March 26, 2013
I'll hit the highlights of what everyone assumes happens when you go radio silent for over a year.
Not pregnant. No baby. Still happily married. Still have the houses. Still renovating one house and have not given up. Not hiding out in a cave wearing a tinfoil hat and completely freaked out about the direction this world is headed in (yet).
Please let me know if I missed another reason.
I stopped writing for one important reason and one silly reason.
Silly reason is: I didn't feel like I was good enough to write a blog and that I should give up. That maybe people were only tuning in to read my horrific grammer and laugh at my excessive comma usage. And that somewhere out there is an ex or frienimy who is saying "I knew Eva was a moron, but man, she's really dumb." I'd hit one of those really introspective points of my life where I examined everything about who I was and what I was potraying to the outside world. And that maybe, it was me and I was the problem. With my excitment, natural enthusiasm (for everything), self centered nature, and tendancy to talk first, think later. So I spent the better part of 2012 hiding from others because I felt like I was so annoying that who would possibly want to hang out with me. My friends slowly stopped getting emails and phone calls. And in turn, the blog suffered. I felt like I couldn't be honest on here because it would just be used for fodder against me and confirming that I was indeed a giant idiot.
It also seemed like other bloggers were just so much better and more than I could ever be. They could craft a long post and have it flow effortlessly along. Their blogs were carefully designed and certainly didn't rely on the standard blogger background. Most importantly, they knew what their style was and I still couldn't pick my style out of a line up. I felt like an imposter.
Important reason: The last half of 2011 was rough house wise. We'd been balancing everything- the primary house, the wee house, building the garage, the beach rental and the college rental for years, and it was getting hard. That was never our plan. We were going to sell the house we live in, use the profit to fix up and then pay down the wee house. The college rents were going to go up with every new set of tenants and the property was going to go up in value as the college accepted more students. Eventually we'd sell and use that profit to pay off our now complete Wee house. Except that pesky little thing called the real estate bubble burst wide open and recession spewed everywhere.
Suddenly we couldn't sell our house for a profit. Or at all.
The rents dropped at our college rental and we had trouble finding renters. All when the town raised our taxes to almost double what were paying before. Our new tenants were the worst we'd ever had, by far.
Construction on the garage was taking longer than we expected, in part because of six months of crappy weather in early 2011. In part because building a garage in your spare time on the weekends, 100% DIY as a husband and wife team, takes time.
Our beach house was hemorrhaging value.
And then I got a raging case of 'I can't keep doing this anymore'. All these houses weren't investments, they were anchors driving us down, doing the very opposite of what they were intended to do. Keeping us from being able to enjoy our lives, building stability early on so we maybe didn't have it as hard later in life. I began to really resent the houses. It got worse after my second nephew was born in June. We were elbows deep into fixing up the college rental and I took a half day off of work to see him the day after he was born. I couldn't even spare the time to go up and see him on a weekend to help my sister and cuddle this new little guy, as Pete and I were spending 14 hour days fixing up the college rental each weekend because we had a hard and fast deadline approaching for the new tenants and their move in date. Every smash of a hammer was just a reminder of what the houses were denying me. Time with my family, time with my husband, and weekends that didn't slip away in a blur of dirt and hard work. Most importantly they kept us from feeling stable. Everything was so strenuous that we knew if one more fly landed, the whole apple cart would tip over and we could lose it all.
That was when, in September of 2011, I lost my shit. Tired of holding it all in and telling myself that things would get better if I just kept at everything, I blew up at Pete. I just couldn't keep going feeling like we were running backwards to catch up. We needed new goals now, since the old ones got ruined by the economy and it was getting more apparent as time went on that things were never going to be the same. Except at the time I don't think I got that across so, uh, clearly. It was mostly high pitched screaming coming from me and then me crying out of frustration. Sometimes you have a fight as a married couple and come out of it feeling productive. We don't fight really, and rarely to that magnitude, but I think this one was cathartic and allowed us to get it all out there. A lot of what I was holding onto was let go, and I felt like we could finally more forward again if we were both on the same page.
So, in summary. The houses were killing us. I'd lost my motivation. 2011 was hard. I gained weight.
2012 dawned after hours of slamming cheap champagne and dancing. It was a new year, and I had a new attitude to go along with it. Because in addition to the dancing and champagne, we went outside and talked for a good long while about our goals for the year, and then us, as a couple and our future. It was heartening. And gave me the motivation I needed for the time yet to come.
January 31, 2012
I'm pretty happy to report that I have fixed the muffin top problem! All by buying a pair of $6 overalls off the clearance rack at Target. Overalls which, if I'm honest, give me an illusion of a spare tire, but I'll consider it to be the lesser of two body evils. Especially since the tire is imagined but the muffin top was oh so very real.
Everything designated "Work Clothes" got an honest assessment from me and I ended up piling up a ton of old clothes for donation. It felt pretty good to get rid of the old, tight clothes and just stick with a few essentials that I know fit me well and can do what I need out of them. For instance, my winter work jacket was a very warm, very old pink puffer jacket from the GAP. It was an XS and my arms stuck out of the sleeves like some sort of awkward 13yr old after a growth spurt (oh the memories!!) and once I zipped up the jacket over my many layers, I could barely move. Usually I'd end up abandoning the jacket while working in favor of movement.
Did I mention my new work "jacket" is a men's fleece lined flannel shirt? I look so 1994. And a little bit like a lumberjack.
January 30, 2012
All in all, it was a well spent hour and a half. We measured, plotted, planned and dreamed our ideas right onto paper. I wouldn't call it fun. If anything it was just another reality check for how effing long this renovation is going to take us. But it was nice to get each other on the same page of our personal plans, you know, the ones that have since only existed in our respective brains or have only been verbalized in passing before this point.
We got the following plans ironed out:
- Driveway planning. Right now we have a mess of pebbles and sand forming something that maybe once resembled a driveway? Once the septic is done, we'll get right on getting something that doesn't look so... afterthoughtish put in.
- Good fences make for good neighbors. We think both sets of neighbors are great people and are beyond excited to live next to them someday. However, that does not mean I want to be all up in their business and vice versa when we're out in our yards. Right now we have an uber low fence and a retaining wall and I feel like time I spend in my yard means I'm on display for everyone to see. They've really seen enough of my muffin top to last them a lifetime.
- Privacy and noise reduction planting locations. Rather self explanatory in that I like privacy, hate noise and love plants.
- Patio location. It'll be off the dining room. Another total no-brainer.
- Fruit tree location. This one is totally all Eva and my crazy plan to turn the backyard into a wee farmette. I started with six fruit trees as my opening bid, but bargained down to four. Two apples trees and two peach in wide open back yard.
- Split rail fence location for the grapes. Apparently I think that because my grandparents successfully ran a vineyard that I must have some sort of genetic aptitude for farming and viticulture.
- Veggie Garden locations. Again, me and my crazy notions of backyard farming.
- Tree locations. We're big believers in planting for the next generation and are trying to put as many trees in as possible while still maintaining our sunny yard!
And to think, we only resorted to name calling once during this whole thing! Go us.
October 6, 2011
September 2, 2011
you *gasp* and in a hushed whisper say "A Chesterfield", when that tufted awesomeness pops up during a scene in Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows Pt.2
The only way I could make this confession worse is when I tell you this all went down during the Midnight showing of HP7.2...
Sigh. I blame Sandra Bullock. It was a candid shot of her Chesterfield Couch in some rag years ago that got me started on this dark tufted path of obsession...
August 29, 2011
Earthquake+ Hurricane Irene+ Tornado Activity + Flooding... I'm really ready for some boring weather going forward for the rest of the year. All these kids going back to school are going to have some interesting fodder for their " How I Spent My Summer Vacation" essays.
The words "We're Effed" came outta out our mouths when we saw how high the water had risen. A whole multitude of gratitudes came forth for our deep property and small, sloping hill. Had we gotten the rain that was expected, which was a good 4-5" more, I have almost no doubt I'd be singing a different tune right now.
As for the actual storm itself, I slept through it. Like a log. In fact, it was the best night of sleep I've gotten in a while. All the stress of the preperation and anitcipation, combined with the adrenaline of area Tornado warnings just conked me out for the night. You should have seen me during the Tornado warning, I packed an essentials backback, laced up my Timbs and sat in the hallway for 15 minutes with the cat in one arm and dog on her leash like the paranoid freak that I am.
Hurricane season is so much more nerve wracking as an adult. I liked it better when a Hurricane was a potential day off of school.
August 26, 2011
There is a hurricane coming our directly towards all four of our houses.
Listen, this Jersey girl lives in Jersey for a reason, and I deal with all negatives that come with living in the Garden State by all the counter balance positives. I like the beach, hate extreme weather, the great soil and love myself a good mall. In 2011 I've dealt with Blizzards, 115 Degree Heat Indexes, my first Earthquake and now Irene is threatening to storm herself through almost everyone I love.
And that my friends, scares the beejebus outta me.
The only thing I am really, incredibly, extremely grateful for is the warning time. We have about two days to mobilize and prepare; to set plans in motion and evacuate as needed. I'll take it. Two days seems like a luxurious amount of time compared to the minutes Joplin, MO had for the tornado that caused such unimaginable devastation earlier this year.
Last night after a long and stressful day at work, Pete and I hit up the grocery store and headed right over to the other house to prep as much as possible for Irene. We closed and locked all the windows, nailing some of the worse ones into the house. All the debris around the yard was pulled inside, things like picnic tables, scaffolding and the lawnmower got stashed in the safest place possible. All of Pete's tools got moved off of the garage floor, we put a lot of them inside the beastly '72 Land Cruiser. We also broke out the hammer and nailed up lots of extra supports for the front of the garage.
I am nervous as hell about how the garage is going to handle this hurricane. At least I can rest easy in knowing it was built to code and then some, all thanks to my Dad and his insistence in building quality construction. And all the hurricane straps are nailed in like woah. So, that is some relief.
Inside the house I tapped up a few windows and moved anything "valuable" into the center of the house. Hoping that if we get some blown out windows that things shouldn't get sucked out or ruined when the rain gets driven in.
We also grabbed our two chainsaws and gassed them up. They'll stay with us during the storm in case clean up is needed afterwards.
Tonight and tomorrow is prep for our house. Not going to lie, it makes me a little sick to my stomach thinking about everything that has to get done...
Please stay safe through the storm everyone. I know our homes are important to us, but nothing is like the people and pets who live inside of them.
August 18, 2011
The daylight is changing down here in South Jersey just a tiny bit, we’ve hit that time of year when nature cruelly reminds you that colder days and less sunshine are ahead and are coming faster than you'd like. Instead of exclaiming about how nice it is that the sun just went down at 9, we’re starting to see signs of the sunset starting earlier and earlier. As always late august reminds me of childhood and how I’d start to dream about the upcoming school year and all its unknown mysteries ahead.
This year I have no school to go back to. And I’ve spent most of the summer ignoring the one outlet I have for getting out all the thoughts, feelings and memories I have associated with this time in my life.
The truth is, Pete and I obsess about our housing. Paying, planning, selling, cleaning, decorating, fixing and living in them. Most of our free-time life revolves around our houses somehow. I just needed a little break from something in our house cycle, and also, maybe my job BLOCKED BLOGGER. Since my lunch break was my number one time to blog you can imagine how much that sucked. At first I was devastated and pretty sure it was just a glitch since the page would load and load and load until I got a time out error. But as the days turned into more days, I knew it was for real and that I was going to have to figure out a new way to keep up with blogging if that was what I wanted to do. So I thought about my blog, its life cycle, where it could go and if it was what I really wanted to do by putting out my 'dirty house laundry' on the internet for everyone to see and judge.
The problem with blogging at home? My office tends to run at about 95 degrees in the summer with it’s non- a/c having, summer sun getting self. I don’t even turn my home computer on unless I have to because I’m freaked out about overheating and loosing everything that I haven’t backed up (everything). Plus, I’m both uber lazy and very busy. Work and full time adult life, family, friends, holidays and all that jazz.
So with a few obstacles blocking my lazy self from blogging, I took the easy way out and gave my brain a break for a few months.
It was nice.
Until I started realizing that I was composing blog posts in my head without even realizing it. When I found that amazing $100 Chesterfield on Craigslist, I mentally started a post about it, and then I started the follow up post that detailed how it was already sold and despite my best effort to be slimy and offer him triple the asking price- I still didn’t get my dream couch.
Oh, and the time Pete and I had 30 more minutes worth of work to do for the day before a summer storm rolled in with no signs of quitting. I mentally was telling everyone how I might win the best/most crackpot dangerous DIY award of our drenching rain installation of a ledger board on the garage. Ladder/Rain/Drill… not the safest combo ever, but Pete needed to get it done that day for his sanity and I recognized that in him, so I worked while getting drenched to the bone. With promise of dry clothes and pizza afterward.
Projects went on.
The Summer Sweltered.
I met my newest love, who arrived in a 9lb11oz Nephew package.
Harry Potter Ended.
Life went on.
I just didn’t blog about it.
But I’m ready to get back to here, and hopefully everyone is ready to stick around for the rest of our house related follies
Sorry to disappoint any that thought maybe I ran away and joined the circus.
July 1, 2011
He vacuumed the grass with the shop vac.
PS- We got an email from one of the tenants today asking when they could expect to see the security deposit back. Gave me a good chuckle.
June 30, 2011
Here is a little peak into what our lives are like when we’re working on 57.
The first Saturday we got the keys back:
8 am: head out door
Buy much needed iced coffee at mcdonalds.
8:20- arrive at 57 braced for worst. Take a brief tour of the place mentally calculating damages and making notes of items that need to be replaced. Snap picture of the cabinets and measure them while jotting down the sizes on an old “how to compost” leaflet fished out of giant purse.
8:45 head off into Philly for a Habitat for Humanity RE-Store garage sale. Cheap prices plus 25%?! Yes please.
9:15 arrive at the garage sale which started a mere 15 minutes ago. The place is mobbed already.
9:20 Call dibs on a matching stainless stove and microwave set for the beach house.
9:25 Dibs again on a sink base.
9:45- I get in a long line with the tickets and my 6 free books and wait while Pete goes to snag a parking spot by the door. While waiting in line I watch multiple fights over a table set and grill happen. Also, lament that I can’t purchase the amazing French provincial buffet for uber cheap because of lack of space in house/trusty SUV.
10am- Buy all the items for… $146. Load the SUV where everything fits snuggly inside, curtsy of creative arranging. Amen for our large car. I’ve said it before but we could not do what we do with these houses without an SUV. It is essential to the way we do home renovations.
10:30- Go to Wal-Mart, pick up heavy duty cleaning supplies and some snack food to keep at 57.
11:30- Head over to Lowe’s for a few items for 57. Buy the exact model of dishwasher we’ve been eyeballing for the beach house on clearance for $200. Somehow, despite meaning to we’ve just bought the remaining appliances for the beach house. Squick.Have to leave dishwasher there for later pick up due to lack of SUV cargo space.
1pm- Picnic lunch in the shade outside of 57 on our scrap rug from the trunk, 57 smells too bad to eat in there.
1:30- Start scrubbing down the walls and bathroom floor. Sister-In-Law, Janet, comes over. Get almost the entire downstairs scrubbed with her help. Janet rocks. Go through a half gallon of bleach and heavy duty de-greaser.
7:00- Call it a night and head home
8:00- Head out the house showered and cleaned up for a quick trip to another Lowe’s to price out cabinets and get dinner.
8:30- Price out stock cabinets.
9:30- Ordering beer and nachos at a favorite bar to discuss the day and make a tentative budget for the place. Budget also gets written on scrap composting pamphlet.
11pm- Home. Crash into bed.
Busy and especially expensive Saturday, although, we got so much accomplished that I fell into bed feeling really good about the day. Which is really, the best way to feel when you're falling asleep.
June 29, 2011
Since 2004, this mid-june to mid-july has the potential to be my least favorite time of the year. It is when we get the keys back in hand from our college rental unit and have a scarce four weeks to make it habitable for the next group of renters. Every year we hope like crazy that our renters will want or can stay for an extra year (come on fifth year seniors!) Which means no clean out, no repairs and another year’s lease is signed with ease.
In the off years between renters the unit is an unholy mess and gargantuan effort to get the place in inspection passable condition, all in the short four week down time. When we have to deal with 57 – what I call the townhouse- it eats a giant amount of our summer work schedule right up that leaves us and our wallets drained.
This year 57 might just be the death of me.
We’d been getting reports from our property management company, first year for them btw and it has been so worth it, about the condo and how was everything was in deplorable condition for a long while now. When the heater broke our HVAC guy gave us the skinny on the damage to the place and said he went right home and jumped in the shower after working on the unit because it was so gross. When we got the notice that the renters would not be returning for the next year we felt relief, these guys were trouble and the sooner they left our lives the better. However, in the meantime the unit was having trouble renting and we were getting feedback from the agents that all people they brought through got hassled by the current renters and that everyone was so appalled by the filth they wouldn’t consider renting it.
After a few really stressful months something AMAZING happened, the agent brought through a bunch of girls and a father to see the place. The girls got hassled and at that point the father gave the renter a piece of his mind about his actions and the condition that the place was kept in. (points to that dad) Amazingly, the girls signed the rental contract with us a week later!!! Angels sang down from the clouds.
All that happend in the spring, flash forward to the first week of June and our contract was now up with the current tenants. The moved out on Friday, we stopped by early Saturday morning to check the place out, opening the door we braced for the worst being that there was already visible damage to the outside of the place. I was expecting Camden. What we got was bad. Really bad. The worst we’ve ever gotten back and this was the only time we’ve ever had tenants for just a year.
However it wasn’t the bombed out crack house that I was expecting. It was more a beer soaked, dirt slimed, graffitti’d party den that was a bit of cross between a Frat house and a dive bar off of route 95. I also counted no less than 18 not-very-graphic-or anatomically correct man parts drawn on the wall. Everywhere I looked something was wrong. There were hand prints on the ceiling, vomit on floors, tons of giant holes in the walls and someone tried (and succeeded) to kick the front door in.
Here is a good part to mention that both Pete and I lived at this place, separately, for over three years. NOTHING LIKE THAT EVERY HAPPENED WHEN WE LIVED THERE. Pete will even tell you about the most epic party ever that he threw where the 5 surrounding towns had to bring in their police to break it up, and yet… nothing like this damage. The worst thing that ever happened was we caught someone peeing on Pete’s car.
Let me lay out a picture of what was broken:
- Hot water heater
- Downstairs vanity
- Four doors
- Every wall in the dining room
- All but one ceiling light is broken
- The light in the bathroom
- Upstairs medicine cabinet
- 3 yr old Carpet was shot
- All the walls in the living room have graffiti on them
- Fire Alarms ripped off the ceiling
- Upstairs window
- Front porch
- Walls in downstairs bathroom
- Every closet door is missing a handle
- And there are random bits of trim missing
- Shelves in closets
- Paint, can paint be broken? Cause this paint was up the creek bad.
The next month is just going to be splendid.
June 27, 2011
Eva: I'm going to throw this old microwave cart away. It's just getting in the way, taking up space and we have no use for it now.
Pete: Are you sure? Did you take a picture of it yet?
Eva: I'm positive I snapped a pic of it. There is no way I didn't.
The conversation ends with me bringing the 80's era wood paneled microwave cart out to the dumpster in bits. Last night I just checked my entire library of pictures. There is not one single picture of this horribly ugly wood sticker paneled thing anywhere hiding on my computer.
Unfortunately the before would have been helpful at just how far we were able to rejuvenate a little corner of the beach house for $110. Use your imagination and rest assured this microwave cart was just as horribly outdated as the rest of the condo.
Originally sitting in this little corner was hip height mdf wonder of a "wood look" cabinet that sat on wobbly plastic wheels. One of the doors sat a precarious angel, always threatening to fall off if you closed the door with too much force. On top of the doors sat one drawer that we shoved every take out menu and spare trash bag into. Topping off this whole shebang was the matching wood look microwave. Don't you wish you had a wood paneled microwave also?!
After combing the aisles and displays in Ikea we settled on the Bekvam, a nice solid wood kitchen rack for $60. It was a nice and small option that didn't break the break and fit the space. The nicely compact box of parts fit neatly into the back of our sedan and we drove away with the mission accomplished.
A few days after buying the cart we found ourselves at Home Depot, which isn't that strange since we're there all.the.time, and while bringing up our cartload we walked out the store right by a bathroom fixture display. There was stopping on our part admiring the really good deals to be had and we both zero'd in on this one vanity cabinet w/ a soft gray/ ivory washed color that had clean shaker lines. For $99 it came with a stone top and under mounted sink, the quality of the piece was pretty damn good considering it's recession-friendly price tag.
Then I opened my big trap and " Wouldn't this look nice as the microwave cabinet?" came tumbling out before I could stop myself. Damn it Eva! I always make things more complicated. We already had a very nice cart purchased and this one was more expensive. This one was clearly nicer, and it would fill that awkward space under the stairs better. So we bought it and shoved the giant and unyielding box into the back of our SUV.
The next week, we journeyed back to Ikea to return the other cart and while browsing the fantastic "As-Is" section I snagged a large door/ side panel (?) in a black color for $3.50 to use as a protective extra counter on top of the sink vanity. The new counter also keeps the microwave from falling into the sink, we just assumed that the giagantor microwave would cover the smaller sink completely and it does... but almost doesn't. Which leaves the potential for a microwave-in-the-sink disaster at threat level red. We also didn't realize this until after the sink counter was glued down. Hence the new topper counter top!
Sink Vanity turned Microwave Cabinet: $99
Appliance Spray Paint- $6
Ikea Counter- $3.50
We're really happy with the new microwave cabinet, it fits in with our whole modernization effort of the beach house perfectly!
June 6, 2011
Desperate to not have a repeat of last years ridiculously stressful final project wrap up and pre-season cleaning, we made a realistic time line of what tasks were left. Being honest with ourselves and how much actual work was left made all the difference this year! Instead of stuffing everything into one workfest of a weekend we decided to stretch the time and break our project list into two weekends.
Where did I leave off with the stairs...ah yes. I was pissing and moaning about staining the wood steps and how despite my best efforts I couldn't get the stain to absorb evenly. Sigh. Such is a nature of pine and light stains, you can apparently condition the wood all you want but it will still absorb the stain with varying degree. Either that or I just plain suck at one the easiest diy tasks one can do. The great news is that after applying three coats of brush on poly the steps looked 75% than they did when simply stained. Perfectly acceptable for something that is only going to get stepped on IMO.
A big thorn in our sides during this project was wtf to do for the handrail. We checked out every single availible option and debated at length about what to do. Finally, it got down to two weeks left before Memorial day and we needed to pull the trigger on something. As luck would have it, we drive right by the showroom and warehouse of one of the biggest suppliers of sprial staircases in the USA on our way to work. We stopped in on way home and talked to a super nice sales guy about our options. At first he showed us this gorgous custom oak banister that I was drooling over, but it was $900. So I kindly cut the sales chase and said "That's gorgeous, but we're looking for something much more economical and in the DIY range. What do you offer?"
Want to see what we started with? Check out the first post of Opperation Staircase HERE.
May 25, 2011
- a bat house is no beauno. Pete has put the ix-nay on that considering we back to woods with "natural" bat houses. It is true, we see plenty of bats playing in the evening air around our properties so no real need to attract more.
- fabric softener sheets= may help a bit. Last night I went out to work on my garden at dusk after work, and besides wearing leggings and high boots, I coated myself in Off and stuck fabric softener sheet around my person. One at the top of each boot and another in my ponytail. All bites received last night were on my lower back and upper thighs. I witnessed the bugs wanting (I could just tell they wanted to) to bite my knees and shins but ultimately steering clear of that area. No telling in how many sheets of fabric softener are needed for full body protection.
I'm wary of eating the raw garlic clove at day trick. Supposedly it makes you smell bad to mosquitoes, but I've tried it before for other health reasons and consuming raw garlic daily makes you smell bad in general. Garlic smell wafting outta your pores on the regular does not make you any friends. Unless you don't want friends. Then I highly recommend you swallow crushed raw garlic cloves with honey everyday before breakfast. Everyone will steer very clear, humans and bugs alike.
May 23, 2011
If you guessed a wee hornet nest you'd be right. This 1" mini city in the clouds was inside my (quite rusty) wheelbarrow. Sucks for the hornets, but I had to destroy the tiny nest being as how I a) hate hornets b) I had to use the wheelbarrow for an actual purpose and c) am not in the business of hornet farming.
Quite a difference in size when you compare this to the bee hive I found inside the Wee house while tearing out walls...