Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Blogger Meeting!

We've just gotten our power back after a massive storm swept through Friday evening.  Trees are down all over town; many close calls and some houses and cars got direct hits.  

Here at the rental house we lost shingles and siding  and gave a lot of thought to going down to the basement for shelter but it never quite came to that.

Other than wind related damage to the smallest structure on the property, the new house came through fairly well too.....

We didn't attempt to push it back!!

The power and water came back on a mere 5 minutes ago:  it's still miserably hot inside and I desperately need a shower, but I'm not letting anything delay me from writing a blog post now that I've got contact with the outside world again!

Why the rush?

Because I had my first ever get together with a fellow blogger on Thursday and I don't want any more delay before saying that it was a blast!  Diane from Roanoke who writes the fun blog Dish (remamed recently from The Blue Ridge Gal) drove up and spent the day.

If I had remembered my camera, I'd have been showing photos of the lattes at Lex Coffee, our stroll across W&L's campus, the tour of Lee Chapel, shots of downtown, our country drive, lunch at Blue Sky or our marathon gab session out on the back porch of the new house.

Yep, I had my camera in the car but never took it out for a single shot.  Which is a shame because the weather was beautiful and so was Diane!

I'm afraid that I may have blabbed on and on about how much we love our new hometown and county to the point of seeming like a lobbyist for the local Chamber of Commerce.

Hopefully that won't be my last blogger meet-up.... if anybody is ever headed this way, please let me know!

And Diane, I'll be better about taking some photos on your next visit!  Maybe Rowdy and Izzy could come too?!

Now I'm off to start some laundry, do some dishes and take a shower.  Being on a well means that we lose water along with our electricity.

Tomorrow's post (after I'm clean and wearing makeup), will include a photo of the unexpected gift that Diane brought along on her visit!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Riding at Carvin's Cove Nature Reserve

A day in the woods now and then 
with good friends, steady horses, beautiful scenery 
and no lighting catalogs, construction decisions or plaster dust 
helps remind us of why we came to Virginia!

We've ridden the horses twice at Carvin's Cove Natural Reserve 
which is an easy 45 minute trailer ride from the barn.

Its 12K plus acres are managed for the 800 acre reservoir 
which provides drinking water for Roanoke.  
Fishing and small boats are allowed, 
but we're happy about the over 40 miles of multi-use trails!  

In this photo,  it's mid June and we're wearing long sleeves?!  

Who'd have thought that this was possible?!! 

A bonus of Joe's retirement is that we can pick our days of the week to ride, and since Carvin's is a  popular spot for mountain bikers, we'll be able to stay away from the crowded weekends.  

Many of the trails are narrow and have blind curves; 
while a few bikes now and then are fine, running into scores of them would be difficult.

We make an effort to foster good will toward the horses by dismounting 
and pushing any manure that "happens" off the singletrack trails.   
The hikers can step around, but the bikes would have a hard time avoiding it
 on some of the narrow trails, so we aim to be good trail sharers.  

Rich/Gus & Barb/Dante at stone stack on Hotel trail

The elevation changes were gradual on our first ride, 
but we began our second visit on the "Hi-De-Hoe" trail 
which climbs Brushy Mtn from the backside 
and has a 500' elevation gain in little more than a mile.   
The horses are getting back into shape so we only needed
 to give them a brief breather part way up.   

View of Carvins Cove from the Appalachian Trail

The outdoor opportunities are abundant here and we're loving exploring our new home state!  

Sunday, June 24, 2012

House Interior Update

We spent the day yesterday cleaning at the house.  
Sawdust and plaster dust needed to be corralled 
because the HVAC subs will be starting up the AC tomorrow!

View into Den from the Foyer
We're still a long way from moving in, 
but we've taken delivery of the oak floors that will go in the den, foyer and dining room
 and the AC will help acclimate the wood by stabilizing the temperature and humidity inside.  

It's gorgeous quarter and rift sawn oak and is temporarily stacked in the MBR.

Most of it's upside down with the grooved side up 
but there are a few boards poking out that can give me a peak at how beautiful it is.  

This photo with the flash brought out a little of the graining and deepened the color.  
My fingers are crossed that we can achieve this look with the actual finish.

We were tired as dogs (even Atta) by the time we left, 
and were grateful that Dave and Jesse from the carpentry crew were also there cleaning.  

Atta taking a break from the dust to watch wildlife from the upper porch

While it's true that the house is taking a long time to build, 
we've not experienced any of the work delays that are legend here in the county.  
Dave and Jesse had put in a full week but came yesterday (on a Saturday) to clean.

Staircase (temporary) to basement.  Open area ahead will be bookcases on the landing.  
And we didn't lose a single day to hunting season last year either.... 
something that almost everyone warned us about!

Mud Room with Floor sink/half shower for paws and boots

The only curve in the house!
Dropped ceiling above rear entry bench

Who knows when the house will be finished!  

Tom our builder is purposefully mum on the subject.  

It's likely that his strategy is a key axiom taught in 
Contractor 101:  

"Don't pin yourself down to a date that will eventually disappoint the homeowners." 

So we're beginning to stop thinking about August.  

We've begun to hypothesize about September. 

And to my great dismay, I've even hesitantly mentioned the "O" word a few times.... ("October").   

Friday, June 15, 2012

Make The World Go Away

Remember that old song.... "Make The World Go Away....."?  
That's how I felt yesterday.

We'd gotten up early and spent most of the day before riding the horses 
at Douthat State Park.  
Then we rushed home, quickly showered 
and went to a Rockbridge Rapids baseball game until late that evening.  

It was a whirlwind of a day with a lot of junk food consumed so 
I wasn't too surprised when I woke up the next morning with a headache, 
sore muscles and a general blah feeling.  

When I stumbled out to the kitchen in search of aspirin, I saw that someone else in the family was having a similar morning and had captured my sentiments perfectly.

I decided that she had the right idea.  

While I couldn't tuck myself into such a neat little ball and hide my eyes, 
I did go back to bed 
and then spent the day at home accomplishing little more than drinking coffee, 
reading and catching up on internet news.  

After a day of hiding from the world,  I was back to my old self this morning 
and so was Her Highness, 
Rolling about so quickly that I couldn't get a photo that wasn't blurry.....

playing with her tail and stretching....

With her sharp hearing, clear eyesight and agility, you'd never mistake her for 15 years old.  

If you remember the post about Atta's new bed
you'll notice that tiny Noel is still laying claim to the German Shepherd sized bed.  
Poor Atta rarely gets to lay in it!  

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Middlebrook Hunter Pace

Sarge... in front again!
A local hunter pace was good training for Cloud who got to lead the way most of the ride and clear away the gremlins hiding behind stumps!  

When a horse isn't first in line on a wooded trail, they'll normally relax and relinquish the role of herd "protector" to the horse in front.  Sarge has such a big stride that we've fallen into the habit of letting him be out in front.  As a result, while Cloud isn't spooky or flighty, she's young lacking in experience in the role of trail breaker ..... aka "First One Eaten."

When in the lead she'll often stop in her tracks to do a double take on anything that looks a little odd such as a fallen tree or a big boulder that could attack her at any moment.  No spook or whirling around, she merely feels the need to stare and assess the situation for a few seconds ( or minutes!) before moving forward.

Practice makes perfect and by the end of the morning she was willing to smoothly gait on past most scary stumps etc with just an attentive ear and sideways glance given to the possible threats out in the "wilds" of the Middlebrook Hunt grounds!  
View of a neighboring farm taken after coming out of the woods.
 Our first hunter pace was back in early fall  shortly after we moved to VA.  They're short 6-8 mile trail rides where you ride out in pairs as you please over a marked trail.

There are a few ribbons given out at the end of the day, but since it's not possible to try to figure out what an "optimum" time is, getting a ribbon is strictly lagniappe!  (See I still remember the Louisiana lingo!)    It's a chance to have access to private trails which are usually only open to the Hunt Club members (which we aren't) and land owners.  
Beautiful field we entered after several miles in the woods.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Door Glass Repaired!!

It's finally time to sing the praises of the Loewen windows and doors!  When they were installed in October,  we saw immediately that the muntins (aka "grills") of the doors didn't line up horizontally with the window sections.

Here's an older photo where you can see the problem.
The horizontal grid on the doors was about 6" higher than the nearby horizontal window lines.  With four 9' tall double doors and one single door involved it was a major snafu.

It looked as if we had used stock doors/windows for convenience that didn't match each other.   Not right in such a carefully built and designed house!  But on the upside, every window was absolutely perfect!

Our supplier, Gaston & Wyatt, in Charlottesville had acknowledged right from the beginning that it was a problem which they would fix and this week they made it happen.

Not that they hadn't tried sooner..... In late winter, replacement glass and panes were sent down from Canada.  After hauling it into the house and preparing to work, the installers realized after uncrating the first section of glass that it was wrong again!  It was identical to what was already there and so couldn't be used!  Thank goodness that they hadn't begun to take apart the doors!

When the proper glass arrived this spring, the insulation subs were working and the plaster crew was preparing to start, so we decided to delay another few weeks.... Hey what's another month when we've been waiting all winter?!  :)

I held my breath and crossed my fingers when over a 2 day period last week, the entire glass assembly on each of the nine door panels was totally removed, leaving just the metal frame hanging in the jambs until the new pre-made glass "sandwich" was installed in the gap.  I couldn't bear to watch or take photos!
Doors fixed!!  Dining room to left (dividing cabinets not in) and Den... upper porch through windows
The muntins are now all in a glorious row straight across from the dividing line of the windows!  The technician who did the repairs was a pro and nothing was damaged in the process or went awry.

I'm finally safe to say (with no qualifier added at the end) that I'm VERY happy with my Loewen windows and doors!
Upstairs porch MBR doors/windows (glass replaced in doors)
The exteriors with the gorgeous brown cladding are impeccably made; the straight grain fir interior is going to look awesome with our stained wood interior and the interior build quality is as superb as the exterior.  Plus I have confidence in the support from Canada and also the local dealer Gaston & Wyatt.
Glass replaced!  Two sets of doors are open, but you get the idea.....
Phew.... Something had to go wrong first, but this was an important fix that got put right last week!

Yes, it took a long time, but we weren't pushing anybody for a quick repair.... we're still a long way from moving in!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Little Whine and Some House Progress

I haven't been blogging much about the house but I promise that we're still building one! 

When it was time to leave for the wedding, we were SO ready to get away from the house construction!  It's beginning to wear on both of us as it's a constant monitoring trying to be sure that things go according to the plans.  

We've averted several major disasters by the skin of our teeth and stopped several other "minor" costly mistakes before they've eaten too far into our budget.  For a while lately it seemed as though not much was going smoothly and each visit to the site uncovers something that needs to be changed or done differently from how it was started that morning.  

We're still very happy with our crew and GC, but there have been some close calls that have left us wondering how people have homes built long distance.   And to be honest, the crew probably wishes that we were long distance since we're so detail oriented!  

Maybe after we're in the house and can smile about all of it, I'll share the fiascos but for now it's best to just move forward, chalk them up as lessons learned and take each day one at a time. 

How about a few photos though to prove that we're really making a wee bit of progress?

The plaster veneer is all done.... Smooth as a baby's "you know what" and looking great!  

I love this view looking back from the center of the den toward all the varied ceiling heights of the foyer (left), bookshelf wall, kitchen and dining room. 

The wall that looks like it might fall down since it's standing there unanchored will have oak cabinets that form a wall separating the dining room from the den.

One step backward and two steps forward..... the nice side slope outside the kitchen window which had been so carefully graded was turned into a wreck last week.  That was the one step backward.  The forward progress was that the geothermal wells were dug and the lines laid so that we'll have heat and hot water!  

 Outside on the back, the windows are trimmed (they'll eventually be dark brown) and the lower french doors replaced the temporary one.

In the front, the windows are trimmed and they've begun to hang the Hardie board.... it'll be board and batten style.   Pay no attention to the lack of permanent doors.... we're working on it!  :)
 Most of the mess around the job site is a result of the stone masons not being finished yet with the garage and a few spots on the house.

But now that the garage columns are built and ready for their stone facing, the masons should be back at the beginning of the week!!
It's going to be a gorgeous home and we've got to be the luckiest people alive to have found our new hometown and be living this new life!  

I'll share some interior details during the week so stay tuned!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Road Food

We spend a LOT time of eating when we were in New Orleans and since we didn't want to go cold turkey on our return, we ate excessively along the way home too!  :)

First stop was lunch at Dreamland Ribs in Tuscaloosa.  A good rib place needs to be a rib shack and the original Dreamland location fills the bill.   

The entire menu used to be ribs and white bread.  The only choice was your drink and whole or half slabs.  In recent years they've bowed to pressure and added slaw, beans and banana pudding to complicate the ordering a little.  

We discovered Chick N Little restaurant in Abingdon VA about 2 years ago and we've eaten a few lunches there (fried chicken, plate lunches and homemade pies) but this was our first breakfast visit.  

As we expected, it beats Cracker Barrel by a mile!  Homemade pancakes, biscuits, country ham,  gravy and regulars who help out by walking around refilling everyone's coffee if the waitress gets busy!  
Chick-N-Little Restaurant.  It's the little low place; the 4 story building is the police station!
When searching for hearty, casual local eats a helpful resource is the Roadfood website.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Skies of "Home"

It's funny what you notice when you are away from someplace for a while.  The things that you take for granted on a daily basis suddenly leap out at you.  Eons ago when I'd leave Pennsylvania and drive home to Louisiana on college breaks, I was always struck by beauty of the sky and clouds in the Deep South.

This trip back to Louisiana was no exception and often during the week I found myself looking skyward.

If you've never seen the puffy clouds and intense blues of the Deep South (and IMHO Virginia is a little short of being "Deep") then you're missing a sight.  I believe that cumulus is the correct term for the well defined 3D clouds that are common in Louisiana.
Skies along the Interstate
When I took flying lessons, the instructor would sometimes let me end a lesson by going "cloud chasing" which involved circling over, around and then through a chosen cloud up in the Louisiana sky.  I never kept up with the flying so I'll have to be content to gaze at the clouds from below and remember how it felt to soar among the clouds of cotton.