Friday, July 14, 2017

Survey results and our first big architect meeting

This is really happening!

Our survey results came in two weeks ago.

Survey results with envelope outlined

Two things are quickly apparent: 1.) This lot is DEEP, and much of it – more than we expected -  is comprised of forested slope, and 2.) The building envelope is situated really far back (110’) from the street and it extends onto the slope.

Tom, being anti-social (not really; he’s just less social than I) likes the fact that the building envelope is so far back on the lot, since we can build so that we can’t see our neighbors and they can’t see us when we’re on the patio. Rick, the architect, and I, aren’t so crazy about building on a slope. In fact, Rick is requesting the Suncadia architectural review board that the envelope be moved forward about 20’ toward the street so the house can be built on level land, with a two-tiered patio – with fire pit and two-level water feature – in the back, taking advantage of the slope. Tom’s on board with that. Hopefully, the review board will be, as well!

Of course I immediately took to Pinterest…

back patio view

This is exactly as I envision our back patio and its view of the Cascade Mountains! Imagine a fire pit on this patio, along with the beginning of a water feature that flows downward to a lower patio…

Back slope 1Slope rock stairway

Nice, eh?

And the inside of the house is taking shape, too. I braved a few pieces of grid paper and tried to convey our vision.

Initial design_downstairs_call-outs_13July17Initial design_upstairs_call-outs_13July17

As I said to Rick in an email when I sent this to him, “This reflects a new idea: individual downstairs spaces for Tom and me -- a large workshop/office/man cave for him near the garage (but inside) and an office/craft room for me.
Upstairs, it shows the excellent bunk room idea that you had when we last met, as well as the idea of a media room with Murphy bed and balcony, "stubbed out" bathroom and over-garage apartment (including stubbed out kitchenette).”

I’m really excited about Tom and I each having our own spaces for pursuing our own hobbies – Tom, working from his workshop/office/man cave as he builds a good portion of the upstairs and perhaps the outside water feature, and me as I write a book about my dad’s life and perhaps scrapbook in my own office/craft room.

Like most houses at Suncadia, we’ll have a very “lodgy” great room, perhaps something like this:

Great room

With an exterior that will look kinda sorta similar to this:

Home 1


And I’d like to just duplicate my current kitchen, which I love…


…though of course the layout will be different in the Suncadia house, with an angled center island with a sink that allows me to look out to the mountains as I do dishes!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This is still all in the fantasy stage. In actuality, Rick has gotten this far:

Architect meeting_13July17

Imagine the house being moved about 20’ forward onto more level land. (No, trees won’t grow in our house. We’ll be removing all those, plus enough in the back to give us our coveted view of the mountains.)

Next steps: we’ll be camping at Lake Easton in just over a week and will head to Suncadia, just a few miles away, to attend the owners’ picnic and to walk our lot, refining our vision. The lot itself still looks like this:



Rick will be working on formalizing our ideas in a digital format. THAT should be fun!

Aaaaaand we still need to sell our Tumble Creek property.

Stand by!

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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Are these Suncadia workbenches, or WHAT?!

We bought two of them at Costco (only $299 each!). It pretty much marked a final commitment to actually do this thing!


They’re boxed and covered at the side of our current house, not to be seen again for about another 18 months. It’ll be like Christmas when Tom unpacks them in the man cave/workshop/office that we’re asking the architect to include in his house design!

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Hiring an architect

We closed on our Suncadia lot on Friday. On Monday, we hired an architect. Never let it be said that we “sat on our lot”!

Actually, I was living in two distinct worlds when the email came through on Wednesday, prompting us to wire money and sign documents for a Friday closing. I was in Ashland, Oregon dealing with the aftermath of my father’s death which shook our world last February (something I will write about soon… many posts have been started, but none completed). I had to quickly switch gears to manage an on-time closing, with Tom and I in different locations and no available printer or scanner, an endeavor which rivaled the craziness of my years as a Senior Project Manager at Microsoft!

But we did close, and now we own TWO properties at Suncadia! (Want one?)

Working back from our goal of celebrating Thanksgiving, 2018 with family in our new home, we knew that we’d have to hire an architect very soon after closing, so we interviewed three of them while we were in escrow.

If you drive around Suncadia or Tumble Creek, you’ll see these signs in front of any home being built.


On these signs, you’ll see the selected builder, architect, and landscape architect. We noticed the names of three architects over and over: Nash and Associates, Page and Beard Architects, and Rick Jones and Associates. (There are others, but these three seemed to be the most prominent.) We interviewed all three. And we really liked all three! Of course they were all completely familiar with the building process at Suncadia, and all of them showed us beautiful homes and floor plans of Suncadia homes they had designed. While there are no restrictions on which architect or builder owners use to build at Suncadia, we certainly didn’t want to hire someone who had not built there before. Why re-invent the wheel? So we confined our consideration to what seemed to be the three most prominent architects at Suncadia.

In the end, our decision came down to three factors: 1.) the architects enthusiasm (or lack thereof) for working in consort with Tom (a frustrated and creative architect wannabe) and his ideas, 2.) price and pricing structure, and 3.) sheer gut feeling.

All three were quite willing to work with Tom and were open to his creative ideas and input. But one was enthusiastic about it and in the interview seemed to mesh really well, taking each others ideas and building on them together. In terms of pricing structure, two architects charge per square foot and complexity of plan, while one has a flat fee. And in terms of gut feeling – well, after each interview (we did one per week), we left feeling really good about the architect himself, liked everything he presented to us, and concluded that we could very easily and happily work with him.

In the end, we hired Rick Jones. In the interview, Rick and Tom exchanged creative ideas easily and at one point, after Tom shared his idea of a two-tired rear patio with a water structure flowing from the fire pit down to a lower patio, Rick put down his pen, and said to Tom, “I want to work with you!” Then, as Rick presented his idea of a small bunk room off the upstairs hall, with individual closets and a barn door, Tom and I both individually thought, “I want to work with him!’ Rick’s pricing structure is a flat fee, which appeals to me since I hate nickel and diming a process like this or holding back for fear of a new charge.

I am very sure that we would be very happy with any of the three main Suncadia architects. Our decision was a subjective one that felt right for us, but I don’t think you can go wrong with any architect who regularly designs Suncadia homes and who is highly regarded by the real estate team and preferred Suncadia builders – which is a very good place to begin!

Next: the property survey!  That should take place within the next three weeks. Stay tuned…

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Building our retirement dream home at Suncadia: the back story

A little more than two years ago, I wrote this post called “A Suncadia Future.” In that post, I swooned about Suncadia, our new discovery in the Cascades, predicting that we’d finally found a place where both Tom and I could be happy in retirement – Tom, because he could find the land, privacy, and the beautiful environment that he craved and me, because I could find all that plus the strong community that I craved.

Tom and Carol needs

We’d spent months before that – and even off and on in the two years since then – exploring places where we might both be happy in retirement, but ten private acres in the middle of nowhere (Tom’s extreme) would have made me miserable and a condo on Capitol Hill (my extreme) would have made Tom miserable.

Just as I predicted in this post, we did go on to buy property at Tumble Creek, Suncadia’s private, behind-the-gate, across-the-river community, where lots are bigger, everything is more private and quieter, and where membership includes not only Tumble Creek amenities, but also Suncadia amenities – and community.

Caretaker cabinbeauty3IMG_5346TC fire and bocceIMG_5095TC golfTC bridge

It seemed perfect for both of us. And we loved the 1.17 acre parcel of beautifully forested, gently sloping land we bought.


Our favorite thing about our Tumble Creek property was Reflection Path, directly across the street, a short trail that leads to the most gorgeous look-out point, on a cliff overlooking the Cle Elum River. Tom and I loved it, but the dogs adored it!



Almost exactly two years ago, in mid-June 2015, we closed on our property at Tumble Creek and were thrilled!


We told ourselves that we could consider our new property to be a simple investment, and we committed to still being open to other options, but every time we looked at another option, such as retirement on Bainbridge Island or staying in our Woodinville home (which Tom had spent the past 20 years remodeling!), we’d always come back to Tumble Creek, figuratively and literally.

At the end of April this year, almost two years after buying the Tumble Creek property, we attended Suncadia’s “Builder’s Expo, finally committed and ready to get serious about building our dream home on our dream property.

Builders Expo

As we met with builder after builder, we came upon the realization that building the home we had envisioned at Tumble Creek would be cost-prohibitive for us because the CC&Rs require that specific, more expensive, materials be used. We knew we’d be cutting it close to build at Tumble Creek at all, but now we were realizing that we simply couldn’t build the home we had envisioned. While we’d known all along that, whereas owners in Suncadia can rent their homes out (resulting in the vibrant resort atmosphere at Suncadia), renting in Tumble Creek is strictly prohibited. We knew this all along and it was never an issue for us, since we planned to live in our home, but it did present a few issues when we considered the “legacy aspect” of owning at Tumble Creek: what would our kids do with the property once Tom and I were gone? They couldn’t rent it out so most likely, they’d sell it. That was OK with us but sad, as we’d hoped that this home might become a place where the (future) cousins could gather for holidays and where the whole family might find refuge and community for years to come.

So when yet another builder told us that we’d need to build a really small house at Tumble Creek and asked whether we’d considered buying property and building at Suncadia instead, we found ourselves on the phone with our beloved agent, Nanci, asking whether she might by any chance have time (right then!) to show us some Suncadia properties that might be a good fit for us. (We had come to adore Nanci over the two years since we’d bought the Tumble Creek property from her, so she knew exactly what “a good fit for us” meant!)  We’d looked at property at Suncadia in 2105, but had decided then that Tumble Creek was a better fit. Now we were re-thinking that. Nanci didn’t seem surprised; maybe she knew us better than we knew ourselves!

So that afternoon we re-visited the idea of buying and building at Suncadia!

Signlodge insidehousemountains with lodgeGolfSuncadia sunset over firepitPool

One of the reasons that we didn’t buy at Suncadia initially was that properties at Suncadia are generally smaller and less private than lots at Tumble Creek. On this day, though, Nanci told us about a large, private one-acre view lot along the periphery of the resort, far from the hub-bub of the lodge and activity center. The price had just been lowered; did we want to take a look?

We did!


Imagine a bunch of those trees thinned out to give us a lovely filtered mountain view, maybe something like this?

back patio view


Tom quietly walked the property. Then he walked it again. And again. I could sense the gears turning. ‘This will work… I like this,’ he seemed to be thinking. Really? I had been leaning toward a Suncadia lot from the beginning, because it offered a greater sense of community for me. Tumble Creek was quiet, yes… but secretly I wondered whether it was, perhaps too quiet for us as full-time residents. Turns out, Tom had begin to wonder the same thing!

We visited a house under construction just two properties away. This was the view from the great room of that house:


…and from an upstairs bedroom:


Hmmmm… could this be a better place for us to build our dream home? We expressed our interest to Nanci and went home to sleep on it.

The next day, we made an offer on the Suncadia property. After a very short negotiation, we were in escrow!

Uh-oh! We now owned TWO Suncadia properties, one at Tumble Creek and one at Suncadia! Of course we immediately listed our Tumble Creek property with Nanci.


Just one day after we closed escrow on our property, we hired an architect and a surveyor. Our goal is to celebrate Thanksgiving, 2018 in our new home with lots and lots of family members!

(In the meantime, we’ll need to sell our beloved Woodinville home sometime in the next year. Interested?)

I’ve been quiet on this blog for almost a year, but this is a good opportunity to resurrect NorthwestLadybug, as I chronicle the process of building our dreamhome at Suncadia. Those posts can all be found under the label “Buying and Building at Suncadia.”

So, here we go…!

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Well *that* was fun. Basal-squamous carcinoma excision, graft, and repair.

You know how you hear about those people who notice something odd on their skin and ignore it, waiting months – or even years – to have it looked at by a dermatologist? Well, that wasn’t me.

Until now.

Knowing that I have something called Dysplatic Nevi, I am at my beloved dermatologist at least every six months for a full body mole check. I’ve had lots of resulting biopsies, but never a cancer diagnosis.

Until now.

My last mole check was in May and was I given a happy “all clear, thumbs-up.” A few days after my appointment we went camping and took a few photos.


Do you see anything on my nose?

May 13-A

I don’t. And neither did my dermatologist. Thus the all-clear.

We had quite a few out of town guests this summer, and we went on vacation, so I have a steady stream of photos. Let me know when you notice anything on my nose.

June 6-A

June 6th. Nada.

June 7-A

June 7th. Nope.

June 12-A

June 12th. Hmmmm, maybe a tiny bit of dimpling? Maybe?

June 13-A

June 13th. I don’t see anything. Do you?

June 25-B

June 25th. All I see are freckles.

July 9-A

July 9th. I think I see something. But certainly not enough to concern me. I didn’t give it a second thought – especially because we were on vacation (in the sun, along the Oregon Coast).

July 10-B

July 10th. Yeah, there’s a little nothing of a bump.

July 12-A

July 12th. Yup, there’s a little something there. It didn’t even occur to me for a second that it could be something – and keep in mind that I’m hyper-vigilant!

July 13-A

July 13th. Even with the sun shining right on it, it’s barely noticeable!

July 23-A

July 23rd. AHA!! In those 10 days, the little “pock” started to bleed just a little.

I called the doctor on the morning of July 25th and was seen that morning, due to a fortunate cancellation. I told Dr. Voss that I called it “my little Molakai” because it was sort of a small rolled half circle under my skin. The minute Dr. Voss saw it, she said, “Yeah, this could be something.” And it was!

She took a little cone sample. No big deal at all.

July27-Post biopsy

At that point, I fully expected that it was cancer and wasn’t surprised at all when I got a call a few days later to confirm that it was a basal-squamous cell carcinoma. An appointment was made right then to have it excised. Dr. Voss is a cosmetic dermatologist, known for her great surgical and repair abilities.

But I had to go all Dr. Google and decided to opt for a Moh’s procedure followed by plastic surgery instead. Dr. Voss is trained in Moh’s (I learned later) but chooses not to do this method. Although both Moh’s and excision have cure rates in the mid-to-high ninety percent, Moh’s rates are very slightly higher, so I figured I go that route. Due to the nature of the procedure (removing a layer, testing it, removing another layer, testing it, until margins are “clean”), Moh’s potentially takes quite a few hours. Then I’d be put under general anesthesia that afternoon for the repair, done by a partner plastic surgeon.

The consult call with the surgeon was a nightmare! He began the call with “Wouldn't it have been nice if we’d met at Whole Foods, you looking for peanut butter and I looking for jelly…” The he called me “hon” and “babe” repeatedly. I was looking for a good surgeon, not a date! To make things worse, every time I asked a question he was belittling and condescending and treated me like I was some bimbo. (Ya know, every great once in a while I just want to throw the whole “I have a graduate degree, summa cum laude, from Stanford University; you can talk to me as if I understand” thing in people’s faces!) I hung up the phone and dissolved into tears. I did not want that surgeon near me! But I resigned myself to it because by then all the plans were in place.

Two days later I found another suspicious mole and headed back to Dr. Voss, who asked why I’d cancelled the original appointment for the excision. I told her the whole convoluted story – at which point all four eyes were rolling!

Long story short (because the anesthesia is wearing off and I want to lie down), I cancelled the Moh’s and plastic surgery and Julie Voss did the excision today. It was a relatively quick procedure, in which she dug out the cancer (and then some, to be safe) and grafted some skin from near my ear to repair the resulting crater wound. No general anesthesia (but lots and lots of local anesthesia because, you know, I’m a redhead!), Queen and the Stones playing on the radio, and conversation as if we were all having coffee together! It was a perfectly pleasant experience! (Keep in mind, I’m still numb as I write this, so….)

Wanna see photos? OK, take a breath!


Dr. Voss and me, pre-op. She had hoped to do some “flap” procedure, but when she saw the actual size of the cancer – mostly subcutaneous, thus the lack of external signs till very recently -- she decided she’d have to graft instead.


We’ll operate right… here.


I have no idea why it’s covered up!


Maybe to keep it moist while they harvested some skin from near my ear?


Malakai is now a crater!



Ta da! I have a honkin’ bandage on my swollen face, and will for a few weeks, but I’m glad to put all this behind me.


Yes, there is a miniscule chance that she didn’t get all the cancer, in which case she’d need to go back in, but she said she’s confident she got it all. The pathology report should confirm that.

The lesson for you? I’ve been yelling it from the rooftop for years: never ignore anything suspicious on your skin! If in doubt, get it checked! Please. Mine was an “iceberg, not an ice cream cone” -- in other words, mostly under the surface, not above the surface. Can you imagine if I’d ignored it?!

If you’ve been meaning to get that mole checked, please promise me that you’ll make an appointment right…



ADDENDUM (September 14, 2016, 15 days since surgery):

Best things first: The cancer is GONE!  The lab result from the surgery indicates “no residual basosquamous cell carcinoma identified.”


Here are a few photos of the healing process. Faces sure heal quickly!

1 day post-surgery: Nice stitch job. Dead-looking graft.


2 days post-surgery: Still no blood supply to the graft.


3 days post-surgery: Look – a blood supply has begun to establish itself!


4 days post-surgery: I puffed up! So swollen!


5 days post-surgery: Less swelling, a bit smoother.


1 week post-surgery: Swelling is gone. Suddenly the wound isn’t so blatantly obvious.


9 days post-surgery. Looking pink… and scabby. No more Band-Aid!


12 days post-surgery. A bit smoother.


13 days post surgery. The scab came off!


15 days post-surgery. A bit scabby again, but I went to a workshop today and no one even mentioned it!


I have an appointment to have a CO2 laser treatment next month, but I’m thinking that I might not even need it – especially since it costs $500 and insurance doesn’t cover it.

I’ll try to remember to post an add-addendum at some point down the road. If I forget and you’re curious, let me know!

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