Picking up the Pace

Work on our new house is finally starting to pick up some serious momentum. The trim guys breezed through and did most of the windows and all of the exterior doors in a few days. The tile guys started last week and have been hard at it. We received 14,000 pounds of tile, about half of the total needed. Yes, we are doing the entire main house in tile. The tile guys are all Russian and I’m starting to think they get paid in vodka and cigarettes. On the plus side, they were working on Saturday. These guys do not mess around.

After a prolonged absence, the metal guy doing our soffit and fascia work made a return appearance this week. He’s a real character, but he does beautiful work. After getting 80-90% of it done in mid January, he disappeared for several weeks, leaving his scaffolding in place and blocking off our dining room exterior door. It was good to see him finally come back and finish up. The scaffolding is now gone.

Also onsite this week were the spray foam guys, insulating the workshop. My husband got a front row seat to all of the bustle on Monday, as he waited hours for a technician to run a DSL internet connection to the house, which we need for the security system as well as to get our solar system online. It was a total shitshow of course, with the first guy being delayed and then another guy arriving instead, much later than promised. But they got it done just before dark.

We are now generating power from our solar panels! 156 kWh so far, when we checked it yesterday. That earns us a whopping $12.48 from the power company, in addition to providing the power currently being used for construction. At least the house is starting to make some money instead of just being a giant black hole. Less than four months to the finish line.

Extra Heavy Special Delivery

I made kind of a crazy purchase for the new house. It was delivered last Friday via freight. The item in question is a ginormous Epson photo printer that can produce images up to 24″ wide and (get this) 44′ long. No, you didn’t read that wrong, I said 44 FEET. Needless to say, this thing is huge. Of course, like all things purchased online, I didn’t realize just how huge, despite reading the dimensions.

It was delivered via freight and when the guy started moving the pallet up the driveway, I nearly shit myself. The shipping weight is 330 pounds. The actual printer is 223. The instructions specify 4 people to lift it. Of course we didn’t have 4 people, just me and my husband. He uncrated it and put the stand together. It quickly became obvious that we would have to lift it from the pallet directly on to the stand, which fortunately had wheels.

My husband built a ramp over the stairs from our garage to our house and we managed to set it on the stand. All I can say is that it’s a good thing I lift weights regularly. We cleared out space in our sunroom for the monster and let it sit overnight to get up to room temperature. On Saturday my husband set it up and was able to start printing.

Oh, there were a few hiccups, but all things considered, it went pretty smoothly. We made a couple of test prints and they were gorgeous. We even found some old photo paper to use. The only bummer was when I went to order ink cartridges and nearly shit myself again. The cost for one set (11 colors) was nearly 60% of the cost of the printer. The printer comes with a set, but they are 1/3 the quantity of normal ones and the light light black was only half of that. After a couple of large test prints it was already reading low.

The beast is going to occupy an entire wall of the walk-in closet in my new photo studio. We added an outlet and internet connection to that wall to accommodate it and the closet shelving will be designed around it. Now I just have to figure out a way to pay for all that ink.

Dead Things, Part Two

I believe I mentioned creating quite a few images of my snow covered dead hostas in late December. What I neglected to mention is that I did this over two days, using all three of my DSLR cameras, each with a different lens.  My first post featured images captured with my 5DMIV paired with the Canon 50mm f/1.2.

Today’s images are from my 5DSR with the Lensbaby Velvet 56. This is what happens when you have way too much gear. Having a lot of expensive equipment doesn’t guarantee good images, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Backyard photography means no schlepping it around.

So that’s a big win-win in my opinion. In case you’re wondering, the third camera/lens combo was my 7DMII with the Sigma 150mm f/2.8 macro. I’ll share some of those images in the not too distant future.

Meanwhile, don’t squint or adjust your monitor, these are all pretty blurry. I thought I was trying to focus on something, but maybe not. Doesn’t really matter, I like them anyway.

When Did We Get a Lap Cat?

Our resident furball continues to surprise me. Ripley started taking naps on my lap in late December, something he hadn’t done since he was a kitten. He would jump from his window seat, cross my husband’s legs and plop down in my lap for anywhere from fifteen minutes to two plus hours, often multiple times a day.

Occasionally he would stop to sniff at my husband, as if considering him as a nap host, but he always ended up on me. Which was totally cute and adorable until my feet and legs start to go numb. Then, last week, Ripley switched his allegiance. It started with him napping on my husband when I was out of the house Wednesday morning.

By Friday it was clear I had been replaced as the favored napping lap. He’s only snoozed on me a couple of times for short periods since then. Compare that to last Tuesday, when he took no less than four naps on me in one day, each an hour or longer. I have to admit, I’m a little heartbroken. I wouldn’t mind him alternating, as it’s impossible to do much of anything with 14 pounds of fur in your lap.

But I am no longer the chosen one. Even today, when he was on the outs with both of us because we had to put him in his carrier and take him for a nail trim, he still ended up sleeping in my husband’s lap for nearly an hour. I got nothing. Hopefully he’ll come back around.

So Very, Very VIP

I attended a VIP event at the Arboretum last night with my mom. The event was a preview for a sculpture exhibit/sale that’s going on in conjunction with their spring flower show. I was invited by our conservatory builder, who has constructed a small, traditional style conservatory as part of the show. The event was a snore, but my mom had a great time.

This was largely due to the two glasses of wine she consumed in just over an hour. Sort of a repeat of her birthday. My mom is pretty hilarious dead sober and a little alcohol just puts her over the top. The event included some boring speeches about the featured sculptor (who’s been dead for 15 years, by the way), during which we hid out in an adjacent gallery and cadged appetizers from the servers.

I wanted to check out the spring flower show and the conservatory, so this was a great way to get that done without investing a lot of time. My mom’s hilarious flirting with the waitstaff was just a bonus. The flower show was a disappointment, but at least now I know it’s not worth going back to photograph. Consider the evening a win-win.

Dead Things in the Yard

I have a confession to make. I did get out and make a few images after the snowfall we had in late December. I just never posted them.

At the time I was wrapping up my year of daily posting and focused on clearing out my photo backlog. Then I slacked off for most of January, except for a few posts about our trip to Phoenix and the trials and tribulations of our new home build. I “forgot” about these images.

Make no mistake, it was a purposeful forgetfulness. Honestly, I was more than a little tired of posting photos and writing about them. I needed a clean break. So there. But today we begin a new month.

The snowfall wasn’t enough to completely cover the remains of my hosta plants and I was fascinated by the patterns of the withered leaves partially covered by the snow. Fascinated = lots of images.

I tried all of these in black and white, but they struck me as being a little too harsh. I’ve had no compelling desire to pick up my camera in the last month, so I’ll be featuring a few more of these images in future posts. I’m a little disappointed that I haven’t felt the urge to get out and do more winter photography, but I’m attributing my creative malaise to being overwhelmed with nailing down details on our new home.

We have an official completion date now, our home is going to be featured on the Artisan Home Tour, which starts June 8th. The next four months are going to be a full court press. At least the end is in sight.

We’re Just Floored

This week’s house trauma is flooring. Like most of the interior finishes, we picked the flooring before we even started building the house. Our original desire was to use porcelain tile everywhere in the main house. That turned out to be way too expensive. The tile is relatively cheap, but the cost of installing it more than quadruples the price. And we have a lot of flooring.

In a cost saving measure, we selected some luxury vinyl tile (LVT) to use on the second floor and in the basement. Our understanding was that it would be less than a third of the cost of the tile. That turned out to be wrong, which sent our builder on a hunt for an alternative. What they found was engineered bamboo, which looks good, is harder than hardwood and is environmentally friendly.

So, problem solved, right? Not exactly. Our tile guy (who also quoted the LVT) really, really hates bamboo and doesn’t want us to use it. He’s currently scrambling to put together a quote for doing the whole house in tile at a price that’s competitive to the tile + LVT number. Still a bit more than we were expecting to pay, but giving us the material we really want throughout the entire house.

We’re supposed to get the number on Monday. We’re also supposed to get the revised estimate for our new landscape plan. Meanwhile, the utility company finally showed up yesterday to run the power line from the street to the house and workshop. Of course it’s a different crew that actually moves the transformer and connects the power, but that’s supposed to happen next week. Gonna be a big week.

Big White Out

The forecasters finally got it right. The massive snow event did not just miss us to the north or south, instead it stalled out right over the Twin Cities, eventually dumping about 9 inches on us. It started at 9:00 am yesterday, so I was able to get through my personal training session, followed by a quick stop at the grocery store and still get home before any significant accumulation. That was lucky.

Then it really started coming down. I pushed the garbage and recycle bins through two inches of snow just after 1:00. Less than three hours later the tracks were completely obliterated. By the time the sun set, we had some pretty impressive drifts outside of the front door. This is the first significant snowfall we’ve been home for in quite a while.

Fortunately, we have plenty of food in the house and plenty of projects to keep us busy. I spent a good portion of yesterday afternoon taming the towering inferno of empty boxes that threatened to take over our house. Early this morning I shoveled a small space at the bottom of our drive to accommodate the trash and recycle bins. I’m pretty sure they don’t get emptied if they are buried by snow.

Our street was cleared early this morning, but our driveway is still buried as of noon today. Fortunately, we have no compelling need to leave the house. Our Cayenne could probably make it out, but I don’t want to test it. I can’t imagine much happened at our new home yesterday, anyway. There won’t be any trucks getting up our hill today. Temps are supposed to be pretty warm for the next ten days, so hopefully a lot of it will melt. Meanwhile, consider us snowbound.

From Hot to Cold

I’ve never been so happy to get out of the warmth and sunshine and return to the bitter cold. Nothing like three days of non-stop dusk to dawn cleaning, organizing and packing to make you feel like you had a real vacation. We managed to get through pretty much everything in the garage yesterday. I hauled eight big trash bags to the dumpster and several more to the recycle bin.

Midway through the purge, I got a call from my mom. She had tripped and fallen going into her house and ended up calling a neighbor to take her to urgent care. Turns out she fractured her elbow. I’m ashamed to admit I spent most of the call moaning about how shitty our week here had been. I just ended up making her feel guilty about hurting herself. I’m a total heel.

This morning I took three big bags to charity. Normally I would box those things, but I am scrounging every box I can find to pack up our stuff. I’m not too proud to admit I salvaged a flattened box from the street. I wish there had been some good ones in our recycle bin.

Our flight home was on time, the car started when we got to long term parking at MSP and our driveway had been plowed when we arrived at home. That’s the best day we’ve had in a week. So, despite the barely above zero temp outside, I’m happy to be home.

Highly Motivated Sellers

Yesterday might have been one of the most exhausting days of my life. Today wasn’t much better. I spent nearly three hours moving stuff in and out of our storage locker yesterday afternoon, while my husband was running errands and getting the Xterra emissions tested. My task included shifting nine extremely heavy solid wood doors from the back of the locker to the front, as we need to sell or donate them.

After we got home, we spent the rest of the day cleaning stuff out of closets, cabinets and drawers, throwing things away and packing boxes. Lots and lots of boxes. This involved a few thousand trips up and down the stairs. Our only big break was eating the late lunch/early dinner we had delivered. I crawled into bed at 10:30, physically and mentally exhausted. Then I woke up abruptly at 4:00 am, positive I heard a noise. Of course I had to creep downstairs to check it out. It took me over an hour to fall back asleep.

Today was lather, rinse, repeat. With an earlier start. By the end of the day I had hauled six big bags of garbage out to the dumpster. Dinner was another delivery, deep dish pizza this time. By 7:00 we were both exhausted and soaked with sweat, so we called it quits. Best shower of my life. Amazingly, the only big area we have left to tackle is the garage. So guess what’s on next morning’s agenda?