Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The good, the bad, and the ugly..

One thing Graham and I always ask each other on our conversations.. what do you want to hear first: the good news or the bad news?

We almost always ask for the bad news first, so I'm going to do the opposite to mix it up. I do apologize for the lack of blogging. I just started my new job early last month, so I've been all over the Puget Sound area training in various clinics. I'm getting used to a slightly longer commute, working out in the morning, and preparing my breakfasts and lunches. Also, with my change in job, I'm talking more and more throughout the day (I'm not really a big talker), and walking way less, so I come home kind of emotionally exhausted but physically bound up with energy. Anyways, on to the home update..

The Good:
--Our foundation footings were inspected and poured the third week of September. It was a huge relief to finally get something solid in the ground.







--The foundation was inspected and poured the last week of September. No issues with the county.

--We finally got temporary power at our property (the foundation guys had to use a generator for their tools).









--We picked out our finishes and everything the first week of September without major arguments surprisingly.

This is our interior color: Sherwin Williams Mindful Gray
Image result for mindful gray

These are our exterior colors by Sherwin Williams:

Main Siding:  Waterloo
Image result for waterloo sherwin williams

Accent Siding in the Gables/Shakes: Tavern Taupe
Image result for Tavern Taupe

Trim: Gossamer Veil
Image result for Gossamer Veil

Kitchen Cabinets:
Procraft shaker-style in espresso (sorry to disappoint all of you white cabinet kitchen fans!). In case you're wondering, we did pick out a white/gray quartz for the counter tops..
Image result for Procraft shaker-style in espresso

Kitchen backsplash:
Subway tile in Dorian Matte








This subway tile design in kitchen
Image result for subway tile designs in kitchen basket


Laminate flooring in hallways, kitchen & entryway:
evoke "rebecca" in wide plank



















Shaw carpet in bedrooms: Color 501
Image result for shaw carpet color 501

3-panel shaker doors
Image result for 3 panel shaker style interior doors


Outdoor Lanterns:











Front door (we're not painting it--we're going to stain it a natural wood color kind of like in the picture). The glass on the door will not be separate, but it will be privacy glass.
Image result for s601xc fiberglass door with chord glass dentils

Not pictured: quartz kitchen counter tops, vinyl flooring in laundry, tile flooring in bathrooms, tile shower in master, subway tile backsplash in bathrooms, sinks, exterior Hardie plank siding with shakes, exterior stone veneer (seriously--how could I not take a picture??), etc..

The Bad:
--After the foundation was poured, our excavator met with Graham to prepare for backfilling and they both thought, HMMM, this doesn't look right. The vents for the crawlspace are too low, so where are we going to put all of this dirt? So, we made a call to our builder, and they said, no, that's the code for vents and foundation. Graham insisted that something was wrong. So, we brought up the plan that we were supposed to have a 4' foundation with 2' pony walls in the front. Our construction manager said, no, we don't do 4' walls. So, we showed him the foundation plan that he himself had made, and the $13K (!!!) charge for the 4' foundation walls. Apparently, the builder made the plan but the subcontractor didn't follow it, which would've given us 2' foundation, 4' pony walls on top.. which would've looked freaking stupid. SOOOOO, they admitted their mistake, and had to send our plan to engineering. The 2 options were as follows: bulldoze the entire foundation to pour it all in one layer, or have engineering figure it out to avoid bulldozing the foundation but still have 2 layers of foundation that are stable.


--The builder put it through engineering, who figured out they had to jackhammer out the old vents, drill holes in the original foundation, and put rebar through the holes. This has all put us back another MONTH. We are waiting for the foundation re-inspection today (YAY--I just got the notification that we passed!), with the plan for the foundation guys to place the forms and pour the remaining concrete later this week.

--Our temp power pole failed its first inspection, so then it took L&I another full week to get out there again. Lesson learned: pass the first inspection always.

The Ugly:
--Well, the guys working at our Lexar office were unhappy with their situation (I don't blame them--having to tell 15+ customer they now owed $24K+ would suck), so the construction and salesman left their jobs within the past month.. but luckily, not really leaving us in a bind (other than the foundation situation).
--Here's where the "ugly" comes in:

  • The finishing options at Lexar were a little disappointing to say the least. Luckily, the cabinets weren't a let down, as they had the exact finsh and style we liked.. but they told us at the time that having a different color cabinet in the bathrooms (I want white in the bathrooms) was an upgrade, even though they would be the same style. 
  • The quartz choices were just ok--we already paid more for that upgrade, but they had even more upgraded styles for more $$$ (which of course were better, but we weren't going to pay even more!).
  • They literally ONLY had subway tile for the kitchen and bathroom backsplashes. They didn't even have upgraded backsplash options. 
  • Their vinyl selection was acceptable (we are getting it in the laundry room only), but still, we didn't like any of it. I foresee us putting in tile in our laundry room one weekend in the future..
  • The floor tile selection was not good. you could only get it in the 18" square option in vague beige/gray colors, which honestly is a bit outdated. I like the rectangle options, including the ones that look like wood and/or linen. So, we paid for the tile and installation already, so if we just substitute the floor we really want, that'll help us get our dream bathroom. Having them install blah floors, and then taking them out in 5 years would be a waste of time and money. What would you do? These are the finishes we're thinking of for bathroom tile floors:
This is my favorite tile that looks like linen. Not as trendy as the wood-looking tiles, but just as beautiful.
Image result for rectangle linen tiles

I also love the wood-grain look, but I may go for the linen-looking tile in the bathrooms just because they were my first love.
Image result for rectangle wood tiles
All in all, I think our home will now be finished in April/May.. Please Lord no longer than that. I can't take this crappy townhouse any longer!!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Mo money.. Mo problems..

This was me two weeks ago. Literally.



Our foundation was dug out at the beginning of August, based on measurements made by our construction manager. He marked out the corners, and our excavator dug out the foundation. Then, Graham met with our builder to mark out the foundation corners. Our builder said, "this won't work".. the second time he's said that. So, Graham drove out to the engineering firm that did our site plan, and talked with the engineer face-to-face about the slope, the foundation, and adjustments needed for our site prep. But, our excavator wasn't comfortable with the foundation being poured without confirmation from a surveying firm.

And so, that day when I heard we needed a surveyor, I laid down on our carpet with my face down and legs in the fetal position. You see, surveyors don't come cheap. Depending on the scope of the project, it can be several thousand dollars. When we initially got a quote from a surveyor, it was $5K to stake out the property corners, and to mark out the clearing limits and open space. Hmm, we said, no thanks. We were under the impression that a surveyor would be at least a thousand dollars.. Again.. more money out of our bank (and this was AFTER our builder told us our price was going up on our home by $24K). I just couldn't handle another delay and additional cost.

BUT, the good news was that there is a local surveying company in Gig Harbor that is family-owned and operated. Aspen Land Surveying was recommended to us by a future neighbor, and we also know one of their employees from church. We called them up, they gave us an extremely fair price, AND they were done by the end of the week. I would highly recommend them if you have surveying needs in the Kitsap, Pierce, or Mason county areas.



See the red mark at the bottom? That's where the builder marked the corner of the foundation.

Anyways, so while it was an extra expense we didn't originally budget for (goodbye to part of the contingency fund for our construction loan!), it corrected the foundation layout (the angle was off by about 5-6 feet in one area!), and it put our minds at ease. So, Graham met with our builder AGAIN (making this the 3rd time) to make sure the dimensions were correct. And, believe it or not, he said the foundation wouldn't work because the foundation would have to be greater than four feet tall.. Anything more than four feet tall would require extra engineering, time, money, etc.. I just about died when Graham told me the news. Luckily, they were able to work it out with an additional small step in the foundation and two-foot pony walls (I really don't know what those are). So, our excavator should be finishing the foundation dig this weekend, as well as trenching for power and water.

Getting power to your house is the worst. Luckily, we have underground power at our property already.. so a trench just has to be dug to within two feet of the power source. Then, the electrician has to run the power from a temporary power pole into the trench. Then, the state (or county, I'm not sure) has to inspect to make sure it's within code parameters. Then, the power company has to connect the last two feet from the trench into the power source. And, somewhere in all this mess, the trench has to be filled with dirt. Literally, we are coordinating between our builder, our excavator, the electrician, the power company, the county, the excavator again, and then our builder again. I am exhausted. It's a stress circus of phone calls, texts, and emails.

So, last night, we went to the lot to go measure out the changes needed in the foundation, and I had to use garden shears to attack any remaining roots or branches sticking out from the ground. My forearms kind of hurt today. The kids were just filthy from playing in the dirt. We stopped by our future neighbors house (did we mention we have three future neighbors that are all young families building homes down the street?), and we struck a deal. We had some huge logs (cedar, pine, etc) that we needed to get rid of, and they were too big for us to cut through.. So, our neighbor took our logs this morning, and they are letting us borrow their industrial drying fans for our drywall and stuff. Win win. Always a good solution. We let strangers and co-workers come on our property to cut and take a giant amount of wood home, and some people freaking trashed the place. One person left a broken bike, others left melon rinds, and some of them trampled our silt fence for construction and didn't put it back. Craigslist people, man...





All in all, we are feeling an extreme urgency and anxiety to get our foundation INTO the ground. We don't want to get any further price increases, and we REALLY want the roof on before the rain starts. We have had such a dry summer up here in Seattle, and now it's just been wasted with delays and such on our house. But, nobody else feels the urgency that we do to start the house! It's maddening, and yet, par for the course..

To end on a good note, I have Wednesday off this upcoming week to complete new job paperwork (my last week at the hospital!), and so Graham and I are meeting with our builder to make selections for our house. This means, floor, carpet, siding, stone, tile, etc. We are SO excited. I'll try to take pictures to give you an idea of what things will look like.

Monday, August 14, 2017

This is the home building post I DIDN'T want to write..

If you know me beyond this blog, you know I don't put people on blast normally. I *usually* don't enjoy fighting with people online, and I try not to post a lot of negativity on my social media. I don't really do negative reviews on Yelp, either, although I do understand the necessity of truth telling from people. However, I think negativity tends to be more contagious than positivity, and when all you can think about is the bad stuff, you forget all of the good stuff.

With that being said, Graham and I are not happy with our builder. Remember why we said we signed a contract with Lexar of Tacoma back in November? Because the base price of the home was going to increase by $25-30K over the next few months! So, we rushed into it before we were truly ready. We were planning to wait for two years after buying the land to save up more money, but then the price of the home was so low it was smarter to just go for it.

So, we've had a pretty good experience so far with our Lexar office. They've been busy, but have communicated well about their delays. They have been forthcoming about some of the issues they have been having with their builds due to labor and supply shortages. We were thrilled to be SO CLOSE to pouring our foundation (I mean like literally, it could be a week away at the most).

And then, I got an email asking for my phone number so the construction manager could call me. Hmmm, not a good sign. We had a brief conversation that the corporate office was making them increase the base price of the home. We were told the increase of the price was based on how long ago we signed the contract and how close we were to pouring the foundation. When I asked how much so I could be mentally prepared, I was told the info would be in the email later that day. So, no help there. Graham and I were upset, but then we got the email that night around 9 PM, that the cost of the home would go up by $24,000. We could pay out of pocket (yeah sure), or get a letter from our lender for the extra funds (not happening either).

Graham and I could NOT sleep that night. I mean, here we are, $40K down already, we just closed on our loan a few weeks prior, and we have a giant hole in the ground.. and now they're asking for more money! They justified this huge increase in cost by the clause in their contract that if your foundation is not poured within 60 days of signing the contract, they can increase the price. We were initially very concerned about the language in the contract, but we were assured by the salesman that they would not increase the cost. Apparently, this same clause is used by other "on your lot" builders as well, so Lexar isn't the only one who can screw you over. I mean seriously, 60 days to get your foundation poured from signing the contract? That's freaking impossible. We didn't get our finished plans until four months past the signing date, so only then could we get our site plans, construction loan, and permits. Everything literally couldn't come together until July.. EIGHT months after we signed the contract.

They told us that 14 other families are in the same position as us.. which was reassuring, but not really.. because we know the pain and anger that they were feeling. Graham had a long talk with the salesman the next day, calling him a liar and a bad person for telling us months ago that they wouldn't increase their prices. I thought that was a bit extreme and mean.. until I heard what the other families said to them. Many people threatened to take their business elsewhere, somebody threatened to burn their office down, and somebody else brought up bringing their gun into their office to shoot them (which isn't so funny nowadays). So, I think their reactions were a bit more extreme than Graham's, and I didn't feel as bad.

So, over the next few days, we weighed our options: taking our business elsewhere, changing our house plan, and/or getting rid of some of our additions. We were hoping that the corporate office would be willing to take a hit off their profits and just increase our price by $10K, but no such luck. However, the construction manager and salesmen worked hard to present a couple of changes to our plans. We do have to give them some credit because they aren't the owners of this location/franchise, and this mandate came from the top down.. and they're the ones who had to deal with the hate and backlash from their customers. They proposed some things to save $12K like: changing the pitch of the roof, changing some of the cabinets and trim, getting rid of some of the smart home features, and replacing the original recessed lights with dome lights (not ok with that one--I hate boob-shaped lights hanging down from the ceiling). We accepted most of the changes, but we had some ideas of our own..

--We are getting rid of the wood-burning stove and the stone behind it. That's $7K.
--We can get rid of some of the recessed lights we added to the plan.
--In extreme measures, we can get rid of the tiled master shower and the full height tile backsplash in the master bathroom, but we really don't want to..

Anyways, we meet with them tomorrow to discuss some of the changes and issues. We will owe them money, but we hope not more than $5K. Like I said before, this SUCKS, but the cost-changing issue is not only limited to Lexar.. so for those of you who are considering building your own home with one of these "on your lot" builders, beware! And, we all have watched enough HGTV to know enough that any custom home will have budget and timeline issues. It's not solely limited to these builders or the Seattle area. We are grateful for the construction manager's and the salesmen's efforts to helping still build our dream, but it doesn't really make me happy to pay more out of pocket when I'm already stressing about the budget.

Lastly, Lexar, if you are reading this.. I don't fault you for trying to make a profit. I know you're not a non-profit organization and don't build houses for charity. But seriously, don't try to tell me that you're "not making a dime" off my house. You are raising my price to the current base price for my home.. so if that were true, you wouldn't be making a dime off any of the other houses that you are currently under contract to build. So, if you weren't in it just for the money, I would've expected a small increase on the base price of my home, or I would've expected to see a bigger across-the-board cost increases on your other customers' homes and your website as well. So seriously, don't try to placate me with that empty phrase. K thanks.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Sometimes it's the BIG things..

Graham and I often make big life changes all at once, like when I graduated from grad school, got a job, and moved up to the Puget Sound area from Portland all in one month. We also bought a house, moved to a new area, Graham started his career, and he had to move to Virginia all in another month's time.

Now, I've been thinking about building a home for almost a year now, when I saw land for sale in our area.. so this wasn't really a rash decision by any means. But now, we are building our home, we closed on our construction loan, and I got a new job! Woohoo!

To my followers that don't know my life story, I started on the path to becoming a Registered Dietitian (RD) 15 years ago in college. A lady from my hometown who was an RD tried to convince me not to be an RD: low pay, no respect, people and doctors don't listen to you, blah blah. I said, I don't care.. and away I went. And then I started working as an RD, and I thought to myself, I should've listened.. Really, being a Dietitian isn't a horrible job. But after a while, money can be a motivating factor to get a better paying job/career.

So, I started working to getting certifications to improve my skills and up my pay. In October 2012, I took a test to become a Certified Nutrition Support Clinician (CNSC), which covered my continuing education credits for 5 years and got me a 75 cent/hr raise. It is nice having the extra letters behind my name, but they mean nothing to anybody other than Dietitians (although other medical professionals can get their CNSC credentials too). Then in August of 2015, I decided to bite the bullet and take a test to become a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE). I thought it'd be better to study for the exam when I planned to get pregnant compared to after having 2 kids. I'm so glad I took (and passed) the exam when I did because it would've been insane to study with a baby. I got a $1.50/hr raise with my CDE, which was partially my motivation to taking the exam.

Another motive for taking the exam was increasing my skills and improving my ability to get hired somewhere else. As a clinical dietitian in a hospital, I have to work weekends and holidays, which BLOWS. I've worked at least 3 Christmas days in the hospital. Also, outpatient dietitians and CDE's make more money. When I was in college and bright-eyed, money didn't mean a thing, but now.. it does.

When we initially looked at how much house we could afford, I did several analyses on building a house in 1, 2, or 4 years. We initially decided on waiting 2 years, but then we had to jump the gun to save $30K on the base home price. So, we didn't have as much money to put down as we would've liked. Also, we had to reduce our sale price of our home by $11K for the roof and need for outdoor painting. Lastly, we did not plan on having to pay PMI on our construction loan. So, we kind of overextended ourselves on our monthly loan amount.. and things were going to be TIGHT in the upcoming home building months.

And then, I heard there was a CDE job opening in a bigger city closer to our house, which would pay more. I know several people who work there, so I had some insider details. I went through 2 interviews that went well, and they offered the job to me a few days after. And guess what.. the increase in pay will be enough to cover the increased expenses for the construction loan. We really have been so blessed, and I'm excited at the new prospects and experiences my job will bring.

We look forward to more big changes in our lives: new house, new job, and air conditioning (it has been HOT and awful here in Seattle this week).

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Big Sigh of Relief

Well, I have not updated this blog or even thought about it over the past month. We have been all over the place. Graham has been working 50-70 hour work weeks, I have been interviewing for different jobs (more about this later), and Carter's been at home for summer break. I am currently at home this week with Sadie while Carter is in Idaho with Graham's family. I get to play "stay at home mom" this week with the baby. It's Tuesday, and while I like waking up whatever time the baby gets up and working out whenever I want to, I'm kind of bored. In fact, even writing this blog is boring me. Anyways, we finally have had some forward movement on our house.

First, we had to work with our engineering company to re-orient the house with retaining walls around the areas of the home with large slopes. That took an additional $900 and 2 weeks to get it re-engineered. Fortunately, it was re-submitted and re-approved through the county quickly.




Then, we finally closed on our construction loan.. THREE months after putting in our application. Geez. That was a huge relief, as we were worried that things might fall through and then we'd be stuck with the bill. So, we finally put a big chunk of change down on our loan, and we gulped when we saw the monthly payments for our loan. Turns out, we're going to be house poor without a house.

We finally got word from the building review division at the county that our second-draft version of the playroom and storage wouldn't be approved. They apparently removed the door from the playroom to the storage room, but the county still considered it a "closet", so they wouldn't approve it. The building review guy literally quoted the dictionary for the definition of a closet. So, luckily, Lexar expedited the plans to remove the wall entirely from the playroom. I wanted the storage entrance to come from the utility/laundry room, but that particular change in walls would need more time in drafting to be completed.. so we just removed the walls to get it approved by the county. I plan to work with Lexar to get the walls back up, and hopefully have the entrance from the laundry room instead.

So, we met with our builder and excavator today to informally mark out the foundation limits. It took a bit longer than previously thought, as our house was now at an angle. One issue was that we didn't clear as much of the land as we needed to. So, our excavator had a little more work to do prior to digging out the foundation. Hopefully, he plans to dig out the foundation this week. Then, it's on to the water, power, and then the foundation!!

One bugger that is holding back our building permit is the freaking fire hydrant. We need to have a receipt of payment for it prior to our building permit is issued. So when we contacted our water company, we were told it may take a while to get it through engineering. So after two weeks, when we contacted them again about putting a down payment on the hydrant, a customer service rep told us that our water company may pay for the $8K hydrant themselves. What the what? was our response. So now, we have no idea what's going on, and the customer service manager has been on vacation for over two weeks. As soon as we get this taken care of, we can get our building permit and get things done!

So, talking with our construction manager today, we were given a finish date of 6-7 months from when the foundation is poured, which is what we were expecting/hoping. Apparently, there is a major labor shortage going on in the Seattle area right now with all the crazy growth and construction... which is spilling out into residential projects like ours. So, delays will be expected for sure. All we hope for is a home that's done right around February of next year, which is when our current lease is done. Oh, and I found out that Lexar Homes (at least the Tacoma office) knows about my blog. **Hi Lexar!!** Don't worry, I'll be as objective and honest as I can, realizing that delays and mistakes are made with every builder. It's inevitable.

Well, we will see what will happen over the next month. Like I said, I've been interviewing at different places (nothing bad happening at work--just different opportunities have opened up locally), so I may have good (or sad) news soon!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Delays and Delays and Delays and Delays...

Ok, so here's the home building update... and mind you, this is coming from a point of frustration.

We still have not closed on our construction loan. The appraisal was due June 2nd. Then, the appraisal was delayed because there was a death in the appraiser's family. Then it was due June 14th. Then, it was delayed for another unknown reason. It is now June 28th. We are still waiting. We initially applied for the construction loan over two months ago. We are waiting to give them our money. I'm not paying extra interest right now, so I'm glad, but still... this is the worst.

We met with our excavator three weeks ago to go over the plans for clearing the land. We were not expecting him to be able to start until July or August. We were extremely surprised and excited when he told us that he would start clearing the land the next week, on June 12th or so. We were not ready for that. To prepare the land, the boundaries, and the clearing limits, we spent that whole Saturday at the property. We had a metal detector for the iron rods at the property corners, we had stakes and green tape for the clearing boundaries, and we had to buy a machete to get through the thick bushes. How weird was it that Graham went to Home Depot at 9 PM on a Friday night to buy a machete? He had to ask for help to find it, and the employee kind of gave him a weird look. Graham's response was, "My kids won't go to sleep." I told Graham that that employee was probably looking for his picture in the news the next day because that was a super creepy thing to say.

Looking out to the street from where the driveway *may* be (see below).



Side yard view.

So after all this fuss and work, we showed up to the property all excited to see the land transform from a garden of Eden to a big mound of dirt.. and soon, our hopes were dashed. Our boundary tape was still up, and not a darn thing was done. A few days (and drives to the property) go by, and still nothing was done. We finally put in a phone call to our guy, and his excavator broke.. So again, he told us maybe the next week... Repeat the following unfulfilling visits and broken dreams.. And then we got a call on Saturday the 24th that our guy was clearing the land and he wanted us to check in with him. Surprise! Best day ever. We were finally able to see what it'll look like not covered in trees.


The side yard view.. Do you see that upward slope? Also, we requested the cedar in the foreground to stay, but I'm pretty sure we're going to have to get rid of it.  :(



The remains of the trees. This is the back/side yard of our property.

So then, our excavator said Lexar should come and stake out the foundation so he can figure out where to trench for power, water, etc. So we planned to meet with Lexar on Tuesday June 27th. Then, I got the news back from our county that the dimensions were wrong on the site plan from our engineering company. The county also wouldn't approve our building plans because the playroom had a closet, and they took it to mean it would be used as a bedroom.. and since it doesn't have a window, it had no point of egress. We decided to move the door to the closet to the utility room to fix that problem. So just a couple of things to fix.. no biggie, right?

Next, we met with Lexar on Tuesday on my day off. Unfortunately, Graham couldn't take off work, so it was me and the kids. It sucked because Lexar had to go off the site plan from our engineers, which had the wrong dimensions. It wasn't my fault, but I was super embarrassed and annoyed that something simple could make things go so wrong. We were able to muddle through the site plans and get the correct dimensions from the construction plans, and mark out where the foundation would go from there. We noticed something bad, though..

Big problem. HUGE. The foundation area was on a super sloped area, meaning that:
1) The foundation would have to be ginormous (and go through special engineering) because it'd have to match the 10 foot difference in slope from side-to-side, or
2) You'd have to dig out and severely level out the foundation and lot, with retaining walls near the side and the back due to the slopes.

So, we are back in this spot where we don't know what we're going to do. One big issue is that there is an easement (utilities and road) on our lot for 30 feet in.. and the setbacks are bigger for easements (25 feet) compared to side yards (10 feet). So, there is a very limited area where we can actually put the house--despite the lot being over 3/4 of an acre!! Turns out we would've been better off with a 2-story house, but we were really trying to build our forever home....

Yeah, this sucks. We are currently in talks with our builder, excavator, and engineering company to get a better plan out there. We will see what happens.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Cooks Illustrated Skillet Turkey Tetrazzini (One Pan)

I do post recipes from time to time.. and this one is totally worth putting out into the world. I blogged about Cook's Country Flavored Popcorn years ago, and it remains one of my most popular blog posts. If you haven't tried it yet--it truly is amazing popcorn and super easy! Anyways, I know you're probably thinking one of two things about this upcoming recipe:

1) Turkey Tetrazzini is old school.

2) Thanksgiving was like 7 months ago.

And yes, you'd be right on both items. It truly is an old school recipe, but it doesn't mean it's not worth making. No canned items to be found. Also, Graham's dad gave us some leftover smoked turkey (not from Thanksgiving), and so I found this obscure recipe and made it.. twice. You know it's good if I make the same recipe more than once over a six-month period.. I have problems with making the same dinner as I did like three months ago. And once again.. it's easy and it only requires one dish to make. That's a big deal when the sink in your rental townhome is full after one sippy cup is thrown into the sink. Oh, and did I mention that it's also a 30-minute recipe? One dish and under 30 minutes with no canned foods? That's right.. So, for all of your enjoyment.. here comes the recipe..

Notes: Serves 4 large portions. Pre-heat your oven prior to assembling your ingredients to ensure completion of meal under 30 minutes. You need a 12-inch ovensafe skillet, but does not have to be non-stick.

Ingredients
2 TB unsalted butter
10 oz sliced white mushrooms (we made the recipe without any)
1 onion, minced
Table salt
3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken (or turkey) broth
1 cup heavy cream (you could probably use half-and-half, but it'd be less rich)
8 ounces (3 cups) egg noodles
1 cup frozen peas
14 oz (3 cups) shredded/chopped turkey
1 TB dry sherry
2 TB fresh minced parsley
20 Ritz crackers, crushed to coarse crumbs (1 cup)

Cooking Instructions:
1) Heat oven to 475 degrees and adjust oven rack to middle position.
2) Melt butter in 12 inch ovensafe skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, onions, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook until mushrooms are lightly browned, 5-7 minutes.
3) Stir in broth, cream, and noodles. Increase heat to high and cook, stirring often, until noodles are tender and sauce has thickened, ~8 minutes.
4) Stir in peas, turkey, dry sherry, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle cracker crumbs on top. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until lightly browned, ~8 minutes. Serve.

Recipe from Cooks Illustrated "The Best 30-Minute Recipe".

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Construction Site Plans

NEWSFLASH: We break ground next week! Our excavator is clearing the land starting next Wednesday!

All right, this will probably go into a lot more detail than necessary, but I'm just trying to document this process of building our home as detailed as I can..

Our next move for the home building process was getting the site plan. For all of you following along, I'm just going to assume you know as much about construction as I do.. which is not much. Like I said before, I've never felt so clueless in my life muddling through terms like septic tanks, temporary power, concrete plans, impervious surfaces, etc.. So, a site plan contains the following: location of house, roads, easements, driveway, roof overhang, and two other big ticket items: septic tank and drain fields as well as storm water control.

If you grew up in an area like me in California (see below).. you lived in a planned neighborhood with city water and sewer.


However, if you live in a rural area like we do now in Washington (see below).. You can't plan on either of those things, and you need a plan to get water and dispose of waste properly. Many people don't have access to a regular water supply, but have to rely on a personal well that's drilled in a backyard somewhere. FYI, we don't have a well on our property--which is why we bought the property. Wells can be $$$$$$.


Before I moved here, I only knew about septic tanks vaguely. For a high school summer job, I once stayed in a house near Jackson, CA that had a septic tank. All I knew is that you shouldn't flush feminine products in a septic tank. Anyways, I've since learned about them a little bit as our last house had one (it was downhill and a simple gravity system).. but I still don't know much.

As for the storm water control, this is something that most people take for granted. I mean DUH, nearly everywhere back home had sidewalks, gutters, drains, and a city sewer system. But, many neighborhoods here do not. So, where does that water go when you don't have a sewer system? For many planned neighborhoods, they have a retention pond and storm water systems. For us non-neighborhood folks out in the sticks, we must utilize other methods to properly disperse water. For many of us, we have to utilize trenches fitted with perforated pipes such as an infiltration or dispersion trench (see below).  We had an engineer design this for us, taking into account the floor plan of the house, lot's topography and soil type. The other parts of the site plan include the septic tank, the driveway, and potential need for retention walls.

Image result for infiltration trench dispersion

We decided to work with an engineering firm that would do everything for us: the site plan, septic design, landslide risk assessment, etc. This way, there would be no confusion between the placement of other systems. A lot of potential home builders may choose to get bids from various septic designers, engineers, surveyors, etc, and then have to get the pieces of the puzzles put together. We chose to simplify the process and have one firm do the whole project, even if it did cost a couple hundred of dollars extra.

So, we gave our floor plans to the engineering firm and they got started fairly quickly after our deposit of over $5K (when you're dealing with home building, everything is in the range of thousands of dollars). We initially had the idea of having the home face the southeast corner of the lot, which would be facing the rounded corner of the street and the water. There's a teensy bit of a water view of the Puget Sound in the winter.. But, the engineer told us that because of the upward slope towards the back of the lot, we'd need 2-3 retaining walls around 2 sides of the house. Hmm, a couple more thousand of dollars to face a peekaboo view of the water? No thanks..


So, we told the engineer that we wanted the house to face the east for the paved road access, and for the cheapest placement possible (aka no retaining walls). So, she fixed the location of the house and made the storm water plans. We were then told everything was all set and that the design would be submitted to the county.


3-4 weeks go by.. and nothing was submitted to the county. We figure that things just got delayed in the process. So, we put a call into the engineering firm, and we found out that the engineer working on our project quit and didn't finalize the plans. It was still labeled as "awaiting customer approval", and nobody checked back in on us. So, we had to wait another week or so until the new engineer approved the project and sent it in.

So, finally.. 6 weeks after giving the engineering firm our deposit, our plans were accepted and processed.. and as of May 30th, our site plans were approved and we were free to "start moving dirt". We met with our excavator on June 7th, and he plans to get started right away with clearing the land. We are beyond excited to get moving with this process.

Next home building blog: site/lot preparation.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Baby Sadie.. for now

One year of this tiny baby... How do I describe this contrary and adorable creature?

This is going to be a picture and video heavy post.. Be ye forewarned.. I've tried to choose ones I haven't shared on social media yet.
video





--Sadie was pretty small when she was born, so she wasn't super cute when she was born (sorry baby.. but it's the truth). She just needed to gain some weight and fill out a little bit.. But now, she has the cutest little baby doll face ever. She has the cutest little dimples and I die whenever she smiles enough to show them.



--From birth, she has always been somewhat of a noisy baby. Even as a newborn, she would squawk if we held her in the wrong position, she would snuffle at night, hiss or make funny noises when she got mad, and would grunt if put in a swaddler. Currently, she screams for attention, and still squawks loudly when she wants something.



--She definitely liked to snuggle as a baby, and was pretty much in someone's arms for the first 2-4 weeks of her life. Currently, she only snuggles when she's sick or with daddy. She will snuggle with Graham while he sings her to sleep, but she wriggles and squirms out of my arms when I sing to her after her bedtime bottle.


--She is obsessed with Carter.. and I mean obsessed. She wants to do whatever he's doing at the moment. If Carter has a toy, Sadie will only want it while Carter is playing with it. She follows him around, and tries to wake him up in the morning (they're currently sharing a room). Sadie will do anything to play with Carter, and likes to crawl all over him when she finally gets to him.



--Sadie is not a good sleeper.. She went through a period of 3 weeks straight of sleeping through the night when I went back to work when she was 3 months old.. and then, only sporadically over the next 9 months. She has her dad wrapped around her little finger, so sleep training has been inconsistent as well. Carter was a good sleeper, so this baby is payback to that. My mom says that I didn't sleep through the night until I was 13 months old as well.



--This girl does not laugh easily. We have a video of her giggling, but seriously.. this girl is difficult! She loves to smile, but man is it hard to make her laugh. The only time she laughs spontaneously is if she is climbing up the stairs, and Graham or I try to get her before she climbs up all of the stairs. She is a stinker, this one.. She also laughs when daddy throws her high into the air.



--She is a little independent sprite. We call her Dora the Explorer because she doesn't really like to snuggle or play with stuff.. she just likes to crawl around and explore everything around her. This means she's getting into trouble all the time because we leave open doors or the kitchen pantry. Despite her self-declared independence, she doesn't like to hold her own bottle. The girl refuses to drink if she has to hold it herself. If we let go of the bottle, she'll let it drop and she'll stop drinking. We don't know if she is the laziest baby in the world, if she's contrary like me, or if it's just comforting to not hold her bottle.



--Sadie is into EVERYTHING.. and she's kind of sneaky and quick about it. Our new word is "Sadie-ously??" because we kept saying "seriously?!?" every time we noticed she was into something new. She's our little trash panda because she looks so cute pulling our kitchen trash can down and eating everything that spills out of it. Luckily, she's mostly been eating food scraps, like orange peels and onions. Carter was definitely not like this, so we are so not prepared for little Dora.



--Sadie is a daddy's girl, through and through. The look on her face when he walks through the door at night is priceless. She laughs the most with Graham, whether he's throwing her in the air or he's chasing her up the stairs. Well, I guess both of the kids are daddy's kids.. and since we probably won't have any more.. I guess that's that.


--We initially thought she was just like Carter.. sweet, content, happy to do whatever.. But it turns out she just merely looks like Carter with dimples. She's loud, begs for attention, more volatile in emotions, and just a little harder to deal with.


--Fun Sadie fact: when she was a little baby, she LOVED the song "Only You" by Yaz. She would stop crying immediately in the car whenever it came on. It worked like magic, and it really pissed Graham off every time.


--We love this baby. She's definitely come into her own little personality, and we're loving these everyday moments of her babyhood and transition into toddlerhood.




Sadie at her "birthday party". Those in attendance were her parents and brother. No excitement was had by all. We are kind of lame parents by some standards..

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Construction Loan Woes

So, in my first blog about building a house, I talked a little about the differences between home loans, land only loans, and construction loans.. and now I have experience with all three. Mind you, I'm definitely not an expert, so I'd recommend contacting a loan officer that is proficient in construction loans if that's what you're working towards.

With the conventional loan, it was a little stressful as we had a high deb-to-income ratio (DTI) back then. We were still paying off debt, and Graham was only working part-time at the group home for $10/hr. We recently had switched one of our credit card balances to a 0% APR, which then lowered our monthly payment, so then we qualified for the loan. That was a big relief.

The land-only loan was scary because we were completely out of our comfort zone. We had to contact the county about land planning, ask a geologist about soil tests, and learn about balloon payments on loans.. It was more work than we were expecting.

And then, we went through with the construction loan.. Honestly, if I could have done it all over again, I would've done the all-in-one construction loan, with the land rolled in with the construction costs. It would've been so much easier to do it all at once, and it would've saved us a few thousand dollars in closing costs. However, we weren't ready to sell our house last fall/winter, which was necessary for a good portion of the down payment on the loan. Plus, it would've been a crazy amount of work to get everything we needed for the construction loan.

So, here's the low-down on a construction loan. There are several terms you'll need to get familiar with: DTI, closing costs, and the loan-to-value (LTV). Your DTI is fairly simple: your average payments on debt compared to your average gross income. To be approved for a mortgage, the recommended DTI is usually at or below 42% (including rent/mortgage). Closing costs can be several thousands of dollars, depending on your lender. They usually include loan origination fees, appraisal, and all kinds of fees (title, county, escrow, etc).The LTV is a little more complicated for a construction loan. If you put zero percent down on a house, the LTV is 100%. Unless you do a specialty loan (such as the USDA loan that we did or a VA loan), many lenders won't do 100%.  Also, you have to pay Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) if the loan is >80% LTV.. which can add $200+ per month to your mortgage.

The complicating factor with a construction loan is that some lenders allow you to only put 5% down on a construction loan.. which is great for people like us who have cash but don't have like $80K to put down on a construction loan. Many banks require 20-30% down on construction loans due to the higher risk of new construction. Anyways, we based our future mortgage payments on our home's estimated LTV after appraisal.. For example, if it cost ~$400K to build a home, and the appraised finished home value is $480K, the LTV would be 80% and we wouldn't have to pay PMI. What we didn't account for initially was the LTV on the construction loan (~90-95%).. so we have to pay PMI on the construction loan.. which initially increased our estimated DTI. So, we have to pay PMI on the construction loan while the home is being built. We can re-finance the loan after the home is finished so we won't have to pay PMI, based on the fact that our home will be appraised way higher than what we will have paid for it. This is definitely a bonus to a buyer's market.. as most homes in our area are being sold for $180-200 per sq foot.. so our home could potentially be worth $455-505K after it's built.. which is way more than what we will pay for it.

Going through this process has been anxiety-ridden, as we've felt like we didn't have good communication from our lender, and our questions weren't always answered in a timely fashion. We also had to get bids for all of the items not provided by our home builder, such as the outdoor concrete for patios and driveways, site development, septic design and install, utilities installation, electrician fees, permits, on-site portable toilet.. etc etc etc. It was quite the project, but I managed to do all of it fairly quickly. If you know me well, you'd know I hate making phone calls, so I hated every minute of talking to strangers about things I only have a vague knowledge about. I've never felt so stupid in my life asking an electrician about how we get temporary power to the house.

Due to the poor communication from our lender, we even contacted another loan officer in our area (Terry Pemberton of Umpqua Bank) to see if we could get a better deal basically. He was very knowledgeable and quick to respond, so I'd highly recommend him if you're building in Washington state. However, our current lender had the best product for us, so we stayed with them. We should be closing soon.. but right now we are waiting for the appraisal. I'm really quite curious as to how the appraisal will turn out, as it's just based on the plans, the HERS score (that's a discussion for another day), and the upgrades we're planning on putting into the home. Let's hope it comes out high!

Stay tuned for my next home building blog.. I'm planning on blogging about the design and pre-permitting process. Should be fascinating. I'm sure.




Thursday, May 4, 2017

Four Years Later..

Yes, this is a post about my personal life.. so if you're just following my blog for building our house with Lexar Homes, you'll just have to check back next week..

Anyways, over the past three years around this time of year, I tend to look back at my life and see how it's changed. It has nothing to do with the spring season, but with the fact that Graham and I separated on May 1st 2013. If you don't know about our saga, here's the starting point to our journey. Also, this year, Graham and I have now been together ten years.. so it's a particular year of significance for us.

Four years ago, we went through a personal hell. We separated for Graham's own good, for him to get help, and to fully change without me to push him. He needed to be away from his family to fully realize what he had was worth working to keep. Because of the lies he told about flunking out of school and the trust he broke with his lies, it has taken a lot of time and work to rebuild our relationship. Time has been the biggest help, as it's helped reduce the pain. As time has gone by, I've been able to look back with fondness and with a bittersweet outlook. I've learned a lot.. and grown up a lot throughout the years.

To be honest, it's hard to stay with someone after they've broken your trust. I don't mean to make light of other people's serious problems as well, but I'm pretty sure I have a mild case of PTSD from what I've gone through. Whenever I hear a trigger word, or a trigger situation, such as a mention of somebody who has lied to their spouse.. I have a mini panic attack. My heart starts racing.. I get the anxiety poops... I check the cell phone records.. and then I have to call Graham and make sure he's not lying to me about anything. It sucks, but I'm glad I can better understand my response. Plus, my mini panic attacks get better and less severe as the years go by..

It's not easy to be in the position to doubt your spouse. I've doubted Graham so many times about the things he says and the things he does.. For a while there, our relationship required a lot of verification of things he did. He checked in with me when he was at work. Our emails and account were open and available at any time to each other. I've definitely had my moment of complete freakouts where I needed a lot of comfort and reassurance. Mostly, I feel better now. When I hear my normal anxiety triggers, I react much better. I'm not still asking Graham about events like 8 years ago. I'm looking forward to our lives together, and experiencing what life has to offer as we grow older together.

And yet, still.. sometimes I feel a sense of impending doom because things are too good right now. Sometimes I feel like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop.. or something else to go terribly wrong. I feel sometimes like I'm not meant to have a happy life. I know friends who have lost spouses at a young age, or be diagnosed with a terrible chronic disease. I've seen people lose young children. My own brother had a brain tumor at 8 years old and a stroke at 32. Life's not fair, and I know it.. but I often fear for the worst. When I got pregnant with Sadie within the first month of Graham returning from Virginia, I was convinced that I would miscarry. Then after I got through the first trimester, I was worried I'd lose her at a young age. I don't know if this is ongoing anxiety, or just plain motherhood that I'm dealing with.. but it's not fun to have all of these negative thoughts.

But really, married life after a breach of trust doesn't have to be all negative. Luckily for me, it was not infidelity, or else I might be singing a different tune. I'm able to have a happy marriage because I married a great man. An imperfect one, sure.. but who's perfect anyways? Graham treats me like I deserve. He never nags or picks at me. He is my absolute best friend. He is an amazing father. After working a 12-hour day, he comes home and immediately helps me in the kitchen or plays with the kid. He helps with the chores. He doesn't complain about my meal choices (although one time he told me that chips and salsa didn't count as dinner, and I almost kicked him out). He is handsome and looks great in a hat. He kisses me goodnight every night. I am freaking lucky to have a husband so caring and perfect for me in almost every way. What we have is worth fighting for.. and I'm so glad we keep working towards eternity together.

And seriously, how can your heart not melt when you see this every day..?


Monday, April 24, 2017

Choosing Design Features for our Lexar Home

Remember my list of wants/needs for our dream home with Lexar Homes?

Well, after that was taken care of, there were a couple of design features I wanted to add to the plan. These were all inspired by Pinterest, so I'll link to the original posts.

1) Makeup vanity. In our old home, I didn't have a place to sit in the bathroom to do my makeup. Standing for 20 minutes every morning wasn't an option, so I did my makeup on the dining room table or on the kitchen counter. It drove Graham crazy to have my makeup out on the kitchen counter every day.. So, our new home HAD to have a separate space for makeup with a spot to sit.

These were my inspiration:
His and hers bath

Original image from Houzz. This one is way too elaborate for my taste, but I was trying to find a corner makeup vanity that I could sit at..



















Unknown original source (googled "corner makeup vanity"). Our vanity will look very similar to this one.


2) Tile designs behind master bathroom vanity up to the ceiling. Subway tile is affordable, classic, and can have various layouts that make it look stylish and contemporary. I really love geometric patterns, so I want to contrast a geometric tile design with round vanity mirrors above the sinks. These are my inspiration.

Shake it Up: 7 Creative New Ways to Lay Subway Tile | Apartment Therapy:
Original link here

bathroom with lattice tile, gray vanity, crystal knobs, white counters, chrome fixtures, built in storage tower:
Unknown source. My favorite non-subway tile design, but this specific tile is wayyy too expensive for my taste.

3) Stone hearth behind wood burning stove. With a typical fireplace, you can be pretty basic or glamorous with the surround and mantle.. but with wood burning stoves, usually it's pretty simple. Wood burning stoves can be kind of ugly and just serve a function without style. I wanted to make it look more stylish by adding a stone background behind the wood burning stove on the wall up to the ceiling. The home won't be built with a mantle, but I'll have Graham DIY it later. These are my inspiration:

Stone Work & Fireplace/Woodstoves - traditional - Living Room - Other Metro - Cashmere Construction:
Original image from Houzz

Take out boring fireplace and replace it with our wood burning stove:
Original source unknown.

4) Built-in kitchen desk and cookbook shelves. Once we found out that Lexar Homes couldn't do a custom cookbook shelf for me in the kitchen, and we re-worked the dining room layout, we decided to have Graham's brother design a custom kitchen desk and shelf section for us. It won't be built right away, so we'll probably get some cheap IKEA thing in the mean time, but we plan to put it in after the first few years. These are my inspiration:

What a sweet little tile Laura Moss again - desire to inspire - desiretoinspire.net:
Original link here

Office with wallpaper & built ins. Could do something like this in laundry room with stencil.:
Original link here

5) Planked kitchen island. No, this isn't shiplap, nor do I consider it to be the "industrial farmhouse" style that is so hot right now. I'm not a country girl, and my husband is from inner city Portland (before it was gentrified). But, I do love the geometric lines from the planks, and I love that it'll protect the wall from people's feet when they sit at the counter. We plan to DIY this while the house is being built.

Turn your kitchen from boring builder basic to beautiful with a DIY Planked Peninsula with Corbels tutorial at thehappyhousie.com main
Original link here

6) Double barn door between our master bedroom and workout room. Although we plan to have the doors open for most of the time, we wanted a way to separate the rooms for privacy in case we have a lot of family staying at our house (which is definitely in our plans). We plan to DIY these from cheap-o hollow doors from ReStore. These are my inspiration:

Contemporary Barn Door
Original link here

barn-doors-sliding-track
Original link here (Yeah, Graham said NO to anything intricate.. so it's a no-go on anything with a specific design).

Anyways, keep following my blog to see these plans come to life in my house, and to learn more about building your own home!

The good, the bad, and the ugly..

One thing Graham and I always ask each other on our conversations.. what do you want to hear first: the good news or the bad news? We almo...