Saturday, August 27, 2016

August Garden Tour

A lot of things have been preventing Chris and I from delving into establishing the gardens of our dreams. Other things have taken precedence, like getting the washer and dryer to work and replacing the toilet. Last weekend, though, I decided to do a little low key gardening.

The house came with four large blue plastic containers. I replanted the oregano and rosemary we had been growing at my mom's house in two of these containers. In another, I weeded out the dead or dying plants currently inside and generously sprinkled kale seeds in the dirt. I've been watering them almost every day (it has been raining) and a couple of days ago little sprouts appeared!


I did my best to distribute them throughout the container, but a squirrel or chipmunk has been digging up some of the seeds...

The tomato plant Chris has been tending to has given us at least 6 very tasty fruits. It still has a few left on it, too.

The rosemary had been being strangled by the oregano prior to transplanting it. I had hoped it would start flourishing with the move, but it has only grown a tad. Maybe by the end of the season it will be a bit larger.

This bush came with the house. It is a Japanese flowering tree. It was severely neglected and about to die, but in just a week's time it already has some new greenery on it. I'm hoping that it survives winter and growns some nice little flowers in the spring.

Below is my star pupil! Oregano grows like crazy, and mine is no exception. It is beautiful and fragrant and I use it in the kitchen every chance I get.

Finally, the window box on our deck was overgrown with weeds. I yanked all of those out last weekend, except for whatever yellow flowers these ones are, and then added some marigold seed to the empty spots. They're slowly but surely joining the rest of the flowers!

And that's all at the moment. My hope was that before September we would be able to set up a raised bed and sow some winter crops, but considering how behind we are in terms of building furniture and completing renovations, we may just have to wait until the spring. Or set up some grow systems indoors. Which would be just as easy to do. So we may do just that :-)

Have a great week, everyone!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Before & After: Office

We had a handful of needs in a home when we began shopping. The most important one was that the house have 2 bedrooms or 2 living areas so that my wife could work from home. The Bungalow met that criteria, though bedroom #2 AKA the OFFICE needed some attention before it could be used.

For starters, it was PINK.

And while this may be just fine for a child's room it just wasn't something Chris could get behind.

After much deliberation, we decided to take advantage of the chair rail currently installed in the room. We purchased a blue gray color one-coat Marquee paint for above the rail. For below, we invested in some wainscoting AKA panelling. Chris fell in love with the idea.

We purchased 12 panels in case we made any errors. It should have been just enough to do all four walls, perhaps with some leftover pieces from what got cut out. Other necessary supplies were liquid nails, actual nails, a laser level, and Pure White paint.

Because the cost of the improvements started to add up, we called around and borrowed a jigsaw from my dad in order to cut the pieces. We purchased a work table and some clamps, though. Actually, the set up worked really well.

Except it took so much time to do that we decided to do 3 out of 4 walls instead.

We also cut a lot of corners! As amateurs with limited experience and resources, we conceded defeat to our crooked walls and floors and ultimately installed the panels by resting them on top of the floor boards. Visually, it looked OK, so we went with it. A lot less measuring, positioning, and cutting would be required. Okay, okay, so we may have CHEATED. But it's our house and in order to get what we wanted we needed to do things our way!

Our afternoon project took 3 days altogether. First, painting the upper half of the walls was my project for Friday. Cutting and applying the panelling and re-installing the chair rail occurred on Saturday. Then, Sunday was spent filling the holes and gaps with quick dry caulking before painting the bottom half of the walls white.

Here's a nifty panorama of the entire room just after we finished.

It really is the most beautiful room in the house! And although it isn't saying very much, it is also the most beautiful room I have ever had the pleasure of sharing with the rest of a house.

We learned some important lessons from the experience.

1) Wainscotting is an intermediate level project. You really require the right tools. All of the time and effort it took for us to complete would have been significantly diminished if we had had them ourselves.

2) We love the color blue we chose! In fact, I am SO excited about painting the bedroom in a similar fashion. No, I don't want to put wainscotting up in there, but I do want to replicate the blue top half, white chair rail, and white bottom half. Perhaps with some rectangular moulding on the bottom half instead.

3) Home improvement projects will be more time consuming that you initially expect, especially if you have never done anything similar before.

4) You can't expect to get everything that you want done to your new house as quickly as you initially envision. The office redo was immediately followed by moving all of our large items into the house. The very night we put the panels up we were moving our bed, washer, dryer, fridge, etc., until 10:30 or 11PM. It sucked, honestly. The following days involved multiple trips to hardware stores to get the washer and dryer working. And then our cable Internet continued to give us problems. All of these issues on top of one another made it clear that replacing the toilet, painting the bedroom, setting up our raised beds outside, and putting down the patio out back were things that could be done in a couple of weeks. For our sanity's sake...

If you'd like a step by step tutorial on how to install wainscotting the CORRECT way, I thought this walkthrough was pretty thorough...

Have you installed any on your own? I would love to hear about your personal experiences. We may be doing something similar in the living room in the distant future so any recommendations you might have would be greatly appreciated. Just leave us a comment!

Until then, goodbye from the Bungalow.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Our Home Buying Journey

My wife and I did something really exciting this year; we bought our first house!

Honestly, it was one of those things we weren't sure would ever happen for us. The two of us have been together since 2008. Like many Americans, saving money had always been a challenge for us. Neither of us had ever bought a new car and therefore a lot of our savings had gone into repairing our used vehicles. Also like most people, we've had medical issues that required care. Saving money for down payments and closing costs really is challenging!

But at the start of the year we decided it was time to begin trying. Despite having lived in Austin, Texas for 6 years, we knew we wanted to live in the northeast. We wanted to be closer to my family, and to be closer to real mountains, bodies of water, and the ocean. It just made the most sense for us.

In preparation for our move, we sold, trashed, and gave away a third of our possessions. You see, I am one of those "tiny house" people. If we weren't able to find a home we liked and could afford, my goal was to perhaps rent or purchase a condo while we bought a piece of land and then built a tiny house from scratch. That would still be fun, I think, but not a priority of mine right now!

So, we whittled away most of our nonessential things and items of clothing we didn't really wear. We had three coffee makers, for instance. We attempted to pack up our things sensibly to ensure we had everything we really needed while living with family- most of our possessions were kept in storage during this transition. And I started to think about what I could possibly do for work once we arrived.

We packed a 12 foot Budget truck full. Literally every inch of space was filled with something. There were some more things we had to throw out because they just wouldn't fit. It seemed like more and more things just appeared while we were moving out! In the end, we left half a day later than expected, which set the tone for the entire trip. We spent the next four days driving all day, showering, eating dinner, and sleeping. We were both exhausted, extremely stressed, freezing, and starving by the time we crossed the Massachusetts state line and into New Hampshire. Please keep in mind that four days earlier we had been enjoying 80 degree whether and now we were driving in the snow with windshield washer fluid frozen in moving truck...

Our ultimate destination happened to be my parents' house; a 2 bedroom apartment in a multi-family home. This is where we stayed for 3 months, inside of a 10 by 10 room, 2 adults, 2 cats, and 1 dog, a queen sized mattress, a dresser, litter box, dog kennel, and a few boxes. Oh, we also each brought 1 laundry basket filled with clothes per person which would serve as our wardrobe for the duration of our time there.

The next couple of weeks were spent adjusting to our new lives. We had some family engagements to attend as well. But my concern for the first month was finding a job. It ended up being a lot harder than I thought. I wasn't employed until the last half of May. And all I could find was a part time job with potential full time hours. Chris, meanwhile, set up an office at my mom's furniture store and began working for her company remotely.

We spent June feeling a bit claustrophobic. Time moved incredibly slowly. We made a point to go out as much as possible, but this ended up being a challenge because we were supposed to be saving money at the same time. Also, because of my job, I had to work at least one weekend day per week which meant that Chris and I were only able to spend one day off together doing things that were fun.

Perhaps had the room we were staying in been larger and we had brought more of our possessions it wouldn't have felt like we were living on a desert island. If you're considering a similar situation yourself, I really recommend that you're prepared more than we were. Bring a lot of things to entertain you. We read, went hiking, played video games, and I started my hobby of taking surveys for $.50 a pop.

The very first house we visited I found online. It was a New Englander on over half an acre. Two bedrooms, a dining room, and two living areas. I really liked it, but we started shopping too early and we weren't pre-qualified or even financially ready to put in an offer. Actually, I think this was even before I had a job! I loved that house, though. I even made plans for painting each room a different color.

On our next house hunting trip, our realtor did an excellent job finding move in ready homes that we could have afforded. One of them was absolutely perfect! It had a nice sized yard, formal dining room with fancy paneling, a living room with built in surround sound, and an amazing kitchen. It was on the higher end of our budget and the taxes were really high.

That house pretty much broke our hearts. It was perfect. Could we pay for it? Probably. Would we have had any money for anything else? No. So we tried to imagine that we never went and started looking for something better suited for our finances.

Chris went house hunting with our realtor without me one day while I was at work. She saw a few homes but wasn't terribly impressed with any of them at first. But after a day or so, she brought my attention to one of them. We made arrangements to visit it, and also a fixer upper I found, too.

First, the fixer upper. It was a very retro house on over half an acre. Very spacious, but in need of a lot of work. I loved the bones but anticipated a lot of issues in renovating it. So we moved on to the little one Chris wanted me to see.

I recalled seeing the listing online. Everything looked in good shape, but it was just TINY. How you would fit 2 bedrooms in an 800 square foot house was beyond me. As we drove up, I admired the little plot. It had a number of decidious trees. Very nice. Fully fenced in. Hooray! The blue color was nice. So far so good.

As we went inside I appreciated that the kitchen seemed to be in perfectly good shape. Dishwasher, oven, range, microwave. Good. Lots of cabinets. Not so much room for a table. Hmm. Oh, hey, a basement! Bonus.

Sure enough, even though the house was the same size as the apartment we lived in just three months ago, it seemed so much more spacious and appealing. Puzzling as it was, I really liked it. Was it perfect? No. It needed some fixing up, but absolutely nothing dire. Nothing really horrible. I distinctly recall grinning like a fool. And if memory serves, I even said, "I think this might be it."

After making a pros and cons list we decided to try and make it ours. A lot of paperwork and even more waiting passed and sure enough, here we are. We don't really know what we're doing, but we're doing a good job at it so far!