Monday, July 27, 2015

Happy Things

I ended on such a low Friday- thank you for putting up with me. Suffice it to say, renovation is not my thing and not something I'd recommend for anyone with a budget and nowhere else to stay until their house is finished.

Thankfully, I'm adjusting and while the backyard still makes me sad, this weekend was a turning point for the inside of the house. Yes, the backsplash has to be fixed but that has been scheduled: a grout expert (or the contractor's cousin- how would I know the difference?!) will be digging out the existing grout and replacing it with the correct color- with the provision that if any of the tiles are damaged in the process they will be replaced. This is as realistic a solution as possible. Tearing out the tile would mean tearing out the walls and the time and waste would be extreme.

The good news: all of the major interior work has been finished so we were told we could start unpacking. !!!!!!!!!! It may not seem like much, but to finally be able to move into our home is mind-boggling. Let's look at some of the new stuff!

 The hall railing


 The fireplace and hearth- completed

I know, they're just doors, but they're the new doors to the closet in my room. Yah!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Week from Hell Wrap-Up

I'm not burying the lead with that subject line, am I? Honestly, it's just better to get it out there and move on. By Monday, I will (if there is a God) have a new upbeat attitude but for now, this week has been the worst of the renovation mostly due to the tile debacle (click here for the gruesome details). Mostly because it didn't end there.

On Wednesday, after sedating myself to sleep Tuesday night I looked out our patio doors to find that the white-trash vista I'd grown used to 

The rotted, falling down fence. The tree in front of it flowered in the spring and is a nice source of shade for the back of the house.

This is actually prior to the real renovation work so add heaps of concrete, discarded paint cans, wood, and small hazmat ponds of mortar with cigarette butts and empty soda cans floating in them and that's accurate.

All that GONE. As was the massive hydrangea bush and the 60-year-old rose tree (and if you think I'm kidding to call it a tree):

 Part of two of the main trunks, each over 6' ft tall

 This tangled mess is one group of branches. On the left you can see the new growth and on the right is the old branch.

In case you think old age means rot and decreased productivity, this is what I salvaged from the debris. I had cut dozens throughout the spring and summer and they just kept coming. Some of the most fragrant roses I've ever smelled. 

Was I shocked? Yes, but not completely. We knew the plants would have to go in order to have a deck but, once again, communication was non-existent and the outdoor crew showed up and got started at 6am before I could even attempt to save either plant. Granted, it was a long shot with the roses but to see everything gone was visually disorienting. All that was left was the tree you see above with the fence leaning on it. This would be the lovely shade tree for our deck. It had a split trunk and was situated at what would be the edge of the deck so it was decided that the two limbs that hung over the deck would be removed but the trunk could stay. And so it did, right up until 20 minutes later when the men inadvertently cut through the main root causing the tree to lose stability and tip precariously over the yard, necessitating its removal as well. 

The backyard has now been denuded of the main vegetation close to the house- everything that would make a deck inviting in the hot summer months. Did I start to cry? Yes. Did I do so in front of anyone? No. I went to the closet in the basement bedroom, the only place in the house that affords me any privacy and quiet at this time and I cried. And cried. This renovation has officially kicked my ass.

Today, everyone was back and all the important stuff, like installing an extra gas line under the deck so Mr. G could have his gas grill located where he wants it, was completed. And if you think I'm being sarcastic, you're right. We have a deck. A deck in a dirt patch. And that, my dears, sums up my week. I will return next week with my humor restored. 

The deck. And yes, the color of the house is hideous but the budget for repainting it is long gone. Maybe next year.

Side view so you can see that the debris pit still exists but has just been shoved over to what is the space behind my office.

Forget renovations and all that was your week? Was it just me or are the planets misaligned? Share your news!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Between Tile and a Hard Place

Now it’s time for the kind of post you hope you don’t have to write when talking about a home renovation. What happens when the contractor makes a mistake? Not a little ‘forgot to order a light fixture’ kind of mistake but the kind that goes against your specific instructions. We’re there and because I’m trying to document the process honestly I’m going to share. Also, I really want to know how you would respond to such a situation.

Remember when I shared the photos of the choices I made for the kitchen backsplash? I worked with a designer, for the first time, and she was the one to suggest that rather than use plain white grout between the tiles to go with something more updated, a grout that would act as an accent against the white but would blend with the colored glass tiles. I agreed with her and thought this would be a great look so we chose a grout called New Taupe. And yes, there are colors of grout- lots and lots of colors. It’s kind of bizarre and one more thing you have to choose. This is the accent tile I’m talking about: 

There are matte bars and polished glass in red, clear, and shades of brown. A neutral grout would emphasize the glass colors.

And this is how the background tile would look:

Well, instead of all that, the contractor did not read my email instructions carefully and told the tiler to use white grout. So, now we have this.

Now the white pops, not the accent colors, and the background tile is bland.

Because we’re living in the house, I walked in right after it was finished. The look on my face was bad enough that John, the tiler, said, “What’s wrong? Did I do something wrong?” I could not speak but kept shaking my head. I finally said, “This is not what I ordered. This is not how it’s supposed to look.” The poor guy could only say, “This is what I was told to use.” What was I going to say? Take it off? Wash it out? No, it’s grout. It’s set. The only way is to dig it out or to go further and remove the tiles. The first option would be incredibly time consuming and the second would be prohibitively expensive, wasteful AND time consuming. Granted, the expense would not be ours but still.

Look, I get it, this is not a human life or a catastrophe, but the tiling in the house is the second most expensive item we purchased when you add up materials and labor. Glass tiles average $22 a square foot. More importantly, it's a permanent and integral part of the house- we're in the kitchen every day.

I know plenty of people who would have pitched a bloody fit over this and who would have immediately demanded the entire thing be torn out and replaced. While that is what a part of me wants, I am mostly worn down and emotionally exhausted. More than anything I want these people (nice and polite as they are) OUT. OF. MY. HOUSE. I am tired of sitting in the basement, of hauling dishes up and down stairs because we can't use most of the kitchen, of making decisions, dealing with problems. I want it all to go away, but that's not an option. 

I left this until Mr. G got home and waited for his opinion. When he asked me, I said, "I don't love it, it's not what I wanted, but it's OK." His reply, "I hate it and they'll have to fix it. This is important; it's our money and our house." I don't disagree, but how I wish they hadn't screwed up. We are 20 days behind schedule with no hard end-date in sight. 

I have stood my ground before in my life when something is not done right or what I ordered is not correct but never in a situation when my frame of mind was so desperate to get out. It feels like a lose-lose. I want them gone so much that I will settle for sloppy work and mistakes. Not a good place to be.

How about you? Have you had an experience like this with a remodel? Or been in a situation where you'd sacrifice quality just to be finished?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Paint Choices

Remember three weeks ago when I was freaking out over choosing paint? Well, most of my choices have gone up on the walls- time to take a look. 

 This is the master bedroom and I am thrilled with this soft, greyish blue. It is exactly what I wanted- not too bright and not too dull.

This is my office and I'm...hesitant about this choice. I wanted a very soft pink for its femininity and also for a certain warmth and nurturing feel. I'm afraid that on all four walls pink simply reads "girly" which is not what I want. I'm going to live with it for now but I'm already thinking that a light green would suit me better.

This is the master bath and while this green is pretty peppy I like it. The rest of the wall is going to be mirror so it won't be more pep than I can handle.

Guest bath and this is another one of my choices that I really love. I've tried yellow in rooms before but never gotten it right. This one I love. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

All Boxed Up

We’re officially at the stage where you have to laugh or you’ll end up in a fetal position on the floor. Which by the way is where I was after 45 minutes of trying to find a 1/4” fine course #28 1 1/4” long flat-head metal screw at Home Depot. Right?! You know what I’m talking about. PLEASE. I didn’t even know what I was talking about when I walked into the store but after being vigorously ignored by multiple burly old men in orange aprons, I figured out that’s what I needed because they have a cool display in the fasteners section that allows you to screw in the fastener you brought with you (which, of course, I had) to determine its size so you could buy another one. To replace the one you can’t find so you can put together a laundry rack. Yes. And NO ONE there will help. I hate Home Depot but, much like Comcast, they are the only game in town, and you have to use them. After I picked myself up off the floor because, despite showing a #28 screw in their display they do not carry it, I tried again and found that my screw was metric. Damn you, Europe!

Sorry, that was a massive digression, but…it’s kind on point as well. I’ve heard from a friend that she’s found my posts to be funny which is great because I was worried that I was whining incessantly. Of course, this friend said she was laughing because she had lived through this as well, so I’m not sure what that means. Laughing at my pain? Well, OK, it is funny (seriously, she is a very sweet person so she’s not really laughing at me) so let’s cap off this week with a quick photographic look at where I am now. WARNING: it’s not pretty and may be upsetting to some viewers. Mostly those who are OCD or professional organizers.

I am a creature of habit. I have everything in a specific place, mostly because, due to MS and aging, I have to know that when I need my keys/phone/shoes/laptop they will be there. Unfortunately, we’ve been in a state of flux since leaving Portland, so for almost two years the majority of our possessions have been, well, like this: 

I tried segregating boxes, as in, the photo on left is clothes and books only and on the right, kitchen and Mr. G's stuff. That didn't last.

(lower photos) This is soon-to-be my office but somehow the movers put all of Mr. G's office boxes in here and my boxes in his office. Also, I labeled the boxes on the outside but unless you have the time and space to inventory the contents you will still have to open them and dig through each one to find what you're looking for.

And this is the second iteration these boxes have been in. They were packed and stacked in different places in our rental here in Seattle. So, imagine you need a recipe/the charger for your swim watch/your fuzzy socks because Seattle is having a cold snap in July/the wine opener or God forbid, a book that you packed because you foolishly thought you would be in your finished home with all your books unpacked by mid-July, and you have a sense of where I am now. I simply have no memory left for where anything might be anymore. And this pains me. Physically. Thankfully, we seem to be nearing the end. At which point I'm going to unpack EVERYTHING and lay it on the floor, even if it has no place to go. Just so I can visually see my things again and decide where they should go.

Are you organized person or do you thrive on chaos? Which comes more easily, dealing with your things or packing them away?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Bits and Pieces

We're three months into the carnival ride known as remodeling and not to mix metaphors but it feels as if we've pushed the ten-ton boulder of destruction, decisions, and delays to the top of the mountain. More importantly, I'm able to say that I don't think there's a cliff after the  top and we're going to fall off it. Instead, it feels as if there are still things ahead but not so out-of-control. A gentle slope, if you will. Which means I can catch my breath rather than continue waking up in a panic. Things are coming together, so while it's nowhere near finished it's closer to the end than the beginning.

Here's what I'm seeing when I emerge from the cave that is the basement:

 I'll start with the cooktop being installed because I thought Mr. G would weep when he saw it. He was that happy.

It's not the same kind of love but I am happy to see the dishwasher installed. Washing all our dishes by hand  is not fun.

Again, I never thought I'd care about a kitchen sink but after over a year of using a small sink in our rental (and knowing how much cleaning I do of Mr. G's oversized pots and pans) this looks good to me.

 The master bath is taking shape! Countertop, sinks, and faucets are in. 

The guest bath tiling is complete and the shower/faucet installed.

The big slab of concrete that was our original fireplace mess is now taking shape. The stones are in place, just waiting for mortar and to be sealed.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Good, the Bad, the Just Plain Ugly

As you already know we're in the new house and progress is being made. I like to end on a high so let's start with the bad and work our way up.

The fireplace reconstruction. If this is ever in your remodeling future DO NOT, under any circumstances live in the house at the time. The amount of noise generated by massive boxes of stone and cutting that stone is ear splitting. Not to mention when they drop boxes. Our beautiful new floors are under there somewhere. Plus, look at it. This is our living room. 

This is the other side which is just as pretty. This was supposed to be done before we moved in, but, no. And no matter how many facts you have it is still your fault- never anyone else's. Oh, and p.s., no other work can be done in the area so all painting is on hold and they're saying it will take 10 days to finish. Needless to say, I'm furious.

In case, you weren't sure, this counts as the ugly. Mostly because it makes me nuts not being able to find things. This is just one room of boxes and furniture. I am a complete everything-has-a-place person so when there is no set place, I get cranky.

On to the good!

 The kitchen countertops arrived and have been installed as has the kitchen sink.

This is the length of the original slab, which is kind of staggering when you think about it. Even though they went in on Friday we were not allowed to touch them because they had applied the sealer. Which is important for keeping them from getting stained but which is supposed to be redone EVERY YEAR. Raise your hand if you've ever had granite counters resealed. Apparently, no one does. Oops.

Mr. G's new baby. This is a Samsung 4-door fridge. The top two doors are refrigerated but the bottom two can be switched from refrigeration to freezing. Because Mr. G loves his fresh veggies this means we'll have 3 fridge sections and I'll have no ice cream.

The guest bath tiling is finished. We kept it fairly muted with only one width of glass band accent tile.

The bright happy shower! This is the master bath and I'm so in love with it. All that's left is the grout which will be white. It came out exactly the way I wanted it to.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Seattle Food: Mkt.

We're in the new house but if you've ever been camping you already know what's it's like here. Basically, me sharing one bathroom with five guys, waking up at 6:30am, no real food, and desperately wanting to go home. Enough said.

Instead of all that, let's go to a happy place. Sunday night Mr. G and I got to go out for dinner with my brother and his wife. Despite how crazy all of our schedules were this past weekend with moving, soccer games, and record heat, we were able to find the time to get together and it was well worth it.

Everyone's schedule was up in the air so nothing was planned and sometimes that's when the best things happen. We went to a small neighborhood restaurant called Mkt

When I say small, I mean they only seat 28 and 8 of those seats are a picnic table that is half in the restaurant and half on the sidewalk. 

 This was one of the small plates we got: hamachi ceviche, sliced cucumbers, pickled red onions, and citrus-cucumber ice, which melted into the most amazing liquid. The only word I can use to describe it is GREEN. Tasted like pure green. Clean, crisp, summer.

 Fried quail with an apple cider reduction and potato salad.

Lamb shank with pan-fried potato gnocchi and snap peas. The lamb was tender and the gnocchi melt-in-your-mouth fluffy.

Seared scallops with a butter thyme sauce and spring vegetables.

Caramel ice cream, chocolate mousse cake, toasted hazelnuts, and chocolate cookie crumbles. *Deep sigh of delight*

It's official, Mkt is our favorite restaurant in Seattle. The food is that fabulous every time and the wait staff, friendly and knowledgeable. Add in the great company and it was the perfect way to spend our last night in Wallingford.

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