Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A House via iPhone

Remember all the boo-hooing back at the beginning of the house build about our poor, broken camera?  You'd think, based on the sorry state of the various photos we've provided, that the camera was never replaced.  In fact, we immediately purchased a shmancy-ish DSLR little number in order to expertly capture the build for posterity.  All that trouble we went to and yet all of the house photos still manage to come to you via iPhone.  Sorry about that.  In our daily scramble to get from current house, through traffic, to land, all while packing car with various items requiring transport, along with three slobbering dogs and assorted food items - the camera somehow gets lost in the shuffle.  

So if you cock your head a little sideways and turn the lights up in your livingroom, you might actually get a sense for what I've photographed in these images.

Here we have two images, pre-wall texture, to display the first of approximately 15 lights and fans that will go into the living/kitchen/dining.  That there downrod above the light?  Hand crafted by Jeremy himself.  Due to the slant of the ceiling, each rod has to be a different length.  That's just another of the many, "I can't believe we didn't think of that" types of issues we've encountered.  And since we're installing all lights/fans/plumbing fixtures ourselves, well, there's a whole lot more forehead slapping we'll be doing.  Regardless.  There's a light!!!!  In the kitchen!!!!  It's a big time out here folks.

And here is the house as it looked this evening:

That is actual, real, finished, totally done, completed drywall - floated, taped, and textured.  The crew packed up and made room for the trim crew coming out Monday.  This means the final stage of the house build will begin exactly (exactly!) three months from the day it started.  Trim involves baseboards, closet shelving, and hanging interior doors.  For more information about the restoration and use of old doors - please come back next week.  Or maybe don't come back. Because all I'll have to say about restoring and using old doors can be summed up in one word: "DON'T." (Jenna says, as she clears throat and looks awkwardly at the floor:  What was I thinking?!).  

Regardless of the door saga, which requires it's own blog and could easily become a miniseries on the Lifetime Channel for Women, I am quite taken with this house.  Quite.  Taken.  After wandering through the place this evening repeatedly, just looping around and around, through exterior doors, around porches, into another door, up the stairs into the attic, down the stairs, into the master bedroom, into the closet, etc (and repeat) - I finally made my way onto the back pasture.  On a chilly evening, the animals are at their finest, and I hate to miss an opportunity to stand in the pasture while the donkeys chase circles around me.  It's a lot funnier to watch donkey chasing whilst standing among them, then from across the fence.  As their excitement subsided and Boo's hysterical galloping died down, I stood in the oak grove and looked at the house.  In that moment the memory of this time last year slammed into me, full force.  That immovable feeling of running under water.  To be standing there with the house before me, knowing there are walls in there, a septic system installed, and not much separating us from a key to the front door - is unreal.  Luckily, the dull "thud, thud" sound of Chula kicking Boo while he bit her back, stirred me from my overly emotional reverie.  It's no good to think "where you were" or "how long it took" or attempt to measure how much energy was spent in any which way.  What matters is where you are.  Now.

Pat yourself on the back and roll up your sleeves.  And get back to work getting somewhere.  

When it Rains

It's started raining in Texas again.  I'm not sure exactly what weather phenomena occurred that allowed moisture to build up in the atmosphere above this great state, and then to actually fall from the clouds in little droplets.  Whatever the name of this phenomena, I am grateful for it.  Or at least, I am - in retrospect.

The funny thing about our weather (well, not much has been funny about our weather down here) is how quickly we miss the sunshine and dry conditions as soon as they're gone.  Let's take last weekend as a "for example."  So, for example, last weekend it rained for such an inconveniently long amount of time (for hours! in a row!) that our normally trench-like, cracked earth at the land turned into rivers of soup and slush.  Although I tracked the forecast for days in giddy anticipation of some rain, upon waking Saturday to the cold and wet conditions, overcast sky, and realization that I would shortly be forced outside, my mood turned sour.  Of all mornings, this was not the time for rain.  We had an early appointment at the land with a gentleman named Ruben.  Ruben was in charge of the drywall crew and, therefore, Ruben was in charge of spraying the texture.  As a person who's lived under popcorned ceilings and incredibly bumpy walls for too long, I have a personal aversion to wall texture.  While I've cared about very little in regards to the exterior of this house, I have lots of opinions about the inside.  Ruben and I were going to meet, he would spray test samples of texture, and I would formally sign off on a choice.  After this thrilling (read: heavy sarcasm) endeavor, Jeremy and I would then jump into the car and drive south for an annual Thanksgiving meal with his extended family.  A short day, it would not be.  

The early drive to the land and foreign sound of rain splashing on the car's roof lulled me back to sleep.  I did not wake until jarred from my stupor with Jer's muttered, "no, no, NO, craaaaaaap!!!" and the distinct sensation of sliding gently sideways.  When I finally opened my eyes, I found that we had just come through our front gate, attempted to turn left up the hill, and instead slid off our road, coming to a soft stop in a pile of mud.  Moments later, I watched us get lower against the fence line.  We were stuck.  And we were sinking.  And OH YES, that's RIGHT.  You can't drive a car onto our property in the rain.  We both cursed heavily for 5 seconds.  I shouted something to the effect of "I TOLD YOU WE SHOULD HAVE PUT IN THE DRIVEWAY FIRST."  Jer rolled his eyes so hard that his entire head moved, and then we jumped out into the swamp.  

Our arrival - up the hill, around the bend, then down the hill, onto the front porch - was a pathetic sight.  I'm sure of it.  My already temperamental hair which has, since birth, been undecided about whether it's curly or straight, had frizzed into something the size of a new head.  Both of our jeans were rolled to our knees and mud encrusted each of our shoes.  Our faces were wet and shirts were soaked.  I won't speak for Jeremy who just looks "rugged" in such conditions, but I was completely wilted.  All of this on only one cup of coffee, mind you.  So I was damn well hoping that Ruben was ready and waiting for us, texture samples in hand.  Of course, upon questioning various members of the crew, we were told variations of the same story: Ruben not only wasn't there.  Ruben wasn't coming.  In a few cases it was not clear that Ruben even existed.  I could control myself no longer and decided it was acceptable to display my annoyance in a hyperbolic fashion.  I stomped up and down the porch, mud flying off my shoes, poodle-hair bouncing, shouting for someone to "frickin' call frickin' Ruben," when suddenly a man appeared around the bend, in a similar state of disarray: muddy, frizzy, and wilted.  At that point, one of the crew members pointed: "Oh, Ruben is here after all.  He called me - I forgot to tell you.  He got stuck in the mud."

So, as with most land stories, Bambi and Jeremy joined forces and became everybody's hero.  He drove the tractor down to Ruben's truck which had come to a similarly sideways stop beside our own drowned vehicle.  He extracted the air compressor from Ruben's truck (needed for the spray test), drove it to the house for said test, and once the test was completed and all parties (Me, just me.  Because I was the idiot who'd called the meeting in the first place) were satisfied - Bambi, The Chain, Jeremy, Ruben, and Ruben's employee all returned to the pathetic site of the stuck vehicles.  After attaching The Chain (another unsung hero), beneath the car, Bambi pulled Ruben and truck backwards down the driveway, out through the gate and sent him on his way.  Finally, it was our turn to pull Jeremy's car from the deep - a process that Ruben made look quite easy.  Of course, I attempted to actually steer the car out while Jeremy pulled it, which caused us to almost go through a fence at one point, and into a tree at another point.  And I wondered why, while always funny in retrospect, all of our land adventures/debacles involve so much cussing.    

View of Bambi and Chain after the rescue

In the end, our stuck vehicle was unstuck.  And the mud?  It washed off our hands and faces.  It came off the wheels of the car.  The jeans got rolled down, poodle hair was flattened.  And we made it to Granny's house in time for another fabulous meal.  And the drywall texture?  As far as texture goes, it's damn near perfect.  It better be.  Or at least I've told myself it's the most beautiful texture that was ever sprayed, just to make Saturday morning worth the  

Saturday, November 26, 2011

"Finishing" Touches

Ok, it may have been a little premature, but Jenna really wanted to get those porch lights up. They do look pretty great.

Insulation & Drywall

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What Would We Do Without Spotlights?

With the recent "fall back" time change along with our house build related activities ramping up, I expect to get a lot of use out of my spot lights. Now that the sun sets around 5:30, any "after work" activity at the house will require some artificial lighting. The last few evenings have been spent putting together the ~15ft down rods for the lighting in the "great room." We're trying to utilize the scissor lift while it's out here, so we have a small window between when the sheet rock is finished and textured and the scissor lift gets picked up. So, I've been prepping the "great room" lighting so we can throw those lights up there in the next couple of days. Throw in the mix the various family activities for Thanksgiving and some drama at work and it's been a pretty exciting week. As I mentioned, the sheet rock is going up this week, so the rooms are starting to take shape beyond just see through walls. It's looking pretty real...and exciting.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bottling the Moon

This weekend the stair risers were tiled, back door paint scraped off the glass, electric trenched into place for septic installation.  In a word:  busy. 

It wasn't until I sat on the first of 18 steps, trowel in hand, thinset already caked in my hair that it occurred to me how desperately I've been waiting for this moment.  And by this moment, yes - I'm talking about trowels and thinset and sweat and eye rolling.  Both moms came out for the event, and the combination of family and my engineer husband pacing over the crookedness of tiles made the day overwhelming in a way that's actually really fabulous.  Do you know what I mean?  What I mean is that we're getting into the house-y part of the house.  The stuff I've clipped out of magazines and placed into a three ringed binder that's gone ragged over the past two years.  Everyone has an opinion, and everyone's worried about things being just right, and it's really wonderful to finally hold objects in your hand that you've looked at in pictures for so long.  These aren't big things, in the grand scheme, but they're manageable and fun - and that's something. 

We ended the night on the front porch.  The moon came up from the east a pock-marked orb the color of pumpkin.  There were crickets.  An owl.  The whole deal.  And Jer asked if there's a way to bottle the feeling we still get when we see the moon rise and hear crickets.  That "itisunfreakingbelieveablethatthisismylifeIamsoverylucky" feeling.  He said that next year, the novelty will have faded.  It'll be just another moonrise.  Just another cricket chorus.  It'll be nothing special. 

The notion of forgetting makes me sad.  Which is possibly why we started this blog in the first place.  It's something to return to if we forget, and these entries serve as bookmarks in time.  And that's how I feel about Saturday night and seeing the moon come up over the hills.  It won't always be enough to make me stand still and take notice.  But right now it still stops me every time, to have the world sprawled out so peacefully before me.  I won't take it for granted.  I won't.  I will never take the land, the house, the front porch, and the moonrise for granted.  Never.

But if (when) I do, I hope to find my way back to this bookmark and these early pictures to conjure this big, big feeling of gratitude.    

Oh. Boy.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dusk in a Winter Coat

I pulled up to the house this evening right before that moment when the sun sinks behind the woods.  The cows were licking the trough that hasn't seen grain in at least a week.  For cows, their memories are long and their optimism is impressive.  I wonder how many times they've checked the trough since it was last filled with grain.  I scratched Seamus's head through the fence.  He stared back, blowing drool bubbles as he always does when he sees me, since I probably appear to him as a giant bucket of feed..  Somewhere there was a fire burning.  Woodsmoke came through the forest on the breeze, and the cows both lifted their noses, their curly foreheads jumbled and bouncing in the wind.  Sometime last week their bodies exploded into thick winter coats, making the curls spring out in little bouquets on their foreheads.   

And the sun sank just then - the pasture cast in a hue so artificially golden it appeared staged, like movie scenes shot by hopelessly romantic cinematographers.  The house was behind me, also appearing there in the woods like a set.  Because after so much time thinking and waiting and planning and scheming, it's not real yet.  Not quite yet.

On the drive home I noticed my fingertips were covered in a thin layer of dirt, the souvenir you take after petting the animals.  I remembered those Wednesday lunch trips to the land three years ago.  After an hour in the pasture I hated to wash my hands when I was back in the office.  That sweet smell of musk and dirt coats the fingers.  It used to get me through the second half of uninspired workdays.  Just a simple reminder that no matter where I was sitting, there was this other place nearby.  There were cows and hay and dried leaves and quiet spaces that could care less about deadlines, frankly.  I know it sounds strange, that I smelled my hand the entire drive home tonight, just to recall the sensation of standing in silence at a pasture fence.  But if I cared about sounding strange, I wouldn't have cow dirt on my hands in the first place.      

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ode to Sweden

I've spent a lot of time at IKEA since it was built here in Austin a few years ago.  At first I showed up because of the novelty factor.  My northern friends repeatedly mentioned this home furnishing mecca when filling their NYC and DC apartments for the first time.  It was always IKEA this or IKEA that, and I felt really left out.  I showed up at the store for the first time for no better reason than gaining frame of reference.  Basically, when my hot-shot, big city dwelling friends mentioned the place, I just wanted to be able to say something like, "Oh yea - IKEA really DOES have the best selection of closet organizers.  And those big yellow bags??  Genius."  So it was nothing beyond the desire to add to conversation that first lured me through its doors.

But once I was in, forget about it.  I was smitten.  You guys - they sell heart-shaped pillows with arms!  And where else on earth can you buy a complete set of fabulous wine glasses for a total of $5?  The brightly patterned pillow coverings seem to somehow go with everything.  And the food.  Don't -NO - do NOT get me started on the food.  Greek salads, pork ribs, CREPES (!), salmon and Swedish meatballs (complete with a Swedish flag emblazoned toothpick) - all in the same cafeteria.  Even the ice from the ice machine is adorable.

I entered the store for the first time, completely certain I'd roll my eyes and walk out.  Now I return again and again because the place makes me so damn happy.  Therefore, when it came to the house and the tricky business of finding affordable kitchen cabinetry, the solution was a no-brainer.  I've been playing around with IKEA's online kitchen design software for months.  On three (ok, five) different occasions I've gone into the store and walked through the fake kitchens, playing with the soft close drawers (FYI - it does not matter how hard you try to slam them, they will only close softly.  Trust me).  I've run my hands over the insanely affordable oak butcher block counters, watched the constantly looping video they play that shows their cabinets withstand fire, drops from buildings and sledgehammers.  I am a Swedish marketing company's target audience.  Sensationalist propaganda mixed with clean lines and sensible solutions?  Sold!

So last night, I was pretty excited to hop in the car with Jeremy and (finally!) head into IKEA to purchase the lusted after and highly researched cabinets.  After a Swedish dinner (complete with a flag toothpick), we left the cafeteria and spent two hours in the kitchen department ordering cabinets and a countertop.  This represented one of the larger credit charges since the build began, but the unexpected 20% discount was a welcome surprise, and the store's ambiance - tinged with Swedish ingenuity - made the general experience quite pleasant.  Unfortunately, our American ingenuity completely failed us last night.  Knowing full well that we may bring merchandise home, we still managed to forget the truck.  We spent a painful 20 minutes on the car ride home separated by a 3' x 6' wooden countertop - Jer's head smashed awkwardly into the driver side window, one eye obstructed by a slab of wood, and my body pushed completely up against the dashboard, face plastered to the windshield, the counter cutting into my back and completely stopping blood flow to my legs.  But, when it comes to Swedish cabinets at a discount price, maybe blood flow's overrated.  Regardless, like Craigslist, IKEA has changed my life.

And speaking of life changers, the porches appear almost complete.  I can't adequately convey the feeling of standing on that porch.  So I won't try.  Instead, I'll just share them in all their glory (along with the port-a-potty). 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Quick Status Update

Trim, porches, and roof awnings...oh my.