, the sheetrock is up (see pics below) and cabinets start going in today!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Searching for the light

It's been a painful and dark few weeks on the Sandlin remodel. We have been waiting, and waiting, and waiting for our plumber to appear from the wilderness to finish the last 5% of his job and let us get reinspected and begin the sheetrock. I guess we should have known he was trouble when on the first few weeks he claimed he couldn't work until he got more money because there were so many supplies required for the job. And then there was the crazy story about his cousin getting run over by an 18-wheeler. Then child custody issues. Then some other plumber showed up to "help Chris out." Funny, but he always managed to appear Friday at 3:00 pm for a check and a beer.

He's spent the past 2 weeks dodging phone calls and outright lying. I think he might have a serious pathological problem. Turns out I have the power to fire him. Got to lob that threat twice that week. And really wanted to follow through, but Tom was super antcy to get him to just finish the last 5% of the job and not loose any more time getting a new plumber lined up for the permitting. I drove by the house on Wednesday night at 9:30 pm and he was there trying to finish up. Of course he didn't have any lights....serves him right the lying sack of pvc pipe.


...we sort of passed inspection on Thursday--10 days after the initial inspection failed with just 2 things to fix. Of course the &XX**$#@ plumber STILL has things to fix. But we have the go-ahead to start putting up sheetrock everywhere but the laundry room.

All this delay has put Tom in a bit of a financial pickle...but I can't do much until this part of the job is done and the bank inspector signs off. Tom and I had our first very heated conversation yesterday. I think we're back on the good foot today (the bank released some money so he can make payroll), but it was a dark day yesterday indeed.

Everyday I give myself some degree of solace by looking out my beautiful kitchen windows. And six months from now I'll look out these windows while in my beautiful kitchen, enjoying the sunlight, looking at the outdoors (hopefully without the resident sawhorses and random mound of concrete)....and not even thinking about the plumber working in the dark.

So, for now, enjoy the view and look forward to a sunnier outlook next week.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hostage rescue and fork throwing--another week in the Sandlin remodel

I've got a bit of catching up to do. It's been 2 weeks since my last posting so there's quite a bit to bring everyone up to speed on.

First, the addition has been walled in. It looks a little funny without windows and with the old door to the garage. My beautiful wall of windows should be going in sometime during the week of 08/17. Still working through details on the back door, but it will be glass and very pretty. Not sure when we'll work through that one.

You can't see it from this angle, but the addition has also been roofed. So that should effectively deter any and all rain showers. Sorry about that one.

The walling in was to make way for probably the most dramatic change yet: breaking down the wall between house and the addition. Just completely opened things up and shows just how huge the impact will be. I'm really, truly going to have a proper size kitchen! You can see the faint line on the floor--that's where the outside wall used to be.

Other fun framing last week included the new pantry and repositioning the water heater into the garage:

Getting all this framing done let Sean, the cabinet man, come get final measurements and finalize his drawings. It was a tense week of decisions. The laundry room in particular was the source of much anxiety. It's a bit of a brain-teaser, but I think we came up with a good solution. The thing that threw us into meltdown was how to position the broom/vaccuum closet and still have room for a utility sink. The irony of such emotional discussions about my vaccuum closet given the fact that I vaccuum about 2x a year has not escaped me. Much hilarity ensued as I went to measure said vaccuum to ensure that the closet would be large enough, but I wasn't really sure where it was after the move. But, my vaccuum should appreciate it's elegant digs as it spends LOTS of time in there, rarely seeing the outside world. (Thanks, Annie, for saving me from having to actually ever use my vaccuum. I am spoiled and lucky indeed)

The other bit of cabinet anxiety was over the material. Our initial plan was to go for maple--hard, durable, minimal grain or knots, takes stain well, looks good in modern applications. But then we went to Sean's shop in Pflugerville and I saw a cabinet he had done in vertical grain fir that was just simply gorgeous. Tight, barely visible grain that makes the wood look textured but not like oak. With just a clear lacquer, it's just a beautiful, natural yet modern look. Jemima and I were literally drooling over it.

The only problem is that it's softer than maple. And, given my son, visions of scarred cabinets swirled in my mind. So Sean sent us home with a few samples of maple and fir so we could test whether it could withstand the rigors of Henryville. We went at them with forks, keys, pennies and other pieces of wood. The tests revealed that if we attempted to pierce the wood with a fork thrown at the wood at close range, it would in fact leave an impression. But, since it's a clear lacquer, the only way to detect the ding is by feeling the wood.

While we were cogitating, Sean came up with a way to run the grain horizontally, for a really just incredible, one-of-a-kind, custom look. I also did a really thorough inspection of the vgf cabinet he has in his shop, and it looks great. Surely Henry can't cause any more damage than a bunch of cabinet-makers. I mean we only let him use his circular saw and nail gun in the garage.

So we took the plunge and will have vertical grain fir, running sideways (horizontal vertical? vertical horizontal?). And Henry will have to limit all fork throwing to the garage now as well.

The other exciting moment of the past two weeks was the arrival of the appliances and the re-emergence of our South Austin dodgy bloke. We were quite excited to receive word that the appliances were all at the warehouse and scheduled for delivery on Monday, August 2. It worked out perfectly as the bank inspector was coming to review the framing and release the funds to pay the framers. We tacked the appliance inspection on to that to receive those funds from the bank.

August 2 came and went with the bank inspector...but no appliances. Bennett called about 5:30 and received a song-and-dance about the truck being in the shop and very vague assurances that everything was fine; our appliances would be there first thing Tuesday morning. Tuesday, 2:30: no appliances. He calls dodgy bloke and someone else says: "I don't know where they are. I'll call you back in 30 minutes." 3:30 and no phone call, Bennett's getting suspicious about the whereabouts of our appliances. And to make things more tense, the bank inspector won't release the framing funds without the appliances there. So he calls builder Tom and they plan on taking a truck down to the warehouse with the crew and either get our paid for appliances or take whatever they can get their hands on (Tom needed the framing funds so he's willing to mount a hostage rescue posse).

Unable to contain himself, Bennett drives down to the warehouse on Tuesday afternoon to get a straight answer. Yet another person there says: "Oh yeah, the appliances are on the truck. You'll get them today."

Bennett is now completely convinced that our appliance check was used to give dodgy bloke a nice vacation in Cancun. He's planning out his legal strategy when...6:30 pm appliances show up.

Sigh of relief:

Slightly anti-climactic as we were all ready for a hostage rescue and then just had a bunch of boxes to look at. And I was a bit disappointed to not be able to post a photo of dodgy bloke being dragged away in hand-cuffs. A perp walk would have been prime-blog material. But at least they are here. And the bank inspector released the funds which made everyone very happy.

That action all took place the first week of August. The second week of August has been a good deal less dramatic. Slightly frustrating, but we probably needed a week to take a deep breath after all that fork throwing and hostage rescue activity.

We were shooting to have plumbing, electrical and HVAC all complete last week so we could move onto drywall. The plumber finished up his work, but the electrician couldn't make it out and the HVAC guy disappeared altogether.

So, Tom has found another HVAC guy and the electrician is supposed to make it out this coming week. Hopefully we'll regain momentum.

Also had a slightly frustrating flooring meeting. We're going with very lovely cork tile. The contract estimated about 800 square feet of flooring. But somewhere in the mix it turns out we really need about 1100 square feet of flooring. At $7/sq foot that makes a pretty big financial difference. I think we've got it all worked out, but it's probably best that we had a week away from the job site to let everybody reconoiter and get their bearings.

So, on tap for this coming week: put down deposit on the flooring, get some inspections, see the light through our new windows and....get monkey man ready for kindergarten. It's really never a dull moment is it?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

In the blink of an eye

A bitter-sweet week.
First, the sweet. The roof is up! We have a proper addition.

Skylight? This was the view from inside the house before the new roof structure went up in the back. All those in Austin who appreciated the rain we had last Thursday can thank me for it. 3 months of no rain, and the 1 morning I had no roof, we got rain. Luckily Eric and the boys scrambled to get the roof deck on.

Max and Sid on the roof doing some lickedy-split work to beat the rain:

New addition with roof deck on. Post rain. Don't worry--I need to wash my car this week, so we should get a bit more rain...

This was a bit of a framing tour-de-force (not just beating the sudden rain storm). Initially our plans called for a shed roof. It would have looked fine, but suspicious eyes could have detected it was an addition. But my crack team of carpenters figured out a way to join apex of the new roof into the pre-existing one so it looks like it was built this way from the get-go. Go team!
Other progress this week included getting the electrical outlets, switches, recessed cans, etc. placed. Had many in-depth conversations pretending to come into the house with a bag full of groceries and wanted light switched to be in the correct spot. Here's what I think: architects and electricians rarely come home with a bag of groceries. They are in the right spot now. :)
And now for the bitter-sweet part. Monkey man Henry turned 5. Here's a picture from his 1st birthday party invitation--just a few months after we moved into the house:

And here he is, 4 years, one addition and one haircut later, my 5 year old at his birthday party. I SWEAR it was just yesterday he was getting his chubby legs into that chair!

On tap for next week:
Finish out electrical and get ready for that inspection. Plumber should be doing some stuff as well. Appliances should arrive tomorrow. We should be knocking down the old outside wall as well sometime this week (the one that is currently running down the middle of my new kitchen).
Stay tuned.