Sep 24, 2008

Condo Update

In preparation for moving out and renting our condo (We have renters!), D has been working diligently the last couple of weekends to make sure the backyard is attractive and easy to maintain for the new tenants. She completely re-did all the planters; each of the plants will expand to cover large portions of open area, and the rest is all barked to help cut down on weeds. D worked really hard on it...doesn't everything look great?!

You've heard of Where's Waldo? This is Where's Willow? A side benefit to getting everything cleaned up is that we can let Willow out, until she 1) starts to annoy the rabbit, or 2) finds something to eat that she shouldn't be eating.

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House Updates

Another week, another bunch of stuff done on our house!

The rock on the porch area is done, and all of the scaffolding is down from around the house. They're grading the front and back yards to flatten out the dirt and clean up a little from the construction.

The staircase railing and baseboards are in...both still need to be painted, but you can see how cool the stairs are going to look!

Cabinets and sink in the laundry room. We didn't order the upper cabinets (they're optional)....let's hope no one notices the mistake.

A better view of the front, without any heavy machinery in the way. The roof tiles are all up, so the outside is almost done. There will be "shutters" next to the upper windows and they still have to paint under the eaves on the porch, but it's coming along nicely.
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Sep 15, 2008

Casa Nueva

We're buying a house! D and I have been waiting until most of it has been finalized to tell everyone, but it's looking pretty solid at this point. After we work through some final loan details and get through escrow, it'll be ours. Of course, we also have to wait until the house is's a brand new house that's currently under construction.

Though we hadn't seriously been looking for a new house until recently, we've always enjoyed going to see model homes, along with the pleasant daydreams those trips entail. Four years ago, when we were looking to buy our condo, we saw some really nice places up in San Elijo Hills, in northern San Diego County. It's a master-planned community with 27 developments surrounding a common area with schools, parks, fields, stores, and other goodies. At the time, most of the properties were out of our price range and far from work (especially for me), but we liked the area and recognized the benefits of having a brand new house. Over the years, even after buying our current house, we've often gone back to that area to look at new developments. About a year ago, we found one we really loved, just outside the main community. Let's call it San Elijo Hills-adjacent. We've been keeping an eye on their new releases, waiting for a specific floor plan and home design. When they finally started building one with the exact specifications we wanted, we just couldn't pass it up.

Here's an artist's rendering of the front of the house:

Along with a beautiful exterior, the inside of the house is awesome, if I do say so myself. Let me preface this next section by saying that this is WAY too much house for us currently, to an almost ridiculous level, but we're trying to buy as much house as we can while the market is on the low(er) end, and while mortgage rates are still affordable. We will definitely be house-poor and will have to cut back a bit on our normal spending habits (no more Woot! for me), but we think it's worth it to prepare for the future. Anyway....

The house is 3,247 square feet, with five bedrooms and four bathrooms. It also has a formal living room and dining room (useless rooms), and a loft-style bonus room (my man-cave). It has a beautiful kitchen, a huge master bedroom, and plenty of extra rooms for family and friends to come visit. For people who are interested in floor plans (I love looking at blueprints), here's a link to the first floor, and one to the second floor. Our house will be exactly like the plans show, with the only optional addition being the retreat connected to the master bedroom.

Things have progressed the last month or so, we've gone from finding out the house was available to putting in an offer, signing the contract, and picking out upgrades. We've visited the construction site a few times and seen amazing progress. The first time we walked through it, the outside was wire framed and the inside was being insulated but didn't have any drywall yet. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera on that visit.

The next time we visited, they had added the first outer layer and drywalled the inside walls. Here's the front of the house from two weeks ago:
And here's the family room/kitchen area with drywall, taping, and patching:

Last weekend, we were in Chicago for a wedding and some sightseeing (pictures to come), so it was two weeks before we were able to get back to the house. We went yesterday and they've completed all of the stucco and one layer of outside paint:

Inside, they've added paint and started putting in the cabinets. This is the same view as above....starting to look better, isn't it?

A couple of weeks ago, we went and picked out flooring. The countertops are going to be a dark green granite called Verde Butterfly; until it gets a lot of light, it's so dark that it almost looks black. In the picture below, it's the oval chip on the right. As you can see, the cabinets will all be white, and we've chosen flooring in mostly grey tones. The bottom tile will run from the front door down the hallway and into the kitchen. The small square tiles in the middle represent the other tile colors, so the pattern will be varied a bit. The carpet will be in all other areas except the bathrooms, which will have the linoleum on the left. The walls throughout and tiles in the bathroom (for sinks and showers) will all be white as well.

Choosing all these options was a pretty fun experience. We'll be finalizing everything this week.

Of course, looking at an unfinished family room and floor plans doesn't really give an indication of what the house will look like when it's done. There's a photo tour of the model online, so you can walk through the house and get a feel for the layout. Keep in mind that this one has been professionally (and expensively) decorated, and almost everything in sight has been upgraded to the best possible flooring/paint/option combinations. Unfortunately, our house will NOT look this nice. With that caveat, here it is.
Needless to say, everyone is welcome to visit (and stay!) as soon as we're all settled.  We're currently looking to close escrow on November 13, so we'll probably also throw ourselves a housewarming party in early December.  I'll be posting pictures as the house continues to progress.  I'm especially excited to see the countertops and the rest of the cabinets installed.

PS- At the moment, we're keeping our condo and renting it out...we'll see what the housing market does in the next year or two and make a decision then.

Sep 3, 2008

On Baseball

I've never been a huge fan of baseball. I realize that's essentially blasphemy to my sports-loving friends and family, but it's the truth. I'm not saying I hate it, but it's never been the most exciting sport for me to watch, play, or attend.

In my youth, I certainly enjoyed going to Dodgers games with family members, and the Birmingham Barons games every summer were somewhat entertaining, but I haven't been really into baseball since the days of Kirk Gibson and Orel Hershiser. When I go to Padres games, it's definitely for the companionship and the peanuts, rather than for any interest generated by the team or the game itself...I can barely get interested when the Dodgers come to visit, though I take pride in being the only one rooting against the home team.

Three weeks ago, however, I was in Boston for work and ended up going to a Red Sox game with seventeen of my colleagues. At this game, I was reminded why people enjoy baseball, and how exciting a game can be when played by offensive juggernauts. I'll admit that I went mostly for the field, and to hang out with my peers from work; it's not every day that you get a chance to go to Fenway Park. But once I was there, it quickly became about more than just the ballpark.

To begin with, our seats were pretty good. Yes, we were in the last row of our section, but we were even with home plate (if you follow the first base line into the crowd) and the upper deck protected us from the light rain during the first few innings. Here's a shot from our seats before the game started....they brought in a bunch of little leaguers to stand in front of the Green Monster:

The game started with a whimper, then a bang. I wasn't expecting much from the Texas Rangers, and they delivered on my low expectations. Then the Sox came up and batted around the order one and a half times. By the time the second inning started, it was ten to nothing. Even with an apparent blowout, I was already having a good time, since David Ortiz had hit two three-run home runs in a single inning. It was an impressive show, and I figured the game would end quickly.

Texas's two runs in the second were matched by two Red Sox runs in the third. Even when they weren't scoring, both teams were keeping the game exciting with long fouls, strategic hitting, and a fun atmosphere in the crowd. When one of my colleagues started yelling, "Let's go Rangers!!" with the loudest voice you've ever heard, it definitely made things a little more exciting in our section. The crowd was good-natured about it though, since their ten run cushion made things less-than-stressful.

In the fifth and sixth innings, the Rangers scored eight runs and five runs, respectively. The Sox tried to keep up but only managed two more, leaving them down after the sixth, 15-14. After singing "Sweet Caroline" during the eighth-inning stretch (WTF?!), the Sox were still down 16-15, and the mood in our section was much more tense. The fans weren't quite as willing to hear cheers for the Rangers when the specter of a loss rearing its ugly head. The game, however, was as exciting as could be.

The Sox tied it up with a nice double, but David Ortiz was intentionally walked after hitting two previous home runs. That brought up Kevin Youkilis, who had already homered once in the fifth. And he did this:

The "Let's go Red Sox" cheers, by the way, were in direct response to my colleague's previous cheers for the Rangers. He actually made the crowd come out of its shell and show some was a fascinating study in crowd participation. At this point, almost four hours(!) into the game, they were more excited than they had been throughout. Just watch this follow-up reaction:

The entire stadium (myself included) was going nuts, and the capacity crowd was almost all still there through eight innings. When the Rangers didn't manage a comeback in the ninth and the game ended with an Ivy League Football score of 19-17, it capped a really fantastic experience. It was without a doubt the best game I've ever seen live, and I was reminded of how exciting baseball can be when it's played right (by everyone except the pitching staff). It made me interested in going back the next time I'm in Boston. It almost made me want to go to a Padres game.

Thank you Fenway! Thank you Red Sox! Thank you Boston!