Monday, September 24, 2012

Past houses

This house we're in is not the first house that we've remodeled or renovated.  The very first house that Dale and I worked on together was a 2 story Craftsman foursquare that we had in Indiana.  We bought that house on a FHA 203K loan - basically, a loan for a house that needs repair, with the estimated funds in escrow.  That house needed a LOT of work!
this was the living room on the day we closed.  What you can't see are the bare wires that extended from the ceiling to a bare light bulb.  You can see the extensive water damage "repair" over the fireplace, and the really dusty floors.  We removed 8 flea bomb canisters that were in the house, which was a sign of habits of the people who had been living in the house before we bought it.

But we loved that house!  here's the living room when we were ready to sell, 10 years later:

To the right of the view above was a dining room, which originally looked like this.  The walls were flaky and there were gobs and gobs of ground-in chewing gum on the floor that I spent hours with a putty knife scraping up.

We don't have a picture of the 'before' of the other side of the room, but there's a built in window seat and pretty windows that  look directly into the next door neighbor's house 5 feet away, but no windows except that high one that faced the back yard.

In this room, we added a set of french doors that open onto a small deck, built in bookcases and a cabinet for a desk or television to the right (hidden behind the half wall and post).  This was one of my favorite rooms!  We never really used it as a dining room, although we did have a drop-leaf table we could pull out to make a dining area for guests.

The kitchen was really terrible before.  This picture is really bad, one thing I've learned is to take a LOT of before pictures!

What you can't see here is that the stove goes in on the right (there was no stove when we bought it), and the refrigerator goes on the left (again, no refrigerator when we bought it), and if you open the oven door, you can't open the refrigerator.  One person could fit into this kitchen.

What you can see is that it was the tiniest kitchen ever!  Funny thing is, I lived with this kitchen in terrible shape for 9 of the years we had that house - and finally remodeled the year before we sold it.

We had a pantry and a small porch to the left of the kitchen, and we opened up that space to make a larger kitchen with a small sitting area.  The old kitchen had no view to the backyard, but the new kitchen had windows all the wall around, and a door that opened to the small deck.We had to remove the one existing window, but replaced it with 5 windows and a glass door.

We also added a half bath between the stairs down to the basement and the kitchen.  We could have made a really large kitchen with a dining area, but we knew that having a bath on the first floor was a better feature.

Upstairs, we had 3 bedrooms and a full bath.  The master bedroom was lovely, with a large bay window.

We had a pretty little small guest bedroom and another bedroom I used as a studio. (I can't find any pictures of that, though).  The bathroom upstairs required a complete gut job.  When we bought the house, the water lines in the bathroom ran above the baseboards, and the tub was non-functional, and so was the sink.  In fact, the only thing working in there was the toilet.  We learned a lot about plumbing working on this house!  The best thing about the bathroom was the original claw foot tub - it was 6 1/2 feet long, and so big that not only could Dale take a soak in comfort, but if me or my daughters took a bath in it, we could actually float without touching the edges.  Oh, do I miss that tub!  I also loved the window that looked over the backyard, and into the giant cottonwood tree, which make you feel like you were taking a shower in the forest!

We really loved this house - it had wonderful built-ins, lots of character.  We were sad to sell it, but we had to move to Bloomington where I was attending grad school, and we needed to use some of the equity to finance my full-time student status.  

We did rather well with the finances with this house - it was originally listed for $59,900 - but was in such horrible shape that we ended up getting it for 43,500 - with 16,000 in escrow for repairs.  So my original mortgage was right at $60,000, and we sold it for our full list price of 119,000.  We paid for all the work we did on it as we went, so I don't really know how much we put into it, but one thing that we kind of lucked out on at the end was that there was a big hailstorm about 6 months before we listed it - it damaged our siding and our roof and gutters, so our insurance paid for all that, which made it more attractive for sale with a new roof and siding.

Our next place was a small condo we bought in Bloomington, where I did my graduate work at Indiana University.  We thought about renting, but at the time we moved, we had a cat and a big Rottweiler, and finding a place that would allow a big dog was difficult, so we ended up buying a fixer condo.  No big problems with this condo, it was just very very dated with old wall to wall carpeting, ancient appliances and really dirty walls and ceiling.  It had been a rental and the neglect showed.  We lived in this condo and fixed it up as we went - all new flooring, painted every single surface, and replaced the appliances with upgraded deals off craigslist.  We replaced the vanity and sink in the half bath, replaced all the old doorknobs and added new storm doors and cleaned up the landscaping and patio areas.  I don't have any before pics of this place, but here are some afters from our listing:

 We put laminate flooring in the living and dining rooms, redid the floor in the bathrooms and kitchen with new tile, and replaced the carpeting in the two bedrooms.  I didn't have any pictures of the bedrooms, because I was waiting to take pictures until after I got the carpeting installed - and we ended up selling it before I even got it listed with an agent!

I made up a flyer and put an ad on Craigslist, thinking that maybe we'd get some interest before the carpet went in (I had the installation date set but it was going to be a week or two), and I hadn't even made up a sign to put in the window, when I got a call from a young woman who saw the ad on Craigslist and wanted to come by to take a look.

I could tell by the look on her face when she walked in that she wanted it -- she just lit up.  

 This was one of those places we were never really attached to.  I'm not a big fan of condo living, it's a little too close to neighbors and feels very impersonal.  We knew we'd only be here a short while, and that we were looking for an investment opportunity rather than a home.

Most of the things we did here were with resale in mind (although the lavender in the bathroom was probably the least likely to be positive for resale - it was just a whim that we thought we'd probably paint over before listing the place).  I don't like picking things with resale in mind - there are things we'd like to do for ourselves -- the laminate floor was a perfect example, I hated the way it felt and sounded under my feet, but it sells better than hardwood.  Most people like laminate  - I'm just not a fan, but it does maintain well.

The one aspect of the condo I did love was our little patio.  We added a large crank up umbrella that we attached to the concrete for stability.  It was a nice place to sit and relax or cook out.  The buyer wanted to be sure we left the umbrella!

Another thing we did was replace the carpeting with berber - I'm no fan of berber, but it's low maintenance and was budget friendly for resale.

The woman who bought the place really got a nice deal here - the carpet was installed about 2 weeks before we moved out, so it was in pristine shape!

We did well with our reno here - we paid 88,000 for this condo, and sold it for 114,000 less than 3 years later, with only cosmetic improvements.  So that made up some of what we had to pay out for living expenses while I was in grad school, and provided us with a down payment for our place in California.   We were really lucky to get it sold, and so quickly!  This was right about when the market crashed and my fellow grad students, who finished up in the next year, had a terrible time getting their homes sold when they relocated.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

New Plants

Yesterday I saw a post for coleus canina on Freecycle (if you don't know what Freecycle is, check it out) - I did a google search and found that this plant is supposed to be a natural dog and cat repellant.  We do have a rather rough looking tomcat that is fond of spraying on our front door and wandering through our yard, so I thought I'd give it a try.  It's a nice looking plant, with blooms that look like lavender, so I picked some up.
It looks a little wilty in the hot sun, but this should be a good place for some of it, near the front door.  The cannas have really thrived in this little box, too - we relocated a pretty large aloe from here, and moved these cannas from the backyard when we got our banana trees.

Speaking of which, they are doing great:
They were looking pretty sad with lots of dead foilage from the transplant, but every single one has new growth and today I cleaned them up a bit, removing the dried crispy bits.  Our little plantation is looking good.
This one in the center had only one leaf when we planted it - they'll be 20 feet high in no time.

I also picked up some cactus cuttings off craigslist.  These were really large -  about 6" in diameter - big chunks from someone who had cut down a massive cactus.  It's an apple cactus - cereus repandus - and it has some new buds already.  We have several chunks of these, we'll see how we like it.  

The front porch gets some intense heat early in the day, so I added a little cactus planting by the front door (also hoping to keep that tomcat away).  It's close to the front door, but not so much that anyone would be in danger since it's on the hinge side of the door.

One thing Dale and I were both excited about is getting this pitcher plant - nepenthes mixta.
This is a carnivorous plant - it attracts bugs to the hanging pitchers, where they fall in and are digested.  We can peek into the pitchers and see bugs in the fluid.  It's a really interesting plant!

I think the pitchers are really pretty.  This plant requires distilled water, so it is a little fussy.  The reason it has to have distilled water is because it is most like rainwater - these plants don't do well with additives or minerals.  

This one seems to be thriving where we have it hung right now - it a tree where it doesn't get direct sunlight.  We'll have to move it indoors when it gets cooler outside.  

We'd also like to get some more carnivorous plants - they are exotic and fascinating!  The problem is that they need continuously moist soil, which we don't have.  They like a bog, where the soil is poor quality but moist.  We have the poor soil, but not the moisture!

Some of the interesting plants we'd like to get are sarracenia - pitcher plants that form tubes from the ground, and venus fly traps.  We may have to construct a bog for our carnivorous plants!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Queen Mary

Today was the day that the space shuttle Endeavor was doing a tour of California sites on its final flight, landing down the  way at LAX.  I saw in the news that the Queen Mary was one of the fly by areas and that if you showed up and said you were there to see the Endeavor, you could board for free.  So what the heck, I jumped on the downtown shuttle and headed out.

It was really cool standing on the big wooden deck with hundreds of other folks waiting for the shuttle to fly by.  Besides all of us on the boat, there were lots of small boats waiting to watch, too!  This is just a few, I wanted to get a shot of the city skyline.  There were dozens and dozens of small boats off to the right --

The captain sounded the incredibly loud horn at noon, scaring us all half to death.  The next time he sounded the horn, it was because the shuttle was spotted on the horizon.

Sadly, I don't have a great picture because it flew right across the sun and was impossible to photograph, but we all yelled and waved and applauded and it was off to LAX.  So while I was on the boat, I headed off to check it out.

 The Queen Mary operates as a hotel and has several restaraunts.  This is a view down one of the halls - I love the paneling and the rails you could hold onto if you were out at sea!

 The main deck (I'm sure it has a technical name, but I don't remember what it was) has a "main street" feel with shops that have souvenirs and also some windows that are set up as they would have been when this was a luxury ship. 
 The large enclosed decks had a lot of historical cases you could read about how people relaxed while they were on board.  On this deck, people played ping pong.
 We can see the distinctive red smokestacks if we're downtown Long Beach.  During the 4th of July, the fireworks show was launched right over this ship.

I'm glad I took an impulsive trip - both to catch a piece of history, watching the shuttle fly by, and also to do a little exploration of one of our local landmarks!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Fiddle Leaf Fig

Like everyone else in the blogosphere, I have been coveting a fiddle leaf fig tree.  Here's Emily Henderson's  (of HGTV Style by Emily fame) living room with its fiddle leaf fig tree:
Daniel from Manhattan Nest just got one:

We don't have any indoor plants.  I did have some African violets, but with all the remodeling chaos, I ended up moving them outside.  I have bought a couple of orchids, but they dropped their flowers as soon as I brought them home.  But....we went into Lowe's the other day to pick up some chain and lo and behold, for a measly 14.99 there was a lovely fiddle leaf fig! I couldn't resist - after reading Daniel's post wherein he paid about $125 for his -- well, I don't want to let this trend pass me by!

Oh, what a terrible picture!
I'll take another one later (assuming I don't kill it!).
In other news, I did pick up a half-dozen teapots this past week or so, and I added hooks all along the wall.  That's my least favorite part of the whole thing - drilling the holes to hang the hooks, so I bit the bullet and did a bunch while I was full of enthusiasm.  So it's nice to pick up a few teapots at the Goodwill and just have to add chain, fill with dirt, and hang them up on a hook with a little plant tucked inside.

 whoa....kind of blurry on this one.....
I hung a couple of wind chimes on some of my extra hooks.  I still need 5 more teapots to fill all the spaces.  I can't wait for that creeping fig to grow up the walls and make this little out of the way spot look cool and lush!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Visual Journal

It's been really hot these past few days - it was around 100 today, so I am just staying inside (thank goodness we have a couple of window ACs!), and one of the things I am working on is my visual journal. 

Sketchbooks and visual journals are my research area as well as my own personal preferred media.  I've been working on my research with it for so long that I have been putting all my journaling energy into my research books, and nothing really just for fun.  So I'm trying to get back into the groove.

I enjoy experimenting with different media - on this page, I was using some water-soluble colored pencils, shading in with a combination of colors, and then going over with a wet brush.  These are chairs from the Restoration Hardware catalog --
Last week I went to a couple of shops in LA looking for some binding and art supplies, including some washi tape that I used on this page.
Sometimes just creating a collage with magazine images or photocopies tinted with colored pencils is relaxing.  On this page, I first did a wash with acrylic paint and glued some dictionary scraps across the exposed binding stitches.
Everyone I know knows that I never throw anything away, I just file it in my supply drawers.  These are ticket stubs from our summer visits to Disneyland, the zoo and the aquarium.

One of the things I've been doing is a lot of pinning of lesson plans.  My students are using Pinterest as a way to collect ideas, and I wanted to do a few experiments with lesson ideas I'd pinned.  These are stamps I carved and printed with acrylic paint.
This is a grade-school lesson idea using both perspective and some basic color theory, using markers and colored pencils.
I've been looking at a lot of Zentangles lately - I'm thinking of taking a class....
Today I finished this alphabet page.  I drew the letters with sharpie, and then used watercolors to fill them in.  This was fun.

I also did a watercolor of an agave, but it's still drying and I've got some writing to add.  This is a nice way for me to sit down and reflect on things I've been doing.  It's also a way for me to model sketchbook behavior for my students, because they are also keeping sketchbooks.  Sharing my own artwork with them lets them know that I enjoy the sketchbook process and that it is a lifelong habit.

If you want to see additional sketchbook pages, I have more of them on my NAEA website.
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