Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wonka Vision

It's been a few weeks since I got my new eyes. I'm absolutely loving it this whole mono-vision gig - - mostly. I've had to go and get different lens to try twice. Both times I need to get them stronger. Stronger on BOTH sides - - so the difference between the two corrections has grown considerably. More magnification right eye. Less magnification left eye. The first pair made me want to throw up in Target. I could focus on anything anywhere. Now - - much better!

I can see lots of stuff now. I've pretty much conquered inserting and extricating those slippery little discs (fine - - that's an exaggeration, but I'm no longer scratching my corneas every time I attempt to remove them). I am over the moon about my ability to go through time and space reading crap that I never could read without searching around for my glasses. It is freedom - - wonderful freedom.

When I was washing the dishes the other night, I realized that the plates we have been using for some time now have a darling little buffalo on the underside. I, of course, knew that they were called "buffalo china" - - which means they are sort of like plain old diner-ware - - but I had absolutely no friggin idea that there was a little bison rendered on the back. Who knew?

The flip side is that I also realize that I need to pluck my eyebrows more carefully a little more often. Who knew that there were lots of little teeny blondish colored hairs there too? Weird.

Driving - - well driving is an exercise in adjustment. Sure, you can see far. But with only one eye. Sure you can see the dashboard too. But only with one eye. Yesterday I realized that when turning slight left - - and having the rim of the windshield separating the vision of my two eyes that everything to one side was crystal clear. Everything to the other may well have been smeared with Vaseline. And while this weirdly "works" for the most part - - some times I think it might be better if I had the full power of two eyes when driving. (And I kind think that perhaps my fellow drivers might also wish for the same thing...)

Today I went and got some driving glasses - - which are also called "movie" glasses. This was a tad disconcerting as I kept thinking that the level of visual vigilance should be higher while driving than while sitting in a large dark room watching Mama Mia and chomping down on popcorn. Perhaps if a person does come in requesting "movie glasses" the optician has a moral obligation to also suggest that person might also considering using them while operating a large fast moving hunk of metal. I hope so.

All these driving glasses do it correct my already corrected eye in the complete opposite direction. I'm thinking that if I ever try to use them when I don't have my contacts in - I should be able to see Mars fairly clearly on a nice evening. Going from "can't read a damn thing" to "I can read that street sign down the road" is a far piece of correction distance.....

And come to think of it? Now that I will have both "movie" and "driving" glasses, if the occasion should ever arise when I need to drive while simultaneously watching a movie on a large screen - - well, I'll be cooking with gas....

Monday, January 24, 2011

CMR: What a difference a day makes

Or in some cases - - what a difference a week makes.

Big holes covered in plywood become amazing wonderful windows:

Jan 15:

Jan 22:

Crappy looking drywall inserts start to look like real walls in the master bath:

Jan 15:

Jan 22:

Invisibilty becomes the word of the day between seeing where the old door used to be and seeing smooth seamless plaster in the library:
Jan 15:

Jan 22:

Exterior waterproofing is covered with siding:

Jan 15:

Jan 22:

And sometimes, just sometimes it really does all happen in a day! From Saturday morning to Sunday morning A raw gaping hole becomes a door!
Jan 22:

Jan 23rd:

Now the atrium is filled with three new, beauteous french doors and one crazy-nice supersized rectangular window....

This week also brought a little miscommunication in the "window department." Middle of the week, GC Paul reported that the hall windows had come in early. There was much rejoicing!! Early is GOOD! This information resulted in a quick emergency mobilization of the demolition guy who came over on Wednesday afternoon to rip out all the old hall windows. his expertise left us with a very large, super airy hole in the hallway in front of the master bedroom door. Pretty hole, huh?

Bad news? The window people lied. Not all the windows were ready to be inserted in to the obviously window-wanting holes. Only one lone window was ready.... here it is leaning in the living room (beside the new atrium door). It can't be inserted until all the windows are here. No news on when the rest will be ready. In the meantime, our hallway has a very open feel to it. Open as in literally open....

Friday, January 21, 2011

Salmon Nilla

The CMR has finally reached the juncture when GC Paul has put me on notice that I need to settle on interior paint colors. This is good news. The bad news? Actually selecting the paint colors.

I've been spending hours in places called "House of Color" and "Hugh's Hues." The array of colors is staggering. Unfortunately, we're mind-stuck on colors that we used in our house in London by a British paint company named "Farrow and Ball." This is our albatross. Why? You can get F&B in SF. You "simply" have to import it from Canada. A gallon of this luxurious elixir costs roughly the equivalent of our weekly grocery bill. How many gallons do we need? Buckets of gallons. Simply buckets.

George the Elder - - like a dog with a bone - - is now fixated on just getting Benjamin Moore to computer generate the color mix that matches the microscopic color chip color from a very loved and worn F&B Colour chart. MY first tact is to just try to get a close approximation by holding up the wee chips to hundreds of slightly larger chips in various lights in various stores. I'm not entirely convinced that my way is the best way. But, it's my way and I need to defend it to the bitter end.

The weirdest thing about paint and looking at hundreds of paint chips, charts and sample cards? Hands down, it's paint color names. They make the folks that name Opi nail polish look like simpletons. "Big Apple Red" is child's play compared to some of these titles. I want to personally meet the people who's job it is to name paints. The person that can see a shade of pinky brown and settle on the name "Dead Salmon?" Who is he? Did he spend a lot of time comparing and contrasting that shade to various deceased water creatures and eventually decide it was without-a-doubt salmon? When he named the color "Pigeon" did he chase a flock of flying rats around Trafalgar Square. Did he capture one and hold up the smidgen of colour just to feel confident in his choice??

And what's with all the mists? Sea Mist, Star Mist, Gray Mist, Morning Mist, Evening Mist and Midnight Mist? Who knew it was so damn moist and foggy out there in the color world?

And then there's the food colors (beyond the dead salmon): Burnt Peanut, Dill Pickle, Sunny Yam and Elegant Eggplant. Most these shades can't even be used in a kitchen.

Our current color selections: Straw, Stone White, Pigeon (yup, really), Storm, Steam and Atmospheric. Dolphin is on the short list - but we ruled out Tumeric. Straw isn't really available here in the US, but Citrone is. Stone White isn't either, so they've named it's Western neighbor Field Moss. Pigeon, not surprisingly, has no parallel. Only the Brits, and it appears us, are willing to paint a wall or two the colour of unloved rodents with wings.

We now have a number of large sheets of paper painted in various colors. We have ones that are made by Benjamin Moore (brilliant idea to make HUGE 16 x 16 paint chips!!) and we have ones that we made ourselves this afternoon from paint samples, a large roll of white butcher paper and the world's cheapest paintbrushes (yes - - unlike the professional Ben Moore ones, these have a little texture in the way of bristles embedded in them). Tomorrow we will head to the CMR to make some decisions.

Bring on the Salmon and the Stone. Let's pick colour!!!

Monday, January 17, 2011

CMR Update 01-15: Let there be MORE light

Week 6,027 (or what feels that way - it's actually only week 32 - but in "doing-laundry-at-the-laundra-mat-years" it stretches waaaaay out) shed a little more light on the subject. Notice new window on bottom left. That's Henry's bedroom window. Cool beans indeed!

More exterior work meant starting to install some of the beauteous exterior pine siding. If only there was a way to make either the old siding look brandy new - - or make the new siding look weathered and aged - well, that would be ideal. But GC Paul assures us that no one will be able to tell the difference between the two when we are all done. Me? I'm gonna play that wait and see card. Still, gotta admit that it's thrilling to watch it become a bit more of a house again unlike the war zone construction site it's been since they shoved a couple of steel beams totally through the house.

Just like the first window, the second window makes Henry's room look bright and shiny. I'm considering not putting any window treatments in here. That would sure get his happy butt up a little earlier now wouldn't it? In the upper left portion of this pic you can see that Henry's escape route to the upstairs is still in motion. He still thinks that we are going to close it up. Instead, GC Paul still has plans to install him a little secret ladder....

This is a simply another view from the bottom hallway (right in front of George the Younger's room) up to Henry's door way. The light is SO much better than we had imagined!!

Moving upstairs, the door-that-was-supposed-to-be-removed-but-was-forgotten-to-be-removed - - well, it's now removed. So, our teensy-little master bath is now just for us and cannot be accessed by any other way but through the master bedroom. Just for kicks, it's interesting to remember that for nearly a year all four of us shared this bath together. Just for kicks, I am going to announce my unadulterated GLEE that I don't have to do that any more. Boys are pigs. Their aim sucks at everything from peeing to spitting. I know I'll still have to clean up their bathroom - - but at least I can close their bathroom door and let them step in their own pee spots if I'm not in the mood.

Here's the other side of that door where it used to open up in to what used to be the boys' bedroom. Of course, now the boys' bedroom is the library / office where we also usurped the space in the wee tiny Bindery room. Saw the final plans for the lots and lots and lots of shelves that will line these walls. What would a library be without lots of books?

This is the view from the upper hallway down to the kitchen. See nice rectangle all ready for the window? See nice big space all ready for big glass doors to the atrium? And, we just found out today that the hall windows (the ones you can kinda see in the right side of the photo) have also been delivered!! The replacement of these windows was a 3Q game decision. We knew they were old. We knew they had some rotted wood. We just didn't want to accept it. In the end - change order #17 was born.

This is the highly complicated and complex operating system for the radiant floor heat and the hot water heater. In order to operate this system to its highest efficiency I am going to need to return to college to get my engineering degree. As this will take at a minimum of 4 years - - and remember, we're talking about me here - - the one who does algebraic equations by drawing stick figures and smiley faces - - it is likely to take oodles longer. Instead, I intend to ask GC Paul for a big sign with neon flashing arrows that says "For More Heat Turn Here."

Here, in the utility closet (which in order to meet code, must be called a utility "ROOM") are the terminus of all the orange radiant heating tubes from all over the house. Some how someone, much smarter than me, will surgically connect all of these tubes to the corresponding valve on the above pictured very complex operating board. It's stuff like this where you know you are getting your moneys worth. Stuff like breaking through your old bathroom tile with a sledge hammer? Not so much. I can wield a sledge hammer with the best of 'em.

You know those cool theaters called black boxes? Everything in them is black and movable and infinitely artistically open-ended? Now that all the dry wall is in - - well we've got our own version. The rumpus room / pool room is now officially the White Room....

This photo is simply for posterity (or evidence should things not go the way they say it will go). Underneath all this white crap and blobs are our very beautiful polished concrete floors. I have been assured that everything on it is water soluble and will be easily wiped away to once again restore them to their former luster. Yesterday, Henry brought home a smallish 1'x2' segment of dry wall. In the span of approximately 2 hours - - and various "experiments" later - - he managed to get dry wall schmootz all over the kitchen (walls and all), as well as to create a big pile of it in pieces and scraps from dust-size to small rock-size on the back patio. It took me approximately 2 days to almost clean it up. Easily wiped? I. don't. think. so. Hence the photo for posterity (or evidence).

This is a perfect shot of the wooden skylights. Imagine the light. Imagine being able to see right up on to the atrium behind it. Imagine being 14 and having women in short dresses standing up on the atrium? Hmmm. Perhaps we need to rethink?

Another view of the skylights from the inner corner of the rumpus room. See nice light coming from stairs to kitchen? Try to visualize that light, plus the window that's going to be there, plus the glass doors and SHAZAM!! Amazing what a little digging and a lot of windows can do.

And finally, an RIP to our old porch beam. It's laying here on the front walk ready to go to the old compost pile in the sky. I went over today and GC Paul helped me take off the numbers. We'll add them to the little history niche in the garage where the original building permits are going to be preserved. Yet another small reminder of the history of this house that we are making our own changes to. It'll be a tiny wee "195" time capsule.

So, we continue to march onward. I was told today that we need to be ready with all our interior paint colors by next week!?! What??? I was kind of speechless. Paint Colors??? We can choose PAINT COLORS??? Per-itty big change from deciding whether or not to jam steel soldier beams behind the back of the house to keep the soil from caving in, eh?? Sheesh -- what a difference 6,027 weeks can make....

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Photo Ops

We're not big family photo folks. It's not that we don't like to take pictures, but the thought of getting all gussied up and standing/sitting/posing for photos isn't something we put on the calendar often. We had a photographer take some family shots while we were in Tokyo. Very casual, very candid. She was great.

Recently, two things came to pass that made us realize that perhaps it was time for an updated professional family shot. The first was that in the Tokyo photos Henry is 3. He is no larger than our family dog now standing on his hind legs. Currently, Henry is standing almost eye to eye with me. The passage of time waits for no man. The second was that both of my sisters and I were going to be together for thanksgiving for the first time in a couple of decades. This meant that all the cousins were going to be together for the first time in a couple of decades. This meant that the timing was perfect to get them together for photos to give to my mother for Christmas. An auspicious alignment of the planets, so to speak.

So the day after Thanksgiving we donned our requisite 21st century black and white (I believe that this is kind of an unwritten law now for family photographs - Thou Shalt Stick with the Monochromatic Color Theme) - and headed out in to the Arizona morning sun for smiles.

In my mind, I equate posed photos with Olin Mills. You know - the kind of photos that show up on web-sites called "The Worst Family Portraits EVER in the history of man" or something like that. But, you know what? We like these. We really like these.

And so, without any further ado - the photos of The Wisniewski Family circa late 2010....

Oh, yeah - - we did get lots of others of all the cousins and the sisters together - - but we got these too. We got so caught up in the whole affair that there are 9,027 odd different poses of groups of cousins, groups of siblings (both young and old) family shots, kid shots, potential engagement photos, and shots of dogs. I'd show them all to you, but in a couple of the big group shots, there are some very wide smiles - indicating hysterical laughter. These happened when I audibly farted. Who's the wise guy that scheduled photos the morning after Thanksgiving dinner that included brussel sprouts? You're going to look at these pictures with a whole different eye now - - aren't you?

CMR Update 01-09: Let the Sun Shine

After weeks of rain, after many clouds - Sunday dawned sunny and bright for our first up close and personal view of: A WINDOW!!!

Technically the view was of six windows, but they're all in one room. Still. Check out the views inside and out. These are the windows in what will be George the Younger's lair. Check out that these windows exit to ground level. Check out that these will be the windows of a teenager. Know that these can, and will if necessary, be nailed shut :)

Exterior from street:

Interior views. It is incredible how much of a difference a little outside light makes. These windows even provide light to the hallway outside George the Younger's door. There is no door yet, but it will eventually be made of reeded glass, so the light will always be available.

In other progress news: This is the downstairs bathroom. George the Elder and I agree that this might be one of our minor design mistakes. It's going to be a cool bathroom, but we're thinking it's going to be a bit narrow. Could have stolen some space from Henry's room which is a nice size and could been made a wee bit smaller to get another foot in the bath. Alas.

This is a closer view of what will be our shower "niches." There is one on each side of the shower. They will be tiled and will eliminate the need for any kind of shower caddy. All manner of Axe products can be stored in these niches. There are two. Two boys = two niches.

Work continues upstairs to remove any traces of the obsolete forced air heating system that has been replaced with the radiant heat. See ya later ali-grate-ors!

Here's a photo of one of the older baths upstairs that turned out to have a little water leak issue. When they turned on the water they found that it was dripping below. When it was rat slab underneath no one would have known - except maybe the garden gnome who made his home there. Now it sits directly above the lower level electrical panel in the laundry room. Water+electricity=not good. So, they tore out some tile to get to the pipes. Word is still out on how close we can come to matching this vintage tile. Remodeling the upstairs bathrooms is currently slated for Phase 4, meaning it will happen when our grand children are entering medical school. And we don't even have any grandchildren yet. But, yes, full remodel or no - that lovely wall paper is going the way of the dodo. It's just simply brutal.

Stopped by yesterday and saw one more window going in Henry's room. Oodles of excitement. We only have 5 more to go and, of course the mother of all windows - the sky light to be installed. Loads of doors on the schedule, loads of lights, more dry wall, stone in the courtyard and entry way, tile for the bath, cool marmoleum for the laundry room and about a gazillion other little things to be done.

The good news is we are starting to get down to some of the little stuff that GC Paul calls CMIPs. These are the little things that occur during construction (and in our case are some 60 year old weirdies) that need a little somethin-somethin. These are "Contractor Make It Pretty" (CMIP).

And finally, we got the new bid for our interior and exterior railings. We were looking for a streamline mid-century look. For what it's going to cost to get these suckers built and installed - - the word "streamline" can no longer be used. Unless that word can be applied to our outstanding bank balance once we pay the metal worker.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The eyes have it

The beginning of January means a visit to the optomalogist in my world. Historically, and this time was no different, this appointment is an opportunity for my doctor to inform me that I am getting older - and my eyes are aging faster than I am.

Once again, it was officially confirmed that unless the letters on a page are about a 72 font - I am unable to read them unassisted. The remote control to operate the TV is nothing but a hand-sized block of uselessness. I have to memorize where the keys are to actually operate the damn thing without my glasses on.

The new bad news was that my distance vision is also further impaired. I knew that this train was coming down the track. Still, when I was faced with the idea of tri-focals, I balked. Balked as in - no f-ing way was this going to happen. To date I have managed my vision needs with several (as in lots and lots) of different pairs of glasses designed specifically for specific needs. Problems? Of course. I can't find the ones I want when I need them for the things I need them for. I can't remember which ones do what things and end up trying on two or three different pairs to get it right or at least to get it semi-right. It's a nightmare. A blurry nightmare.

So - what's a moderately blind middle-aged gal to do? Take a different tact. I decided to try monovision contacts. For the uninformed - one eye gets a contact for distance. The other gets a contact for reading. I am like a walking right-sided magnifying glass / left-sided telescope. Let's just say it's a little disconcerting knowing that I no longer have two eyes working on the same thing. They operate independently - very chameleon-esque, eh?

I got fitted on Monday. I also got lessons in how to put them in and take them out. The first was easy - the second? Not so much. I have a new respect for long time contact wearers - they make it look so easy. Pop em in. Pop em out. For me it's more like drop them in the sink, search for them endlessly, find the little sucker, try to figure out whether its inside out or right side in, grasp my upper lid, stretch my lower lid, intend to insert and drop in sink again. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Removing them is akin to just scratching my cornea endlessly trying to find the edges of those slippery little suckers and then nearly calling the eye doctors to ask if they could just remove them for me. Today I'm pretty damn sure I wore one inside out for about 2 hours before I realized that that scratchy edge probably wasn't just something I needed to adapt to. It's no eye party, I tell you that.

The good news? I was able to read a book without something hanging on to my face for the first time in 15 years. I was giddy. I went to Target and actually was able to browse shampoos with a clear understanding that I was buying shampoo and not cream rinse with out reaching in and grabbing my glasses from the bowels of my purse. I made dinner easily reading the recipe without having to pick up and take off and pick up and take off my "kitchen glasses." I tell you, it's a happy time.

The bad news - and of course there's bad news - - aging eyes serve a purpose for the aging person. When the world is just a little blurry all around, it's kind of like perpetually living in a bedroom where you've draped a sheer red scarf over the lamp to make yourself look more fetching. The contacts serve the unenviable affect of taking that damn scarf off the lamp. The mood lighting has harshly brightened. Now that I can see - I am shocked. Who knew that my face had so many tiny little wrinkles? Apparently, everyone with good vision did. In my world, I had the complexion of a 30 year old. It was kinda nice. It's highly likely that I've been wearing my eye-liner all crookedy for the last 10 years. Folks were just too nice to mention it. Why upset the old lady? Who knew that my sweet 12 year old had so many pores in his face? I didn't. I looked at him in the car yesterday and it kind of scared me. He needs to get some biore pore cleaning strips.

Right now I am adapting. I can wear them for several hours a day - - adding more and more each day until some point when I can wear them all day. What this means to me is that the time span between the frustrating process of inserting and the even more frustrating process of removing them is greater. There's also the possibility that at some point I will crack the nut and I will be one of those folks who can take their contacts out without a mirror, spit on them and put them back in while riding a horse.

Well, we'll "see" about that.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

CMR Update Jan.1: Orientation and PanelX

It recently occurred to me that for those of you who have not really seen the floor plan for the new lower level - perhaps a little visual orientation might be helpful. Now that the rooms are starting to look like rooms - you can also see how the floor plan puts those rooms in perspective.

If you've been following along from the beginning, you know that the only thing that was in the basement before was the garage area, a little laundry area (with exposed beams and spider webs) and then a whole lotta rat slab in places where only a little guy in a green and red suit holding up a lawn lantern could stand erect. Then we got this great notion (and when I say "we" - I am referring to George the Elder) that wouldn't-it-be-fun to hoist the house up on steel beams and take control over the under world beneath the house. And so we did (and when I say "we" I am now referring to both George the Elder and I - who I believe practiced some voodoo magic to make me believe that this was going to be fun).

On the floor plan below you can determine the space that was there when we bought the CMR by the green "before" writing that I so professionally put on the floor plan using my excellent skills in Photoshop. Heh heh heh.

And, although it's really hard to see on this photo - - and frankly almost as hard to describe - the new basement is actually being built in 3 levels. The upstairs (the house that was existing when we bought it - is built in a kind of pseudo split level configuration) with half the house being about 4 feet higher than the other half. On the drawing you can see where the upper and lower levels split in the new basement. The reason that there's 3 levels in the basement is that we had to make the "pool room" even lower to accommodate the roof above it which is the floor of an exterior atrium that sits in the middle of the house upstairs. This atrium is being reconfigured to allow for the big sky lights that will be the main source of natural light for the basement. (I am sure that made oodles of sense?). Whatever. The pool room is lower and the skylights will run directly across the length of the room where the upper and lower levels converge.

So, now, after a gagillion weeks of digging, hoisting, shoring, lifting, cement pouring and wood cutting - the actual product is starting to look a lot more like the "dream." In fact, the photos taken New Year's day were so much fun to see. Cause, guess what? We got some walls!!

We got PANEL X walls. No chinese drywall for the Wisniewski's. Made in the good ole US of A. And know what? You can still use the insides for writing with chalk. Ask Henry - he was THRILLED!

Here's coming in the garage door. No more exposed beams with scary spiders. We've effectively trapped them all inside :)

Here is the entry way in to the house from the garage. The utility closet is to the right where all the mechanics of the house will be hidden away. The place where the big Knaack Tool Chest is sitting will be George the Elder's "work room" - who knows what he will be "working on" - but he's got a man-cave spot to do it now. I suspect it will be filled with boxes and bikes.

Here's the stairs leading up to the kitchen. They are starting to build the wall that will have the railing sitting on top of it. These are the same stair by which I will force my children to carry up many many heavy bags of groceries in the future.

Standing in the corner of the rumpus room looking down to the pool room. It is easier to see where the skylights will be in this photo. Note the very ceiling-like ceiling! There will be another steel railing that will separate the pool room from the rumpus room. It will stop children from falling in to the pit (and by children, I mean me).

Looking from just atop the entrance stairs down the hallway towards Henry's room and the bath.

Here's a view of the "Open Room" or the "Wii Room" as we call it. The ledge where the various tools are sitting will be the bottom of some cabinetry that will run from that ledge to the ceiling. It will house the wii and lots of other crap that I want to hide in closets.

Looking from the Wii Room in to the pool room.

The reverse view from before - from pool room up into the rumpus room where George the Elder stares lovingly at what will eventually be his wine closet replete with cool doors and ambient lighting.

George the Younger's room. I think they need to trim that dry wall a little? But it's fun to see where the windows will be. Rumor has it that they are going in today......

Lighting inside was provided by Henry - who discovered the roving spotlight....

The view from George the Younger's door up to Henry's door.

And here's the view standing against the far wall of the Wii Room looking towards the stairs and the door to the Pool Room.

And the last photo for today are the new walls in the library. The library is a combination of an old bedroom upstairs and a little wee tiny room that was called the "bindery" (I am not kidding) - we added them together and voila....big space with great views. You can even see the ocean!! Not from this angle...but you can really see it. Soon many, many bookshelves will line the walls. Soon. Very soon we hope!

And that's all the news that's fit to print about the progress this week. We are still on the revised schedule - but GC Paul wants to finish early and I am all. for. that. Yet, there will be no breath holding. Just a cautious optimism. Yes. Cautious.