Weapons of mass destruction.

I am worried. True, I feel a bit of anxiety about our pending appraisal, our precarious financial situation and how I haven’t started packing for our move yet, but what really has my heart palpitating is the thought of bringing Sacha to live in the brand new beautiful house dozens of people have been toiling away on since Oct. 1.

Door screen customization. Thanks.

Sacha is a Weimaraner. She will turn 11 on August 29. That’s roughly 77 in dog years, but don’t let her senior status fool you into thinking any doddering grandma thoughts about her. WMD also stands for “Weimaraners Make Disasters.” A continual refrain in our household is “Why must you ruin everything?” and also “Aarg! The counter terrorist has struck again!” as she nabs raw chicken or crackers or carrots off the kitchen counter. You’d never guess how many obedience classes she’s been to.

Sometimes, I can quell anxiety by writing, so here is the list of what I am most concerned about:

  1. Floors. Yes they are concrete, but with three coats of wax on them, they currently shine like a freshly Zambonied ice rink. Sacha comes equipped with 16 individual weapons of mass destruction in the form of razor-like talons at the ends of her limbs. Good-bye, glistening floors. Hello, dull, scratched surface! Sigh.
  2. Doors. When Sacha wants to go outside, she will often paw at the door she wants magically to open. Our new front door is made of mahogany that I lovingly and carefully sanded and coated with FIVE (5) coats of spar varnish over a period of several days. I am considering adding an extra five coats to the part of the door Sacha is most likely to swipe at with her razor fingers, just to try to stay ahead of the inevitable. The other doors in the house are made of lovely vertical-grain fir. Sigh.
  3. Screens. We have a nice big slider off the living room that will eventually open onto a patio area. The fine people at Sierra Pacific, who created all our stunning windows, will come soon to install all the special screens on the windows and the slider. How nice it will be to enjoy a gentle breeze through the wide screen door … until a chipmunk/turkey/neighbor dog/moose/bird/porcupine/insert-any-of-many-other-indigenous-meadow-species-here ambles by and Sacha runs right through the screen door. Sigh.

Maybe Sacha will be getting a pair of slippers and blinders for her birthday.

Notice the sleek sporting dog. What a stunning specimen. Now look closer. See the big dark stain on her neck. That's turkey poop. And what's that in her mouth? A half of a deer leg.

Oooh. Look at the sweet doggie. What's she doing?

This took work. I'm still surprised we didn't end up at the veterinary surgeon's office, paying another four figure bill.

Well, I thought I might be able to have a nice, relaxing summer vacation, but instead I somehow was enrolled in summer courses. I didn’t feel like dealing with the long lines at the registrar, so I just decided to go. Oh how much I learned over the last five weeks at the Jesse Oviatt School of Construction Best Practices!

I was able to partake in daily hands-on learning in classes such as Ambidextrous Nail Gun Usage, Creative Ladder Placement Techniques, Fiber Cement and You, Back Flashing for Beginners, Story Poles: Then and Now, Proper Hydration: Water vs. Beer, and my favorite: Caulk 101.

For my whole life, I have always thought that if you had to clean up your caulk line with your finger, it meant that you just weren’t very good at caulking. Friends, it turns out that is not true! The first rule of good caulking is that it always needs to be smoodged into place. In the past, this has meant that I ended up with all 10 fingers loaded with globs of caulk. Watching Professor Oviatt at work, I learned that the way the pros do it is to have a wet rag handy to do the smoodging. Then every so often, you amble over to a bucket of water (and it doesn’t even have to be really clean water) to wash out the rag and wash off your hands. Trust me, this is the way to do it. It gives a superior caulk line every time.

My other favorite course this summer was Lacquer and Varnish: Will it Ever End? with Professor Tom Mylroie. Professor Mylroie draws on many years of experience, which he shares generously with his students. To prep wood for varnish or lacquer, I learned that oftentimes, using just a piece of sandpaper is not enough. The proper method is to have a sanding block, which you wrap with a little blanket of paper towel, and then wrap with the sandpaper, to give it a little cushion. Professor Mylroie astounded his class one day when he spontaneously, and in record time, built a special-use wheeled cart to carry his fancy German spray gun and can of lacquer. He even had a special hook for the paint can opener!

What a treat to be able to learn from such talented professionals! And now I have so many new skills to add to my resume. I just hope my final exams aren’t too tough …

Check the title. “You’ve got to be kidding me!”

This was the theme of the day this past Sunday.

Sunday’s work actually started late Saturday with a trip to the big orange hardware store–my home away from home. Many of the staff at HD now know me by first name, some know my first and last name, and just about all of them give me a knowing nod whenever I walk by. It’s a dubious honor, one earned by singlehandedly boosting Home Depot’s quarterly earnings.

Back to Sunday. We needed to get an early start because the people installing our counters requested a Sunday appointment and we had some work to do on the cabinets in preparation. So we were at the house at oh dark thirty, and covered in sawdust by oh dark forty. All good stuff.

Of course 30 minutes before our appointment the installers called to cancel. Evidently they had a conflict so rescheduled for Monday instead. Of course Monday was scheduled for a final sealing the concrete floors. Cue it: “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Oh well, on to more cabinet work. This generally makes me happy. But there we were,  working away with my trusty and bulletproof Bosch router. After a bunch of passes we went to switch on said router and nothing happened. Broken. Bad switch? Who knows. Irritating. Routers are the simplest power tools on earth. Really. A good one will last a lifetime. And I have a really fancy one. It even has maple handles. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Oh well, it was time to move onto something different. So we picked up my trusty, 10-year old circular saw to make some long cuts on Beech countertops. The battle continued. I couldn’t cut straight, and wasn’t even hung over. Yep, the circular saw was broken too. The second-simplest power tool in my arsenal. Also broken. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

So off to my home away from home. Bob said hi on my way in the front door. Nice guy. I bought what’s turned out to be the sweetest circular saw I’ve ever used, a Makita 5007MG.

On the way home, keep in mind on a Sunday, I got stuck in a traffic jam. In Spokane. Seriously? Yes, seriously. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Finally, back at home I made a few cuts with the new saw. Awesome. Progress. Amazing saw. Happy.

Then my dad gave the saw a try. Now, keep in mind that he’s a cabinet maker. He’s made more cuts with more saws then you can count.

But…cutting out the range opening in a seven foot piece of Beech countertop somehow–and I’m not sure what happened–all of the sudden the saw practically flies out of his hand. It had kicked back, and as a result made a big gouge on the surface of the wood.

I was done. No exclamation. No anger. Nothing.

We grabbed a piece of extra beech, cut the perfect size wedge, slid it in with wood glue and sawdust and fixed the mistake. I bet you won’t be able to find the “character” mark.

My phone buzzed. It was Scott McSpadden. He wanted to know if we needed some pro-bono help. On a Sunday. “You’ve got to be kidding me! Of course.” We worked away, new blood at the site instantly lifting the mood.

Then we walked inside, where the kitchen cabinets were assembled in place, their multiple coats of CAB lacquer glowing under the new lighting. Amazing. I took a look around and everything was spectacular. “You’ve got to be kidding me! This is incredible.”

Five minutes later a good friend called to ask if he and his wife could stop by. Sure. 20 minutes later G and K walked in with a cooler filled with ice cold IPA and white wine. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” Delicious. And very cool friends.

Then, we hung out in our kitchen, watching the sun lower in the sky casting these crazy shadows throughout the rooms.

“You’ve got to be kidding me!”

Pretty soon, we’re going to live here.

The view from L's room. Once pavers are in this will be quite stunning.

There’s been a lot going on in our lives lately, hence the lack of blog posts. The good news about working non-stop is that we’re making progress. This is a good thing, because K and my father are exhausted every night from their efforts, and the grind of a regular (and then some) work day plus a bunch of hours of house work occasionally wears on me too. We’re pushing hard to move in by the end of August. No rest for the weary!

The house looks damn good. And when I say damn good, I mean DAMN good. Really.

K in particular has been a machine. In the past week or two she’s just about finished painting the outside of the house. By hand. No sprayer. She’s sanded every beam in the house and applied three coats of polyurethane. She’s scubbed the floors Cinderella-style. And she’s applied five coats of spar varnish to the front door. I’m leaving out a bunch of things, but you get the idea. Machine.

Even though everyone has their noses to the proverbial grindstone the mood seems good at the house and we’re having fun. My father is doing painstaking work on the trim and occasionally treats us to a tirade of profanity. Do profanity and trim carpentry go hand in hand? In my experience? Yes.

Earlier today I was on the way back from the lumber yard with a giant load of vertical grain fir and Baltic birch plywood in a borrowed trailer. It took me 40 minutes to get home because the trailer was a half-inch too short to fit the birch, causing me to angle them over the side of the trailer. So I drove along at 30 mph max.

Two miles from home I heard a big whoosh, and looked in the rear view mirror to find a five-foot by five-foot piece of birch sailing through the sky, then crashing to the ground and skidding along the tarmac. I pulled over to walk back to pick it up when a white Subaru pulled over. I was mortified when the bank inspector stepped out of the car. Um, yes, of course I know what I’m doing. And by the way, I may need an extra $32 in this month’s draw request.



Armor on. Ready for battle.

There’s been satisfying entertainment value at the house recently. This is another way of saying that there’s a lot going on. From painting to siding, and applying lacquer to hanging doors, we’ve been finding ways to fill our time. Somehow the rest of life doesn’t seem to slow down either, but hey, it makes life interesting.

At the moment I don’t have the endurance to write a post about everything that’s been happening and it would require a serious attention span for you to read it. So let’s start with what went down two weekends ago.

After drywall wrapped up we spent a couple of days in a humid cloud of paint fumes, transforming the house from primer white to White Dove. What a difference!

Picking out a color, especially if said color is white, can be a bit torturous. Ultimately we settled on Benjamin Moore’s White Dove OC-17. We’re certainly not the first people to use this color and won’t be the last, but it’s a fantastic shade that has the right balance between shades of red (which can get too pink), blue (potentially too icy) and yellow (potentially too…urine-like).

It’s good to know we’re not the only ones over-thinking the right shade of white. Here’s a link to an article on Remodelista highlighting their favorites.

Rather than use Ben Moore paint though we bought our goods at Home Depot, using a Behr low-VOC option that was color-matched to White Dove. HD has this color in their computer so it’s a foolproof way to go. We’ve had good luck with Behr paint and it’s about 50% less expensive. Given that we sprayed over 40 gallons this isn’t an insignificant savings.

We sprayed the paint using my father’s Titan 440i sprayer. My dad sprayed, I backrolled the ceilings and Kristy took care of the walls. If you’re new to this process here’s how it works. The first person sprays. We started on the ceilings, then worked down in sections. The person rolling can fill in any spots that was missed by the sprayer, and the rolling creates a very smooth, hard surface once it dries.

For our 2,200 s.f. house, two coats took two long days. Even with high quality respirators (Sherwin Williams is a good source for these) we all had white paint end up on a kleenex when we blew our noses. Thankfully this isn’t a career for any of us.

So how do things look? Amazing. White Dove. Much love.

Buying fiber cement saw blades, caulk and Protecto Wrap is not NEARLY as fun as buying new platform sandals. Just sayin’.

Dark gray siding. Fir posts and beams. Galvanized metal. Orange windows.


There’s been big entertainment out at the job site.

First, we’re deep into siding. A four-day weekend created opportunity for a lot of labor from our end. I worked away with Jesse on Friday, Kristy and I picked things up over the weekend, then Jesse spent the 4th of July with us instead of relaxing at the lake like normal people.

Can you blame him though? Can you imagine anything more inspiring, fun and invigorating than roasting in the sun with me, K and a nail gun? Didn’t think so. But seriously, thanks Jesse.

The siding looks incredible. We’re using Hardie lap siding. This is fantastic stuff made from fibercement, which is a good choice for us given fire concerns and the impressive range of weather conditions we get in Spokane.

The one concern with Hardie is the toxic dust created when it’s cut. But there’s a nice fix for this. Behold, the Rigid fibercement saw. This is a slick little unit that has a built in vacuum system that suck up the dust as the blade cuts. Very cool and very handy, especially in places where our sloped roof meets the wall, which requires making long cuts along a thin piece of siding. Totally worth $169. And I might decide to keep it (vs. selling it at the end of the project) since it might be nice to use as a 5 1/4″ trim saw with a built in dust collector.

The best part is that this model is called the “Fuego.” This is spanish for fire. Every time I used it the phrase, “yo soy en fuego,” kept popping into my head. Fire. Fire. Fire. I am on fire.

Anyway, below are some early pictures of our work. More to come.

And before signing off, check out K’s new high heels. I’ve known

for a long time of her fetish for couture footwear, but this is going a bit far, don’t you think?

Only K could get away with this. I'm not sure Craig would have quite as much patience with me.

Extension cords and concrete floors. What could possibly go wrong?


If you’ve ever wondered why we call it “Meadow House,” here are 15 reasons.


Matt came up with it. Jesse and I started it. I continued it. And Jesse will finish it.

What, you may ask, am I talking about? The drip cap that runs around our house. When Matt finalized the window design, he did it in a way that made the top of every window at the same level, and the bottom of every window that sits above the ground also in line.

This design element allowed an opportunity to create a deep drip edge below each window. Here’s my take on what this allows.

First, it creates a window sill, which is super functional, keeping water that might hit the windows away from the siding. And given our windy meadow, water on the windows is a reality.

Second, it adds a beefy horizontal band to an already very horizontal house. Not only does this break up the siding, but it plays to an already strong design theme. In a lot of ways our house is all about the horizontal. The site is wide. The meadow is wide. The hillside behind us is wide.

Finally, it’s a nod to other architectural styles we like. It’s a very Japanese and Craftsman detail. I really love how Matt has pulled in traditional details in a modern way. We have this in a number of other places throughout the house too. Some other time I’ll take a few pictures of these, but realistically need to wait until the finish work is underway.

Installed trim! That's the color the house will be painted too.

As hanging drywall comes to a close the house looks more and more habitable. Well, habitable if you love the smell of gypsum dust. Our dog certainly does. She loves the way it smells and tastes in fact. I think drywall has a bunch of salt in it, so Sacha goes around the house licking the floors which also makes her thirsty. So she drinks water then licks more dust.

As a result, we gave her a new nickname this weekend. Cokehead. Why? Well her nose was coated in white powder and she was frantically running around the house looking for new piles of the powdery white stuff.

I’ve posted a few new pictures below, but they don’t really do the place justice. Taping and mudding start tomorrow. Soon enough we’ll have smooth primed walls ready for us to start finish work in earnest.

I love getting to know the different styles and personalities of the subcontractors working on site. Every now and then I also hear something so funny I almost wet myself. The drywall hangers were rocking out, listening to some relaxing heavy metal blasting loud enough that they could hear it over the scream of their routers and drills.

Jesse and I were talking in the garage, where we could hear, when all of the sudden I hear one of the guys talking/yelling. Here’s the quote: “man, if I quit drinking and lost my gut I’d look like an Ethiopian!”

At the time it seemed especially funny.

On other fronts we’ve also started exterior trim ahead of the siding going up. Jesse and I are collaborating on this part of the project, with K helping out too.

This weekend I got into some compound miter action at the master bedroom. This is always tricky work, but turned out nicely. The integral window sill/drip cap angles down and at the corner also needs a 45 degree miter.

I really love the way it looks. A nice mellow trapezoid shape. Sort of.