Monday, November 23, 2015

Project House Update: Mirror, Mirror, On the Table...

The trend has continued of phasing out the hand-me-down furniture of our house to pieces we actually want/chose. Again, this one was one of those things that had been sitting on a list and a good sale came along and I couldn't resist.

In our guest room, the guest bed was flanked by two side tables. One of them I found at an antiques shop and gave a coat of paint. The second was one I stole from my parent's when I moved out over eight years ago.

It was beaten up pretty badly (probably from me as a child, but it has looked this way for as long as it was in my care). The veneer was chipped off and it had decades of grim stuck in all the grooves. I had debated many ways for how to fix the top, either with putty or paint or a new top. Like most house projects, though, the longer it sits undone, the less likely it is that it will actually happen.

So, two weeks ago, I was at Target, per usual. And sometimes it annoys me when they have their Christmas decor out in early November, but since their stuff this year is very art deco and glam and I cannot resist. One of the items that struck me was a mirror end table. I took a picture of the label so I could talk Dan into it once I got home. Weirdly,  this end table is not on Target's website. There is a similar one, but the one on the website does not have a drawer, the one in store does and is cheaper. My plan foiled, I decided that I would watch the prices and perhaps force Dan into the store to see it if it went on sale after Christmas.

Once I came across a $25 off of $100 in Home Decor coupon, however, I couldn't wait any longer. I grabbed Dan and we headed back to Target. With the cart filled with items I'd been lusting after to get to over $100, including my table, a gold turtle box that finally came back in stock, and an embroidered pillow, I was as happy as a clam.

While it's a little smaller than I had hoped compared to the height of the bed, it's everything I wanted.

Really leaning into the art deco look, I swapped out my broken dollar-store lotus touch lamp for my naked lady lamp (another fine steal from my mother).

One of the things I really love about this table is I feel like it could work in just about any space. Maybe this is something I think about more as I learn more about home decor, but I now try to look into the future to see how the piece would fit into my house as it evolves over time. To make sure the table could work in the guest room or the master bedroom or the living room. I like the possibility of it being able to shuffle to another room if need be. That seems so simple when it's worded like that, but it can really be a difficult concept for me to grasp if I love something too much.

The biggest challenge now is what do I do with all of the furniture I'm phasing out. It's taken over the guest room and it's not like I have family coming to town for Thanksgiving or anything...

Sounds like we'll be making a big donation run here today or tomorrow. {Sidenote: I asked my mom if she wanted the table back and she couldn't even remember which one I was talking about, so I feel very little guilt for stealing it for so long.}

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Project House Update: Chairs from this Millenium

You know what has strangely become a symbol of having your shit together? Having chairs. And look who, by that logic, must finally have her shit together.

I don't know why chairs are such a large portion of my 'adult' equation, but they just are. Maybe it's because chairs are freakin' expensive. And you need so many of them. And they are flat out boring, too. It's just something adults buy.

Up until now, we had been using free chairs. Well, not entirely free I suppose, but a set of six chairs that came with our house. Free with purchase!

They had to have been from the 80's and were beyond hope. Half pleather, half knit, all wheely terribleness. If there had been a way to DIY to greatness, or even not-half-badness, I would have tried.

But, they worked as chairs and we were in no rush, so they lived in our house for over four years with us.

The purchasing of chairs was a snow-ball sort of situation that started several weeks ago. My sister and I went to World Market to hunt for bits and bobs for her place since she just moved. In our shopping, I mentioned to her that I liked one of their chairs, the Verona Side Chair.

My sister is a great resource when it comes to World Market stuff because she used to work there. She knows which products are good and will hold up, which ones are crap, and when the sales will happen. She thought the chairs were good quality and told me that they rarely went on sale, though. Since they are a staple item, they don't get clearanced out, you just have to wait for an all-furniture sale.

About a week later, she sent me a text that World Market was having a sale, so Dan and I headed down to the store. It was pretty easy for me to talk him into it. With the sale and some coupon codes, it ended up being the cheapest option to buy them online and have them delivered to the store.

The turn around was ridiculously quick and he surprised me on his day off by having them all put together by the time I got home from work.

It was dangerous timing because it almost convinced me that we should host Thanksgiving this year. Good thing I have too much sense for that.

So far, they do seem to be cat-proof. The old ones were not. They were probably the opposite as the material turned them into big cat scratch pads.

It feels like a complete set since our dining room table is also from World Market. I am a bit worried that the room is becoming a little matchy-matchy, but I'm always on the look out for a feminine, over-the-top chandelier to counteract the masculine table. It could go farmhouse or industrial very quickly if we aren't careful.

We're starting to reach the point mentally where it's ok to phase out the free furniture and hand-me-downs and start growing our own collection. It's an exciting feeling and there are many more changes on the horizon.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Post 500: What I've Learned about Blogging

Guess what? This is my 500th post. Some bloggers celebrate anniversaries. To me, that date hasn't really been important. What is important is the fact hat in some four years of blogging, I've managed to hit 'Publish' five hundred times.

In the course of those posts, this blog has dramatically shifted in tone. It started as a place where I passive-aggressively whined about how I thought I could make better content than other people on the internet and, ironically, images I stole from other sites. It was about quantity over quality and posting things I thought would get views. Over time, it became less about everyone else and more about me. It became more positive. It became less about writing and more about documenting.

My 500 posts have covered the entire spectrum. There are probably hundreds that you could delete and I would never notice, but there are so many that I am incredibly grateful for. They are the ones that probably mean nothing to anyone else but me, but I'm so glad I took the ten minutes, an hour, sometimes even a day or two, to create.

And there are posts I wish I would delete. There's only ever been one that I actually deleted, because it was too negative and too mean and it wouldn't have accomplished anything. It's been a lesson in 'If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all'. It's been a way of analyzing afterward the type of energy I put out.

Alright, enough with the sappy stuff. Let's get on to all the stuff I've learned about having a blog through 500 posts.

1. Every post should have a picture. Like this one:

It's not great, but it took me 15 minutes and each time I make one of these, I'm getting better at it. 

It's important to include an image for three reasons. One, the all-mighty Pinterest. Two, many blog readers/feeds have a thumb-nail of the first image from the post and it can weirdly be a make-it-or-break-it image. Three, that little 'Recommended Posts' feature at the bottom of posts works much better with images.

Basically, it can be summed up as images draw people to click.

2. Find out what makes you unique.

When I first started, I just copied and regurgitated all the same crap I was already reading on other people's blogs. It was a comfortable starting point, I suppose, but I wasn't contributing anything meaningful to this space. It wasn't until I started blogging about the random things that make me me that I really started to connect with people.

My most popular posts to date are about two subjects: Stitch Fix reviews and my Mara Jade costume. They have one hundred times more hits than any other of my post. Both are popular for one reason: a unique point of view. If you google 'Stitch Fix review', thousands of posts come up. Most bloggers write raving reviews, get referral credit, and start all over. However, I didn't have such great experiences. I'm one of the few blogs that pops up if you google 'Stitch Fix review negative'. I wasn't intentionally being negative as click-bait, I was just being honest to my experience. And it connected with some people who either had similar experiences or wanted the full picture before trying it themselves.

On a different note, my Mara Jade posts make me incredibly happy. Before I made my Mara Jade costume, if you searched the web for costume ideas, only one post came up. Now, two do. And it may not seem like a lot, but I've had at least a half dozen people email me for the 3D prints of the harness buckle so they could make it for their own costumes. That's amazing! There could be other people out there wearing something I designed, thinking, 'How cool am I in this costume.'

3. Stretch yourself.

As weird as this sounds, I like to treat my blog like an odd, little course. I'm the teacher and the student and I try to give myself a structure and assignments to help myself grow. If you're going to put so much time and energy into something, you might as well try to get something out of it in the process.

My blog initially had a very negative tone. I had a lot of emotions and opinions I needed to express them and a blog was a healthier outlet than my new husband. In order to reign it in and force myself to be more optimistic, I started writing 'Fan of Friday' posts to focus myself on the positives of my week. Surely, I could find one thing a week that made me happy. When you frame it like that, it became really easy. Although I don't post 'Fan of Fridays' as often as I used to, I still make notes and drafts of posts about things that make me happy when I find them.

I also have plenty of experience on the other end of it when I've pushed myself too far. Every year, I try Blogmas, where I post every weekday to get me in the holiday mood, trying to force my blog into making me more 'festive'. However, I have yet to successfully complete Blogmas and post every day. It just burns me out by the end of it. I may try again this year, but it is slowly making me see that it may not have the affect I was hoping it would have.
On a related note...

4. Understand the line between 'Consistency' and 'Obligation'.

One of the most common tips I come across in 'how to grow an audience' for your blogger in the advice to post consistently.  I guess that's probably important if you're trying to turn your blog and yourself into a brand, but I've always struggled with it. Sometimes, my life has had so much going on that I've been able to post every day or three times a week and schedule posts long into the future. Other times, I got absolutely nothing. At first, early in my blog, when I had nothing, I should have just acknowledged the nothingness and not posted. Instead, I 'filled'. Hence, why I have so many purely deletable posts in the archives. Now, four years later, I understand that writing pointless posts was, in fact, pointless. Maybe if this were my business, having a schedule and handling the obligation to post on regular intervals would be important, but I would much rather write only when there is something to write about.

5. Lastly, don't feel the need to have a point of view.

Most articles I've read about blogging talk about the necessity of having a focus. There are beauty bloggers, fashion bloggers, food bloggers, travel bloggers, etc. It's OK to not have a point. To write just to write. To write about everything. To write about nothing. Over time, maybe your blog will turn into something. Maybe it won't. But if you're only blogging for followers, what are you trying to prove?

For me, this has never been a 'business opportunity'. I never wanted or expected to have thousands of followers and be able to make a reasonable wage off selling ads. There's always the dream it will go viral and it could become that, but I don't act like that's the case anymore. This blog has become a place where I try to express myself. It's a place where I hold myself accountable. It's a safe place to explore who I am, who I was, and who I want to become.

I've never been able to keep a journal this long before, but I hope I manage to keep this one going long into the future. So here's to many more posts to come. Thanks for being a part of it.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Halloween 2015: Nancy Drew

I know I'm behind, as usual. But, time for a post on Halloween!

I've had this costume in the works for almost a year. I don't remember how the idea got planted in my brain, but it stuck pretty good. And it was a straight-forward costume. For me, being a Nancy Drew nut, I went with the original 1930's version, not the revamped 1950's one.

The only items I didn't have for the Prohibition-era look were the hat (available here) and a magnifying glass. The make-up was simple: LOTS of eyeliner and sharp, lined red lips.

Nancy Drew Costume

The hair became very complicated, though. After two attempts at hot rollers and another failed attempt Hollywood waves, I ended up using a small curling iron to make ringlets and then immediately pinning them to set. It ended up looking like pin curls, which was fairly time period appropriate.

This year was pretty low-key. My friend Bekah had another party. She's so good at them. And every year, she has a photo set-up. Here are some of my favorites.

Dan and I in character

Dan with matching hair

Nancy Drew saving Agent Coulson's hand from the Terrigen crystal

And when Nancy became a bit more like Bonnie from 'Bonnie and Clyde'

It was definitely a fun costume. I highly recommend it.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Six Things I Wish I'd Known about Grad School

Let me be real honest with you: my grad school experience was rough. Like, the-hardest-thing-I've-ever-done rough. Most of that was due to my own naivety. I didn't understand almost anything about it when I started and it threw me for a big old loop. I made the assumption that grad school was very similar to undergrad, which it is 100% not.

{Sidenote: Three things to note: 1) My grad school experience was engineering based. From talking with my friends from other scientific backgrounds, their experiences were fairly similar to mine, but these tips may not translate perfectly to someone pursuing an arts or business degree. Maybe they do, but I have no idea. Let me know in the comments if you have one of those backgrounds how your experience was the same/different. 2) Some of my experiences may have been school-specific. I tried to stay general, but programs do vary. 3) My grad school experience stopped at a master's degree. As tips for entering grad school, my opinions should be valid for however long your schooling goes, but grad school programs do evolve as you go for higher and higher degrees.}
  • While the grading is much harder, grades are much nicer. I wish someone had told me that you basically have to be failing a class in grad school to get a 'C'. The rubric goes something like: A - has a very good understanding of the material, B - is trying really hard but missing the mark quite often, C - not getting it at all. At the same time, it is much harder to get an A. Curving grades is not only expected, but required since the average on assignments is typically around 50%. In reflecting on my time in grad school, I can only think of one instance when I got 100% on an assignment/quiz/test and I was absolutely ecstatic. To get 100% in grad school, your work has to be flawless and with anywhere between 2-4 classes and whatever else is on your plate, flawless just ain't gonna happen. What this all boils down to: grades aren't the measurement of success they were in undergrad. I felt like I was failing every day, but my final grades never reflected that. As long as you are showing up and giving it your all, your grades won't be as bad as you think they should be. Hell, after my first semester, I didn't even check my grades anymore. I assumed if I was failing a class, the college would let me know. 
  • There are many different ways to earn a degree. My college had three different ways to earn an MS. The first way was the research path. This is the path you would choose if you were interested in continuing on with a PhD. You take a fair amount of coursework, but in addition, you take a semester or two of pure research where you work on (and may even get paid) a project for a professor (your advisor) and write a thesis on it. This is like PhD program 'lite'. The second path involves taking only coursework. This path is great if you already have a job and want to get a degree in tandem. You'll probably only have the time to take one or two courses a semester, so it may take a couple more years to earn your degree. The third way is a combination of the two which involves mainly coursework with a final 'report' for a smaller project you work with a professor. This a great path for people who want to do research, but don't want to continue with a PhD. It's important to fully understand the ways you can earn a degree because often you cannot change your path once you have started. For my college, you couldn't be a teaching assistant, grader, or researcher if you were doing purely coursework. Basically, you can only do the coursework path if you have a source of income outside the university, a fact a friend of mine didn't know and got her royally screwed over late in her degree process. In other words: understand the strings attached to the money the university provides you. {Also, from here on out, my points relate more to the research paths.}
  • Choosing the right advisor is just as important as choosing the right school. When I applied for grad school, I truly didn't understand how much of my fate was tied to the professor I would be working with. At my first campus visit, I thought I was considering the school, not that the professors were considering me. Needless to say, I didn't get any research invitations from professors at that first school. While the school name on your diploma will probably have the most effect on your future opportunities, your advisor will affect almost every aspect of your day-to-day grad life. My advisor expected me to spend every minute I wasn't in class or in office hours from 9 to 5 in the lab doing research. I got yelled at for showing up at 11 on Tuesdays and Thursdays even though I had a class from 9 to 11. However, I had friends who saw their advisor once every couple of weeks for a status update and that was it. Your advisor is basically your boss and (depending on the school) their power can basically go unchecked. Grad school is not like a traditional work environment. As scary as it sounds, you don't have the same rights as a normal 9 to 5 worker does because you can't just quit. You live with the fear that if you quit, you lose everything you've worked for up until that point. I did not get along with my advisor (more of the story here) so I was forced to power through and finish as quickly as possible. Here are my tips for choosing an advisor:
    • The ones who already have tenure are much more laid back. 
    • Read reviews for their classes. Often, most professors have the same attitudes about their classes as they do about their labs. 
    • Understand their research environment. What's the break down of their lab look like? What type of degrees are their grad students going for? How far along are they? How would you fit into the hierarchy of the lab?
    • Talk to their grad students. Do they seem happy? Stressed? Do they have lives outside the lab? Are they required to get papers published every semester?
  • If you have grant money, you can basically do whatever you want. Now, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. Grant money is basically scholarship money with the contingency that research will be done with it, most of the time, a specific project that earned the grant money. For most people in STEM degrees, the holy grail is the NSF grant. You propose a project and if chosen, you can end up with funding for your entire degree. Courses, living expenses, everything. What this really means: you get to choose your advisor, not the other way around. The biggest hurdle for professors is coming up with the grant money for research. However, if you have your own grant money, you just need to find an advisor who is working on something similar to your project and ask to work with them. It's a win-win for everyone. It's probably the best way to alleviate the stress of your entire degree being in your advisor's hands because it's your money. If you really needed to, you could change advisors, or even schools, and still be okay. Here's a link for the NSF program.
  • Grad school is much more stressful than undergrad because it can be your entire life. There's no escaping it. Assuming you are doing some sort of research and aren't a trust-fund baby, it's your job, too. You go to class. You have office hours. You do research. You do homework. You hang out with fellow students. You go to conferences. You write papers. There is no limit to the amount of time and energy it consumes. It's not like undergrad with a nice little to-do list of assignments and when it's complete, you get to go enjoy your life. It's more complex and messy so it's nearly impossible to turn off. Some people embrace that all-encompassing feeling, but it just burned me out. I can't be 'on' all the time. If I don't get recharge time, I simply can't give something 100%.
  • The last degree you get is the most important one, so if you didn't into your dream school for your master's, you can try again for your PhD. It's not common, but it's not unheard of, either. Part of the reason I chose my college was a compromise: I would get my master's degree while my boyfriend (now husband) got two years of experience at his job and he would follow me to a different school for my PhD. It was 2009 and the recession was at its peak, so jobs were hard to find. Since he'd had a job lined up since October of the previous year, it made sense to stay and give him time to hunt for a job near whatever school I chose for my PhD. And we would have stuck to that plan if I hadn't burned myself out in my master's program. I guess my point is this: it's not the end of the world if you end up in a master's program that you are not thrilled about. Your master's program doesn't have to be your PhD program. However, it is important to know that it is much harder to get chosen by a professor if they know that you just want to get a master's. Most professors don't want to waste their time with someone they would work with for two years compared to five. I'm not saying you should lie or omit these details, I'm just saying I know a lot of people who did.
Lastly, this is more of advice than a tip, but if you are considering going the grad school route, find resources and educate yourself. In hindsight, my high school really prepared me for my college application and enrollment experience. I cannot say the same thing about my undergrad preparing me for grad school. The best resource I had was my parents, but their experiences were from the 70's so it was a whole different bag of cats. Talk to your older friends, talk to your undergrad advisor, talk to your teaching assistants since they are most likely grad students themselves, talk to professors about what they look for in potential advisees.

This sounds really depressing, but my biggest 'what if's' revolve around the mistakes I made in applying and choosing a grad school program. It doesn't have to happen to you, too.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Project House Update: Carpet, The Devil Inside Part II

So here's where we left off in Part 1. You know how at the end of that post I said I didn't have any pictures of the room with the new carpet installed, but no furniture? Apparently, that was a lie because I went through my camera and found these beauties. I'm pretty sure, however, these were taken after Attempt 1, so the seem is obvious in the second image.

Since laying out rooms in icovia is the best thing ever, I went to town with this one.

It didn't involve buying any new furniture (not yet anyway), but it incorporate a shelving unit from Ikea that had been seeing boxed up and unassembled for months and a yet-to-be-filled self watering plant base. Cats make Ikea so much better.

And now, finally, some After pics!

It still feels a little empty and not complete yet, but it's a start! I have faith it will evolve over time.

Part of the rest I do love this room so much is it houses so many of the little items I had been accumulating over the past couple of years and finally gives them a purpose.

Let's start with this old truck we bought at the antique's fair. We had tried using it as a coffee table, but it was too small and too uneven.

However, with the addition of a few legs we found on ebay and spray painted... became the perfect side table. We were able to customize its height to correspond to the arm of the couch and it fits around the base of my giant lamp.

Speaking of my lamp, it's back in one piece! And it works and everything (I took the picture accidentally before the light bulbs were in.) My lamp finally has a home!

And we hung a good portion of the art I've been hoarding in our bedroom closet for the past four years. This first one was another antique's fair find. It's two pages of a newspaper article from the 1930's showing all the firsts of aeronautics; the routes and who accomplished them.

The next one is probably wins the prize for the most money we have invested in a piece of art and that's all in the frame. At a yard sale, I saw this amazing three dimensional map of Tucson from the fifties. It wasn't for sale, it was just hung in a garage with a bunch of tools Dan was rummaging through. I asked what they would sell it for and $2 later, it was mine. The frame, however, is more than 100 times the cost of the map itself. To show off the map properly, the frame had to be very thick, therefore, very expensive. I love how it turned out, though.

The last pieces in this batch of art were some old family photographs. They include a portrait of Dan's grandfather (and I absolutely love that the sconce lines up with the light source of the photo), a studio portrait of Dan's parents from the 80's, and a group photo of one of the regiments my grandfather oversaw.

The room isn't finished or anywhere near it, but it's a room. It's a room we can live in. A room where we can set up our Christmas tree and read books and play board games. The to-do is still long and not forgotten. The fireplace still needs some tile touch-ups and Dan hasn't even started on the mantle. The windows were supposed to get done last year, but the window company fell-through on us. And baseboards.

In spite of that, we're all getting pretty comfortable in the new space.

Who knows how long it will live in this configuration, though. Eventually, I would like to turn this room into a cozy playroom for our distant-future babies. I'd move in our sectional and recliner, add a TV, and make it a family room. Something like this:

Dan's not sold on it yet, but I'll get him there. Like everything we do, it'll take some time...

Monday, September 21, 2015

Project House Update: Carpet, The Devil Inside Part I

This one is going to be a two parter. I know those suck, but guys, let's get excited! After almost two years, we finally have a functioning (and almost completed) living room!

And now, for my favorite teaser in the history of teasers:

We'll come back to that...

This first part will focus solely on the adventure that was about finally getting a floor back in the room. The second part will be about moving everything back in and honestly, setting up the room with some thought for the very first time.

Let's flash back to look at the best 'Before' pictures I have (because I 'used to be' terrible at this). Before any of this living room fun started. Here's how it looked in early 2013.

Over time, we painted and began working on the fireplace. At one point of the fireplace renovation, we decided the carpet and the corresponding tile border in the room had to go.

Our plan was to not worry about installing a new floor until we had finished all the tile work on the fireplace. It would suck to put in new floors and have them get damaged by some errant grout.

Well, back in June, I finally finished up the grout. {Sidenote: during the carpet installation, I noticed some grout work I had missed. I am too scared of screwing up the new carpet that I haven't attempted to fix it.} Since we were out of excuses and all the home stores had sales over Fourth of July, we ordered carpet!

We debated several different factors. I wanted something simple and durable with a short fiber. Dan wanted something soft, plush, and stain resistant. We compromised on a Stainmaster carpet from Lowes. I think the color is called 'Ballet', which is basically a darker version of the wall color of the room.

Buying carpet was a new experience for us. Apparently, you go to the store, do an initial quote based on the size of the room and the carpet you like, then they send someone to your house to do an exact measurement and layout, and then you have an official quote and you make your purchase. Three weeks later, the installers come to your house with big rolls of carpet and make it fit.

Now back to that pentagram...

If you're a fan of 'Supernatural' like me, you will recognize that as a devil's trap. A symbol that once a demon steps in it, cannot step out of it. So, to screw with either future us when we replace the carpet or whoever buys the house next, I bought a sample can of blood red paint (Behr's 'January Garnet'), found a great image of the devil's trap, and got to painting. I freehanded most of it and I'm quite proud of it. Once I explained it to the carpet installers, they thought it was funny.

In the installation, they nailed the tack strips around the edge of the room. It took a lot of hammering and banging and time to get around the curved edge of the fireplace. Then, they squirted some adhesive, stuck down the padding, and cut it to fit.

Then, they laid out the carpet...

...and stretched it taut. They could then tack it down on the sides and cut off the extra.

Here's a glimpse of the finished product. I basically had to toss Rusty into the room since he was intimidated by all the new smells.

There will be more finished pictures in Part Two.

But there's some back story as well. When they had finished installing the carpet, we realized that they had not put the seams where we had agreed upon. When the estimator came out to officially measure the room and give us a quote, we were careful to lay the seams where they would be covered by furniture. Where they positioned the seams were incredibly obvious and looked really bad. Since we had documentation showing where they were supposed to go, three weeks later, the installers came back out and redid the whole room. They were able to reposition the carpet and redo the seams so you can't see them now.

Because of all this, I really don't have any pictures of the empty room with the carpet installed. When the room was empty, the seams looked bad so I refused to take pictures. And when the carpet was finally fixed, I was so fed up with the room being empty that we immediately moved the furniture back in.

So, in the next post, you'll see it, just not in its bare glory. You'll see it in the context of arranging furniture, hanging art, and actually using the room for the first times.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Project House Update: Dan is Gonna Owe Me...

The shop is underway! It's more than underway, actually. It's pretty close (hopefully, dear god, hopefully) to being finished. Since there are so many steps and there have been so many pictures, I'm going to break this into three separate posts. First, the construction so far, to roughly August 28th. Second, the final touches. And lastly, a whole post on my thoughts on the process, a review of our contractor, and tips and tricks for building a shop of your own.

Back at the beginning, here's what the land looked like before any of this started. It wasn't the prettiest patch of desert. It must have been cleared at one point and grown back and was full of weeds and vines.

You can click here for a post about all the work that happened before we broke ground. A few days before July 4th, the ground finally got broken.{Sidenote: I'm sure the shop will fantastic when it is finally finished and I will look back fondly on the process. However, I had to play the 'bad cop' through out most of it, so I will be pointing out the negative side effects and the mistakes along the way, just to help anyone else considering building a structure like this.} The ground got broken, a lot. When we signed the contracts, I asked very specifically how much extra land needed to be cleared since any additional land would take a lot of landscaping work by me to get back to 'natural' desert. I was told 3-4 feet around the perimeter. On one side, it was almost 20 feet. I was pissed. You can see it better in some later pictures.

From there, they dug a trench outlining the structure. This should have been an easy step, but THEY LAID OUT THE SHOP WRONG. No one noticed until Dan told them, but they had it rotated 90 degrees off. This was after they dug the outline the first time, so there is still a good portion of the unused outline at the back of the structure.

Once the trench is completed, they filled it with rebar and cement, to act as a footing for the foundation work to come.

To create a foundation on the sloped area, they built a wall on the footing. This wall is completely level front to back, taking up the angle from the hill.

The interior of the wall was filled with sand, leveled,...

...and covered in cement.

With the foundation poured, the shop flew along really quickly. The walls went up.

The roof and its support beams were craned into place.

And a cinder block front was built to create the strength required for some massive garage doors.

One thing I do really love about my husband is how charming he is. During this whole process, he's been able to wrangle up some awesome free upgrades by making friends with the right guys. One of those upgrades was switching from light tubes to sky lights at no additional cost. It's amazing how light it is in the shop and the skylights still have their protective film on.

The exterior walls went up, prepared for stucco.

The interior walls were insulated. Unfortunately, a huge storm came through that night and pulled at least half of it out of the walls, so it had to be redone. You can't tell from this picture, but at this point, Dan also ran an incredible amount of wire and conduit between the studs for future upgrades he'll make himself someday. Like hose for his air compressor and wire for his speakers. It took him almost two days non-stop working, but it will save him from having to cut into the nice, new drywall in the future.

Speaking of which, it was amazing how quickly they were able to drywall it. It was two days, maybe less. And now we have the contact number of a good drywaller for when we do some bigger projects on our list.

I'm not a big fan of stucco. You see it everywhere in the Southwest. For good reason. It is freakin' cheap. So, we went with it.

Now, this next part, it's still not finished and I do my best not to think about it since it makes me so angry. I knew they would need to run electrical for the shop from the far side of the house and I understood they were going to run it through the driveway. Our drive isn't that great anyway so I became okay with this fact, the giant cut that would be in front of our house.

What was failed to be mentioned, however, was the fact that Tucson Electric Power wouldn't sign off on this unless we upgraded the electrical line from the street to the house. Apparently, the original line could only support the house, not the house and the shop.

So, when I came home, bracing myself for an ugly, yet small trench along the front of the house, I instead found a back hoe, a trench that was at least two feet deep and one foot wide, and at least thirty feet of beautiful desert, not ugly driveway torn up. 'Livid' is putting it mildly. It's been this way for weeks now because TEP, being government work, still hasn't come out to inspect the new line. There's a giant open trench I didn't agree to and I am doing my best (and failing) not to think about it. 

Onto something else happier...

When the drywall inside the shop was finished, they painted it 'Polar Bear', the white we like to use in our house. Easier to touch up that way.

I guess if we had been proactive, we could have picked a paint color for the exterior early in the process. That's not us. If I remember correctly, they told us on a Thursday we had to have a color chosen by the following Monday. For people who have made some serious paint mistakes in the past, that was a big pressure crunch.

I send an email with three color families to a interior designer neighbor of mine for some professional opinions. We were debating a terra cotta color to match the adobe brick, a dusty green to blend into the desert, and a sandy color to match the Earth and the Southwest. She was such a sweetheart about it and suggested the terra cotta and we quickly changed our minds and went sandy.

In a whirlwind Home Depot trip, I grabbed every swatch that could be remotely considered 'sandy'. Pink sands and green sands and yellow sand and white sands. Dan and I stood next to the shop on a brightly lit Saturday morning and debated each tone against the surrounding tones.

Our favorite was 'Natural Almond'. It's a very neutral sand color that compliments the orange abode bricks of the house while blending in seamlessly with the accompanying desert. We used Behr's online tool to project how it would look on the giant shop structure. It was only so helpful.

I was still worried until I saw the shop is its fully painted glory. We made the right call. We've even talked about painting other elements of our house the same color to better tie the two structures together. Oh, and the doors were installed.

So, that's where it is right now. It's almost done. Most of the items left to-do are fairly small, like lights, finishing the electrical, and filling in the remaining dirt. Things that seem small, but actually make the shop usable. We were really hoping it would have been done by Labor Day, but our hope now is for the beginning of October.