Heading to Heath: Taking Granite for Granted Lesson Six

Here's your bullnose menu!

Here’s your bullnose menu!

Or…Is Your Bullnose Full of Granite Dust?

Long story short, MaryCarmen and the guys at Texas Granite got our kitchen and laundry room counter tops installed and it looks great.  Not that there weren’t a few hiccups along the way.  Take our kitchen sink for instance.  They assumed we were installing a stainless steel sink.  They just about had a cow when they discovered it was a porcelain sink instead.

But What About the Other Counter Tops?

Yes, all this granite hysteria has been focused on the granite in the kitchen and laundry room, because that’s where the current state of granite selection got us into trouble.  What about that Carrera marble in the master bath and the counter tops in the Jack and Jill bathrooms?  Well, our builder’s granite guy, Jaimie, is supposed to be working on that.  Only Jaimie has been so busy he hasn’t been losing any sleep over us at all.  The only reason Texas Granite installed our kitchen was because we couldn’t get in touch with Jaimie while we were trying to re-select our kitchen tile.  When we finally found a slab we could love, we had to book it and Jaimie was incommunicado.

Still we needed him to get the other counter tops in, so we started nagging him and the builder for an install date.  That turned into a very cold visit to the fabricators workshop to look at his Carrera.  According to him, one Carrera looks pretty much like the other – right?  Not right!!  We stuck with the Carrera we’d already picked out (even if it did mean we’d have to wait for him to go pick it up), chose a remnant for the Jack and Jill bath and reminded him that he had the green marble top to one of our vanities.  He wasn’t happy with our decision, but we weren’t happy with his Carrera either.

Is that Bullnose, Full Bullnose or Half Bullnose?

We left Jaimie’s workshop discussing what we could attempt to get done without the granite in place, because we were beginning to doubt we’d see an installation date anytime soon.  The weather was still awful and we were also fighting the tile installers to do their job.  Would we ever move to Heath?

Then a few days later, on a Saturday morning, Jaimie calls to ask us a question, “Do you want a flat edge or bullnose?”  For us that seemed like an easy answer – bullnose, of course!  A few minutes later he calls to complain that he couldn’t install the Carrera because the finish carpenter had failed to install the proper supports for the marble.  It’s always something.

So, Bill and I made a trip to Heath.  Bill wanted to finish what the carpenter failed to do, so the marble could be installed.  He was also going to work on the faux Wedgewood fireplace mantel we dreamed up on our own.  It is a project far outside anything Whittle and Johnson Custom Homes ever attempted, so that left it up to us.  My job was to dust off our cabinets and granite, and then cover them with plastic drop cloths.  I know all this sounds like things our builder should have been doing, but explaining why would take more time than I have right now.

Dusting and sweeping has never been so much fun.  Bill dug into his tasks and I went about mine.  If either of us discovered something new had been completed, we’d announce it with great joy.  I confess, it was great to spend time in our new home, even if the floor is concrete, the paint is only about half done and the yard is a quagmire.

Eventually, Bill came upstairs to see the items I’d been crowing about.  He wasn’t as excited as I’d been.  In placing the granite in the Jack and Jill bath, Jaimie had taken a chunk out of one of the walls.  He’d also finished the edges with half bullnose – not full bullnose as we’d anticipated.  We marked it up to Murphy’s law, because everything that could go wrong certainly was.

Come Again?

So here’s today’s lesson.  A bullnose is a bullnose is a bullnose, unless you are talking about granite and then a bullnose is a half bullnose.  Got that.  At least that’s the message we got from our builder.  Looking at the illustration above, I’m thinking a bullnose must be more like a demi-bullnose, because that’s sort of what our bullnose looks like.  If you’re confused, imagine how we feel.  And for some reason, the builder is going to call us back to tell us how much more it will cost to get what we thought we were asking for in the first place.

We’re never going to build a house again!  Ever!!  We promise.  I’m not sure whether there will be any more granite lessons or not.  It depends on whether we ever get our marble installed in the master bath.  Who knows what we’ll learn if it does.  But do come back next week, I’m sure I’ll have some more adventures in building to share.

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Heading to Heath: Taking Granite for Granted – Lesson Five

Almost Paradise

The granite situation had been so dire that I’d postponed my hair appointment.  Now I don’t get my hair done every week like my mom used to.  For her it was a  Friday morning thing she did come hell or high water.  I’m not kidding about the high water part, but hell might have at least made her reschedule for later in the day. I go about once every six weeks and the last three days of that six weeks are painful, but for once I moved the appointment.

It was only a one day postponement.  I decided the appointment would become the first thing on a long list of things I’d been putting off.  Not hard things, not frivolous things, just things like taking the dry cleaning and using a good coupon or two.  Bill added an item or two to the list, like checking on the house.

Not Quite Paradise

I soon figured out that while I was getting the hair on my head sorted out, the granite picture had skewed once more.  I started getting calls from Bill that were quite unpleasant.  After the granite people measured the cabinets, Bill went to their office to approve the overlay for cutting the granite.  Unfortunately, MaryCarmen had been wrong.  After they measured everything was not OK.  The price had changed.  There was a little bit for this and a little bit for that and all of a sudden the granite was out of our budget AGAIN!

To the Slab Yards Again!

The next day we were back at the slab yards.  This time we didn’t even go to IMC.  We just parked at Levantina.  We’d seen a few slabs there we could afford, even if we didn’t love them.  Bill liked one called Black Magma better than I did, but we were pretty desperate.

Here’s the thing with Bill.  It’s not enough for him to observe that something is wrong.  He has an insatiable desire to fix it.  Since we’d been earnestly shopping for granite for months with no success, there was obviously something seriously wrong with the system.  He’d been trying to fix it ever since MSI wouldn’t give him even a hint of what he might be able to afford. At Levantina he finally found someone who was willing to talk to him about it – John Mitchell the GM.  John completely agreed with Bill about everything that’s wrong with the system.  Along the way, we got an education in the slab business, most of which we’d already earned on our on, but we didn’t find any granite.

After our re-education, we got serious about the Black Magma, but wouldn’t you know it, it was on reserve!  Completely frantic, we started visiting everything that even looked like it had granite.  It was late on a Friday but we were desperate.  We’re talking a converted car repair shop on Harry Hines where they had a few slabs.  A floor shop on I-35 with a few slabs out back.  Some places we just scoped out for a closer look on Saturday.  Others we went in just to cross them off our list.

Come Saturday Morning

We woke up determined to find a slab no matter what!  We went back to the Levantina area and visited some of the smaller players in the area.  Louisiana Stone: Lots of slabs displayed willy nilly in the library style, nothing to give a hint of the price.  We marked it off the list.  Lackstone:  smaller collection, but displayed beautifully.  We found a contender called San Luiz, but our fabricator couldn’t give us a price.  EXPO Stones:  Lots of selection, but nothing anywhere as pretty as other things we’d loved.

We went to Lackstone to give the San Luiz another look.  Then we sat in the car trying to decide whether we should reserve it or not.  That’s when the phone rang.  An ecstatic MaryCarmen called to let us know “for this moment only”they were willing to mark down the granite to meet our budget.  Bill wouldn’t give her an answer.  He hung up and we pow-wowed.  Verona – nothing.  IMC – nothing.  MSI – never again.  Levantina – reserved and I wasn’t crazy about it.  Lousiana Stone – nothing.  EXPO – nothing.

Who were we kidding?  We went back to MaryCarmen and took her up on her offer.  Were we through?  Look into my eyes!  I am honest and Lesson Six is coming!

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Heading to Heath: Taking Granite for Granted – Lesson Four

How Much Did You Say?

You’ve only been waiting for a week, but we waited several weeks before hearing exactly how much our granite would cost.  When we did we couldn’t believe it.  At first, our contractor assumed someone had measured wrong.  But no, the ridiculous number the fabricator quoted was actually what he expected for us to pay.

Now the kitchen wasn’t the only slab we were dealing with.  When we picked out the Blue Fire, we’d picked out Carrera marble for the master bath.  We’d gone through several surfaces in the Jack and Jill baths, but pretty much landed on some remnants of something we saw at our fabricators.  Thankfully, in the other places with counters, we were using furniture with the top already attached.When we discovered that Blue Fire was completely out of our reach it was back to the granite slab yards.

Back to the Yards

I’ve got to tell you that inventory or no inventory, Verona has been the nicest most cooperative slab dealer we’ve dealt with.  Unfortunately, another visit didn’t turn up anything we hadn’t already seen and rejected.  They had something they were calling Lapidus in the Value aisle, but it didn’t approach the Lapidus Juniperious we’d seen the first time we were there.  We almost settled for Golden Crystal, but it was all reserved.

IMC didn’t take long.  Now that we knew H meant TOO HIGH for us, all it took was one walk-through to figure out that L meant LOATHSOME and M stood for MEDIOCRE.  So we went back to Levantina.

After not finding exactly what we wanted there, we decided to visit a granite fabricator we’d talked to during a remodel we were working on.  The skies opened and a light shown on a gorgeous piece of Lapidus Granite.  They quoted us a price we could live with and we thought our troubles were over.  There was the little problem of language, however.

I’m slow, but I’ve learned to stay out of the way when Bill is negotiating.  I sat on a sofa playing with my phone while Bill tried to massage the price he’d been quoted on the granite.  However it was pretty humorous.  Bill used all his best negotiating points and MaryCarmen of Texas Granite was having none of it.  That failing, he started nailing down the details of the bid.  Trying to pin down MaryCarmen was like herding cats.  Whatever he asked, MaryCarmen ‘splained, “Do not worry.  This is only the bid.  Tomorrow we measure and everything will be OK. You will see.”

When Bill posed a different sort of question, he offended MaryCarmen who snapped back, “Look into my eyes! I am honest!”  At that point I nearly fell off the couch laughing but I maintained my composure somehow.  In the end, Bill scheduled a time for them to measure the kitchen and we went to celebrate…a little prematurely I’m afraid.  Lesson Five is next week.  “Look into my eyes!”

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Travel Here: The Basses at the Kimbell

Bass Show03232015_0001If you had so much money that you could buy anything you wanted, what would you buy?  The first thing I would probably do is run out and buy a Jaguar.  Thankfully, folks like the Kimbells and the Basses are a little more philanthropic than that.

Time for a Day Trip

Building a house is an all-consuming project, but on a recent Sunday, hubby and I took a little trip over to Fort Worth.  We needed a break.

I’d been over to the Kimbell for the “Faces of Impressionism” Exhibition, back in November, but it was a quick trip and I hadn’t lingered see the Kimbell’s own collection spread out into what had always been the special exhibition space.  Hubby hadn’t even seen the Piano Pavilion, yet, so he was overdue.

Hello Old Friends

I’ve been hanging at the Kimbell since 1972, when it opened.  Most of the time I was there for special exhibitions and their own collection was stuffed into one corner of the museum – but oh what a corner!  It was sort fun to see what items from their expansive collection they chose to display at any given time.  Seeing the collection spread out over twice as much space was such a joy.  Old friends I hadn’t seen in decades were there to admire.

As I appreciated the wonderful collection I was reminded why the Kimbell gets so many wonderful special exhibitions.  They get the exhibitions because they have so many amazing pieces of their own.  You can get the Bernini exhibition when you have spectacular Berninis to lend to the exhibit.  You can get Carravagio, when you have the compelling “Cardsharps” to lend to the show.  And the list goes on.

Hello New Friends

After lingering for awhile in the South Gallery, I decided it was time to take Bill over to the Piano Pavilion.  His attention span is somewhat shorter than mine at a museum and I didn’t want to go home until I’d seen the Bass collection, currently being exhibited.  I almost lost him anyway, because as he wandered through the open spaces between the two buildings he started speculating on where he could put a rock garden like they have.

As I drug him up to the door of the Piano Pavilion, he asked if we’d have to pay money.  I hadn’t actually researched that part of it, so I told him yes – but I was wrong.  The Bass Collection exhibit is FREE.  Thank you very much.  Free and fabulous.

We walked in the exhibition space and almost bumped into a Rodin.  Yep, this was going to be good.  Rounding a corner we were gobsmacked by a bouquet of Impressionism so sweet that my heart throbbed.  “I’ve never seen this one before,” Bill exulted as he stood in front of Vincent Van Gogh’s “Streets in Santes-Maries-de-la-Mer.”  Well, obviously, it had been in the Bass’s home, which we’d never been into, but his amazement was that in all the Impressionist exhibitions and TV shows and books and such that his wife has forced on him, there was more to see.

Rounding the next corner, we found another Rodin along with a marvelous collection of other sculpture, including a Remington and a Russell.  The balance of the exhibit was more contemporary than our tastes run, but we appreciated the opportunity to see it.  The Basses were purported to love their Rothko above and beyond all their other pieces.  Me, I’d take one of the Van Goghs or maybe the Bonnard.

Shopping and Culinary Opportunities

Not only has the Kimball effectively doubled their exhibition space, they also doubled their opportunities for monetary collections.  The old gift shop is now mostly devoted to books, while a gift shop in the Piano Pavilion is given over to delicious trinkets like jewelry, evening bags and desktop toys.  Outside the new gift shop they were exhibiting a lot of primitive sculpture from places like South America and Africa.

When it comes to food, you can have snacks in the new pavilion or enjoy a meal at The Buffet Restaurant.  I haven’t eaten at The Buffet since we lost Mom.  Somehow it feels like it would be cheating.

More Old Friends

I knew I didn’t have much more time until Bill’s fatigue alarm went off, so I scurried back to the main museum and into the North Galleries.  Along with many old favorites we enjoyed seeing Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s “Between Hope and Fear,” a work which was visiting from elsewhere.20150322_152418

No time like the present to get over to Fort Worth for a visit. The opportunity to see the Bass Collection is well worth the trip.  And then you can visit Joe T. Garcia’s.  That’s how we topped off our perfect day trip to Fort Worth!



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Heading to Heath: Taking Granite for Granted – Lesson Three

Lots of Lessons to Learn When Building

I need to let you know something.  I may be the one who is telling you all about this build, but I’m not the driving force behind it.  I’d like to hear a round of applause for my husband.

When it came to finding the lot in Heath, I think I can honestly say I was the one making things happen.  Once Bill said we were going to move, I devoted all my time to finding the right property and then to getting our house on Squaw Valley sold.  Then I handed the baton to Bill.

He’s been the one who has made the design come together, negotiated the contract for the build and then he’s really been the one managing the build.  Whittle & Johnson has been building homes for a long time, but custom building homes for individuals has not been something they’ve done a lot of.  They specialize in building spec homes for the Whittle Development Co.  Of course, after going through our build, they may be ready for anything.  Then again, they may just go back to building spec homes.  It’s been rough.

Back to the Granite Grind

So, once the cabinets were scheduled for installation, we had to find some countertops or the whole build was going to get behind schedule.  Bill had been watching for slabs online, he’d been calling around and he’d been talking about getting out there to look around again.

The day came for looking, albeit a chilly one.  Verona didn’t have anything new, so we started at a place called IMC.  The good news was that their marble was inside.  The bad news was that they kept the doors open, so it was just as cold inside as it was out.

Their version of the price game was L,M,H,H+ and E.  The E was for exotic – or don’t EVEN think about it.  As I mentioned before, Bill is magnetically attracted to exotic marble.  He gave up on so many loves that morning that you had to feel sorry for him.  Every other slab he loved was E, the rest were H+, as in HIGH PLUS!!

Next door was Levantina.  They played another version of the price game.  You go pick stuff out and then they will tell you if it is low, medium or high.  That was marginally better than MSI, but not by much.

Can We Move Something for You?

Here’s something else you hear a lot of at slab yards.  Slabs are displayed in one of two ways.  One way lets you see an entire slab of granite or marble.  The other way is more like books on a shelf with some strategically placed spaces for you to peer down the length of the slab.  Needless to say, seeing the whole slab is much to be preferred.

Our friends at Verona used a mixture of the two methods.  To MSI’s credit, they show the full slabs, with a plaque which shows the name of the type of stone and the country of origin.  IMC goes one better – showing slab and type as well as the price game designation.  Levantina uses the library book method.

No matter what method is used, most people need more than one slab and they like to see all the slabs they are going to get.  That’s why, even when you can see whole slabs, you might need some slabs moved.  When slabs are displayed with the library book method, that’s the only way you’re going to get an idea of what you’re looking at.  Don’t worry though.  They have really cool machines to move the slabs with and I think they actually enjoy doing it.  Beats having a real job, I guess.

In Love With Blue Fire 

We spent the day going back and forth between IMC and Levantina.  There were dramas and frustrations, but we found what we thought we wanted.  Blue Fire Granite is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life.  It was categorized as an H, which concerned us, but the salesperson told us it was reasonable.  In fact, it was at the lowest level of the H category.  That couldn’t be too bad could it?  Find out next week.

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Travel Here: Michael Borremans at the DMA

It’s no secret that I love the Dallas Museum of Art. My Facebook pals probably gDMA MB03142015ot tired of my almost daily reminders that they needed to see the DMA Bouquets exhibition.  They won’t be hearing much from me during this latest show.

Let’s Party!

I’m busy.  You’re busy.  We’re all busy.  That’s why you should belong to the DMA.  We tell ourselves we ought to get down to the Dallas Arts District more often – but do we?

I’ll confess, I’m not there as often as I’d like to be.  The fact that I’m currently living in Wylie has something to do with it, but let’s face it, we forget.  The museum regularly has events for its members and thank goodness I’m one.  The events remind me to go.

Choose Your Poison

The Incas are coming!

The Incas are coming!

To keep me informed, the museum sends a quarterly magazine with the big picture, email blurbs to remind me of certain events and then sometimes we get a fancy full-color invitation in the mail.  The most recent mailing offered us a choice of opening receptions: Michael Borremans in March or Inca in May.

My inclination was to opt for the Incas, but the intriguing picture above convinced Bill he’d rather see Mr. Borremans.  With an exhibition tagline like “As sweet as it gets,” I figured it sounded pretty good.  We sent in our reservation and marked our calendars.

Getting There Was Not Half the Fun

Hubby and I hang around the house on most Friday nights and occasionally I have a wistful moment, wishing for those romantic dates that used to occur at the end of the work week.  Then we’ll try to get to the DMA from Wylie one Friday night and I’m cured for months.  Of the three and a half hours away from home, only an hour and a half was spent at the DMA.  Have I mentioned that I hate living in Wylie?

A Few Bites

The DMA’s opening receptions include light hors d’oeuvres.  When I was a kid (enjoying the receptions on my Mom’s membership) light hors d’oeuvres  was usually a generous display of fruits and cheeses.  Later is was lighter on the fruit and cheese, while offering oceans of brightly colored tostada chips with salsa.  Nowadays its a mixed bag.  We’ll go one time and be offered enough food to feed an army on the march.  Next time it’s tiny bites on skewers.

For this soiree, the emphasis was on veggies.  There were offerings of asparagus and brussel sprouts, as well as two kinds of potatoes.  One potato dish claimed to be a stew, but it looked and tasted like mashed potatoes with gravy.  There were also french fries with catsup and mayonnaise.  On another table were tea trays of what looked to be handmade truffles, but on closer inspection proved to be tiny meatballs.  Not bad, but disappointing to a mouth ready for chocolate.

Preview Talk

Art is my thing.  When I travel, art museums are my primary destination.  I’ve taken all kinds of art classes and my degree is in Arts and Performance.  I read novels about artists.  I watch TV shows about art and archaeology.  Still, my favorite part of an opening reception is not the snacks, it’s the Preview Talk.

Who is the artist?  How did he come to choose art as a profession?  Who influenced him? Do I know some of his works?  Where does he fit in history?  These are the questions I was asking myself as I claimed a seat in the Horchow Auditorium, because Michael Borremans is not a household name – at least not at my house.

We started with the obligatory welcome and words of appreciation for us, the members who help them afford to mount the exhibitions, and the staff responsible for the installation.  In this case the curator-in-charge was relatively new to the museum and he gave creds to those who had been working on the installation for almost a decade.

Things started out well, but then they put up a slide which looked like a mass murder super-imposed onto a museum postcard.  Then the guy started talking about existentialism.  That and the Irish accent inspired Bill to take an early exit.  I try really hard to appreciate art that isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but I could tell one walk- through was going to do it for this exhibit.

The Exhibit

Pieces and parts are wonderful.  Take the picture on the invitation above, for instance.  The attention to detail is awesome.  The intensity of the white – devine.  And fragilty? Yes, it’s there.  A room devoted to drawings and models of a really weird building without windows or doors?  I’m taking the express train.

In some of the paintings and drawings I found things I could identify with and contemplate, but then he’d throw in something that just made it weird.  Life throws me enough curve balls that I don’t feel inspired to tolerate them in my leisurely appreciation of art objects.

Now if you like the macabre and seriously odd, then you might truly enjoy this exhibit and that’s why I’m taking time to tell you about it.  If, on the other hand, you prefer to be entertained by the beautiful, then like me, you can go to the Bass Collection which is currently being exhibited at the Kimbell over in Ft. Worth (through May 24th).

If you do go to the DMA to see Borremans, here’s a few things that they said too look for: symbols of overpowering authority, an attempt at creating a “found” look in his drawings, references to the Belgian occupation of the Congo and surrealism.  Personally, I’m looking forward to the opening of Incas: Conquests of the Andes, which will open up in the last few days of the Kimbell’s current exhibit.

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Heading to Heath: Granite Interruptted

The Masons Begin

The Masons Begin

Granite Before the Storm

Nothing on a building site happens in a vacuum.  While we were shopping for the elusive granite slab of our dreams, we were also picking out brick and trying to find a vendor for the pre-finished cabinets we’d chosen for the kitchen.  (Cabinets – another long story I won’t go into right now.)

On a Saturday in late December, after our disappointing return visit to the granite slab yard, we were on our way to a holiday event with the family in Flower Mound.  Our fabricator had given us the names and addresses of some other slab yards to check out and one of them was sort of on the way to Flower Mound.

Now, what works for one person might not work for someone else and visa versa.  So, if you’re looking for granite or marble, don’t let me stop you from going to MSI over on Valley Branch Lane, but we won’t be going back.  Remember the price game I mentioned when I started talking about slabs.  Well, MSI ain’t playing.  Yes, the price game is irritating, but it’s better than a poke in the eye and that’s about all we got.

See, MSI won’t even tell you a price range, much less a price.  No ABC.  No 123.  No Low, Medium, High.  You just go in there, write down which slabs you like and they turn the list over to your fabricator.  One thing we’ve learned is that Bill naturally gravitates to the most expensive slabs in any slab yard.  Having him write down what he likes and then waiting to hear from a fabricator would just be an exercise in futility.  You have to say, “Bill, you can only look at X.”  Without that, we were wasting our time.

It Hit Us Like a Brick Wall

After wasting time at MSI, we continued the trek to Flower Mound.  We were discussing the cabinets, which we planned to look into after our family event.  The phone rang and it was the guy who is building next door to us in Heath.  “Uh Bill, I thought you said you were having some sort of pattern in your brick.”

Come to find out the masons had finished up with the job they were working and started bricking our house.  The only problem was that they’d never given us pricing for the work we wanted done.  Standard brick-laying was included, but we had some special treatments we wanted done – if we could afford it.  The whole issue of our cast stone was up in the air also.  The masons were laying on straight brick as if no cast stone or brick patterns were involved.  Our options were being walled-up you might say.

The next hour or so was filled with flurries of phone calls and text messages.  We wanted to enjoy our family get together, especially since this was one of the only times we’d see some of them in a year, but it was hard with all the building issues we were handling.  Just about the time we were wrapping up the blind gift exchange a frantic Bill let me know we had to go – RIGHT THAT MINUTE.


By the time we got to the car, Bill was nearly hysterical.  Basically, we had a choice of paying either $750 or $2200 and either way we went about it, we wouldn’t get exactly what we’d wanted in the first place.  We also needed to get from Flower Mound to Grand Prairie for the cabinet appointment and we needed to get there fast.  Of course, as we madly drove south, communicating unsatisfactorily with our builder, that’s when we discovered that all that new road construction out by the airport isn’t on our latest GPS update.

Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty and it didn’t get any prettier.  To give our builder’s rep his due, he kept trying to convince us that everything was going to be OK.  The high point make that low point of the conversation was when he told me in order to make it right, if he had to, then he’d have them tear down every brick and start all over.

That was the wrong thing to say to me at that moment.The last thing I wanted was another delay and I was certain that whatever happened I’d end up with another added expense.  Their favorite increment of add-on was about $300.  We were sitting at the desk of the cabinet vendor when I unloaded my angst on the builder’s rep.  It was not my finest moment of the build.

By necessity, granite fell several slots on the priority table that day.  A couple of weeks passed before we returned to the search for granite, but Lesson Three in Taking Granite for Granted will be next week.



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