Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Weekend Update

I left for the weekend with a to-do list a mile long and while I didn’t get everything I intended to get done accomplished, I am pretty pleased with the things I did get done. So without further ado I give you some photos of the dining room chairs I re-covered.


Chairs Before
Chairs After

And here is the shelf I painted:


Before

It was in pretty rough shape
After--a crisp and clean white
Now for the interesting story about how I came across this shelf. I’ve already mentioned that I really love going to thrift stores and finding great deals. Well, I found this shelf at my local Value Village for a whopping $8. I thought it was really cute at the time and with a little paint would be perfect for a hallway or entryway (this was about a year ago before I had bought my current house).

As I was prepping the shelf for painting this weekend I noticed that there was a Pottery Barn sticker on the back. Out of curiosity I decided to look up the shelf on the Pottery Barn website and lo and behold I found that it is still available for purchase. The retail price? $229!! I couldn’t believe it! Makes that $8 I spent at Value Village so much sweeter.

Did I mention that I love thrifting??

Samantha Entryway Collection from Pottery Barn

My Value Village steal


Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Friendly Encounter

I happened to run into the PN this afternoon and we had what I think is the first real non-parking conversation since I moved in. She was going out as I was going in and she said hello and told me that she just thought my yard was looking really great. I said thanks and we then started chatting about yards and how much work they are, etc. Then she says, "You know we can be neighbors and be friendly. I know for a little while it seemed like every time I saw you I was mad." I was a little taken aback but grateful that she was finally being nice. So I said "Yeah, I really wasn't trying to be a pain or anything it was just kind of crazy there for awhile while I was trying to move." Then she introduced herself to me (I already knew her name) and she asked me my name (I had introduced myself back in February but I guess she forgot).

We chatted a bit more and I told her I was having my sister's baby shower next weekend but that I had made sure to tell all my guests to park away from the house. That's when she said she would be out of town for the weekend and I could use the entire driveway if I needed to on Saturday (there is a god!). She also said that we should keep each other posted on when we would be going out of town and things of that nature so that we could both plan and share the driveway (which I  had proposed when I first met her in February but she was too preoccupied about me blocking her in to hear it).

So I'm hoping that this is going to be the beginning of a friendship rather than a continuous civil war. I can't really tell for sure but perhaps there is a nice and understanding person in there somewhere. I know if she gets to know me she will see that I am a smart person and would never do anything to intentionally piss anyone off--anyone who knows me will tell you I hate conflict.

Doth my eyes deceive me or have I just witnessed an olive branch offering?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

New Rug!

I love the hardwood floors in my new house but nothing warms up a room like a nice rug. So, to make my living and dining room a bit cozier I've been keeping my eyes peeled for cool rugs that are decently priced. I say decently priced because if you've ever shopped for rugs you know they are Ex-pen-sive!

I've mostly been looking online at places like Overstock.com and World Market. Both places have some really pretty rugs that would be beautiful in my house but of course everything I really like is $200+. Ouch. I'm just not ready to spend that kind of money on rugs--not when there are so many other important projects to take care of around the house.

That being said, I was pretty amazed when I found *the perfect* rug for my living room at Tar-jay for only $60! The colors match what I am going for in the living room perfectly and I think it's gonna look great when I get my new couch (Macy's is still saying April 9th for delivery--ugh). It's also made of pretty durable material--similar to sisal or jute--so I think it will hold up well with all the foot traffic that goes through that room.


So yay for good bargains! Now to work on getting some matching lamps and a new coffee table...

Friday, March 25, 2011

TGIF

I couldn’t be happier that it’s finally Friday because I have so much to do around the house this weekend. Erik’s going to be out of town so it will be completely up to me to try and stay motivated to get some things checked off my ever-growing to-do list before the baby shower next Saturday.

Here is my (probably a bit too ambitious) list of goals for the weekend:

Saturday--It’s supposed to be raining in the ATL so I will be forced to focus on inside projects including:
·         Re-covering my dining room chairs with fabric I picked up at Hobby Lobby for 50% off (woo-hoo!)
·         Painting trim in the hallway and kitchen
·         Priming my thrifted shelf/coat rack for hallway

Sunday (hopefully to be nicer weather than Saturday):
·         Mulch and plant flowers in front yard flower beds
·         Paint shelf for hallway
·         Hang some pictures
·         Begin process of organizing laundry room

Like I said it’s probably a little ambitious but it’s good to have goals, right? We’ll see how much I get done at any rate. It’s times like these where I wish Mary Poppins would show up and I could just snap my fingers and everything would just get done by itself but I keep telling myself this is part of the fun of home ownership.

Speaking of which—I OWN A HOUSE!!! Sometimes I just have to remind myself because it still seems a bit surreal. Thanks for indulging me on that one.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Aiding Japan

*Disclaimer: if you haven't heard about Japan then you must've been living in a hole for the last couple of weeks and you should probably hit up cnn.com immediately before reading this post*

I heard on the radio today that the estimated damage from the recent tsunami and eartquake in Japan is roughly equivalent to 3 hurricane Katrina's--over 300 billion dollars. Wow.

I don't know about you all but when I saw the video footage of this terrible disaster I just wanted to cry. What happened was so horrific and unimagineable. Yet I am amazed by the attitude of the Japanese people--their patience, their strength, their willingness to share, and their ability to work together as a community in a time of great devastation. Not one case of looting has been reported in the aftermath of the disaster and I've seen video of people who have lost everything offering what little food they have to American reporters. It's amazing. And humbling.

If you're like me, there is always this feeling of helplessness after something terrible like this happens. I know donating money is the most common method of showing support in times like these (and usually this is the route I go--write a check and bam! you're done), but I really love supporting the unique ideas that people come up with to fundraise and elevate awareness in disaster situations.

Sushi Baby Booties
For some examples I went to my favorite site, Etsy where I saw a bunch of cute handmade items for sale with all the proceeds going to various charities that are currently providing relief to the people of Japan. Just thought I would share a few here.  

These little cuties here are sweet baby booties made to look like pieces of sushi. All of the proceeds from the sales go to the Japanese Red Cross Society.

This sterling silver necklace features a gingko leaf which is seen by the Japanese as a symbol of hope. All of the proceeds go to the US World Vision program which is on the ground right now helping out in Japan.

These origami paper cranes are being sold by one Etsy store to benefit a group called Save the Children.

This relief painting features a weeping Camellia tree with 100% of the profits going to the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund. The seller will even send you a screenshot of the donation to show proof of donation.

I think it's important to realize that there are so many ways to help out in these types of situations--whether you are sending texts via cell or designing cute baby booties to sell online. But whatever method you choose, please donate. I know I am.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

More Than One Chick Can Handle


And so begins my yard work rant.

First let me say that I have never had to do yard work in my life. Mowing the lawn, raking leaves, and trimming bushes were done by my brother and father when I was growing up (although I will say my mom did her fair share of planting flowers and laying pine straw) . My sister and I (in true old southern fashion) did the "inside" work--cleaning bathrooms, doing laundry, vacuuming, etc. So yeah, laugh all you want but I have never used a lawn mower in my life.

This is probably all the more humorous since I bought a house with a yard that is quite possibly the messiest yard in America. And when I say bad I mean BAD. I bet there is at least 5 years worth of un-raked leaves, dead branches, and weeds strewn all over my back yard. I can tell you for a fact that after a little excavation work (and I do mean excavation) there is definitely no grass growing under all that the mess. The front yard is a little less scary because there is at least grass but the flower beds need some major love.

So I knew when I bought the house I was just going to have to put on my big girl panties and learn about yard work the hard way--by diving straight in.

My plan was to have the front yard cleaned up with the flower beds mulched and new flowers planted by the time my family comes into town for my sister's baby shower next weekend. So far, so good. I put hand to rake and filled up 10 yard bags alone with leaves. My hope is to get mulch and some flower this weekend and pretty it all up.


House before (and with the old paint job)


House after with new paint job

Yes, Ashley can rake! I even got a compliment from the Parking Nazi--winning!

So with the front yard under my belt I decided to attempt to tackle the back yard this past weekend. This is what I began with:
Those are weeds, not grass

It's okay to laugh--I'll be laughing with you
So after about 2 hours worth of work I had filled up 8 yard bags and had only cleared the walkway by my back door and the small portion of the yard you see in the picture above (with the drainage ditch and hose). This is less than a 1/4 of my yard.
After--my back porch

After--backyard

It was an improvement for sure but after some deliberation I decided that this yard work was too advanced for my novice skills and that I would definitely need some help. So, today I called around to a couple of local landscaping companies to come out and give me estimates for a general backyard clean-up. I figure if I can just get the leaves and tree debris out and get some grass planted I will be good to go. If the estimates are too high to have someone else do the work, well then I guess it'll be baby steps, several weekends of work, and much more complaining to get the yard back to a manageable state.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I admit it...

I'm an Etsy Addict.

There. I said it.

(If you don’t know what Etsy is, click here and be prepared to spend hours browsing tons of handmade wonders from thousands of sellers. It's like the world's largest craft festival all on the internet and it's amazing).

Since I bought my house I have been spending more money than I care to admit buying things like a pretty wall hanging for the living room or a cute decoration for my sister’s baby shower, or a piece of cool jewelry that I just can’t live without (okay I can live without jewelry but ladies, you get me right?). I just can’t help myself because for one, it’s easy (praises to Paypal), and two, just about everything you buy is unique and made with care by a human, not a machine.

I love it.

So when Erik bought me the new SLR of course I went to Etsy to buy all the necessary accessories I’d need such as a camera bag (those clunky ones they sell at Best Buy are so blah and boring) and a cute strap to tote the camera around my neck.
 
Camera strap in "Desert Flower"

 For the strap, I went with a store called Sizzlestrapz. Their straps were a little pricier than some shops I looked at but they looked to be really well made and I liked their patterns. I went with one of their “leatherized” designs (the pattern is called “desert flower) and have to say I have been pleased so far. The strap is very soft and comfortable (3 layers of padding!) and also has a good bit of length to it.

You can visit their shop here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/sizzlestrapz


For the bag I found this awesome store called Porteen Gear. Their bags are designed by a professional photographer so you can trust that they are functional in both design and utility. Each bag is made from a combination of leather, fabric, and waxed canvas and there are options to either purchase a pre-made bag or choose your own colors and materials to custom design your own bag. The only negative about the design-your-own option is that the bag can take anywhere from 2-3 week to make and ship. Since I wasn’t in that big of a rush, I went the route of custom-designing my own bag.  For the materials I chose dark chocolate leather, red paisley fabric, and a light brown waxed canvas. 

My new camera bag from Porteen Gear

After 3 weeks of waiting I finally received my bag yesterday and I love it!! It is soft and feminine but at the same time rugged and strong. It isn’t huge or bulky but it’s large enough to hold my camera, two lenses, and has several zippered pockets to stash keys or extra batteries. I couldn’t be happier and would definitely recommend this bag to any photographer who is willing to pay a little extra for something totally unique.

If you’re interested in seeing all that Porteen Gear has to offer you can check out their website http://porteengear.com/ or their Etsy Store: http://www.etsy.com/shop/PorteenGear

So that’s my Etsy report for now. Rest assured my affliction won’t be going away any time soon and I’m sure I’ll be sharing more fun finds and stores I may come across.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Fantastic Housewarming Gift

Once I get settled in my new place completely I am planning on having a huge housewarming party so that all my friends and co-workers will finally get to see all the work I have been complaining about discussing at length these past few weeks. Until then I still have a huge to-do list including getting ready to host a baby shower and attempting to do something with my yard to make it a little less scary (more on this later).

In the meantime I have received some really sweet gifts from my family and friends including Home Depot and Lowe's gift cards (which I am eternally grateful for as I have spent a small fortune at both places since moving in) and some nice checks to help out with initial repairs, supplies, etc.

While all of these gifts were unexpected and super thoughtful one of the most surprising and amazing gifts I received came from my boyfriend, Erik.

Before I tell you what he got me (the suspense is killing you, right?) I feel like I should give a little background as to how Erik and I met. I like to think that destiny had a hand in it but you can decide whatever you like.

Erik and I first met in high school when I was a Freshman and he was a Junior. We both were in theater and chorus and worked on several plays together as well as competing in the Georgia One Act Play Competition. Our relationship was always very flirty and I of course had a major crush on him. He was cute, talented, funny, athletic--I mean who could blame me? Naturally I was disappointed when our relationship never went beyond the friendship level and I heard varying rumors as to why this was so--I was too young, he had a girlfriend, etc. Of course I would never have told him outright that I liked him (this was high school remember) so I settled on just being friends. It wasn't until his Senior year that I found out he also had a crush on me via a very sweet message he wrote in my yearbook at the end of the year. It was a happy surprise but the timing was off--he left after graduation to begin training for the Marine Corp and I went about finishing high school, going to college, etc. It may sound silly and like I am trying to embellish this story but I thought about him often over the years and always wondered what happened to him after high school and the Marines.

Fast Forward to the week after Christmas last year--nearly 14 years later. Erik has a younger sister who is my age and graduated with me from high school. Like many people who graduated from high school together we are friends on Facebook. One day I happened to notice some Christmas photos of her family that she had posted and some of them included Erik. Of course I couldn't  fail to notice that he was tagged in them which could only mean one thing--he had a Facebook page. I clicked on the link which took me to his page and sent him a friend request. Not too long after I saw that he accepted my request, I got a message from him asking what I was up to, where I was living, etc. Turns out we were living only 10 minutes away from each other and both of us were single. After chatting a bit on IM and realizing the chemistry was still there (after all these years) we went on our first date on New Year's Eve. Maybe it goes without saying but it was pretty much all sparks and fireworks that day and we have been nearly inseparable since then (sounds a little like one of those couples from the movie When Harry Met Sally, right?). Of course it was a bit of a shock to me how quickly I found myself falling for someone after having just ended a very long relationship but I decided to just go with my gut which told me this felt right. Life's too short after all.

The Nikon D7000
Throughout the course of getting to know each other again I had told Erik about my love of photography and how I had always wanted an SLR camera but could never afford to buy one (they are quite expensive). Therefore you can imagine my utterly shocked and surprised face when, shortly after I moved into my house, Erik told me he was buying me the new Nikon D7000 SLR camera (the very latest and arguably most advanced Nikon out there--when it first came out, it was sold out for months). I was speechless. I told him I couldn't accept such a large gift but he insisted. He said I deserved it. He said he knew there was always the possibility we could break up 3 months from now but that he wanted me to have the camera and that he wouldn't regret giving it to me even if we did break up.

I really thought I must be dreaming. I couldn't help thinking "Do guys like this really exist??" How did I get so lucky?

In the end, I guess you could say I was powerless to his reasoning and charm. How could I say no to such a sincere and thoughtful gift?

 Anyways, I could go into all kinds of ways in which the D7000 rocks but you'll just have to take my word for it--or just take a look at some of these pics I snapped recently:


So crisp and clean!

It's a pretty fantastic piece of machinery and I can't wait to really get outside and give it a good test run now that the weather is warmer. Yay Spring!

So that is the story of one of my favorite housewarming gifts so far (sprinkled with a dash of romance). Thanks Erik! Im so lucky to have you in my life right now. XOXO


**If you want to learn more about the D7000, check out this link from kenrockwell.com: 

Friday, March 18, 2011

All My Single Ladies


(Yes I did just quote a Beyonce song as the title of this post--don't judge)



I was at the doctor earlier this week for a routine physical and we were discussing what was going on in my life and I mentioned that I had just bought a house. She looked at me with amazement and asked incredulously “All by yourself?” I said yes. She laughed and said that if she hadn’t been married by my age she definitely wouldn’t have been able to buy a house.   

I’ve encountered this reaction a lot from people at work and from different family members which is funny to me because when I was first considering buying a house over renting I didn’t really think it was a big deal for me, a single female, to be buying a house on my own at my age. After all, I have a good job, I’m a year away from 30 (and not getting any younger), and I knew I would be able to afford it. Yeah I guess it’s brave in some ways but really, what’s the big deal? It’s not 1950.

I was talking to a friend of mine at work about all of this and she mentioned that she had read some statistics that put the percentage of single female buyers right behind married couples as the largest percentage of first time home-buyers. A quick Google search brought me these statistics:

Marital Status of first time home buyers
51% married
25% single female
11% unmarried couples
11% single male

Here are some other statistics I found courtesy of the same website as well as some info about Gen X buyers:

Median Age of First-Time Home buyers
52% were age 24-35 years old
21% where age 35-44 years old

Ages 24-35 are considered Generation X. In Joe Burslem’s blog called “Meet the New Real Estate Customer” he says that they’ve grown up with computers and understand technology better than Generation Y. 87% shop online and 50% do all their banking online. Since they were raised with little or no supervision (both parents worked) they are fiercely independent, blunt and skeptical. They’ve been bombarded with marketing messages since birth so they have sophisticated BS radar. A majority of them are planning for their financial future. They have always had easy access to credit and have been warned about Social Security not being around for them. They don’t expect a free ride and have been investing at an early age.

There are a bunch of other really interesting stats on this site so if you want to check them out here is the link: http://www.myhomeuptown.com/foreclosures/smart-moves/43-first-time-home-buyers

So I guess it turns out I'm not alone. And really I think it's pretty awesome for us ladies to be so independent and take charge of our lives. Who needs to be married?  Let's hear it for woman power!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The List

Today I give you a list. This list is a compilation of all that needs to be done at my house currently. Some of the items on the list can wait a few years while some are more immediate. Some items are small and some will be big undertakings. Regardless, this is the reality of home ownership that I am living with and, although it seems overwhelming at first, it really could be worse.

So without further ado, here is The List:

·         Repair sagging floor in hallway by installing pier in crawl space (This may sound bad but you can hardly even tell the floor is sagging unless you look really closely—in other words this is not a huge deal. Nevertheless I don’t want it to get worse so it’s gonna be fixed before the year is out.)

·         Finish painting trim in hallway, kitchen, and living room

·         Clean gutters and possibly replace (for whatever reason, the geniuses who put in the new roof decided to cover the gutters with the asphalt shingles so now I either have to cut the shingles or buy wider gutters)

·         Add insulation to attic

·         Lay plywood on the floor in attic for added storage

·         Clean up backyard and front yard (This will be a MAJOR undertaking. I think my yard has about 5 years’ worth of leaves covering the ground and there is absolutely no grass growing in the backyard as a result. Plus there are branches and weeds everywhere. Ugh.)

·         Replace water heater with a tankless water heater (Right now the water heater is taking up some major space in my laundry room. I hope to install the tankless to allow more space as well as to get the tax credit the government is offering. The home inspector said my water heater is close to needing to be replaced anyways so I figure why not?)

·         Replace Furnace (one of those big items that will hopefully not need to be taken care of for at least another 5 years)

·         Replace A/C System (another big item that will hopefully not need to be taken care of for at least another 5 years)

·         Replace Mailbox and move closer to the driveway

·         Add second coat of paint to exterior of house (the rush-job to paint the house before closing was just that and if you look closely the painters missed a bunch of spots)

·         Paint dressers in guest room

·         Hang pictures/art on walls

·         Organize laundry room

·         Organize office

·         Buy rugs for dining room and living room


Not so bad right? It may sound crazy but I actually enjoy the fact that I have a to-do list. Maybe it’s just the “honeymoon phase” I am having with the house right now or maybe I am really insane. Either way I guess I should enjoy the feeling while it lasts.

And just because I know everyone loves pictures, here is one of my backyard so you can better understand what I am going to be dealing with:

And yet somehow I don't think this picture does the yard justice...it's really that bad.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bed Makeover

In preparation for the family gathering at the Cottage in the next few weeks I've had to consider sleeping accomodations for my guests. When I moved in I had a full sized bed, a day bed (with a pull out trundle) and a futon (that is currently being used as my couch right now). Including my parents, my sister and her husband, and myself, there will be 5 of us in my 2 bedroom, 1 bath house. I knew I could make things work with the furniture I had but I didn't think it would really be ideal to put one of my parents or my brother-in-law on a pull out trundle. So I made the decision to sell my day bed (which I have had since middle school--ah, childhood memories) and buy a queen sized bed for my room and move the full-sized bed to the guest room.

Through the magic of Craigslist I had my daybed sold within a week for $200 and I had purchased a new Simmons Beautyrest mattress that has turned out to be excellent for a solid night's sleep. The only issue left to be solved was purchasing a frame for my full-size bed so I could go ahead and set it up in the guest room. Pricing out frames I saw that they could run anywhere from $40-50 but before I ran out and bought the frame new, I did some searching on Craigslist and my local Goodwill and found an entire wooden bed set--head board, foot board, and frame for $55.

Jackpot!

The bed needed a little love but I figured with a good wipe down and some paint it would work perfectly in the guest room. So, I spent this weekend priming and painting my new bed a pretty spring green (the actual color name is Gentle Moss from Valspar) and I'm pretty happy with it. Much better than just a plain 'ole metal frame.

Here are the Before/After/During pics:


Before


During--Primed

After!

Friday, March 11, 2011

I spoke too soon...

The Parking Nazi has struck again!!

 I've been trying to sell a daybed that I own through Craigslist. Last night I had some people stop by to look at it and they decided to buy it from me. As they were taking the bed apart and loading it into their car I get a knock on my door. It was the PN. Our conversation went a bit like this:

PN: You're blocking me in

Me: (looking out into driveway and realizing that the people who are buying the daybed are parked in the driveway) Oh sorry! I have some people who are buying my daybed and they are just loading it into their car. I didn't even realize they had parked in the driveway.

PN: Didn't you sign something before you moved in saying that you wouldn't block me in?

Me: I'll have them move their car.

PN: My baby is sick and needs to get inside right away

Me: Um ok. I'll have them move their car.

At this point the PN turns on her heel and huffily stalks away to her car.

Really?!?! I mean really??? So much for being neighborly...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Parking Nazi

One of the questions I get asked a lot by my friends, family, and co-workers is "have you met your neighbors." Since I have been pretty consumed with moving, working, and fixing up the house I haven't really had much time to knock on anyone's doors and formally introduce myself and conversely no one has come over with a plate of freshly baked cookies to welcome me to the 'hood. The only neighbor I have actually gotten to know (who shall be known from here on out as the Parking Nazi) lives next door and we have spoken more out of necessity than friendliness because (unfortunately as it turns out) we share a driveway.

When I purchased the house I was thinking sharing the driveway wouldn't be such a big deal. The way it is set up is there is one drive that goes between the two houses and opens up into a larger space behind the houses. There is definitely room to fit several cars on each side and still be able to maneuver cars to get in and out so that no one is ever really blocked in. The fact that multiple cars can fit in the driveway is important because the section of the street that I live on is too narrow to allow cars to park on the street. That means if I have guests they either have to park in the driveway or further up the road where the street widens and just walk to my house. I realize this parking situation will be a pain for my future guests and I got my own taste of it when having to move into the house. Imagine multiple cars and a U-Haul all of which has to fit on your side of the driveway because your pain-in-the-ass neighbor has made it clear that she is not understanding at all.

Let me explain.

Before I moved in I went and knocked on the Parking Nazi's door to introduce myself and let her know that I would be moving in and would have multiple cars going in and out throughout the week as I brought stuff over, painted, etc. I jokingly said "yeah I guess we'll get to know each other pretty well and probably want to exchange phone numbers since we'll be sharing the driveway." She immediately got this worried look on her face and said repeatedly for the rest of our conversation "just don't block me in" even after I assured her that I wouldn't. I thought her behavior was a little strange but didn't really think anything else of it.

As I have noted previously I had a lot of help from various people throughout my move-in process. My mom had her car, Erik had his, my brother had his car, and Edward had his. That makes five cars including my own that were rotating in and out of the driveway (very carefully I might add to not block in my neighbor's car). On more than one occasion if one of our cars was even remotely on "her side" of the driveway she would immediately come out and say something to either myself or the owner of the car and make them move. Even her parents (hereby dubbed  the Parking Gestapo) who watch her son while she is working during the day had no qualms saying something to the contractors who were working on the house or myself if someone may be parked on her side of the driveway.  Keep in mind that in all instances she and her parents still had plenty of room to get their cars out and I had given her fair warning that I was trying to move in that week. It was annoying to say the least.

The boiling point came the day after I moved in and I was making multiple trips to Lowe's picking up cabinets, a dishwasher, a microwave, etc. I had pulled in right at the top of the driveway strictly to unload my car knowing I would be leaving in 5 minutes to head out again. Yes, I was blocking some cars (she was having guests that weekend and had squished 4 cars into her side of the driveway) but I figured I was leaving in 5 minutes so it wouldn't be a big deal. Literally minutes after I unloaded my car I get a knock on the door from the Parking Nazi asking "Um, do we need to sit down and have a conversation about this?". She then proceeded to note that she had very carefully parked 4 cars on her side of the driveway so as not to block me in and began to lecture me about how property deed clearly states the boundary of each of our sides to be these concrete blocks in the center of the parking pad. Oh and have I mentioned that she is only RENTING this house??

Needless to say with all of the stress of moving in the day before and still trying to get situated I was less than happy with her method of dealing with the situation.  A simple "Would you mind moving your car" would've sufficed. I mean give me a break--I just moved in!! I told her I was leaving again in less than 5 minutes and that was the only reason I parked where I did. I probably could've said a lot of other things but was so exhausted I just let it go.

Since that day there haven't been any problems because of course I haven't been trying to move into a house. Still, I have avoided speaking to the Parking Nazi any time I see her because frankly, she has made it clear she is no friend of mine. So please, if you come and visit me park on "my side" of the driveway. It appears that like Big Brother the Parking Nazi and the Parking Gestapo are always watching.



Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Before and After: Paint

It's everyone's favorite--Before and After photo time! Although I almost hesitate to post these simply because I am nowhere near finished decorating. I am still waiting on the couch for the living room and I want to buy new rugs, lamps, a coffee table, drapes, and the list goes on. I also haven't tried to hang anything on the walls yet so yeah, these pictures are simply to document and say goodbye to the crazy array of colors that existed prior to my arrival.

Enjoy the show!

 


The dining room. Yep--that's hot pink and chocolate brown.
 


Living room--guess I'm a bit more traditional
 


Kitchen in my fav color--red!

 


Guest Room--now a welcoming and happy yellow


Master Bedroom featuring Jezebel the Cat


Bathroom. I think my color matches the tile a bit better.


So there you have it! I didn't take photos of the office or the laundry room because, well, they're an office and a laundry room and both are chock full of stuff right now. I'll post more photos as I decorate and hang things etc. I've got some really awesome hand made pieces I bought off etsy that I'm super excited about and also some furniture that needs to be painted (both dressers shown in the guest room are just crying for a makeover). Lots to keep busy with and I'm loving it!

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Waiting Game

I think I have established in the last few posts that I am a pretty patient person (waiting for a ring, waiting for a house, etc). So what is the latest thing that I am waiting for?

My new couch.


My new couch--only picture it in a cappuchino color.

When I bought the Cottage I decided it was finally time to graduate from the futon I'd been using as a couch since grad school to a big girl couch with real cushions and everything. This purchase was very exciting for me because not only would it be the first piece of furniture I would buy for my new house but it would also be the first new piece of furniture I'd ever purchased in my life. Yep that's right--all of the furniture you will see in photos of my house was either bought used or came from my parent's basement.

One thing people will notice about me is that I'm not much of a browser. This was a sticking point with my ex because he would literally wait for years to buy something--constantly researching it, reading reviews, mulling it over, etc. I, on the other hand, am pretty impulsive and may or may not check  reviews before I buy something--usually I am going off the advice of others (mom, friends, and the like) or I'll just see a great deal and snatch it up. I will admit I have gotten into trouble with a few impulsive purchases in the past, but I've generally had good luck and for most big purchases I will do a little homework before I buy.

*On a side note--as I write this I have to laugh because being impulsive and being patient don't really fit together. Maybe I am an impulsive buyer to compromise for the fact that I have to wait for so much else? Or maybe I am only patient with the things I know I have to be patient for...

But I digress.

So being the non-browser I am, my couch search pretty much took place between 3 stores--The Dump in Atlanta (way too overpriced despite their commercials advertising rock bottom prices), Ashley Furniture, and Macy's. I spent less than 60 minutes in each store and ended up getting a great deal on a fun modern-looking couch at a Macy's one day sale. It was exactly what I had been looking for and the price was excellent. I was stoked--until I got to the check out. The couch was out of stock and would have to be special ordered. Estimated wait time: 1-4 months! Ugh.

I went ahead and bought it with the hope that it would come in a month. That was at the beginning of February. Well, it's been a month now and no couch. I checked with Macy's on Friday and they said the estimated delivery date is April 9th. Boo. I had really, really hoped I would have the couch by April 1st because I am throwing a baby shower for my sister at my house and it will be the first time many of my family and friends will be seeing my new digs. I would have liked the extra seating but alas, I am at the mercy of Macy's warehouse and can only keep my fingers crossed that the couch is delivered earlier than scheduled.

Thus the waiting continues and I am forced to be patient once again. <sigh>

Friday, March 4, 2011

My Handy Men

In the past couple of weeks since I bought my house I have gotten a huge amount of help from some very wonderful people. My mom came into town the week after I closed to help pack up my old house while I was at work which was a gigantic help considering I was spending most of my evenings after work at the new house trying to paint. Because of her help we had the entire kitchen and then some moved into the new house before the day I was even supposed to pick up the U-Haul. Way to go Mom!!

But I realize that this post is called My Handy Men and not My Awesome Mom (which she is by the way) so let's get down to meeting the awesome guys in my life who helped make my move bearable because let's face it--moving sucks!




Erik tearing up some concrete
In my last post I mentioned that in order to do some of the exterior painting on the house I needed to address a few repair items, one of which being my sinking front stoop. In the home inspector's report, the inspector noted that the stoop had settled in one corner creating an unlevel floor which needed to be re-filled and re-covered with concrete. I decided that if my house was going to get a fresh new coat of paint I didn't want to go through the hassle of painting the stoop and then having to re-paint later when I decided to fix the concrete. Enter my first Knight in Shining Armor--my boyfriend Erik. Erik works with concrete on a daily basis building and renovating pools and also worked with his dad as a general contractor. Believe me when I say he can do anything--he is just amazing like that. So the Sunday after I closed he comes over with his work truck, 700 pounds of concrete, and a jackhammer. He got to work tearing up the old stoop and we quickly realized that the reason the stoop was sinking was that there was a huge hole that had opened up underneath and you could literally see into the crawl space below the house. Erik patched up the hole using a 2x4 and I helped him cart away some of the larger broken pieces of concrete (yes--I helped!). He began mixing the new concrete and pouring the new floor while I got to work prepping the inside of the house for painting. By that evening I had a newly (and perfectly) poured front stoop. Fantastic!

The second Handy Man who I completely adore is my good friend Heather's husband Edward. As a Christmas gift Heather and Edward had promised to help me paint once I got into the new house. I never realized what a huge gift this was until I decided to paint my entire house before I moved in--ceilings and trim included. As I said in my last post, I realized this was very ambitious and I am not too proud to admit that I probably wouldn't have been able to get it done without Edward's help. He drove an hour up to Atlanta on his day off from work to spend most of the day painting at my house. And he was fast! In just a day he painted both bedrooms and their ceilings, the bathroom, my living room ceiling, and finished up where I had left off in my kitchen AND he did an awesome job! Like I said BEST CHRISTMAS PRESENT EVER! Thanks Edward (and Heather too for letting me borrow your husband)!


Shelving built by Andrew

The third Handy Man who I could not live without is my wonderful brother. Not only is the boy a master with cars (he helped me save a boatload of cash this past year when I needed new oxygen sensors, spark plugs, brakes, and rotors on my car) but he can also build some nice shelving! One of the biggest issues for me in this new house is storage. I have closets but they are tiny and have virtually no shelf space. Apparently in 1941 a family of four didn't have nearly the amount of crap that I have--shocking, I know. The closet in my office had absolutely nothing--not even a bar to hang coats on. So my brother--being the wonderful guy he is--offered to build me custom shelving. He took the measurements, bought the wood, built the shelves, and installed them for me within a couple of days. They look great and are super sturdy. Freakin' awesome bro!


These are really just a few things that these guys did to help me as I moved into my new house. Erik installed my new dishwasher and over-the-range microwave as well as help me paint. Edward came up on moving day to help my brother and his roommate Alex (another Handy Man shout-out to you Alex--you rock!) move furniture and the rest of the boxes from my old place. And Andrew, my brother, installed blinds in the bedrooms, shelving in my laundry room, and sanded down my back door (which was giving everyone splinters because it had never been sealed).

All of my guys worked so hard for me and I am so appreciative of all their help. Can I say what a lucky girl I am??? Oh and that Handy Men are totally sexy. Can't forget to mention that.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Little Bit of Paint

Before I took ownership of the Cottage there were a few things I knew were going to have to be taken care of immediately and most of those  items were documented by my home inspector (nothing too serious except for a little mold growing in my crawl space--no biggie). Since I am a planner, I had compiled a very detailed to-do list with estimated costs, time-frames for getting tasks done, etc. I told myself I was going to be as organized as possible as I entered this new unknown because I had to be--I was doing this by myself.

So, I had my inspector's report and now all I had to do was wait for the FHA appraisal to be completed and wait patiently for my closing date to arrive. The finish line for this process was so close.

When I first saw the FHA report I was relieved to see that nothing major was uncovered except the inspector had noted some peeling and chipping paint on the exterior of the house as well as a few rotted pieces of wood siding. He even appraised my home for $5,000 more than what I was paying for it! I was relieved and didn't really think much of the comments about the exterior paint. I knew the house needed to be painted per my inspector's report and was planning on taking care of it in the months after the move-in. What I didn't realize (FIRST TIME HOME-BUYER ALERT) was that the FHA inspector's comments are not just comments they are must-have-done-before-closing action items. So needless to say all of my relief disappeared when I received a phone call from my realtor in a panic saying that we had to paint the entire exterior of the house as well as repair all the rotted siding before my closing date which was a WEEK AND A HALF from that day.

You might think "Oh, that's PLENTY of time," but we had a few obstacles to jump before the actual painting began. A rainy forecast, money, and finding a contractor were all very real concerns.

In an ordinary situation the seller would be the one responsible for paying for the repairs recommended by the FHA. Remember, I purchased my house as a short sale which meant that the seller could no longer afford her house payments. I knew there was no way she was going to be able to cover the costs of painting the entire house. Luckily I had a little extra money to offer towards the house painting (after 3 months of waiting I was NOT going to give up my closing day so easily). In addition both the seller's agent and my agent also kicked in $250 each. With everyone's money pooled together we had $1500 to get the house painted. Now, even though this was my first time dealing with matters of home ownership I knew $1500 was cheap to get an entire house painted, especially on a tight schedule. After precious days were wasted collecting estimates from general contractors we finally found a guy who was willing to do the work for our price and, most importantly to me, get it done before closing day.

The painters started on Monday and were finished by Thursday, the eve before closing day. The inspector came back out Thursday night and we got his final approval the next day as I was sitting down to sign the final closing papers. It was definitely cutting it a bit too close for my comfort but what would my life be without a little added drama? Just goes to show you can't plan for everything--a very valuable lesson for any new homeowner.

But in the end I now owned a freshly painted house with colors that I chose so it wasn't all bad.  Plus I was also able to get a few additional things checked off my to-do list that were necessary to have done before painting including some re-pointing work on the bricks in the chimney and front stoop, replacing the rotted siding around the house, and laying some new concrete to make my front stoop level where it met the front door (more on this job later). So although there were a few moments of panic everything worked out in the end as it always seems to do. I was able to get in the house a week before the official move-in and begin the next task of painting the interior--a challenge in itself because I had stubbornly decided that every room needed to be painted before I moved the furniture in. Ambitious you say? Yes, I know. But did I get it done? This is where I leave you today my readers...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Origins of My Cottage

My story begins five months ago as I watched my relationship with my boyfriend of 8+ years crumble right before my eyes. It was one of those situations where you think that with enough time the guy will realize that marriage isn't the end of the world and that marrying you will be the best decision of his life. Needless to say, it was definitely an embarrasing blow to me when I realized that no amount of time in the world could change the fact that my ex and I wanted two different things and that it just wasn't going to work out. To say I was crushed is an understatement.

Like most modern couples we had been living together for several years. I probably don't even have to say that this made our break-up about ten times worse especially when it came to deciding who would move out, who would take what, etc. Neither of us could afford to stay in the house by ourselves so the question arose of who would be moving out. Seeing as I owned most of the furniture and all of my family lives out of state we decided it would be best for him to move out and stay with his parents until he found his own place. I was able to cut a deal with my extremely understanding landlord to stay in the rental for a few extra months at a slightly discounted rent while I also began the search for a new place to live.

Based on the current economy it seemed that renting another place, while not of the question, would be a waste of money and resources. Why give my money to someone else every month when I am living in a buyer's market and the real estate in Atlanta is so affordable? Not to mention that finding something safe and decent in the city would cost just about as much as I would pay in a mortgage payment if I found something decently priced. So, with that in mind and the help of one of my co-workers I found a local realtor and began my search around the Decatur and East Atlanta area. I didn't have the biggest budget--especially being on my own--so I was a bit disheartened when I started looking and realized I may be relegated to the world of condos and townhomes rather than the perfect little house I had dreamed of to begin my first foray into property ownership. Not that there is anything wrong with condos or townhomes--there were many things that appealed to me about owning something attached. For instance, no yard work, an instant community of people, saftey, etc. I just ultimately realized that I wasn't a townhome or condo kind of girl. But after a few weeks of hunting I had accepted the fact that a condo may be the only thing available to me at my price range in a safe neighborhood. I was disappointed but decided I would keep searching the house listings on the MLS every day just in case my perfect little house would pop up.

The day I got lucky was a Saturday and I had finally found some houses that looked decent, were in my price range, and were in relatively safe areas. At this point I had been looking at places for several weeks and had almost convinced myself that I could live in a condo and be okay with it so I was prepared to be disappointed by the houses I saw and move on. The first stop of the morning was a loft in one of those old converted school buildings. It was cute, and I loved the concept--it even had the old blackboard still on the wall--but I wasn't super in love. It seemed the day was going to be like every other trip I had made so far where I would find myself liking a place but not absolutely loving it. As we pulled up to the first house on my list I readied myself to be disappointed. Sure it looked cute on the outside, but certainly the inside was a mess and there would be a thousand things that needed to be fixed. You can imagine my surprise when I walked in and immediately fell in love. The house had everything I was looking for--2 bedrooms, a remodeled bath and kitchen, a separate laundry room, dining room, living room, and even an extra room that could be used as an office space. I knew it was perfect but decided to press on and look at the rest of the houses on my list for the day. It was no surprise to me that all of them were exactly what I was expecting when I began the day--complete disasters. After talking with my loan officer at the bank, I made an offer on what was to become my cute little cottage the next day. Within 48 hours the selller had accepted my offer. Life was good...or so one would think.
As my luck would have it, I fell in love with a house that was being offered as a short sale which means a great price for me but a potentially a long wait for the seller's bank to approve the sale if they even decided to accept the offer at all. Although I knew it was risky I felt pretty confident with my offer (I was willing to pay the full asking price) and trusted my realtor when she told me she felt everything would work out okay. We began process in November of 2010 and I knew I had some time before I had to be out of my rental in February 2011. As long as the sale was approved within 3 months I would be fine.

Of course once I started the process and began to talk to people about it I heard all the horror stories--people waiting months only to getting rejected, people waiting months and not hearing anything at all--and all I could do was wait. Luckily I am a very patient person. Let's remember I waited 8+ years for a guy to propose to me, what was 3 months for a house? As it turned out my realtor was right and everything went perfectly. My short sale was approved right after my 29th birthday at the end of January 2011. I closed on February 11th and moved in the following week.

Since move-in I have completed a lot of projects. Some of my first posts will be recounting those projects to get up to speed but then I hope to be writing about all the projects I will be working on, posting before and after pictures, etc. I am really enjoying the new house and am looking forward to beginning my new life in it (I've been calling it Operation Freedom 2011).

So that's the story of how I came across my "cottage," and I'll leave you with a photo and the assurance that there will be plenty more to come!