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Author: Kevin

Member Since: 2010-04-23 06:56:22

Posts by Kevin:

this is really starting to go to his head…

April 24th, 2015 by

Apparently we have a rival for Fred’s affection. It seems that we are not the only ones who love Fred; Dwell Magazine has decided that Fred is a house that they love too.

Fred and Dwell, sittin’ in a tree…

We’re not too worried though; we think it’s just a crush. We understand that all young modernist houses go through this phase. We just have to wait it out.

and the winner is…

October 9th, 2014 by

Fred!

OMG!!!!! We don’t really know what to say! We’d like to thank the academy, and all the little people behind the scenes that made this possible…

OK, enough. What the heck am I talking about? Well, this:

2014 AIA North Carolina Residential Awards

Fred officially has his first architecture award. Hopefully it won’t go to his head, although come to think of it, he has been a little more demanding ever since he found out. Hmmm.

Here are some of the pictures that won Fred his award. (click on any image to get a full-size gallery)

All kidding aside, we are truly flattered, and all the honors rest squarely on the shoulders of our architects (insitu studio), builder (L.E.Meyers), and designer (nBaxter Design). We are very proud to live in Fred, and living here is everything we had hoped it would be. Not a day goes by without one of us remarking—in either english or cat—about how much we love living here.

We’re glad the judges of architectural goodness saw it just like we do: Fred is the best! (Be sure to click on the pictures to see Fred in all his jumbo-sized glory…)

almost ready for his close-up!

April 17th, 2014 by

First, my apologies that there haven’t been any updates to the blog for over a year. That’s bad blogging of the highest order. The reason is that we’ve been a little busy with life, school and stuff. My lovely bride is well on her way to getting her PhD, hot on the tail of completing her M.A. last year about this time. Somehow I got sucked into the higher education vortex as well, and thanks to a guest lecture gig arranged by my favorite grad student—yes, I do mean my wife—I landed a job teaching a ‘Concepts of Marketing’ class to advanced undergrads. I really enjoy it, but it does tend to take up more time than one might think.

So, enough about us; what about Fred? Well, he’s finally going to get photographed next month—at least the parts of him that are comfortable in front of the camera. In the interim, I thought I would post a couple sneak-peak beauty shots that I took last Fall when the colors were at their peak. (click on the pics for the in-full-glory versions…)

Fred's lovely front side...

Fred’s lovely front side…

...and his, err.... side-side?

…and his, err…. side-side?

He’s looking pretty good if we do say so ourselves, and with only a small bit of Photoshopping involved to boot!

saddest blog post ever…

April 9th, 2013 by

We said a final goodbye to our eldest boy yesterday.

George was a brave cat. He had been fighting lymphoma for over three years; much longer than any of his doctors said he would survive. But eventually, the disease and his chemotherapy-compromised immune system wore him down. Yesterday was a bad day for him; the worst he had ever had, and it was time.

I’m especially gutted, because I wasn’t able to be there. I was in Tennessee, picking up some veneer for future projects, including some that we hoped George would be able to climb on and enjoy the view from. We knew it was coming, but it happened suddenly, and it would have been only selfish and cruel to keep him hanging on until I could return home. I was able to give him a few head rubs and whisker strokes on the morning that I left for the trip, so I do have some closure, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t gut-wrenchingly painful to know, as I was driving back, that I would never see him again.

Because we knew the end was near, we had made arrangements with a vet that specializes in euthanasia house calls. George was able to lay in a sunbeam on the carpet in our bedroom, and sniff the spring air through an open screen door, and be petted by his mom as he left us. So much better than yet another irritating, car sick, agitated trip to the vet.

I’ll always remember the first time he walked over my head, and shoulders, and down my chest, and curled up in my lap. (Because of his size, he often approached people from above, rather than from the more traditional cat direction. Plus, it was always very clear to him that he truly was in his rightful place when he was above a human.) It was when I had only known Laura for a couple weeks, and she told me later that she knew right then that I must be an OK guy, because her guardian trusted me and liked me.

I’ll miss his gentle request, via a single paw laid on my hand, to be petted. I’ll miss him walking on me when he wanted to be fed. I’ll even miss the times that he scared me half-to-death by coming silently into my office, standing up on his hind legs while I sat at the computer, and tapping me on the shoulder with his paw. (He was a very large cat!)

Time and disease kept him from doing that lately, and he was pretty lean and weak as of late, but here is a picture of him in better times; the way I will always remember him.

Rest in Peace buddy; I’ll always miss you.

George-RIP

the grand conspiracy

March 12th, 2013 by

OK, so it’s been awhile since I posted.

The astute reader will know that I am not dead, as I show up in a random house picture now and then, but I will admit that my contributions to the blog have diminished appreciably as my time has become occupied with building, as opposed to journal-ing.

Nevertheless, I thought it important to expose the seamy underbelly of the architect-builder conspiracy. Namely, they get you all excited with beautiful renderings and images of what your house can look like, and only very late in the process do you see the actual reality of their work.

For example, here is the rendering that we have shared previously:

Lovely rendering of a house named Fred

 

And what did we end up with?!?

This!

Fred-Rendering-actual-photo

See? It’s complet…, well, I mean there’s a huge differ…, uh, well, hmmm.

I got it! They left out a tree!

I tell you, you can’t trust anyone nowadays.

Let’s be careful out there.

they’re kind of like those ultrasound photos, if Google made the ultrasound software

February 10th, 2011 by

Here are the latest gestational images of Fred (Click on the images for a larger view).

Barring any unforeseen calamities, we can say with great certainty that this will probably be the general overall shape of the house, give-or-take some moderate changes. How’s that for locking in the design? We’re nothing if not decisive, after all.

Well, at least somewhat decisive, in a flexible sort of fashion. But enough about us…

We really like the way the house is shaping up. It was challenging getting to this point, as a few weeks ago, we found ourselves kind of stuck. There was a previous conceptual design that we were working with, and we kept trying to modify it to overcome some issues we had with it. Some parts just weren’t working, and it wasn’t flowing together. In short, it just didn’t feel right, but we weren’t really sure what was wrong with it. Everyone was getting a little frustrated, so our design team came up with a good exercise that helped break us out of our rut.

Instead of focusing primarily on the form of the house, they did a reset, and mapped out how Laura and I would use the house. One of their primary realizations shouldn’t have been much of a surprise to us, but we kind of missed it previously.

Fred needs to be a 24hr house. The team mapped out our typical daily activities on a timeline, and when we saw it all charted out, it showed that the house really never sleeps. (Note: I’m writing this at 2:21am; this may provide the keen-eyed reader with some insight into which one of us has the slightly atypical schedule.) That revelation became a key driver in the redesign of the house. By positioning the various elements in such a way as to avoid disturbing the currently-sleeping party, the whole floor-plan just kind of fell into place.

The team just hit “reset” and started fresh, and came up with the results you see above. We’re still doing some moderate tweaking, but the overall design now feels right. We can easily envision ourselves living in it, as opposed to just occupying it, as it is designed to fit the way we truly live.

And, of course, we think it looks great too. Who knows, someday I may even see it in daylight!

wait, aren’t we supposed to get serfs with this?

February 9th, 2011 by

It’s official: We’re landed.

OK, that kind of makes us sound like fish, but I think you get the point. As of mid-January, we are the proud owners of 5.19 acres of North Carolina. Ahh, I can feel the liabilities growing even now…

So the uncertainty about where we are going to build Fred is now gone. Or, more accurately, limited to being within a 5.19 acre area minus setbacks, septic field allowance, road easements, ephemeral streams and topographic profile limitations.

Yep, now all we need are plans. Uh, and permits. Oh, and a road survey. And a small list of other things; two to three thousand items, tops.

We’re holding off on scheduling the housewarming party just yet, but all kidding aside, we are very happy and relieved to have acquired this particular plot. It’s perfectly sheltered from major thoroughfares—potential Fred-gawkers will be geographically thwarted; Ha!—while still being conveniently located for shopping. It’s inhabited by old-growth hardwoods, many of which we plan to keep intact. It borders on preservation land, so we don’t have to worry about neighbor encroachment in the future.

In short, it’s wonderful, and it’s a big milestone in our journey to home ownership.

Now, about those property taxes…

so, how’s it look so far?

November 23rd, 2010 by

OK, it’s almost done!

Well, maybe not exactly done. Perhaps “underway” might be the more appropriate term? Of course, we haven’t actually closed on the land yet, so maybe “underway” is a bit over-optimistic.

Let’s take the more literal approach, shall we?

There are stakes in the ground.

You know that expression that everyone uses but never actually does? (Really. How many people who mention “Putting a stake in the ground” actually do it?)

Well, we have genuine vampire-eradication-implements planted around the tenta-perimeter of a house named Fred. And for bonus points, they have fashionable crime scene-like tape designating the outline of the body… err, floorplan strung around them.

Staked Property

The scene of the crime (click the image to actually be able to see something...)

See? Like I said, almost done!

Actually, we are making very good progress on building a house, given that we don’t actually own the land it’s going to be built on yet. We have consulted with numerous professionals and have devised all kinds of ways in which we will need to part with our money as the project goes forward. There’s the foundation work (complete with the probable granite slab that we may hit once we dig), the wells (geothermal heat means that one hole is never enough), the septic field, the road and driveway, the utilities trenches (because utilities all grew up as only children who never learned to share a trench with a sibling) and a few consultants and surveyors who will do other stuff that is TBD. And once all that is done, we’ll be almost ready to actually start to build the house.

The house that isn’t actually designed yet, but I’m sure we’ll be moving forward on that part as well.

See? Like I said earlier… Almost done!

keep on truckin’

September 21st, 2010 by

Most guys about to have their 50th birthday get the Porsche. I’m just a little different. First off, with a couple seasons of racing Formula Mazdas under my belt, and having owned one of the first Dinan supercharged M3s for 12 years, the sports car thing is fun, but not essential. (No, honey, this does not mean that I no longer want the Aston Martin, and my birthday is coming up…)

I was so much slower then; I'm faster than that now.

Second, I never have to worry about convincing my wife that we should have a sports car. Evidence? Kevin’s car = a practical, comfortable five-passenger station wagon. Laura’s car = bright red two-seater convertible sports car. See? The girl likes to go fast. One test drive in the Aston Martin and it’ll be a done deal. (Hmm, I wonder if she’ll read this?)

Third, Fred is going to have a studio. The studio will be for furniture design, photography and other artistic pursuits. It will have tools; the big and heavy kind, and it will need to be fed a steady diet of wood, metal and money. (Nah, I’m pretty sure she doesn’t read these…) In order to assist in the care and feeding of the studio, I need a method of conveying the above staples of studio-existence.

In short: I need a truck.

Of course, what with me being me and all, not just any truck will do. I need a special truck. I know this, because whenever I tell Laura I need a truck, she just looks at me and says “Now isn’t that special?”

I learn a lot from her.

You see, a pickup truck won’t do, because I need to convey things, like woodworking machinery, that are too heavy for most pickup trucks. And sheets of plywood, MDF, OSB, and other similarly three-initialed voluminous items that are too large to fit in the bed of a pickup truck.

“Well, how about a van?” you say. (I’m pretty sure I heard one of you say that…) Well, that’s a little better, but we still have a weight and size issue. (No, with the van smart asses, and I’m dieting, OK?!) Anyway, a van wouldn’t do the trick either.

So we then move up the truck food chain to a box van, technically known in the truckbiz as a cutaway van. Heavier load capacity, and adequate size. Should do the trick, right?

Well, honestly… Yes. And so I’ve been looking for one. The problem I’ve encountered is that finding a good one is tough. Really tough. On the other hand, crappy ones are plentiful. What is crappy? Ones that have over 100k miles, no cruise control or power-anything, and have been used as rental vehicles until their transmissions, engines, springs, shocks and rear-ends are as reliable as a BP-owned offshore oil rig or a NorCal gas main. Lots of them also have rust issues. All in all, not so good.

A few months ago, I found a good one-owner Ford diesel box van, complete with the essential hydraulic liftgate, in Pennsylvania, but one day before I was scheduled to fly out and buy it, the dealership sold it out from under me. That really sucked, and I vowed to not let that happen again if I ever found another truck of similar quality.

And so I looked, and looked. And then looked some more. If anyone needs a good, cross-indexed set of search parameters and terms for finding a used box van, feel free to write to me; I got ya’ covered.

My new baby

Big wheels keep on turnin'

And then it happened: I found a truck. Of course, as these things tend to happen, it wasn’t a box van at all, but rather the big brother of a box van, known as a ‘medium-duty’ truck. There it was, right on the home page of commercialtrucktrader.com. (I’m kind of surprised you didn’t notice it there yourself; it was right on the front page. Geez!)

A 2004 Chevrolet Kodiak C4500 8.1L V8 gasoline-fueled 19,000lb GVW not-so-little piece of truck heaven.

And, most appealing to me: It was weird. Waaay weird. It’s a Hollywood film truck, hence the LA location and my rebound trip right back to the West Coast just two weeks after leaving it.

In Hollywood, the major studios and their vendors all use big, five-ton capacity trucks to move around all the paraphernalia that it takes to make a movie. They are big and white and shiny, driven by teamsters, with all kinds of diamond-plate aluminum and polished wheels and lower box compartments to store stuff in. If you’ve ever stumbled across a production site for a movie or TV show, you’ve seen them before. They’re really large, really fancy, and really expensive.

Well, it turns out that there was a celebrity photographer in LA that was enamored with these trucks — and he needed a truck — so he went out and had a baby version of a five-ton movie truck made, with only a twelve-foot long box, but with all the same fancy fixins’ that the big trucks have, including a 2,200lb capacity, dual-hydraulic-ram liftgate at the rear. Up front, it’s got A/C, CD stereo, power doors and windows, cruise control and a bunch of other stuff that you might not expect to find on a big heavy work truck.

Once he got this truck, he went to load it, and found out that he really needed one that was 14ft long, not 12ft — talk about a big “Oops!” — so he sold it, with a whopping 4,000 miles on it, to a prop company that was located on the Paramount lot and used it to do deliveries… to production companies that were, for the most part, also on the Paramount lot.

It made a few road trips, but now in 2010, the truck has a whopping… 24,000 miles on it.

And now, as I type this while waiting for take-off in Nashville on the return leg of my journey, the pink slip is in my pocket and that sucker is mine!

Stay tuned for future episodes of ‘Pimp my Truck’. I’ve got big plans for it; I think I’ll get a license plate frame for the back that says:

“My other car fits inside this car!”

well, that was easy…

September 21st, 2010 by

Almost.

Whew! OK, not easy exactly, but we’ve finally done it. After all variety of crises, including medical, transportation, realty, mechanical et al, we have finally managed to free ourselves from the gravitational field of the West Coast and make it to North Carolina!

Granted, I’m writing this while sitting on a plane that is flying to Los Angeles, but let’s not let that factoid sully our victory lap, OK? There is a perfectly good reason for my rapid return: I have to go see a man about a truck. We’ll let you know how that one turns out in another post.

But back to the festivities at hand; we survived — and dare I say even enjoyed — our epic RV-based cat-conveying trek across the heartland. (By the way, if the Midwest and Central states are “the heartland”, then what are the coasts? Do we now live in “the spleenland”? Feel free to discuss among yourselves.)

Luckily, our latest delay allowed us to find a great guy named Steve who is a professional driver. He brought the RV to us from North Carolina, so we did not need to do the two-way shuttle of the land yacht that we had planned previously. With the benefit of hindsight, let’s just say that Steve’s contribution was much appreciated. 3,000 miles of I-40ness was quite enough for us in one sitting.

My lovely bride is a truckin’ mama at heart, and was a tremendous help with the driving, navigation and RV park coordination for the whole trip. (Well, the “shortcut” through Pigeon Forge might have been a bit of a reach, but we’ll just chalk that up to an exploration of cultural diversity and leave it at that…) She’s the best, and I’ve almost got her convinced that we could be a husband/wife over-the-road team as our second career should Fred experience major cost overruns.

Almost.

Our most precious cargo tolerated the eastward journey very well. We ended up putting them (and us) in a hotel for the two days that the movers did their thing in California. Once the house was stripped bare, we transferred them to the RV and set off. The RV had a bench seat along its right side that held all of the fellas’ carriers very nicely, and allowed us to keep an eye on them as we rolled down the highway. Gus stayed true to character, which means that he carried on a fairly consistent monologue of commentary on matters of the day, laced with a protestation every once in awhile when he felt that the radio was too loud, the road too bumpy, or the road noise too voluminous. Gus likes to talk. I have no idea where he gets that from.

George was unruffled, as expected, with the added benefit that it seems the RV does not make him carsick. (I suppose that would technically be RVsick, no?) In any event, he wasn’t, and that was a pleasant and welcome surprise, as it’s the first time in our memories that his long-haired Maine Coon-ness hasn’t required a BP offshore-esque clean-up effort after transport.

The guy that we were most worried about was my buddy Jack, who possesses nerves of zinc. Amazingly, he was actually pretty calm throughout the trip. Granted, when faced with a new environment, he still proceeded with great caution, complete with lowered tail and ground-hugging abdominal region, hence his new nickname: Abraham Slinkin. In every case though, he recovered from slinkinmoden (I think that’s the German term for his disorder) within an hour or so and avoided the quivering fear-induced paralysis from which he has previously suffered.

The RV itself was surprisingly easy to drive, given that it’s 31 feet in length and sprung like a ten-year-old mattress at a Motel 6. Other than one mechanical scare that came about ten yards into the journey — it stalled going down our 14% grade street and therefore lost both power brakes and steering — its performance was flawless throughout the trip. It almost got us thinking about buying one.

Almost.

Now onto the task of making our last ever rental house a home. As we enter the close of the ‘pre-Fred’ era, I feel closer than ever to our loving and somewhat furry family. As the spare tire cover on the jeep that we saw for three consecutive days of our trip so aptly said:

Life is good.