Friday, September 30, 2011

Gypsy Trailer project

If you haven't read Honey Rock Dawn, a blog by Shreve Stockton, you should check it out.  So there was a post on her blog where she had received a hunting trailer from a friend, and she fixed it up as a gypsy trailer.  This summer, I showed it to my daughter Lindsay, who was all about getting one as a project.  And she did! She found a bargain 12 foot trailer for only $200, and we are going to get it all decked out so she and her partner Ange can use it for adventure trips.

 So I have to post some 'before' pictures -- because it's gonna be AWESOME when we finish and no one will believe how miserable it started out.

It does have some good qualities:  it's small, so it can be towed behind a regular car (even though they have a small SUV).

It has a little kitchenette, with an oven!  Seriously, who bakes anything while they're camping?!

It has a fold-out back bench that turns into a bed.  The picture to the left shows the fold-down table (and a kinda gross blue sheet over the side window).

They got it home successfully, and now we are in scavenger hunt mode, looking for cool stuff we can use to fix it up.  We're trying to do this as cheap as possible, so mostly free stuff or garage sale stuff.  I've got tons of fabric, trims and paints, so I'm getting those things set aside, because we're going to spend the Thanksgiving weekend working on it!

We anticipate being VERY VERY tired, but tired in a good way, from working like crazed painting/sewing/building/wiring/flooring nuts. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


We're buying this place 'as is' with the seller being adamant that they will not do any repairs.  So when we got the FHA inspection/appraisal, any repairs that would be required to the property up to FHA standards would be our responsibility.  There were only three repairs listed, which was great. 

The first was that the toilet had a cracked tank as well as a broken lid, which would need to be replaced.  Rather than find a lid that fit an outdated toilet, we just bought a new toilet and installed that.

This was a really unpleasant job - the toilet had been in place for 50 years - which meant 50 years of crud built up.  But we scraped all that and got a nice, (higher) toilet installed.  Of course, we will have to take this right out the day after closing when we completely gut the bathroom, but now FHA is happy.

Next on the list was the overflow downspout on the water heater.  The water heater is not too old, but it didn't have a downspout attached to the overflow vent - which would mean that if the water heater developed a problem, boiling hot water would spray out at about eye level, making it impossible to reach in and turn off the main shutoff.  So we soldered a fitting on a copper pipe and screwed that on.  15 minute fix.

Notice the straps that attach the water heater to the back wall. These are earthquake straps, so if an earthquake hits, we won't be a rockin' and a rollin' out of the closet.  You'll notice also that this closet opens up to the side yard, not inside the house.  We are likely going to remove the water heater from this small closet, add on a water heater cabinet and put a forced air furnace in here.  That's down the road.

The final thing that needed to be fixed was that the floor furnace did not fire up when the thermostat was turned on.  Could have been a thermostat issue or a furnace issue - so we had the furnace guy out.  He replaced the thermostat and the heater started up, but the burner is not firing on high, so we are getting some minor parts replaced this week.

So this should clear up all the repairs. We were worried that we'd have roof issues (it's not a new roof, but it is not leaking) or termite repairs (there is visible termite damage in the studio) - so we feel really lucky that we had no additional repairs to make at this point, since if the whole deal falls through, we've just repaired someone else's house!

A bit more paperwork in the works - had to fax a bunch of new financials today - and the closing date is getting closer!  Time to get those bathroom plans finalized...

Friday, September 23, 2011


I named this blog with something we used to say in our family - kind of a 'quit your complaining' kinda thing.  Don't like what we're having for dinner? Tough kitty puffs.

But I also have a couple of ridiculous kitties.  Meet Persephone and Mercury.  This is them at the vet this morning, getting their shots and check up.  They are Oriental Shorthair cats, long and lean and always into trouble.  Sweet and loving, too.  They will be helping us with our remodel, since they 'help' us with everything.

They are 2 years old, they are brother and sister and in this picture, they're wearing their harnesses that I can attach a leash to so they can go for a walk.  Well -- not really a walk, usually just wandering and sniffing plants and crawling around getting tangled before I give up and bring them back in.

Mercury is the boy, he's a very playful guy.  He loves to fetch and race all over the place like a crazy nut.    Here he is in his morning routine of falling over to roll on his back, waiting for a tummy scratch.  He's a very handsome fellow (it's official, that's what the vet said this morning).

This is Persephone.  She looks cute, but do not be fooled.  She is up to as much mischief as Mercury is.  She just has a better 'innocent face' than he does.  She loves people and is much braver than her brother, she will jump on your shoulders to say hi.  We had a guy come out to service our floor heater, she followed him under the house (without my knowing about it), and as he was laying on his back pointing the flashlight up in the heater box, there's her little face snooping to see what he's doing.  I hear a "why, hello there kitty" coming from under the house, which is how I discover she's escaped from her bathroom prison to follow him into the crawlspace.

So - the namesakes in a way of the blog, and they will be featured helpers in our home fix-up process.  You'll see them in pictures, no doubt, since they're right in the midst of everything.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


We had our appraisal and FHA inspection done late last week - a couple of minor repairs to do and everything is going along just fine.  Basically, all the hurdles have been passed and now we are just waiting for the closing day! Because we are breaking our lease here, we have to cooperate to find a new tenant so this weekend was big cleaning day - Dale worked in the yard and I scrubbed the house.  An ad will go in this week and hopefully we find someone to take over the place.  We can close early if we do find a tenant, but what we'd really like is someone who wants to move in November, which would give us a little time to get the bathroom finished so it is functional for when we move in!

 I was telling Dale that I can't wait to get clipping on the trees - there are 2 avocado trees, a lemon tree and a bottlebrush -all of them completely overgrown. I'd like to get them whipped into shape - although we may end up removing the bottlebrush and lemon eventually (since they're where we'd like a pool to be!).

One of the avocados is large  & gorgeous, the other is small and sprawling and will probably go.

This is the nice big one---->

The other kind of tree we have is a bottlebrush, which is something that's indigenous to Australia and is pretty common here in SoCal -- They can have lovely red flowers all over, but the one we have is terribly overgrown and needs to be cut back quite a bit so it will bloom.  It does have a nice weeping habit, so maybe I can make it more manageable.  These are almost the only flowers on the tree, which should be pretty much covered with them.

Finally, the lemon tree which is a huge mess.  The only fruits are way too high to reach, it needs to be topped and shaped, which would mean no lemons for awhile, but it's a hot mess as is, so it needs some serious trimming.

Trimming the trees is not a big priority, but the sooner I get them trimmed, the earlier they can start to bear fruit and flowers, so I'd like to get to work on them soon!  You can see in this picture of the lemon tree how dead the yard is -- it needs LOTS of work, but just trimming the trees and raking the dead leaves will go a long way.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bathroom ideas

So after we had a chance to spend some time in our future house/project with a measuring tape, I sat down and drew out a map of what we had.

It's a pretty awkward layout, especially since the door currently opens up to block the bathtub area.  We are going to remove that door and put in a pocket door, which would open up the space and make it more usable.  We are also planning on removing the tub and instead having a shower placed along the wall with the window.

Our new layout would look something like this:

The shower looks a little deeper than it should but that's the basic idea.  the two walls that frame out the shower do not go to the ceiling, just to the top of the shower door, open above so the shower won't feel confining.  We're hoping to find a sideboard or dresser or buffet or something to convert to a vanity.

Here are some of the inspirational items I am thinking of for our new bathroom - white subway tiles with a marble floor for the shower, patterned cement tiles for the floor of the bathroom, some nice border pieces to accent the subway tiles.... just thinking right now.  It looks pretty white - we'll be painting the walls above the subway tiles with a color from the patterned tiles.  I'm leaning towards a minty green. I think Dale will veto that (but I get my way most of the time, so we'll see).

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Inspection - and photos!

panorama of the backyard
We are performing our own inspection, for two reasons:
1.  We've done this before and feel confident that the things we find are things we will be repairing.
2.  We have a previous inspection (done less than a month ago) to go by.

So, today we had access to the house for a couple of hours.  Dale climbed all over and got filthy, while I took photos and measured the heck out of everything.  We've remodeled/restored several projects in the past, and I've always regretted not taking more 'before' shots - so I took about 200 pictures of the house today.

I'll be posting photos as we go, so I'll only put a few on today of each room.



This is the first room we're going to be working on - we plan on doing demolition the day after closing.  There's nothing in here we like - slick melamine walls, ugly pinkish tan toilet (with lots of cracks) and tub, crummy sink, terrible medicine cabinet/light, non-functioning wall heater.... the list is long.  There's also a nice long crack across the tile from the toilet to the tub.

We were worried about that until our agent brought us to a house down the street that is the identical floor plan, just reversed (and listed for 80K more than ours, although they added on a bathroom).  The same crack was on the floor in that bathroom, too -- so it must have been a builder design problem.  After Dale went into the crawlspace and checked it out, there is a section that could use some reinforcing that seems to be causing it.


This room is the first bedroom as you enter the house - it's going to be my art studio.  It's airy and light, big windows that look out the front of the house.  I won't be doing a lot of work on this room at first, except that this is the one room with obvious termite damage.

The previous owner had carpet in the house, and it looks like this area progressed with termites for years.  We'll be pulling this up and replacing the floor and any damaged subfloor areas (Dale looked while in the crawl space, it's not very extensive).  It's a big room, 10 x 13.

 Guest Bedroom

This room won't be getting a lot done right away, either - although we'd like to replace the windows and remove the very ugly window air conditioner.  But we do want to make it inviting for guests!

It's not huge, the smallest of the three bedrooms at 9 x 11.  But plenty of light with bright windows and a roomy closet.

Master Bedroom

This room will also be fine for just a while - but it's the room that will be getting most of the remodeling in the future.  We will be adding on to the backside of this room, out about 12 feet, and adding in an en-suite bathroom.  The house we looked at down the street added the bathroom on to the back of the room, but we'd like windows that overlook the backyard from the bedroom.  By extending the bedroom back, we'll also be able to add french doors out onto our future patio.

It's not a big room as it is now, only about 11 x 12, but when we get around to remodeling this one, it will be more like 15 x 12.  Another icky AC unit in the window.

We do plan on putting in central heat and air in the next year, and replacing most of the windows as we do each room. 

Living Room

The wall on the far left will eventually be opened up to the kitchen.
We really like the way this room flows into the backyard.  Huge 10' long sliding glass window!  Dale would like to replace it with french doors (2 sets) or bifold glass doors to open the whole space up.   It has a very awkwardly placed fireplace - in the corner, which will give us some issues about where to place furniture and all --

The other side of the room has a long, blank wall that we plan on building bookshelves floor to ceiling.  The floor heater you see will eventually be replaced when the central air is installed.  Through the doorway, you can see the built-in hall storage closets, which are pretty cool, and then the bathroom is to the right of that.  The doorway holds a pocket door, which we'll probably take out (but I love pocket doors!) so we can make this doorway wider.  We'll use the pocket door to replace the bathroom door so we'll have more usable space in the bathroom.

What you can't see in these pictures is that the back wall here has painted over paneling, which we may or may not remove, since we're installing bookshelves along that wall.  The ceiling is also covered with acoustic tiles, so I assume the plaster ceiling will need repair.  Luckily, Dale's a plasterer, so this doesn't scare us one bit.  The room measures 16 x 18.


Oh, I saved the best for last, ha ha!

This is a panorama of a long, narrow room.  On the left is a small eating area, which I have BIG plans for (built in benches, cozy dining space), we are planning on replacing the window with the AC unit with a door (there's a door at the end of the galley kitchen we'll be removing), and the rest of the kitchen will be completely removed when we get to the big kitchen remodel. 

The kitchen has some lovely 1970s era brick-look linoleum - ick - and yellow tiles that are pretty much cracked and chipped.  The one retro things that both Dale and I do like is the wall-mounted kitchen faucet and the breadboards built into the lower cabinets.  We'll save both those things, but the rest of it will be gone.  The wall on the right, here, will be mostly removed to open the kitchen onto the living room, to create an open concept space.  Rather than being a galley kitchen, we'll probably be making a U-shaped kitchen which we'll be able to do by removing that back door and replacing it with a window.

This space is large, 9 x 21.

That leaves the backyard, the garage and patios for a future post.  After spending the day crawling around the attic, the crawl space and touching disgusting stuff all over the place, we were glad to come home and take a shower.  We'd also met with our mortgage person to sign all the necessary papers there, and went through all the disclosures and tax info.  I still have a pile of papers to go through and return to the title company -- it's been a real change, buying in California, compared to our previous purchases in the midwest.

Friday, September 09, 2011

The paperwork has begun...

This is the pile of documents delivered this week:  disclosures and inspections.  After buying our last two homes in the midwest, the change to California has been a little eye-opening.  We've never read disclosures about earthquake areas, liquefaction hazards, munitions issues and many other types of hazards that are reported on.  And the taxes document was nearly as long!

We are buying this house as-is, so the home inspection issue was kind of up in the air.  We could get the home inspected, but there would be no negotiations to come of it; we could take it or leave it.  We could inspect it ourselves, with the prior experiences we've had with the previous 2 fixers, we feel fairly competent in doing our own inspection, so that was the plan for this Saturday.  

We drove by the house the other night, going out for a quick bite to eat, and were surprised to see the lights on and doors open.  Dale went up and knocked, and a guy came to the door and said he was a handyman fixing some things in the bathroom.  Curious....we figured something was strange since they've made it clear it's an as-is sale, so we called our agent just to let him know what we saw.  We got a call back the next morning; the listing agent flagged a few things that might cause some problems with an FHA inspection, and had the handyman fixing them, and they also sent over the inspection report for the previous, failed sale.  Score! We save $400 and have a document to use to guide our own do-it-yourself inspection!

Saturday is our loan application signing and our own inspection - we are looking forward to getting back in the house - pictures to follow!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


While visiting my daughter in northern California, I got a text (at midnight on Saturday of Labor Day weekend!) from my realtor, letting me know we got the house! He knew we'd want to know right away!  We got home last night, my realtor is coming by this morning to pick up our escrow check.  The signed papers from the owner may take a few days because the seller lives in another state, in a fairly remote area and so we have to wait for things to be messengered back and forth.  But we are moving on as if it's all signed.

Things sometimes go wrong and so we are holding back a teeny bit of excitement so we aren't devastated if things fall through.  But still, a little yippee! is there every time we think about it!

I realized that the picture of the house I posted down below is older - here's what it looks like from the outside.  It's been painted recently, so it looks great from this view.  We'll get pics of the inside as soon as we can.  Oh and the one thing we were worried about - termite damage - looks to be minimal.  In this area, termite damage is almost standard, but we didn't want to get into something overwhelming, given that the seller is not willing to do any repairs.  So that's the big concern knocked down -- onward to the process of escrow!

Friday, September 02, 2011

Still waiting to hear...

We got a counter-offer for the house we really want (they just wanted to put in writing that there will be NO repairs made and it's as-is, which we're fine with), contingent on their current escrow falling through.  Our agent, Alex (who is wonderful!) says it's about a 80-90 percent chance that we may get it, but we'll just hang in there and wait.

One of the things we really wanted was a pool.  I mean, we moved to Southern California from the midwest primarily because the year round great weather, and I want to maximize taking advantage of the outdoor life here in SoCal.  So if the house we ended up with wasn't going to have a pool already, it had to have enough space (and a layout that is conducive) to a pool.  So the house we are bidding on has that - a really large lot and a house that opens up to the yard.
b-o-r-i-n-g!  how about from this....

One of the things that we've seen out here a LOT is a totally paved back yard when there's a pool -- arid....need....plants.....! (this is the other house we are  back-up on)
to this!, this is the life!

I've been collecting images on Pinterest (love that site! follow me and I'll follow you!) - here's one I love that I would love to use as inspiration.

So even if we eventually buy a home with a pool, it will likely need a lot of demolition of existing concrete and planting to create our own tropical paradise.

And if we get this house we're looking at currently, well, it needs a LOT of help in the yard as well.
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