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.

Seven/Eight Weeks Down – More Heat, More Rain, More House

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Wow, did we start the seventh week out super hot, which continued through that Thursday. This whole house thing is becoming a blur, thus the late weekly report. Finishing up the top floor was a priority as roofing was to begin on Friday.

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So up went the rest of the walls, the new dormers were done and the facia installed all around the house’s perimeter.

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Very time consuming work, but worth it as small details like diamonds at the points finished off the look. Our crew, Ivan, Juan and Leo, continue to work very hard. We think they are great.

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We found this tiny toy in the walls with a little wooden car, so he hung from a nail throughout the week as inspiration.

Sadly, the last couple of weeks got away from me to do the updates, but suffice it to say, we were super busy trying to get all the details in place so that we can get into the house sometime after Labor Day as John has been offered a new job with Bellevue School District as a music teacher.

We lost our bathroom finally and completely. It’s a challenge, but we have wonderful neighbors in the Bush’s and others who’ve offered so we’re using their place to shower and wash clothes.

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Keeping the Airstream clean is a challenge with all the dust, and now we have a list running of eight different things that need to be looked at. We have an appointment this coming Friday to deal with all of the issues: a broken air conditioner, two leaks, missing rivets, etc. We’re wondering if our model is up to snuff and lust after the Eddie Bauer model, which seems tougher.

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The main floor got more support from additional beams installed in the basement and the main floor. Most of the framing is complete now.

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Upstairs, our five foot sliding door became an eight foot slider. A happy mistake as the look will be cleaner and the windows very large. Speaking of windows, they get installed this week.

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In the eighth week, there was rain. Lots of it. Biblical, in fact. As our weather patterns change, and the world copes with more severe storms, we only hope that our house will be strong enough to endure. With all of the nails and wood that have gone in to the framing, we think it will. And we were lucky that the roof was completed the day before the storm.

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Last Thursday, the decks got torched down by the roofers and now their work is complete. We are continuing to research rail systems and are banking on cable railing, which, of course, is the more expensive, but less intrusive on the view. We will most likely choose them.

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Sunrises and sunsets continue to inspire. SeaFair is next up on the agenda. Our neighborhood becomes party central, particularly next door when the clowns arrive. We are not going to promote a party this year as we don’t have railings, a bathroom, nor a kitchen. Low key is where it’s at for us. Luckily, we’ve been invited to several neighborhood parties.

At the end of the eighth week, we are getting weary, or at least I am. John is continuing to be diligent on details and measurements, working out kitchen cabinetry and the mud/laundry room.

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Buster is being the amazing dog that he is, greeting and escorting neighbors up and down the property, meeting lots of new dogs, and generally just living through all the chaos like a champ.

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I’m feeling a bit stressed from project managing, but the trip to Portland last weekend really made me feel wonderful as I got to see many former students and get caught up on their successful lives. Caitlin got married to Mark, and hosted a garden reception to celebrate. They have a wonderful place in Northeast Portland. It reminded me of how important those years were to my life and how I wish I could teach again. They are all such wonderfully talented people.

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Yesterday, a neighbor came by with her son to see the house. She is dealing with the same issues from Rheumatoid Arthritis that my mom did for many, many years. One of the conditions is wafer thin skin that can break and bleed at any tiny bump to it. She had bumped it in the morning and it opened up in our house. Suddenly, I was back years ago to the year before my mom passed when she was in such pain, and the daily trips to see her in hospital. This woman is brave, as was my mom, but it gave me the chance to see the house in a new light – we may move, change our lives completely, but memories are indelible, and they will continue to color our lives in unexpected ways. The rest of the day I spent sitting on the sky deck remembering – and hoping that my neighbor feels no embarrassment, and that her life will be long and blessed.

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And now, pre-windows, our house looks like this. I’m sure I will perk up considerably this week knowing that we are on the home stretch to moving in.

Six Weeks Down – Heatstroke Edition

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This week saw the increase in the heat index begin to rise quite a bit. We are trying to stay cool in the Airstream, but do not have enough power and the breaker keeps shutting down. We will be installing a 30 amp when the electrician comes to do the rough in beginning in a couple of weeks. Later in the week, however, John discovered that if we ran the water heater and refrigerator on propane, then we can run the air conditioner without it shutting off all the time. It’s changed our lives.

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Buster is worn out in the heat and sleeps a lot. Today, Sunday, we are taking him out to the Sound where he can play in the cool water.

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Monday, there was a beautiful sunrise throughout the newly framed upstairs. The master suite is far bigger than I had imagined it – even after looking at drawings of it for months. My spacial to actual measurement skills are not as good as our architect or John’s.

Here I should say a word about our architect, Katie Wells-Driscoll. Katie came to us by way of her brother, Justin, whom I worked with on a project at Tutta Bella. She stepped into a pile of poo that Batt + Lear had given us, and worked with John to come up with an amazing space. She also was the only architect out of ten or so that we interviewed who came up with a great solution on using the entire lot. She specializes in DADUs (Detached Accessory Dwelling Units) and has already designed a terrific one for us that we plan to build soon. We’ve enjoyed working with Katie immensely who brings a sense of calm to the chaos, and does a great job listening to our wants, and counseling us on our can’t haves. We’d recommend her whole-heartedly.

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The upstairs continued apace with more walls being framed, which allowed the interior space to become more visible. It was incredibly exciting. We do have to give a nod to our builders who said that it was possible to go up on both sides of the structure to create a larger top level by putting in a foundation wall.

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One of the highlights was the entryway into the master bedroom. We made pony walls that allows light to flood the stairwell during the day, and the room to open up for John’s office. Once finished, it will be an elegant preface to the master bedroom’s soaring ceiling.

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Wednesday morning found us quickly moving the Airstream out of the way for the delivery of our trusses. The crane hoisted up ten scissor trusses that the guys quickly began moving into place. It was amazing how fast the truck was in and out of here, and how, now that the trusses were up, they gave visual shape to the entire house.

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We do continue having issues with the project manager, this time over windows. We’ve made several changes, most due to seeing how the house is looking, and changing sliders to casements. It seems a hardship for the project manager, but not the actual window company who, when asked, said they go through this all the time. It’s part of the process of building a brand new home out of an old home and trying to weave the two together.

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The guys who are doing the framing are doing great work still, asking us about changes, and showing us how to do things better. One of which are the dormers to the west that will now shed water better and provide more space and light in their respective rooms.

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Remodeling is not like you see on HGTV. Nowhere near it. There is great frustration, many, many decisions that can be overwhelming, mountains of dirt and dust and debris, and the constant shifting of priorities. However, the highlight of our days continue to be evenings on the Sky Deck. This week, the Super Moon fulfilled its journey last night coming up over the Cascades big and beautiful.

Five Weeks Down – Fireworks Edition

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While a short week, this was an eventful one in which we saw the raising of the top floor so we could see how the master bedroom, our offices and the bathroom will take shape.

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Monday, the rest of the main floor exterior walls were finished, and the beginning of work on the upstairs. John returned home to a lot of changes and was amazed at the work that had been done in the week he’d been gone. It was fun to see the excitement he had for the house.

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Our framers, Ivan and Leo, worked in the blazing sun on Tuesday, our hottest day yet here in Seattle, and built two walls that were raised first thing Wednesday morning. It’s interesting to see how they are melding the very old frame with the new, and making the house very strong to withstand a new roof that is being built.

Working with the contractor proved stressful this week, particularly for John. As project management goes, there has been very little of it to be seen given we are on the property almost all the time. Luckily, Ivan, the lead framer, is very detailed, asks questions of us, and works diligently to make sure that things are done right.

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We spent a lot of time looking at cabinets and picking out countertops only to read incredibly negative reviews of the cabinet companies we’ve visited so far. It’s kind of a bummer. So we’re back at square one on that front.

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We also found some tile we like and are excited that our neighbor, Steve Branca, has agreed to do it. He’s a master craftsman and was my direct neighbor for 10 years.

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For me, I’m totally clueless about some things and was happy for John’s return to figure out the leak we had in the Airstream within five minutes. We also rolled out the awning so the Airstream would stay cooler for Buster when we were out scouting cabinets and such. It’s worked beautifully and has added a lot of shade to our camp/home site.

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Today, the Fourth, we woke to have coffee on the Sky Deck with Buster. We’ve set up some makeshift barriers so that we felt better about Buster’s curiosity. We also spent a few hours cleaning the house’s floors with the shop vac to mitigate the dust and debris. We were disheartened to hear from our neighbor just down the hill that the company she hired for their remodel cleaned up every single day after work. That’s not the case here.

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I’m constantly amazed at how many people tell us that doing a remodel greatly tests a relationship. John and I have been at this for nearly a year now and are stronger for it, even much closer. We work through our choices and disagreements easily and with care, oftentimes coming to quick agreements on almost everything. So we wonder every time we hear this statement if maybe other people’s relationships need a little nourishment from a remodel.

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We are both very excited to be seeing our home take shape. Happy 4th of July everyone!

Four Weeks Down

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I’m sitting on the bed in the Airstream writing this recap of our remodeling project. Buster has taken over the dinette for his bed and it’s too much work to undo it every day, so we leave it down for him. Of course, he’s laying on our bed while I write.

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Week four was particularly eventful. The roof was removed along with the east room. The East Room will be rebuilt pretty much from the ground up given that it is now supporting a walkable roof we call The Sky Deck. Which brings up last weekend when we inaugurated the deck with two evenings of cocktails, friends and neighbors.

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The weather was truly amazing, and then our brand new neighbor, Grant, brought over a Steelhead Salmon fillet cooked on a cedar plank. It was extremely thoughtful and brought good karma to what, we think, will be a well-used deck.

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Wednesday night, the sky was extraordinary. Amazing colors, clear air and light delineated the mountains and lake.

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As the week progressed, the East Room took shape and the foundation wall was made and the plumbing restored from the basement. Ivan and Leo continue to do great work on the framing, and it’s great to watch their progress.

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Buster has proven to be a great site dog, curious about all things, but when he gets tired he takes himself to the Airstream for a nap. I think he misses John as I do. He likes having us both around so he can alternately entertain himself with either of us. John has been in Florida where the heat has been oppressive, but he’s enjoying the humidity, he said. We started the week finding out that a new grand baby is on the way in January 2015. We are both excited for his son and daughter-in-law, and baby Connor as well. 2015 will turn out to be a great year.

Thursday night brought rain for the first time to the open ceilings and concern for the floors kept me awake. Indeed, pools of water formed where the roof leaked since the covering had been removed. The sky opened up again throughout the day today, but now it’s sunny and bright, wind whipping the tarp around and roughing up the lake.

I’m missing my friends in Bennington this weekend where they are celebrating 20 years of the MFA Writing Program. I graduated in 2002 and it is still in top form.

This weekend might see us out on deck again depending on the weather. It’s supposed to rain, but it might be nice to just sit out there with a glass of wine and a good book thinking about the future.