Facebook Fan Page is Live!

We are happy to announce that we have created a Facebook page specifically for this website.   Hopefully it will make it easier for you stay up to date with our progress instead of having to manually check back.  Please “Like” the page now.

We will try to remember to link to each new post there.  Also, going forward, we are going to be utilizing Facebook comments rather than the default WordPress comment system.

And, if we have all the right checkboxes checked, then any comments made on the blog should mirror back to the Facebook page and vice versa.  The magic of technology… or it might be the thing that makes me pull out my hair!

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Go Cubs Go!!



I have good reason for not posting anything recently.  The Chicago Cubs just completed an amazing playoff run and brought the World Series trophy back to the north side of Chicago after a 108-year drought.  And I just had to watch every minute that I could… and I’m so glad I did.

I grew up in the northern suburbs of Chicago and was a Cubs fan from my earliest memories.  Ryne Sandberg was my favorite player and when I wasn’t watching him, I was trying to emulate him on the field.  It’s safe to say that baseball was a huge part of my life during my early childhood.

I’m not going to claim that I’m a diehard fan or tell you that I have season tickets and never miss a game.  Quite the contrary, I’ve fallen away from the game as I’ve gotten older.  But my allegiance to the Cubs has never swayed.

I do remember thinking and hoping that Theo Epstein would be able to work his magic in Chicago the same way he did in Boston, but it still seemed so improbable.  The Cubs have always been the “lovable losers” and it seemed to so many people that they always would be.

But all of that frustration was wiped away by this season.

It was an absolutely heart-pounding, edge-of-your-seat postseason that culminated in one of the greatest endings I could ever imagine.  I don’t think anyone could have dreamt up a crazier, more intense game 7 if they tried.  It seriously looked like the Cubs were purposely letting the Indians back into the game on a couple of occasions.

Perfect Hollywood drama… except that it wasn’t scripted.  It was pure and genuine competition and watching and hearing the players’ reactions as the playoffs progressed and seeing their joy and gratitude through their victory rally today reminded me much more of Little Leaguers winning it all with their friends than grown men who make 6, 7 or even 8 figures a year to play a game.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve felt a bit betrayed by professional sports.  Yes, of course, the players would like to win a championship, but it frequently seems that the fans are more invested in the outcome than the players are.

This year’s Cubs team, however, seems to genuinely embrace the game and recognize the significance of what they were ultimately able to accomplish–not just for themselves, but for the city as well as fans and former players, many of whom lived their whole lives and never got to see a Cubs championship.  I’m sure the fact that they are a very young team has something to do with it, but the team leadership and ultimately each individual’s character played a huge role too.

So I’d like to join the estimated 5 million people who lined the streets and packed Grant Park in Chicago today for the victory parade and rally–along with probably 10s of millions who would’ve liked to have been there– in congratulating and thanking this Cubs team and the whole organization for an amazing season.


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Why, Elon Musk, Why?!

Why does Elon Musk have to come out with such appetizing products?

I already desperately want a Tesla car, but Elon made quite a few people scream, “Take my money!” when he recently showed off some pretty amazing designs for solar shingles in conjunction with an upgraded Powerwall to store extra energy.

While building a green home is not the most important goal of this project– we’re not willing to use a technology just because it is green if it doesn’t make fiscal sense or ruins the look or function of the home– we would love to be able to incorporate it as much as possible.  If we had more land, I would totally consider installing a solar array away from the house, but we don’t have that option.  And the previously available roof panels don’t give the look we like and would very possibly not be approved by the design review committee of our neighborhood anyway.

But the new shingles shown off at Tesla’s press event on Wisteria Lane (yes, they are only available for Desperate Housewives for now) look like normal high-end shingles from the street.  It’s only from more direct angles, like the angle the sunlight would hit them, that the underlying panels become apparent.  Quite an awesome design that they report loses very little energy.

Of course, this was just a preview and who knows how they will actually look or perform in mass production.

And there’s that little issue of price.  Really no details were shared on this issue other than to say that they expect (or maybe hope) that the added cost of these solar shingles will be offset by the savings in electricity.  Unfortunately, that’s way too vague.  If it is 5 years to break even, then it probably would make sense.  After all, normal roofs are expected to last upwards of 30 or more years.  Of course, since they will have electronic components– and we all know how quickly electronics makes leaps and bounds– owners of these roofs may need and/or want to “upgrade” them much sooner.  But if I’m expected to front a big cost that I wouldn’t recoup for a decade or more, it would be a lot harder to bite.

It will be very interesting to see more of the details as these get closer to production to see how many people they really make sense for and how they actually perform.  I imagine it will be like Tesla cars: very high-end and almost a novelty to begin with and trickling down to more average consumers over a few years.

In our case, they won’t really be an option, though, because they likely won’t be available till late 2017 and we better have a roof on our project before that.  Plus I don’t think I would want to be a day 1 adopter of something like this that will definitely command a premium price.  It will be very appealing as an upgrade down the road, however.

Now, about that Powerwall…

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Why We Moved Off the Lake

I (Brett) have been thinking about different iterations of this project for nearly 10 years now.  That was way before I even met Stephanie, much less being in a spot to make such big plans together.

For some reason, I have wanted to build, rather than buy, a house for as long as I can remember.  Maybe it’s because, as an 8-year-old, I was fascinated with watching and helping out with the gut job and addition my parents did on my childhood home.  Maybe it’s because I can be very particular about what I do and don’t like.  Maybe I just like new things.

As a result, I’ve been looking through house plans since I was a medical resident.  Sometime during residency as well, I was driving home from Chicago after spending a few days with my family during which we did some boating/waterskiing and I decided that I really wanted to live on a lake.  I started picturing the houses I was seeing online combined with a lakefront lot and I was sold.

When I finished my residency, Stephanie and I were not yet engaged, so I was more or less acting as a bachelor when I decided to buy a small little cottage on a nice lake with ultimate plans to build a new house on that lot someday.

“Someday” in my mind meant 5 years or so and– since I was a bachelor– I could overlook the fact that there was no dishwasher and the kitchen was smaller than the one in my previous condo, the ceilings were no more than 7 feet high, and there was really only 1 bedroom that barely fit my bed.  Oh, and I’m not entirely convinced there was even any insulation in the walls.

The house itself wasn’t much, but I really purchased it for the location and lake.  I couldn’t get over these views:

lake-view-daytime sunrise-over-lake

Well, we had a lot of fun on that lake.  And I would like to think that a lake home will still be part of our future.  But, once we got married and then had a baby, 2 working parents in the healthcare field meant we didn’t have much time to enjoy the lake.  Plus, all the shortcomings of the house I previously mentioned were much tougher to ignore as our family expanded.

More importantly, though, that “someday” I had previously been estimating kept fading off toward the horizon.  I don’t know exactly what I was thinking when I had my original dreams for that lot, but I wasn’t fully understanding construction financing.  Or I was just choosing to ignore it.  No bank is going to let you knock down a house without paying off the mortgage first.  And the house wasn’t in any condition to allow a remodel, not even a total gut job: the ceilings would have to be raised and the foundation completely redone so it made no sense to keep any of it other than the detached garage.

What that meant in practicality was that we had to completely pay off a house we were going to demolish and then would be left with a pretty expensive piece of land to start over on.  Once that reality really sunk in, and our growing family made the house less and less functional, it became clear we needed to look elsewhere.

We briefly entertained the idea of buying another house but didn’t find anything that really fit what we wanted so the search for land began.  I’ll try to discuss that elsewhere.

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What’s in a name?

The name of this site, Dream Home Diary, might seem a bit plain, but I actually spent a good deal of time pondering what to call it.  I’ve had thoughts of blogging through this process for quite a while and my vision has evolved over time.  Instead of just being a time lapse of photographs of the building process, I’d like to see this site become much more.

Let me break it down word for word:

  • Diary- okay, let’s start with last word first.  The dictionary on my Mac defines diary as “a book in which one keeps a daily record of events and experiences.”  Seems pretty fair although I would hope a computer would allow a blog like this to serve as a diary rather than confining that definition to a physical book.  I doubt we’ll have daily updates and insights, and we will definitely be flashing back to the many steps we have taken before launching this site, but we will do our best to capture the whole process going forward.
  • Home- a home is definitely more than just a house.  A large house builder could put up daily pictures of building tract houses and it probably wouldn’t be very inspiring.  By the same token, someone could move into one of those houses, make it their own and transform it into a great home for their family and friends.  We plan to show the structure itself coming together, but also how we make it personal to us and how things like furniture and decor create the atmosphere we are seeking.
  • Dream (Home)- this home is meant to bring our dreams to life.  It certainly won’t be everyone’s dream.  Hopefully our journey and dedication can inspire you, but you might want something bigger or smaller, something more rustic or more modern.  You know, “different strokes for different folks.”  We won’t pretend to know what anyone else would want.  There may be times that we ask for feedback or opinions, but otherwise don’t try to tell us how we should build our dream.

Things that didn’t make it into the name (but are still important to us):

  • Forever- in planning and designing this home, we are looking to create a forever home.  This is going to be a huge project and will certainly entail a lot of stress, so we don’t want to have to do it again.  Plus, moving is probably the worst thing ever.  W-O-R-S-T.  Worst.  To that end, we are looking to this house for our growing, young family now, but also as a retirement house.  Don’t get me wrong… we aren’t going all out on wheelchair accessibility right now, but things that will be very tough to add later– like a first floor master– will be planned from the start.
  • Green- we’d like to consider ourselves environmentally friendly.  Plus creating a healthy indoor environment is important to us.  And, of course we want to minimize utility bills.  So it only makes sense that we would want a green house.  On the other hand, a lot of “green building” techniques are significantly more expensive than the standard.  A lot of our decisions will hinge on cost-benefit analyses of different green options and we hope to be able to share that thought process through this blog.

Well, that’s all I have for now on this topic.  Thanks for following along.

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