Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Poor Thanksgiving. Caught between Halloween and Christmas, it seems sometimes like the pre-game to Christmas. But it is one of my favorite holidays. No stressful gift giving, not a lot of decorating. Just time to hang out and enjoy the company of those around you, maybe eat a great meal and remember how lucky you are. I have so many things to be thankful for I could not begin to count all of them or write them all down. From the basics of being in good health, to having a entire extended family that I not only love, but like all the way down to being able to live in my own home again and that Matt and I were able to build it together.

But I must say, what I am most thankful for right now is having a partner who is brave enough and strong enough and believes in himself enough to strike out on his own. As anyone who has started their own company before, it is not for the faint of heart. It is humbling and frustrating and agonizing at times. And I am thankful that I am spending my life with someone who wouldn't let that stand in his way.

So tell me, what are you thankful for?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

new pantry and assorted other goodies

We have been on roll. This is something that I silently hoped would happen. I did not want to be those people, the ones everyone warns you about when you announce you are going to renovate/remodel/rebuild your house. The ones who get the project 90% completed and then just run out of steam. I'm not talking about the 'burn out and take a break for a couple of months' kind of people, cause we are definitely those kind of folks. I'm talking about the ones who take a break never ever start back up again. I even know of a family who eventually boarded up a door leading to a bathroom they never got around to finishing. I definitely don't want to be them (although that gallon of paint I bought months ago to paint our bathroom is still sitting on the floor, so maybe I already am those people).

But seriously, now that fall has rolled in and it is getting darker sooner, we have once again been working on ticking off our punch list one thing at a time. Our most recent accomplishments include:

1) Finishing our master closet, including all organization involving bins, baskets, and goodwill

2) staining and finishing all windows in the kitchen/living room (Check out the photo above)

3) finishing all interior trim in the kitchen/living room

4) building a stone entrance step up to the front deck

5) clearing out the loft in the guest room and moving a bed up there

6) and what I am currently most excited about, THE PANTRY

Matt built cherry drawers with the scraps from our interior trim and then mounted them on 200 lb. full extension drawer slides. We had the pantry wired with several outlets halfway up the back wall, so all of the appliances can be plugged in and used right there if we want. The center unit with the wire baskets also slides out fully, so everything is accessible. He even built a small wooden basket on the inside wall for all of the vacuum cleaner components.

All of the hardware was ordered from Lee Valley, including the full assembly for the center "larder unit". If you haven't ever looked at their catalogue, I highly recommend it for everything from hardware, high end hand tools and gardening tools.

Next up:

1) pantry doors - the curtains are only a temporary fix

2) ship's ladder and knee wall for guest room loft

3) guest room closet

4) stain/finish the rest of the windows

5) stain/finish all interior doors

6) paint bathroom

7) build living room loft doors

8) build over fridge cabinet

9) build new front doors

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Check out my photos!!!

Seriously, if you are just killing time surfing around on the internet... I recently launched and I am selling prints online. You can check them out be clicking on the imagekind button on the right sidebar, or go to my website! Its almost time for Christmas so SHOP SHOP SHOP!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

New Closet built ins

We are working on a number of projects, so we should be having slightly more frequent updates for awhile!! Most recently, Matt was able to build and install the built ins for our closet. This new system far surpasses the old system, which involved a lot of piles. Much more organized with the actual hanging and folding. I am not a fan of drawers, because you can't really see all of your options. So I had Matt build a cubby system for all of my folded cloths and then he has all of the drawers in the dresser. We had saved all of the cherry rips from the interior trim, so we face framed the closet with cherry to match the rest of the house.

The most major change we have had to make so far to the house was switching the swing of the closet door to make room for the cubby built in.

We will now be able to actually hang clothes without worrying that the rod is about to break!

View from the washer dryer. Putting them into the master closet was a great idea that we almost bypassed. I was worried about lint and piles of laundry etc. mucking up the closet and thought they needed to be separate spaces, but the only other option was back out in the garage, so I caved, and I am so glad I did!

A last minute addition was the shoe rack. I'll admit it does make the closet a little claustrophobic, bit it is better than tripping on boots.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Momentum is a funny thing. When you loose it, it's like slamming into a brick wall. Which is about how the progress on our house is coming since this summer. At the rate we are going now, I'm kind of amazed that we ever made it out of the tent...

Three weeks ago I bought a gallon (hopefully THE LAST gallon) of paint, for the last room in the house that needed painting - the master bath. This morning, I finally moved the gallon of paint from my car to the bathroom. PROGRESS. So needless to say, I do not have pictures of a newly painted bathroom, or anything else for that matter.

I am hopeful that the onset of winter will inspire inside projects like closets and the pantry, or at the very least some doors.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Buried treasure

We are slowly starting to gear back up for work on the house. We’ve taken most of the summer off, which has been nice. We’ve still been getting things done, slowly picking away at smaller projects, but with no self-imposed deadlines. We’ve also been spending time helping out other folks that seemed to think building their own house was a good idea.

For the past couple of weekends, Matt has been working with a friend of ours that owns a local granite shop. In exchange for some weekend work, Matt has been getting truck fulls of granite, which we are using to back fill around one of our pilings. We might just be the only house around here that has more imported polished granite in the foundation than in the house. We seem to have hundreds of different types of granite and several types of marble down there, imported from Italy, Pakistan, India and all over Africa. It is mindboggoling to think of all the different countries represented down there, with rock that has all come together to fill a little hole in western North Carolina.

Oh to be the geologists who unearths this in a thousand years.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

rhododendron and garages

We are very fortunate to live in an area that has four seasons, incredible natural beauty, and an abundance of water. We teeter on the edge of being a temperate rainforest, and that results in extremely lush forests. Native rhododendron grow rampant, and this time of year they are all in bloom. It has often been noted that rhododendron and mountain laurel were contributing factors in the isolation of Appalachia. To tall to see over and too thick to walk through.

We have an acre and a half which is covered in rhodo and laurel. We relish the privacy they afford us as there is truth in there ability to isolate. Most of out property looks like the picture below.

But, there is one downside. We ( and this time I mean Laura) have spent the last three weekends underbrushing in order to allow for a little more light and air circulation, as well removing an accumulation of downed woody debris. Not all of it, but the excess. And sadly, the pile in the picture below is about 1/100th of what needs to be done. So far I have worked my way up one half of one side of the driveway. That leaves the rest of the driveway, all around the house, and in the back where we are planning a native shade garden. But, before we can continue we need to figure out what to do with this first pile. Its too big to burn, too expensive to haul. So, we are investigating the purchase of a chipper/shredder. Right now we are looking at a 10hp Troy Bilt. Does anyone out there have any experience with these? If so please leave a comment with your thoughts!!!

So, with the underbrushing on hold, we decided to tackle the garage. It has gone through several transformations over the last year from our living room/kitchen to storage to concrete countertop staging area to dumping ground to Bermuda triangle or all things construction related. Talk about keeping your fingers crossed that it doesn't rain! We did manage to create relative order out of the mess below, but after we finished I was too tiered to hold the camera up to take a picture. But, Matt has his shop back in working order now, full of tools and sawdust. Which is good, because we are excited to announce that he is getting ready to go out on his own! He will be doing custom interior woodworking around Western North Carolina. I'll provide more info and links to his new website soon!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Master bath tile and kitchen hardware

Well, we finally tiered of opening our cabinets and drawers by their sides and decided to put forth a more serious effort to find hardware for the kitchen. We had hoped that we would find something unique and befitting to our kitchen. We looked high and low, scoured the Internet and all local sources. We thought several times we had found what we were looking for (in one case, a beautiful hand cast branch, which unfortunately sold for $750.00 A PIECE!!!). So what did we end up with? The exact same pulls from Lowe's that we had in the old kitchen. Go figure.

We have also been working on finishing the master bath tile in anticipation of the plumber coming this weekend. Everything is set, including the suspended granite seat, and we are in the process of grouting and sealing (and I must shamefully admit, in this one instance when I use the term "we", I really mean Matt 100%). This project has taken so much longer than anyone anticipated. Slate is beautiful, but tricky. Plus, we decided (I have no idea why), to use slate on the ceiling of the shower as well, so there was the added stress of is the tile or isn't the tile going to crash down and cleave me in the skull. But somehow, Matt eventually got them to all stick in place long enough for the thin set to set up.
It is hard to tell from these pictures, but the shower has a really cool cave like feel. Sort of like standing under a waterfall rock outcrop.

Hopefully, we will have at least part of a functioning bathroom in another week or two!!!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Wow. Long time no see.

Wow. Long time no see. A whole month, I had no idea!

Sorry about being so out of touch, but we’ve just been so busy. But we don’t have any pictures today because we haven’t exactly been busy on the house. Don’t get me wrong, were still working. We’ve been finishing the tile in the master bath, hanging the last shingles for the siding, and unpacking. But we’ve been lazing about, enjoying life, and catching up on all things un-house related. Like finally having friends over for dinner again (no one ever wanted to come over to the tent, we could never figure out why!), actual reading of books, and hiking around now that it is light after work.

We even finally took our much overdue first anniversary trip this past weekend to the Natahala River for a two day whitewater kayaking workshop. Our first anniversary coincided with the start of this project, and in my naiveté, I scheduled the trip for Sept., sure that by then we would be ready and able to take a break. But, you know, I was only about ten months off, so we jokingly celebrated our second anniversary with the trip. And it rocked. We’re already scheming the quickest way to sell off all of our sea kayaking boats and gear so that we can replace it all with whitewater boats and gear.

But I promise, more pictures this week. A little updating of the small projects and loose ends as well as a preview, perhaps, of the projects awaiting us at the creekhouse.

View from the living room couch - I never get tired of it!!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Ta Da - LOTS of pictures

Here is a preview of our house now that we are close to finished!! We had the appraiser here yesterday, so now we are both just relaxing and enjoying the house for a few days before we get back to work on it. Check out the pictures and let us know what you think! If you want to see the before and after layout, check it out here Pictures of the house before can be found here here new exterior and roof, original deck and hemlock
Brand new back deck overlooking creek

original window in living room looking out at cascading creek

looking at the main living area and kitchen from hall

guest bedroom with loft in new addition, creekside left

new guest bathroom

renovated office in the same space as original guest bedroom

new kitchen (located in former master bedroom space)

concrete countertops!!

living room view from doorway to new master bedroom

dining area which opens to new back deck

view from kitchen

new master bedroom addition creekside right

master bedroom looking out to new deck

beginning of new master bathroom!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Final push, round 1

This is the big weekend. The final push before our appraisal. The house is far from done, but we are trying to wrap up as much as possible by Tuesday. It feels kind of like cramming for exams, only more exhausting and nerve wracking. The whole house building process would be so much more pleasant without the financial part...

If you ever wondered what a years worth of Roth IRA contributions would like if you converted it to wood, here you go. All of the cherry for the interior trim.So this weekend, all of those boards will be making their way to the windows, doors (and hopefullybaseboard areas).

And after that we have just few (!?!) more things on the list. But hey, at least some of them are scratched off!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Concrete countertops - a reflection on process

We are well on our way to having concrete counter tops! They are out of the mold and looking fabulous so far. We hope to have them finished and installed by Sunday, so this post will detail the first part of the process and I'll have follow up next week.
So here it goes, the good, bad and stupid:

1) We first consulted with and researched a lot of Cheng's books. We ultimately ended up using his mix as well, which we found very easy to work with. With so much going on, we didn't want to mess with recipe of additives to the sacked concrete. We knew we wanted dark grey solid color counter tops, something with an effect similar to soapstone. this eliminated any grinding on the surface and need to consider decorative inserts or aggregate.

2) Building the molds was very strait-forward for us. Accurate measurements, solid construction and wood are all strong points so we didn't run into any problems here. We followed a number of the suggestions made by Cheng, some of which may or may not have been necessary, but I like directions. The material to make the molds cost approx $75, as we did not have any melamine on hand and we needed rebar, wire mesh, silicone, etc.

3)A level area to set the molds for the pour is critical, so that you end up with level counter tops and not wedges. Since we were pouring all three counter tops at once, we needed a fair amount of space under cover. None of our work benches in the garage were large enough, so Matt built a level platform on the garage floor. The platform worked well, but was only a couple of inches off the ground. Ideally, it would be much higher, so you a) wouldn't have to work all crouched done, and b) wouldn't have to lift the ridiculously heavy counter tops off of the ground.

4) Based on my calculations, we were going to need 5.9 cubic feet of concrete. So, we ordered 6 cubic feet of charcoal mix. The directions specifically indicated that we should not use air entrained sacked concrete, and we had a little difficulty locating the right stuff. We eventually ended up having to go with 4000 psi instead of 5000 psi. We got the concrete, rented a mixer, and got ready to pour.

This is were things went a little askew...
First, we mixed the first batch a little too dry. We were both so worried about adding too much water and running the risk of cracking that we didn't add enough. This made the concrete very difficult to vibrate into place. I mean it was really dry. We even added more than the directions on the mix initially called for, but it still wasn't enough. We decided to mix the second batch a little two wet and figured that the two batches would mix with all of the vibrating, and the problem would be solved (which it was!).

Unfortunately, even though everything I read had said make sure you have extra concrete and mix, I cut it too close. We ran short, which really sucked. Once we distributed all of the mixed concrete evenly amongst the molds, they were all about 1/4 inch short, so we weren't able to screed the tops. Needless to say, I whacked myself on the forehead several times.

But, after a week, they popped right out of the molds looking pretty fabulous.

Normally, you need to dis-assemble the mold any pry it away from the counter top, but I guess because our mix was so dry, ours just popper right out. So our mold are intact and can be stored to use again should we decide now or later that we want to try again.

Next up...

I'll be spending this week grinding the underside of the counters because they are really rough and a little uneven since we were not able to screed. Once that is done We will apply a slurry to all of the surfaces to fill in the air pockets and then seal and wax them once they are in place. The sealer and wax will bring them back closer to the color they were when wet - a dark dark grey, almost black.

Friday, April 20, 2007


We popped one of three counter tops out of it's mold this week and they look FABULOUS!!! Which is such good news because, well, we weren't so sure. The pour didn't go quite as planned, mistakes (or what we thought were mistakes) were made, and we became doubtful. Which is really sad and frustrating as anyone who has made molds for concrete counter tops knows. A lot of work goes into mold making, so to blow it on the pour - well that's just wrong. So, after a week of thinking somewhere in the back of the mind that maybe all of that hard work was for not, we are elated, and the counter tops are just plain cool. There will be much more on this in my next post, with a blow by blow of what we did well, what we thought we did wrong, how we tried to fix it, why we weren't sure they were going to turn out and PICTURES!!! Stay tuned...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Countertop forms and a back deck

Countertop forms are built! All we have left before this weekends pour is the rebar/wire mesh reinforcements. Matt built a level platform on the garage floor so that none of the countertops come out looking like wedges, and we've sealed all of the seams with silicone so that the melamine won't swell. Our forms are pretty basic, since we have a small kitchen and an apron front sink, we only have one seam and no knockouts (except for the faucet). We are having a smooth, polished top so we don't have to worry about inserts or exposed aggregate. Just simple, dark charcoal countertops. I can't wait!! After this weekends pouring of the concrete, we'll let it cure for about a week and then cross our fingers next weekend when we break the mold.

We also got the back deck of death a little closer to finished (at least temporarily). We know we are re-doing the front deck in another year or so, but haven't had the time to really think about what we wanted to do with it or what kind of material we wanted to use. So, we didn't have any idea what type of decking we wanted for the back, since we do want it to all tie together. But, we had some pressure treated lumber, and a free handrail some friends had unloaded on us, so for the time-being we are having a plain, green tinted pressure treated deck. Not exactly what either of us had in mind, but it will do for the time being. At least we can actually use it. More than likely, the handrail will be replaced this summer with a handcrafted rhododendron railing, once we have a little free time to get creative.

The view from the bottom of the creek at the back of the house. Another upcoming project this summer will be to put stone up on the cinder block piers. But once again, we need to figure our what kind of stone - we have no idea and have not even really looked into it. Oh well.