Sunday, December 30, 2007

Two Holy Nights

This year our holiday celebration included a 2 night visit from my three kids, son-in-law, and grandson to Wimberley, the first time we've all been together there. The photo at right shows us roasting marshmallows around a campfire in the backyard. They were yummy, but just the heat of the fire on that clear, cold night made it worth the effort.

Since returning home to Houston and our "normal" world, I've been asking myself what made the most precious memories. It seems that the very things we consider inconveniences in our everyday lives made it special, and at times funny. Six people sharing one toilet and one sink. Stumbling down the hill in the pitch black to get to the fire. Complete lack of privacy, outside the powder room. A 21-month-old flinging a football at us inside the house at VERY close range. Heating water in Doug's coffee maker for sponge baths. I'm betting that years from now the things we'll remember most about this year's holiday are these goofy little things. Not the gifts we gave or received, not the over indulgent meals. Thanks for the memories everyone, and God willing we'll be back together in Wimberley for next year's holiday season, with less inconveniences but just as many great memories .

Since our son-in law Gregg took the photo above, here is one with him included:

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Happy Trails

One, two, three, and the sidewalk leading from the public road to our front porch is done. Well, at least mostly done. This first photograph shows the rocks I laid out while experimenting with various routes. Trying to get just the right amount of curve to clear the trees, and make it attractive but still fairly direct. You can see Buzz the wonder car parked alongside the road in the distance where the stones end.

Luckily for me, this is a rare project where that's about all the real work I had to do. The second photo shows the crew I hired to do the construction as they laid out some of the first stones in the path. I picked limestone since it is locally available and looks right leading up to our limestone house. It is also rough enough to be more slip resistant than concrete but not too irregular for high heels, and provides a country feel. The crew's method was to do this layout first, just arranging the stones on the ground, then after a large section was done they would lift them up and shovel out wheelbarrow loads of mortar to set them permanently in place.

Three and a half tons of limestone later, the third photo indicates the masons left the job, pretty much done but looking a little odd since it's sitting so high above the surrounding ground level. The "almost done" status of this job will change to "really done" after the installation of a ten ton load of topsoil along the sides of the path to eliminate that drop off. I'll include a photo of that finished effort on a later posting, hopefully including some family in the picture from our upcoming holiday get together.

Although I'm OK with the look of the new sidewalk from the house, the biggest change it brought about is to the look of the house from the street. It seems to says "come on in and sit a spell" to neighbors walking by, especially since it's the only sidewalk from a public street to a front door that I know of for miles around. Due to the large tract sizes in our neighborhood, every other house is set back hundreds if not thousands of feet from the road, so some homes are not even visible from the street. The only pedestrian approach is usually down the driveway, and that just doesn't seem right, especially when it includes having to pass through a large security gate. So next time you're walking by in the neighborhood, stroll on down the 80 feet of limestone to our front porch and sit a spell.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Stairway to Heaven(ly view)

I've started insulation, electrical, and drywall along the stairway shown at right. I hadn't planned on doing much in the stairwell for some time since most of the second floor is pretty low priority: a loft and a spare bedroom. But, our frequent trips up to get the best possible view of the hills convinced me to make the voyage a little more civilized.

The second photo shows the reward for climbing the stairs, the view from the second floor deck.

So now I can add the stairwell to my growing list of half-finished projects in the house. OK, not even half finished. It is a kinda fun project though, since the stairwell is 20' high and the drywall will show off that height and make things much brighter. That high work is not made for my normal one-person drywall crew, so I'll be enlisting the help of some unsuspecting friends to help me get those long and heavy drywall sheets in place. Especially on the stairwell ceiling, which will make a great photo if there is
someone around with a camera who is:
1- Not burdened with the drywall
2- Not laughing too hard to take the picture