Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Inspection

Today we had the inspection of the house we're going to buy. It was nice to have so much time to look around and think about where we want to put things, and to realize our furniture will fit. :) The actual inspection took longer than I expected (the inspector was very thorough and very good at explaining everything to us) but I learned a lot.

The best news is that house is great shape. Because they used real wood, cement, etc. the construction is strong, the walls are straight, etc. They don't use such good building materials today!

The only problems the inspector found were:
1. The garbage disposal doesn't work
2. The gas wall heater in the sunroom won't light
3. The logs in the gas fireplace in the basement need to be updated
4. The attic insulation was installed upside down (with the paper side up, so the paper needs to be slit)
5. Wall plugs in the kitchen and bath need breakers added
6. Smoke detectors need to be replaced and CO2 detector needs to be added

We're asking the seller to fix the first two. Roger and Dad can fix everything else (such little things!) and add a second bath (shower, toilet, and sink) in the basement. We also want to add a sump pump alarm, just in case.

The appraiser comes tomorrow. Now that it's starting to seem real, I'm so excited about moving I can hardly wait! We've asked our realtor to arrange the closing ASAP so we can move ASAP. I'll be so relieved to get away from our noisy neighbors and into our own house at last!

I'm also looking forward to meeting the seller. Given her collection of Dept. 56 villages and the amount of counted cross-stitch on her walls, we seem to have a lot in common! I might consider buying some of her Dickens Village and I want her to tell me how to care for the beautiful plants/landscaping, gazebo, etc. They have put so much work into making the yard lovely and I want to keep it that way.

I still can't believe we're finally about to become homeowners!

Monday, December 28, 2009

My Favorite Electronic Book Gadget: The Kindle

For Christmas my dear husband gave me a Kindle (second generation) book reader. This thing is every bit as cool as Amazon claims: light, intuitive (so much I can't help wonder if Apple designed it!), and addictive. I'll never give up printed books completely, but I *love* reading on my Kindle. The screen really is crisp and easy to read (unlike a backlit eye-strain-inducing computer screen). Best of all, it can hold TONS of books, magazines, blogs, and newspapers.

New "hardback" books are usually $9.99. New "paperbacks" are usually around $6 -- but public domain books (Shakespeare, Poe, etc.) are free or very cheap. Where was the Kindle when I was hauling around a thirty pound Shakespeare textbook? :) If you keep an eye out you can find new promotional paperbacks (temporarily free).

In addition to classics and murder mysteries I "splurged" on a couple of very helpful, inexpensive books:

1. The Complete User's Guide To the Amazing Amazon Kindle 2: Tips, Tricks, & Links To Unlock Cool Features & Save You Hundreds on Kindle Content by Stephen Windwalker $0.99

2. Kindle Shortcuts, Hidden Features, Kindle-Friendly Websites, Free eBooks & Email From Kindle: Concise User Guide for Kindle 2 (US & International), DX, 1, iPhone & iPod by Aaron Steinhardt PhD $0.25

From these I learned about how to access Project Gutenberg, free books and audio, keyboard shortcuts, and hidden features (like the calculator, Minesweeper game, and Go game). About the same time I also discovered Sudoku Volume 1: Interactive Sudoku Puzzles for Kindle 2 and Kindle DX and Word Morph Volume 1: transform the starting word one letter at a time until you spell the ending word (Word Puzzles Optimized for Kindle) -- both for just $0.01 each. Who knew you could play these games on a Kindle?

Interested in Kindle fiction? I recommend Stephen King's UR ($2.99) and The Gift of Murder (a $7 mystery anthology which features "The Kindle Did It!" by Gail Farrelly -- and profits go to Toys for Tots).

As you can see from the photos (courtesy of Amazon), the Kindle is light and comfortable to hold. I love curling up with my Kindle. It's so easy to use, I really do forget about the hardware and just enjoy the story -- just as advertised.

I love my new Kindle so much that I named it: Miss Marple (because it appears so cozy and simple, yet it knows so much more than you expect). I supposed the same logic could apply to Lord Peter (sophisticated, elegant, and knows so much more than you expect) but apparently I like to assume my gadgets are female. (Ask me about my car, Christine.)

For those who know I only like Miss Marple on TV (not in print), I can't explain this choice. The name just seems to fit!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

This was too funny not to share:

To All My Democratic Friends:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2010, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere . Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wish.

To My Republican Friends:

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ 2010.

Seriously, I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and safe, happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Miracle on 34th Street

I still don't quite believe it, but we are about to become homeowners! (I've always wanted a house. To get one at Christmas is just like The Miracle on 34th Street!) The seller accepted our bid on the ranch I fell in love with. Photos and specs are below.

We can get out of our apartment lease four months early, so we'll probably move in March. I'm simultaneously excited and numb. I'll let you know when it finally feels real!

Brick Ranch in City of Davison. Many updates - Huge add on Family Room, Large Deck w/ Gazebo. 2 Car Garage, Finished Basement, Newer Roof, Electrical, Central Air, Fenced back Yard with Shade Galore ... Must See Home!

Built in 1956 (but in better shape than some new houses we saw!).
Lot size 70 x 136
Home size 1331 sq ft.
Master Bedroom: 11.4 x 11
2nd: 11 x 11
3rd: 11.4 x 9
Kitchen 12.2 x 11
Great Room 20.9 x 13.9
Family Room (Sunroom) 19.6 x 11.8
Downstairs Rec Room (w/gas fireplace) 23.4 x 12.6
Hobby Room (Workshop) 14.9 x 12.8
Laundry and storage room 35.6 x 11.1

Friday, December 18, 2009

Another Reason I Hate Renting

This morning the toilet in our master bath backed up. No amount of plunging cleared it, so I called maintenance as soon as the office opened. They promised to send someone right away but warned me "There's a service charge if it's not our fault."

"Service charge?" I asked.

"Yes, a service charge. It's $125 if it's not our fault." I started to wonder why she kept repeating this phrase.

"We only flush toilet paper," I said. "How could that be our fault?"

"We'll send the maintenance guy right away to assess the situation," she said, implying once again that it mus be our fault.

When I relayed this conversation to my husband he said, "We're not paying $125 effing dollars for this!"

I agreed, thinking of the bid I sent the realtor last night while waiting for the maintenance guy. We're guessing they have lots of residents with kids who try to flush toys, so this is now the standard reply for toilet problems.

The maintenance arrived shortly thereafter and it took two minutes for him to plunge the toilet, no service charge. Apparently I just need a different plunger. Still, the situation was just another reminder of how ready I am to move to a house.

More Houses

The adventure continues: Wednesday we looked at more houses.

First up was an older Cape Cod (1949). This is the house we wanted to see last time but the realtor was unable to contact the residents. It was nice but the wood floors in two rooms needed finishing (they had been sanded recently) and the paint needed touching up in some rooms. Bonuses: OK kitchen, LOTS of storage, big closets, 2 baths, and two rooms upstairs that would make nice offices. Negatives: the yard is very small (no room for a sunroom). The linolium on the stairs to the basement is peeling and the tile in the basement is probably asbestos (and would need to be covered/sealed). This house is my second choice.

I fell in love with the second house: a ranch with a wonderful sunroom, deck with gazebo, and finished basement. The yard is a nice size and nicely landscaped. We also really like the neighborhood: all brick houses from the 1950s, all well-maintained with low turnover. This is the kind of neighborhood people stay in. Negatives: there's only one bathroom. (Hey, how hard can it be to add a second bath? Roger and his dad used to build houses.) I put in a bid on this one last night. Wish me luck! I'm praying really hard...

The third house was a new home in a new subdivision. No trees or sidewalks, but the online photos looked great: large master bedroom/bath/walk-in closet, a wonderful kitchen and great room with fireplace, 3 baths, and huge beautifully finished basement. Sadly, the house is now bank-owned and recently had water standing in the basement. That meant that the basement had been stripped AND still had mold. I'm so allergic to mold I barely saw this house. A few minutes indoors and my eyes and throat were itching. This one is a definite no go.

The next house on our list was a split level in the township. It had a severe mold problem so we didn't even try to go there.

The most interesting house was next. It was originally built in the 1800s! It had a new kitchen but everything else needs lots of TLC (a definite no go term in my book). The second level was in good shape but there was water at the base of the basement stairs. We looked in the basement out of curiosity after the realtor told us the support poles were logs. Yup, logs were holding the floors up. Under the oldest part of the house the basement was fieldstone on one wall and something that had been painted white on the other walls, smoothed logs maybe? Nice yard but this was another definite no go.

The last house was a ranch just a few doors away from our apartment, on a busy and partially commercial section of Irish Rd. Traffic made getting in and out of the driveway a major pain. The house itself was a nice 3 bedroom 1.5 bath ranch with partially finished basement. The kitchen was really nice but the renter wasn't kidding when they said the house was messy. Judging by the toys covering most of the floors, we're guessing they had three kids. It had nice deck and huge back yard; the field behind it was included, so there was a lot of land. Negatives: one room in the basement (probably painted by a tween or teen) was black with rainbow-colored designs. It was far out, man. The waterheater was unusually small for a house that size. Given the traffic problem, this was a no go.

I really, really want the ranch and am praying the owner accepts the bid, but I expect her to make a reasonable counter-offer.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

House Hunting

Yesterday the realtor took us to see three houses. I had no idea house hunting would be such an adventure! I'm so new to this that I'm glad Mom and Dad went with us.

The first house was a ranch three doors away from our dear friends John & Denise. It was small but nice. Denise met us there to point out things we might miss. I liked it but after our huge kitchen, it's going to be hard to get used to a small kitchen again. It did have 2 baths a partially finished basement, sunroom, and a 2.5 car garage. The best part about this house was the 50K price!

The second house was a Cape Cod that was listed at 99K and was about to be re-poed by the bank. It was larger than the ranch and had some interesting spaces (like the second floor of the 1.5 floors). Frankly, I can't actually remember much about this house except that the rooms were small but it did have a garage and 1.5 baths. I think I'd find it more interesting if the price were lower.

The last house was a ranch in the neighborhood I grew up in. Although it's currently listed at $107K, I think I liked this one the best. It was larger (1200 sq ft) with 4 bedrooms, a finished basement with day light windows, and a gazebo. The really interesting part was what we found in the house: an intercom system ("Scotty, I need more power!"), an incinerator in the basement (I'd never actually seen one before!), and boat (yes, a boat, specifically speedboat used for water skiing) in the garage, and chest freezer full of frozen food. Weird. Bonuses: gas fireplace, and new furnace/air, new hot water heater, and new roof. The realtor says the price is probably about to drop, so I'll definitely want to keep an eye on this house!

There were two more houses we wanted to see but couldn't. One had a bid (and only allowed one bidder at a time) and the other was still occupied. The realtor couldn't reach the residents in time for us to see it yesterday. That means the search will continue -- and next time I'll remember to take my camera and to take notes!

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Washer Incident

I spent Thanksgiving week crying about Saffron and have been numb ever since -- and frantically trying to work on my end-of-the-semester grading. Since I teach writing, I don't have to give final exams and the sooner I get done grading, the sooner my Christmas break begins.

Roger suggested we go up north for the weekend. Everyone I talked to thought this was a good idea. I could relax as much as I wanted, work as much as I wanted, and I wouldn't expect to see Saffron everywhere I looked. It was a good idea! We have wonderful time enjoying Traverse City and I even got a substantial amount of grading done.

All that relaxation disappeared when got home and discovered water standing in our hallway (in front of the laundry closet), in Roger's office, and in the master bath. I immediately called maintenance was told that my upstairs neighbor* overloaded her washer (apparently with a comforter, bedspread, AND pillows), then left the house. The washer was so full the sensor couldn't tell when to shut the water off, so the water just kept running. In addition to our apartment, the one next door also flooded. Since there's cement between the floors, the water came in through the smoke alarms and the vent/light in the bathroom.

I was furious at the mess AND at maintenance for not calling Mom and Dad. Before we left town I called the office to let them know we'd be out of town for the weekend and Mom and Dad would be stopping by daily to care for the cat. I gave them Mom and Dad's names and phone number specifically in case of a plumbing emergency so Mom and Dad could be here to prevent the cat from escaping if maintenance needed to come in.

All this was news to the maintenance guy. He did know the apartment next to us was flooded but he didn't even try to contact us?! (No message on our answering machine.)

After soaking up all the waters, then washing all the towels, I collapsed in bed -- just as the smoke alarm started beeping.

I called maintenance again. Apparently smoke alarms beep when they get wet. Taking out the battery didn't help, so we called maintenance AGAIN to learn how to pull the wires (the battery is only a backup). Even then, the damn thing continued to beep far longer than I expected. I was ready to wrap it in a towel and stuff it in a draw (or leave it on the porch) when it finally stopped.

Once again, I collapsed in bed. A few minutes later, Roger informed me that the smoke detector in his office was dripping again. I think I would have cried at this point if not for my anti-anxiety medicine.

The first thing Monday, I called the rental office to 1) make sure there's a note in our file saying no current or future water damage was our fault and 2) to find out why Mom and Dad's contact info wasn't passed along to the on-call maintenance guy. I also complained about the downstairs neighbor** kids who like to ring doorbells and disappear.

My next calls were to the bank and the realtor. It's time to house hunt!

* These are the neighbors directly above us, the ones with noisy kids who fall out of bed frequently and play Wii a LOT.

** These children are apparently unattended while the parent works afternoons/evenings.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Good-Bye, Dear Little Friend

Our precious little Saffron died in her sleep the day after Thanksgiving, just two days after my last post. She was sleeping peacefully in one of her favorite beds under the Christmas tree and seemed to know Roger and I were both with her. She coughed very delicately a few times and just slipped away peacefully. I’m thankful for her peaceful passing and so glad she was home with us. I know we did all we could to give her a wonderful life but I miss my sweet little girl already and always will. I like to think she’s already in heaven with Sable.

Thank you for all your love and support during her illness, from all of us.

Cathy and Roger (and Sophie the oblivious cat who nevertheless howled at the moment of Saffron’s death)