May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Hi All!

I've been soaking up this amazing NJ Memorial Day weekend weather for all its worth. Its feels like it has been forever since I've gotten to just enjoy a weekend like this :) Hope everyone out in reader land is having a great time this weekend as well :)

I'm participating in a link parade over at the DIY Show Off, showing off the new raised garden bed.

May 28, 2010

Raised Bed Garden Beginings!

So behind on my gardening this year! Last year the gardens were done a month ago. My excuses you ask? Frost warnings (and actual frost) until mid May, Jury Duty, working non-stop on the beach condo and that pesky little failed house sale. Cause I actually didn't think I'd even be owning our house this summer! Much less be able to garden it!

Better later than never. And this afternoon I just completed my bed for our raised garden! It was so simple and I did it all on my own. You should see the cheesy smile that I'm rocking. It is nerdtastic.

Last night Pete and I picked out three 2x8, 8ft Ceder boards at Lowe's. Ceder is naturally great at resisting rot and standing up to outdoor elements. Even though Pine would be cheaper initially I was afraid that I'd have to replace it every year or so. The man at the saw station cut one of the boards into three 2.5ft sections for me. Thank you husband who pushed me to get the wood last night even through I was tired.

Once at home Pete gave me a tutorial on how to use the drill properly. All the work I've done around the house and I've never used the power tools unsupervised before. There was always someone around to watch me and make sure I was doing it right.

This afternoon I got out of work early (yay Memorial Day weekend!) and got right to the task at hand- Building our raised vegetable garden bed. So I put on my farmer clothes...
Once outside, I laid everything out on the ground so I could get an idea of where to put the garden bed and then how to screw it together. Because I was using three support beams, instead of just two at the ends, I had to put them on the inside of the longer beams. To make drilling the screws in easier and avoid splintering the wood- I pre-drilled the holes with a smaller bit. Since I was working solo and didn't have wood clamps I found that using my leg to help stabilize the wood really helped when I was screwing everything together.

Less than 20 minutes later and the bed was complete! And I felt so proud of myself. I love gardening and fresh veggies in the summer. This is the first step towards getting our own delicious and organic produce on the cheap for months! Garden fresh Jersey tomatoes are real wonders of deliciousness. They are so good that for an entire summer (circa 2000) I pretty much only ate tomato sandwiches. Seriously I ate them so often that I'm surprised I didn't turn into a tomato ala Violet the blueberry girl from Willy Wonka.

Next came the back breaking part, digging up the grass that was going under the frame. I attacked the grass for a few minutes and broke a sweat instantly. This was going to challenge me and my penchant for doing things only 90% through. It was hard, tiring and I could feel blisters forming after the first one foot section.

I really contemplated quitting, putting down a weed barrier, then the top soil and calling it a day. Tearing up the grass just seemed like it would take for-ev-er. Somehow I convinced myself to keep going though. Once I put on some gloves and found a rythym to using the spade to hack up the grass the work went by pretty fast. I'd say it was about a half hour or so until the entire section was up and the grass was in the wheelbarrow instead of on the ground. Don't let Nala fool you into thinking that she helped. She just watched me, but I was happy for the company.

I rolled out some brown paper to act as my free weed barrier, tonight I'll pick up some newspaper and put that down as well. Both will act as a weed barrier and will compost over time under the topsoil I'm going to put down. Now I just need a few more plants and dirt to put in here!

Total cost so far- $30. My friend Abbie gave me some of her seedlings, so I'm excited they are going to have a home soon!

May 26, 2010

List time!

Positives of not selling our house:

1. Not having to move out. Clearing out our 4 bedroom house in a weeks time would have been torture and virtually impossible.

2. Looking for a place to live. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a cute place to live in a semi-decent neighborhood where the rent is cheaper than our mortgage and they allow pets? Plus within reasonable commuting distance? Those places are rarer than Bigfoot sightings.

3. Not having to move into our in-laws basement while we tried to find a new place to live. I love my in laws, they are great people and very generously offered us temporary housing for as long as we needed. And I would have gained about 10 lbs because my mother in law is the most amazing cook ever. Ever.

4. Getting to keep my garden! I was pretty upset at the thought of leaving my garden behind. I've been working on it for three years and it seems like this is the year that everything is really coming back strong and filling in.

5. My rose Barney. I have this strange attachment to a $6 rose that I bought on clearance at Lowe's years ago. He is sickly and always has some sort of problem. But I love the bastard.

6. Our private driveway. I can't handle searching for parking at night when all I want to do is get home. Plus, my husband is a freak about door dings.

7. Now, we get to really live in our house. Make it work for us. I'm excited because we've never really done that. It was renovations to make it livable to renovating to sell and then onto on the market time. Finally after all our hard work we can relax and just live in it for a while.

May 25, 2010

Done like dinner

Officially our house sale is done. We signed the papers releasing the sale contract on Sunday night.

DOA. Like a fish out of water. Folded up like a cheap suit.

Mentally it is a bit of a relief to at least have a final answer, hanging in limbo land is never very fun. Both of us feel like we've gotten a little off track lately from the uncertainty of the sale, finishing up of the beach condo renovations at the 11th hour and me having jury duty last week.

The current plan is this: house goes back on the market for the remainder of our contract with the realtors, which is one more month. I'm calling this our Hail Mary effort, as I doubt greatly we'll get an offer or even so much as a few showings. Once the contract is up, Pete and I are pulling the Wtown house off the market and are just going to continue on with our lives and living here. There will be some changes to the house, including some new furniture, paint colors and closet organization. All things that will help us to really enjoy living here even more.

We'll still be fixing up the Wee house at the same time, maybe a little slower than we'd originally hoped, but the renovations will press on. The Wee house is where we ultimately want to live. It is the house I can see us bringing home babies to and raising our family in. And eventually we'll get there. In the mean time, you better believe I'm still committed to the ride that we're on.

May 20, 2010

Shoulda been settlement day...

Kinda bumming today.

This morning Pete and I should have been at the title agency signing away our house to the lovely couple who wanted to buy it. We were going to celebrate with champagne afterwards (or maybe that was just my plan, but I had the mini bottles purchased in my mind) and then were going to go out to a nice dinner where I was going to stuff my face full of yummy food. Then, we were going to fall asleep into blissful dreamland in his parents basement while starting our "where do we live now" hunt the next day.

Instead I'm at work in center city, drinking the crappy free coffee we have here instead of a delicious Starbucks brew because I'm now in operation save money mode, to counteract the financial downer that is not selling the house.

Our house is a mess because we did move out a few key pieces of furniture before everything fell through and we're unsure of the situation that is going on with attempting to fight the appraiser. Plus, our Air/Heat unit blew up this weekend at the beach house and we just got the repair estimate for a new replacement. Basically the new a/c unit is the very expensive cherry topper on this not good, very cranky week.

I'll pick myself up and become positive again soon. It is against my very nature to remain so negative for long. Maybe I should make a list of the positives of not selling the house... that might force me to see the sunny side of everything...

May 18, 2010

Aloha...from two years ago

Two years ago I was getting ready to board a plan to Hawaii for our long planned and much needed Honeymoon.

Man, I can't wait to get back to Hawaii.

May 17, 2010

Second Wedding Anniversary!

Happy Anniversary! Two years ago, on May 17 2008, Pete and I made it official and got married! In short, to sum everything up, the last two years have been some of the greatest of my life. It has been nothing short of a fantastic and crazy roller coaster ride of wonderful. I am ridiculously excited about where the next year of our lives together will take us and how I'll be reporting about it on our third anniversary.

May 13, 2010

Where the failed sale stands now

Where do we stand now with the house sale?

Still in the middle of nowhere, but not exactly sure where that nowhere is.

We've sat down earlier in the week and talked to our Realtor about our options with the house, this failed sale and the market. He got the go ahead to contact the other Realtor to tell them our feelings about the appraiser's bullcrap required list of repairs. Plus with the info that we would fix all their request problems and are willing to work with them if they need time to secure different financing.

We heard back from the (no longer) buyers and their agent, seems everyone is just as annoyed as us about the bs list. Their agent is going to call the lender to find out WHY exactly this certain appraiser came down so hard on our house, as much of her repairs seemed to be very...discretionary. So maybe they'll be able to appeal the first appraisal and request another one from someone who actually isn't as dumb as rock? Who knows.

Right now I feel like that option has about a snowflakes chance in hell, but hey if Persephone could get out of Hades then maybe this sale can as well. I won't be holding my breath, but I will keep my fingers crossed.

May 12, 2010

How a House Sale Dies A Quick Death

You might have noticed that for about the last month or so I haven't mentioned much about the progress of selling our or house or showings. That is because since the beginning of April, we were under contract! Right after the first offer fell through, we received a second offer and were able to negotiate ourselves into a signed contract with the potential buyer. Deep down, I felt really hopeful about the buyer. It wasn't like the first time we got an offer, where I could just tell it wasn't going to work out.

Pete and I decided that we knew the likely hood of the offer falling through was there, as real estate and mortgage lending all over the country is rocky right now, we decided to wait until the last minute to move out. We'd work along to get the deal going through of course, scheduling inspections, doing repairs and clean out our extra stuff. The cleaning out of the "extra stuff" was the catalyst for last weeks exuberant love of Craigslist posts!

However when it came to actually packing and moving our stuff out of the house we were going to wait. Even if it meant an extremely stressful week before closing where we packed and moved for 24 hrs a day until done. We just didn't want to have to pack and then unpack because the deal fell through. Along with looking for a new place to live (because the Wee house is certainly not habitable!!) No leases or contracts were going to be signed until after the house was sold. In the interim we were going to crash at Pete's parents house before finding a new place to live.

Inspection time came and I met the couple that was buying the house. I loved them. They were exactly the people I hoped to sell our house to. We talked for a little while until the inspector came and then I left them alone during the process so they could focus on the house without feeling awkward that I was there.

Inspection report came back and they asked for a few things fixed. More inspectors and contractors were scheduled to come out and give estimates on the repairs. All the repairs were going to be done and covered by us, despite them going over the amount that we were liable for in the contract. We wanted to sell our house to these people and it seemed like it was just par for course for doing so.

Appraiser comes out. She has the personality of a driveway stone and pokes around the house for an hour. We weren't that terribly worried about the appraisal because our house is going for way under as compared to all the comps in the neighborhood. It also has more bedrooms and is in better condition than most (if not all) of the comps. Add in our 2 car garage, shed and lot size and we really thought they would more than make up for the assessed lost value of the railroad.

And we were right. Despite coming in over a week later than promised, our home appraised for over the price of the loan! We got a mortgage commitment. Pete and I even let ourselves talk about how weird it was going to be to move out.


On Friday, less than two weeks out from the closing that is set for May 20th, the appraiser sent the agents the list of what she wanted done to the property in order for them to give the loan out.

You ever walk into a room and see the look on someones face and just know it isn't good news? That was me Friday. Come home from the bank all super jazzed after depositing our Craigslist sale money to find Pete sitting in the living room on the phone. His face told me everything and I felt my heart falling right there. I said a quick "please don't anyone be sick" prayer and I waited for him to wrap up the conversation.

That is when Pete told me the sale of our house was essentially dead because of the bank required repairs. He ran down the list and I mentally calculated the costs, time and probability of being able to fulfil the requests. Yeah, I struck out with that real fast.

If we did all those repairs with contractors working round the clock in order to get closing in before the federal tax rebate expires (which our buyers were taking advantage of) it still wouldn't even be enough time. Nor would we even want to invest the TENS OF THOUSANDS of dollars get the repairs done. We'd loose so much money on the sale it wouldn't even be funny (although I would laugh, cause that's what I do in sucky situations). All so we could be homeless essentially.

Not to mention, most of these requests bordered on ridiculous. One of my personal favorites include tearing up half our entire downstairs in order to dig out crawlspaces for access under the dining room, kitchen and mudroom and add a vapor barrier underneath. Here is a hint lady, my house has been standing for 150 years. Unless someone knocks it down or the train falls on it, it will be standing for another 150 years. I am not digging out a in-really-good-shape foundation to add a crawlspace and a brand new *bleeping* foundation because you are stupid.

And again, she said the house was worth the price of the loan.

One of the requests wasn't even doable, not even if I moved heaven and earth and somehow had enough political pull in the county to even get my request heard by the local politicians.

So right now, I think the deal is dead. And because of the mostly (I'm the first to admit our house isn't perfect) ridiculous requests from this appraiser- our buyers are out the tax rebate and a house they really wanted, their agent doesn't get her commission for showing them 25+ homes in a two month time frame, our agent doesn't get his commission after our house has been on the market for 8 months, and us? well we get to still own and pay for this house. Whoopie.

This might have been the longest post I've ever written.
Thank you for getting this far, as it felt really good to get this all out.

May 10, 2010

Well happy friggen monday

Monday during reno season means sore muscles and today is no exception. I'm definately feeling my body telling me that it worked hard on the beach condo this weekend. That hard work was needed to help me focus on something else besides the craptastic news we got Friday night.

I'll touch on the bad news soon enough, but it was crappy and house related.

Happy (flipping) Monday everyone!

May 7, 2010

Yay for Craigslist!!

I am riding the spring cleaning buzz here people. Flying high on nice weather and clearing out our needless crap has me all sorts of happy.

The old TVs have all gone off to new owners.

The hot tub went bye bye.

And I helped to PUSH the Fiat out of the (stone) driveway and onto the waiting trailor of its new owner. I even helped carry the engine block out of the garage. I might be smallish, but I'm scrappy and stronger than I look. It is a combo of my Russian field worker and Irish determination genes that give me strength. Plus I really wanted that car outta our driveway!

Someone needs to stop me before I get rid of everything and Pete comes home to an empty house.

May 6, 2010

Craigslist- full of win

It has been mentioned on the blog before about how Pete and I lean toward being pack rats. We're not like hoarders style pack rats where dead animals are found under piles of junk that threaten to fall on our heads and kill us. Just more along the lines of, we seem to find stuff and always think there is a use for the stuff in the future. Although we've been MUCH better about "stuff" entering our lives lately. I think now that both of us are out of that poor college student mentality and realize that we now can afford to buy stuff we need. Instead of how it was when we first bought the house when we needed so much (ie, a couch) and had no money in which to buy said items. True story, we had one lazy boy recliner and half a sectional couch for the first year and a half of home ownership. Both items were hand me downs that we were thankful to have!

Which is how we ended up with the delight.ful hot tub that has sat in our backyard for years. Pete got it for free from his sister, and had every intention of hooking up in order for us to make our own hot tub time machine. But it never happened, cause we had oh a whole house to make livable first! Plus in order to run the hot tub we needed to upgrade our electrical system. That also never happened.

Now that the house has been on the market forever, we realize that eventually it will sell (hopefully sooner rather than later) we're in full on clean out mode. If we don't need it, haven't used it or is just a general eyesore then the item needs to go.

Enter Craigslist.

Monday night Pete said down at the computer and listed some of the big extra items on Craigslist that we've had hanging around. In the interest of just getting the stuff out of here he listed everything at a very low price. After all, we don't need it and I don't want to have to move stuff outta here that we don't need.


One gigantic Sony tv. top of the 1998. Gifted to Pete in 2004 by a very generous aunt who was simplifying her life and didn't want that monster tv anymore. It worked great until we decided to join the 21st century last fall and buy an slim LCD.

One heavy as a ton of a rocks 36" tv. Was Pete's college tv, went to live at the beach house for a few years. No longer needed since we found a killer deal on an LCD for there as well.

One 1980 Fiat Spider, cute little convertible that we used for for parts for our other Fiat Spider.

and Finally- that damn hot tub.

Last night 3 out of the 4 items he listed were bought, 2 have left the property and tonight I should be saying good-bye to that dreaded hot tub as it goes to its new home.

So far so good. Fingers crossed we get the rest of the stuff gone soon!

Edited to Add- The Hot Tub is pulling away as I type this!!! YAY!!

May 4, 2010

Lesson Learned- Fridge Disposal

Remember way back when I talked about the getting rid of the nasty fridge the Wee house came with? The fridge eventually found its ways (in a few pieces) to the local dump where it was disposed of in the proper manner.

A few weeks ago while researching geo-thermal tax breaks I came across this program that New Jersey offers. Information that would have been useful for us to know about it way back then. Instead of paying for the disposal we could have pocketed $50 and gotten the fridge hauled away for free! (This is a moment where my head meets my desk.)

Lesson learned. From now on I'll be sure to spend a few minutes researching if there are any better recycling, disposal or tax credit programs available that we could qualify for.

Just wanted to pass this info on for any other NJ renovators who might be looking at major appliance disposal! Or to give you a heads up to look for any programs your state might offer!

May 3, 2010

Blisters and Sore Backs

I know it is a Monday morning during "Renovation Season" because I need a weekend to recover from the weekend and could barely walking into work this morning because my body is full of sore muscles.

This weekend was a marathon work session with about 20 hours spent on prepping and laying down tile for the Beach Condo bedroom floor. Thank goodness that all the hard work was worth it and we hit our goal of getting all the tile down by 6pm on Sunday night! Now there is just the grouting and sealing left, but that will have to wait for another weekend.

I have a blister the size of Delaware on my right hand, right on the palm between my pointer and thumb. It fricking hurts bad! Stupid spreading mastic killed my (not so) delicate lady hands! On the way home last night I was complaining to Pete about the pain and said" I'm not normally a complainer, but this really hurts!". He starting laughing.

So I stole his Mt. Dew.