December(ish), 2007(ish)

Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas! Strike that. Happy New Year!!! Wait, we mean Happy Penguin Awareness Day. OK, let's be honest... Merry Superbowl. Whew! What a "year". Despite the best intentions, this letter was not post-marked before Christmas and leaving the Christmas cards in Tahoe certainly didn't help. This "year" we practiced magic by making a house disappear and then reappear, honed our construction skills, embarked on a thought free vacation, and Lori traveled to India.

Let's start off with the international excursions. Lori ventured to India in June (the hottest month of the year) to congratulate her team for success on a very difficult program. The plane trip was long - totaling 24 hours of flying time - one way, up hill, in the snow, etc.; however, it was easy to get around with a chauffeured rental car. Breaking with tradition, Mike forewent highly, humid heat and will wait until the next trip to see the superb sites.

In September, we sojourned off to the Grand Caymans (again) for SCUBA diving. We picked this destination because no thinking was required - fantastic food, super staff, and delightful diving - a nice detour from the decision making (see later in this letter). While there, we were motivated to obtain Nitrox certification. This allowed Mike to photo that last fish 50' below without our conservative computers screaming warnings at us (him). We did see schools of baby squid (one of them tried to ink us), an octopus, a drum fish, a swimming scorpion fish, and a huge school of ~75 tarpon before going out to hunt for the evening. Traveling in September provided a surprise - Hurricanes. There were a number of near Grand Cayman misses just prior to our trip - including one evacuation - and while there, Hurricane Felix threatened the island, before heading off to Mexico. We rode out the storm just fine and it was actually anti-climatic.

The all consuming activity "this" year (and THE reason this letter is very late) is the construction of our new Tahoe home. After contemplating 4+ years whether to remodel, rebuild, or relocate, on January 16th we retained Roland of RAM Engineering to convert our relaxation and retirement residence design into Approved Engineering Blueprint - i.e, rebuild. On April 23rd, our little 1 bedroom, 1 bath 650 square foot abode ceased to exist - thud, crunch, poof. All that was left was flat, bare earth (see picture insert). Due to the distance, we relinquished rough construction through drywall to the capable hands of Lamberth Construction (aka Jake).

During the course of construction, we traveled to Tahoe every other weekend. To save money (so we could pay for this), we went up and back on the same day until August, when we could camp out at the house. We had many visitors, some human ... We had a posh port-a-potty, a single spigot, classy camping cookware, and an unfired furnace. For those who want the cliff note timeline of construction: The forty cubic yards of concrete were poured in May/June, the rough plumbing and floor joists were in by June 22nd, the purlins were craned in on July 30th, next, the roof joists went in, then the roof was sheathed and installed over a 3 days in September, followed by the windows, wall sheathing, wiring, insulation, and (sheet) rock. We took over the finish construction on October 8th as the drywall mud was drying and Jake was drilling holes in the floor after hoodwinking the gas company into turning on the gas ... Of course, the furnace wouldn't fire ...

The first order of business following the furnace firing (darn low altitude switches) was the installation of a fully functional flushing toilet. Aaaaah! People painting were aplenty - Mike and Kristin primed the mudroom and Kitchen, Mom R and Jim primed most everything else, Mom and Dad J finished coated almost everything (while staying as far away from us cursing at the #@&$% bathtub tile). Kurt helped with the kitchen cabinet installation, and Kurt and Rob stained like Saints. Yes, we worked, too. We installed all of the T&G ceilings in the bedrooms, kitchen, hallways, porches and part of the loft. We tiled the laundry room (clean dirty clothes ... you don't know how nice this really is), the half bath, main bath, and had so much fun we can't put it in words the main shower tiling - 4x longer than we estimated.

One of the challenges with designing your own home (yes, we actually did the design) is all of the little decisions, and if you don't like the end product, you have no one to blame but yourself. Fortunately, we have not made any major mistakes ...knock on plywood. One thing that drove us nuts (bolts, screws, finishing nails) during the construction was Jake. His advice , whether we liked it or not, after a full investigation, turned out to be ALWAYS right. Grrrrrrrrrrr. It got to the point that when he described what the drywall was going to look like we said "Great" when in reality we didn't have a clue as to what he was talking about. Not surprisingly, It looks great!

So where are we now you may ask? We have 2 functioning commodes, a shower with hot water, laundry, most of the switches and ceiling lights, completed T&G ceilings, painted walls, five stained interior doors (with doorknobs), a kitchen with cabinets (no counters) most appliances working, and loft stairs. What's next? Finish ceiling, door and window trim, install floors, deck and railing, fireplace, master bath ... We have ~ 1 1/2 years before our permit expires (assuming we do not extend it for a year). When we are done, we will have a 2300 sq ft, 3 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath home with personal owner touches :. It is much roomier than the 650 sq ft house we originally had.

For "next" year, we will be finishing off the interior of our Tahoe house. Other than that, we have no idea... :

Feel free to email us at or peruse our previous Christmas letters and view our favorite photos and projects at

We hope the coming year brings peace, good health, and a safe and wonderful holiday.


Mike, Lori, Magic, Marleau,& Murray