Meetings Meetings and More Meetings

Building with Toll Brothers has been an interesting experience.  You need to schedule meetings to discuss anything related to the building project.  Those meetings are in person and it takes 45 minutes one way to get there.  The builder further designates some choices that you do directly through Toll Brothers and other choices go through the design center.  The design center is available for other builders as well and it is the place where you choose flooring, cabinets, appliances, and fixtures.  Keeping up with the upgrades between the design center and from the builder directly is rough.  It helps to put together your own spreadsheet.

You have three one hour appointments with the design center.  And with the builder, many more pre-construction meetings.  With the builder so far we have had:

  • Contract meeting
  • Plan meeting
  • Electrical meeting (for designating where plugs and lighting will go)
  • Selections meeting (entry door, garage door, exterior paint choice, roof type as well as glass selections for the door and windows)
  • Audio Visual meeting for designating where the TV/network/sound system outlets go.

We had to put down a deposit of about 5% of the house value then with upgrades after the selections meeting, they asked for more.  I really wish they would have an agenda for building to follow along.  It has been a surprise during the process of when and what the content of the meetings are.   We selected the lot in March and chose to delay building for an April closing.  It supposedly takes 8-10 months for the actual construction which is currently scheduled to commence in October.

One of the most difficult choices was the exterior paint selection.  The house is mediterranean style with a stucco exterior.  As we sat for the majority of the selections meeting appointment with 8×10 swatches of stucco I was completely discouraged.  For some it is impossible to choose colors from a small swatch.   Add to it the fact that this is a choice for outdoor paint and we are looking at it indoors.  Also, the builder didn’t have the roof choice (there are only two composite roof choices) to view with the color scheme. We had driven around looking at others and even took a few pictures, but to match it exactly is impossible unless you have access to look up the actual selections.  After choosing a charcoal roof with some taupe and white accent we finished the meeting and were told to go look at some houses in the neighborhood with the charcoal roof.  From a distance it looks like a roof with just tarp paper.  I quickly realized it was a bad decision. My husband rounded the corner and all of the sudden we found exactly what I had in mind.  It has the dark roof with the variation of medium to light with contrast that I had imagined!  This was another Toll Brothers house so the exact selections can be pulled.


I will say my husband wanted the charcoal roof with the house color grey with white trim. This is part of the negotiation process with your spouse!  I’m happy we could agree with this color scheme.



Meetings Meetings and More Meetings

3 yards

It’s not a football thing.  Even though this weekend is all about football. It’s a mulch thing. Three yards cost $120 delivered.  And it took 20 hours of work to dispurse it.  That is exactly what I did over labor day weekend.  Again, with the prep for putting the house on the market, I tackled the biggest job.  The outside.  The stager said that curb appeals gets people in.  I put this off because of the amount of time I knew it would take.

3 yards.jpg

The stager said our yard looked overgrown.  I’m guessing that a landscaper would charge about $500-$600 to remove some bushes, trim and mulch the yard.  I really wish I would have taken a before picture.   There were several bushes that were just crowded and webworm looks like it did some damage on Indian Hawthorn bushes.  It took 40 minutes per bush to take out mini bottle brush.  Indian Hawthorn were easier to remove.

plumbago gone.jpg


The dump truck came and dumped the mulch.  And I tried to protect the driveway from the stain.  FYI  that makes it harder to shovel the mulch into a wheelbarrel when you have it on something plastic like a tarp.  I started Friday after work with the trimming.  I took out plumbago which is a pretty blue flower that fills in like a weed.  I cut it to the ground, so sadly, it will try to grow back. For now it looks fantastic.  We just need to sell and get out of here.  I am really tired of throwing out stuff and keeping the place looking pristine and it’s not even on the market yet.

Also, Google is awesome!  The stager said I need to remove some rust stains from an iron door mat.  I found that muratic acid removed those stains and it did!  So I don’t have to buy a new mat.

front door.jpg

I’m happy to have saved the money and wonder what I could have done with 20 extra hours.  I did manage to go to a baseball game, play tennis, spend a little time with my daugher and go to a nice lunch with my husband.  I’m thinking at this point camping is a great option.  No upkeep!  Speaking of which I can’t wait for Big Bend!!!!!!!!!  I put in that lock by the way.  The last lock got to the point that you had to shoulder in to get the door open. It was pretty easy to change the door hardware and I’ve been pleased with the results. Just picked that bad boy up at Home Depot and replaced it.

3 yards


Wow!  5 days, 30 inches + of water, people of every ethnic, religious and socio economic status effected.  Devastation.   Houston did not evacuate for a storm that was estimated to be a 2 that would hit near Corpus Christi as a category 4 and dump 4 days of water on Houston. It was known that the storm was going to dump about 40 inches and that it would stay over us.  I’m guessing we didn’t evacuate because it is difficult to evacuate roughly 6 million people in a day or so.

I have been through a few hurricanes and with the last one, it seemed like we had better time to prepare.  I figured, we would need 3 days of food, get a couple of gallons of gas for the camp generator and we would be good.  We experienced unprecedented flooding. I’ve known that we were in a 100 year flood plan which means in 100 years we shouldn’t flood (I don’t have flood insurance), but this storm was they said an 800 year storm… I really don’t know how they figure. Tropical storm Allison occurred in June of 2001. Allison had over 40 inches of rain in Texas, 30,000 became homeless after the storm flooded over 70,000 houses and destroyed 2,744 homes and caused $9 billion (2001 USD) in damage and 41 deaths.  The difference with Harvey is that Houston got 5 days of rain for the same amount it took Allison to dump over 12 days.

This time 2 major dams, Addicks and Barker managed by the Army Core of Engineers had to execute controlled releases which backed up water into the neighborhoods on the backside of the reservoir. And they mentioned in Fort Bend county that there are levies (which I didn’t know about) that hold back the Brazos river that were compromised.

I do know that with this storm there were people getting rescued by boat in neighborhoods around us and pretty much all over the city and that I’ve never seen before.  I am completely shocked that we maintened power and didn’t flood or come close to it.   When your own friends are telling you they have 30 inches of water in their house and are waiting it out on the 2nd floor of their home and you can’t get to them, that is the worst feeling ever.  That same friend who doesn’t have insurance says it will cost $50K to repair and they will need to stay in an apartment for a while.

Today I finally got to go the grocery store.  It’s amazing how long our 3 day supplies lasted.  The store only let so many in at a time and they were closing early (5:30PM).  I spoke to a woman who evacuated her home, water in it.  So many people with this problem.  I don’t know how we were spared.  The store wasn’t stocked, but everyone in that line was grateful to get something.

The streets have been flooded and there has been no point to even attempt to get out.   People were driving the wrong way to avoid a flooded street with no police to help.  It was dangerous.

I took a walk this morning and noticed our storm drains were holding.  The lake at the park where I bike was well out of the banks.  Below is the upper walkway covered in water the lower path is well submerged.  The lake flows into a creek that was rushing like angry falls.

gorforth lake

horsepen creek

The shelters have a surplus of volunteers and need supplies.  I donated my dog’s crate. I’m hoping I can help somewhere in the aftermath which will be for an extended period of time.  There were so many heros in this disaster.  People helping with rescues by taking their boats and searching, getting the sick, disabled and the elderly to safety.  It’s a great to be in this city!

For now, I’m grateful to be able to jog again.  A quiet night, my bridge over troubled water . Hopefully peace will come to all …



The battle to get to market in the storm

Sounds like a great title for something pertaining to business.  It is business, just personal business.  We met with the realtor and setup a meeting with the stager.  The stager doesn’t actually decorate your home for sale, their job is to let you know what will help sell your home.

Candy came over and spent just over an hour with me.  I took notes!  She started with the outside and mentioned that curb appeal will get buyers in.  Our yard is a bit over grown so she suggested removing anything dead, trim and mulch.  She also recommended power washing the walkway to the door and polishing/painting around the door jam.  ( Might need a new door mat too).

Next she mentioned something about a 10 second rule.  Once a buyer walks in the door they decide within 10 seconds whether they love it or hate it.  Wow!  So, standing at the doorway she looks and smells.  I’m looking at her intently with a puzzled look.

ten seconds

She says immediately that she wants to see through to the living room.  I’ve always wanted that room out of view from the front door, but she says no.  She is the expert.  We spent a lot of time in the living room.  She took out a runner, removed a large side table, a love seat, couch table and re-arraned another table and few decorative pieces.  Now I can only sit 4 instead of  6 in my living room.  Ok, if it sells fine.  She suggested to remove personal stuff, pictures, anything with our name on it, anything that would point to a religion or ethnicity.  My husband’s office decor screams a very in your face sports fan. So I removed his prized framed jerseys and borrowed a globe picture from my neighbor.


Candy suggested that we add some kind of room sent like vanilla or clean linen near the front door.  We went room by room noting changes that needed to be made.  For the bedrooms she asked for a couple of pieces of furniture be removed.  In the master closet, she asked for everything to be off the floor and moved up.  In the bathrooms all personal stuff, tooth brushes, etc. be placed out of sight.  Same thing with the kitchen, bare countertops.  And everything in the pantry off the floor.



I need to fix a cabinet that separated from the wall in the kitchen.  Some one came out and said I have to have the whole thing brought down, repaired and put back up.  Ugh! I’ve spent the week painting (touching up) and scrubbing.  (I’ve actually washed the doors).  We had the carpets cleaned and now my house is as pristine as it’s going to get.


Hurricane Harvey is hitting to the south of us.  My plans for mulching and taking care of the outside stalled.  The one good thing about the rain is that once the ground is saturated, it will be easier to remove weeds.  I already removed an entire outside trash can full of weeds behind the garage.  And around some equipment I need to wait for the 20 or so inches that are forecasted to fall, then those bad boy weeds will come out.  So the weekend will be spent inside.  I’m trying my best to look on the bright side.  There are so many people that will need to make repairs after this storm.  I hope we don’t have more to repair.  That budget keeps me awake at night.  I spent $80 on paint and $325 for carpet cleaning so far.

The battle to get to market in the storm

College Move Day Not a Given

I’ve always thought my children would be on the path for college.  Life happens and that what I thought was a “given” turned out to be a maybe not.  Of course it’s not bad to not go to college.  In the absence of any other plan, college makes sense because you can further your education and knowlege and hopefully find a career with the experience.   All kinds of things can mess with this.  Just at lunch this weekend my husband said that he could have done without our hardship that we went through and asked me if I thought the same.  To be honest, as awful of a time we went through for a good two years, I came out a completely changed person.  And change is good.  It’s the hardships that you go through that make you appreciate your life.  The things that challenge you to see things differently.   I’m glad to be on the otherside of that really bad time.  I’ve gained freedom from codependency, a life of my own, letting go of control and the biggest, a deeper relationship with God.

So this is really a special time for me.  The fact that my daughter actually moved into an apartment to attend the University in the city is really great.  There are three things I wanted for my children.  The first is for them to be happy (which is totally up to them), the second was for them to be able to take care of themselves (hopefully as parents we have had a hand in helping that) and lastly that I survive long enough for them to be adults (This one I got!!!) .  My daughter is very smart and capable she just doesn’t know it.  I feel a little different from the mom’s that post their kids move in day. You just never know what someone goes through to get where they are.

So my daughter researched places to live and came up with a choice to live with 3 room mates she has never met.  It’s a brand new building in a not so good part of town.  The thing about that is, she has experience with this and knows a thing or two about getting around.  This from a girl used to the suburbs.    She is on the third floor with no elevator and her apartment is two story so there is another flight of stairs in the apartment.  She is paying for half so she has skin in the game.


I’ve tried to teach from what I have learned.  Some things may be good for her, somethings maybe not.  I am reminded of my college days.  I struggled and the struggle made me successful.  I don’t necessarily think that struggles need to be taken away, this is how we learn.  I don’t know, this is my philosphy.  It’s worked out for me so far.

College was a very stressful time for me.  Stress is just different now a days.  I look forward to the time when I can put that behind me and just be free to be comfortable.   I know that day will come.

College Move Day Not a Given

Girls Weekend Corpus Christi

I had a great opportunity to play up a level and was on a tennis team that made it to sectionals.  I didn’t earn it, played three singles matches during the season and lost all three. Shortly, I was replaced by better players, understandably.  I have been working on improving.  Progress is slow.  The two better players couldn’t go so I was invited to play! We rented a condo by the beach for 11 of us.  I only really knew 2 of the girls, however when you get an opportunity like this, it’s great to go for it.  People can be quite competitive.  You have to be a pretty strong person to know that you probably don’t have what it takes to compete, and try anyway.  I do have some things going for me, but controlling the entire game at the 4.0 level is not there yet.  Hopefully soon I will earn a spot to be there.

The one friend I went with waited for me and we left Houston late.  It’s a little over a 3 hour drive.  She is one of the best people in the world!  We arrived around 8PM and ate at a local restaurant called Doc’s which is just off Padre Island.  The first thing I noticed was the absolutely beautiful sunset.


I had some amazing fish tacos and the other ladies had salad.  This tennis group has many very fit ladies.

The condo we rented was nice.  It had three floors.  Two bedrooms downstairs, two in the middle and one up.  I think there were 3 or 4 bathrooms.  The top floor had the living room, dining and kitchen.  It was decorated in such a cute beachy theme.  Our group brought a lot of food for breakfast, dinner and plenty of drinks.  We actually had 4 coffee pots.

The first match of the tournament was held at the HEB tennis center.  HEB is a big grocery store in Corpus Christi.  It’s tough to play in 100 degree weather, you really have to condition for it.  I was hoping my opponent would struggle with it, but she didn’t.  We played another match at Al Kruse tennis center.  My opponent was nice to let me crawl under her umbrella for shade on the change overs, I asked.  I would imagine if I was kicking her butt,  I may not have gotten any shade 😉

The next day we played in the morning at the Corpus Athletic center, got my butt whooped again playing a leftie.  I have so much work to do.  I hope my coach is up to it. Then we had a pool day.  The pool had some shade, the beaches, while nice, have absolutely no shade.  Padre Island is a barrier island and has even less on it than Galveston.  It’s very similar to Port Aransas.  It was pleasant walking on the beach at night.  Mornings were nice sipping coffee on the patio.


I thought it would be awkward going for a weekend with ladies I didn’t know well.  I’m thankful for the opportunity, the experience and it was a whole lot more fun than work. If I could ever find a way to get paid to play tennis, that would be good.  For now, it’s back to the grind.

Girls Weekend Corpus Christi

Want to test your marriage? Build a house together.

Continuing on this journey of moving on, we are moving through the process of building our new house.  The choices of neighborhood and house plan design seemed like easy choices at this point.  And it was not!   The harder part is when you come to choices and budget.  I used to love watching TV shows on this.  It is not as fun when it’s your money.

We selected a one story mediterranean style house and a builder (Toll Brothers).  Some of the simplier choices were how many rooms and a bathroom upgrade.   Even a kitchen upgrade to include a massive island counter.  The more difficult parts have included how to design the living room with furniture and a fire place.   In this plan we have a 12 foot 4 inch wall with the fireplace in the middle on one side of the room.  A wall of windows on the back side, a blank wall opposite facing the fireplace and the kitchen looking into this room.  I am not a fan of placing the TV above the fireplace because of the height.  And I don’t want opposite walls with competing focal points.  (you can’t set your couch in front of one or the other and I don’t want to turn my head).  I found a really cool design on the internet that I hope works.  The builder is going to let us know if they can move the fireplace so that it is not center, if so, I can place my TV next to it like this…(here is the design and here is an example of what you get in the house).  The extended stacked stone is an upgrade, I love it!


Another issue will be the fact that we are going to have maybe 9 inches of depth.  We are going to have 5.1 surround sound so we need to figure out a small form factor subwoofer.


I am not doing the extended fireplace hearth into the room.  The fireplace will just go to the floor (it’s gas).

Next is the vanity in the master bath.  So here is a picture of the bathroom as it comes. There is no vanity for doing make up.  Who came up with this plan?  Obviously not a female!  So I am adding a vanity niche (like the photo beneath it).  We are removing the linen closet and putting in the vanity niche.  I have no idea how this is going to turn out aesthetic wise, but functionally it will be better.  Usually people that try to do their own thing fail miserably, especially when they don’t have the education on design, porportion, etc.  However the two things I mentioned, how to set the furniture in the living room and a place to get ready for me are super important.


niche bath

Another challenge will be how to re-purpose a room that is currently considered the breakfast room.  With a massive island that will have bar stools and a separate dining room, I don’t need a third area for eating.  Yet there is one.  This room, called the breakfast room opens up to a small patio outside.  I am going to try and use the room as some kind of lounge.  Whether it be for coffee or a small sitting area, I’m not sure.  I’m hoping to get a designer involved to help make this space purposeful.  With the two of us, there is no need for a breakfast room, dining room and the sit in bar area.

This has been super stressful, yet you would think it would be fun. Building will start in late September and completion will be in April.  To add to the stress, we are selling our current house.  I hope to have it on the market by end of August.  The plan here is to move into a short term lease…somewhere until our new house is ready and my son graduates high school.

Want to test your marriage? Build a house together.