Tom Torrens Sculpture

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For our wedding, my Uncle bought us a bell that would be rung in the ceremony. It was beautiful, and, I thought, had a really nice tone to it when struck. He thought otherwise (he thought it should be deeper) and used the excuse, when he came to visit prior to the wedding, of needing a striker, to go to see Tom Torrens’ studio and see if he had other bells. Luckily, Tom and his wife live in Gig Harbor, which was only about an hour away from where we are in Seattle. We drove down not knowing what to expect and entered into a very lush, gorgeous setting with some of his sculptures to greet us as we made our way down his driveway.

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Tom converted a ship’s builder barn into his studio where he creates his metal work, which not only includes bells of all sizes, but gates, bird baths, fountains, sculptural shapes and spheres. His work is quite beautiful. When we arrived, my Uncle had me strike several of the bells. To my astonishment, each one had its own distinct tone. He asked me which one I thought was the best and I pointed to another bell not the one we had purchased. It had an entirely different top to it – a little more filagree than the one given to us, so I wasn’t sure about exchanging the bell until Tom cheerfully said, “No worries, walk around our garden a bit and I’ll weld the top you like to the bell you like.” I couldn’t believe it. So we wandered around the grounds and came upon one beautiful sculpture and garden setting after another. It was a Zen inspired garden experience and has to be seen to be believed.

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When we returned he’d welded the bell together with the top I liked and welded the top to a bracket so the bell couldn’t be easily stolen from our yard. He also presented us with a striker as a wedding gift.

John and I went to Second Use in SODO and found a thick, weathered post that was just right and positioned the bell at the front of our home as a welcome and a chance for visitors to ring it on their way to the door.

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This past weekend, we took back the old bracket and paint he lent us and John got to tour the garden and then they invited us into their home where they asked him to play their piano. The home was warm, encased in wood, with beautiful art they’d collected and bartered for over many years.

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Their dining table is in an atrium setting with an indoor pool surrounded by plants. By way of giving back, the Torrens host several fund raisers in the summer for favorite causes. One can only imagine how beautiful the setting is for a party.

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We’d like to thank Tom and Donna for giving us a tour, their time and creating such a beautiful wedding gift that we’ll remember the rest of our lives. For information on his sculpture work, go here: http://www.tomtorrens.com

We’d also like to thank my Uncle Jim and his wife, Esther for giving us the bell and for being such an integral part of our celebration!

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Margaret on Airbnb.com

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Well, since my bypass surgery a few weeks ago, poor Margaret isn’t going to be able to go on the road soon. Hopefully, later this summer, we’ll be able to take her on an extended tour of the great Northwest. In the meantime, we’ve put her up on Airbnb for those people who are visiting Seattle and want a cool experience! Featuring great views of Lake Washington and the Cascades, a picnic table and nice yard, Margaret is a perfect place to hang while getting away. Our neighborhood is awesome, too, not to mention Columbia City with all kinds of great restaurants, bakeries and coffee shops within walking distance.

Check out our Airstream here on Airbnb: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4461706

Today is the Day for Airstreaming

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Three years ago today, I published AIRSTREAMING. And it’s been amazing meeting all of the fellow ‘streamers along the way. It’s Superbowl Sunday, our Hawks are playing and I’m reflecting on all of the great people and readers who’ve found something to love about this book.

I do hope that it finds a large audience someday, but even if it goes along at a fair clip (6 copies sold this week!) I’m a happy man. People are reading something I spent years and years on, and it makes me very proud.

If you’ve read the book, please write something up on Amazon about it. That helps a lot. If you haven’t download a copy and shoot this book to number one – just like our Seahawks. You can click on the book cover below, which will take you to the book for Kindle or paperback. It’s also available on Nook.

So – go AIRSTREAMING, GoHawks and above all, go read. It’s unbelievable where stories can take you.

http://www.amazon.com/Airstreaming-Tom-Schabarum-ebook/dp/B0074V5XBY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1422827617&sr=8-1&keywords=airstreaming

The Good Ship Airship

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I finally got to me Laura and Kevin yesterday aboard AIRSHIP, their Nordic Tug 34 nestled in its berth downtown amid the high rises and ferris wheel.

Laura and Kevin have transferred their wanderlust from their Airstream to Airship and are traveling to all points in the Puget Sound and loving every minute. I’ve been following their travels, first in the Airstream and now on the Sound for some years and it was so fun to finally meet!

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So congrats on your new adventures and hopefully, we can meet up in Port Angeles with both our vessels and hang out soon!

Finally. And Happy New Year

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Happy New Year, everyone.

I thought I’d post an end of year report on our home and where we are. I’m going to clear out the negative right off the bat so we can begin the year very positively.

No two ways about it, but living in your trailer in your own driveway for 5 1/2 months is tough. Summer wasn’t bad, but once the weather turned it was hard, dirty and claustrophobic. We need a bigger trailer – like a 27 foot Eddie Bauer for us and our big ole dog. But we did it – and we’re still together (that’s a major plus).

I’ve learned way more than I ever wanted to learn about project managing the construction process of remodeling a house. Alas, we hired Broadmore Builders to do that, and our project manager was the worst manager of anything I’ve ever come across enabled by the business’ owner who made all kinds of excuses for him. The project manager was inept, full of lies, talked bad about his workers and clients in front of other people, a hothead, and accusatory. All bad traits in a human being. We are glad to be done with Broadmore Builders for that. On the plus side, their workers, Juan, Ivan and Leo were fun to be around and we miss them – they did all the work. I just wish they were treated more fairly and better. They are immigrants and they receive no healthcare even though we were told they did.

The initial company we hired, Batt + Lear, who took us to the cleaners for a fair amount of money for nothing we could ever use, apparently does the same thing to other people. We’ve heard from other couples who’ve had the same, if not worse, experience with them – which tells us we weren’t crazy. I hope that this year, they will learn that their business model – that of screwing their customers – will force them to close.

Unfortunately, our experiences with these two companies put a real damper on the excitement and joy of creating a new space.

Now on to the positive to ring in 2015.

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We are living in a wonderful new home that our neighbors and friends are loving being in as much as we are. We’ve hosted family and friends for Thanksgiving and Christmas and everything has gone great. John loves the new kitchen and being able to cook and create in it. I’m loving it for being able to work and still talk to people and engage with our guests. It’s fantastic. A big shout-out to Joy Dolling at Abodian Cabinets here in the Rainier Valley for their fine work and good humor.

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The glass backsplash is finally complete and the kitchen now looks sleek and contemporary. We love it.

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The bathrooms are extremely well done thanks to our wonderful tiler, Steve Branca, who has been meticulous. We still have the upper shower to go, but that should be done soon.

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The finish work is nearly finished – we are waiting on framing for our deconstructed looking fireplace, but we’ve already picked out the tile we want to use and it will be great. Christopher Olson was the finish carpenter and did a great job on installing our cabinets, doing the window sills, baseboards and door casings.

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The trim painting, though initially we were really bummed to be kicked back out to the trailer for a week, was done by DK Professional Painting. Julio, the foreman, did a great job with his team in making all of the trim look evenly painted and beautiful. They also stained and lacquered the window sills throughout the house.

The floors are amazing. Working with four totally different floor materials, adding in new material and fixing bad stains throughout, Eurocraft floors had their hands full. But they did amazing work, and blended all of them together beautifully.

John and myself painted all of the colored walls, lacquered the doors and have installed a lot of hardware. We’re continuing to work on putting things together and we are just now having the cabinetry installed in the laundry/mud room.

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My favorite room is the bedroom. It is such a beautiful and restful space where the light and views are amazing, and it’s cozy and warm to read and sleep in. It just feels fantastic and we both love to hang out there.

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We are just now starting to enjoy the home – the stress of building it is wearing off for me, and the people coming over and staying with us are making it feel like a home. We still have much to do in the yard, basement and then, ultimately, the DADU (Backyard Cottage), but we can wait on that for a bit.

We have to give another shout out to our architect and friend, Katie Wells-Driscoll, who really helped us visualize the entirety of our property that, when complete, will be extraordinary and help us live here for many years to come. If you’d like her contact info, please give us a call.

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Today, the view is spectacular with snow on the mountains and hardly a cloud in the sky. It’s a bit brisk to sit outside, but we stand on the deck and just admire all we can see, and wonder at all we’ve accomplished in 2014.

There is much to look forward to in 2015 with a brand new grandchild named Carson who arrived on the 28th, our wedding in July and visits from all kinds of friends and family. In February, we are headed to Florida to see the grandchildren and John’s family and friends. My hope is to have a new job I love while John continues teaching music to K-4th graders in the Bellevue School District.

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We also hope to reconnect with our fellow ‘streamers in Oregon and elsewhere. Margaret is in the shop getting repairs done before our warranty wears off and then we’re off to places unknown. In the meantime, we’ve put her up on Airbnb.com if you or anyone wish to stay. Check out the link here: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4461706

Our best to all of our friends and family, the readers of this blog, and anyone working on their homes in the coming year. May 2015 be one of the best years ever.

T – Minus 1 Week Until Move In

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The posts stopped because, quite simply, I’ve been running around like a proverbial headless chicken trying to get everything done, and get some consulting business going so we have a little extra cash to play with. A LOT has happened. We are close to being in the house with a nearly finished kitchen, one finished bathroom, all trim in (but not painted), and hot water.

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I am officially exhausted, mentally and physically. And I can’t wait until there are no more workers, no more appointments with contractors, city inspectors, or waiting on deliveries. I think John is ready to move in as well as Buster, who got a new bed to hang out on in the house while we finish our work.

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The kitchen has turned out particularly nice. John did a great design with the help of Joy Dolling of Abodian. After all, the choice of Alder wood instead of the melamine was a great choice. It is warmer, more elegant and will stand the test of time. All of the appliances are in, the bar is ready to go, and I’m sure John will be pouring Scotch soon.

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I finished the front entryway this week. After a great assist on the framing of it from our buddy, Malcolm Smith, who knows his way around a circular saw and is a great photographer, I installed the IPE decking this week just in time for the onslaught of rain.

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Our finish carpenter, Chris Olson, was great, and cased the doors, trimmed the baseboards and finished out some shelving in no time. It was pretty astonishing. He worked a little too fast sometimes, but he was a pleasure to work with, mildly OCD, which is good in a finish carpenter, and very eager.

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He also finished up the Sky Deck and dining deck off the kitchen today. There was a double rainbow off the dining deck right after he left, so I think that’s a great sign. Now we are just waiting on the railing so that we can call the inspector for our occupancy ok.

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Then a final polish of the floors and top coat. Here I’ll add that the flooring company, Eurocraft, did an astonishing job on the floors weaving together the old and new. It was truly amazing to see how they did it considering we have three entirely different types of floors in the house.

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Our former neighbor, Steve Branca (Branca Tile), did an amazing job on our guest bathroom, and is now headed upstairs for the main bath. That is going to be beautiful soon, as well. He made the guest bath a nice haven while we wait for the upstairs, and it’s a pleasure to be able to shower again in a real bathroom.

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The whole process has been very challenging given the disruption in our lives, the constant decisions, and all of the people involved in creating a house. I don’t think I could ever watch another HGTV show and not laugh at the budgets, the time frames and how simple they make everything look. I’m convinced now that those shows are simply adverts for big box stores and unsuspecting DIYers like we envisioned ourselves to be.

I will say, however, that there is a great sense of accomplishment I feel. It’s a beautiful home; we’ve learned so much about this process, and through careful decisions, have come up with a house that feels warm and welcoming – two things I desperately wanted. And John and I made it through after so many people had told us how hard it is on relationships and such. I think we’re stronger for it. We made many key decisions quickly and efficiently particularly when it came to tile and color. And now we’ve been through the worst, and are looking forward to carrying on our lives in a comfortable home. It seems that there is nothing we can’t get through now.

We finally said adieu to the contractor, which took a lot of weight off our shoulders and allowed me to sleep a little better. While I wish Broadmore Builders well, I couldn’t recommend them at all if their project manager continues to be a part of them. I won’t go into all the details, but the one thing that infuriates me is that he belittles his own crew, who did great work despite him, in front of his clients, and to them. It’s sad to see Broadmore’s largely hispanic team so disabused by him in so many ways, not least of which is care for their safety.

We do miss Juan and Ivan and Leo – all from various parts of Mexico – all of them left family and loved ones to make a better life here in the US.

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The sunrises and sunsets continue to be beautiful. And the rains that have come, I’m not so worried about given our new sewer lines, roof and gutters. Though our Airstream has performed remarkably well over the stress of two guys and a big dog, we are ready for the creature comforts of home. A bigger bed, warmth, quiet, and the space to breath and to read. I miss reading soooooo much and have lots of books to catch up on.

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Happy Halloween… next post will be after we’ve moved in!

T

Nine Weeks Down – SeaFair Edition

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Well, the deck got a workout this past weekend from SeaFair viewing. Lots of neighbors came by and we even made a new friend, Jill, who was standing on the street looking kinda lonely so I invited her up to watch the Blue Angels on Saturday. She was very nice and so appreciative she ended up offering us free massages whenever she was back in town. She is a massage therapist from Pullman, WA who was here for some long-term clients she had.

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The neighbor kids raked in the bucks with their lemonade stand and we were amazed at how many people were standing on the street watching for the planes.

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John overcame his fear of clowns on Saturday when the SeaFair clowns dropped by at our neighbor’s every year for amazing ribs and pulled pork. By Sunday, however, we were exhausted from the noise, the people, the constant running up and down the stairs and especially the heat, which rose steadily throughout SeaFair Weekend.

We had a great view of the entire show, and then Saturday night, the fireworks were right below us and spectacular. John made a very tasty Sangria and a gin/Byhr drink we share with our neighbors.

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Backing up, the big event for this week was getting windows installed and the plumbing roughed in. This made a huge difference as now we can see how the light is in the rooms. We also ordered a beautiful front door, French doors for the main deck and a single door off the kitchen. We brought home a basement door and back door for the house as well.

The guys at Frank Lumber: The Door Store in Shoreline are terrific at customer service. Can’t say enough nice things about them as they helped us out with many selections.

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Railpro’s in Southcenter are proving to be a great find, as well as Oregon Tile and Marble who were as helpful and lovely as any place could be. We are looking forward to the tile we selected that will be installed by our former neighbor, Steve Branca, who is a master tiler and has already been quite helpful.

Quite a lot was done.

Once more, we got into a contentious battle with our builders. Here, I’m going to say that we love the workers they employ (Ivan, Juan and Leo), just not their project manager who continues to be belligerent, untrustworthy and combative with us. His client skills are simply the worst. He calls meetings where we are all supposed to be and then doesn’t show up, or doesn’t tell us about them until his sub arrives. This time they were going to up-charge us $1654.00 for smooth Hardi Plank over textured, which we didn’t want. We first checked online at Home Depot and Lowe’s to see if there was a price difference between the two and found that there wasn’t. Then we called their supplier specifically and they told us there was no cost difference, and we also asked if it was readily available and they told us it was within a day when we were told it was “Special Order” and would take a week or two to get it delivered. John has lost all confidence in him, and I told the project manager that I was right on the edge with him yesterday.

The budget they prepared wasn’t detailed and every time we think something should be included in the contract cost, it isn’t, so frustration sets in and I’m feeling deflated and defeated by a builder who simply won’t be square with us. Doing a project such as this is very stressful without the added stress we get from the builder. We wish that Juan would be the project manager as he is not only helpful, instructive, but he listens to our needs as much as he can.

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Last Friday, we spent the day out at Airstream Adventures Northwest and came away very impressed with their service department, which has seen a seismic shift in their helpfulness and ease of working with people. Daniel, the service manager, was all kinds of great, and helped us get a lot of things fixed and replaced. We do have to take Margaret in this Friday for a new Dometic Air/Heat Pump as it has gone completely south. All is good, however, as we do enjoy looking at the new Airstreams and dream of upgrading to the 25 or 27 foot Eddie Bauer edition someday when we decided to head out on the road for awhile. We are missing being a part of the rallies and going up to the mountains this summer, but we both need to be here for all the details and watch our builder closely.

Next up is selecting the cabinets. We have many quotes, we just now need to pull the trigger. It’s not easy since it involves thousands of dollars and is critical to the success of the house’s aesthetic. John is working diligently through all the different vendors and we are close to a selection.

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This week, the siding is going up now that all the windows are installed and the framing inspection was passed.

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We continue to enjoy the beautiful skies, sunrises and sunsets, and now are glad of the railings, which make us feel more secure.