Thursday, December 30, 2010

Who’s Idea Was This Anyway?

We’re taking on water in more ways than one...........

Well here we are once again feeling as if we are trying to blindly navigate our boat through an angry sea that is intent on sending us to a watery grave, but like any good sailor, we grab our life vests, start bailing water and look for a way to steer out of these choppy waters.

The house renovations seemed to be going well and we thought we had everything under control, but as with any remodeling project there are always unforeseen glitches. Up until recently our architects had been very good about sending us updates and photos. The roof was looking great, although we weren’t altogether happy that the glass skylight frames had been removed and destroyed without our knowledge. The architects said that the frames were in poor condition and not worth salvaging, but we would have liked to have a say so in the matter. The quote the architects gave us to replace the skylights was so high that we had to look elsewhere for a more reasonable price.

Also without our knowledge all of the gutters or canales as they call them in Ecuador were removed from where the sky lights were once mounted so that now when it rains, the water pours into the house through the holes where the sky lights and canales were once mounted. We had specifically requested that the canales be left in place until a decision could be made at a later date.

Rod emailed Carlos and immediately put him on the task of getting us another quote for the skylights as well as contacting the architects, since all of a sudden in spite of our attempts to contact them and ask questions, we could not get a response. Rod then asked Carlos to go to the property and inspect the work first hand to make sure that it was being completed as promised.

Carlos reported back that the roof was looking great, but that the safety railing that had wrapped around the perimeter of one of the skylights was gone. We knew this railing wasn’t pretty by any stretch of the imagination, but it served a purpose and replacing it was not in the budget at this time. As with the canales we had requested that the railing remain in place until at some point down the road we could replace it. We have since sent an email to the Architects asking what happened to our railing and are patiently awaiting a reply.

In fact the whole thing that started the repairs in the first place was the water tower on the top of the roof. It was too heavy and allowing water to seep into the house as well as causing damage to the roof. As part of the roofing job, the water tower was to come down and we have since found out it has not yet been removed because according to the architects it will cause more damage by taking it down (Go figure).

Over the holidays Mom, Bob, Rod and Myself discussed what our next move should be. Since the Ecuador house has two gaping holes in the roof and the interior is in danger of being damaged, we decided it would be best to get down there as soon as possible and assess the situation. We immediately began checking flights to determine at what point we could get to Ecuador.

Rod and I always use our American Express Membership Rewards points when we travel as this saves us a lot on airfare and allows for more trips to Ecuador. The only problem is that the rewards travel has a lot more restrictions than regular travel and the flights seem to be getting harder and harder to find.

What a site, all four of us each on a laptop, trying to find the best flight Ecuador. We worked as a team and each chose a block of time to research. All of us hunched over our laptops, scanning flights, someone in the group would yell out “I found a flight,” only to be followed by a “Well I found a flight, but it’s 22 hours long and we have to fly from Houston to Colorado, change planes, lay over in Ontario Canada for seven hours, catch a flight to Bogata where we would then change planes for the fourth time before flying in to Guayaquil.” We must have spent hours scanning our computer screens looking for the perfect flight. I even called the airlines to see if maybe they could find something we couldn’t, but no such luck.

Mom, Rod and Myself Getting Bleary Eyed Trying To Find A Flight

Finally Mom and I started to notice that the better flights were leaving out of the smaller cities, so we started to concentrate on leaving out of Austin and Huntsville. Mom was able to find a flight out of Austin, but there was no return flight, so we then concentrated our efforts on Huntsville and soon found our flight. We will be leaving from Huntsville on January 20th and flying from Huntsville International Airport to Houston Intercontinental Airport to Quito Mariscal Sucre Airport. Mom and Bob will have to drive from Flatonia Texas (outside of Austin) to Huntsville in order to catch the flight out with us.

We always prefer to fly into Guayaquil and have Carlos pick us up the next day, but at this point there was nothing available into Guayaquil so Quito it is. The worst part about flying into Quito is that you then have to catch a flight from Quito to Cuenca. Three airlines that fly into Cuenca are AeroGal, Lan Airlines and Tame. Lan Airlines was a bit cheaper than Tame, but we opted to go with Tame since it had more flights available.

When we arrive in Quito we will be staying at the Radisson Royal. I found the hotel on line and it looked to be very nice and had great reviews as well. They don’t offer airport shuttle service like the Hampton Inn Guayaquil, but the Radisson does send a car for you, which I suspect is really a taxi. We still remember our first trip to Quito and are hoping not to repeat that experience, even though Mom and I found great humor in the fiasco.

This time around we have decided to try and rent an apartment in Cuenca. Even though we will have to pay for a full month it will still be cheaper than staying in hotels for the full three weeks that we will be staying in Cuenca. Apparently short term rentals are extremely hard to come by, so we will be enlisting the help of our friends to help us find a place. It is even more difficult because we would like to be within walking distance of the house.

Rod stumbled across a property listed on one of the blogs by the name Hotel El Puente that offers both rental suites and rooms by the night and they are quite reasonable. I emailed the hotel for more information, but had to send a second email before I had a response. Once again a reminder that Ecuador moves at a slower pace than we do in the States and the speedy email reply that we have come to expect in the states is not the reality. This is something we are trying to get used to, but will be a very hard adjustment for us. I have to keep reminding Rod that not everyone checks their email fifty times a day as we do in the states and that is probably a good thing.

No News is Good News?

It has been one day since I wrote the beginning of this entry and we have now had news from Ecuador. Carlos emailed us to tell us that he had spoken to our architects and they have informed him that they have stopped work due to the fact that they have not received the last payment for the roof repairs. Anyone who has ever done a remodeling project or built a house knows that you do not pay for the work until it is complete. Rod immediately emailed the architects to let them know that we would be in Cuenca on the 21st of this month in order to inspect the work, but that we did not intend to pay the final amount until the work that we had agreed upon was complete.

The Unfinished Roof

So once again it looks as though we are having to look for a new architect (uuugh!) Who’s idea was this to try and renovate a property in Ecuador while living in the States? Did we temporarily lose our minds? But just like the fudge, we will not be beat, we will raise our wooden spoons, forge ahead and in the end we will prevail.

Getting Into The Holiday Spirit

Before we left for Houston, Rod and I were pretty stressed out with the opening of the new shop, the lack of response from the architects and the Holiday season in general. I had been in contact with a lady in Tennessee about a dish set I was wanting to purchase for resale and Rod offered to go with me to pick it up. We decided to make a day of it and invited our friends Terry and Deanna to go with us. Terry knows Nashville like the back of his hand so he volunteered to drive which suited us just fine.

Terry And Deanna

We decided to go pick up the dishes first, then grab a late lunch and after that head over to the Opryland Hotel. Rod, Lindsay and I used to go almost every year to view the beautiful decorations at the hotel and every time family came to visit during the holidays we would make a special trip. As Lindsay grew older and life happened, somehow we got out of the tradition and our visits were fewer and farther between.

In May of 2010, Nashville experienced a terrible flood. I was caught in the middle of it and can attest to the fact that it was quite frightening. The flood waters left a lot of devastation and as a result, the Opryland Hotel and the surrounding Opry Mills Outlet Center were shut down. The weekend that we chose to take our trip was the first weekend that the hotel was opened since the flood. Unfortunately Opry Mills remains closed.

We were glad to see the hotel open once again and decked out in all of its Christmas glory. As soon as we walked through the front doors we felt like we were in another place and the stress just started to melt away. One of the things that the Opryland Hotel is famous for is it’s lush indoor gardens and cascading waterfalls. There are three separate areas of the hotel that are all connected by meandering pathways, and even though they are all connected, each one has a different theme. Amidst the hotel's lush botanical gardens, pristine indoor cities and one-of-a-kind environments, you'll find a myriad of outstanding restaurants… and plenty of opportunities to please everyone.

One Of The Many Beautiful Pathways

Cascading Waters

The Delta Riverboat Tour

Can You Imagine The Time It Took To Put The Lights On This Tree?

Dancing Waters

The Poinsettias Were Spectacular

One Of The Many Indoor Waterfalls

The Outdoor Nativity Scene And Lit Trees

By the time we left the hotel that evening we were all in a much better frame of mind and ready to tackle Monday morning. On the way out of town we stopped at one of Terry and Deanna’s favorite restaurants, J. Alexander’s for dessert and coffee. Deanna loves their carrot cake, but decided she needed something salty so she ordered a side of fries to go with her cake (Yuk!)

Deanna With Her French Fries And Carrot Cake

In Pursuit of Perfect Fudge

During the holidays, Lindsay and I decided to try and make fudge. I have had an ongoing battle with this confection for many years now and I’m sorry to say it has always gotten the best of me. You name what can go wrong with fudge and I’ve done it. Well I am not one to give into defeat so I picked up my wooden spoon one more time and went to battle. The first night Lindsay and I worked as a team and had very near success. Rod managed to single handedly polish that batch off, so the night before we left for Houston for the Holidays, I decided to try my hand at another batch and failed miserably. The fudge seized so badly I could have literally sent this batch to Ecuador to use to construct the walls in our house.

Lindsay Sampling The Fudge

Rod promised me that while in Houston, we would make a batch together and it would turn out wonderful. We looked up recipes on line and after reading several reviews, settled on an Alton Brown fudge recipe that looked to be just the ticket. While in Houston I went to Williams Sonoma and bought a nifty digital candy thermometer (I needed all the ammunition I could get). Rod, Lindsay and I teamed up and made our fudge. 

My New Digital Candy Thermometer

The Three Musketeers

The Perfect Fudge

Our Holidays

In spite of our Ecuador problems, it was really nice to get away and be able to spend time with the family. We had a house full of people and air mattresses strewn everywhere, but no one cared as being together was all that was important. We all ate to much and stayed up to late, but in the end it was so worth it and we had such a good time. 


Bob Gets Some Much Needed Help With His Button Down Collar

Rod’s Mom Hard At Work

Rod’s Cooking Now

While in Houston, Rod, Lindsay and I were able to visit with his Daughter Michelle and our Granddaughter Jordan. Jordan is ten years old and wants to be the next Taylor Swift. We bought her a guitar for Christmas (Mom said no drums please) and we had a good laugh at Jordan trying to hold her guitar and strum a few chords as it was almost as big as she was.

Rod With His Daughter Michelle And Our Granddaughter Jordan

The Next Taylor Swift

We want to wish all of our friends and family a happy and prosperous year in 2011 and we look forward to seeing our Ecuador friends very soon. We did find out that our friends Jim and Kay who Rod and I met on our solo trip to Ecuador will be there the week before us. It was such a disappointment to find out we would miss them altogether as they leave before we arrive. Hopefully next time guys. Everyone please keep your fingers crossed for us.

Buster In His Christmas Hoodie

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