15 February 2012

Another shopping trip for the Casa

Back in December we decided the overall style of the Casa would be traditional Spanish Colonial. Since then we have been on several shopping trips to select material. We've selected a multi-tonal clay barrel tile for the roof similar to what you see here.

My wonderful nephew, Alex, is the owner of a foundry here in Costa Rica that manufactures products from recycled aluminum and bronze. He made the drains for the bathroom showers and the laundry room as a gift for us. Today we took a trip into the capital, San Jose, to pick them up and take Alex to lunch. While we were there we decided to do some shopping for tile trim options for the house. All of the floors in the Casa are going to be red ceramic tile, but we want different accent pieces to add texture and character. Finding these accent pieces has been a challenge, but today, we found what we need to give the Casa the look and feel we want.

This is the boarder trim we are going to use in the great room. We plan to lay a square pattern of tile, one meter wide, from the walls toward the center. Next the boarder trim will be laid and the center will laid in a diamond pattern using the same red tile.

I really want to bump up the color in the kitchen. Today, we found this painted clay tile that adds both interesting texture and my favorite color scheme. We will use this as a border on the floor and also for accent pieces in the counter and range back splashes. I'm thinking of making the range hood cobalt blue tile with this trim on the edge. We haven't decided yet if the counter surface should be granite or tile.

We bought this accent piece to install in the center of the floor in the Nook/Office. It will be surrounded by the same red tile we are using in the rest of the house.

Wouldn't you know it, when we got home this afternoon, the builder told us they will be ready to install the folding attic stairway in the next couple of days. Of course we haven't bought it yet, so it looks like another shopping trip tomorrow.

We still haven't made any decisions on how we are going to accent the floors in the bedrooms and bathrooms, so I see many more shopping trips in our future.

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14 February 2012

Safety Pains

So, here I sat in a great state of relaxation – Mr. ex-Safety Officer – and I look over toward the house construction site expecting to see yet another minor safety infraction, such as no safety glasses, etc.

But, this is a special day, being Valentine’s Day and all, so I guess Da Boyz thought my blood pressure needed a little boost.

Several of the workers have been setting steel beams which will support the Mirador so that several dozen of you can be up there on the solstice drumming and dancing your way through some pagan rituals whilst having no fears of the deck collapsing under your rhythms. At least that’s what the calculations show. But I digress ...

The beams being set are heavy and some of you know that these workers have no cranes or pretty much ANY type of equipment to help them with the lifting. A slightly abnormal level of excitement must have grabbed my attention. As I looked and the “picture came into focus” in my foggy brain, I realized that the boss is on one end of a beam, holding it in position, above his head ... the welder is on the other end of the beam trying to tack weld it onto its mounting plate ... and they’re losing their grip.

So, (of course) they’ve yelled at the oldest and shortest of the workers to, “quick, get up on there on the stack of blocks and help us!” Well, being a good Tico worker, he jumps into action but comes up a little short of reaching the overhead beam. Grabbing the nearest things at hand – more concrete blocks – he creates an even higher stack.

And that’s when I saw it.

And this is its photo.

And beneath that is an enlargement of it: The Extra Special Stacking Job done in order to reach the beam.

I fired up out of my chair and crossed the intervening 30 feet in seconds yelling, “Hey!” all the way while pointing frantically at the block pile about to collapse.

The old man looked down and then up at me with a, “Wuuuut?” look on his face. 

But, it was the boss who was quick with the words.

“Oh, it’s O.K. – he’s lived long enough anyway.”

They all laughed. Pat smirked. I went back to my chair and shut the heck up.

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11 February 2012

A big damn wind

Had a little breeze blow through yesterday. Pat and I were lazily sitting in the rancho, Internet surfing and we saw it coming just in time to slam the lids on our laptops, close our eyes and turn away.

“Well, there,” she said, “your first sirocco.”
sirocco (plural siroccos)
  1. A strong southerly to southeasterly wind on the Mediterranean that originates in the Sahara and adjacent North African regions.
  2. In Costa Rica, “A big damn wind” – sudden and short.
Thanks for the lesson in Costa Rican. I won’t be needing any more examples of that word. Hard to forget.

I heard it coming but the sound as it moved from tree to tree, charging across the sports plaza, just wasn’t different enough from our everyday blustery winds to get me to look up. It wasn’t until it hit the line of trees on the other side of our driveway that it jerked us to awareness. Too late.

The leading edge was probably only moving at around 5mph, but if you think about it, something really big, moving across a driveway and about 50 feet of lawn, coming straight at you, is on top of you, FAST.

What I remember (sounds like an accident victim, doesn’t it) is the big trees bending wildly and then a roiling cloud of white dust exploding up off the driveway (gravel driveway). It jumped the perimeter wall and shot across the lawn; but, not before it slammed into the icky brown casa-excavation dirt pile, right at the edge of the lawn – which is directly in line with half of the rancho. The cloud turned brown. Then my eyes were closed.

The push of the wind’s hand was firm and the pelting of sand, dirt and other detritus sucked into its maw peppered us and everything in sight with a layer of “gooble” the likes of which I’d never seen. And then it was gone.
Randy's a little baffled by the footprints in the layer of dirt.

The remains of a potted flowering plant. Dirt in the upper right corner.

The cleanup will take days because it is inside everything as well as on the outside.

The "splatter" to the left of and top of the burlap is dirt. Every square inch of counter space and floor looks like this.
Mr. Sirocco, I’m not very happy with you.

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214: Making Charcoal & Construction Update

When we were packing up our sea container back in Houston, we found we had a couple of bags of Kingsford Charcoal Briquettes. Rather than throw them out, we loaded them into the container and shipped them to Costa Rica with the rest of our stuff. Since we have now been here for more than 6 months, we have been doing a lot of outdoor grilling, and our U.S. charcoal supply is now gone. So John, who never ceases to amaze me with the things he knows how to do, has now started making his own charcoal.

Recently, ICE (Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad) came through various neighborhoods trimming and removing trees so they could replace all the old creosote electrical poles with new concrete poles and new power lines. All of the debris from the trees has been stacked along side the roadways and lots of folks have been gathering it for firewood. Many families in Costa Rica still have wood burning stoves. We've been helping ourselves to some of this firewood for our new stone oven. Every time we finish using the oven for something, John would load it up with a batch of logs to be dried out by the residual heat after we've made bread or cooked pizza.

Now, instead of just drying out wood for the next batch of bread or pizza, John is now making the charcoal you see in the bin on the right. He will stoke the stone oven up to about 800°F or 900°F. and place wood inside this large kettle. There is a small hole in the kettle to let the gases escape. Then, he puts a weight on the lid to lock everything place and closes up the oven. Several hours later, when the wood in the kettle has had all of the volatiles burned out of it, we have charcoal. Our charcoal bin is now full again thanks to this clever man of mine. Pretty cool!

Meanwhile the construction is coming along nicely. Yesterday, they poured the concrete steps to the mirador (observation deck) John will use for his star gazing with his telescope.

The galvanized steel roof is now on and we are just about ready for the colonial clay barrel tiles to be laid on top. This week the crew also finished all the water lines and tested the connections under pressure at about 120 psi to make sure we have no leaks. This coming week we should see a roof over the carport that doubles as the floor to the mirador.

Tomorrow, we have a house sitter/guard coming over, so we can get away for a few hours and attend the 5th Annual Atenas Charity Chili Cook-off. This is a benefit for the local orphanage. This year they have more than 25 teams and expect more than 1,000 attendees. It should be lots of fun and we are looking forward to some good old Texas Chili.

Well family and friends, that's about all the news for today.

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