10 Week Countdown

Today we hit 30 weeks in our pregnancy with Grain. My belly is a basketball and Matt is constantly cracking good hearted jokes about me being a turtle with my shell on backwards.

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Matt is cranking away on the remodel…we are going to need every last day to get this thing done. What is left? A lot:

-finish building/installing kitchen cabinets

-clean blackboard slate (old glue from when they were installed in a school)

-demo existing counters and backsplash

-install new counters and backsplash

-refinish hardwood floors

-install crown/baseboard and other molding

-paint kitchen cabinets, pantry and new fireplace builtins (this may be a post baby project)

Ambitious? Yes, but it is what we need to do. We scheduled the crowning piece for the final week in June: refinishing the hardwood floors! Two weeks before my due date could be an issue, but we have a place to stay nearby, with backup plans if baby has decided to come early. People keep asking about the nursery and I just have to laugh…not till the upstairs is done!

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We decided to put open bookshelves for cookbooks etc on the end of our new cabinet section. When all trimmed out and painted white, this kitchen is going to look SO GOOD!

Spring is still taking it’s time in arriving in the PNW. We still have not hit 60 more than a few times! The garden is so far behind and it has been so wet that there has not been much motivation to do anything. We have some tomatoes and squash started in the house, so when it does warm up we will get them outside (and free up space!).

Living in a remodel has been not comfortable, but we are managing it pretty darn well. Luckily our master bedroom is still an untouched retreat where we can have some sense of normalcy in our house. I have been doing a lot of sleeping, resting, taking baths…Matt has been fabulous at just letting me be however I need to be to grow little Grain. It is exhausting!

Since I do not have a direct role in the remodel physically, I am supporting with a constant stream of supplies, research, food and project management (ha!). Getting bids on hardwood floors was a focus last month and we are thrilled with the team we found. I need to order backsplash tile soon, and measure for crown and baseboard molding (I misplaced my list of lengths many months ago…ugh!)

Wish us luck in this last stretch! It is slightly intimidating, but we can see the light at the end of this long long tunnel. And there will be a baby to snuggle when we get there!

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A Week in the Life

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I have been meaning to write this post for a while now. I have always been curious about how other people live, and now that we are expecting a baby, wanting to capture how WE live pre-baby. I am sure it will be fun to look back on when we are a family of three with a very different schedule!

A few facts to start on:

  • We purchased a house with just under an acre of land nearly 4 years ago. At the time, Matt and I were both working, but always had the intention of being on one income at some point.
  • In 2014, Matt moved his focus home full time. Remodeling, cooking, cleaning, growing food. It has been THE.BEST.DECISION.EVER for our family. He is far happier, we have more free space to do things (only one work schedule to accommodate!) and had planned for this so financially it was an adjustment, but manageable.
  • I work in the city, and commute 4-5 days per week. Most of this is on public transportation (bus, water taxi, bus) but once or twice per week I will drive for work meetings, and get reimbursed for mileage. On these days I also make time to run our off island errands and do the bulk of our grocery shopping. Matt keeps a dynamic list of what we need and I can pick it up when I am out.
  • We have one vehicle: our trusty but little mini cooper!

Now that there are a few basics in place, our story becomes pretty routine.

I am up at either 5 or 6 depending on my work schedule that day, shower and dress while Matt puts together my breakfast and lunch. By 7 or 8 I am at the office and Matt is home doing is morning routine (take care of chickens, cats, doing dishes for previous night, playing some guitar). While I work so does he. Right now, the focus is our house remodel…which is extensive and we have been cranking on for nearly 14 months.

I walk in the door around 5:05 which means the work day is over for Matt as well. We make it a priority to not work past 5 o’clock on any day (unless there is a real exception that we need to keep going on a project) and get cleaned up and dinner going. Most of the time we whip something up from scratch, but recently I have been making a larger meal on Sunday that can get us at least through two nights of leftovers.

During the week, I usually shower off the work day (being on the bus feels kinda gross when I am back home), and start cooking while Matt puts away the chickens, plays a bit more guitar and winds down. Eating by 6:30 is the goal, and these days are in front of 2-3 episodes of something on Netflix. It is a low key evening, and we leave the kitchen a mess. Ha! Around 8 or 8:15, we are off to bed.

Weekends are a little more flexible, and we give ourselves space to sleep in and have a slow breakfast. Often we will make pancakes or waffles one morning, and then smoothies and eggs the other. We eat and hang out and listen to a slew of radio shows. By noon, we are usually moving towards more “productive” things: Matt working on the remodel, I am cleaning the kitchen, bills/taxes/paperwork, cooking, making sea glass mobiles for my Etsy shop, or in the garden. If the weather and tides cooperate we will do a beach walk. A quick pause for a snack if we need it, but often times we will just work through lunch. Dinner is not much different than the weeknight routine, but we may stay up till 10 (!) or so watching a movie. Big night!

We also try to pack in weekend adventures (though those are on hold with remodel taking #1, #2, and #3 priority!!!) of surfing/camping at the coast, going to Matt’s parents lake property, hiking, visiting family etc.

So yea, that is how our life generally looks these days. As we prepare for a baby this summer it was important for us to consider many aspects of this lifestyle to help us figure out what we needed/wanted for a car/stroller/sleeping arrangements etc. It was a worthwhile exercise to really focus on! We are certain that things will change as a family of 3, but this is a solid baseline to adjust from.

 

Notes to Twenty Sixteen

Yesterday I met a friend for coffee. We met in our go-to coffee shop for an hour of laughter and talking, catching up about holiday travel, to-be boyfriends (her) and spouses (me), art, photography, plans for the future. It was wonderful. I have made these metups a priority since starting my daily trek into the city. Living on Vashon has been isolating in good and challenging ways. We are farther away from old circles. At the same time, life is changing for those circles. New jobs, kids, relationships, and life pull everyone into every more complicated full days. It is hard to make time for weekend meetups regardless of how close our homes are. That said, our friend social calendar has been pretty void. Coffee dates and lunches with girlfriends are my go-to social engagements and it is truly a highlight for me. Major priority to continue this year.

While waiting for Sheryl to arrive, I pulled out my little purse notebook to jot down thoughts. Years ago my friend Jenny gave me a small green notebook, and I have carried in my purse ever since. It does not get much use, but does contain some pretty significant notes, doodles and thought streams. It is always there when I need to jot down ideas. I filled a page with what is roaming in my head…a good thing to get down so I can actually focus!

So what I am focused on? Well, work is good and new. I have a new boss and a bigger team. After a year of challenge with too many tasks outside of my wheelhouse (both skill and interest) I am invigorated to tackle more projects that are what I love to do this year. This new team needs my skills for their projects, and they want to take the stuff I hate! Win win!

Second, art is constantly on my mind. I am thrilled to report that I have officially applied for a business license (!) and am going to be kicking off my Etsy store and possible local sales as soon I have enough inventory built up. I am thrilled, excited, ecstatic, energized by this. I needed a creative outlet more than I realized. Much more to come in the next weeks and months. Stay tuned.

I am also constantly on the ideation track for our home projects. Last weekend we designed a new fireplace. And built-in bookshelves. Now I need to buckle down and find some more matching kitchen cabinets to finish our space. And source some more locally produced reclaimed brick veneer. All these ideas are leading to more excitement about reclaimed building materials in general. I seem to always come back to old buildings, reclaimed materials, historic remodels…a slow backburner idea for a possible future career path.

Random: we started growing our own mealworms yesterday. Chicken food! Matt says he could become the Vashon kingpin of mealworms.

And finally travel. We love to go and explore new places. In 2016 we have NOTHING on the books. There are a handful of exciting destination weddings in the wings so that may be what we build around. Alaska in June is sounding very likely. Travel budget was eaten by remodels so we are trying to plan on a major budget. A good challenge but takes up brain space.

We are thankful that we are in good health going into 2016. Feeling strong and capable and happy. Matt loves being home and I love that he is embracing that role. Yesterday he deep cleaned the fridge! I am feeling thankful for health insurance so I can get my sore neck spot looked at next week. I am feeling grateful for being near family so that we get so see them more often. 2016 is going to be a good, full year.

The Big Tree

Our back yard had a big tree. Tall and strong, protecting us from erosion and giving a beautiful frame to our view.

But our tree is broken. It’s double trunk was a tell-tale sign that the tree would not be a permanent fixture in our yard. Plus, it shaded our prime gardening area and soaked up so much water nothing would grow beneath it.

Bittersweet was the day the tree started to deteriorate. Two weeks ago we lost one of the two trunks in a spectacularly perfect fall in our yard. It landed cleanly only taking out one fence post in the garden we plan to redesign anyway.

With all branches on one side of the tree, and a huge wound in the side, we knew it was time to take our tree out for good. Armed with plans for replanting, both garden and slope stabilizing plants, we are ready to reshape the look of our property. We found a guy on the island willing to help us just for fun, so this past Sunday, the tree came down. It was a great experience. He coached Matt through the process and let him do all the sawing. After a few strategic cuts, the tree fell exactly where we wanted it to with a spectacular crash! Success!

Now we have a much wider view, more sunsets, more garden space. But we will miss that tree. Thank you for the life you provided while you were here.

Off to a good start!

Things are looking good for 2013 so far! Work is going well, two projects that I have been managing for almost 2 years both just received LEED Gold certification and are OVER! Phew! What a long slog of details, paperwork, stress and technical challenges. I have an amazing team that made it bearable, and we are all celebrating today. This week I start my 6 week assignment sitting on a design committee for a new high school. I was specifically invited to participate by the District, and am one of three people from my company on the team…the other two being our CEO and a vice president! This should be some great experience and open more doors. And there are murmurs that bonuses may happen this year…

I am excited about school too. This quarter is already miles ahead of last in terms of how enthused I am about the content. We are moving past the “get everyone on the same page” intros and really digging into the MBA side of what I wanted to get out of the program. I am thrilled to be working on a new case study team with two great guys I became friends with over last quarter, and working with my awesome group of ladies for the team project. We are well on our way to out-do ourselves last quarter.

Matt and I are doing great too. We are making plans to see friends more, spend more quality time together, and have really enjoyed the prospect of a new place on Vashon. We are trying to make appointments with financial people, saving even more, and getting creative with date nights and vacations. Cooking with cheaper ingredients (ie: beans!) and exercising more. We are planning an Oregon coast road trip for this summer that I am thrilled about, and already have a beach vacation to Grand Cayman on the books. Now all we need to do is find Matt and new job and we are set.

Tonight we are watching “The Money Pit”…a reccomendation from my parents as we embark on finding our dream home. Library = awesome way to find old movies.

2013 is off to a great start. Would it be asking too much to have a little snow now too?

Photobook Comparison: Blurb vs. MyPubisher vs. AdoramaPix

Those who know me know that I am ALWAYS taking pictures, and those of you know me better also know that I love to turn those photos into beautiful photobooks. I started this in college, after returning from 4 months in Africa. I wanted to share my images with friends and family without lugging around a computer. There is something special about turning pages of a book…I feel like it makes the images feel more like a story, which is actually what they are.

I started by reading tons of online reviews, and settled on Blurb.com for my first books. They seemed to be higher quality and I really liked the software that they provided. The print quality was nice too, though I would have liked the option for lay flat pages. Oh well, for the past 6 or so books, I have used Blurb and been quite happy. Their software is downloaded on your computer so you do not need an internet connection to work…and you get to work with photos stored on your hard drive. Pages are very customizable, and there are TONS of standard layout templates. Bonus: your custom templates can be saved and reused. Downside: not many discount codes or sales, so they can be pricy. Also they can have far more pages (probably becuase they are not lay flat) and since my annual books are over the 76 page limit of AdoramaPix, Blurb is still a go-to.

My mom has made some books on Snapfish and some other publishers that have sent free book coupons. They were ok. Very standard.

I was ready to start my next Blurb book, but…there could always be something better right? So I decided to try out MyPublisher.com. I had a discount code and immediately liked the options they offer (lay flat pages, different cover finishes etc), but was very unimpressed with their software. It is hard to use and frustrating to customize. You cannot specify the size or dimensions of an image box. At least they give you grid lines to follow. I found it frustrating to use, but yes, it did work.

A few months ago I ordered my first book from MyPublisher. I was so excited to compare my old Blurb books to this newcomer, and see how the quality compares. I loved that they offered lay-flat pages, and had an ok software package for customizing layouts. Final result: I was happy with the book but they did not feel as high of quality even if the images were better than Blurb.

Fast forward a few months and I am working on another book…this time: AdoramaPix. This company has been on my mind for a long time now, but their initially higher cost was a turn off. I started working on a book after being drawn in to their steal of a deal on a 12 page book. I started designing on their online software and found it pretty easy to use, but limited in pre-made templates that I liked. I also did not like how clumsy it was to replicate spreads once I did customize them! Also, you work online with this software, which means you have to upload photos to the website to work with them. Be prepared to invest some time with this.

Adorama books are standard thicker photo quality paper with lay-flat pages, so I was really excited to see how the final product turned out. Result: I was BLOWN AWAY! The quality of the binding, printing, cover and images were all FAR superior to the previous books I have made. This is really a professional quality book, while the others are great, this one just really takes the cake. They are more expensive, but I was patient and waited around for a 30% off code. Well worth the wait! UPDATE: my most recent book I ordered for 60% off! Splurged and got the real leather cover too!

And the winners are:

Overall Quality: AdoramaPix, super high book quality, fast printing, excellent option for a special album (wedding, gift etc). Maxes out at 76 pages so not suitable for large volume books (like my annual yearbooks). (BONUS! if you create your book and wait around for a sale, I have seen deals for 20%-60% off!)

Price: Blurb is by far the more economical but still high end option. For a standard page set (14 or 20 pages) prices about tie, but as you increase pages, Adoramapix prices go up really FAST! Since many of my annual books are 100+ pages, I will probably be sticking with Blurb for those.

Software usability and customizability: Blurb …though Adorama pix is getting better with the recent update. Maybe I just have not found it, but the Adorama software does not let you save custom spreads as templates so you just have to copy/paste.

Image Qualtiy: AdoramaPix

Pages: AdoramaPix

Cover Quality: AdoramaPix

I am exited to make another book! Honeymoon book is in the works 🙂

UPDATE from 2017: I have fully transitioned to using Zno.com for all my photobook publishing. Their quality is great and the software (online format) is easy to use. I have also decided from a personal preference that I like smaller more simple books as my collection grows. I now make 6×6 simple books from Zno that I love. Best of luck in your creativity!

Our Vashon Dream

After over a year of talking, researching and visiting for fun, Matt and I are moving on to the next stage of making our dream to move from West Seattle to Vashon Island a reality!

We have been tracking properties on the island for months and month, watching some cute ones pop up, seeing land come up for sale, and many of them selling. Nothing was quite right in the houses we saw, so we started looking more seriously at land.

We have some major “wants” for our dream property (with or without a house):

  • Roughly 10 acres, with enough “usable” land for a few cows and other animals
  • View (of water preferably…it is on an island after all)
  • Pond, creek or stream
  • Big trees
  • To feel like we are in our own place, not squished up next to a neighbor
  • Open to the sky for a garden
  • Further north on the island as possible
  • If it has a house, we want one with character that needs work, but is not a total tear down
  • The house has to have character too…preferably Craftsman style character

So with all that in mind, last week we saw 10 acres pop up for $120,000. Steal! We decided that this was the time we had been waiting for and called up with realtor. From that one phone call we learned a lot. Like the fact that most of the properties currently for sale were only partially usable and flat for building since there is some really intense topography on Vashon (ravines EVERYWHERE!). Hence the cheap price. There was only one possible place to build a house on this lot, and it was right next to the neighbor. So this one was out, but she offered to show us some more places, just to get our feet wet in the actual market and teach us more about the process. So yesterday we went.

We hopped on the 8:30 ferry, and by 9:00 we were in town making our way to try the out local bakery (test #1…it passed). We ordered an awesome cinnamon roll and salmon croissant, then walked to the grocery store to check out the island selection of groceries. We compared prices to things in West Seattle, and they were very comparable! And looked like good quality. (test #2, also passed).

At 10:00 we met up with the realtor and talked through all sorts of information. We learned about zoning on the island, water issues, soil challenges, access agreements, the lending process, loans for land vs. loans for houses (land is almost impossible to get a loan for apparently), what we wanted, why we wanted to move there etc. It was basically a brain bump from us and then she immediately filled ours with tons of new and interesting information. We had a game plan to visit 3 land parcels, and then we cruised by a listing board with houses just in case we wanted to check any of those out too.  None really popped out at us, but she suggested a remodeled in 1964 house that had a nice chunk of land. She told us that the house was not really what we were looking for but, we if we wanted to see it just to have some experience seeing houses in the real world, it was close by.

So we went to the house first.

It had a short driveway off a secondary main road, lined with big trees and wetlands. The first thing we saw when we pulled up was a big white box. Character = ZERO. No windows on that side. A big white (that really needed paint) box. Oh well, were here for the experience.

We walked in and were greeted by a fake wood paneled hallway, and a mix of mottled brown carpet, bare subfloor, linoleum floors in the kitchen and lime green carpet. Just oozing craftsman style (can you sense the sarcasm there?).

Then we made it into the living room, and we fell in love. Massive picture windows covered literally every exterior wall, and they looked over an expansive deck, pond, and orchard that sloped down to the Sound. Apparently at one time there was a water view with views of the Olympics, but the trees had grown up. Even better! There was so much natural light that even on that cloudy, drizzly day, the whole room seemed warm and cozy. The big brick fireplace helped too!

We walked into the kitchen from there, and were impressed by how big and open it was. Remodel needed of course, but it just felt so good. Same with the dining room (big glass sliding doors to the deck there too), and laundry room and office. The whole thing just felt special and in need of a family to move in.

Upstairs there were 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, all with big windows and another huge deck overlooking the orchard. Matt loved that the master bedroom had a wood burning stove in it. From out outside, the non-driveway side of the house was pretty attractive too! The deck was perfect for hosting by family dinners or parties.

We were both shocked and amazed that we were really loving this house. It seemed to fit us, and all our dreams for what a house could be would so easily fit in these bones.

Then we toured the property. Roughly 9 acres of orchard that gently slopes down towards the ocean, ending with a stunning, fern filled ravine and the water front drop-off with 300 feet of private access. (no beach per se, but beaches do not really exist here except at low tide). It would take work to clear it all out, but it was all overgrown underbrush, not clearing acres of big trees for gardens.

We ventured inside for one last peek before heading out to the next property, extremely surprised that we were so struck by this random, very non-photogenic house.

The next three properties were all land, a 4 acre, 9 acre, and 10 acre parcel. They were all nice in their own way, but all flopped off our radar as soon as we set foot on them. They just were not special. Our minds kept wandering back to the first house with the orchard.

Of course, when you go from an inexpensive piece of land to a 9 acre plot with waterfront and a house, the price jumps a bit. And when I say a bit, I mean a lot. We knew that for this price range, this house would sell for a good deal, it just stinks when even a good deal is expensive. Needless to say, we are pushing forward to see if this place is an option or not. The house is far from perfect, and does need a lot of work, and has been on the market awhile. We are talking to lenders, inspectors, and talking to permit people from King County (the barn would need to be rebuilt) and have an appointment to see it again next week with my parents in tow. This may not end up being the perfect place for us, but we are learning a ton and are excited to keep making progress towards moving to Vashon.