Wednesday, March 25, 2015

# 545 - Seedling Babies

This week I have finally started to get my seeds. I still have many more to do, but at least things are getting underway for the veggie garden this season. We got a late start, but I was in the hospital a few weeks ago and didn't get to do everything I wanted as fast as I wanted.

Well, I am trying to catch up now. I have some great seeds that will soon sprout...Bell Peppers, Tomatoes, Chives, Sweet Basel, Cilantro, Jalapenos, and a lot more. I will be thrilled to have my OWN veggie garden this season, a raised box garden. As time passes, I will be adding more raised box gardens in the same area to make it our garden zone.

I can't wait to be able to eat home-grown veggies. There is NOTHING that can compare than a vine-ripened tomato. We love our sweet Basil and have a pesto we make with our basil and it is a special, highly requested menu item we are always requested to make. This year, I am definitely going to learn how to start canning, especially our home-grown green beans, carrots and such...we are going to try our best to avoid buying such foods at the grocery store. I am ready! 
Then, our chickens are laying about 12 eggs a day. The past couple of days, the dogs have enjoyed a pan of scrambled eggs as a nice treat. They love their eggs. So, when we get too many eggs, we supplement the dog's meals with some scramble eggs and they are some happy, healthy dogs.
Now, we are still working on the house. This week, we are working on running ductwork, both rigid and flex duct. We have learned a lot about the issue through extensive research. We might even run a rigid exposed run through the Great room and that would help solve a lot of ductwork problems to the rest of the house. 
We will see what our HVAC person suggests. Time is short...we don't have much longer to set our mind on how we want these things to be done. Time for more decisions to be made.
One thing I can promise is that the chickens will not be allowed to roam around the front porch or the yard of the new house. We have a grandbaby who is ready to run around NaNa and Pappy's country house...the kids get the yard and porch. That means, the chickens need a secure area so they can be happy, but not trespass. I need clean porches for the pitter-patter of little baby feet!
I can't wait. My grandbaby will finally be able to stay with Nana and Pappy once the house is finished. We can't wait!
Life is good.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

# 544 - Bathtub Blues

Today, I am feeling as if this process of moving from the greater metropolitan Houston area to our rural country acreage is now approaching the end of my patience because of extensive bathtub withdrawal.

As we moved from the city to the country, I did not have any unrealistic expectations, I knew this would be a difficult process. It has taken longer than expected, which was really expected. I had suspected the process would take a minimum of a year, but I had always told my clients that anything real estate related WILL take three times more money and three times more time than expected. Believe me, from Day One, those true words of advice have become my personal experience, yet again. So, I have known this process would likely be more expensive, more challenging and would likely take more time than initially imagined.

However, this week is one of the times I've most missed a bathtub. I long to enjoy sore muscles and aching bones feel the deep relief that comes the weightless glory of a lengthy soak in hot water. I miss my master bath garden tub.

In the old house, you know, the one that had actual bathtubs...we also had an upstairs bathroom that we made into a spa-like setting and it had a jetted tub. The jets on the feet felt especially great on days I had too much to do. But, to tell the truth, I prefer a regular tub without jets. The ability to soak in hot water is all that is really needed to feel the luxury of a tub.

The funny thing is, I would love to take a long hot bath to have a moment to escape from the process of building this house, but I won't get another tub unless I move forward with the of those cycles that doesn't feel so great at  this particular moment.

Today, again, I will have to accept that a long, hot shower will wash away those aches, pains and frustrations, but it just isn't the same as a tub of hot water with a good book and a washrag to scrub away the layers of dirt that I feel cannot be washed away with a shower and a washrag. As for washrags, I prefer those cheap Walmart washrags because they are abrasive enough to truly scrub the skin...the fluffy rags are sudsy beautiful kind of rags, but not worth a darn for scrubbing purposes.

Yea, I sure do miss my bathtubs this week and that's a bit nuts, but it is the way I feel. I am positive there is a layer of dirt beneath the skin that is being missed. It's there! It might not be visible to the naked eye but there is a speck of bodily dirt somewhere that would not be survivable if I had a bathtub!!!

Yes, my OCD tendencies are rearing their ugly head this week.

We had someone suggest buying an old cast-iron tub off Craigslist and setting it up outside near the water hose with some logs underneath it for a small fire to slowly build a nice warm tub of water. A few patio stones with the water hose at the side of the tub to wash off the feet before getting inside is another good idea.

If we have too many more construction delays, I might start surfing our local Craigslist because my need for a soak in the tub is one that is near toddler-tantrum level.

Oh well, for now, it's time to go get my cheap washrag and sing the blues in the shower about missing my bathtubs!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

# 543 - Constructionzilla has Arrived!

The house we sold nearly two years ago was a great home. The main problem was the location. The suburbs of the Greater Houston area did not provide much privacy or space from neighbors because real estate is at a prime. The backyard gave absolutely no privacy. I longed to have space outdoors that would allow me to walk outside and enjoy moments of solitude and privacy.

Chicken poop bombs at back patio. Not fun either. Lol.

We loved our neighbors, but we were still too close for comfort. Some neighbors also had two story houses; they could see directly into our backyard and we could see into theirs.

Others had the ability to see straight through the fencing boards into our backyard and then there was the house at the corner of our backyard with about six kids who loved their trampoline and each jump meant they strained to look over the fence to see what we were doing and to sometimes scream things at us as we were in our backyard. Sometimes it was cute, other times, not so cute.


After we moved to the country and were settled on our land, in a glorious RV, I began to explore options for our country house to be constructed on the acreage. One of the houses we considered was a log cabin. It had a floorplan I loved, the square footage was sufficient, I believe it was approximately 1,600. sq. ft. and it was affordable for the shell kit. I believe the plain kit started at around $80,000. This price does not include any site prepping, interior finishes...all of that is extra and can get quite pricey if done through the log cabin company. However, matching any interior wood finishes can be a problem if not ordered through the same company that built the exterior portion. Having extra outlets precut, etc., also became an expensive addition...even the stairway banister and staircase was much more expensive to get it to look anything like the picture seen below.
However, this house would have posed problems for us because we still needed to find a local construction manager who would know how to assemble it. We learned that this is a serious issue as we spoke with another couple who did buy one of these log homes kits...they were in their THIRD YEAR of trying to finish it. My jaw was on the floor. I could NOT imagine having my house unlivable for three years after construction had begun. They had not been able to move into the house because things were not quite ready. Well, I am in an RV, I won't add three years of camping mode.
However, sometimes, life requires that we do things we don't like or that we sacrifice in order to reach a goal. On a side note about sacrifice...can you believe we sacrificed during our military life with the wallpaper in our German apartment as seen below? That wallpaper could be used a Guantanamo as a torture tool. Perhaps this is the reason we don't see much "Interior German Design" in magazines beyond the modern design. Yes, things are built very well in Germany, as far as engineering and function are concerned, but aesthetics for interior appearance is not exactly appealing. Germans do have great minimalistic and modern interiors, mostly in major cities, but outside of the city you truly get frumpy, clumpy and rather questionable interior taste. In other words, you get more of that wallpaper design.
This is our second apartment in Germany and that is our first daughter
Heather at about 6 months old enjoying her space. We lived in Germany
for three years.
Back to the log cabin being built by friends of our friends...When they first ordered their log cabin kit, they hired a well known General Contractor in the Houston area who said it would be no problem to build the house. However, for over two years, they encountered major problems. Finally, the couple were forced to replace the General Contractor with another recommended by the log cabin company. The new General Contractor made things work beautifully and did it in half the time. This couple told us that the kit comes complete with instructions, there is not any piece left over, you get exactly what is needed to put the puzzle together. However, an experienced General Contractor of these specific kits are the ones who know how to pick which logs look best in certain areas...he had the experience to flip around some of the puzzle pieces for a much better appearance, yet maintain the integrity of the house. They could not believe the huge difference his knowledge gave to the process. Their experience reminded me that hiring someone who is inexperienced might end up costing you more money due to their mistakes. Once that contractor was finished with his part, the couple began the long process of completing other details of the house, such as lighting, cabinetry, trim and on and on and on. Since they had another house to live in during construction, they didn't need to rush to finish this house. My temporary house is an RV, so once construction starts, we are boogying down the road to finish it, completely. 
I am really ready for a kitchen, even though our RV kitchen is decent for an RV. I am ready to boogy into a regular-sized kitchen.
Once we start construction, our expectation is to go full speed...our first mortgage bill arrives six months after the construction process begins, so at the end of the construction allowance, we should be living in the house and not paying for two homes with two different electrical bills, water bills, and such. Granted, we do have the RV to live in while we finish the house, but we do not want to stay in the RV for any extended length of time that can be avoided. Besides, the electric bills for an RV in Texas to be kept cool is comparable to a bill of a sizeable house with great insulation. The great news is...our country-style underwriter allows us actually move into our house whenever we feel we can endure it. In Harris County, the Houston area, this would NEVER be possible. So, we might try to at least get the Master Bedroom finished so we can sleep in the house as we finish painting and finishing the other areas. We shall see.
This is a Master Bedroom that I find highly
appealing. Soft, light colors. Our old bedroom
seemed to be very similar.
 The picture below was our last Master Bedroom...the lighting isn't showing the right color of the walls, which were actually a much softer yellow as seen in the following photo, but we did love it.

In the light of day, here is the actual delicate color of our bedroom as we were moving out.

Our front porch is something I think about, a lot. I don't know what it will be like to live with a wrap-around porch that allows people to walk by your bedroom and bathroom windows. Of course, the windows will have privacy glass, but the concept itself is still strange. The porch will have a beadboard ceiling (exactly as seen below) with both outdoor ceiling fans at the back part of the porch and recessed lights all the way around. The beadboard will have a natural coat of polyurethane.
Our windows will be white aluminum windows with black shutters at the front elevation. The house itself will be painted white with the porch decking a light grey color. I want the painted porch to feel great to bare feet.
Okay, here is a serious pet-peeve of mine, well, it's actually a pet-peeve that can affect property value. I know that weddings can have a "Bridezilla?" Well, maybe in this area I am a "Constructionzilla," but this is how I feel...
As for the painting of the house, I am anal-retentive about painting sharpness with proper preparation. Seeing a sloppy paint job, especially of a home's exterior makes for a bad curb appearance. Overspray hitting windows, the roof, or other parts of the house is intolerable and expensive because those paint-damaged areas must now be "fixed" or remain crappy looking. And exterior paint, once dried on a surface, isn't exactly able to be washed clean. I won't tolerate crappy looking exteriors or interiors due to laziness with painting. If the painter cannot tape off other areas or cannot take the time to lay tarps properly to protect other surfaces, then they shouldn't be painting because they will damage other parts of the house while painting the target.

Beyond that, I have seen people destroy the finish of their windows, their roofs and other finishes in an effort to remove the over-spray that should have never happened in the first place. The worst is to get that worker who feels as if they are not being paid enough...they justify that doing a bad job of over-spray is your problem, not theirs...keep these people away from your job sites.
Coming from the real estate profession, I remember hearing potential buyers ask me, "WHY did they overspray and get paint all over the roof shingles? Did they think others wouldn't see that sloppy job and question how many others things were done on a sloppy level?"
It stuck with me...I agree. If a person does a sloppy job, then it is most likely that they don't really know what the heck they are doing in the first place or that they shouldn't be doing it at all.
So, I am already thinking about all of the painting we must have done for our house. I am considering the cost and the quality of work expected. It is important. If the painting is done right, the house will look fabulous. If someone tries to cut corners and do a half-a$$ job, then the effort is worthless and probably more costly than can be imagined.

After our last house was hit by Hurricane Ike, we had one guy hired to paint our two-story foyer and the winding staircase that had extremely high ceilings.

I painted most every bit of trim, chair railing and
crown molding (after I caulked it) with high
gloss white, and I painted most of the walls.
Sgt. Dave laid the Italian Porcelain floors as seen
above with the decorate "tile rug" at the entry.

Our hired painter did a horrible job. He left huge areas without coverage and he even tried to talk with me about brush strokes. You should see the paint jobs we did in that house...I couldn't believe he was lecturing me about painting as he was leaving spots left unpainted and without a straight edged paint line at the top of the ceiling.

Yes, we do stripes. In the below photo, the black stripes on the lower part of the wall go from matte black to glossy person it was quite detailed. Stefie and her dad painted this room together, with precision. This was Stefie's room, our youngest daughter. We always encouraged our kids to do whatever they wanted in their bedroom. 

After having to look at that two story entry with the big gaps of missing paint driving me nuts, I known that no sloppy Joe's will be allowed on our home-site. After we saw the terrible job that the painter did in the foyer, we let him know that we didn't need any more painting...WE GOT IT!

Sometimes, it is still better to do what you can yourself. Believe me, with our country home, we are doing as much as we can ourselves. The next few months are about to get really interesting! These country boys are about to meet Constructionzilla...a woman who knows a lot about construction and who is easy going, as long as the job as done right.

It's a GREAT thing that our builder can cope. I went through THIRTEEN potential builders before settling upon our builder. One of the questions I dropped during the "initial interview" of each builder was whether or not they could deal with strong women who are a little knowledgeable about construction being involved in the process, and I also asked if they could build a house capable of being topped off with a metal roof. I actually had one builder insist that his composition roofs were all we would need so I should forget about those metal roofs. But, I just said I don't want a composition roof. Well, you will like what I build, I promise. HA! No, I will like what I would LIKE to have built! I could see which ones were worth their money and which builders were not.

I am eager to work with our builder and to work out any issues that come along our way, but the design of the house belongs to us, not to the builder.

There is our builder...Dennis. Nice, knowledgeable,
outspoken, guy who is passionate about the homes
he builds for his clients.

If they can't build what we have in mind, then they aren't the builder for us. Some were extremely expensive, up to $220. per square foot...GOOD-BYE. Others were "retired" but might think about just one more. Oh my goodness, it was a fun process that took months. Several months ago, we invited our prospective builder to a late working lunch, Sgt. Dave and I met with him and talked about the construction process, family and work ethic. We liked him, both as a builder and as a person. Many more meetings later, we are all on firm footing. And our builder sees the Contructionzilla side of me and it doesn't even phase him. Yes, we are all getting along just fine!

Friday, March 20, 2015

# 542 - Living a Dream - Countdown to Country House Construction!

Nearly two years ago, we sold our house in the Greater Houston area. Our kids had both left home for college and for bigger, better things, so we were empty-nesters. The house was actually a great size to accommodate all of us, but the location of the house became undesirable to the two of us.

There were things that were bothersome due to the "neighborhood" normalness of this location. Our street was always packed with cars lining both sides of the street. Often, people visiting other neighbors would park in front of our house and block our mailbox. Our deliverers had a strict policy of not delivering to a house with a blocked mailbox. You would think people would know to not block a person's mailbox, but they do.

One of our good neighbors and friends would be the worst offender! Since we lived by the bay, our community was a huge boating/water recreation community and this one neighbor would have his four vehicles, his TWO boats and jet skis parked in front of his house...or he would try to park them there and they wouldn't fit, so he would end up parking in the only available space, in front of our house. But, he sure couldn't stand to have anyone park in front of his house. It was a situation prime for drama. Then, people began backing up into each other's cars as they tried to get out of their driveways.

We got sick of the parking issues. We had a very long, ample spaced driveway, but our neighbors didn't.

Then, we could not walk into the front or back yard for any privacy. Even the backyard...we were surrounded by people who could see everything in our backyard and hear everything. We couldn't even sit in the backyard and have a private conversation...all of us could hear each other. The lack of privacy became more bothersome through the years. Sometimes, you just wanted privacy.

So, we decided that we didn't need to keep living in a location that no longer met our personal needs and desires. We longed for space. We longed for nature instead of concrete and bad community planning for drainage.

We sold our house to a family who lived about two blocks away. They were a family of six and they were so excited to be buying our house. They lived in a one-story two-bedroom home and ours had four-bedrooms with a separate study, separate formal dining room and very large gameroom.

Our new house in the country won't have as many rooms as the old house, but the rooms are roomier. I didn't opt for a breakfast area, but we will have a breakfast bar that will provide comfortable daily dining space for the two of us. We might be able to fit a little table in the kitchen area that seats two, which will be nice and allow the cook to sit while preparing a meal, but the formal dining space will be just off the kitchen. The layout for our house is almost identical to the below shot...

But one thing that will change once we build the new house is that the chickens will not have the ability to get into our yard space or to get onto our porches. The chickens are much more lovable as they keep their distance from our home-site. Chickens destroy your potted plants, your veggie garden, they leave poop bombs everywhere and it becomes a yucky situation. For me, moving to the country is not relaxing to substitute the lack of privacy for chickens invading our private space, so we will take care of that issue very soon. I have two choices, get the chickens accommodations set up to keep them away from the home-site or don't have chickens.

So, I hope we figure things out as we build our house so that we can keep the chickens happy and this momma happy...I love being around my chickens, but they are not invited as house guests. Regardless, they are beautiful gals!

This particular chicken thinks she should live indoors with her people. Every day, she makes countless efforts to get inside. She knows where the dog food bowls are and Howdy the Aussie will snarl at another dog eating his dog food, but he just lays and watches this chicken raid his dog bowl with a dreamy expression on his face. I think he loves this chicken.

Of course, when I yell for Gracie, the dog we found in the woods after moving here, ALL the chickens come running from up to two acres if they collectively think their name is "Gracie."

Gracie and Howdy, being cuddly on a recently cold day.

It is quite comical.

We do have predators all around us. The 30 chickens we had last year have suffered all kinds of encounters that have reduced our chicken flock to 15. However, I must say that the perfect amount of chickens for our home flock is from 6-10...I am leaning more toward 6. More than that becomes expensive to feed, more smelly for their poop trails and more destructive as the claws are multiplied.

We will have a driveway path leading to the house and then there will
be an expanded area stabilized for parking. But, we will start off our
driveway onto the acreage with this kind of tire trail.

As for the house construction, we are coming up to a closing day sometime between April 3rd-10th and that seems to be a date whirling toward us with increasing speed. After all this time, the day of closing on the construction loan approaches.

We have an idea of what we are building, but since this is a custom house, I have not actually walked into it before, so that is nerve-wracking. I am hoping everyone is on board and that once it is constructed and actually on our land, with a mortgage payment attached to it, that I will be THRILLED with it.

I think I will be SO HAPPY to finally have a bath tub again. RV living with a shower is great because it works to keep us clean, but sometimes, I just want to become a prune from soaking in a tub for much longer than is advised.

I still haven't figured out our Master bathroom configuration, but I
can promise this...the bathroom will not be a country-design. The
Master bath will be sleek and with white trim, very similar to the
bathroom above. I must have things in my bathroom clear and clean.
So, I will have a bit of metropolitan design with me in the country.

At least I have the comfort of knowing that I have put everything possible into this process to make this home the best we have ever lived in. For both me and Sgt. Dave, I have been very conscientious about adding elements into this house that we both love. Seeing it be brought to reality will be like watching a dream come to life.

Living a dream is pretty amazing. A chicken poop-free dream is even sweeter!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

# 541 - So Close to Our Country Home!

First of all, thank you to the sweet emails and posts about hoping all is well since I haven't been able to post in a while! Things are getting back on track. I had surgery nearly three weeks ago. I have been on a fast road to recovery, but things aren't going as FAST as I would really like. Typical.

The good news is, during my hospital admission, I learned that I am a year younger than I thought. The arm band showed my age to be 46. I argued with admissions who assured me the computer NEVER made mistakes and it automatically calculates a person's age by their birth date. I insisted that I was 47. Anyway, it turns out, I am 46. The people in admissions were laughing so hard with me as they said, "Congratulations on waking up today and discovering you are a year younger!"

And guess who turned 50? Sgt. Dave had a birthday and we celebrated a COUPLE of times! The best birthday lunch was when he got to be with our two daughters, Heather and Stefie, along with our beautiful 18 month old grand-daughter.

Coraline LOVES to give her Pappy the sweetest smiles EVER! She is a deeply shared delight of our hearts! The great thing is that Heather and Henry are expecting their second child...our second grandbaby! We are thrilled!

Anyway, yesterday we received our Pre-HUD statement, which is the accounting statement of all the closing costs and expenses for the construction loan to build our home. Those statements are always a tad nerve-wracking. Yes, we are getting there folks!

The below photo is SIMILAR to what we are building. We will have windows instead of the double French doors, but the Great Room area has a vaulted ceiling and the kitchen a low ceiling. Just like the below shot, our kitchen will see through the formal dining area to the living room. The floorplan is open and airy.

We should close in three weeks. Getting the Pre-HUD statement has been a bit of a shock, as it ALWAYS is for buying a house! But, frankly, we will be glad to have the write-off again!

Here is a better shot of the dormer windows we are getting.
We have lived in an RV for a LONG time, longer than we anticipated would be needed. Thankfully, we did buy a large RV with a couple of nice, large slide-outs to make things tolerable!

I cannot believe we have been so determined to live out our dreams of living in the country. I am thankful we didn't put it off until it became too daunting. We are old enough for it to be possible and young enough for it to be possible, kind of like a Goldilocks phase of life to make such a decision. No matter what, people should GO FOR THEIR DREAMS!

When our kids were young, we bought this acreage. For about 15 years, we enjoyed long and short-term visits to our country home, especially since we had a "retreat RV" parked here for a few years. In those days, we toyed with dreams of planting permanent roots here. As years passed, we began to seriously consider a permanent move to the land. The kids left home and we realized "home" had much more flexibility as empty-nesters.

Here is part of the land that is being prepped for the house.
There is Sgt. Dave, which shows the towering trees we are
contending with. One estimate for clearing this area for the
house is $18,000. Sure. HA! This shot doesn't show the
MASSIVE trees to each side. We do have TREES!
Sgt. Dave has been working for the past few months to get the home-site cleared of underbrush and small trees so we could decide exactly where to put the house and which large trees would need to be removed. The area had been so thickly forested that you could only see specks of sky. The ground was so covered in brush, clusters of small trees and vines that you could not walk through it without a machete. It sure looks different now.

In the picture below, you can see the area where the house will be built, which is just behind the lawn tractor. Sweet Gracie is walking with me through the woods. Behind her, you can see one of the really large trees we must contend with...we do have many very large trees that are extremely expensive to remove.

Gracie is enjoying the day in the woods with us.
The ground of this raw forested land has so many layers of composted material that you won't see a huge hole is in front of you. As Sgt. Dave was warning me of this danger, especially because I am naturally clumsy, he stepped right into one himself. This hole nearly went to his knee. This could have caused someone some real bodily harm.

We are building this house just in time to have extra space for our growing family! I am planning a fantastic little play space for the grandbabies, and I have more exciting news about this house, but that will come next post! We are going to have two guest rooms which will perfectly cater to our daughters and their needs as young mothers...from comfy beds to baby beds, comfy chairs for nursing and satellite tv...things will be comfortable. I don't want my daughters to have to haul all the baby things to our house, so we plan on having as much of it as possible already at our new house, ready to be used. I hope that will make their travels even easier to come see Nana and Pappy. Even though we sometimes feel ancient, out of shape, overwhelmed, under-equipped and completely nuts, we have realized through this process that we are much too young and have a much too involved, large family to embrace too much of a radical concept of "down-sizing" just yet. One day, we will indeed down-size, but I hope those days are decades away. These are the years we have more land, more dogs, more family members, more chickens, more activity, and more desire for uncramped space. But, our grandbabies will be a prior

After nearly two years in an RV, we are feeling the pinch for space, having moments of claustrophobia, and I am about to blow a gasket over not having a walk-in closet. Hey, I lived for years in Germany with a tiny RV-sized wardrobe since they do not build closets because they are taxed as if they are a separate room. I have now had about five years of adulthood with teeny closet space, I passed the's time for the walk-in version again! For now, we need ample room to accommodate our daughters/grandchildren, our future, and our growing lives. especially since everyone is traveling a decent distance to be together, which means the house needs to be roomy enough for sleepy-heads.

I will laugh so hard when Sgt. Dave and I decide to spend most of our time on the wrap-around porch, but I think I might most enjoy sitting in the middle of the walk-in closet with a goofy smile.