Sunday, November 23, 2014

TP Saves the Day!!

I am THE QUEEN of losing things. Especially things that I use often, and more especially things that I just had in my hands. On a side note, I have actually lost things that had just been in my hand, and I was neglecting to acknowledge that said thing was *still* in my hand.  Today I needed the skinny-ended attachment for the vacuum that allows you to suck things up in the corners and crevices, and I knew that I had *just* seen it yesterday over in the corner in that other room. So I go to the corner of that other room, and find every single other attachment... just not the skinny one.

I attempted to use the brush attachment. It worked. Kinda. But not really.

So while looking all over the rest of the house for this oh-so-important attachment, I tried to think of what else I could do... besides run to my truck in the freezing rain and make yet another stop at Home Depot. Who all know me by name now, so I'm trying to make less of an appearance there.

When I checked the bathroom, my eyes landed on the freshly empty toilet paper roll. And since I'm all about "reduce, re-use, recycle", I figured it was worth a shot. I was hoping that one end of one thing would be bigger than the other (the end of the paper roll vs the end of the vacuum hose), but that wasn't the case. They were exactly the same diameter. So I busted out the widest painters tape on hand and wrapped those two ends together. Crossed my fingers, and turned on the vacuum....

And nope. Not working. The roll was way too long and the open end sucked itself together immediately. So I cut more than half of the length off. Turned the vacuum on again. And again, it sucked itself shut.

Since I really didn't want to make the trip to Home Depot for this single $3.00 item, I was now on a mission to make this thing work. I figured I would somehow have to either separate the opening without whatever it was getting sucked into the vacuum (impossible with what I had on hand), or that I had to reinforce the walls of the opening. Since the painters tape was right there, I tore off two pretty long pieces for each side, and taped then from way inside the tube to way outside the tube. I truly had no faith that this flimsy tape was going to actually reinforce the paper tube well enough that I could vacuum twenty linear feet...

But it worked!! YES!! No trip to Home Depot!! And what makes this all the more better is that I am free to lose this make-shift skinny edged sucker attachment because there will always be an abundance of rolls on hand. Well, not an abundance, but at least one. :-)

Friday, November 21, 2014

She's All Grown Up!

This adorable house is the place that has been getting my blood, sweat, and tears over the past few months. The weather is changing for the worst in the South, so I had to get on the exterior. I don't think I can properly express how difficult it was to pick paint colors that weren't in the brown family to coordinate with both the stone and brick, and at one point I almost decided to paint either one just so that the decision would be a bit easier.

The main issue was that every color that I did choose looked great on the large swatches... but once painted onto the surfaces they changed. The perfect grey with green and yellow turned purple. The tans and taupes for the gables all turned bright white. It just wasn't working.

One of the painter's had a swatch deck, and I quickly choose the darkest green-grey I could find and stuck with the only taupe that didn't turn white for the gables. The green-grey did change a bit... it's much more blue than I anticipated. And the taupe turned tan. But I couldn't be happier with the result. All of the green is gone, and this adorable house finally looks all grown up.

A note on a small dilemma: Who ever painted the light green used a sprayer and no shields, and got the green paint all over the brick and stone. It was especially bad around the base of the house (the green ranged from halfway up the first brick to covering entire bricks all the way around the house). I attempted a few different ways of getting the paint off, but nothing worked. So I opted to paint the first layer of brick over the concrete base all the way around (you'll notice this in the last photo). Honestly, I think it grounds the house even more than if no paint had ever gotten on the brick while giving it a bit more character. So for anyone with this same dilemma, don't be afraid to cover up what you have to.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark...

So much has been happening over the past couple months... Some good, some bad, some downright ugly, and much comedy. It's been a bit overwhelming renovating two houses at the same time being one single little person, so this blog is suffering for it. My apologies! But know that I will be giving some massive updates over the months to come. Until then, I wanted to leave you with the major exterior transformation of one of the houses, specifically the one that I will be living in one day.

The Before Photo... with the putrid mint green.
My taste definitely veers towards the darker side, and I have quite the fondness for greys. Once I saw this house in person and realized what I thought was yellow brick was actually brick painted tan, I truly thought that I was going to paint the brick a soft grey. But a neighbor right across the street had used a similar color as his main color, and I just didn't want to match it. So I got some samples. All were various shades of grey, which, after perusing Pinterest all too often, were much darker than I had anticipated. But the one I fell in love with was a deep dark navy blue. Still not sure why that was the color that hooked me, since I'm just not a navy person.

I sent the sample photos (which were definitely not accurate representations, but they gave an idea) to and called Mom and a few of my more artsy friends to get their opinions... since my staring at the choices in person was laving me open for comments such as "You realize you're crazy, right?!" from the painters. Only one person was as convinced as I was about this almost black paint. But I went with it anyway...

More green, more blue, more black, more olive... Greys.
When I drove up after the body was done, the next question was what was I going to cover that horrific green with (in case you haven't noticed, I really dislike all shades of mint green). I'm accustomed to this style of house having three different colors (when the brick has been painted)... the body/brick color, the trim color, and the accent (where the green is). And I'm accustomed to the accent color being darker than the body. But in this case, the only choice that left me with was black. Which would have been beautiful, especially with the bone color I chose for the trim, but I really didn't want to scare off the neighbors. I found a dark burgundy that would have also worked, but I felt that it may have made this house look too feminine... and possibly made me look like a patriot that fell down the rabbit hole. I also chose a teal that was lovely, but looked too similar to the body color. So I went against everything that I'm accustomed to and used the body color as the accent. And I couldn't be happier with the result.

Excuse the bag... It was yard day.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

10 Ways to Research Your Home’s History

[Preservation Tips & Tools] 10 Ways to Research Your Home’s History

Posted on: June 18th, 2014 by Emily Potter 
Now that we have a revamped Preservation Tips & Tools template, we're looking back at some of our most popular "10 on Tuesday" toolkits and giving them a refresh with our new look.
When we make friends we like to learn about them -- we ask them where they grew up, where they went to school, and when they were born.
Our homes are a lot like that. We spend time with them, value them, and take care of them. So it makes sense that we want to know more about them -- who lived there before, how it’s changed over time, and when it was built.
If only walls could talk, right? Instead, here are 10 ways to uncover the story behind your older or historic home (or any other building you’re interested in).
1. Look closely at your house. Exposed rafters in the attic and bricks in the basement can tell you a lot about how old your house might be. You might find dates or stamps left by the builder; different-sized bricks will tell you that the house was built in different construction cycles.
Tip: Closets are great places to uncover clues like old wallpaper or paint -- certain paper patterns or color-schemes can be traced back to a popular period style.
2. Be your own archaeologist. Scope out your backyard the next time you’re in the garden and look carefully at buried treasure you might find, like old glass bottles or children’s toys. Items like that can tell you a lot about who lived in the house and when.
3. Talk to people. Talk to your neighbors, local business owners, even the mailman. They might be able to tell you who lived in the house before you and remember if any changes have been made to it over time.
4. Explore the neighborhood. Are there other older buildings that look similar? How does your house fit in -- for example, does your house face a different way? It could have been built on land that was once a farm while the rest of your neighborhood was built later.
Tip: If you live near a city, measure the distance to the city center. The farther you are from the original core, the younger your house might be.
5. Learn the history of the area. How old is the city or town you live in? Did any major events take place in the area? (For example: Was it the scene of a battle? Was your home, or any other nearby building, designed by a noted architect?) Answering these questions can offer important clues to your house’s own history.
6. Check your historic district status. If you don’t already know if your house is designated as a historic structure, you can check with your State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) or other local preservation office. They will also be able to tell you whether you live in a historic district.
Tip: Look for properties in your area on the National Register of Historic Places.
7. Research land and property records. A simple deed or title search can tell you who owned the property and when and tax records can tell you how the property has changed over time. Many city or county records offices also have Sanborn fire maps, which can date back as far as the 19th or 20th centuries and show the footprint of your house and layout of the neighborhood.
8. Look up local census data. Census records can tell you more about the lives of previous owners, like the number of children in the house, cost of the home, whether the home had a radio, and more.
Also: Stop by your local public library and look for a city directory -- a precursor to the modern phone book -- which might offer more details on previous occupants.
9. Contact your local historical society and visit your public library. Ask to see old photographs they might have of your house or the surrounding land, historical maps of the area, or newspapers with specific articles that reference history of the local town.
10. Read! There are many books out there to guide you further in your research, such as Nearby History: Exploring the Past Around You by David E. Kyvig and Myron A. Marty; or Discovering the History of Your House and Your Neighborhood by Betsy J. Green. Search your public library or local bookstore for more titles.
You don’t need a master’s degree to learn about the history of your home, public building, or any other place. All you need is a little time, your eyes, ears, and feet … and 10 helpful tips to get you started.
Bonus: Check out the University of Maryland University Library’s webpage on researching historic houses. You’ll find the information there can be applied to places nationwide.
Let us know what you find out!
Slideshow prepared by Cassie Keener, Editorial Intern
The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.
Original article here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


June 16, 2014
Michael Andersen, Green Lane Project staff writer
Once you start thinking about new ways to use your city's streets, you start to see opportunities everywhere.
That's exactly what's happened last weekend in Memphis, Tennessee, where half of a separated four-lane highway was converted into a safe, direct and stress-free walking and biking route along one mile of the Mississippi River. As first reported here on the Green Lane Project blog in March, Bluff City engineer John Cameron decided this spring to follow the recommendation of urban planning consultant Jeff Speck and experiment with a permanent new car-free space between downtown and the planned Harahan Bridge connection to Arkansas.
"Nothing separates downtown Memphis from its riverfront as powerfully as the current pedestrian-unfriendly condition of Riverside Drive," Speck wrote in his 2013 report on ways to reconnect the city with the riverfront that created it.
No more. Thanks to years of temporary closures during the annual Memphis in May festival, the city knew nearby streets could absorb the auto traffic without much trouble. And in return, for the price of some plastic bollards and new street coloring, Memphis has opened one of the best streets in the mid-South for biking, walking, skating and playing.
All photos courtesy City of Memphis. The Green Lane Project is a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets. You can follow us on Twitter or Facebook or sign up for our weekly news digest about protected bike lanes. Story tip? Write

Original article here.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

I swear I'm not the Cat Lady....

People ask me all the time how I manage to travel with my cat.  The story goes that my brother's dog found her just a couple of days after she was born, eyes and ears still closed, and he called me to see what I could do to help the poor abandoned thing.  The first few weeks were interesting, and created an incredible bond between the two of us... maybe along the lines of ridiculous co-dependency.  For a while, I was putting her in a hoity-toity pet hotel whenever I had to travel... she had her own huge private suite complete with a massive window that she could watch all the birds.  But the staff always had an issue with her, and whenever I would pick her up I would find something like this on her door: 


So not good!  I'm not sure exactly what was going on during these stays (I know it was no fault of the staff... my cat is just truly co-dependent), but I hated that my cat was getting stressed out because I had to work.  At one point I planned a move from Miami to Portland OR, and I had no choice but to take her on the road with me since I don't believe in putting animals on planes.  So I put her in her carrier, found a spot for both the carrier and litter box, and hoped for the best!

Can't do a road trip without veggies and nuts!
After a while, she wanted to be let out.  So I let her out.  This first trip ended up taking ten days to get across the country.  And she just camped out like nothing new was happening for the entire drive.  I think I fell in love with her all over again.  :-)

Yes, I know the truck is a mess.  But that's what happens when you move.  Also, the blue thing is a leash attached to her harness.  I don't bring her on the road without it.  Safety first!
So this became our habit.  If I was to be away for more than twenty-four hours, my cat came with me.  She's probably been across the country more times than most American's have!  I would be lying if I said it wasn't stressful at times.  There are moments (long moments) that she wants nothing more than to sit on my lap, and those moments usually come at times when using cruise control just isn't an option for reasons of safety.  But once I'm back on long empty stretches of road, she gets her cuddle time.

She loves to cuddle between me and the console.

Hotels are another issue.  More often than not, I'm not ready to get off the road until 2am, when one of three things happens: 1) hotel lobbies are no longer open, 2) the hotel either won't take a cat or charge a ridiculous amount of money to let me have a cat in the room, or 3) there are no hotels around and I'm just too tired to keep going on the mission to find one.  Major issues!  But on the few occasions that I have found a hotel that would take my cat without asking for my first born in return, the time and energy it took to get my cat, her litter box, food, and water, and my computer and suitcase into the room was exhausting.  Being on the road is difficult enough, so to try to eliminate some stress I took to sleeping in my SUV.  At major truck stops.  With the semi's.  

The first time I did this, I was pretty uncomfortable.  First, it was one of those times that a hotel was no where in sight, so I wasn't prepared.  Second, I was in an SUV... at a truck stop... in the middle of no where... alone.  Wasn't exactly feeling safe about any of it.  But I managed a few hours of bad sleep, and realized the next morning that the efficiency of getting back on the road from a truck stop was so worth not having to deal with a hotel.  So now, unless I'm meeting with a realtor or client the next day and absolutely have to look 100% presentable, I stay at truck stops.  With the semi's.  And my cat. 

My beautiful cuddle-bug.  :-)

Monday, June 9, 2014

This IS WAR!!!

In scouring the internet for available homes built in the 1800's, I found this beauty:

But there were two issues: 1) This was the only available photo of the house online, and 2) it was listed on a live auction site and the bidding period was going to be over in 24 hours.  I did all of my due diligence on the property, crunched numbers, tried to figure out the maximum amount it would cost to restore the property assuming it needed every single possible issue dealt with, as well as what my max purchase price would be while entertaining the worst possible scenario when dealing with restoring an old home.  But I rely on facts, not assumptions, and I really needed to get inside of the property to see how bad the interior was.  It had been sitting for quite some time (over a year, if I remember correctly), and I just wasn't willing to risk anything based on assumptions, especially considering that this house was well over 5,000 sf and that I had no idea about the neighborhood, much less the city that the neighborhood was in.  But I was in Denver, so I put some calls out.

One realtor called me back.  I explained the ridiculous time constraint, she did some research, emailed me everything she found on the property, and the next morning sent me a text stating that she was going to visit the property and take photos of the interior.  I didn't even have to ask!  A few hours later I received over 50 photos of the inside, as well as explanations of what was going on in each photo.  While whoever lived here previously was one of the most gaudy decorators I have ever encountered (lime green, gold, black.... really??), the potential was easy to see... if I could manage to lighten the place up without altering the exquisite wood that covered the main areas of the main floor.

When my realtor and I finally got on the phone, she was so excited to talk about everything going on with the property.  She told me that the place was completely unsecured, and quite a few people were inside assessing it as well, and since she knew that was probably going to be the case she had made sure to take her gun with her.  I almost couldn't hold back the laughter... my realtor was a bad-ass with a gun, and not afraid to use it!  She was officially the realtor I had been searching for for years!

Per her advice and having a much greater sense of how much time, energy, and money it would cost to bring this grand old house back to livable state, I signed up on the auction site and placed my first bid.  And things were quiet for a couple of hours.  That is, until about 30 minutes before the auction was over.  Suddenly I was at my max purchase budget, which left me with two choices: Either accept it and move on, or call my investor.  Of course I called my investor... This house was just too beautiful!

In about five minutes he had every single bit of information I could give, and since I really wanted to work on this property and the numbers more than made sense, he told me to keep bidding the smallest possible increment until I reached my next max.  So I did.  And my next max came pretty quickly.  Investor texted a few minutes later, I told him that the highest bid was currently 10K over my max, and we got back on the phone to discuss what the next move was.  With about a minute left, I placed another bid.

The unfortunate thing about this particular site is that every time someone bids within the final fifteen minutes of an auction, the clock tacks on an additional 15 minutes.  So, while this auction (and the stress that went with it) were supposed to be over at 9pm, it dragged on for two more hours.  But damn, was it an experience!

I've only played poker a couple of times and have yet to do any of the high-energy gambling that I've seen in movies.  But what I thought was going to be some simple bidding turned into what felt exactly like that high-energy gambling.  And gambling, it was!  Fact of the matter was that we were raising our purchase budget to nearly twice the original on a property that I only had pictures of in a city that Investor had visited once or twice... twenty years ago.  And we all know how much can change in twenty years.  But the bidding was insane!  He was dead set against losing this house, and with every bid we started crunching new numbers.

Him: Raise it 1000!
Me: But what if I'm wrong?!
Him: You're not wrong!  These numbers make sense!  The other bidder raised it?... Raise him 5000!!
Me: What?! **raise 5000 while sweating** BUT WHAT IF I'M WRONG??!?!

For two hours, it was an all-out bidding war.  Finally, at double the reserve price and the cost to purchase the house plus estimated restoration costs being nearly 3 times what my original budget was, I told him I could no longer make the numbers make sense without my having at least visited the neighborhood, because on an investment as large as this, the neighborhood is just as important as the house.  So we gave up on the house.

I had been in constant communication with my realtor via text and email while on the phone with Investor, and when the war was finally over, the three of us were beyond disappointed.  But it was late, we said our goodbyes, and dealt with the crushing feeling of failure that now over-rode the adrenaline rush of the bidding.  I woke up the next morning and looked at the other available properties in that city, and, happy with what I saw, planned to visit while on the pending road trip to Atlanta.