Monday, July 30, 2012

Friday night date night at..... Lowes?

Nothing says romance like a trip to Lowes, right??

Okay, that may have a pinch of sarcasm but in all honesty, this was mine and Mingus's Friday night fun--by choice--about a month ago.

After four straight weekends of me being out of town and the two of us being on the road for weddings, we were excited to have a weekend all to ourselves at home. It was around this time that we began to more realistically look at our house building project since we were into June and our savings was going according to plan.

With nothing on the agenda for the weekend, what did we decide to do on Friday night? Grab our planning book and head to Lowes--no buying allowing, just idea generating. I know that appliances come last in the house, but the fact there are several items we will have to purchase, we decided we should see what type of cost that might add up to and what sort of options we had.

We made a list that included all kitchen and bathroom appliances, counters, cupboards, flooring and more. We started at one end and slowly moved our way through.

What I enjoyed most: Seeing the kitchen setups and laylouts. It's much more fun to see everything together rather than individual pieces scattered through out. It also gave me an idea of what i did and didn't like about certain layouts, islands, etc.

What I learned: Too many options! It's so easy to forget how many pieces there are to this. We see a finished bathroom but never consider all the pieces that were decided upon for that bathroom. Think about it:
  • Tub or shower?
  • shower/tub wall type
  • shower head
  • Sink size
  • Sink color and materials
  • sink facet heads
  • flooring material and color
  • counter top material and size
  • cabinetry
  • Ceiling light? Fan? Heat lamp?
  • Vanity light and mirror
  • Toilet
What I took advantage of: All of the freebie fliers and booklets! I snatched them all and will now go through them page by page and cut out the pretty pictures and ideas I like and add them to our book! 

My Mingus feeling out the kitchen...:)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Homearama Fun on a Rainy Day

I was fortunate enough for my brother and sister-in-law let me tag along the evening they went to one of the Louisville Homearama sites last week. I've never been to one of these but was excited they waited to go on the day I was working in Louisville.

What was not so exciting was the rain storms that evening; however, I am told by Michelle that it did wonders for the usual crowd you have to wade through. The organizers almost turned us away, because, despite being open until 9:30 p.m. they close up shop at 8 p.m. After stopping for umbrellas, we got there at 8:07. Thank goodness Michelle doesn't like to take no for an answer! (It was a decent drive out there... we would get our entry!)

It was probably good, for me, that I was with Nic and Michelle and even better that Jon was not there; otherwise we would have had to be there at 9 a.m. to make it through all seven houses.

As any trained photojournalist should, I took more than enough pictures, some better than others. Here are the highlights.

 (top left) These 2 were the same room. It was massive and reminded me of a hotel suite. Incredible...Not likely for our home though.
(top right) LIKE: The abnormal wall; lots of corners and edges as opposed to being straight. Lots of character
(bottom left) LIKE: Window seat; the room off to the side, perhaps do this and we could use it as nursery space when needed and then have extra room for the future--coffee, sitting area, maybe?!
(bottom right) NOTE: Fold out bed...possibility for the office/guest room space

Stone & Brick
Building in the "Realm of Greystone" means we will have some stone in our home! We also want to use some stone or brick as possible heatsink in areas of the house. I particularly liked the wall in the bottom left as we may use something similar to separate the entry from the dining area. I also liked the partially stoned posts, which could fit into an area of the house since we're opting for post and beam framing.


I'm not sure what it is but an arch here or there (or everywhere) adds so much character in my opinion. Maybe I relate it to castles or something--not sure, but I'd love to incorporate some arches whether it be just passageways, some windows or look throughs in the walls. I LOVE the arched front door (bottom right)!

Living Space/Kitchen/Dining
I'll say it now because I'm not sure if I said it before, but I would really like the living room, kitchen and dining areas to flow together. I definitely do not want them far apart or walled apart. I figure I'll spend lots of time in the kitchen and it'd be nice to see what is going on in the living room, especially when kiddos come along. Several houses had hints of this. *Not the stone/arches from before are what is used in the bottom displayed kitchen to separate the kitchen from the living space; however the passage through is quite wide and there is a window through, equally wide. This allows the two rooms to flow together in some ways.

These three rooms had no walls or barriers dividing them. Instead they were laid out in somewhat of an 'S' shape. The curve in the flooring and walls from one room to the next created visual/mental changes and barriers between rooms.

Loved how this kitchen looked into the sitting room beyond it. Again, an island with cabinetry/beams created somewhat of a divide but not a complete visual barrier between rooms. I have also been playing with our design to possibly be similar to the kitchen to dining room layout (bottom right): to have the dining table at the 'front' of the kitchen right where our front windows will be.

What magnificent showers!!! The top right does not portray what the shower really was, but it may have been my favorite. You walk into the shower almost like it's another room behind a wall. Rather than a shower curtain, you are hidden by the wall itself. Very cool and kind of like a cave. The bottom left is from the massive bedroom I pointed out in the first collage. I DO like that shower though...
(top) LIKE: I love the size of the counter space and a separate potty room is never a bad idea.
(bottom left) LIKE: the wall hides the toilet, yet no separate room. I also like the bit of glass in that divider
(bottom right) LIKE: Long counter and the cabinet divider is kind of cool.

(top) LIKE" These two images go together. The counters/sink lined one wall (the bathroom connected two bedrooms) and turn around and there was the door to the room with the toilet and shower.
I liked the small, simplistic layouts of these bathrooms.

Details, Details, Details!

There was plenty else to love about these seven houses! I loved seeing some curved--not quite spiral--staircases and it made m relapse back to my childhood dreaming type houses. Yes, the bottom right picture is an unfinished room but I image that the dress room could look JUST like that and I'd be plenty happy!
(bottom left) LIKE: stained beams against white ceiling.

Sports Talk: Let the Games Begin! Go Team USA!

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published July 25, 2012.
It’s finally here!
The 2012 Olympic Opening Cermonies kick off Friday. Haven’t had time to keep up with the hype and qualifying? Here are some highlights on who we are pulling for on team U.S.A.

Men’s Swimming: Michael Phelps, Ryan Locht and Anthony Ervin
Phelps only needs three medals to pass the most decorated Olympian of all-time, Larisa Latynina, who claimed 18 medals through her career. Phelps sits at 16 after six golds and two silvers in 2004 and eight golds in 2008.
Meanwhile, Locht, who helped push Phelps to his stardom, is now posing as a challenge. The two will face off in both the 200- and 400-meter individual medley races to prove who is the better swimmer.
Ervin, a 2000 gold-medal swimmer, took leave of the sport for years before his 2011 return and has found his way back to the games. He will again compete in the 50-meter freestyle for Team USA, in pursuit of another gold in the event.

Men’s Track & Field: Justin Gatlin, Ashton Eaton, Galen Rupp, Tyson Gay
Gatlin returns to the Olympic stage after being banned from the 2008 due to a steroid scandal. Gatlin won the 100-meter at the U.S. trials earlier this summer. 
Eaton broke the 11-year old world decathlon record at the trials and is expected to win the event in London.
Rupp could possibly be the first American to win a medal in an event longer than 800-meters since 1968. He will compete in both the 5,000- and 10,000-meter runs.
And of course you must watch Kentuckian and world-renown runner Gay. I always like to brag about the fact I naively watched the speedster tear up the track at KHSAA state track meets back in my early running career.

Women’s Track & Field: Allyson Felix, Lolo Jones, Sanya Richards-Ross
Speed-demon Felix will compete in both the 100- and 200-meter with hopes of her first Olympic gold after taking home consecutive silver medals in the 200 in the last two games.
Although Jones is not the favored 100-meter hurdlers, she has captured the attention of many and you never know what the attention could translate to on race day.
It is quite rare, but three other athletes, including Michael Johnson, have proven that it is possible to take gold in both the 200- and 400-meter sprints. Richards-Ross will aim to be the fourth person to do so.

Women’s Beach Volleyball: Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings
With over ten years of partnership on the sand, May and Walsh once went on a 101-game win streak along with capturing 18 tournament wins. However, since the duo picked up gold in both Athens and Beijing, they have experienced some defeat and now have China and Brazil nipping at their heals. Nonetheless, they are 2012 favorites and will set an Olympic record if they capture their third consecutive gold.

Women’s Gymnastics – Gabby Douglas and Jordan Wieber
The United States women’s gymnastic team has not won gold since Atlanta in 1996 and this team of youngsters are the favorites. There are hopes for several gold medals including Douglas the “flying squirrel” on the uneven bars and Wieber on the balance beam.

Men’s Basketball:
Do I even need to mention names to listen for? I bet most of you can name the entire team line-up anyway. Despite injuries to Dwayne Wade, Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard, I do not think anyone has lost any hope for Lebron, and Kobe to lead the team to anything but gold in London.

Women’s Soccer:
Too many experiences of winning the World Cup, only to turn around and take silver in the Olympics does not set well with our country’s competitive spirit in general, but especially with this team of ladies. Hoping to avenge their loss to Japan in the 2011 World Cup, Hope Solo and Heather O’Reilly lead their team to the battle field.

Other names/events to pay attention to:
  • Judo:  Kayla Harrison; potential to be U.S.’s first Olympic champion in judo history. 
  • Men’s Gymnastics: Danell Leyva and John Orozco; they are leading the charge in bringing new light to the mens’ side of the gymnastic house. 
  • Wrestling: Jordan Burroughs; Reigning world champion, he is one of America’s best hopes for a wrestling medal. 
  • Weightlifting: Holley Mangold; More likely to be a 2016 medal contender, she is quickly improving and could surprise many in London. 
  • Women’s Swimming: Missy Franklin; She has the opportunity to be the first American female athlete to capture seven medals at one Olympiad. 
  • Diving: David Boudia, Troy Dumais, Kristian Ispen; Team U.S.A. has not medaled in diving since 2000. Any or all of these three could bring a return to America’s placing in this discipline.

Other First Place Favorites:
  • Taekwondo: Steven Lopez
  • Archery: Brady Ellison.
  • Men’s Beach Volleyball Todd Rogers/Phil Dalhausser
  • Women’s Road Cycling: Individual Time - Kristin Armstrong
  • Women’s Basketball Team
First time Olympic title hopefuls:  
  • Men’s and Women’s water polo 
  • Women’s volleyball
 Needless to say, it is likely the most exciting event and news to keep up with is still TBD. That’s part of the Olympic fun—the unexpected stories. The good news is with live-streaming of all events online for the first time, you should not have to miss a thing.
Now let’s just hope the stereotypical rainy England weather doesn’t ruin the fun.
Go U.S.A!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Big Building Project Begins...sort of...

I've had the intention for awhile to begin using this blog as a means for tracking our "House Project". (It definitely needs a better name than that.) I apologize for those of you completely disinterested in such a topic and I can presume that some of the nitty-gritty details I'll end up recording won't be too exciting for anyone not going through the house building process. (Keep in mind, also, we are starting at ground zero, literally.)

I've always wished I'd started my wedding planning tracking on my blog earlier than I did but was so grateful that I did track the last two months or so. Jon and I have so many questions right now and are going to anyone and everyone for advice. Luckily for us, we are not the first to build from scratch in the Valley; however, there is a lot that people either don't remember exactly or I have not figured out to ask. Hopefully, with our building process tracked here, I'll be able to give better advice and help to anyone who needs it in the future.

By all means, of course, anyone who reads any of this and red flags start going up in an idea we have or the direction we're going, please tell me! The simplest way I know to phrase it is...We are noobs at this.

We are more or less at the beginning of this process. I made us a book back at Christmas time to begin tracking all of our house planning. The thought was primarily to have one place to do floor plan sketches, but I also left space for money (savings) info and other notes. 

Working in the online marketing sect, it's only necessary that I have a Pinterest account, but I've found primary use in it for house ideas. Of course, most of the fairy-tale, fancy pants houses I pin will never end up being a part of my humble home, but it's fun to dream, right?

We've sketched out several layouts in our book, but there are a few key features we definitely want that kind of dictate a lot of the layout so we keep coming back to similar looks.  We've recently really drilled it down and are only trying out adjusting a few pieces. They primary pieces are: 
  • Two stories and first floor partially underground.
  • Wood burning stove heating (in addition to central air)
  • Post and beam style frame
  • Metal roof
  • A back mud room that extends the width of the house. A door on either side, or if we need to cut one out, a door on the garage side. 
  • Entry into the kitchen from the mud room.
  • A bathroom just off the mudroom (for dirty Mingus) 
  • The stove near the mudroom so wood can be brought in easily.
  • Good windows near the kitchen.
  • A deep front porch and balcony (both eventual if not immediate)
  • Bedrooms upstairs
  • An additional room in the downstairs so we can live only downstairs when we're old and frail and stairs are too tough to handle.
Now, I saw we've "drilled down" and are only adjusting "a few pieces"...but, in reality, it could all change still...
We're really staying on track for the goals we've set for our savings this year so we're trying to get a better handle on what our actual cost is going to be and determine what our realistic time frame is for breaking ground. 

Two things I know we have to do before getting started:
(1) Finalize the plans with legit specs. (I got Jon a book for this birthday that's helping a lot.) This way a contractor or the bank can give us a price.
(2) Survey the land and have it deeded over to our name so we can take out a construction loan.

I am really scared to get started but so anxious at the same time. Jon and I are praying for guidance on this project and to find the balance between the fear and the excitement so we only go at the pace planned and know when to be patient.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sports Talk: America's up and coming sport: Soccer

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published July 11, 2012.

I am finding myself more and more ashamed of my ignorance of one of the world’s most popular sports: soccer, aka ‘football’. In addition to growing up in a nation where the sport was always shadowed by basketball, football and baseball, soccer was never available in our county athletics.
As an adult, I am realizing what I have been missing, and apparently much of this country is as well. A study conducted by ESPN/Luker polls in 2011 shows soccer to be the second most popular sport in the 12-24 age group, right behind football, with basketball at number three.
Without purposefully planning it, I found myself in Brazil during the kickoff of the 2010 World Cup when visiting a former Casey County High School exchange student, Gui Buso. Of course, now, I realize I should have planned the trip for 2014 (or need to plan another trip??) when the event will be hosted by Brazil.
Simply being in the country that prides themselves on the sport beyond all else was incredible.  Their McDonald’s menu was even redone with a specialty “World Cup Menu”—a sandwich for every nation. No, the U.S. was not represented… You could not go anywhere without seeing people in soccer jersey. A trip to the soccer museum in Sao Paulo was included on our itinerary.
I also had the pleasure of attending one of the last games played in the famous “Maracana” stadium in Rio de Janeiro before it went under construction for the 2014 World Cup.  (We were told at the time it was the last game to be played but I cannot find confirmation of that.) See full blog post report on the event here.
Home stadium of the Flamenco, the Maracana was once the world’s largest soccer stadium seating 200,000 people.  Several renovations have brought that number down over the years and its current construction results in just over 75,000 seats, but with much more comfort.
Despite the rainy evening and the, then, close to 85,000-seat stadium being far from full, the atmosphere did not lack enthusiasm. Drums, chants, cheers… I did not know a word but still found myself attempting to sing along.
Some argue soccer to be a ‘boring’ sport. I am quickly learning this is simply a lack of understanding the sport. My husband, an avid soccer player through his youth, can easily get sucked into a game.
He always points out that his biggest beef with basketball is the drawn-out endings with time-out after time-out, where 59-seconds turns into 30-minutes.  With soccer, the clock never stops and neither do the athletes. It’s 90-minutes of sweat and action. I just have yet to learn all of the words and terminology to quite keep up.
The recent report from ESPN/Luker reflecting the youth’s rising interest in this sport excites me and seeing that Casey County is following that trend definitely excites me.
Soccer had its first season in the middle school this past spring with team members spanning from eighth graders down to the elementary level. I had the pleasure of watching their first game of the season and despite coming up short of a win, it was incredible to see the vast improvement of these young athletes from the first to second half of the game. I can only imagine how far they had come by the close of their season.
Like any sport, soccer skills take time to develop; the good news is, it is an easy sport to dive into. I remember while in Brazil, Gui told me that soccer is to them what basketball is to us: as a toddler you begin learning to dribble a ball... but in Brazil it is dribbling with your feet instead of your hands.
If you never have in the past, learn something about soccer and give it a chance for your attention. I think you will find yourself loving it more than you might expect.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Sports Talk: Olympic Trials, Successes and Failures

As a correspondent sports writer for The Casey County News, I write an weekly editorial column for the publication. Published June 27. 

There is so, so much I could contribute to the sports world in this week’s column. I’ll go ahead and break it to you that I’m not going to recap the NBA draft. (Sorry, Wildcat fans. It is a cool historical event, though.)
I am very interested in the long-awaited end to the BCS Bowl series in college football, which is being replaced by a four-team playoff beginning in 2014; but I’ll save my college football rants for the fall.
As I sit on my couch to write this and the Olympic Trials broadcast before me and my American pride begins to glow; how can I write about anything else?
No matter the sport the TV is displaying, it has my attention. The Olympics themselves will hold their own appeal, of course, but the trials are just as compelling and sometimes more heartbreaking for me to watch.
At least in the Olympics you have a team to root for. For me, the athletes  at the trials are all incredibly amazing and dedicated athletes taking their one shot to make it to the real deal in London. I have no one to root against.
There is no doubt in my mind that even the last place finisher or lowest scorer in these trials has incredible skill and strength. Some of them compete in the trials, simply happy to be there, knowing their chances of making the team are slim to none compared to their competition.
Others come with hope for a first trip or the hope for a medal in London or a hope for a second chance at a missed opportunity in Beijing. One crucial moment can make or break that.
I find myself watching 45-year-old Tara Dorres move through the water as though she was born in it the waves, and capture win after win to make her sixth trip to the Olympic arena. Forty-five? Really??
The I turn around to see not-quite-sixteen-year-old Kyla Ross stand solo in front of thousands to face a set of uneven bars. Her should, legs, abs, and arms could put any athlete to shame. And I called myself a ‘serious’ athlete at that age??
While you want the best of the best to represent the U.S. in London, it is still heart wrenching to watch another athlete—whom has also put in training beyond anything I can imagine—just miss the cut.
Seeing Nastia Liuken plummet to the ground during her uneven bar routine sent the crowd silent as well as the announcers. Alone on the stage with such an extreme error leaves most without words; however, with the conclusion of her routine came thunderous applause for her courage.
Liuken will not be traveling to London after claiming five medals in 2008.
Hearing the gun shoot twice instantly at the start of the men’s 200-meter semi-final track and field event was a downer. One false start and Texas Christian University’s Charles Silmon was done. It’s not that Silmon was expected to qualify in the 200; but he’d earned his right to be there, and a silly mistake put him out of the competition.
The Olympics and trials, both, give us both moments of triumph and moments of heartbreak, but that is what makes them so special. It’s not pee-wee anymore. Not everyone gets to be there and of those that make it, not all of them can bring home a medal.
I am proud of and excited for all of those athletes who will be representing our stars and stripes later this month. Congrats and I’m looking forward to cheering on Team U.S.A. Happy Independence Day!