Saturday, February 26, 2005

And it continues...

Okay, it's Saturday night and I'm sitting at home blogging about the house...again. Yes, I should be doing other stuff. I have a bad head cold and don't feel great. We worked on cleaning the house so that the painter could access the last room to be painted and so that we could get things ready for the carpet-layers who will be installing on Monday the 14th. So I'm wiped out and this is what I can do.

Okay, first things first...the cooktop finally got hooked up on Monday, and now the installation is complete - finally. It works like a dream...

...Jess had to light all the burners to show you just how great it is.

But it's more than just the firepower, it's the ingenious design of the grates. As you see here, the grates are completely continuous across the cooktop, allowing movement of pots and pans completely and effortlessly across the cooktop.

Here's another interesting feature: the grates are reversible. Each can be turned over to create a wok grate that allows direct flame contact without a wok ring. Uh huh. I heard that dirty thought, Crash.

I haven't really posted any pictures of the sunroom yet, but here is the first...the sunroom is a beautiful shade of peach that doesn't look like peach in this picture. The kitchen is also painted this shade where there is paintable wall. It offers a nice view of the backyard (but it was dark when this picture was taken, so you can't see it) and will be great for Sunday mornings with a cup of coffee and the New York Times.

Haven't posted any pictures of the basement yet, either, until today. The basement was totally gutted and remodeled, and now has an office...

...and a nice big laundry room.

So, that's today's tour. Now that we're getting close to finished, I will probably wait to post more photos until it's complete. Yes, Crash, I promise. Happy? :P

Monday, February 21, 2005

Inside and out

The house is changing at a rapid pace now. Yesterday the siding was completed and shutters were added. What a difference between the old and the new. The neighbor to the east caught me this morning and was just gushing over the great new look. See for yourself...

Here is the house as it was about 13 months ago...

...and here is what is looked like yesterday.

There is still work to be completed on the exterior, too: the door has yet to be painted, the garage door is being replaced and painted, and a new storm door with full glass is being added.

The interior is coming along too, and I'll probably post pictures of that on Friday. Meantime, have a happy Presidents' Day.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

A guilty pleasure

I know it's pitiful, but I enjoy watching American Idol. Even though most of it is nothing better than glorified karaoke, there are a few standouts each season. I hold out hope that the truly best talent will win, but after last year's fiasco extraordinaire that ditched LaToya London, who by all rights should have been the winner, I stopped watching the week she was voted off. Likewise, for the second season, I didn't think Ruben Studdard was the best of the bunch. I liked Clay Aiken, but if I'd been the sole judge, the season two winner would have been Kimberly Locke. She had a lot more stage presence than either of the other two, and sang as well or better than either of them, too. The only winner so far who has deserved the number one spot is Kelly Clarkson, and the first time I heard her, I said, "that girl is going to win." And win she did. But what did it get her? Though she has had some success, it's been limited at best. Her best work was the single Miss Independence, which was flawless - and a great departure from the sickeningly bubblegum A Moment Like This which was old news by the second time it was performed.

Anyway, I have a thought or two about the final round picks. Mario Vasquez is absolutely the most talented of the bunch. Can he win? That's a tough call. He's adorable, has a great voice, and has incredible stage presence. That's usually the kiss of death for people on this show. But I really hope he does win, and not just because he's a hometown boy. He's the one contestant that really stood out through the entire audition process. Anyone who would dare tackle Bohemian Rhapsody a capella and belt it like a champ while charming you out of your seat should go a long way on this show. Another favorite of mine is Travis Tucker. Definitely "top five" material. Carrie Underwood is beautiful and has a Martina McBride-like voice...but will she be able to believably perform more than country material? The jury is out. But she is one of my top five picks. Anthony Federov is an interesting character with a nice voice, but I don't know if he has the staying power to make it all the way through. He's very Harry Connick Jr. in his delivery and definitely not mainstream, which could work for him or against him...the viewer-voters are so fickle.

I'll reserve future judgments until after Tuesday's show, when I can review the first-round female picks again.

Now as for the show itself and making "idols" out of these kids, well, I haven't seen it happen yet. Kelly Clarkson has been the most successful of all of them, and she's still just a struggling artist. I fear that as long as she's being managed by Simon, she's relegated to the same schlock stuff she's been being forced to turn out. She may never break away and shine like she has the capability to. And as I said before, she's what I consider the best of all of them. For a vocal contest, I would say that there are a lot more versatile talents out there who are becoming idols every year without the help of this show, and I hold a lot more respect for them, because they came about their success the hard way...the truly hard way.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Mondays suck

What is it about Mondays that makes them so awful?

Mondays typically suck, but this one was particularly bad. Everything that could go wrong did, beginning with my attempt to be good to one of my best employees. Today was her birthday, and I spent about four hours yesterday working on an Italian Cheescake for her. This morning I got up about 45 minutes early so that I could have enough time to make a strawberry topping for it and still have enough time to run by the new house and talk to the contractor. I put the topping on the cheesecake and loaded it into a box which I had lined with aluminum foil. The only thing I can be grateful for in this mess is that I had the presence of mind to do that. I loaded the box into my trunk and headed off for the house. Five minutes later, I am at the house and so I peek into the trunk to make sure everything is good with the cake.


The cake has split from the center into about 15 pieces, and not neat pieces, a total mess. Strawberry topping is everywhere.


So now I have to go to the store and BUY a frigging cheesecake because I will NOT serve something that looks like this. So I go by the store and spend another $12 to get a cheesecake that looks good but tastes like a store-bought cheesecake.

So this afternoon, when I'm telling them about this little trauma, they all say, "who cares what it looks like? We want the homemade one."


I mean, it's nice of them to want what I made in spite of the horror show, but I spent $12 on the crappy cheesecake. Nobody wanted it. It didn't get touched.

The day was all downhill from there.

Fortunately, I get to come home at night and be with my sweetie. That's worth a whole lot. Makes the day much more bearable. I love you, honey.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Are you over the house yet?

Okay, so this is turning into Home Makeover - Blog Edition. I admit it. But it's hard to keep all this to myself, so I blog about it.

So here are the latest pictures.

My good friend of more than 23 years, Tom, is a master interior designer from Houston. Tom came up to visit us before the construction started and gave us a number of terrific ideas. There will be many finishing touches that are the result of his vision, and one of them is the chairs that will grace the dining room. Tom suggested we have the chairs (from the old eat-in kitchen area) re-glued and re-covered. When he got home, he sent back this terrific fabric to cover the chairs with...and here one is...thank you, Tom. I can't wait for you to see all of this in person.

Last week, I showed you a picture of the upstairs vanity, sans top. It now has the top, as you can see here, and the Emerald Pearl granite is stunning. The shower seat beside the vanity is also topped with the same color granite slab.

Last week, I posted pictures of the unpainted bedrooms. Well, this week, the painter has been busy. Here's what the vaulted-ceiling master bedroom looks like with paint and lighting...isn't that chandelier cool?

Last week, I mentioned the eggplant bedroom. This is it. It's not finished yet, so you'll see the imperfections in this picture, but you get the idea.

Jess' wide-angle lens gives a much better view of the whole kitchen, as viewed from the east side of the room. Note that the faucet is in, and so is the instant hot water!

Here's the view of the kitchen from the opposite corner. You can see a *peek* into the sunroom through the door (if you click it for the large version) but you won't see much.

The cooktop is in, but has to be hooked up to the gas. I'm not unwrapping it until we're in! Six burners - can't wait.

The plumbing is complete in the downstairs bathroom, and the marble slab has been put on the shower seat.

The slab on the seat matches the granite listello on the wall. We were amazed at the color and variegation of this slab. Wow.

I have a picture of the granite in the kitchen up-close, but I just can't post doesn't even begin to do it justice. It just has to be seen in person to be appreciated.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Okay, so it's exciting for us...

I hope you're not bored to tears with these house updates. It's exciting to see it finally coming together. While it's still quite a way from finished, by next Friday, there will be even more for you to see because all the plumbing will be in, and that is going to be fantastic. You'll finally get to see the pedestal sink for the first-floor bath; the finished vanity for the second-floor bath; the installed gas cooktop; and of course, the super-toilet in the upstairs bath. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get a decent picture of the granite color. It's just not possible. The blue mica has amazing depth that the camera just can't capture. Viewing appointments will be taken (grin).

For now, though, what you will see is:

The tumbled marble backsplash tile has been installed in the kitchen. It's somewhat subdued, but that's the point. We wanted the granite to be the focal point. The pendant lights over the island have replaced the bare light fixtures. Much better.

The decoration over the cooktop is also simple, and it's supposed to be that way too. I hate most of those murals or carved still life tiles that people put in over their cooktops (sorry if you are one of those people). I had to have something I could live with for years and not get tired of. The variegated slate listello surrounds a mosaic tile center.

The undercounter lighting is completed. No, this is not the only undercounter lighting there is, it's just an example! This is a better close-up of the backsplash tile.

The kitchen sink is in. When taking this picture, I tried to give you an idea of how large it is by getting the dishwasher into the picture. At 29 inches wide, it's wider than the dishwasher. At 16" deep, it's deep enough to give our smallest dog a bath in, as Jess suggested. Never gonna happen, honey.

In the downstairs bath, the medicine cabinet and lighting fixtures are in.

The french doors have been installed in the living room (den). We're waiting on the handle for the right door.

The wainscoting in the dining room has been installed. It's hard to tell how good this looks with all the contractor's junk in the way! I wish I would have gotten a shot last night, when none of this junk was there.

In the upstairs bath, the medicine cabinet and lighting fixtures are in, and the vanity has been assembled (though we're still awaiting the granite top for it, which will be installed with the sink on Thursday). It's hard to see in this picture, but the vanity has a curved front.

Remember that last time I posted house pictures, I didn't have a picture of the upstairs shower? Well, here is the picture. Much like the downstairs shower, it has a seat, but it is more nicely outfitted with plumbing than the downstairs shower: in addition to a rail-mounted shower head, this shower has an overhead "rain" spray and two massaging body jets. It's a neo-angle unit, and like the downstairs bath, will have a solid clear glass enclosure. The seat top will be a slab of Emeral Pearl granite, which will match the vanity top and the tub platform. I can't wait for that.

The soaking tub has been placed into the pedestal, but it still has to be grouted and caulked in and have its plumbing finish work done.

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I posted a picture of the mosaic tile in the upstairs bath that I said didn't do it justice? Unfortunately this shot is blurry, but you can see the iridescence of the tiles much more clearly in this shot.

In the master bedroom, the mirrored closet doors have been installed, which makes it look a lot bigger than it is. How do you like that 1950s travertine-looking vinyl tile that was uncovered on the floor?

In the other upstairs master bedroom, the mirrored closet doors have been installed. Wow, what a difference. This picture doesn't do the room justice, of course. Can't wait until it's painted. Eggplant.