Sunday, June 15, 2008

Our House, Part 1

As many of you know, we sold our 2200 sf home last year and bought another home nearby. This was not as smooth and operation as it sounds on the surface, as many of my friends and relatives well know. But we survived the year and ended up in a very delightful house that fits out lifestyle extremely well.

The new house is 2938 sf, 5 bedroom, 3 baths and is about 10 years old. The lot is somewhere around 8,000 square feet, though I don't know for sure. One of these days I'll go down to the county archive and find out, but it isn't high enough on my priority list right now.

The family that lived in the home before us had 7 children. They are well behaved and polite, but any time you have that many people in a house it will wear out faster. Therefore, we decided to completely redo the interior of the house. We ripped out the kitchen and bathrooms and refinished everything else. Now, 9 months later, it is pretty much done except for a few trim pieces such as baseboards and light fixtures.

As time goes on, I will post a few photos of the finished rooms. We have been getting many friends and relatives making reservations at the Bell Curve Hotel this summer, and we welcome that as we are anxious to show off what we've done and share some time with the people we care for. We are very happy with the way it turned out.

Once we recover financially from the remodel, we'll turn our attention to the back yard where we want to add a hot tub and perhaps a small pool. But that definitely won't happen anytime in 2008!

Our House, Part 2: Kitchen Remodel

 One of the first things we tackled when we moved into our house was the kitchen. The old kitchen was the standard contractor issue white tile, white grout, and white appliances. The sink, cooktop and oven were pretty well worn out GE units, while the dishwasher was a newer Bosch model. The dishwasher was noticeably quieter than most dishwashers.
The vent hood was also the standard basic contractor-issue white, and the cabinets were in decent shape. The finish has yellowed due to sunlight, and the finish was worn off the top edges of many of the lower drawers.
 The microwave and double oven worked well, but were showing signs of age and had many stains that we could not get out. We therefore decided to redo the entire kitchen. We hired a contractor named Ray to put in the tile and granite, and also hired cabinet refinishers. About two weeks before we were to leave for Hawaii, we had told Ray to finish the kitchen tile demo before we left as we had scheduled the cabinet refinishers to come in the week we were gone. He kept delaying the kitch demo date, and ended up not showing up the day before we left. Therefore, four of us (my wife, my son, my wife's son and myself) ended up working until about 2 AM with hammers and picks ripping out tile, chicken wire and float and tossing it out the kitchen window. Ray was fired shortly thereafter.
 The kitchen cabinets came out beautifully (we also had the wood floors refinished by a different contractor), and the tile and granite work is superb. The 'after' pictures are before the vent hood and microwave were installed, but the rest of the appliances are in. We went with a new Bosch dishwasher (it makes no noise at all unless it is purging old water!), and a Franke sink and faucet. They are all awesome.
 The granite we selected is called Blue Night and has small flecks of blue that glows when the light hits it just right. Very beautiful. You can catch just a glimpse of the new 6 burner gas Viking cooktop to the far left. At this point, the microwave had not been installed yet.
 We also went with a Bosch double-oven (electric) and it works like a champ. This is our first oven with digital controls, and we are still learning some of the nuances with these types of controls. For one thing, it appears that the oven put itself in pause mode when my wife opened the door for a peek. We did not discover this for another hour, unfortunately.
My wife had the idea to round the ends of the island: a simple idea that added a tremendous about of interest to the design. We are very happy with it, and John Hayes Tile & Stone did a fantastic job of making just the right curve. Perfection!
And there you have it, a quick tour of our kitchen. My job this coming weekend will be to put knobs on all the cabinets. Our last kitchen had knobless cabinets, and this eventually led to wear marks on all the wood. As much as we prefer the knobless look, we have bought 50 knobs (yes, there are 50 in this kitchen!) and hope to avoid the worn finish look this time around.

And no worries, folks. The old appliances were not put into the landfill. Every one found a new home in a new kitchen - I used Craigslist to find them each a new station in life.

Our House, Part 3: The Back Yard

 One year ago today, we moved into our new house. Well, new to us: it was over 10 years old at the time. Some may wonder whether that was a wise time to buy, with prices being near an all-time high. In the year since we moved, our old home has fallen in value as much as, if not more than, the new home so all we really did was move our mortgage from one abode to another. The portion of the equity that has vanished would have went away whether we had stayed or moved. And I can tell you for sure, we are much, much happier at this new place.
 As we've been outlining in previous posts, we immediately started a remodel to fit our tastes. One area that we have not touched at all (yet) is the back yard. It works well the way it is for now, and we were using the back patio as a staging area for new interior fixtures until February of this year.
 The worn patio furniture and Weber grill are holdovers from the previous house - we need to get better furniture some day. But for now, we have higher priorities. The back yard is not as shallow as it appears in this picture: the patio itself is 16 feet from the back of the house to the edge, and it is 20 feet from the edge of the grass to the back fence. A perfect size, really. Any bigger than that and landscapers charge a fortune, any smaller and I would feel boxed in. We have about 10 feet from the edge of the house to the fence on each side of the house. A little more would be nice, but nothing's perfect.
We haven't touched this area since we moved in.  It is overrun by blackberries and mint.
 If we zoom in above the fence, you can see there is a bare hill just one lot over. That is owned by the water district and, as near as I can tell, it is solid granite. For this reason, they ran the water pipeline over the top of the hill - you can see it if you look closely. We like the bare hill there - it gives us more privacy and more of an open feel.
 Directly behind us and down a 20 foot slope is another home, but it actually adds to the privacy, too. The windows you see peeking over the fence are actually in the upper bedrooms of the home, and they are narrow view windows above the normal windows. In other words, someone would have to get on a pretty tall ladder in order to look out those windows. If anybody is ever nosy enough to do that, they deserve what they see. :-P
 The only change we have made to the back yard is the removal of a wobbly wooden swing set from the dirt area towards the back of this photo. We are eventually going to use that area for a small pool, maybe extending out to the edge of the patio, but that will have to wait at least a year. There is a nice HOA-sponsored pool just 5 doors down anyway. For now, we'll use that.
 Lastly, we are pretty happy with the existing flowers. Normally, my style when planting is to have a massive area of one color, then a massive area of another, etc. But whomever planted this used little sprinkles of color everywhere.
 I think little sprinkles of color is more of a feminine way to plant, but it looks very good in the yard and kind of breaks us out of the normal, standard, masses of color style that our yards typically have. It is a nice change.
To break us out even more from the normal style pattern I have, we are likely to hire a landscape designer to handle the pool and spa when we get to that point. It would be nice to see someone else's spin on a construction project that we complete for a change. I guess I'm getting a little bored with my own style taste.

Our House, Part 4: Entry and Stairs

 It's been awhile since we've continued the tour of our house after the remodel. First, I would like to point out that the furnishings are leftovers from our previous house and need very badly to be replaced...that will come in a few months. And actually, the dining room table & chairs were given to us: they are coming in handy but are definitely not our style. This first picture is of the living room / dining room, with the entry way at the far left. All that we have done to this area so far is carpet and paint.
 Here is a better view of the entryway. We put in new tile here. The niche to the left is a nice touch, so have filled it with sailboats from our last house. We're not sure if the sailboats will stay there, but until we find something better, that is their home. During the kitchen remodel, the fridge sat in the middle of the living room - hooked up and running - for about 2 months. It was fun on Halloween because a few of the Trick or Treaters noticed: "TRICK OR TREAT - uh, why do you have a fridge in your living room?". The rest of them wanted to know why I had horns growing out of my head (they looked mighty good, I might add).
 One of the few purchases we have made since moving in is this vase. While visiting the Temecula Wineries, this caught our eye so be brought it home. It catches the light very well at this location.
Of course, Cory was following me around wondering why I was snapping pictures of everything.
 Here is what really ties the house all together, both functionally and visually: the staircase. It is really sort of a double-staircase with two sets of stairs leading to the landing in the middle, and one set of stairs going from there up to the second floor (more on that later). The room visible upstairs is our guest bedroom. The transom window is a rather unique feature that lets light flow through the interior of the house.
 Standing on the stair landing, we can see the architect has given us some nice platforms for sculpture. The face is new from Home Depot Expo, the other pieces have followed us from the last house.
 Looking up the rest of the stairs we can see the entrance to the master bedroom. Another transom window is located there. We're split on whether it is a good thing: My wife hates it, I rather like it.
 Looking back down at the living room. We have recently switched back from real to artificial Christmas trees, and purchased one from a friend at work (Thanks Micki!) that is 10 feet looked great in the middle of the living room...and thanks to Lucy it was decorated fabulously.
Looking just to the left of the master bedroom doors we see two more art niches. It is going to take a pair of very large paintings to fill them. We've been looking, but haven't found anything even close to doing the job.
 From the top looking back down, you can see the double-stair feature I was talking about. One can turn right and head down the stairs to the living room, or turn left and head down the stairs to the kitchen. It seems rather silly at first, but is quite handy once you get used to it.

Turning the camera left, you can see the hallway leading to the guest bedroom (straight ahead) before wrapping to the right and going on to David & Lucy's bathroom, bedroom, and "living room" (basically a bedroom used as their living area).

So there you have it - another installment of the tour of our home. Next, I'll show you the master bath. It may be a long post because I have a lot of before and after shots.

Happy Father's Day, Pop

I'd like to take this chance to wish my father a very happy Father's Day. This is a photo taken back in 1959 with the woman who made him a father: my mother Sheila.

So much has transpired in the 49 years between then and now that it is almost too overwhelming to reflect upon.

Our family has had some very good times and some very bad times, we've had our disagreements and our bonding moments. But one thing has remained the same: we have stuck together and helped each other through these things as best we could. And my father has always been instrumental in all of that help. There were times when, due to the situation at that particular moment, it would have been very tempting for him to just walk away and start fresh, but he never did. He never even mentioned such a possibility. He's a true man.

The last few years have been especially hard on my dad, as Sheila passed away and left a huge void in his life. It has taken him a few years to redefine himself and start to imagine life without my mother, but he has made it. We all knew very well that the first 12 months after the death of a spouse are the riskiest. A high number of spouses do not last to see the one year anniversary of the funeral. For whatever reason, either physical or mental, the ability to go on escapes them.

But Pop has come out the other end of this thing and is finally ready to spread his wings. He sees new things to get excited about, and I'm extremely pleased about that. There is a time to mourn, and a time to get on with things. This, now, today, is the time to get on with life. I wish you well, Pop, and I am very happy to see you've released the bow line from the dock and are out there sailing in the sea of opportunities.

Happy Father's Day!