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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

That was fast!

It's been just under 2 months since my last post, and boy have things changed.

The house looks like... a house. They're installing the electrical systems today--HVAC and plumbing are already in as are the fireplace, windows and garage door.

So far, I've only found one thing that wasn't done right the first time--the doorway from the great room to the hall was installed backwards. My project manager got it fixed quickly and everything is looking good.

the corrected doorway
Guest bath/shower

I am SO excited about this exterior vent in the kitchen.

My new, big soaking tub
I ended up selecting the smallest available floor plan, mainly because I had major issues with the other plans. Here's a list of the things that struck me on many house plans I've looked at:
  • Walk-in closet off the master bath(or any bath)
One word: Moisture. A bathroom has a large amount of moisture, even with a good exhaust fan. WHY would you want your clothes right next to a main and continuous source of this? It's just asking for trouble. Even if your clothes don't get musty, moist environments are great for silverfish which love to eat cellulose (ie, cotton, rayon and linen)
  • Coat closet 10+ feet from the front door
Seriously, if the coat closet isn't right inside the front door, it's just a closet.
  • Laundry off kitchen or any main living area and/or laundry closet.
I'd much rather schlep my laundry to the other side of the house than have a pile of laundry in the kitchen. Also, even the best machines make noise. I want mine behind a solid door that I can shut. Finally, I do fabric dyeing. The utility sink will be in the garage--right outside the laundry room. Less distance between these two mean less mess.
  • Long, narrow approach to front door
I don't want myself or my guests to feel like they're approaching a back alley dive. Maybe I'm a little claustrophobic, too.
  • Access to common rooms through kitchen
My new kitchen is open to the 'great room', but I've seen some plans where you walk through the kitchen. I consider my kitchen private in some strange way. I don't mind you see it, but I'd rather no one have to walk through it to get to my main living area. Kinda seems like having to walk through the back garden to get into the house...

Laundry room

Monday, September 11, 2017

Thank Goodness I Like the Guy

I had my first appointment this morning with Casey, the project manager for my new house.
He seemed like a regular sort of guy, which is just what I was hoping for. Too slick means he doesn't actually do any of the work (and probably never has). Too rough--maybe he'll trash the place if you piss him off?
This guy struck me as someone who works hard and takes pride in doing a good job.  I told him my experience with rennovations and home-building and made it clear that I understand what it takes to build a house, and that I am very clear on what I am getting in a "production build".

He explained the post-tension slab foundation (which I was curious about), how they will handle things like cracked/weak studs (reinforce with additional boards) and the general timing of things. He seemed confident that I'll be moving in January. (!!!)

I stopped to get a photo, though things may change. When I left Casey was waiting to hear back if the forms needed to be moved. Apparently the plans used to set them were an inch off. He estimates the slab will be poured by the end of the month in any case.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Holy Sh** This is Actually Happening

My sales guy said I should hear about permits by the 8th, but I was ready for things to be delayed after all the damage and mess in the Houston area. That, and buying a house just a couple of weeks after deciding it was the right thing to do was starting feel a bit dream-like.

So when I got a text from Brandon (previously mentioned "sales guy") with this photo, my gut reaction was "oh crap. this is really going to happen." Yes, I'm more than a little freaked out at having a mortgage all on my own, but if I let fear keep me from doing things, I'd have a very different (and not anywhere near as fun) life.
So after work, I drove up to check things out and to see what my commute will be like. Without traffic, it is quick (less than 15 min), and easy--two toll roads and just 2 traffic lights.
I'll meet with the project manager, Casey, on Monday for the "pre-construction orientation".
My new back garden.

The rest of the back garden. Not much, but big enough.
Me in the future "Great Room"

From the curb (or kerb, for my UK friends)

From the front door

Thursday, August 24, 2017

This is fun

and scary! But mostly fun.

My mortgage loan is "gold certified" (whatever that means), I've finalized all the options. Now we wait for permits. I've been told we should break ground in 2-3 weeks now.
Today I received a few things I ordered from the UK.
Pulls for the kitchen
 I fell in love with these bin pulls as soon as I saw them. I bought enough to put on all the cabinet doors and drawers. They are darker than they appear in this image, but I still they are going to look great.
Railway signs
Since my first visit to Europe, I've wanted a "toilet" sign. Not just because it's cool, but it is practical. How many times have you had to give directions to your bathroom to guests. This takes all the guesswork out of it.
I also got the Laundry sign since a) I'll have a laundry room and b) it looks cool.
I had to get this sign for so many reasons. The main is that I, like most people, detest anyone coming to my door trying to sell something, especially religion. The funny thing is, I used to be one of those people. I was a kid and didn't have a choice, but still--we knocked on doors, spreading "the word" in an effort to save all those poor people who hadn't figured out that we had all the answers. I'm cured of that now...

I love the wording of this sign. I just hope anyone who thinks about knocking on my door to sell me something understands it. And sods off. ;)

Being the over zealous person that I am, I already have projects plan for after I move in. The first set will be installing a water softener, ceiling fans and cabinet pulls. Next up will probably be painting.
I've already got swatches. At some point I'll add board and batten and crown molding, and hopefully some cool craftsman-style borders.

and that is just the beginning...

Have a fantastic day!


Monday, August 21, 2017

Pretty sure it's too late to change my mind...

This morning I made the final selections and sign and initialed a few dozen papers. It's exciting and scary and emboldening.
I changed my mind about 200 times, fretting over colors and finishes and appliances. I've worked up a spreadsheet and my Pinterest account has seen more activity in the past 3 weeks than all the years I've had it. I can't imagine how overwhelming this is for someone who's never owned a house and knows nothing about home building.
One of things I love about having a new house built is that I'm able to add electrical outlets and light fixtures where ever I like. Especially good for the rooms I'm using for my studio.

Decisions I made:
Hardwood floors (technically engineered hardwood floors). I know tile is more durable and vinyl planking is easy to care for and replace damaged sections, but I like the look and feel of real wood.
Ideally, I'd have a Craftsman-style house, and that's the feeling I hope to exude in my new home.

Stainless steel appliances: I went back and forth on this, but ultimately it was the double-oven range that's only offered in stainless that made the choice for me. I would have preferred gas, but none of the new communities around here are running gas, and if they did, the added cost would have priced me out.

Range hood instead of a microwave/hood combo: I was all set to get the lovely, feature-filled microwave that would sit over the range. I like the one in my apartment, but then the hood isn't vented outside, so it's pretty useless. I got all excited about one that has a steam feature. Then I thought to myself "would I really steam anything in the microwave?" As it is, I only use it to heat things up and melt butter for crepe batter. Then I realized that a high-CFM vent would be far better for me. I can cook more 'smelly' things inside and not worry about the entire place smelling of it.

As much as I've like living in this complex, I'm looking forward to moving to my own place. Other than putting up shelves and ceiling fans, there won't be anything I'll have to do right away. I can take my time painting rooms and settling in. I'm excited about having a garden again, and already thinking about what vegetables to start with. First thing, though, will be to plant some trees. There isn't a single one in the entire subdivision since is was an agricultural field (there's still corn growing in the next one over)

Saturday, August 12, 2017


No one has asked me this yet, but I figure someone might be wondering why I chose to buy a newly built house over one I could buy much cheaper and renovate. I thought about, it since my ex and I did that twice and then built our own place here in Texas, with our own hands and the help of two fantastic guys from Guatemala, Oscar and Eddy.

Here's the list of features that won me over:
whole-house blown-in insulation and the option to upgrade ceiling insulation to R42
Double-glazed, UV tinted windows
9' ceilings throughout
Externally vented exhaust fan in kitchen
HVAC equipment located at side front of house, away from all living spaces
option to add outlets during build process(I'll add counter-height outlets in the den and secondary bedrooms)
covered patio (as in, under the roofline) I've really enjoyed the covered patio here at the apartment, and more importantly, so has Gabby.

On a more practical level, I'm much older now and though doing work on a house myself would be good exercise, I've decided I'm better off letting professionals build my house and I'll focus on building my technicals skills and expanding my sewing business again. I'll focus on custom bridal and alterations and teaching. I should have plenty of space for a couple of students in the new house, and a much better office space.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

and Then Things Got Even More Interesting...

My friend, Leslie, likes to say, "If you want something done, ask Juliette to do it."

The Bloke starting seriously encouraging me to buy house a few weeks ago. Just over a week ago, I decided to go for it. I started looking online, got an idea of what I could qualify for, and made an appointment with his realtor to look at "pre-owned" houses on Sunday. I completed a pre-qualification with her mortgage broker.
I'd already mentally rennovated a dozen houses by Saturday morning, but noticed that anything in my range that looked decent only lasted a few days before going into contract.
So Saturday morning I headed out to look at some new communities. Four, to be exact. What I realized was that the things that were really important would be difficult and costly, if not impossible, in an existing house (mind you, these are all build in the 70's and 80's).
I came home exhausted, checked in with The Bloke and went to take a nap. I didn't sleep. I had a foreboding sense of impending loss, that if I didn't move immediately, I'd miss out on this opportunity.
I asked The Bloke if he'd think me crazy for heading back and putting a deposit on a place. He said I should jump at the opportunity.

Soooo, less than 10 days after deciding to buy a house, I bought one.

Now, before you tell me I'm an idiot or that I'm rash and reckless, my ex-husband and I owned three primary homes (one built with our own hands and the help of two great guys from Guatemala, the other two we did massive rennovations on), two vacation homes and two investment properties with a partner. I know a few things about houses and building, and I have personally done framing, drywall and texturing, tiling and light electrical. I know how to use power tools. I also know how much work it all is, and that I'd be better off advancing my technicals skills and rebuilding my sewing business while professionals build me a house.

I get to focus on the fun stuff--flooring, finishes, paint colors (which I will do myself) and avoid the all too familar mess of living in a construction zone.
If you're interested in that sort of thing, here's my Pinterest board:

and here's my list so far of upgrades by catgory:

"I can't believe I have to pay extra for this since it doesn't really seem optional":


"I could live without this if I didn't live in Texas":
Plumbing for water softener
Wiring for ceiling fans
Ceiling insulation upgrade to R42

"It's Gabby's house, too":
Sliding glass door (to accommodate pet door)
Extend Covered Patio, add ceiling fan (okay, this is at least as much for me, but Gabby does love to sit on the patio)

"If I going through all this, the place should reflect my fantastic style and taste":
Hardwood floors in all "non-wet" areas
Marginal lite windows
Painted shaker-style cabinets
Upgraded tub with tile surround
Craftsman style front door
Bullnose finished corners

"This would be a major pain to do myself":
Plumbing for Utility sink in garage
Garage door opener
exterior outlet

So this is how a house can start at 'the low 200,000's!!! and end up in the high 400,000's. Just kidding--it's not THAT bad, but sheesh, this stuff adds up FAST.

More to come--I've got six months to obsess about this stuff.
What the hell am I doing?

Saturday, July 29, 2017

How Do You Know?

I'm still processing everything that's happened over the past 18 months, and probably will always have it churning in the back of my mind. It's the curse of being a problem solver, I'm afraid.
I'll never stop wondering if I could have done things differently, if there was something crucial that I missed. This doesn't mean I'm not moving on with my life.

I've dated.
I've done some online dating over the past 18 months, and met some nice, interesting people. I've also met quite a few (and heard stories) that explain the age old question, "Why are you single?" With some people, it's pretty obvious right away. Sadly, those are the people who will seldom take the credit/blame for their own state. Their target partner is too choosy, too focused on xyz or, by favorite, doesn't know what they really need.

I've traveled.
In the past 18 months I've been to Boston, MA, Vancouver, BC, Edinburgh, London and Paris.
I always feel a fresh sense of self when I travel, especially to a new place, and hope to do a lot more.

I've created.
This is a big one. I've been a creative a person all my life. I can't remember a time when I didn't make things. Cars for my Barbies out of shoes boxes and trim reels from the fabric store, clothes for dolls and pets, sock puppets and cardboard houses for the kids I babysat. Up until about 6 months, I wasn't do much creating. I was too much on edge, anxious, mostly from being in a "relationship" that had me constantly wondering where I stood and feeling like the other woman (looooong story there).
Then I met someone who left no doubt whatsoever where he stood and what I mean to him. I don't believe in fairy tales or happily ever after, but I do believe in being completely honest and direct about what you want, what you can handle and what you are willing to give.
When I was able to get back into my studio and create, completely immerse myself in what I was working on, I knew things has shifted dramatically. It has so much to do with the person I'm in a relationship, but equally to do with the person I am NOT in a relationship with. Meaning, being with the right person is wonderful. Being alone is still far better than being with the wrong person.

I've loved.
I've grown closer to my friends, who have been fantastic and more supportive than I could even have hoped for.
I've loved people who didn't deserve it, and learned that whether someone is ready to hear it, I must tell them how I feel. I will never again wait to say those words in fear that I won't hear them back. Love is not something to offer as a trade. You have to give it freely, when you feel it. If the recipient can't handle hearing it, you need to move on. Don't waste your time with anyone who isn't ready or able to be loved by you.
Only animal people will understand this, but I've fallen so deeply in love with my dog. Gabby is a special soul and I know I'd have gone off the deep end by now if I didn't have her for a constant companion. She makes me laugh and feel loved every day.
I love myself more. My days of skinny are long over, and I'm squishier than I'd like to be, but I have more confidence now that I ever did when I had trouble finding jeans small enough to fit me (I know, I hate my younger self for that, too).
I have finally learned that old lesson that confidence, kindness and sincerity are more attractive than good looks.

I hope my adventures are entertaining and inspiring to someone.

Friday, July 28, 2017

the long process of purging

When I was younger, I wrote in a journal daily. It was how I dealt with every curve life threw at me.
I stopped writing about 7 or 8 years ago,  for so many reasons, but mostly because I wasn't ready to do anything about what I discovered.
I started writing again about a year ago. I've done some off and on, sometimes by hand like the "old days", but more often electronically as thoughts popped in my head. I'd thought I'd share some in case my feelings and words might help someone else with whatever they are going through.

I can’t hold onto to her anymore

I held her for a moment in this big scheme of time
I never thought there’d be a moment when she wasn’t mine

she’s a free spirit
she’s shed all her fears
held up her head
wiped away all the tears

she’s spread her wings
looking to the sky
she’s taken flight

all that’s left for me
is to kiss her goodbye


I never believed I could fall so hard again
But here I am, feeling all the hurt
It reminds that I’m still alive
So thank you for this broken heart

I walked away from sorrow
The loneliness was the hardest part
I know now I do it on my own
So thank you for this broken heart

Now I’ve found my voice again
So I can sing
And I can soar again
Since I remembered I have wings

I feared I’d lost the way to love
With no idea on where to start
You helped me see that I still can
So thank you for this broken heart

Thank you, thank you, thank you
From the bottom of my broken heart


His complete lack of bravery kept him from ever owning his own heart.
He followed the whims and will of others to avoid rejection and denial.
In the end, he lost out on true, great love and life itself. He passed his days in safety, monotony and unfulfilled dreams.
He was given an unwanted freedom for a moment
and was shown so many possibilities
for love with few constraints, adventure and risk
but in the end,
when his tether was tugged ever so slightly
he return to the unhappiness that was familiar

and was never disappointed.


the next time we meet
you'll wonder if I know you
as I look through you
but my lips will be betray my expression
with one word


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Cheers, London!

Sequined Chanel--too delicate to move
My last few days in London were a mixed of work and pleasure (though not mutually exclusive--I love my co-workers all around the world). On Tuesday and Thursday, I spent the morning with my good friend, Rachel Kurland at the Victoria & Albert Cothworkers' Centre. We view a few garments both times, with the help of curators of the collection. I'm so thankful for Rachel for setting up these appointments and selecting fabulous garment.

A few of the gowns were far too delicate to be moved, but we were still able to view them in their storage drawers.

One of the garments we looked at was a printed cotton gown from the late 1700's. It had no method of closure, so was either pinned or sewn closed. The dress had very little wear and was remarkably vibrant for its age.
Back bodice of a 1700's cotton gown.

The dress that fascinated us the most by far was a persimmon colored Vionnet gown. All her work was like a puzzle, but this was one of the more complicated ones. Unusual seams and gussets. We spent a long time looking at the front, figuring out grainline, seaming and shape, and then when the curator opened the gown to show the inside we both exclaimed, "OHHHHH!!!"

An inside view of a Vionnet.
A view from the groundlings area of Shakespeare's Globe

Tuesday night I met up with Rachel and her husband, David to see Romeo & Juliet at the Globe. It was an edgy, modern interpretation and highly controversial, but I loved it. Especially since we were right at the stage. The death scene played out less than 10 feet from us.

When Rachel and I went back on Thursday morning, there were a few other people looking at garments, most were PhD students. We spoke with one woman at length who is studying the shift starting in the 1600s from dressmaking being almost exclusively male to female. She was studying a gown very similar to one we were looking at, but which hadn't been changed so dramatically (if at all) later.

It turned out she and Rachel knew some NYC theater costume people in common.

Detail on a Calliot Soeurs dress--another gown too delicate to be moved

Embroidery on a velvet half-mourning gown

A hand-painted silk gown from late 1700's that has been altered for fancy dress

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Catching up, slowing down

Today was my first day on my own again. I had a very cool lady from work come stay with me in Paris and travel with me to London. It was her first trip to this part of the world, and she ventured on her own in both cities. I wasn't anywhere near that brave the first time I came her, so I'm impressed. I also got to know her better and like her even more now.

I got a late start today, which was fine since it was Sunday and most things didn't open until 11 or noon anyway. I decided to look for some more obscure places today.

It was a beautiful day, so lots of families were at the park.

My first stop was Shepherd Market--a small hidden set of streets close to Green Park.
Most of the business were closed, but it was a cool little area and I got a great lunch at "The Little Square". A great Italian restaurant. The family at the table next to me chatted in Italian the entire time.
Entrance to Shepherd Market
A house near Carlyle House
From Green Park I headed southwest to visit Carlyle's House, the home of a Scottish writer who was famous in his day and influential to other authors including Charles Dickens and George Eliot.
It was a long walk from the closest tube station, but it was a nice day and beautiful area of London (Chelsea).

The stairs--4 floors!
Possibly the most unassuming museum ever

Carlyle House garden

another house near Carlyle House

 My last destination was Woburn Walk, a Victorian shop street. I'm glad I saved this for last--it was close to the flat and not worth a long trip or walk. Only one shop was open, and it was a convenience store. It was a pretty street in any case.

I'll be in the London office tomorrow, so no posts unless something really interesting happens.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Things are going to get a little boring

sorry, but I didn't do much today and tomorrow I'm headed to the Paris office, so I won't be posting as much for the next few days.

The secret door (I thought it was a closet)
I got some fabric shopping down and picked up some treats for friends and co-workers.

The only photos (other than food photos--with my phone) I took today are of the cool little passage I had to go through to dump the trash.

I was able to catch up with emails and chats today, too.
The basement
The door to the back alley

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Sunday in Paris

There wasn't a lot I could or wanted to do today, which is good, because someone was playing horrible, loud music into the early hours and I didn't get much sleep.
Veggie seller at Marche Bastille. yes, those are mushrooms in that basket

Fish seller at Marche Bastille

I did, however, make it to the Bastille Market and pick up something for dinner. It's mostly a fresh food market with seafood, produce, baked goods, cheese, meat, game, poultry, dried fruits and nuts, olives and some prepared food. There are a few booths with clothes, purses, scarves, etc. I love seeing the long rows of fresh food.
I found a few tasty things at the market.

I came back, hung out at the apartment, enjoying the sounds of the bells from Notre Dame. Around 2:30 I decide to venture out since the sun had made an appearance and I needed to find somewhere to buy coffee.

Kids playing with sailboats in the garden pond

I got a late lunch in the Luxembourg Gardens, one of my favorites to visit on a Sunday to watch the children play. I didn't stay long, though, because about 3/4 of the way through my lunch, it got cold.
Pony rides!!

I did find an open shop on my way back--an M&S food shop, which is a British company. So here I am, in Paris, drinking Scottish spring water. I also picked up a bottle of St. Emilion for 8 euros.
Dinner in the flat.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Le Samedi a Paris

I got a later start than I had planned, but it was fine. I saw what I wanted to, and even got a little shopping in. The only problem is I forgot to pick up a few things at the market, and everything will probably be closed tomorrow. I'm hoping I can get some things at the Bastille Market, assuming it is
still on tomorrow.
I pass this market on my way to the metro...

This reminded me of buildings in Boston
but this is file, not copper.
I started off heading to an exhibit I just found out about--Balenciaga's Black Dresses at Musee Bourdelle. It was in the 15th and should have been easy to get to, but the metro line closest to the flat was not stopping at the station closest to the museum, and I ended up walking quite a ways.
I was disappointed in the exhibit. It was nicely done, but very small--2 cases with toiles laid out and another one or two on forms, and 4 or 5 complete garments. The ticket was 10 euros. Thankfully, the book I bought has photos of quite a few garments as well as sketches.

Candle holder, Musee Cognacq Jay
fireplace in Musee Cognacq Jay
A bed fit for a queen, Musee Cognacq Jay
Next I headed to the other side of the river (I was on the left bank), to Musee Cognacq Jay. I'd wanted to visit when I was last here two years ago, but it was closed for renovations.

This was a house museum, which I really like, especially when most of the original decor is in place.

I got a prix fixe lunch not far from Cognacq Jay. Roast lamb shoulder with rosemary and apple tart for dessert. Very tasty.
Really cool, really old watches, Petit Palais

Yes, I've got a thing for stairs (Petit Palais)

My next stop was another place I've been wanting to visit but never got around to it before: Le Petit Palais. The little place. Um, yeah, I guess for a palace it's petit, but it's still a palace. Lots of nice works here, and quite a range: paintings, furniture, objects d'art, sculpture. And the
building is beautiful.

My view for the concert
I headed back to the flat to put my feet up for a bit and drop off the huge book I bought at the Balenciaga exhibit.

After some shopping, I had a light snack at the apartment, then headed to a concert in one of the most stunning chapels I've ever seen: St. Chapelle. It's small, but mostly stained glass.

Notre Dame de Paris. Even prettier at night.
On my way back I found the one restaurant still open (really? 9:30 in Paris? that's what I get for staying in a primarily tourist area). Some apple sorbet and a pear brandy, and I was ready to turn in for the night.