Thursday, August 29, 2013


Gateways Inn - Lenox Massachusetts

Gateways Inn Main Staircase

Beer Geek Breakfast

Norman Rockwell Self Portrait

Rockwell's Golden Rule

Rockwell's - Freedom from Want
Based on FDR's Four Freedoms Speech

Downtown Stockbridge
(still trying to figure out the camera on the new phone)
I'm sure you've heard of Alice's Restaurant
Berkshire Botanical Gardens
Hiking in the Woods

Brewery in Great Barrington

All this watching the house building on vacation was wearing me out to the point of approaching burnout so my better half and I took off for a few days to the town of Lenox in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts. We stayed at the Gateways Inn ( and had a perfect room down the end of a hall on the second floor. We were between rushes like the calm before the storm of Labor Day weekend so it was relatively quiet with no lines no matter where we went.
Only problem was I was knocked off my feet with a stomach bug and spent the afternoon that we arrived sleeping. My better half headed out to the local shops to see what they had to offer. I wonder if she slipped something in my water?
Later we went out to a light dinner at a tapas place named Brava ( where the bartender recommended a beer named, ready for this, Beer Geek Breakfast. It was an oatmeal stout made with coffee and while strong still did a good job of sort of settling my stomach. It helped me sleep anyways. Joined with a perfect pizza and we had the right place for a nice night of relaxing conversation.
The next day we traveled a short distance to the Norman Rockwell Museum ( in Stockbridge, Massachusetts where they have many of his famous paintings on display. I’ve always been a fan of his work so it was a perfect place to spend time viewing his work. They also have his last studio on the grounds (it was moved from its original site) and you can walk through and see how he had everything set up and ask questions of the guide. A trip to the Berkshire Botanical Gardens which is just up the street followed and later a trip into downtown Stockbridge completed the day of lazing off. Dinner, while with good company, was unremarkable and the service even more so.
But here’s a note to anybody that works as a wait staff – when you know folks are on vacation and have to ask for bread and then have to ask again for a refill of the original three pieces and are never asked how our meals are or if we would like another drink, then expect that your tip will reflect the level of service you have provided. You’ll not get stiffed because we don’t do that, but we’re a generous tipper if you at least make our night nice and not distracted with lousy service.
Walking back to the Inn, we passed a yogurt place (the latest food fad) and I asked my better half if yogurt would be good for my ailing stomach. She replied “it will be no worse than the beer you had last night.” I thought she’s right. So I passed on the healthy food and we went back to Brava and ended the night with another Beer Geek Breakfast beer. I’m a new fan.
The next day on the way home, we stopped and hiked to Ice Glen in Stockbridge which is a small gorge in the woods that holds ice even in the summer. Unfortunately, at summer end the ice is all melted but it was a nice hike in the deep woods where you could see a lot of old growth forest.
We had a late lunch at the Barrington Brewery (no there is not a theme here) and then headed home.
Being away is always nice. Being home is always better. Coming home and finding work being done on the house is priceless.
Enjoy your day.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Vacation & Irises

Newport - A Summer Sail
It was relaxing to watch it glide across the waves
Barrington, RI Harbor - End of the afternoon
Irises from a Friend Ready for Planting
So in addition to me being on vacation, it looks like the house construction has taken a vacation as well. Other than shingling on two walls not much else happened. We were told that there would be momentary lulls like this as one contractor winds down and others wind up. It just seems to be bad planning when the home owner has to watch the lull. Let’s hope this week is a wind up week.
Seeing there was nothing to watch at the house we went down to Newport and had a great lunch and caught the cool breeze coming off the bay while watching the boats go by. It was relaxing and a well-deserved break.
It was nice to receive a box from a friend full of Irises ready to plant. I have a lot of ideas of where I want plant them but because the landscaping is so far from being done I have to find a temporary new home for them. And I can’t wait until next spring to see their colors.
Of course I don’t want summer to be over either but it looks like we’re heading into our last week (September doesn’t count). And I’ve enjoyed each day that we’ve had so far.
Enjoy your week.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Siding Progress, Vacation and Good Bye to Old Friends

Starting the Shingling on the Back

Lunch Time Break - Progress!

Another View

End of Day - Back of the House Completed
Next Day and the North Side is Completed!

Trusty Old Friends

The siding is going up rapidly with the back and north sides completed. I’m a bit concerned about the color as we were originally looking for more of the grayer Nantucket look. However, apparently the shingles are no longer available in Misty Gray so we went with the Weathering Oil which appears to be more brown than gray. Hopefully it will give it the gray look that we want.
I’m on vacation for the next two weeks. I warned the builder. I won’t be surprised to see a security fence going up soon.
In life we’re given many paths. Some we take by choice others are just put in front of us without any options for a left or right so we just move straight ahead. And helping us carry our baggage down those paths is our bag of tools. Including a good pair of shoes.
I had such a pair. A pair of Merrell Hiking shoes. They were about fifteen years old. I used them more for working around the house then hiking. But I wore them carrying my kids around in the wheelbarrow as they were growing up when I was working on my first house. I wore them when I climbed a 5,000 footer in New Hampshire by myself like a monk seeking solace at the top of a mountain where I accepted the fact that my marriage to my children’s mother was over. I wore them at my second house which was my bachelor pad as I rehabbed it and constructed a retaining wall and dug and moved more dirt than I want to fondly remember. And I wore them so many years later as I worked on my new house with my new bride as we start our life together.
I’ve dug, shoveled snow, walked in mud, climbed roofs, cut grass, sawn wood, hiked and enjoyed life in them. And they were really showing the wear and tear of life, but they were still going  strong. Until recently.
My left shoe developed a half dollar size tear in the tread right under the ball of my foot, but being the good thrifty New England Yankee that I am I thought, heck, they’re still good. I’ll just stay out of puddles.
So there I was moving a hydrangea from a house that I found on Craigslist (another blog to come) that was re-landscaping. I was jumping with both feet on the shovel to get some depth and cut through the roots, sort of like jumping on a pogo stick. Well, anyone who has ever done this would know that your time on the shovel is only momentary and you have to jump off or else you’ll fall over. Wouldn’t you know it as I was jumping off, that little half dollar size tear caught on the top of the shovel blade. My arms went up in the air flailing away as I lost my balance and then before I knew it I was rapidly stumbling backwards in a herky jerky sort of way with my arms wildly wind milling trying to grab at anything to keep from falling. Four backwards steps later I went ass over tea kettle and landed with a thud on my butt about ten feet from the plant I was trying to dig up. I had to start laughing and wondering if any neighbors were doing the same.
So there’s life. A bunch of paths thrown at us some of which we take willingly (and blindly at times) but we move forward. And like life we rely on many ways to get us through but we need to know when to make changes. Like realizing that a good pair of shoes will only take you so far and you need to know when to get new ones. And you also need to know when to laugh.
So good bye to my old Merrells. Thank you for helping me get through life. And hello to my new Merrells. I’m sure we’re going to have some good adventures ahead of us. And laughter too.
Enjoy your day.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Siding, Skylights and some Down Time

Staging for the Siding!
Future Home of a Skylight
A Relaxing View
The siding company was onsite on Saturday setting up the staging so they can start the siding work this week. It’s a bit nerve wracking as the color is picked out (Maibec White Cedar Shakes with Misty Gray Weathering Oil) and the shingles have been delivered. Now comes the big drum roll. Will it look good? I’m sure it will as we’ve done our homework and it better. My better half reminded me this weekend that it was my deal as I picked it out. So I know it will look good. It will be great to see the siding going up as it will add to the character of the house.
We decided to do a change order (I’ll blog about those along the way) and have a skylight put in over the stairs leading to the room over the garage. We had toyed around with the idea of adding a small window on the landing but felt that a skylight would bring in a lot more light. The light will bring with it the added feature of making the stairway feel more open.
We spent Saturday afternoon at a friend’s house on the water overlooking the entrance to New Bedford harbor. They had nice gathering of a large group of old friends where we could set aside the frenetic pace of house building, paver and plant moving (another story) and other things that we call life. It was so nice to see everyone and have some down time. And listen to the waves gently shsssh against the shoreline. It was decompressing. And we enjoyed every moment.
Enjoy your week.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Doors, Stairs and a Filled in Trench

Kitchen Door that will Lead in from the Porch
Future Home of the Kitchen Door (and Porch)

Garage Back Door
Future Home of the Garage Back Door

Stairs Leading Up From the Basement

Stairs Leading Down from the Kitchen to the Basement and Garage

Stairs Leading up From the Garage to the Kitchen
And the Trench is Filled In!
The doors have all now arrived. Well except for the garage doors which will come somewhere down the road. We now have the kitchen door and the door to the back of the garage sitting in the garage patiently waiting for someone to come along and install them.

The stairs leading from the garage up to the kitchen and down to the basement have finally been added. I’m not sure why they were saved to almost last, but at least they are in. I’m guessing given that the doors are about to be installed and nailed shut (no hardware yet), they needed some way to get into the house.

And the electrical conduit trench has been filled in. Apparently, it had to wait on the inspection. And of course, with an open trench the siding couldn’t be done because I’m guessing they could fall in the trench or something like that. Either way the siding staples are in (yes, they use staples which hold the shingles better) so we don’t have to worry about for want of a nail.

Tomorrow the framers have some cats and dogs to wrap up including the installation of a couple of skylights. Then it’s on to the electrical and siding next week. We hope.

And I still have a bunch of pavers to pick up. My back is saying “yay!”

Not really.

Enjoy your weekend

Monday, August 12, 2013

Electrical, Water & Pavers Update

Electrical Conduit Running to the Telephone Pole

The Conduit will be Run Up to the Meter

View from the Pole to the House

Conduit will be Run up the Pole

The Red Tape, which will be buried, will let
Anyone Know that there is an Electrical Line Buried Below.
Electrical Circuit Breaker Panel
It's interesting how they ran the Sewer Line Behind it
The Blue Line is the Water Service Coming Into the House
Water Service Curb Stop (Shutoff) Buried about 6 inches Below Grade
Pavers - 2 Pallets Moved with Another Started
The trenches have dug for the electrical and the water service and the conduit for the electrical, cable and phone has been run. The electrical panel has been added in the basement. Now we’re just waiting on the conduit inspection so that the trench can be filled in. Hopefully that will happen tomorrow as today was a state holiday in RI.  Yup, it was Victory Day today which was formally known as Victory Over Japan Day.  I can even remember as a kid when we had Victory in Europe Day. Both of which celebrated the end of World War II in Europe and Japan. I'm sure like the aging Veteran's that fought in that war, these holidays will pass in time as well.
So besides being closer to having power in the house, the water line has also been roughed in so hopefully we’ll have water soon. Not that we can run it anywhere without faucets, but it would be nice to know we’re that close to having it.
And we’re making headway on the pavers. I have to stack them out of the way because of the top soil that has to be brought in so I’ll be moving them again somewhere down the road when we start the patio work. I like to think of it as good exercise. My back and knees likes to think otherwise.
Enjoy your week.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

I must be Crazy

Future Patio (about 25 x 20) Outlined by 2 x 4's
Green area with Garden and Grass to the right
The Stairs from the Deck will come down alongside the Garage wall
We'll tie that into the Patio with a walkway

Paver Pile

From the Other End
There a lot of things that get thrown at you when building a house.  Change orders that mean we need to give the builder more money or things that looked good on the plans but not in real life (or missed altogether) will all drive you crazy. And then there are those things that are self-induced that you know full well that somewhere along the way you're going to say "I must be crazy!"
Mine, at the moment, is self-induced. I saw this ad on Craigslist for pavers. You know, the kind that are used in walkways and patios. I’m planning on building our own patio and when I saw that someone had a boat load of them for sale, I jumped. I’m always on a quest for a “deal”. The ones I found were from folks that had replaced the pavers that served as a patio around the perimeter of their pool with stamped concrete. About 1,000 square feet and perfect for us. One small catch though. They are piled up behind the pool and the pile is about 20 feet long, 10 feet wide and about 5 feet high. And it’s not a neat pile. Just a pile. And they had to be moved from out of the woods behind the pool to the driveway out front (there is no trailer access to the “pile”).
When I first saw them, the first word that came to mind was “daunting”. The second thought was OK, so you’ve spent an evening in the emergency room and another morning in an outpatient clinic because of throwing out your back so this is a good idea why? So of course, being the knucklehead that I can be, I bought them anyways.
I tried some horse trading early on to try get some help in moving them saying in my best Tom Sawyeresque voice “Don’t you want a patio? I’ll trade a pallet for your help.” No takers (yet).
So I started moving them myself yesterday with my trailer. I figure if I do small loads, and listen to my back when it’s murmuring, not screaming to stop, I should be OK. Besides, I have some leftover meds from that ER visit that I kept around for the next back “emergency”.
I’ll keep you posted. Now let’s see, where are those meds…?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Big Week Coming Up

The White Cedar Shingles Have Arrived!
Stacked in the Garage Too

Maibec Nantucket White Cedar Shakes

Electric Meter Location
You can see the Telephone Pole in the Background where the Trench will go

View Looking from the Pole Towards the House
The Orange Lines Mark out the Utilities Trench
The Shingles are in! A couple of loads and a side order of shingles have arrived. We went with the Maibec White Cedar R & R’s (rebutted, resquared) shingles for our siding. They’ve been coated with a gray weathering oil to give it that Cape Cod look. We think the color will look excellent with the white trim. Rebutted, resquared means that the bottoms of the shingles have been squared off. This provides a more even shingle and helps the work move faster. They’re pricier but overall, it will be better look.
Also the trench for the utilities (electrical, phone & cable) has been marked out. Our plan is to bury the lines as the closest pole is out front and we didn’t want any wires coming into the front of the house.  Again, it’s pricey but overall it will give the house a nice neat look without any wires hanging from it.
At the same time that the electrical trench is going in we are having the trench dug for the water service. The curb stop is already in from the last house so it should be pretty straight forward. Of course, it’s required that the installer be licensed with the local water authority to do the install so this narrows the playing field down a bit. The company we have hired does a lot of work for our builder so we know we have the right person for the job.
So if everything goes according to my plan (I suppose I should check with the builder…) by the end of the week, we’ll have electrical service and water service installed. And maybe the siding started.
The house is slowly but steadily coming alive.