Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Holidays

Just a quick note to say Happy Holidays to you all and to give you a quick update on the house.

We are now at 7 1/2 weeks since the house first caught fire. I can tell you, it doesn't look much different than it did 7 weeks ago.

All of the drywall has been removed, the studs have been cleaned, and have been sprayed down with this white dusty chemical to lock in the smoke smell. It works pretty well because the house doesn't smell as much like smoke anymore... now it's more of a chemical, kill you in your sleep, kinda smell. Hum... not sure about that tradeoff.

I do have updated pictures that I took with my fancy new camera, however, I have yet to upload them. I'll work on that over Christmas holiday.

I finally got my initial estimate from the insurance for the base of the contents. What that means, is that the initial list covers everything I could remember at the time but there's still lots more to be put on there. I'm happy to be finally getting an initial check and getting that process started.

On the other hand, I have yet to receive a check to get the house rebuilding started. I'm lucky to have contractors who are willing to start without having a check in hand, but my insurance adjuster is just very very slow. I think he's close to retirement and just doesn't care anymore. For those of you that are curious the process for payout goes like this:

1. Get check from insurance for initial amount (of course it may need to be adjusted as the process continues).
2. Sign check and send to mortgage company (they own most of my house, so their name is on it also). Must also submit lots of other paperwork (go figure).
3. Mortgage company pays out 1/3 to contractor to start rebuilding.
4. Inspector goes out, looks at work, approves next 1/3 to be released to contractor.
5. Inspector goes out, looks at work, approves last amount to be released to contractor and/or me.

It is an understandable process, but it just takes a while. Ugh. Hopefully after the new year this can start moving faster.

So that's the update. Fortunately I'll be spending the holidays in PA and won't even have to think about the house. :)


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Shutterfly vs. Blurb

I recently made a recipe book of all the recipes my mom has collected over the years. Since I'd used Shutterfly twice before, I was inclined to use them for this project. However, I'd heard about Blurb and decided this was a great project to give them a try.

First what I love about Blurb.

When you use blurb you actually download a program called Booksmart. Thus, you do not need to be connected to the internet all the time, and it eliminates the need to upload photos to a server. Once you are done then upload your book when you are ready to place your order. Booksmart is great. You have full control over customization of layouts, which is the biggest perk to Blurb. Plus it is really easy to use. The other nice thing is that you have full color customization over the backgrounds. You see a background you like, but it's in blue and white, well, you can change both those colors to be exactly what you want. There are infinite color options.

What I don't like about Blurb.

First, while I do like their background selection and color choice options, you don't have quite as many to choose from as Shutterfly. Second, while I love their layout and design flexibility they do have more limited book cover choices. (only 3). And then third, and probably the biggest, I don't think their quality compares to Shutterfly.

When I got my recipe book back from them I noticed the front cover wasn't as nice as the Shutterfly covers. I also noticed the book construction wasn't as good and the pages just weren't as nice. Now, for the pages, you do have the option to upgrade to "premium paper" which I had not done on this book. The other thing I noticed was that the last few pages in my book were not bound correctly. One of the pages was even ripping out of the book. So I emailed their customer support with some pictures that I had taken on my iphone and within 3 hours they responded to me saying they would replace the book at no cost. That was nice. I was even able to upgrade to their "premium paper" so I'll know in a few days what that looks like. It was a little annoying not to have a phone number to call, but they seemed to respond to the email quite quickly.

So my overall assessment is that Blurb allows for much more design flexibility, though the overall quality of book is just not as nice as the Shutterfly books. If you are okay with the limited layout options, I would recommend Shutterfly for your book needs. Especially photo books. However, if you have a project that needs full customization of layouts, then you're stuck with Blurb... for now.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cool People

It's the holiday season, and you know what that means. Crowded malls, lots of music, packages coming and going, and usually rude people. Okay, maybe not usually, but more often than not, the holidays (or at least the days leading up to them) seem to bring out the worst in people. Everyone is stressing.

Well I'd like to take a moment to write about 3 different people/companies that I've encountered recently that have made my day just a little better.

First, English Retreads. This company is awesome. First, they have awesome stuff. Second, the person or persons that work there are just super friendly. I recently purchased one of the seat belts only to realize that i'm not as small as I thought I was. Oh great, I was going to have to send it back, this would be a process. You know, first you send it back, wait 5 days, then they send you something back, but maybe you have to call to check up on it, ugh, a hassle, right? Wrong.

When I called to ask about the return policy, I spoke with Kate, the business manager. She was super nice and better yet, the return policy was the easiest I've ever encountered. She said not to worry about the return shipping or the shipping for the replacement item. She would send out the replacement, plus she would electronically send UPS a return shipping label. So bam, UPS shows up at my house the next day, with said return label, I hand him the old package, and away he goes. New belt is already on the way, and no delays! Awesome.

Second, my new wedding photographer, Beverly. I recently undertook the task of choosing my wedding photographer. For those of you that know me well, you know that I'm an engineer, and not just at work, in all aspects of my life. I like to gather data, ask questions, know all the little details, then make an informed decision. I'm really trying to do all this now, so when my wedding day comes I can just have a good time, or at least try not to stress. I'm working on it. Anyway, sometimes when you know people, it's hard to ask them tons of questions without feeling like a pain in the butt. But Bev has been really great about answering all my questions and still wanting me as a client. Thanks Bev!

Third, my fiance, Jeremy. Yea, he's pretty awesome. And he's been amazing these last few weeks. Between the house and the wedding and Christmas, he's been pretty understanding that I've been a complete stressball. I love you babe!

Friday, December 3, 2010

House Update - 1 Month Later

Well it's been one month since my dryer caught fire and my house burnt to a crisp.

You'd think by now they have a good start on the place, but since we are dealing with insurance here, clearly that's not the case.

Last Wednesday (11.30.10) the more-or-less final estimate was agreed to by myself, my insurance adjuster, and my contractor. Some interesting points:

1. They are going to give me a full new roof (yay!)
2. They are going to put insulation in all my exterior walls as part of a code upgrade (yay!)
3. They are going to rewire my whole house as part of a code upgrade (yay!)

Besides those three points, they are basically stripping the house down to bare wood, removing all (or mostly all) they drywall, tearing down the garage, and then rebuilding it all. Currently they have removed most of the drywall in the house and have started the slow cleanup from that. They will next clean the studs and seal them with "anti-smell" stuff.

Before they put the drywall back up, I'll have to decide what cables I may want to run throughout the house and what type of exterminators I may want to have come in and spray. I guess that will be on my to-do list for next week.

I also get to take this chance to do a different type of roof if I want, metal maybe? And change up the lighting around the house. I'm thinking can lighting in the living room and new ceiling fans in the other rooms. Probably add a ceiling fan to the guest bedroom and a bathroom vent to the, well bathroom.

Also at some point in the near future, I'm going to have to pick out paint colors for the rooms. That's such a daunting task.

Total cost of rebuilding the house (excluding contents clean/replace): $70,000

Thank goodness for insurance and low deductibles!