Thursday, December 30, 2010

If walls could talk ...

Ever since discovering the first Young Reader book about the history of Egypt I've been hooked on history. I'm a history nut geeking out over archeology, old books, books about old stuff, barely legible documents and ancient tomes, recipes and patterns, and more. I'm even a member of a group that recreates the Middle Ages and dabble in calligraphy and illumination, medieval cooking and other assorted medieval crafts.

It wasn't really a long step from that to trying to learn more about the house we're about to make ours in just 19 more days! *keeps fingers crossed*

Fortunately and much to my delight, the main branch of the local library houses a treasure trove of resources for the genealogist and Florida history lover. Up underneath the roof in the Grand Map room is where I can be found when the munchkin participates in one of the awesome kids' programs. For about an hour I get to browse the old city directories for glimpses into our house's past. I have yet to swing by the property appraiser's office to track down the actual past owners but so far I've had too much fun digging around in the old city directories for information on who lived in the Ugly Duckling over the past 95 years.

From what I've gathered so far, our house appears to have been a kind of modest starter home: Few occupants stayed longer than 2 years at a time and most held rather modest Middle-Class jobs. Hubby, of course, is tickled pink that the first ever occupant's name is "Mead". How befitting for a hobby brewer to soon be living in "The Mead House" ... heh.

I've added the Ugly Duckling's genealogy as a separate page to the top navi bar - I'll update it as my research comes along. We're planning on ducking into the library again this afternoon so I might have more to post tomorrow or Friday!
Enjoy!

Update:
Well, so I couldn't wait :o) I added a few more years to our house's genealogy of occupants. I also got the library clerk to show me to the Sanford maps and the prospect of finding a map with our house has me giddy with geeky excitement. Next time I'll bring the camera. Promise!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Hi & Lo

So far, the whole house hunting adventure has been a wild rollercoaster ride. Highs chasing lows, frustration followed by moments of euphoria and excitement replaced by bouts of "wanna-bang-my-head-against-wall" feelings. Here's the latest high and low our house acquisition Gods threw at us:

Hi :o)
Christmas eve we received our own personal house-hunting gift in the mail: the loan approval! Hurray! It looks like we've mastered most if not all of the required paperwork to get our financing ducks in a row.

Infused with renewed enthusiasm and reasonably sure that the in-laws would be able to see the potential hidden in our little dirt Ugly Duckling we drove over to the house for a quick tour the day after Christmas.

Lo:o(
That's when we discovered that the Ugly Duckling had been broken into. Not like there was much to take considering it's empty and has been vacant for more than a year but the thieves made off with the downstairs furnace, both ac compressors and a window unit. They also re-opened the window opening from the small outdoor utility room to the kitchen that had been dry-walled over. You know, I would have been okay if they had taken all window units and left it at that but nooooo ... they had to take the furnace as well. Oh, and the vent cover for the big floor vent inside the house (alright, that was ugly too and slated for replacement but still ...) Grrrr...

We'll drive over later today to make sure the bank's property contractor secured the backdoor of the house as promised and we're going to be armed with our own plywood and screws, just in case. Can't take any chances. This time they just 'took' things, next time they might 'leave' something behind (a squatter or two, human body fluids or God knows what other crafty thing they could come up with).

Now, this is not the Wild West. AC compressors are stolen all over town these days (although I believe it's even more petty than stealing a baby's lollipop - seriously, stealing somebody's ac in Florida??) and fortunately we'd factored in a new hvac system into our reno budget (but would have loved to use that money for something else instead ...). Oh well, here's hoping that this "Lo" will become a "Hi" somehow :o)

Update:
Thanks to the mad communication skillz of our awesome real estate agent the bank is offering us the choice between a replacement furnace-compressor system and a reduction in purchase price. We'll be going for the reduction in purchase price since that gives us the chance to pick the system we want. Phew!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Whiling away the last minutes before the imminent arrival of the family I can't help but muse a bit about the past year.

It's been one heck of an adventure, an eye opening experience and a chance to learn more about myself as well as more about hubby and myself as a couple and as parents. We have gathered more experience, learned many new things, have grown and grown up just a little more. Well, enough to consider settling down with a house that is :o)

We've been through frustration, disappointment and heartbreak, hope, excitement and giddiness on our search for a house that can become our home. If God wills it, we are going to be closing on our Ugly Duckling in just 3 more short weeks. The wait's been so long and yet I wonder where the year went, how summer and then fall and winter just raced us by. The finishing line is near and we're bursting at the seams with energy and love for our Ugly Duckling.

For now though, we get to take a break, get to spend time with our loved ones, get to slow down and kick up our feet as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our savior. I probably won't post anything for a week or so but I'll certainly be back in time for New Years! Until then ...

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Thursday, December 23, 2010

SOS - Save our Stockings!

This year - since we'll be staying home rather than traveling all over the globe to visit our far-flung family - we got to pull out the entire Christmas Decor Stash from the storage corner on the back porch. We got to rifle through all the ornaments and ribbons to see which ones to use for our ginormous tree and christmasify our whole house, inside and out with the added whimsy of school and cub scout craft projects. The only casualties we suffered: our stockings. I guess squirrels need to get the stuffing for their nests from -somewhere- and they can hardly shop at one of those big boxy convenience stores, right?
Oh well ... while I didn't find enough time to whip up handmade presents this year (I know, shame on me *hangs head*) I MADE some time yesterday for this little last-minute project:

Make your $1 Stockings look like a Million bucks
(... well, alright, maybe $10)

I grabbed these classic stockings from one of those Dollar Stores. I like the color scheme (despite my classy monochromatic Christmas tree upbringings, I'm a big fan of the whole red and green and homemade variety) and the price can't be beat. It just looks a tad unfinished. It needs a cuff! ... so go and check your fabric stash. I wanted to keep it simple and went with some left over canvas I had kicking around ...


Cut a piece of fabric long enough to wrap around your stocking plus an inch extra seam allowance and as wide as you prefer your cuff. Snip off the little hanger on the inside of your stocking and set it aside for later.

Turn the stocking inside out, pin your cuff into place (or not, pinning is optional. I usually skip this part on most projects) and sew into place. I used a simple running stitch because it's not like it will get worn. Hem the cuff by simply folding it over twice to enclose the raw edge.


Turn your stocking right side out and fold the cuff down. Take the little hanger that you snipped off earlier and pin it to the back of the stocking on the inside, then catch it in a running stitch along the entire upper edge of the stocking.


This gives the upper edge of your stocking a much crisper look and keeps the cuff from rolling up too.

I left hubby's stocking like that but needed a girly extra for mine so we can keep them apart. I chopped off a band of drop cloth and wrangled it into a flower shape securing the folds with hot glue throughout the process. A dap of hotglue to the back of the flower to stick it to the stocking and voila! All done!


Now we're set for Santa! God knows where he puts stuff when there're no stockings *shudders*



Monday, December 20, 2010

Arborlicious

You know why I want a picket fence?

That's why :o)

[picture found at Decorfortheoutdoors.com

[picture found at YHhomeimprovement.com]



[picture found at woodworkersworkshop.com]


'nuff said :o)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

And the lamb fell in love with the lion ...

... and got herself a clawfoot tub for long luxurious "up-to-your-neck-in-bubbles" soaks.
Heh ...

One of the many things I adore in our historic rental apartment that we've been living in for the past 6 years is the clawfoot tub in the only bathroom. It's charming, it's quirky and it's simply perfect for a nice bath on a cold winter afternoon. It also has a shower rig and a wrap-around shower curtain for quick showers and is as versatile as it gets. I'm loving it! I also love the original penny tile with its baby-blue border design despite its cracks and discolored grout. I don't love the original farmhouse sink with the two faucets (one for hot and the other for cold water) and it'd be awesome if we had at least another half bath but for the past couple of years it's worked as well as it could. Did I mention that I love the clawfoot tub?

The Ugly Duckling has currently 2 full baths and an upstairs kitchen. None of them, however, have a clawfoot tub ... *sigh* Our grand plans have us chopping the downstairs full bath into a half bath to create space for a laundry area in the mudroom and turning the upstairs kitchen into a fancy master bath. WITH a clawfoot tub! Not like that would surprise you after my confessions above, n'est-ce pas?

So while we continue the waiting game for the closing date and the begin of our renovations I get to design budget-busting looks on polyvore and browse idea books on Houzz for inspiration. Wanna see?


III DomA Architects, Inc. III traditional bathroom

[Alright, so that's not really a clawfoot tub. It's a free-standing tub but it's gorgeous and I love the airy traditional yet fresh look of this bathroom]


|| C O B U R N - A R C H I T E C T U R E || traditional bathroom

[There you have it, a real clawfoot tub! Fantastic!]


Renovation Redux Bath contemporary bathroom


[Here you get a sneaky peek at a clawfoot tub; again, bright and airy and crisp]



Traditional Country Master Bathroom traditional bathroom

[Look, another free-standing tub. And wainscoting. And the fresh airy brightness like in the other pictures. Notice a trend?]

I love how clawfoot tubs don't care if it's a contemporary sleek bathroom with concrete countertops or a frilly frou-frou oldfashioned salle de bain - they fit right in into any kind of setting. Husband and I mix up to a "farmhouse meets NY City loft" kind of style and I'm telling you, the tub dots off our Ts and crosses our Is.

After poking around on the net and playing with polyvore's editor here's what I came up with for a first draft. Mind you, it hasn't been run past the husband for his approval but I think it balances the feminine and the masculine with the contemporary and the historical quite nicely. What do you think?

Master bath

Master bath by Littleoldhouse


We're digging penny tile and think that using a dark charcoal, almost black penny tile (maybe with a border pattern of white penny tile along the perimeter of the room) will nicely ground all the bright white and light grey we have planned for the walls and ceiling and fixtures. We're torn on either using wallpaper or a monochromatic stencil (creating the pattern through using a glaze rather than a different color) to add a bit of visual interest so stay tuned for further development of this thought. We'd like a vanity from an old dresser with crisp ceramic vessel sinks. And of course a clawfoot tub. Maybe a corner shower. Maybe. We need to take the measurements over at the house and draw it out on the floor. Maybe even use blue tape to lay it out on the floor? Hmm ...

Oh, yes, color! We love the clean, almost austere look of this mood board and since this room gets a LOT of sunlight we'll actually be able to have a live plant or two in this room as well for a pop of color. We're still debating the matter of curtains: airy white Roman shades come to mind.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Unveiling upstairs

Here I am, playing catch-up on Thursday evening. I'm tired and there's a little naggy headache sitting right behind my eyes telling me that yes, indeed, the weather changed, thank you very much. The temperatures are now much more to my liking: balmy 70 degrees during the day work just fine for me :o)

Anyways, today was the day of updates: I have the land surveyor's report in my hot little hands and also received a copy of the appraiser who checked out our little old house to see if, from the bank's point of view, it would be worth investing money into. We are golden: purchase price plus renovation costs puts us almost a whooping 30% below the appraised value. Hurray!

Of course, it wouldn't be a house hunting adventure if you didn't hit a SNAFU somewhere along the line. Ours involves a lien, not on the property, but tied to the pre-foreclosure owner, and funny, funny, our city's policies regarding property liens are a bit on the wonky side. I'm sure it'll all work out *keeps fingers crossed* Wish us luck! (Our real estate agent is confident it'll be fine)

Back to the matter at hand: the upstairs floor plan! After you got a first peek at the downstairs, I proudly present to you: the upstairs:


Here it's not so much about the demoing and changing wall configurations but cleaning up, freshening up and converting the upstairs kitchen into the new Master Bathroom. Half the plumbing is already up there which is very convenient. The upstairs bathroom is actually in pretty nice shape except for a bad caulking job around the apartment-style (*sigh*) bath tub and quite serviceable. Hubby and I have been pondering ripping out the tub and turning it into a big honking walk-in shower at some point but that's in the far future. For now we have enough work cut out for us.

For comparison with Monday's Mega List, here's our upstairs plan, step by step:
  • salvage hardwood flooring underneath linoleum on landing and upstairs hallway or lay new floors
  • refinish stairs
  • get proper door for closet to heat pump
  • re-caulk tub in upstairs bathroom
  • refinish wood floors upstairs
  • turn upstairs kitchen into Master bath and walk-in closet by building a wall and creating two rooms out of the existing upstairs kitchen
  • update plumbing for future Master bath
  • lay tile in Master bath
  • install bathroom fixtures
  • turn secondary hallway into 2 hall closet (this will make sense once I show you the floor plans)
  • paint downstairs, walls and ceilings and trim
  • update light fixtures
Is it January yet?

Monday, December 13, 2010

The down and dirty: downstairs floorplan

We had a fantastic holiday weekend, complete with Christmas songs, presents and good company. How was your weekend? I hope you had a great time as well!

Sound the trumpets, hear the heralds cry! Just as promised I present you a first peek at the downstairs floorplan of our Ugly Duckling courtesy of the great software at floorplanner.com

If you look at our list our biggest changes to the downstairs floorplan will happen in the upper right hand corner, namely the mudroom/laundry/bathroom area. The bathtub will go bye-bye and its space be added to the mudroom/laundry area while the full bath is being decimated to a half bath aka powder room (we're not sure if we're going to keep both doors. We figure we'll start with two doors and get rid of one if we feel like it after living with it for a while).
The other big change is opening up the walls to both staircase and livingroom. There're a lot of arches going on: from hallway to livingroom and hallway to smaller hallway, from livingroom to diningroom and from diningroom to kitchen. (It's not like you can close doors if you have a cat. She'd surely take that as an affront.)

For an old house it has a decent amount of closet space downstairs (upstairs not so much). Some time in the future the large window in the kitchen will make the transformation to a French Door opening up to a deck in the backyard. First things first, though. First I need a -kitchen- :o)

Here're the things that need to be done before we get to move in furniture downstairs

  • update/repair plumbing in entire house
  • update/repair electricity in entire house
  • update/replace hvac system
  • repair damaged trim/molding where necessary in entire house
  • make roof repairs as needed
  • scrub entire house to within an inch of its life
  • turn downstairs full bath into half bath
  • take space from downstairs bath and add to mudroom for laundry space
  • tile downstairs half bath
  • tile mudroom/laundry room
  • demo kitchen
  • salvage hardwood floors underneath linoleum or lay tile
  • install kitchen cabinets
  • install appliances
  • open wall to staircase (remember, the Ugly Duckling is currently chopped up into a downstairs and an upstairs apartment) to create a single-family home
  • open wall between entry hall and living room
  • refinish all downstairs wood floors
  • paint downstairs: fireplace, walls and ceilings and trim
  • update light fixtures
Trust me when I tell you I'm already wielding drywall saw and paint roller in my head at night ...

Friday, December 10, 2010

We have a winner!

Husband and I have been busy playing with Polyvore creating mood boards in order to help us visualize possible designs and color schemes for our rooms.
For the most past we're incorporating our old furniture pieces and are using window treatments and wall colors as new ingredients to freshen up the look (after all, we have no reason to expect for unlimited funds to magically appear that will afford us all new furniture - even though that would be nice). Frankly, the biggest selling point for home ownership is the freedom to paint everything your way. My favorite room in our rental is the den and it is painted a lovely shade of "swine". Flesh-colored walls, seriously? I'm starting to believe it is probably the best-selling Ooops-paint on the market. I can't wait to get my hands on buckets of paint and a roller :o)

So, anyways, before I take care of a few errands and household chores and then run off to volunteer at our son's school I thought I'd post the more or less finalized design for our hallway that hubby and I have come up with.



Since the entry hall stretches over two stories we decided to go for a fresh neutral color and chose a light grey against the crisp white of some fun batten and board. We both really love the bright happy yellow of the classic patterned fabric for our window treatments and the warmth of the aged brown of both hardwood floors and the big travel trunk. It will find a new place of honor in our entry hall and get to house our scarves, hats, umbrellas and gloves in its many drawers rather than being relegated to serving as the base for our Guinea pig cage (yes, sad but true. Practicality made me do it!).

Since we're both big NYC fans we really dig the artwork but might trade it for a similar shot from Jacksonville. Jacksonville has a great number of bridges that lend itself well for architectural shots and we've seen some really really cool artsy shots taken at the harbor with cranes and other industrial equipment. Another option is go the historic route and choose some vintage postcard designs or city maps instead.

Here's the To-Do List for the hallway:
  • re-open wall to stair case
  • re-create archway to living room
  • repair electric (ie repair sockets and switches where necessary)
  • repair drywall (from opening walls)
  • repair and refinish hardwood floors
  • repair and paint trim and moldings
  • paint walls
  • install batten and board
  • update light fixture
  • move in furniture
  • decorate
And while we're at it we might as well
  • remove ugly metal awning outside of hallway window
  • replace crappy storm door
  • replace exterior door lock
  • paint exterior door
Pretty straightforward, right? We can do that in a weekend ;o) Right? (Probably not. It's most likely going to take 2 weekends but we can hope, yes?)
I'll be dabbling with Floorplanner.com over the weekend and maybe I can show you Before and After plans on Monday. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Flags & Fences

This morning - like every morning, I must admit - I swung by our Ugly Duckling to wave "hello" and blow kisses after dropping off the munchkin at the school bus stop. Our little old house was flanked by a gaggle? flock? murder? pride of little orange flags fluttering merrily in the early morning breeze - the land surveyors had been over to measure the property and by tomorrow we should have the report in hand.

Huzzah for yet another step accomplished!

It was also good to see that the odd angle that the fence makes in the back is NOT the actual property line and that our backyard is indeed rectangular. Heh. It needs a prettier fence though; the chain link is a disgrace, not to mention entirely inappropriate for the historic neighborhood, even though it's grandfathered in and not visible from the street.

Hubby and I have been pondering which kind of fence to put up, especially around the front yard, and we keep going back and forth between black Aluminum fencing or a white picket fence. Let's take a look at some inspiration pictures, shall we?

Here we have aluminum fencing: while picket fencing would be more historically accurate our Historic Preservation Committee does allow this kind of fence which appears to be rather popular. It looks good with most styles of historic houses in Springfield and is definitely more of a security feature than a picket fence.



[Black Aluminum fence with arched gate by perryfencing.com]



[Aluminum Fence style 101 by Fencedirect.com]

Now on to the picket fences! White picket fences are like the heroine in a bodice ripper: pretty, romantic and rather high maintenance. Just ask Tom Sawyer and his friends about keeping up with the paint. Picket fences would be the most accurate choice for our neighborhood from a Restoration point of view and both houses to the left of our Ugly Duckling already sport bright white picket fences in their front yard. I personally have discovered that I favor them slightly more than the Aluminum fences because they appeal to my love for all things country.


[scalloped picket fence by illusionsfence.com]


Victorian picket fence by rippelsfencing.com.au]

It was far easier to find nice photos of picket fencing than of black Aluminum fencing but in all fairness I decided to show off two of each. I'm slightly biased toward picket fencing channeling both my history nut self and the country gal inside of my, hubby is still on the fence (heh ...).

Thoughts? Warnings?

Monday, December 6, 2010

It's the spirit of the season

Since I'm obviously in the mood for making lists I thought I'd add our "Master List of Projects" as well as a time line of events for easy reference to the blog. See? Up there underneath the header of the blog? It says "House Hunting Timeline" and "Ugly Duckling to Pretty Swan" and links to two static pages that I can update quickly without having to wreck my brain for content for an entire blog post.

Just for kicks and giggles :o)

She's making a list and checking it twice ...

The Ugly Ducking was built in 1919 and hasn't seen much love in the past 2 years (and more...).

Abandoned by her last owner in spring 2009, this little old lady has been vacant for more than a year and sat neglected until we came along with enough vision to see the potential in her old but sturdy bones and the charm in her grey facade (we also had a little help from the Ugly Duckling's sister houses to the left who look sharp in apple-green and mandarin-orange).

There is -lots- that needs to be done, from fixing deferred maintenance issues over bringing things to code to giving both the exterior and the interior a facelift, and the Ugly Duckling is not yet move-in ready.For one, she doesn't have a kitchen :o) Not a real one, you know, where the only thing missing are the appliances. Nuh-uh, we need an entire kitchen, top to bottom, because what's in there now needs to go. Far, far away! Where nobody will be able to find it. Ever again. (Yes, it's that bad. It's "I don't take pictures for the parents" bad ... heh)

And you know what? We're so stinkin' excited to start our first foray into home ownership with mega demolition you wouldn't believe it. Yeah baby! That's the good stuff ... ahem, well, maybe we romanticize this renovation idea a bit and we'll see how we feel about it once we're knee-deep in construction but for now it has us all giddy with excitement.

So, here's a...ahem, basic list of things we want to do/will do once we've got the keys:


  • update/repair plumbing in entire house

  • update/repair electricity in entire house

  • update/replace hvac system

  • repair damaged trim/molding where necessary in entire house

  • make roof repairs as needed

  • scrub entire house to within an inch of its life

  • turn downstairs full bath into half bath

  • take space from downstairs bath and add to mudroom for laundry space

  • tile downstairs half bath

  • tile mudroom/laundry room

  • demo kitchen

  • salvage hardwood floors underneath linoleum or lay tile

  • install kitchen cabinets

  • install appliances

  • open wall to staircase (remember, the Ugly Duckling is currently chopped up into a downstairs and an upstairs apartment) to create a single-family home

  • open wall between entry hall and living room

  • refinish all downstairs wood floors

  • paint fireplace brick

  • paint downstairs, walls and ceilings and trim

  • update light fixtures
Now we're moving on to the upstairs


  • refinish stairs

  • salvage hardwood flooring underneath linoleum on landing and upstairs hallway or lay new floors

  • get proper door for closet to heat pump

  • re-caulk tub in upstairs bathroom

  • refinish wood floors upstairs

  • turn upstairs kitchen into Master bath and walk-in closet by building a wall and creating two rooms out of the existing upstairs kitchen

  • update plumbing for future Master bath

  • lay tile in Master bath

  • install bathroom fixtures

  • turn secondary hallway into 2 hall closet (this will make sense once I show you the floor plans)

  • paint downstairs, walls and ceilings and trim

  • update light fixtures
Outside we'd love to


  • install a fence for the front yard

  • replace the chain link fence in the back yard with something prettier

  • update the landscaping

  • paint the window frames white

  • paint the gable a pretty creamy-yellow color

  • install a deck or patio with a pergola
And some time down the line we'd love to


  • add batten and board or wainscoting to some rooms (like the dining room, for example)

  • rip out the linen closet in the upstairs bath

  • move the door of the upstairs bath one wall over (those two steps will make bathroom much bigger)

  • replace tub with a big walk-in shower with a glass enclosure

  • install all new windows

  • paint the entire house a new fresh color

  • get rid of the old tank on the right side of the house
Are we crazy? Maybe a bit. We realize it's a long to-do list (not to mention these are just the projects I can come up with of the top of my head...heh ) and without the beauty of a streamlined 203k Rehab loan this wouldn't be possible at all but we love the old historic houses in our neighborhood and - knowing how beautiful they are when they are revived and restored - we know it's worth it. No, the Ugly Duckling doesn't have a smidgen of Victorian Grandeur or Greek revival classiness but it's a home with a history in the best neighborhood in the world :o) What's a little construction dust compared to that?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Whaddayawant

You know how they always ask "What are you looking for?" at the beginning of those house hunting shows? That usually starts this looong list of all the things you could possibly cram into a house, from 4 bedrooms over 3 baths to a porch, a patio and a 1-acre yard, a fireplace, hardwood floors, character, charm and, and, and. And while you can cram these things into a house, chances are it can't be crammed into your budget. Not even close. Nuh-uh. Besides, it's a wishlist like the kind you write up for Christmas when you are seven. The kind where you leaf through those glossy toy catalogs and write down every.little.thing. because your parents told you that simply checking off things with a marker does not constitute a wish list. Heh.

Your first draft of the "things we want in our house" list makes your real estate agent twitch and squirm but she takes you out to look at houses anyhow. She knows that after a while of looking at houses and getting a better idea of what's on the market and what fits into your budget you will amend your wish list ... or stop looking.

Hubby and I didn't really start this adventure resolved to buy a house. If you go back to this entry here you know that we began with a crazy idea of having my parents invest in real estate, not us. We were (and really are still) perfectly happy with living in our historical rental. Before the real estate market crashed we were sorely priced out of our own neighborhood. Houses, even fixer-uppers, went for crazy amounts of money that were way out of our price range. Now, things look different, much to our benefit. We made our house hunting adventure difficult by declaring that we
  1. wanted to stay in our neighborhood (119 city blocks in an area of approximately 500 acres)
  2. wanted a 2-story house (bye-bye darling bungalows, hubby insists on upstairs bedrooms)
  3. needed either an extra bedroom or an area with enough wall space for our library (~1900 books and counting)
  4. wanted at least 2 bathrooms
  5. wanted 4 bedrooms
  6. wanted a working fireplace
  7. wanted some cool historical features such as original fireplace mantels, Victorian fretwork, etc.
  8. wanted a big yard
  9. wanted 1-2 porches, one preferably upstairs
  10. wanted at least 2000 sqft
  11. wanted to spend the same or less per month on our mortgage than what we are currently paying in rent
For the past 6 years we have been living in a 1500sqft 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom upstairs apartment with a livingroom/diningroom combo, with a large dead end of our hallway as library and a butler's pantry as main storage, and a lovely 250 sqft front porch. After looking at a dozen houses or so, we began to modify our list in that we
  1. really wanted to stay in our neighborhood
  2. wanted a livable fixer-upper
  3. needed wall space for our library
  4. wanted at least 1.5 bathrooms
  5. wanted 3 bedrooms (one of which would be a dedicated guest bedroom)
  6. wanted a backyard
  7. wanted a porch
  8. wanted to spend the same or less per month on our mortgage than what we are currently paying in rent
  9. didn't want to deal with short sales (we aren't that patient)
  10. didn't want to fix structural issues
Point 1 and 8 were the ones putting us in a pickle. Limiting one's search to 119 city blocks -and- a very strict low budget will send you straight to house hunting hell. Luckily, we were hoping for a livable fixer-upper rather than a turn-key house so that helped. The fact that most Springfield houses are spacious and have wood floors and fireplaces did too.

So, how does the Ugly Duckling compare to our List? Let's Take a look
  1. wanted to stay in our neighborhood [Score!]
  2. wanted a livable fixer-upper [Not quite - it'll take a few weeks to bring electric, plumbing and kitchen up to code and up to speed]
  3. wanted a 2-story house [Score!]
  4. needed wall space for our library [Score! We get a whole room]
  5. wanted 3 bedrooms (one of which would be a dedicated guest bedroom) [Score! The Ugly Duckling has 3 upstairs and 1 downstairs]
  6. wanted a backyard [Score! even though it's not the biggest]
  7. wanted a porch [Score!]
  8. wanted to spend the same or less per month on our mortgage than what we are currently paying in rent [Score!]
  9. didn't want to deal with shortsales [Score! It's bank-owned]
  10. didn't want to fix structural issues [Score! Score! Score!]
From an investment point of view, we're playing it probably as safe as you possibly can in an urban neighborhood (the greatest in the world, by the way) although I have to admit in all our soul searching and house hunting this has never been anything we discussed in great detail. We are buying a home for our family. To us, the Ugly Duckling is home first and investment second. Granted, some of the changes we have planned for it will increase its resale value but that is not the reason why we're making them. Right now it meets our needs and wants and if that should change one day we'll have to reconsider and perhaps sell and move on.

Until then, all we want to do is love on this little old house and our neighborhood and be happy :o)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Christmas Quicky

I admit it: Germans do things differently!
Our Christmas here has become a darling mish-mash of German and American traditions all wrapped into my favorite season of the year (despite the weather):

  • We enjoy an Advent wreath with candles and we look forward to each Sunday leading up to Christmas when we get to light first one, then two, then three and finally all candles.
  • Finnley is excited that he gets his own home-made Advent calendar every year finding treats every one of those 24 days until Christmas in a small bag every morning.
  • On the 5th of December we polish our shoes and place them on the porch so St Nikolaus can come and fill them with treat and small presents if we've been good and with coals in case we have been naughty.
  • We serve a hearty Chicken soup for lunch on the 24th (my family's tradition) and pizza for dinner on the same day (hubby's family tradition)
  • We give a first round of presents on the evening of the 24th (my family's tradition) and find Santa's bounty underneath the tree in the morning of the 25th (hubby's family tradition)
And since we're staying home this year traveling neither to PA (his family) nor to Germany (my family) we get to bake and craft a lot!

Here at the Gibbons' homestead, Christmas Crafts always start with the Advent wreath. I have long given up keeping a fresh pine wreath alive in this mild weather and use a faux wreath but it looks alright. New white candles, sprays of Ilex and red berries, candy canes for whimsy and green and white ribbon are my staples - nothing beats the classics! I tentatively added a few pine cones but they were too dark, too brown and 'vanished' from sight amidst the dark greenery. Craft paint to the rescue!



A light drizzling of white acrylic paint to simulate snow and voila - much prettier and more visible pine cones! Easy-peasy.



And here they are, in their full glory, as part of our pretty Advent wreath!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I'm Polivoracious

While we wait for closing day I can't help but toy with ideas on how to spend the "fun money".

"Fun money" is the kind of money you spend on fun things such as paint and fabulous fixtures and furniture and, oh, say window treatments (Has anybody ever wondered why it's called a window treatment? As if a window is a kind of disease that you have to treat ...it just strikes me as a weird choice of word. Oh well ...)
and other decorative touches to turn your house into your family's nest as opposed to the kind of "serious" money you have to spend on rough plumbing, drywall, rewiring your entire house or - God forbid - structural repairs *shudder*

For a visual person like myself those magical "mood boards" are just a great invention. Combine that concept with internet gadgetry and - voila! - enter Polyvore !

If you haven't tried it, go check it out! Fair warning: it's a fantabulous time drain.

I ... ahem ... whipped up 2 sets toying with 2 ideas for the entry hall of our potential new old home. Yes Sirreeee! Our house will (once we remove a 2.5 ft wall section not original to the house that separates the downstairs from the upstairs to create 2 separate apartments) have an actual entry hall. Not a squarefoot of tile, not a door mat sized space of dirt-catching carpet, no, an actual entry -hall-. How stinkin' cool is that?

And before you start wondering why I'm so excited about an entry hall. Up until moving here I had taken them pretty much for granted and never knew how much I appreciate them. When you enter a house or apartment in Germany you set foot into an area that is clearly designed as an entry area. You do -not- step right into the living room (and yeah, since we're already touching the subject, I'm not a big fan of the whole "open floor plan" concept, nuh-uh, not at all.) The Ugly Duckling being an old-fashioned house designed when a house wasn't "fair game" to just about everybody who rang the door bell has ...or had, at some point, a semi formal entry hall with a stair case going up to the second floor, an archway possibly with french doors to the living room and another door leading to the little hallway between library and dining room.

It's saaa-weet!

Well, it will be once we're finished loving on it. Which brings us back to Polivore and mood boards as I continue to daydream and brainstorm about just how it could look when we're done. Generally hubby's and my taste can be described as "traditional Farmhouse meets NYC loft" ... hehe. I'm the country farm nut, hubby the NYC lounge-about. So here goes ...

Entry Hall - Design Orange:
After years of renting and existing alongside the colors "builder beige" and "swine" we decided we'd love some color. What prompted us to go "Orange!" I have no idea but we're warming to a nice golden spicy orange. Antique travel trunk and type writer are 2 of our collectibles and will be coming with us and we'd love to show them off much more nicely than we do now. Simple white sheers and dark matchstick shades on the windows, a sleek simple drum shade for the light fixture and for a little quirkiness and impact we love the idea of adding a zebra rug.

Hallway - orange


Entry Hall - Design yellow-grey
During those short moments when I wonder if orange might be a little overwhelming for an entry hall I always fall back in love with the rather hip combination of yellow and grey. Here's my other take on an entry hall look using batten and board against a soft warm grey on the walls, a sweet crisp yellow and white fabric for window treatments and a fun and fabulously inexpensive grey rug from IKEA.

Hallway - yellow/grey

So, what do you think? Yay for the grey and no for the orange-glo? Yes for orangeness and nay for grey?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Break out the Champagne!

The Ugly Duckling passed inspection!

The inspectors [2 - one for the usual stuff, the other for WDO aka termites and friends] didn't uncover anything unexpected and had plenty of great affirmations for us: the Ugly Duckling has a solid foundation, no structural issues and everything else is pretty much "cosmetics". There is some old termite damage but then again it's a 91 year old wooden house in Florida - 'nuff said.

Our inspector was literally beaming with pride when he realized what we'd learned from our first experience with him and the Triplex. Hearing him repeat the phrase "So much better than ..." when poking and prodding the Ugly Duckling made me grow an inch or two as well - we did good this time! It is possible to be excited about a property and still be open to noticing all those pitfalls that can indicate trouble with a capital "T":
  • rolling "waves" in the floor
  • lopsided stairs
  • doors that don't close
  • doors that close but leave uneven gaps between the frame
Don't just brush these things off with a nonchalant "It's an old house" or call it "character" or "charming". The are signs that your house's foundation is out of whack - been there, done that - lesson learned! So wear those flat shoes and crawl underneath your house - it's worth it!

The Ugly Duckling has a sound foundation and no structural issues. It needs some electrical and plumbing repairs and updates and a lot of love which is to be expected for an almost 100 year old house with a couple of years of delayed maintenance.

The most important thing is that it's healthy and that we're one step closer to making it truly ours! Woot!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Get your gobble-gobble on

Have you already started cooking up a storm for Thanksgiving? Is your house a pre-feast disaster zone? Guess what? Thanks to hubby's crazy holiday work schedule I get an extra 2 days for preparations!

That's right! We'll be postponing the annual ravishing of the turkey until Saturday (hubby is slated for work on both Thursday and Friday and we both don't feel like squeezing it in into the short late dinner slot of regular dinner time). That means this time I'll have to wait 1 year and 2 days until my extra favorite American treat: Thanksgiving Dinner. Ugh!

Not being of the American persuasion, I had my first ever Thanksgiving dinner after moving here with the hubby, 3/4 of a year into my life as a legal resident in the US. We never had any of that "your mother's or my mother's stuffing recipe" strife but instead lots of amusement on the hubby's side when I bought a "Thanksgiving 101" book to prepare both mentally as well as practically for the most typical American holiday. If there's anything more loaded with tradition than Thanksgiving I have yet to discover it; even Christmas doesn't get close.

So, what's on the menu (which shall not be trifled with unless it's pre-meal appetizers served around lunchtime)?

  • Turkey, brined, basted and stuffed to perfection (hubby takes care of The Bird, mainly because I'm stumped when confronted with handling a 26 pound bird which we usually have. I'm also too short to handle it effectively)
  • gravy
  • stuffing made according to hubby's Mom's recipe (I'm not crazy about sausage in any way, shape or form but her sausage stuffing is K.I.L.L.E.R!)
  • steamed broccoli and/or green beans
  • cheese sauce and/or browned butter for veggies
  • mashed potatoes
  • homemade Cranberry sauce
  • mixed winter salad with a light vinaigrette
  • variety of pies, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream for dessert
Hubby handles The Bird, start to finish, and I take care of all of the side dishes and for the past years it has worked beautifully! Yes, we do aim for left-overs and embark on a turkey tour through the cuisines of the world for almost a week after Thanksgiving before we can't stand the idea of eating turkey anymore. Then we're happy to know that there're still some containers with stuffing and turkey and gravy in the freezer for those cold drear winter days when we need a touch of comfort food again.

Is it Saturday yet?


Wishing you and your loved ones a Happy Thanksgiving with countless blessings!



Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Biding time

While waiting for the inspection and trying hard not to get too attached and too excited about the house just yet (lesson learned, thank you very much) there's not much else to do than browse tempting web pages about interior design, landscaping and every DIY project under the sun.

And since shared joy is twice the joy I thought I'd share with you :o)

25 DIY projects under $25


Apartment therapy: Homehacks 2010

And if you enjoy following home renovation blogs as much as I do you'll get a kick out of this collection

99 home renovation blogs

Monday, November 22, 2010

A whirl of a week

Being under contract feels good. It's one step closer to our goal of making the Ugly Duckling our home. Next thing on our to-do-list is the inspection for which we have a window of 7 days. Now, usually that doesn't prove to be too much of a problem. In our case though it presents a fount of chaos for this Thanksgiving week. Hurray!

Not enough that this is Thanksgiving week cut short by one holiday smack-dab in the middle of the week and with a lot of people unavailable the day before and the day after, no, our Ugly Duckling has been vacant for more than 6 months.
Which means that the electric company requires a separate inspection of the electric of the house before turning on the electric (for the inspection).
Which means you need a licensed electrician to come out to review and test the electric wiring of the house.
Which means the aforementioned electrician needs to get a permit from the city.
Which means that 7 days present a really really small window of opportunity if those 7 days are cut short by one of biggest holidays (save Christmas) in the US.

We're in for quite a ride this week.
So if you could spare a moment to send a good thought or two, a prayer or any other good vibes our way, we'd appreciate it.
Really.
Lots.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Signed and sealed!

We are under contract!

Finally, after much back and forth and quite a bit of limbo dancing, we are now officially under contract for the house we have affectionately dubbed the "Ugly Duckling".

Let me 'splain -that- : our possibly future house is the outmost right house of a set of three nearly identical houses. House 1 and House 3 ("our" house) are almost identical and House 2 appears to be a mirror image of House 1 and 3. While House 1 and 2 feature fresh bright exterior paint jobs, however, House 3 boasts a muted grey-blue exterior offset against a darker grey-blue around the windows making it appear smaller and droopier than its 2 siblings in their Sunday best. The color itself isn't bad bad, but it could definitely use some sprucing up. A little paint, some fresh blooms in the front yard and a good scrubbing.

We're so stinking excited!

After submitting it to all our newly acquired knowledge and having a contractor poke at it in regard to our desired before-move-in projects, we are fairly confident it won't surprise us too much during the inspection. Yes, it is a fixer-upper, but one with reeeally nice potential and as far as we know good bones.

Right now it is chopped up into an upstairs and a downstairs apartment which we plan on rectifying immediately turning it back into a modest single-family-home of a nice 2185 sqft (that's 203 square meters for you European type readers) with an entry hall, livingroom, diningroom, library, kitchen, half bath and laundry/mudroom downstairs and a hallway, 2 bedrooms, a bathroom and a master suite with walk-in closet and its own bathroom upstairs. And there will be a yard :o)

Please please, all mighty Inspection Gods, please be good to us this time!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Get your Advent Calendar on

This year is one of the precious rare years when we will be staying home here in Florida rather than traveling the world to visit grandparents. Let's hear it for Christmas in Florida! Woot!

As somebody who grew up with sub-zero temperatures, snow and lead winter skies let me tell you that I can get into the Christmas mood just fine without the aforementioned three, thank you very much. All I really need is the crisp scent of a real fir tree, a dash of cinnamon in the air and the Ratpack having a Christmas ball on the stereo and I'm all set.

Advent, the 4 weeks preceding Christmas, is my favorite time of the year (and how cool is it that Thanksgiving, my favorite adopted holiday, perfectly heralds the season as a kick-ass kick-off event?). Counting down to Christmas using an Advent calendar is an old tradition in Germany and of course we have to have at least one every year too. Currently our advent calendar consists of little plaid bags filled with goodies that are tied to a garland but browsing the bloglands I have come across so many cool ideas that I'm tempted to craft a new one.
How about this one here? How whimsical and sweet is this lollipop tree?

[Found at Garnet Hill]

Or if this is just too much candy for your taste, then how about this alternative Advent tree with small bags waiting to be filled with treats of all kinds (including notes, trinkets, toys, etc.)

[found at SnickerdoodleCreations]

Now if you live in a house with a fabulous staircase and have a thing for that rustic Scandinavian flair aren't these vintage buckets the cutest? I bet it would work just as fabulously with shiny new tin buckets and some bright trim for a bright pop of color or a more contemporary look ;o)

[found at The Little Scandinavian]

This adorable baby sock advent calendar is both classic and whimsical and just really hits a spot for me. The crisp green, white and red color scheme and the whimsy clothes line with wooden clothes pins is really right down my alley (and again, it's a concept with loads of potential to make it match your decorating style)
[found at Martha Stewart online]

feel the need for a bit more bling? Are you looking for a more adult approach? Maybe you have a persnickety teenager who doesn't want to be left out? I really like these pyramid shaped boxes turned advent calendar a lot - using fancy scrapbooking paper (Damask patterns, anybody?) and beautiful beads, this version of an advent calendar might be just what you were looking for:

[found at Rubberstamping.about.com]

And last but not least this little number here. What a great excuse to hop over to the craft store to pick up some sweet scrapbooking paper and other supplies to whip up this cute Advent calendar? I might just try it this year ...

[Found at Splitcoaststampers]

Do you use Advent calendars in your family? What does yours look like?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Steep learning curves

Boy, were we in for an eye-opening experience once we began our househunting adventure!
With most of our knowledge regarding house hunting and house buying courtesy of HGTV we quickly learning that the sun does shine brighter on TV! A lot brighter!

Oh, how we envied those couples who had a love-on-first-sight experience! How we marveled when a seller's response took just long enough for your latte to cool down!
How there wasn't really an audible super sonic boom when Sandra whipped out the signed contract!
Now, we weren't and aren't really miserable throughout our house hunting. For the most part it was and is an exciting experience, an adventure, and more often than not it's really my not-so-patient nature that creates a certain frustrated tension.
You know, you wanna get'er done!
Now!
So you can get to the fun bits!

House hunting, however, has kept me fairly preoccupied through the past months. In lieu of crafting and painting I spent hours browsing MLS listings and reading books and webpages on home buying, loan options and home inspections, Husband and I can now talk fairly intelligently about financing and have added new words to our vocabulary. We can decipher abbreviations such as WDO, etc. We are no longer afraid to get down on our knees and crawl halfway into the crawl space of a house. Aaaand we know where -that- smell comes from when a house hasn't been winterized properly.

We wear sensible shoes with thin flat soles to feel our way around a house for structural issues and give the geometry of space between floor and doors a critical eye. And we're still in love with the old homes, the historic details and the undeniable charm of our neighborhood.

What have you learned from your own househunting days? What was the biggest lesson you took with you?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Between naps: quick ottoman slipcover

Sometime earlier this year I hitched a ride on the crazy drop cloth train. I made drop cloth curtains for the living room, drop cloth faux roman shades for my little man and reupholstered my rocking chair and its ottoman with left over bits of drop cloth. I'm lovin' it! I'm really digging the neutral oatmeal color and the texture and my frugal heart beats a bit faster over the little price tag.
I just wish it were dirt and stain repelling *sigh*

Two boys and a cat can wreak havoc quickly on light colored fabrics and while window treatments are safe from them my little ottoman wasn't. For a moment I was going to reupholster it with a fresh piece of drop cloth - I was already armed with the staple gun - when I decided to whip out the sewing machine and give a slipcover a try.

I cut out one squarish piece for the top and a long narrow piece for the apron, then decided I didn't like it -that- plain and added a ruffle for a bit of understated cuteness (not too much - I'm not a frilly kind of girl, really).

Before: little rocking ottoman complete with hot chocolate, green play dough and other assorted nasty stains ... yuck!


After: All dressed up in her brand-new slipcover that can be taken off and thrown into the washing machine !! Woot!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Nomen est Omen

Within days of taking up the house hunting torch I was scouring the internet for promising listings. Frankly, I was kind of like this:

"I'll find those (listings) stairs. I'll whip their butt too. These (listings) stairs won't know which way they're going ... Take drastic steps. Kick it to the curb. Don't mess wit' me. I'm the (listings) Stair Master. I've mastered the (listings) stairs. I wish I had a (listing) step right here, right now. I'd step all over it ...?"

I've gotten so familiar with properties on the market that I can take you on a drive around the 'hood and point at for sale signs, giving you listing price, number of bed and bathrooms and probably other tidbits of househunting trivia. Pre-occupied, remember? And a little obsessing, I guess ... heh. All for a good cause though! Pinky Promise!

Anyways, I learned quickly that telling husband about the "house on 59th" (yes, yes, we did look outside of the 'hood, shame on us!) or the "4-bedroom on Walnut St" didn't help a lot. Addresses didn't mean anything to him unless I connected them to some stand-out feature of the property. That day the idea for nicknames was born.

Instead of referring to each listing by its address we ended up touring

- the "stinky pink"

- the "80s wonder"

- the "english country cottage with a pool"

- the "blue house"

- the "triplex"

- the "exploded cottage"

- the "Termite Temple"

- the "grey barn"

and many more.

So, tell me, which funky properties did you tour? Did you use nicknames to keep track of houses? Or are we just weird that way ...?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Killer projects: Door to Trumeau mirror

This has got to be one of the coolest projects in blogland ever:

Suzanne over at "Meridian Road" took an old door and turned it into a classy antique Trumeau mirror. Check out her tutorial here:
[Before]


[After]



Trumeau mirrors were all the rage in 18th century France and generally hung between two windows to bring in more light into dark rooms. They are usually rectangular with the mirror at the bottom and a highly decorated ornate top with friezes and other ornamentation.

Low price trumeaus usually sell for about $500 - $900, the next price group ranges in the $2,000 - $4,000 range and can go as high as $20,000 for a rare antique in excellent condition.

Here's a neat one I discovered on Etsy in Dakotas Vintage store and it's a steal at $75!

[picture Dakotas Vintage]

And here's another one found at Ruby Lane - Caroline's Collectibles for just $150 - love the very French garland ornament at the top


[Found at Ruby Lane]

Now all I need is my own house with an entry hall to house such a delectable piece. Or maybe it could go into the bedroom ... ? I might just go hunting for a door once this stupid cold wears off.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Our first offer: The Triplex

The house hunt continues ...

After looking at a number of different houses we finally felt comfortable and excited to put in an actual offer on "The Triplex".
Then a single family home, now chopped up into 3 apartments we were excited about the vast potential we saw: turning it back into a single family home we could keep the smallest of the three apartments (the one that came with its own entry at the side of the house) as convenient in-law-suite or possible rental suite to help pay our mortgage of more quickly.

It came complete with original fireplaces, gorgeous gleaming pine floors and simply massive closet space.

The fact that some scumbags came and tore out the ac compressors even worked in our favor as the seller dropped the purchase price to make up for us having to buy new ones. Every morning on our way to the bus stop we would wave good morning to our house.

Until the inspection ...

What a sad day in (the) history (of our house hunting endeavors). The inspection revealed a staggering list of issues. Serious issues, not just peeling paint or clashing color schemes. Ever seen the movie "The Money Pit"? Well, that's what the inspector called the triplex.

However, we didn't bail right away. We knew we're in for a ride buying a historic home, a house that could easily be our grandparent. You know, topped with that whole deferred maintenance issue when considering buying a REO. But this, this was just too much. Too many big ticket items, not to mention any secret surprises it might harbor, that even with our rehab loan we just didn't feel up to.

So we walked. With a heavy heart.

Would we ever find a little old house to have and to hold?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The House to haunt me


Here's the baby that started it all, back in April. Ain't she pretty (all solid oomph on the outside and sunny brightness on the inside)?

It had everything we could have asked for: charm, wood floors, porches upstairs and downstairs, plenty of bedrooms and enough yard to keep us busy.

So what went wrong? Why - in all those months - have we never ever gotten even close to putting in an actual offer? (Shocking, I know!) And why is it always coming back to flaunt its assets, teasing and tempting, before walking off with the other guy again?

When we first stumbled across it we were charmed, swept off of our feet and madly in love with it (for my husband, it was a first time kind of thing even). Yet, before we could nail down funds, figure out paperwork involved it went to auction and appeared to have been auctioned off right from under our nose. Oh the sadness! Meh :o(

Encouraged that there might indeed a small historic house out there in our fabulicious neighborhood that we could actually afford we teamed up with the bestest real estate agent Mrs T and kept looking. And looking. And looking. 3 months passed and while we'd finally found a property to move to our No 1 spot we hadn't yet committed to it. You know, that whole property virgin "there's got to be The One out there" feeling was holding us back from putting our money where our mouth was.

Then, one morning, there it was: the house! THE house. The house that started it all, it was back on the market at an even better price. I literally bounced from computer (I'd been browsing MLS listings when it showed up as a new listing again) to husband's side babbling like crazy. The excitement! Maybe we had another shot at it!

Yeah ... this lasted for all of an hour before we were told it was already under contract.

Bleah.

Thee houzz, eet sold again.

To an investor. Who is renovating it. So he can put it on the market again.

Gah! I can't help but wonder just how many more times it will come back to haunt me? Somebody should tell it it's bad form to tease like that. Seriously.

Anyways, we have moved on even if we occasionally drive by with wistful sighs and bittersweet smiles. It did set us on our path and we still love it, but it's quite obviously not meant to become our house.

Right?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Blogging's what it's all about

Shortly into our quest for a home of our own we realized that watching HGTV doesn't really (unfortunately) prepare you for the crazy world of house-hunting home-buying realities.

Nuh-uh, it doesn't.

While I still love to watch HGTV's house-hunting shows I must say that our experience so far has been quite unlike anything we've seen on the screen: a seller's response in as little time as it takes you to finish your latte? I don't think so. The horror of having to wait 24 hours? Try waiting a week! Or two! Ugh!

Either way, recording our adventures in the real estate jungle for posterity (and our family's amusement) sounded like a fun idea. Plus, it'd keep me busy and distracted while having to wait for the slo-mo response of a seller's bank, for example.

Busy is good.
Can't get into trouble when busy.

Right! Sign me up!

Now, between family, work, home, Cub Scouts, househunting and upcoming holidays I'm not so sure how much time I can dedicate to updating daily. That probably isn't gonna happen, probably being the magic word.

So I thought about aiming for 3 posts a week: Monday, Wednesday and Friday. That's not saying there won't ever be Tuesday posts, Thursday rants or Sunday musings but I'm really not one for making promises I can't keep. Once this whole thing gains momentum or even achieves bad habit status, frequency might change but in the beginning I'd rather keep it low profile. What do you think?

Worth a shot?

And in the beginning was the word

Actually, it was more of a crazy idea than a word. Then again, most things start with a crazy idea, right?

One crazy idea had me falling head over heels in love with an American reporter, way back, when I was a German living in Germany. Hamburg, to be exact.

No amount of backpaddling got me out of his clutches and here we are, 8 years later, living in Florida with a 7 year old son, a cat, three guinea pigs, 2 hermit crabs and another crazy idea.

For most of these nearly 8 years we have been living in the same historic neighborhood. To us and our neighbors it's the best place in town: fabulous historic houses, old oak trees, green parks hinting at former grandeur and the coolest people in town living here. Granted, there are a few pockets around that still need some cleaning up, some houses that are hoping with bated breath to escape the bulldozer and wrecking ball and a few corners that are still too attractive to stragglers and hoodlums and wayward ladies than we would like but all in all The 'hood has come a long way and we're madly in love with it. So madly in love that we'd never consider moving unless we're leaving the state.

Moving to Springfield was a crazy idea but not the craziest yet. The craziest idea was born one day in spring when - innocently browsing Craigslist - I stumbled across a real estate listing.

  • In our 'hood.
  • For a cute historic 2-story home.
  • For a ridiculously low price.

Since it was April 1st I giggled maniacally and emailed the listing to my parents. Maybe they felt like investing in real estate in Florida? (reporters unfortunately don't make oodles of money, nor do part-time translators/administrative assistants most of the time). I really didn't expect anything to come out of this idea, really! Imagine my surprise when my parents did declare interest! Bah-hah?!?

To make a long story short: while this house deal fell through (it went to auction shortly after we discovered it and paperwork does take longer than expected) it definitely set us on our current quest for a little old house for ourselves. This blog is to share the adventures along the way, good and bad, the learning experiences and the angle of our learning curve, the dos and donts and hopefully, one day, the renovation stories and decorating mishaps of our first home.

Wanna come along for the ride?