31 October 2007

thinking of next year's yard and plants...

It's about that time of year, when all the outdoor plants are pretty much dead or in the process of dying off. But not this one:

This group of bushy yellow flowered plants are called Melampodium. I'd never heard of it before, but this spring when picking out seed packets (I always buy way too many), I decided to give it a try. The seedlings came up pretty quickly, but by the time they were ready to transplant, they were looking pretty sickly. I figured, what the heck, I'll stick them in the ground, they might make it. Boy did they ever! I think I planted them too closely, though, because I underestimated them. I think I'll get two packets of Melampodium seeds for next year.

Also still going strong is the Spanish Flag Vine I planted as my first attempt to disguise the chain link fence between my yard and the printing press factory next door.

Other things I want to remember to plant next year:
  • Gazania- Daybreak Mix- they have the prettiest striped petals
  • Cosmos- orange from seeds collected from this year's volunteers
  • Marigolds- also collected seeds from this year's crop- but only yellows and reds, I'm tired of the orange ones, and plenty will come up on their own- they did this year
  • Sweet Millions Cherry Tomato- only one plant this time (mom!)
  • Black-Eyed Susan Vine- I'll try again, I think they could have been tended better
  • Narsturtium- also still going strong right now- didn't really think they would because I had trouble with them last year- this year just tossed a packet of seeds into an empty spot and surprise!
  • White Salvia- so pretty at twilight, and really took off, got big and bushy
Wow, that sounds like it should keep me busy. I'm sure I'll find more by spring....

30 October 2007

an Oliver Before and After

Oliver, sleeping on the bottom step, his first day with us at age 7 weeks and 2 days.

And now, at age 2 years and 3 months, that step is still a favourite spot.

27 October 2007

Auction Day

So, the day of the auction comes. It is a rainy Thursday evening in May. I work until 5 that day, mom and I grab some fast food on the way home.

All day I'm talking to my friends at work, telling them about the house.

I'm still not sure about it.

I wish I felt strongly one way or another. Should we buy, shouldn't we?

Mom has made financial arrangements to have the 10% down that we'll need if we buy tonight. On the way home, I'm really getting cold feet. I'm pretty sure we should just go for the experience, just to observe. Neither mom or I had ever bid on anything at an auction. Ever. In our whole lives. Not even a single piece of depression glass.

We meet my Nan and mom's friend Joyce there, around 6, and we are able to walk through the house before the bidding starts. At this point, I'm really certain we should not buy this house tonight.

A wicked spring storm is rolling in. Looks like we may get more than just a bit of rain this evening.

As I'm showing my Nan the nice features of the house, and we head up the stairs, I pause halfway up, and I turn. And I look down across the entry and living room. And it just strikes me. I want this house. I want to live here. I fell in love. Just like that.

Quickly show Nan the upstairs rooms, including the ugly bathroom, which mom and I had previously discussed that would have to go. Just count on extra money for that. The rest I could live with, for now.

Nan goes out to the front porch, where the owners, auctioneer, potential bidders, and curious neighbors have gathered. She makes herself at home on their porch swing, where she'll casually sit and rock back and forth during the whole auction.

I go in search of mom, my adrenaline pumping by now. I must have this house, and I have to tell mom just how much I had changed my mind in the past few minutes. I find her and Joyce in the basement, and we sit on the basement steps, while I frantically tell her in hushed tones. We agree that she'll be in control of the bidding. I'm just way too excited.

So out to the front porch for the bidding. Full out thunderstorm is raging. So amid the rumbles thunder and occasional flashes of lightning, the auctioneer begins.

I'm standing next to mom, tense. The auctioneer starts out kind of high, gets no takers, goes lower. And lower. And lower. Finally so low, he's down in my original price range. I don't want to appear too anxious, but I feel like poking mom. Why isn't she bidding? She looks cool and calm.

The auctioneer stops. Brief whispers with the owners. They excuse themselves, go inside the house. Consultation. Thunder rumbles, storm is moving off a bit now. The auctioneer and owners reappear.

The auctioneer says the owners must sell for a certain named amount, or the house will not be be sold tonight. Will anyone give him that low amount? Nobody makes a move. Long, tense silence. One couple whisper to each other. Everyone looks around to see who will make the first move. I'm rigid. I've left the bidding up to mom. In my mind, I'm screaming to her "we cannot let this house slip through our fingers, not at this price!" Finally, just when it looks like the auctioneer is about to give up, mom says sure, she'll give him the minimum. Anyone else? The other couple ups us by one thousand. The auctioneer looks back at mom. She offers another hundred. He pauses, surprised, says, okay, he wouldn't usually, but... I guess he figures he's not going to be able to get much more out of us. At one point, mom bids against herself, and the auctioneer tells her to be quiet. Back and forth a by hundreds with the other couple. A frenzy of auctioneer-speak, and SOLD.

And he is looking at us.

I forgot to breathe.

Oh. My. God.

I just bought a house.

House Tour: Entry After

And today, in October 2007...

...here is Oliver, always ready to greet anyone coming in the front door.

We still want to replace the front door, and we have the perfect door propped in the basement, courtesy of my grandparents (found it in their barn, used to be on their house, grandma got tired of it, replaced). Gone are the thermal drapes and window cling. We think the banister and stairs look better without paint and carpet.

Oliver isn't so crazy about all that slippery wood floor, and he prefers the carpets because a doggie gets better traction for running and tugging.

House Tour: Entry Before

In September 2003...

...the screen door that opened oposite from the (not original) front door, the mailbox that was mounted too high for somone only 5'4" to reach the bottom...

...the inside of the front door, complete with no less than 3 types of ill-fitting "drapes", including pinch-pleated thermals on the sidelights, 'cause you know how drafty those non-operable windows can be...

...yes, people, that is gen-u-ine stick on "texture" on that transom...

...now, that banister looks better today, but it was still pretty even then...

...and say goodbye to that natty tan carpet.

House Tour: Outside After

Now, in October of 2007...

...the porch is messier and full of porch furniture, the plants aren't as tidy, and there is a 2 year old golden retriever who likes to dig in the yard and flower beds. There is a new kitchen window. The cracks in the sidewalk, steps, and porch have gotten worse.
Otherwise, not much has changed in four years.

House Tour: Outside Before

In September of 2003...

23 October 2007

How I came to buy this bungalow

Okay, let me give you a little background on my story with the house.

Back in the winter of 2003, I decided it was time for me to make a decision. Rent or buy? It may seem strange to consider buying a house, since I had never even lived on my own before, but I had a finite amount of money in savings, and my income was (and still is- what can I say? I love my job) relatively low. So I made the decision to buy a house. I had enough for a 20% down payment on a modest house. If I had chosen to rent I would have spent all my monthly income and slowly frittered away my entire savings. To buy a house was the right choice for me.

After several visits to the financial people, and a bit of financial finagling, I was approved for a loan. Next, visit the realtor. Many, many showings of houses, mom and I realized that houses in my price range were not really habitable. Black mold is not cool, people. And I just adore indoor plumbing. We reassessed the situation, and mom decided she would help me. We go back to looking at houses, with a slight increase in the price range.

Remember, the interest rates were at an all time low by the spring of 2003, and the market was seriously, crazy hot. I remember seeing an adorable cottage on my way to work one morning, calling my realtor immediately, thinking of what to tell my supervisor so I could go see this house, like, now. Twenty minutes later she calls me back and says they've already accepted an offer, and that the house only went on the market that morning. Two hours. Crazy. Discouraging.

During this time I would drive around just looking for "house for sale" signs.

Late one afternoon in May I drove down a street in my town that I rarely used, and spotted the "auction" sign. Pulse races. Drive by slowly. Nice, big porch. Are there any leaflets? No? Down the block, turn around, pass slowly again, catch the date of the sale, drive to the next intersection, turn. There is back yard alley access. Cool. Down the alley- oops, dead-end alley doesn't go all the way to the house. No place to turn around, back out of the alley, out to the side street, turn again, approach the house slowly. Beginning to feel like a stalker. Someone behind me annoyed by my slow driving, forced to pull over close to the house. Quickly jot down the vitals: auction company and date. Speed home. Google to the rescue. Small auction company actually has a website and a page for this house! They are calling it a "1920's 2 Story Cape Cod style home 3 bedrooms on a 40'x150'". Super excited, too chicken, I make mom call, she sets up an appointment.

Take dad along to see house. He knows houses. He built his own. He does plumbing, heating, and metal roofing for a living.

So we go to see this house one evening, and it is nice. I like it, but I don't know if I really love it. Am I just getting discouraged by not finding anything with the realtor. It's not like a pair of shoes, you get something you kind of like, it does the job, but you know you'll keep looking for the perfect pair: you know, the ones that go with pants and skirts, are comfortable enough to wear all day, and are still really cute. This was going to by my house for a long, long time. Cold feet? Probably.

Dad says it is a good solid house, and gives it his seal of approval. Mom and I go home to think about it. We aren't sure, and we have plenty of time to decide, the auction isn't for several weeks.

So, we'll just mull this over for a bit...

22 October 2007

Coming Soon...

... the official House Tour Before and After photos. I promise. I'm just waiting to get the before photos scanned, and I finally have the house clean enough to take after photos!
Just like Oliver, I know you are waiting patiently for someone to let you into the bungalow...

07 October 2007

Major Biddle and his wife

Update: not Major Biddle and his wife Eliza.
Major Biddle and a seemingly unrelated Sweedish opera singer named Jennie Lind.

This is Major Biddle and his wife Eliza.

They came from my grandmother's house. Just like about 80% of the things in my house. I don't really know anything about them, except that they are just art prints, made to look like an oil painting with little swirls all over the surface. I wouldn't even know who they were if it weren't for the "Major Biddle" stamp on the back of his picture. There is nothing stamped on the back of her picture, but I found her name and the artist Thomas Sully after a bit of googling.

Anyone out there know more about the Major and his wife?