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Monday, May 11, 2015

Occupy the Building Site - We've Moved In

A portion of the packing material
Despite delays, complications and other frustrations we have finally moved in. There was a problem with some paperwork, but J, the head carpenter said “The city has assured me that they will not stand in the way of you occupying the house, as in their eyes, you never lost occupation.“  Obviously the city did not see the house minus most of the roof, windows, functional plumbing, heating, electricity and a frightening number of exterior walls. The rickety garage would have offered more amenities. The house was incomplete, though habitable so we took the plunge. All the to better enjoy the company of the carpenters, electricians, painters and etc. still finishing up.

Sunset: after railings, and in the midst of exterior painting
We hired a local firm to help us with the move, and they were much better than the national company we used previously, who were maliciously incompetent. Everything seems to have survived unscathed this time. These folks were genuinely enjoyable to have around while they packed up the fragile items and artwork. Their careful use of paper and boxes was a pleasant surprise.  If it didn’t need wrapping they didn’t wrap it.  That’s not to say we weren’t up to here with boxes and paper, but they didn’t use six sheets of paper to wrap one chopstick either. Despite the deluge on the morning they came to load up our household goods, we had a beautiful, sunny weekend to spend unpacking, all the while wistfully eying the decks that were off limits, due to a lack of railings (did I mention delays?).
Though we still had the views.

A pot rack, at last!
Now we understand just how amazing the storage was in the condo.  It lacked a pot rack, but it had a closet big enough for a tandem (a little out of the ordinary), and it also had a window seat with storage cabinets underneath, two small attics, more than ample closets and cupboards everywhere, plus a storage locker! It's been over month and we still have boxes of linens, and clothes with nowhere to go. A couple things we were sure would fit into certain places don't (never underestimate how much space the trim takes up!). D. did a master plan of the kitchen storage, but at the critical point of unpacking he couldn’t find it. Right now cooking feels like a treasure hunt as we search for each ingredient and most utensils. 

A friend of ours generously helped us unpack a large number of books into the built-in shelves on the main floor.  There was a delay in settling into the music room as the shelving unit that was originally in the closet (and would have been perfect for keeping the instruments off the floor) vanished down the same hole as the toilets. We also had to wait for a thermostat to be moved so the bookshelves could go up. But that (or the path to the door in various states of being dug up and replaced) didn’t deter us from rehearsing in it.

Where the sidewalk ends?
Still in progress but not a mud wallow.

One small bedroom somehow acquired three bookshelves and all the luggage, and the other seems to have become the repository for unhung pictures, mirrors and chunks of packing foam that won't fit in our tiny garbage bin - neither room has a bed yet. The office / ham shack is filling up with desks and boxes of radio gear waiting for the antennas to go up. That may or may not happen before they finish painting the exterior; an on again, off again project depending on weather and the work on the path. I'm doing my best to ignore the 'storeroom' which is neck deep in boxes of CDs.  The shelves for those were only levelled last night.

If only they would sort themselves onto the shelves.

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”. . .  but if you move the mailbox a couple yards, forget about it.  It was up next to the front door for weeks before the mail carrier finally told the head carpenter that she won't deliver anything until we move the mailbox closer to the street.  Ironically, the only mail we received was a notice from the Post Office confirming our change of address. After the mailbox was moved, I  went down to my ‘local post office’ as instructed, to retrieve the mail and ask them to resume normal delivery. The man at the counter said, "you have to go to the annex" (which was due to close in twenty minutes).  I zipped over there on my bike only to discover they couldn’t find our mail, and there was no hold notice in our mail compartment in the sorting area. They took my phone number and promised to call after they spoke to the mail carrier.  The impression I got was that the mail carrier is all knowing and all powerful.  Indeed, once the clerk spoke to her, our missing mail was found, and service resumed.  All that trouble for a few bills. . . and a pair of slippers with non slip soles.
Our illegally placed mailbox in the corner by the door.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Without a Pot to Piss in

 In the continuing saga of missing plumbing fixtures, the original toilets have vanished. One was last seen perched on the top landing of the industrial staircase. After D complained, the contractors agreed to replace them.  We specified a water and space saving toilet for the powder room (inspired by some we'd seen in Japan; no, this model does not have a built in cleansing and drying system). We never knew there were so many different flushing systems for conventional toilets, each with an educational video? (don't try that at home!).  
D has been mocking up the floor plans to figure out where the furniture will fit, thereby discovering some of it won’t.  How do you move from a condo to a house and have less room for furniture?  It’s those pesky views (and the windows that frame them) built in shelves, big closets, and spaces that are just an inch or two too small. The shoe bench won’t fit in the front hall even though we asked the design team to make sure it did. Our new bedroom is smaller than the old one (but the closet is vast).

We gain much needed space in other areas. I look forward to rehearsals where we don’t have to banish the instrument cases from the room because there’s no space for us and them. Or put away everything because there's no room to deploy the Murphy bed and musical instruments. There’s also the attraction of not having to change bike tires in the front hall, or do electrical tinkering on the kitchen counter, or gardening on the balcony. Best of all, the office will no longer be festooned with antennae (though the house will look like a porcupine) and our reception should improve vastly.
This won't fit in the office
There is a surplus of cedar siding; nearly enough to cover the garage -stored inside the garage.  The car might just fit alongside the siding, a gas fireplace and a gigantic wall clock and assorted leftover light fixtures and shelving parts. Since my last post,  the kitchen has come together, the tiling completed, plumbing fixtures and lighting installed and the interior painting done.  Things are going fairly smoothly, except for the railings.

Elevation by Board and Vellum - with railings
There was endless back and forth between the architect, the contractor and the manufacturer over how they would be attached to the decks. At issue were both safety and durability, and the manufacturer's alarming statement that this was a non standard installation and they wouldn't guarantee it will be to code. Finally the shop drawings were agreed upon, the spacing checked over and the materials ordered. However, the promised delivery date passed, and the installation of the railings will be the thing that holds up inspection.

The house was supposed to be inspected by March 13th.  My joking references to move in dates such as Chinese New Year, St. Patrick’s Day, and April Fool's Day have proven optimistic. Our friends have become wary of asking us how the project is going, or if we have moved in yet. Though they have been generous about helping us find boxes.
Here we go again!

We packed up most of the books, all of the CDs and are about waist deep in boxes around the living room. I'm cooking my way through the stockpiles of food in the cupboards and freezer.  We went out for a celebratory dinner, though it was more of a consolation than a celebration. I haven't gotten around to filing a change of address with the Postal Service, for some strange reason. Hookups for Internet and other services have been scheduled and re-scheduled. I’m not sure how much longer our sanity will survive being constantly on the verge of moving. On the plus side, it will be nothing like an international move. . . that long gap while you wait for your stuff to arrive.  Here it will be about 20 minutes, if the bridge is up.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Everything But the Kitchen Sink

Three different stain colors had to be
chosen for this little patch of siding.
Paint and stain colors, flooring, cabinet material, countertops, door, windows, tiles, all that's been chosen. There’s a lot of other little things that remain yet to be sourced. We had picked out the knobs and handles for the cabinets, but neglected to write the information down anywhere or tell the contractors.  So it was back to the hardware store, where we were promptly overwhelmed by choices, again.
At a recent site meeting we were asked to specify light fixtures for the guest bath, and shelving for the pantry and linen closet. To do this, we needed to check some measurements. One dark and stormy night found us prowling around the house with a flashlight, notebook and measuring tape, measuring closets and appliances to
Family sized laundry
figure out what would fit (meanwhile hoping the neighbors didn't think we were burglars). Happily, we don’t have to replace the washer and dryer. The pair that came with the house will fit into the laundry space, with a little bit of room to spare. Who knows what we’ll do with such large capacity machines after all those years of using little ones.

We spent a long morning wandering the endless concrete pathways of Ikea,  looking for light fixtures and storage for the front hall.  Everyone in Ikea shuffled along at the same slow pace, in the same direction, as if we were on a conveyor belt. I felt like an extra in a zombie film. It was a successful trip, at least in terms of inexpensive, functional lighting. But the storage we liked wasn't the right size for stowing bike bags. On the other hand, we avoided buying anything flat-packed that needs assembly.

It seems we've spent most of our time recently, shopping for ironmongery, fixtures and hardware. Roughly half of our cookware won’t work on an induction cooktop, including our moka espresso pot and tea kettle.  January is a good time to buy pans, as they have excellent sales. We got an extra discount because we bought the floor model.
It’s a pity our stainless steel kettle won’t work on the new cooktop, because most of what we found out there is poorly designed, ugly, or not induction compatible. No wonder folks are going for the built-in, hot water on demand spigots.  Yes, we know we can boil water in a saucepan, and yes we have induction compatible saucepans.  But they don’t whistle. A whistle is essential for absent minded folk like us.

During one of our shopping trips, D. phoned the head carpenter to check on something. During this conversation, J. sheepishly admitted they managed to lose the kitchen sink. Oddly, the disposal unit that was attached to it was found in the garage, but not the sink. The plan was to reuse the stainless steel sink that was in the house when we bought it. The sink, diningroom light fixture, a bathroom vanity, a mirror and lots of light fixtures and bulbs were stored in the garage for safekeeping. It does look a bit overstuffed, even after they tidied it up. But seriously, how do you lose the kitchen sink?