Since I last posted the guys have been hard at work with all the paving. There is so much detail to be done that almost every piece is having to be custom cut. This means we have excessive dust everywhere but as I watch the work progress it is definitely all going to be worth while in the end. The stone we are using is called Shell Lock and has crushed shell in it. We are using a pinwheel pattern except in certain places it has to go out of pattern, but I don’t think it is noticeable at all. Kimball came yesterday and started to add the stonework detailing to the side of the fire pit (sorry no picture as yet) but the paving is now just to be added round the side where we removed the BBQ island and round the back of the new BBQ Island. Today they are removing a lot of their rubbish and levelling the ground ready to work on this area.
We are just over a week into the work. Cameo Pools came in and drained the pool down on Wednesday 9 February and on Thursday 6 guys arrived bright and early to start to demolish the pool so to speak. This means that they were removing all the pebbletec from the pool and spa including the rolled edges. Mid afternoon Kimball, our masonry guy, arrived to start to demolish our current BBQ island. He then asked the guys removing pebbletec if they could help him to remove the cool decking that had been beneath the BBQ Island too which they did. It was a very noisey day with 5 pneumatic drills going all day and vast quantities of dust. It was like having an Arizona dust storm just all day.
Over the course of the next couple of days we saw plumbers come in from the pool Company together with electricians to replace some of the pump equipment and electrical equipment as we are upgrading the pool/spa heater and replacing one of the 2 pumps for a variable speed. This is hopefully going to save us money in the long run. This week we have had the tilers in to add the new waterline tile. If you remember from my previous post our pool used to have pebbletec both beneath and above the water line. Kimball then sent his gas/electric guys in to redirect the natural gas in our backyard as it had to be brought back towards the back door for the new BBQ Island and round the back of the spa for the new fire pit going in. I think on Tuesday at one point there were 8 or 9 men working in the back garden: 2 on the water line tile; 2 on the BBQ island; 2 on the gas/electric for the BBQ and fire pit; and 2 for the plumbing/electrics for the pool. I had to do some grocery shopping so I picked up a couple of crates of bottled water and 2 super-sized pizzas which I came home and baked for them. Kimball’s guys are impressive as they have been here by 7.20am every morning and worked until 5pm. They’ve taken about 45 minutes to an hour for lunch but stayed on site. They even had a camp stove with them to cook their own food. I can’t ask for more than that although Kimball told me I’d been spoiling them by providing them with pizza. John and I made some last minute changes to the BBQ Island by deciding we would add a fridge after all. We thought we could ultimately regret it if we didn’t.
The BBQ Island is at the point where the concrete is setting and then they can add the equipment and stonework finish. The same pretty much goes for the firepit. The latter part of this week has been Kimball’s men working really hard on the paving. It is looking amazing and so intricate. The dust is everywhere though both inside and outside. We’ve been promised rain this weekend and normally I would say no thank you but this weekend I’m saying I would love some just to clean down the dust. I know there’s be more dust next week but this will give me a little respite at least.
John and I have lived in our home since October 2002 and one of the few areas we’ve not touched, or done very little too, is the back yard. We took out the grass April 2008 just before Kirsten’s first birthday and replaced with artificial but other than that the pool and barbeque island have been left untouched. The pool was built back in 1999 at the same time of the home and it has a pebbletec coating with cool decking all round the pool. The pebbletec is outside of the water line and there are a lot of rolled beams. We have since discovered this is not the best as the pebbletec is starting to crack and fall away where it meets the cool decking. We started to look at remodelling back in late 2008 but ended up not following through. About a month ago we went to look at what we thought was our “dream home”. I’d been drooling over it since it was built about 8 years ago. Having looked round it it didn’t live up to my/our estimation. This was a good thing and gave us the push to go ahead with our plans for the back yard.
We have a relatively large pool, about 20,000 us gallons. Around the back of the pool we have numerous date palms. Unfortunately they were hit hard by the recent unusually cold temperatures here in Phoenix. The picture on the right shows that we have 2 pots with some lovely artistic cactii made out of metal. We bought them from a local artist about 18 months ago at the Fountain Hills Arts & Crafts Festival. The pots themselves were being thrown away by a neighbour and had been left on the side of the road for the bulk pick-up so I decided to “recycle” them and added river rock in. Once the back yard/pool remodel is completed I am going to have some decorating/replanting to do. You can also see that we have a small barbeque island. Unfortunately there is no protection from the sun as the umbrella hole has the gas line running just a few inches beneath it. It is a 2-burner fire magic but has no warming rack. I don’t use the barbeque as much as I would like due to the fact that running between saucepans/frying pans on the stove in the kitchen and watching the food on the barbeque itself just doesn’t work.
The plan, or rather it has already started to happen, is that the current barbeque island is being demolished and rebuilt closer to the house. It will have a larger grill with a warming rack and a rotisserie. There will also be a double burner to the side of it and a fridge underneath allowing me to do far more cooking and not having to run to the far side of the garden either. Simultaneously we are adding in a small fire pit to the side of the spa so there is a lot of work to re-run electrical and gas lines.
The work started last Wednesday with the pool being drained. I will try and write a few more posts in the next few days to bring you completely up-to-date with where we are.
I wanted to congratulate my sister, Nora, and her partner, Steve, on the arrival of their first child, a son, Simson. He was born on February 3rd at 8.15pm. They have been wonderful at making sure I get to see plenty of pictures as I don’t know when I’m next going to get to England to see him having only left 3 weeks before he was born. Yup, bad planning, but we booked our tickets before we knew my sister was pregnant.
My sister also has a shutterfly share site so Steve is making sure he adds pictures for me to see, plus we gave them our original Flip Ultra when we upgraded so he’s also posted a couple of video clips showing them out for their first family walk, and Simson’s first trip out in the car (other than his return from hospital).
So you’re wondering why he’s called Simson. This is Steve’s mother’s maiden name and it is to make sure the name doesn’t die out. My name is Gregory and I gave my daughter, Kirsten, the middle name of Greer, which is apparently the female form of Gregory for exactly the same reason.
After opening our stockings and eating our breakfast on Christmas morning we drove from my parents in Highworth, Wiltshire to John’s parents in Worthing, West Sussex. For those of you who still aren’t sure the best I could explain is it is a little further round the coast from Brighton. On arrival in Worthing (we made it by 1pm) John’s Uncle, Uncle John, had arrived minutes before us. He had driven down to spend the day with us and enjoy Christmas dinner made by John’s mother.
Our first full day in Worthing, Boxing Day, John, Kirsten and myself decided to take a walk along the sea front. We made it to the pier just as the Boxing Day Dippers were running into the sea for charity. I have done some stupid things in my time but I would never do this for charity or not but I admire those who did as I hasten to add that it was all of about 32F outside of the water. The afternoon was spent back with John’s parents and also John’s sister, Karen and her husband, Guy. We ate another Christmas dinner (not complaining there) and yet another selection of gifts to open. Kirsten was introduced to the book/film of “The Gruffalo”. Her Uncle provided her with the small soft toys of both The Gruffalo and the mouse too.
We are lucky in that all our family is spread between 2 towns in England. My parents, the older of my 2 brothers and my sister all live in the Swindon area. In Worthing it is John’s parents, sister and husband and then the younger of my 2 brothers and his wife. This meant that we also got to see a fair bit of my brother, Conrad and his wife Marie-Claire.
December 27 we decided to drive across to Chichester and do a little shopping. It meant we also got a chance to see some of the sales. I spent some of Kirsten’s Christmas money and bought her a beautiful smocked Cath Kidston dress and myself a book but other than that we managed to refrain from spending too much money. On the Thursday evening, December 30, we all went out to see the pantomime of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Kirsten was a little scared at parts of it, but all in all we had a great time and discovered that Kirsten is now old enough to sit through a performance. Eight of us went in all: John’s Mum; the 3 of us; Karen and Guy (John’s sister and husband); and my brother and wife. We started New Year’s Eve out by going to Arundel. I had never been there although it is only about 20 minutes drive from Worthing. We drive past whenever we go to John’s parents but we had never actually gone into the town to discover how beautiful it was. We started out at Swanbourne Lake so that Kirsten could feed the ducks although I think it was more like feeding the fish as right beneath where we were standing was a huge fish, and everytime Kirsten threw in some breadcrumbs it came up and ate them. That fish, whatever it was, would have made a very nice meal for a large family. That evening, we met up again with Karen, Guy, Conrad and Marie-Claire for dinner at one of the local eateries followed by seeing the New Year in at John’s parents. Conrad and Marie-Claire actually left us around 10pm or rather I took them to their new house as they were in the process of moving out of a flat and into a house and they wanted to see the New Year in in their new house. That made perfect sense to us. I cheated and took pictures of the fireworks in London on the tv as Big Ben chimed us in.
We spent New Year’s Day with Conrad and MC in Brighton and my other brother, Magnus, and his partner, Kim drove down and met us there a little later in the day. We did a lot of walking around the town and enjoying the weather. Magnus and Kim met up with us on the sea front just as we were heading to the pier. Kirsten, during the course of this trip, had started enjoying all the rides that we kept seeing so she cost us a small fortune but she had fun and plenty of memories which I felt played an important role in this trip. We finished the day out by heading back to Worthing and getting a quick guided tour around Conrad and MC’s new house (they had not yet moved in) before having pizza for dinner back at their flat. Kirsten’s big intrigue was disovering that they even had special Christmas toilet paper. Suffice to say that she was so fascinated by it that the next thing we know, on her next visit to the bathroom, she managed to unwind almost the entire roll. Yup!
Sunday 2 was time for our final walk along the beach front in Worthing. Again it was all of 32F but Kirsten and I both had an ice cream whilst on the Pier. Kirsten also had a couple of lollipops too. We finished our couple of miles out by letting Kirsten play in the playground close to where we had parked before all heading back to John’s parents for dinner.
Our last full day in Worthing included a trip to Tesco to pick up any last minute items/groceries that we wanted/needed to bring back with us and then I was trying to fit everything into our cases. I managed to get most of it in, but they were all overweight so had to pay for excess baggage on check-in to British Airways. Oh well. It was a great trip but I also have to admit it was nice to get home.
We have a lot of wonderful memories, even more pictures, and yes, although I was behind in getting the blog up-to-date and keeping you all informed of what was going on the Shutterfly photo book is completed and printed, the flip videos have been emailed out and our Shutterfly share site is up-to-date!
Talk to you all again soon and let you know of the current goings on.
Hip hurray I’m finally sitting down and writing part 2. John arrived in England on Wednesday 15 and I think it was the next day that everything ground to a halt because of the excessive snow. We didn’t do as much out and about as we had thought we might as we just couldn’t get anywhere but it did mean we got to spend far more time with friends and family locally. The last Saturday before Christmas, December 18, we went to the Designer Outlet Village in Swindon. This should have been the busiest shopping day of the year and we arrived at about 4pm. Within 30 minutes of us arriving they announced that due to the weather conditions they were closing at 5pm (3 hours early). It didn’t really affect the customers are there just weren’t any!!! On the Sunday morning we took a short walk from my parents house to Highworth Public Golf Course. Although John and I have been together 10 years and it is a 2 minute walk from my parents’ house I had never taken John there before. The scenery in the snow was spectacular. It looked as though we were miles from anyone and anywhere which of course was not the case. Kirsten was not happy having to walk with all the extra clothing on and because she was cold. This was the case during much of our visit. After 5 weeks I would say she was just about used to it. At least now back in AZ where we have had some unusually low temperatures she has not fought with me over having to wear more clothing than normal.
Back to our visit. The remainder of our stay in Highworth continued much as the first half with catching up with friends and spending a vast amount of time with my sister who had finished work and was on maternity leave. Christmas Eve morning we all headed across to the small Cotswold town of Burford. When I first met John this was where he lived and we lived there together for almost a year before moving out to Arizona. Burford High Street is on a hill and we, or rather I, decided to park in the public car park at the bottom of the hill. This was covered in snow and ice, and yes, when it came time to leave, we needed a little push in order to get out. We were rather surprised that no effort had been made by the town to keep the car park or the road to it clear. What we also found quite funny was that there was a sign in the car park asking patrons to park in marked bays only…what marked bays all we could see was snow. For those of you who have never been to the Cotswolds go. Burford is one of many small beautiful towns and is only a 20 minute drive from my parents, not that most of you would be visiting them.
I was extremely worried about my sister as we walked around Burford so was constantly holding onto her. She was 7.5 months pregnant and I most certainly didn’t need her falling!! Kirsten was happy though to have Aunty Nora along.
We went back to my parents in Highworth for lunch where we continued with one of many traditions I was raised with. My mother is Norwegian so we typically have rice porridge. My mother hides an almond in the main dish and whoever discovers the almond in their bowl of porridge wins a marzipan pig. We eat our porridge with cinnamon and lingonberry juice on it. Many others eat it with sugar and butter. It is down to preference but it is a warm and filling dish. My Mum had actually forgotten to buy a marzipan pig this year on our trip to Norway so my Dad found the almond and was given a selection box of chocolates which were shared around everyone at the dinner table.
We had a relatively relaxing afternoon of my parents, my grandmother, Kirsten, my niece Chloe, John and myself, and not forgetting my sister, Nora. At about 4pm the girls (minus my grandmother) headed off to the nativity service at Highworth Church. I have to admit we’re not church goers but growing up Christmas and Easter we always went. The bonus was that when we got to the church they asked Chloe and Kirsten if they wanted to borrow Angel costumes so that they could participate in the nativity story. Both of them were thrilled. Highworth Church was beautiful with the snow and winter lights. It definitely felt more like Christmas than if we had been here at home in Arizona, and I loved having the opportunity to spend it with my family.
OK so I promised a second part to our European trip and things have been so busy around here that I’ve just not had time. I know, I know I still owe you, but in the meantime you will have to accept this as my apology. It won’t happen today as I’m delivering my fortnightly Avon orders to my customers after dropping Kirsten off at preschool then going on down to a friend’s house. Her neighbourhood is having a community garage sale tomorrow and she invited me to join her if I had anything. Last week I said thanks for the offer, but no. Now I’ve had a thorough sort out and the back of my car (I’ve got a Honda Odyssey) is filled to capacity with items from both inside and outside. Let’s hope it’s a success otherwise the next charity collection is going to do very nicely. Charity collections always do well here because 95% of the time I just can’t be bothered with garage sales. John has promised me that tomorrow morning he will get up early and look after Kirsten so that I can be at my friend’s house for around 7am. Then tomorrow afternoon there is no rest for the wicked as Kirsten’s best friend has her 4th Birthday party…that reminds me I need to wrap the gifts and sort out the card.
Have a Happy Friday everyone!