Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas in Portland (Hillsboro)

Julie and I went to Hillsboro, Oregon to celebrate Christmas with Julie's family, including her mom Joan, her sister Sue, Sue's husband Marty, and the three daughters, Kelly, Laura and Jacki. Yes, the last one seems to be a spelling error, but she goes through phases on how she would like her name spelled and this is the current one. Oops, can't forget the dog Buddy and the cat Midnight.

In addition to our normal gorging on food and beer, we did celebrate the Christmas holiday in more appropriate ways. On Christmas Eve, we headed to the local Catholic church for the kids' sermon. These are always my favorite!

You just can't have a Christmas play without a bunch of tiny kids. They didn't get speaking parts, but did get to dress up as animals for the manger scene. I would swear they were wearing Ewok costumes from one of the Star Wars movies. They even walked liked little wobbly Eowks.

They invited all the kids at the service who weren't in the play to come down front to watch. This girl was interesting for two reasons. First, she seemed wonderfully attached to her big (but little) brother. Whenever he moved, she was right there with him. You can see she has her arm around him. However, the reason she caught our attention was that she apparently gets her hair done exactly like Posh Spice. If you want something similar, check out

Now this little girl took a different approach at fame and fortune. Apparently she wasn't invited to be a part of the play, so she patiently waited until it ended. Then, while the priest was giving his sermon, she wandered up and followed him around, answering any rhetorical questions that popped up as part of the sermon.

Ah, the real reason we were at this sermon. Kelly (in the red dress) was one of six singers invited to perform at the service. Very nice!

On to Christmas.

This is Jacki modeling her stylish Christmas fashions.

The package frenzy begins, although not with nearly the energy level of a few years ago. When the girls were little, you needed to step back or risk losing a hand. Much calmer now and they remember what they got at the end.

From left to right, Joan (mom), Sue, Julie, Kelly and Laura.

A nice shot of mom in her festive wear.

Although the day started with the traditional Portland drizzle, it actually started snowing. The last time Portland had measurable snow on Christmas day was 1937. Unfortunately, none of this stuck so we didn't break the string. It did seem a lot more Christmassy though.

Even Buddy was getting into the Christmas spirit. In this photo, he is enjoying his new treat from under the tree.

I wish I had more pictures of this activity, but too often I was in the scene instead of observing it. Can you tell what she is doing? She is boxing with the new Nintendo Wii. If you haven't seen one of these, you should. The game controllers recognize movement, both speed and direction. To play the tennis game, you swing the controller just like a racquet. In this case, Jacki is practicing the boxing game by swinging both fists with a controller in each hand.

I wish I had taken some pictures of the Christmas dinner. Sue did a wonderful job and it was delicious. We used dinner to celebrate my 46th birthday. Made it through another one. AARP, here I come!

As I type this, we are back in Park City. We have had snow showers today and the temperature hammered up to a balmy 15. We would consider skiing, but there are so many vacationers on the slopes and we are quite spoiled.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Lots of additions

The most important addition at the house is more white. We have had a few feet of snow over the past week or so. Very nice to build up the base for skiing right before Christmas. The skiing has been good, but not awesome.

The next addition was a TV. Notice that it isn't very pretty all wrapped up. That's because it is defective. After Christmas, some nice people will bring a replacement and pick this one up. Very sad.

Then comes some new furniture. This wave included a few night stands and our spiffy new game/card table. As all card tables should be, it is next to our bar.

No house is complete in Park City without a hot tub. We decided not to move the one from our condo. The realtor's convinced us the condo would sell better and we were worried about damaging it during the move.

The last addition, and perhaps most exciting, is my new office desk. The desk itself isn't exciting, but the delivery was. With all the snow on our roads, the big semi from FurnitureLand South couldn't get the last few hundred yards up to our driveway. They took about 30 minutes in 10 degree weather putting on chains. Even then, navigating a semi through frozen neighborhood streets, with snow piled on each side, is quite the challenge. If you start the clock when they got close to the house, the desk took about 90 minutes to deliver. My office is beginning to take shape. Next comes a desk chair, and then some decorations.

Now, off to Portland to see Julie's sister for Christmas.

Friday, December 14, 2007


It just doesn't photograph well, but Julie and I saw the most unusual rainbow. It was surrounding the sun, a complete 360 prism. It doesn't look like much in the picture because the poor camera is coping with a look into the sun. However, the rainbow was as clear and sharp as any you see, just huge and round.

UPDATE: I have gotten some notes explaining what this is. Click here for more info.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The snow aftermath

After all the snow last weekend, we have had a lot of sun, but very cold temperatures. Our day yesterday started around 3 degrees and the afternoon high was only 19. This adds up to some huge icicles. The sun cooks the snow on the roofs. It drips down and freezes quickly. Icicles like the one below start to form. These things weigh hundreds of pounds and can do a lot of damage to a roof. Given our weather forecast, these will continue to grow and grow. This one is about 12 feet long, so far.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Back to the snow

We have returned to Park City, ready to settle into our new house and to get in some good skiing. Unfortunately, even though we had snow back in September, October and November brought almost no snow. Life works out though. Between Thursday night and Sunday morning, we got between 18 and 24 inches at the house and about 30 inches on the mountains.

This is the deck on our new house. As you can see, the snow is piling up and coming down hard.

Once the storm left, we had a sunny view looking down into Park City and out at Deer Valley.

Our house, with the snow-laden Gambel Oaks behind.

To combat the deep snow, you need a deep snow blower. Ours is pretty serious.

Snow just wouldn't be the same without a game of Where's Waldog? Double-click on the picture to see the bigger version.

You can't run through chest deep snow, so every step is actually a leap.

But what goes up, must come down. Jasper spent a lot of his time buried deep.

Finally, a charging dog that looks too much like Kujo.

The saying would go something like: You can take the dog out of the snow, but you can't take the snow out of the dog. This doesn't work though. We have a really tough time taking the dog out of the snow.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A brief environmental opportunity

Do you ever get tired of having catalogs sent to your house? Things you just couldn't care less about, and if you did, you would go to their web site? Here is a web site to visit:

Catalog Choice

It is a non-profit, free service that makes it easy to request specific catalogs stop being delivered. Unfortunately, you can't just say "stop all of them", but it makes it very easy to do when you are going through your mail. Just plop all those catalogs in a pile and when the pile gets high enough, go in and request a stop for each.

Save the trees! Save them mail carriers!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Fall has fallen

I left the camera on and drained the battery, so I don't have pictures, but watching the end of fall is amazing. The trees in the pictures from a week ago have lost every leaf. However, some of the trees are a little more tight-fisted and refuse to give up their foliage. Last night saw temperatures around 23, so I think that was the trigger for the forest to give up and go dormant.

There is a 30 foot Crepe Myrtle tree out front. Until yesterday, it still had almost every leaf. This morning, with absolutely no wind, it is dropping leaves at a rate of 10-20 per second. Constantly. It looks and sounds like a pretty rain shower, dressed in yellows and reds. By noon it will be as naked as the rest of the yard. It really is gorgeous to watch.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Another remodel

Last year, we have a deck converted to a porch while we were in Utah. This year, we had our master bathroom remodeled. It is nice to have a builder (Steve Kjellberg) you trust so much that you can have all this done in your absence. Unfortunately, he thought we were coming home a few days later, so we still have some trim work to be done.

We had the entire roomredone. New tile, cabinet, fixtures, lights, etc. The shower was enlarged a bit.

There are two of these new cabinets, one on each side of the door. You can see a bit of the new floor tile.

And here is the deco tile that was used. It is around the bath, shower, and mirrors in the cabinets. Quite pretty!

It is hard to capture everything without a mongo-wide angle lens, but these pictures capture the "style" of it.

Fall in Raleigh

The drought has been terrible in Raleigh this year. The city is down to a 115 day water supply. My dad said that the leaves on the trees were starting to turn brown and drop. Then Raleigh got a nice, long rain over a few days. Nothing to make much impact to the drought, but the trees sure seemed to be happy. We got home just in time for the color. All of these are from right in front of the house.

Being gone through the entire growing season means fields of weeds and lots of messy plants. As an omen, there was one gorgeous rose blooming on some plants Julie's dad gave us years ago.

It is good to be back in Raleigh and see friends and the neighborhood.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

In for real

No pictures today, but great news. We have moved all our stuff and have been living in our new house since Monday. The condo is empty and has been completely cleaned. Hopefully it will sell soon.

Getting settled is a lot of work. Now I remember why I move so very infrequently. It has been a week of almost constant moving and putting away. Long days, measured simply by piles. Piles of stuff left at the condo, piles of stuff in the garage at the house. Piles in each room. We are now down to zero piles in the condo, a few around the house, and a garage that can't begin to fit a car in any of the three bays. Oh well.

A few more things have been done on the house, but I discovered one of the most important. Back on July 11th, 2006, I noted that our construction was official because we had our own Port-a-Potty. Now it is gone. I guess the work is over.

We are heading back to Raleigh for a short stay. While we're gone, our punch list will hopefully see great progress. Then we can really settle down in time for the skiing and holidays.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Well, it's about damn time!

Finally. After 18 months of waiting, we have a house. We got our Certificate of Occupancy today, so we can officially live there. We start moving our smaller and more fragile stuff tomorrow and over the weekend. The movers come to get all the furniture on Monday. Yeah!!!!

A few more pictures:

Modeled after China's Great Wall and Tiananmen Square, but larger, our driveway and retaining wall.

We did this epoxy coating on the garage floor. It looks really nice, making the place look a lot more finished. Supposedly it will be much more resistant to stains, salt, oil and such.

When your driveway has more pavers than Tiananmen Square, it takes a lot to heat it for melting snow. The 1,000,000 BTUs of boiler are above. These are the pumps and controls for the glycol-water mix that heats the pavers. Do we need it? They pressure washed the pavers this morning and where there was shade, there was a thin, slick layer of ice at 10:00am.

This is Julie's work of art. She saw some pictures in magazines, pieced ideas together, and crafted an arched stone facade for the cook top and blower. It has nice little tile niches on each side for storing spices, oils, etc. It ended up taking a great deal of thought from the builder, carpenter, stone mason and tile guy to figure out how to could be built. Success!

Faux, faux, and more faux. We like how the walls take on more character with a faux finish, but it turns out that most of the things thought "faux", aren't. Faux painting is really about painting something to look like something else. This is an example of an electric plug in our kitchen's tile backsplash.

This, while thought of as faux, is really a textured paint style. This is our very purple downstairs powder room, minus it's mirror. The tile guy is over building the mirror as I type.

Another stylistic finish in an art niche.

But the most outrageous one is in my office. Hard to tell from the picture, but it is painted to look like the many layers of old weathered paint you might see on an old house or barn. The top layer is done over glue to make it old and crackly looking.

Well, that should be all for the "building our house" pictures. Now it is time to go move in.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Coming into the home stretch

Well, the house is nearing completion as the snow becomes a bit more frequent. We now believe we will be moving in right after Halloween (perhaps the 2nd). If you double click to see the bigger picture, you can tell we have had some landscaping. Mostly aspens, spruces, and Canada Reds. We even have a couple of hundred square feet of lawn. This is our first grass that we don't intend to spray with round-up. I wouldn't have done it, but I wanted a place where the dog could be outside and still avoid mud.

Lots of plants going into our Great Wall of Park City, the 750,000 pound retaining wall. This is a collection of shrubs with some vines to grow up the wall and some junipers to drape down.

Out front, you can see a million foot (hoof) prints in the dirt. These are from the local deer cruising through, check out the newly planted salad bar.

More faux painting. This is in the dining room. They are nearing completion.

The stone guys finished the stone arch going from the living room into the kitchen. The bright flash makes it a bit ugly. It isn't really.

Phone and ethernet are in and wired neatly.

Cable is in, but not terribly complete or neat yet.

Which just leaves us with all these. I am sure they do something important.

Two weeks! We are keeping our fingers crossed.