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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Heading Into Holy Week

It was quite a treat to wake up on this Palm Sunday in a place where palm trees grow tall and strong. Being surrounded by palms somehow brought Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a pathway strewn with palms much closer to home so to speak. We had so much trouble locating palm fronds in Stockholm that we finally purchased plastic ones at Ikea to use. It worked fine but I must say it was a treat to be surrounded by palm fronds everywhere I looked this morning.
Doug and I had decided to try the Episcopal church in Palm Springs, St. Paul's in the Desert, knowing that at least the liturgy would be centered on Palm Sunday. We were not disappointed. The sanctuary was beautifully decorated with giant palm fronds, the pastor was holding a palm branch as he greeted people as they arrived, there was a glorious processional complete with huge palm branches. To top things off, we sang All Glory, Laud and Honor to start the service. There was a deep resonance with some of these traditions even though we are not all that familiar with the Episcopal church. As a part of the service, the entire passion of Christ was read in multiple voices. It was quite a good experience to go from the joy of the Palm Sunday processional through the events of the week ahead, ending with the crucifixion. Some will attend church on Friday and re-enter the Passion of Christ but others will simply jump to Easter and skip over the hard bits of Christ's betrayal, humiliation and death. As we left we were given crosses made from palm fronds, a wonderful reminder of how Palm Sunday and the death of Christ on a cross are linked. We left feeling like we had attended a church to which we could return. This was the first time we've felt this way about any of the churches we've visited. I'm quite sure we will attend either their 12.00 noon Good Friday service or the Stations of the Cross service Friday night. It was such a joy to enter a church that was filled with people and worship in a manner that resonated with us at least on some level.
This is the first holy week in many, many years that we are not busy preparing for the various services and events that have always marked this time of year for us. It's admittedly, a bit odd. I think that is why we were so thrilled to worship with a church today that felt good. It's not that I miss all the preparation that came with holy's just that in seeking to lead others into a meaningful experience leading up to Easter, you had to be intentional about your preparation. It would be quite easy for holy week to slip by sort of unnoticed this year. The service today brought me fully into the events of the week ahead and will definitely help me be more intentional in my own spiritual journey towards Easter than I had anticipated.
I will miss the traditions that always surrounded holy week in Stockholm but I'm thankful for the ways in which God continues to meet me in new and unexpected being surrounded by palm trees on Palm Sunday.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Finishing Touches

Yesterday our crew made a BIG push to get most everything done as we had friends arriving from MN later in the day. The oven hood created some challenges but in the end everything was solved and it looks wonderful. The guest bathroom looks great with all the new fixtures in place. I love the paint. It's a sand color but the lighting creates an almost olive green hue. Very soft and soothing. We moved the bedroom furniture back into the guest bedroom since our Swedish shipment is scheduled to arrive next week. We are now using an air bed which was more comfortable than expected last night. 

But perhaps the PIÈCE DE RÉSISTANCE was the installation of the TV over the fireplace mantle. Admittedly, I was a little dubious about hanging it there, fearful that it would be too high. I was also a little disappointed about not having the mantle and wall as a place to decorate, but now that the TV is there, I must admit, it looks fabulous and is indeed the perfect spot for it. It also opens up one whole wall in the great room and we'll have fun deciding what to do with that spot. We're continuing to enjoy March Madness as evidenced by what is on the TV. Tanner's bracket is leading our pool. He really is a clever dog.

We've shared some meals around the table now with our friends and it's such a lovely spot for dining. I am enjoying the fresh basil from this gorgeous basil plant that I purchased at Trader Joe's for $3.99!

The rose bushes continue to dazzle with more blooms every day. 

And the freshly squeezed grapefruit juice from our trees was a delightful treat with breakfast. 

The house is basically finished now! There are little things to fix and adjust but overall, it's a fully livable space! It's fun to enjoy it and to share it with friends. 
Thanks for joining us on this journey. It's hard to believe that just 2 months ago we walked into this house and wondered what we had done! Living through the reno definitely provided some challenges. But our mantra was, "It will be worth it." And now...well, it is.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Oh Yes! We Have Water in the Kitchen!

Today was a great day. I left the house with lots of work going on to connect with some family friends. The couple I visited has known my parents since I was about 6 and their daughter was in town. My grandmother used to babysit for this family and we have always shared a special bond. Through the magic of Facebook, we've kept up. The daughter was in town this week and her folks live in Palm Desert so I drove over and spent the afternoon with them. It was such a delightful, wonderful connection to my parents and life growing up.
I then ran a bunch of errands, making my obligatory and delightful stop at Trader Joe's. Then I zoomed home to see what had been accomplished. I was NOT disappointed!
Friends...WE HAVE WATER IN THE KITCHEN! For the first time since we moved here two months ago, I washed my hands in the kitchen sink tonight! The faucet looks great too! And the dishwasher is hooked up. See that little green light on your upper right?It means the first load is being washed! Oh happy day!
And to continue the joy..the oven hood has been semi-installed. They needed another part so we had to pull the range and turn off the gas. I guess too much joy in one day would over-excite me too much. But the backsplash is in and looks fantastic. The tile inlay for the bay window is just gorgeous. I treated myself to some Easter lilies to celebrate!
The guest bathroom is almost done!
New floor tile in the guest bathroom
It does have a functioning sink, toilet and shower. The medicine cabinet/mirror needs to be installed. Lovely tan walls with white trim now graces the space!
Doug worked hard at putting the new door knobs on the doors and we both dusted and dusted. The towel bars in the master bath look great. There's been a delay on the shower doors so we're just showering Swedish style...water all over the bathroom! Keeps the tile nice and clean!
To top things off, Tanner received his pet license in the mail today! He's a real CA dog now! (And legal!)
Tonight while making dinner and messing around in the kitchen a bit, I realized how much I've missed cooking and having a functional kitchen. We have dear friends from MN arriving tomorrow and Jill is an awesome cook! She can help me sort things out and stock what I need in the cupboards.
WOW...I think we're going to survive this renovation. I can hardly wait now for the Swedish shipment to arrive!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Counters In!

True to their word, two skilled craftsmen showed up at 12.15 and began the long-awaited installation of our countertops! It was quite the little operation they set up with saw horses and saws in the garage while prepping the surface for the installation of the quartz. I was pretty excited as I've never seen this done before and it meant the last final BIG step in our renovation. The guys were great and answered all of our questions as if we were the only ones who had ever asked them! It was very loud with lots of drilling, cutting, shaving, and polishing of wood and quartz.
We picked out the counters so long ago that I was totally relieved when I still really loved what we had chosen. It was pretty thrilling to see them on the truck bed. But the first step was ensuring that the cabinets were level and the preparation of the plywood. Little by little the counters started going in. When the island was finished, it looked huge but beautiful! And that longed for kitchen sink looked huge sitting on the counter and is perfectly functional deep set in the counter. I'm excited about having an under mount single bowl stainless steel sink! Tanner, of course, wanted to be right in the middle of everything that was going on.
The faucet and plumbing can't be hooked up for 24 hours after the installation in order to allow the counter to fully settle and the epoxy to dry. The plumber is scheduled for tomorrow morning and the dishwasher hook up will take place on Friday! I cannot wait to have water in the kitchen again!
The finished counters look amazing and I could not be happier with the entire look for the near finished kitchen. The counter stools looks great and all in all, it's a perfect construction for our open concept house.
While the guys worked away in the kitchen, Doug was busy assembling the closet fixtures. He did an amazing job and I absolutely love the new closet space. There is plenty of room for both of us in there and we are now nearly ready for the rest of our stuff to arrive from Sweden. 
Today backsplash is being mounted, painting is continuing, Doug is assembling book cases, and towel bars. I went to water aerobics and am cheering everyone on! Actually I'm going to start putting things in the closet and do some cleaning. The dust factor is pretty high once again.
Here are a couple of views of the countertopped kitchen. Looks awesome, right?!I love the dark top with the light cabinets.

On top of everything happening around me that is exciting and fun, I'm acutely aware that it was a year ago that I flew back to the US to assist my father as he recovered from surgery. If you look at my blog post from one year ago, I remember feeling so confident that he would get better but just needed some help. Ten days later he died and it was one of the roughest periods of my entire life. Now a year out I still miss him terribly and often can't really believe that he's gone. The anniversary of his passing will be April 4th, the day before Easter Sunday this year. We are hoping that we'll be able to spread his ashes on that day.

He would've loved everything we are doing in the house and would've been up every day, thrilled with every step of progress. But we are grateful to him and my mom for the gifts, both tangible and emotional, that they have given us. The sale of their house has allowed us to pay for the renovation in ours. Even so, I'd happily live in an un-renovated space if they were alive to enjoy it with us. I miss you mom and dad. Your presence and spirits hover around us in our beautiful new home. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Out With the Old

More finishing touches are happening every day. I am awaiting a call from the countertop installers. They are to arrive between 11.00 and 13.00 today! I'm a little giddy with excitement. There are 5 guys here today painting, working on the outside stucco, finishing off the cabinets and kitchen island, finishing up the door frames around the sliding glass doors, and working on the guest bathroom. Doug worked like crazy yesterday tearing everything out of the guest bathroom! It was a joy to see it go. I've rarely seen such ugly fixtures. The empty bathroom looked a lot better than the one we've been using! It's really hard to appreciate the awful color that is on the walls right now. It will be wonderful when it is transformed into a tan and white bath!Happy to see these ugly fixtures lying the garage instead of in the bathroom!
Today they are to patch the drywall around the shower head, paint the room, and install the toilet and sink vanity. We aren't doing any major structural change in this bathroom so it's all cosmetic and should go quickly. We have friends arriving on Friday so we need two functioning bathrooms by then!
I took a shower in the master bath for the first time yesterday. It's a huge shower. Only drawback is that the shower head is a little too tall for my reach. I have to stand on my tippy toes in order to change the flow of water from the head to hand held wand. But it was nice to shower in such a lovely, new, light space. We still have to install the doors on the shower, but at least the splash from the shower mopped up well and the tile needed to be cleaned anyway!
Towel bars are scheduled to arrive today.
Doug is working on the fixtures for the walk-in closet. I wish I could help him but I'm really bad at stuff like that. I continue to clean and organize, my forté.
One nice project we're taking on is the re-finishing of a lovely china hutch that my Uncle Mel built. It was in his home and my cousin didn't have use for it so we said that we'd gladly take it. Doug removed all the hardware (of which there was a ton!) and sanded it down. Now it's ready for paint, which is the part I'm going to undertake. I'm thrilled to have a piece of his furniture in our home and the Royal Copenhagen china I have coming in the shipment will look fantastic in this beautiful piece.
My desk arrived and an extra chair from the dining room set looks great and functions well with it.
Tanner continues to enjoy all the activity around the house and likes to be in the center of it all. He also really loves riding in the golf cart and gets pretty excited when we decide to take a ride.
The evenings continue to cool off beautifully and we've been getting out to play golf around 4.30 on many afternoons. We can play 18 holes in 2.5 hours and it's fun being out as the sun sets. My game is not as pretty as the evenings.
The yard continues to dazzle as new blooms appear on the cacti. 
I continue to love the desert. My deepest longing is that my loved ones lived a little closer so we could be enjoying it all with them.