Monday, September 29, 2008

Lack of Understanding

I went to Trader Joe's today during lunch-time to get lunch for the rest of the week and if you have ever been to TJ's you know that the cashiers are probably beaten into engaging customers in friendly chit-chat. Well, I took the bait today when she asked me how my day was going. I had just learned, maybe 15 minutes before, that the bail-out package failed to pass in the House. I said I was a little worried that this could get really bad. The cashier and the lady in line behind me seemed to think this was great. They were certain that things would be fine - sure things would hurt a little bit but if things were going to change this was the way to go. They were totally nonplussed about this and, again, seemed happy it failed to pass.

I didn't press it further because I am pretty sure they didn't study economics and finance in college and was thinking I should have kept my mouth SHUT, but I tend to have a problem keeping said mouth shut. But I came to the realization that people aren't very good at looking further down the road or outside of their personal situation. They hear "$10,000 per family for this bail-out" and from that point, nothing else really gets through.

Now, I can't say I am happy about having to bail-out Wall Street. In fact, as a Democrat it probably burns me up MORE since I DON'T favor deregulation of the financial system. If there was more oversight, this problem might be smaller, or even non-existent. But, I have to say, I think we need to do something. Those two ladies at TJ's probably have no idea that the credit markets are frozen. Nevermind the stock market--businesses can't get loans! In a down-turn, getting loans to keep your business running is essential! Some business even use short-term loans to make payroll. What is a business going to do if they can't pay their employees? Um. LAY THEM OFF. More jobs lost. People will buy fewer things, causing a chain reason of EVEN MORE JOBS LOST. Explaining that in the Trader Joe's checkout line seemed pointless.

I don't know, folks. I don't want to be all Doom and Gloom on you but I'm starting to get worried.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Weekend Update

In case you thought I was McLying (ha! couldn't help myself) about the kitchen carnage, here are some horrifying pictures for your viewing pleasure. When you see them, you will be thankful that you don't have to live in my house.

Here is the kitchen before. You can see the holes from the re-routing of pipes after the slab leak. My cute table and chairs, which, shockingly, sold the same day I posted it with minimal flaky Craigslist drama.


Here are some demo-in-action pictures.

Just before all hell broke loose...


The Husband's buddy from work, helping us out. He likes to demo stuff which was convenient for us.


And here is me, removing the 80's fluorescent light fixture - yes the power was off. I love that face I'm making. That is my "concentration" face. I don't even realize I'm doing it.


And, in case you were wondering about the how 80's my house really is, this green earring fell out of the cabinets somehow (not sure where it was hidden all this time), as they were being taken down. As June would say: 1987 called, it wants it's earring back.


Finally, where we are at now, after a weekend of Tearing Shit Up.

Hello, Insulation. You make for very nice mouse housing, as we discovered.


RIP, Ugly Light Box.


It is gone. It added no structural integrity to the rest of the house. It's raison d' etre was to be ugly. The annoying thing remaining from the light box is that a shload of electrical is running through the last of the 2x4s running along the top of the walls. That's going to be a bitch to deal with.

Still more demo to be done. Rest of the drywall has gotta go. Remainder of the cabinets need to be removed after the plumber comes and deals with water lines. Then we'll be able to start putting everything back together.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Long Time No Post

I am mostly recovered from my trip to NYC. Aside from the fact that travelling always screws up my digestive system (if you know what I mean), I had a great time and the weather was perfect. I think we brought some California with us since it was pretty much the same temperature and even low humidity.

I have to say that JetBlue is one of the better domestic airlines, in fact, best I have flown since they started getting all penny-pinching cheapskate on us consumers. I was able to watch HGTV on the way there, but, for whatever reason, HGTV was BROKEN on the way back. It was a travesty. So I watched Food Network and CNN. We sat next to this VERY INTENSE Yankee fan on the way back home. Nice guy but a little bit crazy, I think. He had that Rainman-ish quality and he was obsessed with these two hats and framed Yankee picture, he kept pulling it out and looking at it and rearranging it. When he was eight he said he ran away from home to go the Yankee Stadium. From California. And thought this was no big deal. And, apparently, he pays for season tickets every year and only goes to like two or three games (since he is out here in CA). He keeps the other tickets, never sells them. He had extra tickets for the last games at the stadium this past weekend, and didn't sell them (we're talking thousands of dollars, people). Thank Tiny-Infant-Baby-Jesus that my husband is not that insane. You have to be grateful for some things in life and mine is that my husband is not certifiably nuts.

Moving onto the house, I have to part with my black round table and chairs that were in my nook. I posted them on Craigslist, so I am dealing with that bullshit again. But they will have no place in my house anymore once we finish the kitchen. Hopefully they sell fast so the Craigslist Flakes can leave me alone. The other house-related odd thing was that I opened my mail last night and found that the City had reimbursed me for 80% of the fees I initially paid for the permit. I was shocked. I fully expected them to keep it and I almost feel guilty they didn't. I mean, in the end it was maybe like $40 that they kept and I feel like whoever reviewed the plans and wrote up all the corrections surely did more than 40 dollars worth of work. The Husband told me to stop worrying about it. I guess I am surprised they are that honest to give me most of it back after I canceled.

And the yogurt I ate this morning, which had an expiration date of October, mind you, so it should be fine, has sent my intestines into gas production at ludicrous speed. Sure, I have a bit of lactose intolerance, but generally, yogurt is fine and it was fine all last week. But I guess the fact that it sat there over the weekend meant it was in a "perfect" state for my system. Now I am in that all-too-familiar-and-less-than-enviable state of Work Gas where you can't really let our your trapped air unless you really don't give a shit about your cube neighbors.

So much for my attempts at eating those yogurt cultures that are supposed to work wonders for your health. Works the wonders of flatulence for me.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Vacations

If there is ever a time that vacations kind of suck is when you are in the middle of a renovation project. If only I hadn't wasted time on the "addition" idea, twiddling my thumbs, scratching my ass, waiting for the City to get back to me about the impossible permits, I might be almost done with this mess. Instead, I have just begun.

So, the having-to-leave for 4 days, means a valuable weekend of kitchen project progress is lost. And what's more unfortunate is that the in-laws are coming sometime near the end of October. Oh, Joy! Not really. But yeah, it is likely we will be without a kitchen unless we can turn on the hyper-jets and move at "Ludicrous Speed" ("Ah, buckle this! Ludicrous Speed! GO!" **). I sincerely hope we can make good progress in the next few weeks or else my patience will probably be worn paper-thin by the end of their visit. Then again, it'll mean less dishes I will get stuck washing as we won't be able to eat any big meals at our house. I can't tell you how much kitchen cleaning, dish-washing, and overall picking-up-after-people that I do when they are at our house. I tends to bring me to the edge of the cliff of Bitchy Instability. Like, Want to Bite Your Head Off When You Speak To Me. It's all I can do not to explode when no one is picking up after themselves, leaving shit everywhere, and I am in a perpetual, infinite loop of cleaning.

Perhaps I should remodel the kitchen every year... In-laws coming to town? Let's get the sledgehammer!!!

Anyway. Back to vacations. We are off to NYC so that the Husband can go see the Yankees play at Yankee Stadium since they are tearing it down after this season. The one ticket costs more than I paid for my apron sink. Like over $200 for one person. I personally think it's insanity, but, eh, what I can I do. His mind is made up. I told him it's an ugly stadium and nothing special (I've been there several times) but he has to see for himself. I'll get to visit my old pals from college and I'm totally heading to the alma mater, to see what it all looks like now. Also, I will be purchasing paraphernalia, as all my college-branded gear is now more than 8 years old. My car sticker is starting to look truly decrepit. I know. It's kind of crazy that I still have such a "thing" for my school, but, as much as I broke my ass working/studying/sorority-politicking and had depressing moments during college, it really was such a fun time in my life. The good memories always float to the top. It's one of the few decisions I have made in my life that I have not second-guessed.

More brain-dumping for you next week!

** If you are scratching your head, perplexed, at this point, that quote is "Dark Helmet" (a.k.a. Rick Moranis) from Spaceballs. Barf: "They've gone to plaid!". Yeah. I know way too much about that movie.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Carnage Has Begun

And I don't have any pics for you. I know. I suck. This is what happens when I blog at work.

Anyway.

So, this weekend, we attacked the tile floor with a rotary hammer with chisel attachment, and, by God! does that thing rip them up. Eyeball estimate is that we removed about 200 square feet. We are more than half way done ripping out all the tile and, in fact, we can stop for now, as we removed all of it from the kitchen. Everywhere else is just a bonus - we can get to that later.

The unfortunate part of this process is that mortar is stuck on the slab like jujubees to your teeth. The rotary hammer does a decent job getting it off, but it's rather time consuming. Also, it seems that if you WHACK! it with a baby sledge hammer and/or cold chisel, it will come off. This is also time very consuming and tiring. But progress is being made. I have been taking 30 minutes or so each day since to chisel away at it, which is dusty as all get-up, but it's coming off.

And the dust situation is bad. I wore a dust mask for some time this weekend during demo, but they really don't make them for small people. It didn't fit right and I found I was unconsciously making weird mouth and jaw movements to keep it from hitting under my lower eyelids. This was giving me a jaw headache, so I gave up and took it off. I ended up with mortar dust all inside my nose hairs. Nice. At least they are doing their job, collecting particles before they hit my lungs.

I hit the Depot this morning and ordered me some windows. Three windows = $502. Windows aren't cheap. No sir. These three are different from the rest of the house (white vinyl versus black aluminum). So, my plan for the rest of them is to replace a two or three at a time, so that I can spread the pain across many months. I'd much rather get poked with a needle each month for a year than get whacked over the head with a wrench and pay six grand at once.

If only I were Hermoine Granger with my magic wand and could fix all this up in a jiffy. [Sigh]

Monday, September 15, 2008

Holy Friggin' Moly

504 points. The Dow is down 504 points today. The economy is doing so badly that it took oil down with it. Over the past several months, oil prices were part of the reason the stocks would get hammered as it meant everything would cost more, thus hurting companies' bottom-lines. And when oil would drop, stocks would go up. But now, we are so royally screwed that oil dropping has no effect on the stock market. In fact, oil is dropping because we are screwed. Oil is not the reason we are in somewhat dire financial straits. Enough with the drill here, drill now bull-shit.

I am scared to think about my 401k. Thankfully I am not close to retirement and likely, we will recover from this valley in 5 years or so. I can't even imagine if I was looking to retire in 5-10 years, I'd be in a bit of a freak out, at this point. I mean, 4.4% loss in one single day is BAD. To put it in perspective, the last time we had a drop this large in the DOW was the September 17, 2001. The first day the markets opened after 9/11. Yeah. And how 'bout this:

"Art Hogan, chief market strategist for Jefferies & Co., said the magnitude of the financial industry fallout is unprecedented, and could only be compared to the Great Depression of the 1930s or the railroad bankruptcies of the 1800s."
Source: http://money.cnn.com/2008/06/11/news/economy/candidates_taxproposals_tpc/index.htm

Hmm. Fundamentals are strong, Mr. McCain? Right. I don't think so. But that's what he said today, while the markets were taking a dump all over the place. Sure, we'll recover. Eventually. But I hardly equate that to "strong fundamentals of our economy." And how many Americans will get burned in the process is another question.

And, so, here comes my shpiel of why John McCain is a bad choice for President, when it comes to the economy:

  1. McCain, like most Republicans, doesn't believe in governmental oversight of financial sectors. Well, folks, one of the primary reasons we are in this mess right now is the mortgage industry running amok. They had little to no rules to follow, and therefore, did whatever their greedy hearts desired. Sure, hindsight is 20-20, but had there been a bit more oversight, perhaps this situation might not be so severe or perhaps we'd have recognized the warning signs much sooner. Instead, it was the Wild West of mortgage lending and securitization. Unless McCain wants to prove he's a "maverick," it's likely he'll follow suit with the Republican cronies in favor of little to no regulation, which, clearly, has some major issues in practice.
  2. He will not get us out of Iraq quickly. If we take both of them for what they say (which, yes, that is difficult as they are politicians), Obama will get us out faster. This means less money borrowed from China, less money added to the deficit. Less SPENDING! I tend to think that the US Dollar is negatively impacted by the fact that we have to borrow like irresponsible credit card owners in order to pay for this war, thereby, taking on more and more risk, and things that are risky, tend to be cheaper (like our dollar).
  3. And, the most important tor me when it comes to economic policy, is that McCain will continue to give tax breaks to the rich. Obama's plan will give more money to people making less than 121K. This is most of the country. These are the people that will take that money and maybe spend it at Target, Wal-mart, the local mall, etc. Allowing the HUGE lower and middle class to have more money will likely let them spend more, thus bolstering our economy. I keep hearing that recessions are created by consumers not spending. Well, maybe, if you gave the VAST MAJORITY of consumers a little more money, they'd spend it. Giving most of the money to the rich is POINTLESS. I'm not even rich, but certainly, we make more than 112K and if you give me extra money you can bet your ass it won't be spent. It will be saved, because we are not deprived of anything. We are not living paycheck to paycheck. People making 30K or less, living paycheck to paycheck, they probably aren't buying things that I would have no issue buying. They can't get a latte at Starbucks once or twice a week, like I can. But, give them a little more money, maybe they'll buy some stuff that they couldn't before, instead of handing the money to the rich so they can just invest it offshore somewhere. Trickle down doesn't work! It's nice in theory, but after eight years of trickle down from Dubya, can you say that it's been working?

And in case you are curious, here are the two tax plans from both campaigns. So when you hear from McCain, that Obama will raise your taxes, unless your yearly income is more than 227K, he won't. It's a lie. And unless you make 600K or more, you likely won't notice the additional $12 tax increase under Obama.


MCCAIN OBAMA
Income Avg. tax bill Avg. tax bill
Over $2.9M -$269,364 +$701,885
$603K and up -$45,361 +$115,974
$227K-$603K -$7,871 +$12
$161K-$227K -$4,380 -$2,789
$112K-$161K -$2,614 -$2,204
$66K-$112K -$1,009 -$1,290
$38K-$66K -$319 -$1,042
$19K-$38K -$113 -$892
Under $19K -$19 -$567

Source:The Tax Policy Center

It's time for America to stop thinking of themselves and start thinking about the good of the country. I look at the table above, and I see that McCain will give me an nearly $1600 more per year than Obama will. But then, I look at the people making less than 19K, and John McCain will give them 19 whole dollars. Wow. So generous. Obama will give them $567. Guess what? Who do you think needs it more? Me or the poor schmuck making less than $19,000? I know what's right for the country, and it isn't for me to be selfish and want the money McCain promises to give me. I won't spend it. I'll just save it. I won't help the economy like the people living paycheck to paycheck will if they had this extra money. So, though McCain talks about "Country First", this sounds more like "Rich People First, Country Second."

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sometimes I Really Don't Get My Mother

Well, a lot of the time, really. But, generally, when it comes to money, I usually know what to expect from her. So, she called me Wednesday night, to ask about our kitchen project. As if she doesn't have enough stuff to worry about--well, she really doesn't have all that much to worry about, she is retired along with my father, but she worries about anything, including her daughter's money. I think I have it covered, but, try telling her that.

Anyway, so I tell her that the addition has been scrapped and explain the new plan. She is, of course, relieved that I won't be spending $30,000 (I have never heard of parents worrying about the finances of their grown, successful, adult children. It's unreal). What she was going to suggest was that instead of doing the addition with the money, buy a new car.

Huh?

I asked, "Why would we buy a new car right now?"

"Well, don't you have one car with 100,000 miles?"

"Yeah, and another with 99,000, but they are running fine. They can likely go to 200,000."

Apparently, when your car hits 100,000 miles you should get a new one. This coming from someone who I thought was one of the most frugal people ever to be deposited on this earth. The one that only buys $1.99 bottles of wine because $2.99 per bottle is too much. Won't redo anything in the condo, stuff that I would rip out in a heartbeat if I had to live there, like 80's brown carpeting and linoleum.

The reality is, when my parents cars hit 100K miles, they are usually at least 7 or 8 years old. Or more. Our cars are 4 years old, both 2004. And while they don't run like they did when they were brand new, they certainly run perfectly fine. Haven't had a single issue with my RAV4. The only thing I notice is the pick-up/acceleration has diminished a little bit, but so what? The Sentra has had a few more hiccups, but nothing major or even bothersome. The one issue we thought was the tranny last year, hasn't come back since. I see no point in replacing them.

Also, I think my mother doesn't realize that cars are babied out here in California. Back east, in Massachusetts, you have the winters to deal with and cars take a beating. Not here.

Well, now I can say that, for some things, I am more frugal than my mother!

That is a crazy statement, right there.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Counters!

Ok, folks, Girly Stuff peppered me with "what about the rest of the kitchen" questions last night, and so here we go! Oh, and the easy answer to the appliance question: because I am about saving the Moola, we are keeping our existing ones. The stove and refrigerator are less than 2 years old and are GE, a good brand. Dishwasher is in decent shape, a Maytag from the previous owners. The only appliance we'll buy new is an over-the-stove microhood, as we have only a fan right now. They are all white and I am OK with that. I do love the stainless steel appliances look, but who knows when it will be "out" like Avocado and Harvest Gold.

Anyway, countertops!

Well. Since, apparently, granite is no longer "the rage" that it used to be (at least that's what I heard on an HGTV's "What's My House Worth" when they were appraising a home in the Hollywood Hills. The realtor said it's no longer in, and composite or recycled surfaces was the new thing), we are going with a composite surface. Plus, after reading about how some granite slabs are radioactive (sure, it's rare, but whatever. One more thing to worry about), I'd rather go with a quartz composite surface like Silestone, Zodiaq, or Caesarstone. The Husband wants soapstone. It is beautiful, but cost may be an issue.

Anyway, Caesarstone has the best options for us since he doesn't like the way granite looks with the flecks and such (very picky man, I have). I grabbed a bunch of shots from the website and merged with my other materials. The "Sand Fossil" (Behr) is the paint that is going throughout the first floor. It's already in the family room. The rest of the stuff in the images should be self-explanatory.

What I have totally thrown out and not even sure why I grabbed them as options:

Caestone Jerusalem Sand:


Caesarstone Champagne Limestone:

What we are "Eh" on:

Caesarstone Lagos Blue (which is really in the Brown family):


Caesarstone Mocha:


Caesarstone Misty Carrera (I liked the idea of the marble look, but I'm not loving it with everything else):


What I like:


Caesarstone Rosemary (this one I like because it's sort of green-grey and for whatever reason, I am a green fan):


Caesarstone Pebble (probably my favorite. Not too dark, since the floor with be dark and I don't want too much dark with dark, but dark enough to give a contrast. Has that "concrete countertop" look):


What the Hubby likes:

Caesarstone Concrete (I'm ok with this one, though I don't like that the counter has no variation in "texture". It looks very uniform. plus, it's a little darker than I would have liked):


Caesarstone Raven (for me, this is too dark. I am not one for a dark kitchen. I would like this counter if we were going with white cabinets. Then, the cabinets would provide enough "light & bright" to contrast with the dark countertop):


And the piece d' resistance, his beloved soapstone:


I think if we find the soapstone does not cost our first born child (i.e. if is costs around $50/square foot, installed), that may be the one we choose as I do love natural materials and it would make the Huband very happy. Otherwise, it'll have to be a composite surface.

Any thoughts?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Some Materials

For the kitchen/first floor rehab, I am strongly leaning towards Saltillo tile for the flooring. The Husband is less inclined; I have little idea as to why, but he is not gung-ho about the Saltillo. My argument is (1) he says he hates ceramic/porcelain tile, so Saltillo is a natural stone, should be more acceptable to him, (2) he says Saltillo is better for outdoors, and my response is that is it is for both indoors and outdoors and has been used for both for many years, and (3) the exterior of our house is Spanish style, so Saltillo is a good match.

I don't know too many men that want so much input into home decor - I feel like everyone else's husbands just let their wives decide, yet mine seems to care an awful lot. Anyway. Here is the front of our house:


Here are some pictures I stole from Flickr and Google Images of rooms with Saltillo tile:





If it isn't too annoying to install (and not cost prohibitive), I'd like to do little 2-inch inlay accent tiles with something like the tile below. I love the whole turquoise and red clay combination.


The store that carries this little tile has so many beautiful designs, and turns out it's only an hour drive from our house. They are not cheap, though. Eh.

Several other things need to be decided. One is the living/dining room flooring. Yet another complaint from the husband is that tile throughout the first floor is too much. I'm quite ok with it just because it's easier to clean and is durable. But, because I try to keep an open mind and be diplomatic, I am thinking we could doing some hardwood in that area, but using a high quality click-together hardwood (not laminate!) that we can install easily, like this stuff, and then upstairs will eventually match with the same wood (maybe not click together, there, but nail-down since the sub-floor is plywood and not concrete slab).

The other, more pressing decision, is the CABINET. I would have been find with white, but this is yet another area of Husband veto. He doesn't want white cabinets. I am lucky that I am so flexible in my tastes or else nothing would ever get done.

I am leaning towards IKEA's Adel and I think The Husband will be OK with it since it's nice solid birch and feels like a sturdy door. When we checked it out at IKEA he seemed like he liked it or at least would allow his arm to be twisted into agreeing to it. Adel comes in several colors but I am looking at two of them, light birch and medium brown. I had been pretty firm on the light birch as a nice contrast to the clay tile color, but now I am looking at the medium brown thinking that could look nice with the saltillo as well. Not sure anymore which to choose.
What do you think?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Graph Paper and I are Very Good Friends

Ok, here it is. Rather than go all technologically advanced and try to draw it in Visio, I got lazy and decided to scan my graph paper sketches. I just love graph paper - the perfect little squares are so good for drawing floor plans to scale.

Anyway, first picture is the existing. See how small this kitchen is? I mean, we purposely bought the smaller counter-depth refrigerator as we knew there was just no space. I know, why did we buy the house? Well, honestly, most of the houses we looked at didn't have big kitchens, either. Of course, they were a bit larger than this one, but still.


The second picture is my new idea that takes the nook and re-purposes it as the sink area. This plan is actually bigger than my original plan. The original one (can't find my sketch anywhere) knocked the refrigerator wall out for the addition and moved the kitchen into the new space near the dining room. Too bad that wall needs to hold up our house! Anyway, here is the new, and less expensive, and more expedient plan:


I decided to go with the non-island plan since I'll be able to leave the supporting beam completely alone (it's right by the seating area), hopefully bump a 2-foot hole/pass-through by re-routing the drain line which will then route back to the drain in the slab, thus no jack-hammering required.

So there it is. My plan is to start ripping up tile next weekend. I may try to finagle some friends to help us out. The good thing is that (a) we can start sooner rather than waiting 'til God knows when for the new "engineered" plans and the city's approval, (b) it should cost somewhere in the $10-12K range. Which is a heck of a lot less than $30K, so I won't have to get my knickers in a bunch over the hemorrhaging of cash.

I'll post of pics of my materials ideas later in the week as I think I have most of the stuff nailed down as far as cabinets, flooring, counters, etc, as concerned.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Cheaper and, Likely, More Environmentally Friendly

Well, I have a solution in mind that doesn't involve adding additional space. If I had any more shamelessness about doing personal stuff while at work, I would draw up a diagram right now and throw it up here. But I have *some* limits when it comes to farting around at the office.

The solution is rather simple and I probably didn't think of this, originally, because I was hell-bent on "EXPANDING!" Sometimes, one has to let go of expectations (just like one of the many tenets of yoga: practicing "non-attachment" to an outcome). So, I "detached" from the idea of making things bigger, and the idea to rearrange appeared.

Like many houses, we have two eating areas: a formal dining area and a kitchen nook. In our last house, we had the same thing, but I only used the "nook" area which wasn't much of a "nook" but was rather huge, and open to the kitchen and family room. The "formal" dining area had the decrepit baby grand. In my current house, the formal dining area is kind of isolated - it's only open to the living room, so we put the large dining room table (too big for the nook) in the formal area and bought a new table and chairs.

But do I really need both areas? I mean, seriously. And when children come along, I'd like have normal dinner time where TV is not part of the dining experience. The "formal" dining area is perfect for this purpose. I've never liked the idea of "unused" rooms anyway!

So the solution is to re-purpose the nook. It has sort of a bay-window-style pop-out wall area and is almost as big as the existing kitchen (almost as small I should say. Our kitchen is roughly 80 square feet), so arranging cabinets and such will be a little more tricky, but will definitely make things more livable by doubling the space. And for a casual eating area, I have come up with a center island that can hold three stools.

The one small wrench that was throw into this plan is that one wall I am planning to shorten is a supporting wall for the upstairs (I have no idea what crack the building was smoking when he designed this model - so many angles, walls, rooms, etc). If it hadn't been for the plumber opening up 18 million holes in the walls and ceiling, I would not have noticed the three married 2x4's holding up a joist to the second floor. I will have to have a single pillar at the corner of the island to hold up the master bedroom above. Not ideal, but it should look ok... I have a less favorable backup plan but hopefully I can just do the island (though I had messing with trying to move the support over 6 inches... it freaks me out, like the whole ceiling will collapse or something).

And all of this should require little-to-no permitting. I will have to shorten three windows, and technically, that could require permits, but I may just feign ignorance. I am generally a rule-follower, but the reality is, they have no idea what the existing size of my windows are (well, maybe the have an idea NOW as it's on the plans for the defunct addition). Eh, we'll see. I hate dealing with the city, but if it's just window size, they shouldn't bust my ass over it.

Hopefully.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

My Parade Has Been Rained On

...by the dude at City Hall. This kitchen addition is looking more and more out of reach. I went into the building department this mornin' to see wut's doin' with my building plans. Basically, the fact that we are proposing to knock out a 10 foot load-bearing external wall (a) the current framing and foundation design done by our friend is not strong enough to support the second floor and roof, (b) we need the plans engineered: i.e. designed, drawn up with structural calculations, wet-stamped by a California Licensed Architect/Engineer. If we were in a single-story home, I think things would be easier as far as plans, permits, and construction.

After calling up one design firm, this service costs about $2000, ball-park, based on the parameters I gave the man I spoke with over the phone, who was quite helpful, I might add. Nice fellow. Anyhow. He said $1500-$2000, but the way things tend to go in life, $2000 is probably more like it. I am not surprised by this number. What's another 2K? Right?

Yeah.

Well, I added everything up again, based on recent research I had done courtesy of Google (cost for tile roof, stucco, foundation, etc, etc) and came up with $29,000. This is not using a GC. If I use the 21K figure from the one GC, it's probably more like $38,000. Yeah. Not so much.

Timing is another consideration. Let's say I'm totally cool with spending 30K (mind you, this is more than half our non-retirement savings), well, even if tomorrow, I went to the structural engineer and asked him to start, it's likely 3-4 weeks before that is complete. Then submitting to the city again... minimum 3-4 weeks, that's if there are no corrections. The earliest we could start this project would be November. Likely closer to December.

Three months before we start? Five months until it's complete?! I'll tell ya, the situation in the house is BAD. Holes everywhere in the kitchen waiting to be mended by this project, water-damaged cabinets, and an over dankness that is starting to emanate from the fact that the water was UNDERNEATH the cabinets, thus air doesn't really get there to help it dry out. It just gets sucked into the cabinets. I'm not so sure I can deal with this stank-ass kitchen for 4 more months, while also having my life turned upside down during construction. We are coming up on 2 months that we have been dealing with this mess.

And--as if you haven't heard me bitch enough already--the house continues to fall in value. We have lost more than 100K (since the leak? lost 15K). It seems really crazy to me to sink more than $30,000 into this house that is continuing to drop. And then after we have spent this small fortune, the rest of the house will still be languishing in it's 80's-ness, with those horrible fluorescent light-boxes in the bathrooms, ugly banister, and carpeting all upstairs. And I won't be able to do anything about it's nastiness. No wonder people would rather sell and buy another house than add-on. Makes perfect sense now! I totally get it!

I probably bored the living poop out of you guys.

I hope to make a decision with the Husband tonight - maybe we'll just scrap the addition and redo the kitchen with tall cabinets and attempt to make space where there is little... Then I'll have all kinds of crazy pictures for you! All I know is that whatever I do, it better involve my Craigslist apron sink - God help me, I will wedge that sink into that kitchen if I have to!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Ack! More Home Improvement Drama!

At the urging of a coworker, after I crapped out a brick from hearing the $21,000 number for a half-done addition, I cruised around HGTV and DIY websites to see if they had any type of "casting call" type deals. Generally, there is either help in the form of designers or contractors, or there is compensation of some form that could help offset the crazy cost of this project. I found only one that kind of matched our situation. There were several that were perfect, but they required you to live near places like Minneapolis or Cincinnati. We're a bit far from there.

Friday afternoon, I sent a feeler email out with the required pictures of the house and of the Husband and I to the only show that we might qualify for, and got a response within 15 minutes. The response seemed fairly generic; it explained the premise of the show, and if I was still interested, here are forms and a phone number if I had any questions. The weekend passed, yesterday being the first working day after and I didn't reply as it just wasn't in my head and I didn't get the feeling there was urgency. Today, I get another email, that they are shooting one show up near LA in the middle of this month and want to try to shoot our project at the same time, etc, etc. Are we interested, and they need our little audition video as soon as possible.

Yikes! What did I get myself into? It sounds like fun, but 2 weeks from now to start filming? The city has until then to respond to our permit application - 20 working days from when I submitted. And, even then, I may get back a bunch of corrections that need to get done and have to re-submit. And wait again. It is not possible to be ready to go by then. End of this month is even pushing the envelope as the city has us by the "balls" so to speak.

I basically dumped my entire situation in a email to this producer I have been in contact with, and that we couldn't possibly start when they wanted us to given the fact that we are waiting on a government entity's approval and we all know that there are no fires lit under the asses of city employees. Tomorrow morning, I'm going to pay the building department a visit, see if they have any updates for this incredibly impatient woman.

I feel like this is crazy - but I think we can easily get help from friends when you throw in the "you'll be on tv" deal. It definitely has it's pluses.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Financial Update

Around April of this year, I decided that I was entirely over having debt. I wanted out - I was tired of these seemingly endless monthly obligations that we costing me money in the form of interest. Loans are so transparent in that way. Once you have that monthly payment, you don't think about what chunk is the money you borrowed and how much are you paying the bank to borrow that money. I decided that while we are still childless and have extra income, it is the time to pay this stuff off. I also started tracking it on NetWorth a few months ago. In case you are curious, here is my page.

The latest update is that we have paid off another $1285. Savings is up $2330. I was putting larger sums toward debt, but since the plumbing fiasco and now the kitchen addition, I am squirreling away more, and paying down a bit less. The 50K mark in our savings kind of a psychological barrier for me - I see that as a really comfortable emergency fund. It keeps my worry-wart tendencies at bay, so paying out a large chunk of it for the addition is going to hurt and cause much agita. The house and stock market continue to drag our net worth down each month. I am taking the Zillow estimate for our house, which I think is fairly accurate. We contribute 13% of our income to 401K, and 8% of that is matched by our employers, so 21%. Even with those parameters, our retirement accounts still decreased in value(!).

How anyone can argue our economy is in good shape, is beyond me. A local shopping center close to our house looks like a ghost town with nearly half the retail spaces empty (they've closed in the last 4 or 5 months). The Linens 'n Things in the next town over, which has only been open since 2005, is closing and apparently the national chain declared bankruptcy in May.

I am sure ready for the current "economic downturn" to right itself back up. So far, it's been almost a year of "downturn". Hopefully we are nearing an end.

I Would Not Be Me If I Didn't Write About This

I have been trying to leave politics kind of our of my blog because it tends to be a divisive issue, but like the title says, I would not be "true to myself" if I didn't write about this. So, if you don't care to read my political brain dump concerning Sarah Palin, then stop here.

Friday morning, I read the news that Sarah Palin had been selected as McCain's running mate and I was surprised. I read her Wikipedia page, thought she had quite an interesting life, and felt a little unsettled that she could turn the race around for McCain. She seemed likable, though a bit "light" on experience. I felt kind of drawn to her story of rising up from the middle class, PTA member, working mother, etc.

However, over the past 4 days, I have found out a number of things about her that prove to me exactly why I can't vote for McCain (and Palin), not even if you paid me the requisite $5 million that he believes you need to be considered "rich" (his response to Pastor Rick Warren's question of how much money do you need to make to be "rich").

First, I already knew about the allegations of Palin using her influence to get her ex-brother-in-law fired as her sister was in a bitter child custody battle with him. OK, not ideal, but I've heard of worse stuff than that. It's not enough for me to discount her as a viable VP.

Then, I found out she wants to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Um. Like I have said before, desecrating nature for the sake of oil addiction, in my opinion, is the wrong way to go. There is only so much oil in the world, and sucking every drop out until there's no more hardly seems like a good long-term plan.

She is so staunchly pro-life that she believes abortion should be illegal even in cases of incest and rape. This is a bit much for me.

She believes in teaching creationism in schools. I am not against the idea that perhaps evolution isn't the only way the human race arrived here on earth, but creationism is very strongly coupled with religion. The first amendment to our constitution requires a separation of Church and State. I think parents can choose to teach their children creationism through home schooling, private schools, bible study, etc, but it should not be taught in public schools where there are children of ALL religions present. That is against the First Amendment.

She does not believe in sex education and believes in teaching "abstinence only" for family planning. This didn't really throw me over the edge until I found out her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant. How can I believe that this teaching of "abstinence only" will work if your own daughter couldn't follow it? And apparently, Palin herself didn't either as her first child was conceived before she was married. I am not saying that it is "bad" to have children out of wedlock. So what. I am saying it is bad to "talk the talk" and then not "walk the walk." That is not leading by example.

And, finally, how can Saran Palin have time to be the Vice President of the United States when she has a 4-month old baby with Down's Syndrome and a pregnant teenager? This seems absolutely insane to me. I am all for working mothers, I plan to be one myself. But the job of Vice President is not your everyday office job.

I simply cannot understand how John McCain made this choice and I think we have to question his judgment in making decisions without considering the ramifications.

Monday, September 1, 2008

I Actually Got Meme'd?

Thank you, Girly Stuff, for meme'ing me. I was beginning to think I wasn't meme-worthy.

Anyway, 6 random, unimportant facts. Well, I just did 101 seemingly unimportant facts but sure as hell I can come up with 6 more. When you're an only child, it's all about you. Yeah.
  1. I have a serious picking problem. Cuticles, face, etc. It's like a nervous habit or something. And being plagued with acne my whole life, it's really not a good habit to have.
  2. I can be a procrastinator, especially with the dusting.
  3. I cannot handle dishes in the sink. I have to put them in the dishwasher, ASAP.
  4. This weekend, I "floated" drywall mud for the first time (why? see plumbing problem. We will be patching holes for several months). If you are a perfectionist, never become a drywall installer. You will go mad trying to get the mud completely smooth and flat.
  5. I got these nesting cows in Italy - Bassano Del Grappa, on our trip back in May. My grandmother wanted to buy me something as a gift, so I chose these. There are too cute! See the dust? Ha!


  6. And. I like monkeys.

Now. Meme'ing other bloggers. When you, yourself, have not been meme'd all that much, having others to meme is likely a challenge.

So. I will meme the following three chicas:

Frankie, she who has likely been meme'd a million times as she is a veteran blogger, but hopefully still have more random facts about herself to extoll.
Amy@Cape Cod Makeover. I have been going through her archives trying to catch up (I think I am in Feb of '08 at this point), but she is doing an excellent job with her DIY reno of her previously dated 60's house.
Amy@RocketWife. Another Amy. She is super-busy with her wedding planning coming up, so, we'll see if she can find some time to do some meme-age.

And I would have meme'd potty-mouth Lis, who cracks me up, but then, she just meme'd herself with 6 facts, so maybe that would be overkill. Not that I didn't just give you 107 facts about myself. Right.