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strategy in design

February 20th, 2013 by

Spent the afternoon being part of the process of tiling yesterday (though, as the afternoon wore on, your flu-stricken reporter became less and less a part of anything).

An interesting process to watch, and be part of: the carefully asymmetrical layout of kitchen backsplash tile, starring Nicole Baxter and Nathaniel. It’s going to be quirky and beautiful, like its designer.

best Christmas present ever.

December 25th, 2012 by

His first serious project built in the woodworking studio he put together here in order to build wonderful things for our new home: a beautiful small desk for me, of walnut and ash, to set my laptop on and write when I visit his shop.  The only present I can imagine bringing more tears to my eyes (he also put together the gorgeous curved ornament stand on top of this desk) will be next year, when we have Christmas in our new home.  He even covered that with a printout of a SketchUp.  NOW I know where he’s been these long hours…

Graphic of soon-to-be home

Virtual Christmas card for next year.

Beautiful wooden desk

merry holiday celebrating from Fred

December 23rd, 2012 by

Hindsight is always 20/20, isn’t it?  In retrospect, I wish I’d hung a wreath from someplace on our rapidly-growing home–there is no front door, as yet, to hook it onto, but someplace…ah well.

It’s been a while since I posted exterior shots, so herewith: what ahnF is resembling these days.  He’s got a nice face, don’t you think?  And if anyone doubted this house would be Modern, with a capital M…or is that Contemporary with a capital C?…these shots of the garage wall and my lovely tall L-shaped kitchen window trio should put those doubts to bed like a little kid on Christmas Eve.Garage wall, from the west.

The kitchen "L" window

From the inside, it’s my first initial.

Fred exterior as of December 23, 2012

Looking more and more house-like, eh?

people actually care about that stuff?

February 24th, 2012 by

There are two of us building this house, obviously, and if it does nothing else the process has been teaching us that we are, in fact, different.  In some ways.  But what I’m learning is how different I am, apparently, from many other people who build houses.  silverware drawer

Yesterday we re-started (long story behind that “re-,” since Fred is now being designed and built by people other than those with whom we started out) the design of the individual rooms, and while we were talking about the kitchen folks were asking where we wanted things.  It dawned on me that my own laissez-faire attitude toward the exact location of each item in the kitchen was unusual when our wonderful builder asked me where I wanted the silverware drawer and I said something like “I don’t know, wherever.”  He seemed genuinely surprised that I had not only obviously not decided this long before but that I was not passionately invested in its exact location.

Here’s what makes no sense to me; people are being bombarded by their own government in Syria; the Republican presidential candidates seem determined to send women back to their kitchens barefoot and pregnant (read The Handmaid’s Tale if you want an idea of what their vision of utopia would be); and perfectly nice people are being deported from the U.S. or their children denied a public education because of where they were born…and I’m supposed to feel deeply offended if I have to walk two more steps to get to the silverware?

And this amazement isn’t shared by anyone else who’s ever built a house?


bathroom fixtures, as they say

July 14th, 2011 by

So it’s coming down to this: picking toilets.  And faucets.  And, most important, the bathtub, which MUST be long enough and deep enough for me to cover myself in bubbly warm water with only my head emerging.  Don’t need jets, or whirlpool stuff; just long enough and deep enough.

As to toilets…I kind of like the cute ones, like this:

Did you know a friggin’ toilet can cost a thousand dollars?  Or more?  That you can get toilet seats that are also bidets–with colored lights, music, and a remote control?

This is crazy.

I mean, I like pretty things as much as the next girl.

And of course I want my bathroom to be …nice.

But a thousand dollars for a toilet?

How about $10,000 for a tub?

I think I’ve found my bathtub, and it doesn’t cost ten thousand.  Just a little over one thousand dollars (!). It’s five-and-a-half feet long, just like me, and deep, with a special valve that lets you fill it WAY up.  No bubbles.  No jets.  No colored lights, or music, or aromatherapy; just white and long and deep.



what our house would look like thousands of years from now

June 12th, 2011 by

OK, probably not.  It won’t be this tall.  But this does give you just a taste of what we saw on our recent trip to Italy, France and Spain via a Mediterranean cruise.

Crumbling ruins in RomeThen again, there’s this shot that might be a little closer to the mark–

Barcelona from La Pedrera rooftop

Barcelona, from atop the roof of Gaudi's La Pedrera











We had a wonderful time, and of course couldn’t help noticing all the modern (and “Modernisme”) architecture that wasn’t there in Rome or Bastia or Portofino, but was there in Monaco and a lot in Barcelona.

Land there is a bit more precious, though.  What with the Euro-dollar conversion and all.

Speaking of residences, here’s where we lived for a week’s worth of the trip.

Cruise ship in port

playing with blocks and paper

October 23rd, 2010 by

Remember when you were a kid, and you had that set of blocks…

Architectural blocks resembling a modern house…some of them were solid wood, maybe in different colors, and

…some of them were clear, either plastic (if you’re not so old) or glass (if you’re old as the hills upon which you intend to build a house–wait, I’m getting ahead of my post)

…some of them were some other material that tasted vaguely of paste.

You liked to set them up all on top of each other until the pile fell down, or you neatly arranged them in perfect rows, or you fed them to the family pet.

I’m convinced those folks who played with blocks far into childhood–long after the rest of us moved on to GI Joes and Barbies and toy wagons and, nowadays, Worlds of Extreme War with Things Blowing Up a Lot–those kids who were absorbed in arranging their blocks into fantasy mansions and fortresses went on to become architects.  And builders.

And now they’re designing us a house.Architectural blocks simulating the courtyard of Fred

Here’s another fun quasi-model; this one just cries out for a tiny Barbie doll (and/or Ken).

I jest, I know, but I’m really psyched.  Even though this looks, right now, like something from a CSI episode–anybody remember the Miniature Killer?–it’s making this whole building-a-house thing begin to seem real, and not in the scary adult way investing a couple hundred thousand of dollars in a piece of land does, but in a way that makes my inner child hum something to herself straight out of Winnie-the-Pooh.

See where the courtyard goes?  And the screened porch off our bedroom?  You can’t see the library–it’s still gestating, maybe wrapped around the living room, maybe next to the bedroom–but you can see where the garden will go.

OK, here’s another one.  Just because I think these are really cool.

Plat map with tiny clay model of proposed Fred

This one’s a little more reality-based, what with the plat map and all, and shows approximately where, on the land we’re buying, the house would probably go.  Yes, I know it looks like Play-Dough, right back to childhood memories (I can smell the stuff as I write this), but that’s a little tiny model of what will soon enough become Fred.

And it doesn’t look like we’ll have any weirdness around the land purchase, though if the gods are listening, please don’t rain down firestorms on us because I said that.  No curses, please.


September 26th, 2010 by

As we drove across the U.S., covering darn near every inch of Interstate 40 from California to North Carolina, we entertained ourselves (when we weren’t talking to the cats) in whatever ways were available.  Sometimes all it took was looking out the windshield and paying attention to the signs passing us by.  If you’ve ever undertaken a ginormous road trip, and driven for long hours at a stretch day after day, you’ll understand why some of these made us buck and snort (see a reference below to a small town in Tennessee famous for its wildly muscled, heavily gyrating professional athletes).  Kevin threatened to undertake the challenge of dining at the first place bulleted below, which is apparently famous for offering a huge meal for free if you can eat it all in an hour and a half.  As it turned out, he wasn’t hungry when we drove by.

These are listed in no particular order, other than grouping them by what seem like common topics.

  • 72ounce steak—FREE FREE FREE (in my delirium, I thought it said FLEE FLEE FLEE).  Warning: clicking on the link to this fine dining establishment will produce musical accompaniment your boss or cubicle-mate may not enjoy.
  • Clean restrooms!  Large clean restrooms!  (we looked at each other and wondered aloud about the lack of any other selling point for a place to stop)

For spiritual inspiration:

  • check out the Texas Catholic Superstore (interesting that the link to the site does not have a .org suffix; making a profit off Jesus?)

..and remember that

  • Jesus Christ is not a swear word (we saw this, in big letters, on the side of a truck)

and when you’re hungry, don’t forget to

  • Come get a Heavenly Burger!  (on the sign for a bible store/Baptist restaurant)The Roadkill Cafe, Seligman, AZ

…of course, if one were not inclined toward God’s food, one could also eat at the Road Kill Café in New Mexico

In the mood to buy?  For sale, we saw:

  • Quilts 9 – 5, RVs Welcome (on the side of a barn)
  • and a few choice lots in Hawg Lake, just call the realtor
  • Perhaps our favorite sign combo,  toward the end of our trip, just before entering Tennessee:  in big bold letters, Guns! right next to Bootlegger’s Discount Liquor and Wine; the two always go great together

Welcome to our state!  Now behave:

In Oklahoma, the welcome sign read:  home of Roger Miller, King of the Road (does anybody still remember that song?)

Then, entering Arkansas:

  • A Warm Welcome to Arkansas, the Natural State

closely followed by

  • Speed Limit Laws Strictly Enforced, No Tolerance.

In other words, we’re glad to see ya, now slow the f**k down (we saw a lot of tolerant drivers in the Natural State).

Some enticing parks and their scenic sites:

  • Pig Trail Scenic Byway (we are, emphatically, not making these up; I include links here for the skeptical) in the Ozark National Forest
  • Toad Suck Park, in AR
  • Mouse Tail Landing outside Memphis in a Tennessee state park.  According to the TN state parks’ website, the name comes from mice turning tail when a tannery burned on the site during the Civil War.
  • Frozen Head State Park outside Knoxville; named, perchance, for a cryogenics experiment gone awry?  No, it has more to do with a natural formation than something unnatural.

A Town Name that made us laugh out loud:

Bucksnort TN (perhaps named before there was a written language so as to describe it phonetically).  Wikipedia tells us Bucksnort is the home of two or three professional wrestlers, including Dirty White Boy and Bunkhouse Buck.


September 7th, 2010 by

Somehow, when we planned to move 3,000 miles from one coast nearly to another, and to rent an RV to get our cats from the old home to the new, losing touch with the outer world wasn’t one of the things I thought about.

But when you’ve lived in tech central for more than a decade, it doesn’t occur to you that large swathes of the U.S. don’t even have reliable cellphone service, let alone 3G or wi-fi. That even getting a radio station to stay available for more than a few minutes as you drive 70 mph on I-40 through Arizona or New Mexico would be a real challenge.

Or that having your world sharply focused on a few cubic feet of living space containing your whole family (one other person and three cats) would narrow your mental field of vision to a tiny point.

But that’s what happened.

There could have been a nuclear war, and as long as the few towns along I-40 weren’t affected we wouldn’t have known.

And, for the record, there are few towns along I-40, at least in the Western and Central parts of the U.S. A couple major cities and many, many truckstops (for which I have a new appreciation, more on that in a later post), but not much else in the way of settled towns.

We saw billboards for guns, knives and Jesus and park signs for Mouse Tail Landing and Frog Suck Park…stayed in RV parks named for Smoky Bear and a river through a desert. We met people who were home-schooling their kids in an RV and people drinking moonshine by Tennessee moonlight.

We saw landscapes that boggled the imagination, beauty you couldn’t dream up…stark desert-scapes and mesas, sheer red rock cliffs and broad sparkling rivers. I learned that Arkansas is filled with gorgeous scenery and New Mexico is even more wonderful than we already thought. And that the cows in Oklahoma get lighter as you head east.

There will be particular posts here on each of our stops and some of our adventures, and photos of our mascot, Fred the bear, in relevant poses. As I write this we are still waiting for our furniture to arrive here in North Carolina, but our lives here are beginning; we got our cars today.

emotional furniture

June 12th, 2010 by

We all know about emotional baggage.  (If you don’t have any yourself, then those old Kodak Moment commercials must have actually rung true.)

I’m here to top that idea with emotional furniture.  Bigger than baggage, often uglier, and generally likely to hold more—more stuff, more emotion, more sense of how-could-you-get-rid-of-me.

Two pieces have traveled the country with me, from Wauseon, Ohio (yes, it’s a real place), to Boston, Massachusetts to Alabama, Georgia, and California.  But the trip stops here.

As we clean up our California rental house in preparation for the move to our North Carolina rental house (in preparation for finally building A House Named Fred), we are shucking the unnecessary stuff, and finally I’m ready to chuck these things.  One is a solid cherry secretary that was…my mother’s?  My grandmother’s?  I don’t even know, which makes it that much sillier that I’ve carried it around all these years.  Same with the hutch.  Neither of these things matches the style we’ve come to love, of clean simple lines and contemporary sensibilities, and both of them tie me to unhappy memories.

So they’re going to the Salvation Army, along with the bedroom set my mother gave my ex-husband and me for a wedding present which has sat in our guest room for years, now, mostly unused.

There’s a freeing feeling to getting rid of old stuff you never really liked anyway.  Especially when it’s in preparation for building a dream.