Monday, April 2, 2018

Another House Update

When my house is done, what else will I have left to talk about??

Anyways, after February being a horribly frustrating month with the lack of progress on the house, I am very happy to report that March was a MUCH better month. If you want more pictures, check out my Instagram account on the right. I'm too lazy to post them right now on the blog.

First: our septic guy was able to come out and dig the tank and drain fields. Our septic designer got the drawings done and permit submitted to the county, so the areas should be backfilled this week.

Second: the electrician came and did the rough-in, including outlets, cable, switches, etc. He listened to what we wanted, made recommendations, and was super efficient. One thing is for sure, Lexar does not skimp on the outlets--a lot of other builders do!

Third: the siders finally started with our Hardie board plank siding. I can't even tell you what a relief that was as we were told for weeks/months that they were starting. I was really starting to get anxious (for good reason too) about the moisture level in the wood since the lumber was exposed to and unprotected against the elements for so long. The siders showed up and worked really fast one day, then didn't show up for another 4 days after that. It was very frustrating to say the least. Also, we were told we needed to backfill the septic prior to the siders starting, which really stressed us out. The timing was poor because we booked the septic guy over a month prior to starting because we expected the siding to have been completed already. Luckily, the siders just put some wood coverings over the holes and got to work.

Anyways, the house looks so GOOD with the siding on. Lexar puts trim around ALL exterior windows. I emphasize this because again, some builders skimp in this area. A lot of tract homes around here do not have exterior window trim in the back or side of the house, making the expensive homes look cheap. Nobody will really see the back of our house other than us due to the slope of our lot, but it doesn't matter. The trim for the windows and doors are really nice touches.

Fourth: the trenches for our permanent power and water were dug. The bad news was that nobody was telling us we need to call in our permanent power with our company, so that put us back a week. Our power company wasn't available for a full 7 days for the transition from temporary power to permanent. So, that means we will be ready for inspection for electrical and rough-in after Thursday this week

Fifth: the garage walls were finally installed between the 2-car garage and the 3rd car garage.

Sixth: our wood moisture levels were measured by Lexar. Bad news: still high (between 17-30%). It should be below 15% prior to insulation. So, we bought 3 more industrial high-CFM fans for our crawl space and house (we already had 5 in our house!!). One fan we bought is called Monsoon and it is one seriously strong fan.

Our project manager still says May for completion date, but that is a tight schedule for 60 days. We are thinking more like June. Anyways, we had to ask for a construction loan extension, so hopefully we'll hear back about that soon.

Thanks for all of your kind words and support. This has been one crazy ride, and I don't plan on doing this ever again.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Old Faithful Recipes

So, as you may know, I'm a Registered Dietitian. I didn't become one to help people. I studied Nutrition because I like food and wanted to know more about it (I also wanted to prove my dad wrong, but he doesn't listen to me anyways).. Yeah, I like food.. and I like cooking. I don't LOVE cooking because I'm kind of a klutz, I spill things all the time, and onions make me cry (wah wah wah I know). I usually cook 3-5 times per week, and cook enough dinner for leftovers for the next night.

Do you know what I love more than food? Recipes and cookbooks.

When I want to relax, I sit down with a good or colorful cookbook. I know that sounds weird (and hilariously enough, Sadie does it now too!), but it really does calm me down. Some people read magazines... I read cookbooks. No biggie. Oh, and I forgot to mention I do follow some food bloggers as well (Mel is my absolute fave)..  Anyways, what happens with me reading cookbooks all the time? I try new recipes all of the time. I don't repeat a lot of recipes, unless I like them... a lot. Part of my schooling as a Dietitian was planning menus for cafeterias, which relied heavily on monthly menu cycles. I know some moms that do monthly meal rotations at home.. but not me. I think it might be related to my upbringing where my parents would ask us what we want to eat for dinner, so it was always spaghetti, bean burritos, milk gravy, taquitos, fish sticks, etc. So I ate the same things again and again and again as a kid/teenager. As a grown-up now, I really like trying new recipes, but I do have a few trusty dinners that I bust out from time to time.

Here are our household favorites:

Japanese Curry

Picture from pressure cooker Japanese curry

I know this isn't even a recipe because I just use whatever is in the box. But, I first tasted it during my days as a Hogi Yogi/Teriyaki Stix employee during my college days, and I've loved it ever since. I usually add onions, potatoes, carrots, and some sort of protein (chicken or tofu). The kids love it most of the time.

Cooks Illustrated Skillet Macaroni & Cheese

Photo from What We're Cooking blog

Easy-peasy less than 30-minute recipe that only gets one pan dirty. Need I say more? I grew up eating Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, and I will literally never allow it in my house because of this recipe (and the fact that I think the blue box stuff is gross).

Mel's Kitchen Cafe Perfect Spaghetti Sauce

Photo from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Let me preface this by saying that I ate spaghetti so much growing up that I did not make it again until I found this recipe 4 years ago. I make the huge batch and freeze it in smaller batches for dinner portions. It is amazing and will change your life. No jarred spaghetti sauce for us.

Martha Stewart Tostadas

Picture from Martha Stewart Living

This is an old one from 2008. I just make this dish vegetarian with the bell peppers, onions, salsa and corn. I also add homemade refried beans to it as well.

Cooks Illustrated Classic Beef Stew 

Picture from Serious Eats

I grew up eating Dinty Moore canned beef stew, and I never once had stew freshly made. I made a half batch of this recipe when Graham and I were first married, and it was like my beloved childhood beef stew, but 100 times better. I don't make it that often because I try to limit red meat, but man.. it is delicious!

Cooks Illustrated Pasta e Fagioli

Photo from Eat it and Weep

This soup is so full of flavor it's hard to understand. It starts out with simple ingredients but is elevated with anchovy paste. Carter ate a TON of this soup when he was little.

King Arthur Flour Pizza Dough

Photo from King Arthur Flour

It took me a long time to find a pizza dough that I love. I've tried recipes from Alton Brown, America's Test Kitchen, Pioneer Woman, etc with success but were not easy to stretch out to proper pizza size. This dough is the easiest to work with, thereby making it my top pizza dough recipe. Some other honorable mentions are: Cooks Illustrated Deep Dish Chicago Pizza and Foodie with Family No-Knead Pizza.

Our Best Bites Sweet Pulled Pork Salad

Picture from Dinner for Everyone

If you have ever been to Cafe Rio or Costa Vida, then you know this salad. This homemade version is just as good as the restaurant.. and in the slow cooker, almost as easy! And do not skip the dressing, especially if you like cilantro. It is phenomenal.

Rachel Ray's 30-Minute Shepherd's Pie

Picture from Brownie Bites

This is another oldie but goodie. I've been making this for years. It's quick, but you will dirty about 4 pans in the process. I have yet to find a vegetarian version of shepherd's pie, so I'll keep making this one a couple times per year.

I have lots of repeat recipes for breakfasts, desserts, and side dishes, but not a ton for dinner. What are your family's favorites? Where do you get your recipes?

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Sherri's Favorite Things

So, I had a bit of nostalgia today and was looking at my old posts from my first year of marriage in 2008. Oh my gosh life has changed. Have I changed? Hmmmmmm, difficult question.. Probably. I'm still slightly cynical, even tempered, working full-time, witty, and sometimes sarcastic. Otherwise I guess I am different. Marriage and motherhood does that to you.

Anyways, I found an old blog post about some of my favorite things in 2008.. and now I want to update my list. It was mostly kitchen stuff back then. So, here we go 10 years later...

Favorite Food Items:

Crystal Lite Pure Energy
Stevia-sweetened drink with caffeine. Delicious.
Kirkland brand protein bars.
It took a while to get used to the taste, but they have actual chunks of chocolate and are a good source of fiber.

Favorite Kitchen Items:

KitchenAid mixer..
You'll be my baby for always and forever.

Swissmar peeler.
This thing is CHEAP but freaking amazing.

Favorite Electronic Items:

Orbi wi-fi router
We got this for our new bigger house, but started using it already. It is wayyyy better than a wi-fi extender.
Qustodio app
It helps with internet safety on mobile devices and gives me peace of mind.

Favorite Home Items:

Ecobee Smart Thermostat
I'm so excited to use this in the new house for energy efficiency and the programmable/smart options!
Frigidaire upright deep freezer
We had to replace our old one in October, and this freezer has a ton of storage and keeps food super cold without frostbite. FYI, not my freezer. I mostly freeze my own meals and food I make, and of course the giant bags of vegetables from Costco.

Favorite Clothing Items:

Athleta hybrid tights
This are beyond comfortable and have a lot of support for my post-baby belly. I got the ankle-length tights, and guess what, they're exactly the right length for my stumpy legs.

Bandolino velvet flat wedges with bow
Again, super comfy, pointy-toe shoes with a little bit of a heel. Totally my kind of shoe.

Favorite TV Shows:

Black Mirror by Netflix/BBC
Dark, astute, relevant, creepy.. We love this show (although Season 4 was really lacking).

The Great British Baking Show by BBC
So relaxing--I love the things they bake and I love that it's not the typical ridiculous competition shows that are on Food Network.

Makeup Items:

MAC Matchmaster foundation
Nothing else compares on my face, and I mean it. I've been around, and now I've found that it's the only one for me. I've been wearing it for almost five years now.

CoverFX Highlighting palette
I couldn't pick just one eyeshadow palette, so I decided on one for my face. This thing is amazing and gives me all kind of glow.

Anyways, I thought this was kind of fun. Maybe I won't wait 10 years next time to update.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

I'm so tired

Ok guys, we have now been in the construction phase for SIX months (but officially the foundation was dug out SEVEN months ago--but who's counting??).. And folks, I am just exhausted.

That's it. I am done with this process. DONE.

It is March (technically in a few hours), and the foundation was originally poured in September. Let me catalog the things that have happened since our shearwall inspection didn't pass 100% on January 26th. We met with the project managers on January 26th, who both confirmed that the delayed framing schedule did not change the completion date of May. (That's right--May 2018--61 days away.)

January 29th--our windows and front door were installed and the roof was completed.



February 13th--the plumber did the rough-in plumbing, but he missed the utility sink, and the wrong shower was installed in our master bathroom. Oh, and the front door was taken off to allow big items to pass through.



The crawlspace vapor barrier was installed.



February 27th--the plumber installed the correct shower pan, but did not plumb the utility sink.


That's right. That's it. One month, only one big step done. It did snow two days this month. I get that snow really does slow things down, but come on. I've seen other houses start after ours and are moving along at a faster pace.

We were promised:
framing fixes, plumbing rough-in, HVAC, electrician walkthrough and rough-in,
garage slab, and siding.

We got:
plumbing rough-in and the crawl space vapor barrier (which we didn't know about until 
after it was done).

We are waiting for (still):
plumbing fixes, shearwall/framing fixes, HVAC, siding, garage slab,
and electrical.

We've been waiting for the framers to come back for "small fixes", but nope.. and now, under unfortunate circumstances (sad story really), the same framers are unable to come back. So, they are getting an "in-house" team to come and do the framing (shearwall) fixes. This will be the third week in a row that we've been told that the framing fixes should be done. Let me say this again--they cannot start the siding until the fixes have been done and inspected. As of today, the shearwall re-inspection is not yet scheduled. If the siding isn't completed, the electrical work cannot be completely done either (you can't finish electrical prior to siding).

We were told in January that this work would be done in February.. And, February is gone and we are still waiting.

I'm tired of waiting.

I'm tired of worrying.

I'm tired of being angry.

I'm tired of stressing out.

I'm tired of paying over $1200 per month for the costs associated with building this house (yep--it's that and more).

Just yeah, I'm tired.

Our project manager has not yet updated our completion date.. so stay tuned.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Master Bathroom Decisions

So, when we were planning our master bathroom initially, we had a couple of ideas and requests:

--Here is the custom layout.

--A separate makeup vanity for me to sit at in the mornings with adequate counter space.

--Tile in the shower (instead of all fiberglass) with vertical accent tile.

--Tile on the ground. We originally chose a 12 by 12 "greige" non-descript tile offered by Lexar like below.

--Tile surround above the bathtub.

--Subway tile counter-to-ceiling backsplash with a herringbone-ish style design.

--White cabinets in the bathrooms.

THEN, we decided.. NO, we are not going to settle for crappy floor tile. Nope. Too difficult to remove and change in 5 years.. So, we picked a tile company called Daltile that Lexar can use, and we spent an hour or so picking out tile we liked. I love love love tile that looks like fabric/linen, so we initially chose the following tiles:

Shower square 12 by 12 tiles

Moroccan tiles as one accent in shower and around bath.

Blue-ish fabric art linen-looking tile for the ground in 12 by 24. (I actually still love this tile.)

But then, we went to Daltile again, this time in Seattle, and my husband saw these 3 tiles together and he no longer wanted our previous tile choices.

We like taupe, what can we say? Honestly, I do like the chevron accent tile, but I'm afraid it's too trendy and will be out of style very quickly.. but, Graham held very strong opinions for it, so chevron tile it is.

So, these are our final choices:

Shower tile in 4 by 12, stacked horizontally in Chenille White Limestone.

Stone chevron tile accent with one vertical line in shower and horizontal tub surround in Fusion Gris.

 Floor tile in Exhibition Tweed 12 by 24.

We are still considering wall colors, such as a slate blue, or a taupe-gray or violet.. but we will probably take our sample tiles to match paint colors. Our master bedroom colors are gray, cream, with blue/purple-ish accents, so we are looking for a coordinating color. We will update later..

Monday, January 29, 2018

Blowin the Roof Off!

We have a roof ladies and gentleman! Yes, we do.. and I seriously could not be happier about it. I have a day off during the week due to illness, so I finally was able to see the house in the daylight and take some pictures.

The southwest view of the house. Can't wait for the covered front porch.

 Front of the house from the dirt road. Look at that roof! Metal would've been nice, but oh well. We actually decreased the pitch of the roof from 6/12 to 5/12 as part of a cost-saving measure, and I actually really like the look of it. Less emphasis on the roof versus the front gables.

The southwest view of the house from the driveway. I'm debating on where to put the address number of our house--front or side of the house that faces the street? Also, I opted to not get shaker siding in the gables of the side of the house due to the cost, and now I'm regretting it.

Windows arrived today!!

Look at that beautiful ThermaTru door. We plan to stain it a natural wood color..

We are currently in the process of drying the house out with industrial fans, because man that wood was wet. Our foolish hope was to have a roof by October (silly me) before the major rain started, but January is better than February! Man, we just didn't really anticipate all of the set-backs or additional money.. But, I'll cover all of the things I wish I would've known in a later post.

Anyways, I want to be able to post more positive things, especially now that our house has some cover from the elements. But, I'm also trying to be honest about the process. People have no idea what they're getting into sometimes when it comes to building a house. Really, it all comes down to time and money, right? Maybe if we didn't have a tight budget, or that we didn't have to rent a duplex and pay 2 mortgages, or the kids sharing a room, or so many things go wrong, and maybe we could say we have had a good experience so far..?

So, Lexar has paid more attention to my blog and social media than I would have thought. **Hey guys!** Honestly, I started all of this because I found blogs about people who built with Hiline Homes, Adair Homes, etc.. but not Lexar. I'm sorry if my experiences don't portray a positive experience so far, but it has been realistic... and it's not exclusive to Lexar.. just so we're all clear here. One of our future neighbors built with a different builder, and they failed an inspection so many times that their building permit was suspended. There were other issues with their property due to the company's non-payment of their subcontractors. One of Graham's co-workers built with a different builder, and they failed final inspection 3 times because they put in the wrong windows, didn't correct it, and tried to fool the inspector. All of these builders have the same clause that they can raise the base price of your house if you don't have the foundation in the ground within a certain time frame. Price changes can happen with builders and even a private general contractor. So yes, anybody with any builder can have a negative experience.

I've also seen positive experiences. There's an Instagram network of us building with Lexar, Adair, Hiline, etc here in the Pacific Northwest. I've seen houses go up way faster than mine, and I've also seen beautiful results of their houses' interior and exterior details.

We met again with the project managers of Lexar of Tacoma on Friday. I was a little nervous because they didn't say what it was about. One thing that we have complained about is the lack of communication, so it was nice to be able to talk it out in person. We found out about some of the behind-the-scenes details that they didn't share with us initially, and it helped us understand why it took so long for framing to get done. We also finally addressed how they are going to make up for lost time for the next steps. Usually with building a home, the managers give their subcontractors a window of time to complete their part. So, when there's a delay, it sets everything back. So, according to the project managers, our house will have more priority and subcontractors will be scheduled as soon as they're available. We are going to clarify with them what the approximate schedule will be. We still have a completion date of May.

Let's talk about expectations. These things can really help make us happy or unhappy--unmet expectations. I expected our framing to be done in 3-4 weeks, and we weren't told until 26 days after our lumber was dropped that our framing wouldn't be done until the end of January... which would make it 8 weeks. However, if they had shared with us initially that they had to split a crew and it would extend the date, we would've understood and not been so disappointed. Also, I know nothing about construction while Graham knows a little, so when we found out our shearwall inspection was cancelled, it was seriously upsetting because we thought the roof couldn't go on until it passed. We were unbelievably relieved when Graham visited the worksite and the framers were there putting up the roof and finishing the interior. Again, we didn't know what to expect, so we were angry.

Now, we have better expectations of what the rest of the build will be like. We talked out a communication plan for a weekly email to let us know what's going on. So hopefully now that we know what to expect, we'll be able to make it through the next few months without major disturbances. Next up: HVAC, rough in plumbing, electrician, siding.

Last little nugget.. One of the project managers said that building a house should be a fun thing, and he knows someone who's having a great time. I said, yeah, this is the most stressful thing I've ever done in my life.. and I've gone to grad school, moved to places where I didn't know anybody, delivered a master's thesis to 4 straight-up doctors, and been separated from my husband. But then Graham said, well there are also some people that enjoy pregnancy.. and that totally brought it home for me. Building a home really is like having a baby. There's the planning, the detailed plans and purchases, the excitement, taking photos along every step of the way, the feeling of anticipation and anxiety, the moments of fear when you feel like what the hell have I gotten myself into, the delivery and the first time you see your baby's face, and then there's the time when you're confronted with the bill! But, when that baby comes, or when the house is done, there should be that miraculous feeling of joy and amazement... which I'm totally looking forward to. And yes, I'm sure there are some crazy people that like building their own house just like those annoying women who look and feel good during pregnancy... but I'm not either of those.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Quick Update

So, to all of you that don't follow my home-building account on Instagram, which you should (link is here), we have had some progress on the house..

December 1st: Our lumber was dropped for framing. We were told the framers were working on a house around the corner, and would be able to start the first week of December.

December 4th: Framers have not started.

December 6th: Meeting with our Lexar of Tacoma project manager, who said the framers would be starting within a few days.

December 11th: Homesite visit with the framers. They said they took another job out in Buckley near where they are located (far out from Puyallup and about 45 minutes from our house) to help keep them busy. This was not the same framing crew that our porject manager told us about because they said they haven't worked this far "in a long time" (aka they weren't the ones working around the corner). They were working on the under floor and pony walls on our house at the time.

December 13th: Failed inspection of the under floor as the framers left our house to work on a different project and didn't complete our under floor.

December 15th: Re-inspection of under floor. We were told trusses would be delivered the 27th.

December 18th-23rd: Exterior walls were put up.

December 25th-30th: Interior walls were mostly completed. Trusses were delayed and delivered on the 29th. Our project manager told us that the framers weren't coming back until mid-January on the 10th. Why? We don't know, except he told us that maybe our interior could be re-prioritized to make up for lost time.

December 31st-January 11th: Zero work done on the house. We were told there were delays due to snow (for 2 days) and that infamous Amtrak train crash near Tacoma, WA. We contacted our project manager on January 10th to see if the framers were there. Quick answer: NO. We asked for an updated schedule on the upcoming projects and how they were going to make up for lost time.

January 12-13: Some trusses were built and put up.

January 15th: Beautiful weather and no work. We are still waiting for the schedule and how they're going to compensate for lost time. 6-8 weeks for framing? Maybe if that was our expectation, but it's NOT. A house that received lumber at the same time as ours has framing done, roof completed, plumbing rough-in, and HVAC done. Another house that received lumber 2 weeks after us already has their roof! We don't even have the trusses up! Both of those houses are working with Lexar, but we know someone who is working with Hiline who started MONTHS after we did and are way ahead of us as well.

So, Lexar, if you're reading this.. Tell me why our house keeps getting the shaft and what you're going to do about it.

UPDATE: January 18th. Framers are back and should be done by the 19th. Shearwall inspection set for the 22nd.

2nd UPDATE: Shearwall inspection cancelled as the framers did not finish in time.. again. Possible re-inspection set for the 24th. Doubtful here.

3rd UPDATE: Shearwall inspection on 26th. Received partial approval, but need review from engineering for hold-down straps. I hope that's an easy fix.

Another House Update

When my house is done, what else will I have left to talk about?? Anyways, after February being a horribly frustrating month with the lack...