Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hunter Valley

We made a "detour" trip to the Vineyard Country on the weekend as opposed to going to The Ponds.  There you guessed it, this post is not going to be related to our building journey at all :)

But I guess we could use a little change every once in a while and a family holiday is also something that we need.   I have to say that this trip would probably one of the most decent family holiday that I have in years.  I mean I really enjoyed it.  Not because you get to go wine tasting, enjoying the vineyards view or even the fact of going on a road trip.  This is because in this holiday, the kids BEHAVED!  Sure there were some occasions where they fight over a toy but that's kids, they do that and generally they were behaving.  I am still in amazed by this.  They eat their meal by themselves without us having to feed them, they stay close to us whenever we are out and about, they listened when we told them not to touch breakable stuff and to top it off we get to enjoy ourselves!  I think this will easily be one of most the unforgettable moment in my life

I'm not much of a drinker, alcohol wise anyway.  I'm more of a drink-only-when-you-have-to type but otherwise I'll avoid alcohol totally. So I don't purposely go out and buy all the wine that money can buy.  Yes we bought a couple of bottles of dessert wine but we don't venture to every vineyards purposely looking for them. 

The majority of people may go there for the wines but I think that you can find the Hunter Valley wines here in a lot of the bottle shops anyway.  You can even order it online and they will send it to you free of charge (depends on how many you buy of course). 

What I do like about having a trip to Hunter Valley is the scenery and the sheer relaxation that it brings.  I think I mentioned it before, but photography is one of hobby and that is one of the activity that I enjoy doing the most whilst in Hunter Valley.  I'm no professional photographer but I do have a camera that could be classified as an enthusiast photography.  There are still a lot of skills and techniques that I need to learn and I've only been doing it by lots of reading.  I think a proper workshop is needed but I hope this method will get me by for now.

I've been there only twice but I think I've chosen bad time on both occasion.  I wanted to go there when just before the harvest time so that I can get some decent and proper vineyard scenery for my gallery collection.  However all I see was this:

Where are all the grapes?
Click on the image to view the larger version

We went to Emma's Cottage Vineyard where we got our first dessert wine.  Emma's Cottage is located in Lovedale and is probably one of the smallest vineyard in the Hunter but nevertheless I would recommend getting one of their dessert wine called Perfect or Pirate's Treasure.  Again I'm not much of a drinker and I don't really like the taste of wine, however Perfect has some sweet taste in it and doesn't taste much like a wine at all.  We have never taste the Pirate's Treasure as they always seemed to go really quickly.  I guess anything that goes quickly can't be that bad.

We were recommended by the people from Emma's Cottage to try the moscato at Ballabourneen as our family friend was looking for one.  They say the moscato there are to die for.  So we would like to see what the fuss is all about.

Ballabourneen Wine
Click on the image to view the larger version

They were right and we were not disappointed.  I wouldn't go as far as saying it is to die for, but we all know that I don't drink alcohol.  However the taste of the moscato was even better than we had at Emma's.  The difference though, this is a sparkling moscato.  Maybe it was the soda that makes the difference?  They produced a brand new version of moscato that they haven't list on their website yet.

We went for a bit of wonder around the area that includes the cheese factory, near where we stayed and the Hunter Valley Chocolate company shop, on the Broke Rd.  I must say that the price that they put on the shelves for their chocolate is way overpriced.  It feels none other like the Darrell Lea shop in Sydney or the more big brand company like Haighs.  However if you feel that you can't resist the sweet juicy chocolate sensation, then I'd suggest to head down to their factory which is up further near where Emma's Cottage is.  Not only the price difference between the shop and the factory was huge, you can also see how they make their chocolate.  Obviously the note written on the shelves was "Factory Second" but nevertheless it taste all the same.

There is a free map that you can get at every accommodation place that you are staying and ask them where can you find the Hunter Valley Chocolate factory.  I'm sure they'll be happy to tell you where it is.

At the Chocolate company shop I found some more object that interests me.

Click on the image to view the larger version

Click on the image to view the larger version

Click on the image to view the larger version

An old cart, lying in the middle of nowhere.  It looks like the cart that they use in the old wild west civilization long time ago.  This would probably another thing that I like about Hunter Valley.  It is not just vineyards that you see here but it also has this historical atmosphere.  The images above are just parts of the cart.

Like I said, I am in no way a professional photographer and that this is one of my many hobbies.  You can pretty much say that I am a photography enthusiast.  I hope I can get better but there is a lot of knowledge to photography that I keep discovering.  I guess I'll just have to keep on learning.

My bundles of joy - Diamonds in my life

My bundles of joy - Diamonds in my life

Hopefully we can give some more updates on our dream house next week.  Until then, I wish to thank you for reading this far.

Yopz - Skypiea

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


OK so I've heard a lot of warning and people experiences about the stress and grieve that house building experience can cause to someone.  Mainly they are experiences related to builders not being responsive, they take too long to provide the final construction drawing, contract not being drawn up properly, site supervisor gone AWOL or even someone dump land fill on their block of land preventing them from going to construction.

Yea yea I've heard all of that.  But with my building experience stress and grieve, my builders hasn't done anything that stress me out as yet.  In fact the organization or institution that stressing me out is THE BANK!  Just a conspiracy theory here but I think they have read my blog about them and they decided to make everything difficult for me...

What happened?

I've made my first claim for base with the bank and that went through just fine.  We even got a text message on the phone saying that they have paid the base claim.

It is not until the second claim which is the frame claim that again we are given the run around.  When I first talk to their mortgage servicing hotline, they said that they don't know what was going on and they needed to further investigate the issue.  I was confused that they didn't know because it was them that asked me to ring them in the first place!

So finally after two hours of waiting, someone rang me back saying that perhaps there was a mistake in our paper work and we don't have enough fund in our account to complete the construction.  Say what?!? Are you serious?! How is it possible that we didn't have enough loan to cover the construction cost when we specifically applied 80% of the amount on the tender that Metricon sent, which I forwarded upon my application?!?!

Again, as usual, they just direct you to the broker who originated the application.  However the broker just quickly said that it was the bank fault and the paper work is fine.  Now I don't know who to believe and I don't really want to know either.  The bank said this loan was originated from the broker and only the broker can do something about it, so please just fix the issue.

After three days of running around and being stuffed around and talking to a number of people on the mortgage servicing hotline and they all gave me different explanations and stories which confuse the hell out of me, the bank finally said that the loan was fine and it is only that this claim that we had the shortfall as we need to contribute our 20% first.  The rest of the progress payment stages should be fine.  The broker was still adamant that we should be able to claim the payment but then so very quickly changed her story to that of the bank.  She also failed to notify me that the bank used only our first progress payment schedule as a base for the property value.

So if we just need to honor the contract, which we don't even know what they wrote in there and there is no specific clause that we needed to contribute our 20% deposit first (I checked twice), why they didn't explain that in the first place and we would have been happy to just pay that 20%.  Why keep telling us that our loan is not enough to complete the construction?!

Seriously, both bank and the broker are a total failure!

The only reason why I went with the bank was because they were the only bank that can give me enough loan to cover our construction cost and the value report were high.  Other banks are generally lower but if this is to be the grieve that I have to have, I should have used another bank instead.

But I don't think I can recommend my broker in this case.  She is probably ok for you to purchase a ready to move in mortgage but construction loan? Better stay clear out of it.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Tile Selection

We had our tile selection appointment at Di Lorenzo in the morning.  So off we went there to spend more money away.

Long story cut short, and as most of us would have done, we ended up upgrading the standard tile selection to something "more".  Thigee and Ben have warned us on what to expect at our appointment and it is pretty much happened exactly what Thigee had said.

Although we feel that we are getting to the point where we are about to blow our budget for the construction, we also didn't feel that we wanted to re-tile the house again in the future.  So taking all that into our consideration this is what we came up with:

Kitchen splashback

Ensuite - Bathroom - Powder room floor tiles
Size 3x6

Feature wall tiles - Mosaic - Dark Mocha

Putting it all together
There is a white wall tiles here but it's so white it is almost invisible

Tiles for balcony
After spending nearly two hours at Di Lorenzo and some more money of course, we made our way to our soon to be house to check out what has been happening.

It was quite muddy with all the rain that has been happening during the week, but I say where there's a will, there is a way!  The site like always it's locked from the front however the side fence is always left open from some reason (makes us wonder why do they even put a lock on the front fence anyway?  Beats the purpose doesn't it?), so my wife got some left over or unused block for us as a stepping stone.

When we were inside, this is what we see and finally I got some time to go upstairs too...

Wifey wanted to post in front of the house before going in

Never got this properly until this day
Sliding door to outdoor room

Sitting room

Wall opening to study room

Entry to the main bedroom

Soon to be ensuite

Hall way in the main bedroom

Leisure room
After we were satisfied with what we see, we met with our next door neighbor just as we were about to leave.  We had a good chat with them about their block of land and apparently they can only visit their land once a month as they are working in Western Australia at the moment.  They are also getting some custom design house for the build due to the shape and some restrictions on their block.  Apparently they have a lot of set backs and additional requirement due to the fact they have a corner block.

Not long after, we were joined by Phil and Bel from the Reedman home!  It was quite a busy and beautiful day really.  It is not surprising that everyone is out and about to visit to their soon to be home.  Phil and Bel are also building a custom design house.

We are really looking forward to move in to our new house now.

PS:  The time of this writing is actually two weeks late.  I started writing the post at the 18 June but never got around to complete nor publish it until today.  I feel so very slack but hopefully I can pick up once my bank drama is over!  Next post I will tell all about it...

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Our SS said that the frame work is all complete now and they have started on the bricking on Thursday.  That would mean that very soon we will get another invoice in our mailbox with for Frame progress payment.  But we felt like it was not long ago that we just signed the invoice for the slab payment.

I went to our house with the kids on Saturday morning and met Thigee and Ben when we got there.  We had a good chat and they showed me around their now finish wall.  I think that everything is happening really fast for them and they should be moving in about two or three months.  Especially that their bricking and roof is now finish, everything else can be done inside the house.  So weather should no longer be an issue for the builders.  Although Saturday was particularly cold and it was really freezing that day.

We saw that there are few people working at our house in the distance braving the cold and a little wet weather. I got my jacket on and wear about two layers of thick clothing underneath and I still felt cold.  I wonder how cold resistance they can get... but seeing them working hard laying the bricks in the cold weather made me feel their dedication to finish the work in time.  So this time, without saying or promising anything, I made my way to the local shopping centre and get some drinks to fight the cold weather.

When I return they were still there working away but at the same time some sprinkles of rain started to drop as well so they started packing up.  Before they go, I reward them with the drinks I bought and this seemed to have cheered them up greatly!

I also had a chat with someone who appears to be the main guy for the brick layers.  He said that we have a nice big house and the bricks that we choose was one of the best quality.  Some other bricks can have some dents on them or doesn't appear to be flat but the bricks that we chose was flat and strong with the smooth face feature.  That was a good comment and it is quite pleasant that the brick layer gave their approval of our selection!

He said that they should be finish the brick for the top floor as well by next week.  So as soon as the scaffolding goes up, the team will come around and start the work barring the weather condition of course.  They worked pretty quickly as our SS told me that they only started on Thursday and what I saw was they nearly finish the ground floor already.

He also said that we can go and take a look inside the house as they were packing up anyway.  There were a couple of plumbers there also but I hope that we didn't disturb their work and tripped on something when I'm busy taking photos and the kids running around, as if their own home! (well in a way it is!)

Piccies time.

Our choice of bricks

Austral Brick - Symmetry Earth

Entry - Study Room - Sitting Room

Brick work

Window opening in the study room - Entry hallway


Rumpus Room

Laundry - Pantry

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Second Frame

After getting some updates from our great neighbors, Thigee and Bel, we were quite anxious to see the progress of our dream home but we live quite far away that limits our time for the drive around.  However we got an opportunity to visit the site when we were going for the school entry interview of our son in Stanhope Gardens.  And we are liking every bit of it!  It looks very much like a house now.

There were also some increased construction activity on our part of the corner.  The block behind our house was getting their slab poured.  Well not directly behind us that is but in the corner.

I had a chance to also talk with one of the worker and asked if they wanted anything.  I just felt like rewarding them for the work and effort in building our house.  However as we were also going to the school interview and not knowing what time we will finish, I can't promise them that I will return.  The interview did went on for a while and we finished up quite late.  We went to the local shopping centre afterwards anyway to get the drinks that I promised but we met our family friend who already moved to the area in the Kalina estate.  We had a long chat with them and it was getting quite late.

By the time we walked out of the shopping centre, it was already dark and we weren't able to go to our house again as our son is getting tired and hungry.  I felt bad as I didn't do what I said I would but hopefully when I have another chance to visit while the work is still going on I can reward them in a way.

Photos of our recent visit below.

Looks like they installed the external window too

Ahh our dream home

Standing proudly by itself

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What's Up Doc? The Frame of course!

We got a call from our SS on Friday to give more updates on what's happening with the house.  Although some of the updates I already learned from Thigee as Ben and her are always there and they are the nicest neighbor anybody can have.

One particular update of interest is the frame.  Thigee said that they were working on it on Thursday and sent us some pictures with the workers still working on them.  I, personally, would've thought that there won't be any work done on our home as it has been raining (and on some days are pretty heavy rain) for the entire week.  But our SS seemed to be determined to get our home done in time, to which we really appreciate the effort.

Our SS also told us that the bricks will arrive on Wednesday morning.  He said that he was hoping that they can start laying the bricks on the very same day once the frame work has been completed.

We went to the site on Saturday morning for a visit but it was too muddy to go inside the house.  We really should be considering in investing in couple of pairs of gum boots!

We also met with our neighbor Thigee and her husband Ben on Saturday and had a good laugh with them for about an hour or so before we are off to do our tile selection at Di Lorenzo.  What a lovely and funny couple!  We are so looking forward to live in the new home now.

After getting some lunch at the local McDonald's (a very unhealthy habit, kids please don't follow this at home!), we made our way to Di Lorenzo.  However as this is our first time building and selecting tiles, we were overwhelmed with the range of selection that they have in the shop.  We have been told the range that we are getting as part of the building package but still there were still a lot to look at and consider.

We ended up leaving empty handed but we made a proper appointment in two weeks with a consultant that can help with our tile selection.

Here are some pics from our recent visit.  Enjoy.

First floor up

A muddy side pathway

Picture courtesy of our neighbor Thigee

Picture courtesy of our neighbor Thigee

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