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March 2011
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May 2011

house update: lot walk.

we're finally getting to the point when my updates can have actual NEWS in them!

last week we got to do the lot walk with our rep and the building supervisor, billy. we met at the lot with the plan measurements, and set out to make sure everything would fit just fine.

it does.

(standing at the back line of the lot, looking up toward the street.)

(measuring the front line of the house at the setback.)

(walking the front line of the house, from garage to the right side by our neighbors.)

(looking down the side and back yard to the lake.)

all looks good. the revisions to the plans and the budget have all been okayed, the bank is appraising everything, the builder is surveying, we should have a spec meeting in about 10 days, and then we dig.

(updated vision for spring. if you can call it "spring" when there isn't anything green anywhere yet.)

we're so close and yet still sooooo far. at this point, we're walking the line between it finally being real, and still feeling like it's taking forever to actually get here. in hindsight, we would have started the whole process of planning, revising, appraising, etc., a month earlier than we did. we thought the process would go a little faster. now we're running into the possibility that we won't move in until after school starts, and we may have to find a temporary place to live for a month or so.


on that note, we went on a tour of some comparison properties with our realtor yesterday. can i just say that the market right now sucks? it isn't like i didn't know that, but geez. we have a bunch of equity in our house, we've always paid over the monthly mortgage amount, we never borrowed against the house or refinanced, and yet we still have to consider the possibility that we'll have to put money on the table to sell it. it's crazy.

on the comp tour yesterday, we saw half a dozen houses or so that are within about 20k of where we're planning to price point our house. i'd say our house is favorable to most of them, better than more than half, and more updated and modernized than all of them. the biggest hurdle for our house? no master bathroom. all of the houses we looked at had some sort of bathroom in the master bedroom, regardless of what size or condition the bathroom was. so we'll just have to wait and see if people are more swayed by a totally updated, totally move-in-ready house, or one that needs work, but costs a bit less and has a master bath.

basically, it's a crap shoot.

but our house looks great. the photographer for our realtor is coming out monday to do pix, and we'll be listed by the end of the week.

fingers are crossed. i'll keep you posted.

(anyone need a lovely family home in a nice neighborhood in the south metro?)

so, the dominican.

i'm getting this out of the way, even though i can't post the pix from snorkeling (marc packed the camera with the card from that) and don't know how to post a video. (more about that in a bit.) regardless, i'm taking a painting/cleaning/packing break to get these pix up and de-gloomify this gray, rainy day.

remember last year ... we went to puerto rico because marc was invited to red hat's president's club? it's an honor for the top 1% of sales/engineering/support/etc within the company. last year there were about 120 people; this year the number was around 160 who made the trip to the dominican republic. the company is growing and doing very well, and it was a huge honor to marc that of that number, he was only one of just a handful who were invited for a second year.

the full album is here, so this is just a brief recap of our quickie getaway ... that came in the midst of so much going on at home to get ready for our house to go on the market and start the build that marc and i, on day one, sat in the pool lamenting that it was hard to really relax and enjoy where we were because of so much on our plates and in our brains. it was a running theme all weekend ... we were too preoccupied and distracted to really relax and have fun.

but we tried.

we flew through atlanta to punta cana and had an easy-peasy trip. unlike many of the other travelers who connected through atlanta earlier in the day; they got delayed by two hours and actually arrived later than we did.

on the trip down, we seemed to follow a line that went through the bahamas and turks & caicos, because there were amazing little islands below us for the last hour or more.

once we landed, we knew we were in a laid-back part of the world. we deplaned onto the tarmac, stood in line with the rest of the passengers, wandered into an open air terminal under a grass roof, no one seemed to be in any hurry ... we waited in one line to pay our fee to enter the country, then waited in the next line to give our fee receipt to another person who promptly threw the receipt away and waved us through to the next person, who stamped our passports and sent us on to baggage claim. there, we saw that getting all the bags off the plane and into the terminal was the work of one guy in a luggagemobile, who made three trips back and forth to finally get all the bags into the claim area.

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a paragon of efficiency, this airport was not.

but, it was breezy and warm and tropical and different. so it was okay.

then we hopped in a van that drove us 20 minutes to bavaro to the paradisus palma real resort. walking in reminded us so much of puerto rico ... lovely hotel at first, then BAM ... view from the lobby:

we immediately dumped our bags in the room and headed for the pool.

and i proceeded to not touch my camera for the next two days.

however, i took a couple with my phone on night one, of the entertainment putting on a fire-dancing show.

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as soon as i can figure out how to put a video on here, i'll share snippets of the show. the dancers were incredible.

day two ... more pool time and a snorkeling trip to the marinarium. it was okay, as far as snorkeling goes. not as good as puerto rico, and we had to stay with a guide the whole time, but the boat ride was a blast ... we were with marc's sales partner and his wife, his boss and his wife, another sales guy and his wife, among others ... and lots of coco loco to be drunk ... which made for a totally a fun group.

and when we unpack those cameras, i'll share those pix, too.

sadly, on the return trip that afternoon, all the red hatters on the boat who are from the home office in raleigh started getting texts from home about the tornadoes that had just gone through the city. the mood became a bit tense, but luckily it appeared all were safe and spared.

that night was a "white" dinner on the beach ... everyone was to wear white clothes, tables and a band stage and dance floor were set up on the beach, a pre-dinner reception area and buffets and banners were arranged ... and literally ON THE WALK to dinner, marc got a migraine. so we turned around and headed back to the room, where marc tried to fight the migraine for 45 minutes. we emerged to run to the beach for a quick bite to eat, and literally 30 minutes later we were back in the room. he was out for the night, and i sat up and read.

exciting stuff.

the next day was just a quiet, lay around, do nothing day.

marc and i had trouble with that. we both kinda felt like we were ready to just go home and get on with everything we needed to get on with. hopefully, when we do this trip again next year (thinking positively can't hurt, right?), we'll have nothing weighing on us and can just sit back and enjoy every moment. we both earned this trip - marc, for how hard he works, and me, for how much i deal with in his absences - and it's a shame to not fully soak it in.

(and yes, the kids have earned a trip, too, for as much as they put up with daddy being gone and missing things, mommy being stressed and unable to be in two places at the same time, and all the strain of a single-parent home half the year. we're hoping to reward them with an actual spring break somewhere that isn't a) a grandparent's house or b) in front of the wii next year. they've put up with a lot, too, poor buggers.)

(gratuitous easter pix ...)

after a day in the pool, i was burned enough to know my time in the sun was over. we stayed in the room until it was time to walk to the final dinner. a speech from the president, a slide show of the trip, and great conversation with friends, then marc and i headed to the dark, deserted beach to enjoy a final night of toes in the sand, listening to the surf.

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(which, honestly, is our favorite way to experience the beach. without the people or the sun. we're weird like that.)

the next day we wandered the resort a bit more ...

before we began our long trek home, and the next day our adventure with the house resumed with a lot walk with the building supervisor. more on that later ... ;o)

i'm not giving you the silent treatment.


it's just been crazy around here.

last thursday we flew to the dominican republic for five days of schmoozing/celebrating/sunning/drinking/laughing/sleeping/eating/swimming/sunburning with the other '11 president's club members from red hat. marc was one of only a few that were in the club a second year in a row ... he'd like to go for the hat trick next year, so i guess i need to be okay with his travel schedule.

which, given what the calendar looks like over the next month, is hard to swallow right now.

but i have to keep this in mind:

and this, too:

because, let's be honest: marc's buying this house, not me.

i will tell you all about our trip, share pix (from the real camera, not my phone), tell you about doing the lot walk with the building supervisor, etc., but i have to dig my camera out first. and get through the next two days of painting/cleaning/mending/hanging/hole filling/scrubbing/etc. to get this house ready to go on the market in, hopefully, a week or so. because i lose my helper on monday, and getting as much done as possible this weekend is imperative.

so, i'm not ignoring you. i just need a few days. then i'll be back.

please forgive me.




time is moving so darn quickly, and as soon as i get an idea in my head that i want to put down here, crazy happens and it's three days later.

has anyone else realized that we're nearly a third of the way through 2011 already?!

there's more crazy heading our way this week (negotiations, paperwork, money, visit, travel, contractors, cleaning, moving, prepping, painting, popcorning, cleaning, tiling ... and that's just the next 10 days), so in lieu of writing something informative or deep or entertaining, i'm going to share a tutorial. because i've been asked a handful of times in the past month, and this is just easier.

harper's rainbow birthday cake:

now, i don't have any pretty little step-by-step shots ... i was given about two hours in the house by myself to bake this before harper would be home. not enough time to food style and photo shoot.

basically, i followed meg's directions, with a couple of tweaks:

1. for the cake batter, i used egg whites (all whites, in the carton in the egg section of your grocery store) instead whole eggs. i didn't want to run the risk of the batter taking on a yolky yellowishness.

2. for the icing, i used buttercream that i procured from the bakery at the grocery store. a) you get a take-out container of the stuff for the same price as a little can of betty crocker, b) it spreads so easily, c) it's white and fluffy and pretty, d) i'm too lazy to make my own buttercream.

3. she got a cup and a half of batter per layer; i got slightly more than a cup an a quarter. maybe it was the egg whites.

so ...

i made one batch at a time. the batter was mixed up according to directions, swapping out the liquid egg whites for the whole eggs. once the batter was mixed, i divided it into three bowls, 1.25 cups of batter per bowl. then i added in about 1/16th tsp of gel icing coloring and stirred until it was all worked through. if you want fainter color, use less gel color. and you can get these gels in any color you like ... i found mine in the cake decorating aisle at michael's. wouldn't this cake be pretty in a gradient of red to pale pink for valentine's day? pastels for easter? red, white and blue for july 4th?

anyway ... three bowls. food coloring. stir. then i sprayed the heck out of aluminum cake pans with pam for baking ... the pam that has flour in it. (ok, sidenote: that stuff smells GOOD!) the cake pans had the scalloped sides, which gave my layers their pretty shape. i poured each color of batter into its own pan and baked for, roughly, 12 minutes. while they were baking, i washed the bowls and made the next box of cake mix and got the next three colors ready.

once the cakes were done, i let them cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, then turned them out onto wire racks to cool. once they were all cool, i wrapped them in plastic wrap and put them in the freezer for about three hours. another hour or so would have been better. mine were still a bit warm and soft and fluffy ... stiffer would have been better.

one at a time, i placed a layer on the plate, spread some buttercream, added the next layer, more buttercream, etc. by the time i reached the last layer ... i was running low on buttercream. i asked marc if he could please run to the store for more. he suggested i leave the cake as-is so we could see the rainbow. hmm ... curious. sounds like he didn't want to drive a mile to the store.

but i went with it. frosted the top, and there you have it. oh - except it needed a little pizzazz. because it was a rainbow cake. way too subtle on its own. so once i brought harper up and surprised her with her cake (she was thrilled! then asked if it was chocolate.), i then handed her rainbow-colored sugar sprinkles and told her to accessorize the frosting. which she did.

remember how i said the layers should have spent more time in the freezer? well, here's why: the whole thing was very, very fluid. wanted to move. wanted to topple. hence the skewers you see in the picture. had i had the time, i would have created a little banner with patterned paper and bakers twine and decorated the skewers to make them look intentional. i had neither the time nor the idea on this particular day.

next year.

when i figure out how to make a chocolate rainbow cake.

lucky thing i had those skewers in there, though. as soon as i cut into the cake at the party, the whole thing wanted to fall over. so the skewers then became the anchor for cake kebabs. i sliced that cake up and served it on a stick, like some dessert at a brazilian steakhouse. exotic.

and really, those tall, thin slices of rainbow on a plate ... they were gorgeous.

this cake was a lot of fun. harper loved it, her friends loved it, her friends' moms loved it, and i felt good that i did something special for my girl on her day.

it definitely took a little more work than a traditional two-layer cake, but it was so worth it.

try it. have fun with the colors. let me know if you do something fabulous when you make one!

just a quiet little weekend.

let's see ...

we unloaded all of the packed boxes in the house and all of the garage, filling up four temporary storage containers with about one-third of all of our earthly belongings. (little unpaid plug: if you need to move or get stuff out of your house for awhile, door to door storage is amazing! we used them the last time we moved, and knew we would do business again with them for this move. they drop off the bins, you fill them, they pick them up and store them in a secure, climate controlled warehouse, and then when you need your stuff back, they return it to you at the location of your choice. awesome.)

i had a photo shoot friday afternoon.*

we met with our builder rep and got the bid for the house.**

we sent marc to vegas.

i took the kids shopping for new sneakers. my six-year-old wears a 1.5, my 11-year-old wears a 9/9.5. in mens. yikes.

henry got his hairs cut.

we ate leftovers and watched spring wipeout. then harper went to bed and henry and i watched survivor.

all in all, pretty boring weekend.


*remember this beautiful belly?


on friday i got to spend some time with the final product, miss z:

she's super cute and super happy.

except when you put her in her easter dress.

**the meeting with our rep went well ... we were with her nearly two hours at a model home on a parade of homes day. luckily, it was friday at dinnertime, so traffic through the house was pretty slow. and the kids did great just playing gameboys and staying out of our hair. the next-to-final plan looks good, the bids on everything came back about where marc and i expected. we're right on the edge of being able to get the loan without being contingent on selling our house first, so we're really hoping that we can squeak it in there. if we have to wait to start the build until the house is sold, i'll throw up. (as it is, getting in the house before school starts is going to be iffy.) otherwise, we have to make hard decisions: finish the basement later? back out on going with geothermal? give up having tongue and groove ceilings in the main level? oh wait ... i already had to do that. they were going to cost 17k. uh, no. so now it's all paperwork and approvals and meetings and permits and review boards and blah blah blah, and THEN we can start digging. i swear, if we hit may and there isn't a hole in the ground yet, i will be out there with my shovel. (THIS is the stressful party to me. all that building and decision-making stuff? ha. piece of cake compared to the WAITING.)

anyway, it was a good meeting.

then we went out for tacos.

today i met with the contact at the carpet/tile/wood floor/shingle/doorknob/everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-literally place, and we went over what carpet and tile and wood floor and shingle, etc. were within our builder's allowance. i think we'll have no problem staying at or near budget on carpet (though, really, ick ... is there anything uglier than a carpet sample? NONE of them looked like something i would want on 1500 sq feet of floor.). tile will be close ... there are a couple of tile selections i'm willing to go over to get, but those are in very small doses, so that's good. that marble hex tile i was thinking for the fireplace surround? for whatever reason, this supplier doesn't have marble hex. or little marble subways. they have big marble subways. so, i'll have to ponder that. it might look okay, playing off the white subway tile backsplash in the kitchen, but with the grayish striations in the marble to work with the, coughcough, sofas. and maybe the scale of the larger subway will be better, given the scale of the, again, sofas. (when did i start designing a house around a friggin' piece of furniture that, up until a month ago, i had never given a moment's thought?!) and there were a couple of options for the master bath that could be worked in subtly and in small quantities to give the room a higher-end feel without a high-end price tag. we'll keep it simple and standard in the other bathrooms.

it did feel good, when she pulled out the granite samples, to say, "no, my friend. we won't be needing those." soapstone has been procured, and stainless has been bid and comes in - drumroll - UNDER ALLOWANCE!!! i'm saving us, like, a bunch of money by going stainless on the island! well, maybe not "a bunch," but enough that i did a little happy dance when i found out. it almost pays for two piano windows, let's just put it that way. and depending on how big the soapstone slab is, there may be leftover rock that can be used for a vanity top in one of the bathrooms ... that would be thrifty!

as the lady and i talked, she remarked that i seem quite well prepared and not at all intimidated by the selection process. she has no idea, does she? i think i could sign on the dotted line right now for pretty much everything, from light fixtures to paint colors to stinkin' doorknobs, if it would make this thing happen faster.

later this week i will do the same thing at the appliance place ... i have a feeling THAT is where the allowance budget goes bye-bye. and we just keep plugging away on our house and get it ready for market. it would be nice if the insurance-supplied contractor would call to schedule when they will start the work; that kinda needs to happen before we can put the sign in the yard.

and the clock's a tickin'.