Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Getting Stoned?

Ok, it's a cheap joke but it's hard to come up with fresh and clever titles for these blog posts.

As you can see they're making good progress on the stone facing--looks like they might be done in a couple more days. All the iron work for the awnings and roof supports is on site and waiting to be painted and installed.

View toward kitchen
from front door
Inside the dry wall has been fully installed and a base coat of paint applied and they're starting on the finish carpentry.

Frames for awnings
The concrete for all the porches, pads, etc. has been poured (see pictures below) and all the interior doors have been delivered. It's really starting to come together.

We're planning to install a murphy bed in the second bedroom. This will allow us to use it as an office and a playroom for Dada and still provide comfortable guest quarters when necessary.

Side patio from
screened porch
With the Thanksgiving season upon us we're getting very excited about the prospect of finally being able to accomodate a number of house guests in reasonable comfort. We figure that if Dada sleeps in our bedroom (we'll have a small couch she can sleep on) then we can accomodate three couples, one in each bedroom and one in the multi-purpose room, plus somebody could sleep on the living room couch if they had to.

Here are more pictures of the latest progress....

Interior doors:

CIMG2298 CIMG2296

Front entry patio:

CIMG2288 CIMG2323

Side patio:

CIMG2291 CIMG2290

The Harry Potter room:


Upstairs hallway looking east (toward master bedroom):


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Thanksgiving at Grandma Boo's

Dada spent her first Thanksgiving at Julie's mother's house. We tried to get Dada to call her "Po Po" (mother's mother in Mandarin (we think)) but it came out "Boo" so now she is "Grandma Boo".

This picture is of Dada stomping around in the rain we had on Friday in her oh-so-cute rubber boots and rain jacket. We couldn't interest her in actually stomping through the puddles, although she and I ended up doing that the next day in our bare feet, when the sun had come out but the puddles were still there. Go figure.

IMG_1709We had a nice time at Grandma's although there were a few issues with the dogs, such as Lucy eating the wonderful pecan cheese ball Julie's brother Tom had just made. We had failed to warn him about Lucy's ability to get things from tables and he had innocently put he cheese ball out of the way on the dining room table. Oops. Let's just say it gave a new meaning to the term "pecan log". Julie went out and got more ingredients so Tom could make another one, but it just wasn't the same. Lucy also got the remainder of the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. So I made another one on Friday.

IMG_1714We took Dada to the Houston aquarium, which she seemed to enjoy--she's facinated by fish. They have some rides there too: a Ferris wheel, a carousel, and a little train that takes you through the shark tank. Dada loved all the rides and made us ride the Ferris wheel three times and the carousel twice. (We didn't ride the train a second time because we couldn't bear the thought of enduring the shark tank speach and the cheesy giant shark attack a second time). We totally forgot to take a camera so the only picture we have is the one we had taken at the white tiger exhibit--I'll have to scan it in at some point.

IMG_1715On Saturday we went to the Galleria to visit the shoe department at Nordstroms and see the ice skaters. Dada had fun running around and going up and down and up and down and up and down the stairs, although it was a struggle to keep her from darting into the crowds.

Dada spent a lot of her time on this stool in the kitchen, rummaging in the drawer and playing with the things she found (it was a typical kitchen junk drawer with years of accumulated random things in it). She was there pretty much constantly during the Thanksgiving dinner preparations and clean up.

On Sunday we went out for Dim Sum at this huge place (the Ocean Palace) in south west Houston. Had a great meal and a nice change from Turkey sandwitches. Dada ate quite a bit and asked for more chili oil after I put a tiny drop on her plate for her to taste. She seems to be developing a taste for spicy stuff--I carefully warn her that it is spicy and then let her take a very small taste, small enough that I know it won't hurt her. IMG_1717She gives sort of a "hey that's hot" look and I say "spicy" (or sometimes "picante") and then she asks for more. So I'm pretty sure she knows what she's doing. But she was just as interested in running around so we spent a good bit of time going up and down the stairs (the Dim Sum room is on the second floor).

Next year we expect to host Thanksgiving in our new house with its ample guest space and a kitchen big enough for two people to cook at the same time.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Another Week Flies By

The last week seemed to just fly by. We didn't do anything particularly noteable but I started waking up sometime around 5:00 a.m. every morning--not that I wanted to--which tended to make for early evenings. However, I did discover that you can get a lot done in those early morning hours when the Precious Bundle of Joy is asleep and you're not wanting to drop in front of the T.V. Or you could if you actually did something, rather than just surfing the net and reveling in a whole hour or two of unrestricted time in front of your home computer. Woo hoo. I know, I'm a sad, sad man.

What passes for excitement came in the form of a failing Internet firewall--one of the antique network cards on the ancient laptop we use as our home network firewall stopped working and I had to deal with that, which would have been an easy task of just buying a new card and sticking it in except that the version of Linux on that machine was so old that the drivers for the card wouldn't compile and I couldn't upgrade to a newer Linux version without an Internet connection and blah blah blah. Boring story slightly less boring, I finally got a new machine up and running as a firewall yesterday after a couple of late nights and early mornings (geek tip: Ubuntu Live will not run on a 486 with only 128 Megabytes but the SmoothWall Linux firewall distribution works great). So now we're back on the Net and Julie can check her email and read the blogs and I can post more.

CIMG2284House activity continues apace: they're preparing to pour the concrete for the various porches and landings around the exterior and the drywall guys just about have it all taped and floated. The exterior stonework is proceeding slowly but steadily.


CIMG2277Dada seems to be continuing her growth spurt, eating constantly. She's had a little bit of a cough and a sinus infection the last few days so she's not feeling her best but she's still bursting with energy.

We've also had to contend with the fact that as of yesterday the moon didn't rise until after her bed time, which was a cause for some sadness--we'd started a practice of going outside to say goodbye to the moon at bed time and anytime we're outside she asks "boo"? and makes what passes for the sign for moon (the sign is good because otherwise it would be hard to distinguish her rendering of "moon" from her word for her Grandmother Peggy ("boo"). I think there are slight phonetic differences that I can hear (maybe) but having the hand sign makes it clear. We also spend a lot of time looking at the family pictures hanging in the hall. She can identify all of her grandparents in the pictures and I'm trying to teach her to recognize her cousins. She also likes to look at pictures of herself.

Today we head to Houston for Thanksgiving--I'll be working from a coffee shop and Julie and Dada and Boo will be no doubt shopping.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Drywall's Up

We've reached a major milestone on the house: they've put up the drywall on the interior.

The exterior is still waiting on the installation of the iron work brackets that will support the porch roofs and the window awnings before they can finish installing the steel siding and the stone facia.

I'm still amazed at how efficient the house is. It now has all its doors on (with locks) and even with the house completely shut up it is still pleasantly cool on an afternoon where the temperature is close to 90 degrees.

At midday, when the sun falls full on the SE corner of the house, which is all windows on both floors, you can stand in the full sun and feel only the tiniest bit warmer. Then you open a window and realize just how hot it is outside. Once we have the awnings up, which will block most of the midday sun, there will be almost no additional heat coming in through the walls and windows.

The builder is also putting a radiant heat barrier behind the facia stones that will help reflect back the heat the stones accumulate over the day.

I'm really curious to see what our power bills are like. For contrast, in our current house, which is about 1500sq ft and insulated but with a dark roof, with the A/C set between 78 and 80 degrees, our September electricity bill was about $125.00, the highest for the year (this reflects the weeks of 100-degree weather, including the 107 the weekend of the ACL festival). It wouldn't surprise me if our bills next year are 1/2 that, with a house twice as big and a lower internal temperature (could we actually do 76 degrees?). And once we get solar panels installed, we might actually make money on electricity, who knows. [As I write this, at 6:30 a.m., our A/C is on--go figure.]

Going forward it's all finish work--trim carpentry, cabinets, interior painting, tile and counters, flooring upstairs.

Julie's been working very hard on selecting tile and fixtures and whatnot. We spent a good bit of Saturday at a stone showroom selecting stone for the bathrooms. We've decided to go with slate and travertine rather than tile because it's well within our budget allowance for tile and it looks great. We're trying to coordinate the stone with the exterior stone and stained concrete (and the stone countertops we have planned for the kitchen).

Here are a few pictures of the stone samples. The colors aren't exact--I think my camera makes them a little darker and a little greener than they really are, but you can get an idea of what we're thinking of.


Durango travertine, one option for the upstairs hall bath tub surround and floors.


Peach travertine, another hall bath option.


Jerusalem Bone travertine. More expensive than the others but very pretty.


Black rust slate, for the master bath shower stall. The shower stall is bright because it has a south-facing glass-block window that gets full sun all morning, so we thought a dark color would work well, keep it from being too blinding first thing in the morning.


Earth slate, for the master bath floor. This picture is a little green--the real color is more of a pure gray with buff highlights.


Autumn Dessert slate, another option for the master bath floor. A little lighter than Earth.

Julie will be working with our interior designer, Ed, to make the final decisions on all this stuff.

Feed Me!

Here's a picture from earlier this fall that we finally got uploaded--we took it with Julie's little spy camera on a warm September Sunday afternoon.

Dada has been going through a growth spurt the last few days and has been eating constantly. I never realized a toddler could eat that much food. She appears to have grown almost an inch over that time. It's like every time I come home from work she's noticably taller. She weighed in at about 27lbs yesterday.

KEY70035She's developed a fascination with the moon and will sit outside with me and stare at it for minutes at a time, which is pretty impressive for a toddler. And just in the last day she's been coming up to speed on stars too. It helps that right now Mars and the Moon are very close and Venus is prominent at the same time of night.

She's starting to talk a bit more and has a couple of clear two-syllable words. You can tell she's going to burst into intelligble speach any day now.

She's still being very good about bedtime--we can't believe how lucky we are. We've worked hard at having a very consistent bed time and bed time ritual and it seems to have worked. Let's hope it lasts.

CIMG2199Dada is clearly an extrovert--on Saturday we ended up at Central Market, which has a big play scape and outdoor deck, around 5:00 p.m., where we were going to pick up food for dinner and let Dada play. We ended up having a snack there, during which time Dada wandered around and made friends with all sorts of people, including a woman who had a little boy just one day older than Dada--they (Dada and the woman) played together for a long time. We ended up talking to her about adoption and stuff. The picture is from when we met for lunch at the Little Deli, a neighborhood deli where my office has lunch about once a week. There was another family next to us with this cute little girl. Dada made friends and they ate their lunch together.

CIMG2192On Friday Julie took Dada to the Veteran's Day parade so Dada could express her patriotic zeal and show her support for our men and women in uniform. They had a pretty good time. CIMG2186Dada likes trucks and guys in silly hats on little motorbikes. And she got to see a bunch of guys in kilts.


Dada is doing really well in her mother's day out program--the teachers all seem to love her and she gets along with the other kids and clearly enjoys being at school, which is good. And Julie is enjoying have a bit more time to herself. It's hard for essentially introverted parents to care for an extroverted toddler all day.

Tommorrow, 16 Nov, we will have had Dada in our arms for nine months. It seems like just a moment and forever. I look at pictures of her at that time and can't believe she was ever that small and I can't believe it's already been nine months. I think it's fair to say that we couldn't be happier. Dada is joy incarnate and as far as we can tell the easiest-going child in the world. It makes one want to knock wood almost constantly....

Friday, November 04, 2005

Prints from Flickr

A quick note to announce that you can now order prints of pictures from Flickr. So if you were wanting to print a picture of Dada or something now you can directly from Flickr. Also, I've added a link to all of our pictures tagged "dada" in Flickr in the blog header above.

For example, this picture would make a great hallway gallery of family print:


House Update: Nov 4 2005

Things are moving along rapidly now. They've done most of the exterior and roofing work, poured the columns that will support the porch roofs and carport, done all the interior wiring, plumbing, and insulation. Here's the latest photo of the exterior:


We had a little snafu with the city inspector that stopped work for a couple of days but our builder worked it out. Yesterday the drywall and the stone (for the exterior) were delivered and that work started. Unfortunately, with the time change we can't get to the site before dark after work so I don't have any pictures of that.

We have worked out the final cabinet plans with the cabinet guys and Julie is working hard on picking fixtures.

The builder tells us that the target completion date is 1 March 2006. Happy birthday to me (if it really happens that quick).

Here are some more pictures of the recent construction:

Support pillar for screened porch:


Exterior trim paint details:


Hall from master bedroom, showing insulation:


View showing the roof:


In addition to the interior walls and exterior stonework, they are fabricating all the metal brackets that will support the porch roofs and the awnings over the windows. Once those are done they'll be installed and the remaining exterior finish work will be completed.

The insulation is amazing. It's this foam that's blown in to the walls and the difference it makes is astounding. We were on the site the day before they installed it and you could hear lots of street noise and the house was pretty hot. When we went back after they had put in the insullation the interior was erily silent, even with windows and doors open, and the temperature inside was noticably cooler than outside, just from breezes and whatnot.

The insulation is part of the green design, in that it is a large part of what makes the house energy efficient. Other efficiency features are the awnings for the windows, which block the sun at the hotest part of the day, the metal roof, which reflects about 80 or 90 percent of the radiant heat hitting the house, and high efficiency windows, which also block most of the radiant heat hitting them.

The downside of the insulation is that it totally engulfs all the wiring and plumbing in the walls and completely fills all the space in the walls, so running new wires or plumbing in the future will require a bit more destruction and rebuilding than in older houses. But there's no free lunch.

Screen porch roof edge detail:


Halloween Etc.

The Halloween season has come and gone and it's been fun.

Julie made a darling little lion costume for Dada for her Mother's Day Out Halloween festival. As this is a church-run program they wanted the kids to wear Bible-themed costumes. All the kids were animals except for the little boy named Noah, who was, remarkably, Noah. Very very cute.

It was a challenge to get the kids into their costumes but apparently peer pressure finally did the trick.

Here she is playing "pin the nose on the clown":


Before her school festival we went to the wedding celebration party of my collegue Kit and his bride Shay, which was a costume party on a boat on Lake Travis. The Kimber-Woods family all went as pirates, including Dada:


Grandpa Bill ("Ba") was also visiting over the weekend. He and Dada got along very well. Here he is pulling Dada in her little red wagon:


And here he is holding her with her permission for the first time:


And here is an artier view of the same event:


We were at the Burnet Rd. location of Amy's Ice Cream, which has a nice playscape and makes a great place to take Dada for a little recreation and mom and dad for a little treat (Dada doesn't seem to have much interest in ice cream).

Bill's visit was nice: he got to spend quality time with Dada and get to observe her in her natural habit. Bill got to come with us to the Halloween parties (Kit's and one hosted by Band Aunt Joanne and her boyfriend Chris) and had a really good time. The weather was perfect the whole trip, except for the violent thunderstorms that dogged him during his entire trip down to San Antonio. The skies opened up just as he was leaving the rental car place and subsided just as he arrived at his college buddy's house in San Antonio. Kind of spooky actually.

And of course we are looking forward to next year when we'll actually have a guest room that Grandpa (or anyone else who wants to visit) can stay in....

Here's one more picture of Dada as a lion, just to round out this post: