Sunday, March 30, 2008

Officially in Escrow

This week has been my spring break - which is one of the fabulous aspects of being a teacher. All the same vacations I enjoyed while still a student!

Despite the fact that I did not go anyplace out of city nor did I go shopping for clothes or shoes once this break, (I spent most of my week working on the historic home I'm co-renovating), it has been a very expensive vacation for me. It started when I viewed a two bedroom, one bath home close to the university in town, and decided I needed to buy it. The original list price was 82,000 but had been dropped to 79,9000. After several counter-offers, I secured it for 75,500 with closing costs to be paid by the seller, giving them a net total of 72,000 for the house. The house was built in 1950 and has been well maintained but needs some cosmetic fixes that will have to be low-price in order to not out-do the price range of the neighborhood. Most homes in that location go for $65,000-90,000 so I landed right in the middle with my final offer. I'll take possession of the house at the end of April, assuming nothing disastrous happens.

After this purchase occured, I began planning and mapping out the minor fixes I am going to do to this home. I will fund all of my work on this house using my AmEx card rather than taking out a bank loan, as I have 0% APR/interest until September, plus a nice, hefty credit limit, (potentially dangerous but thus far under used). I'm going to paint the "L" shaped living and dining area a lightlight chocolate brown and cream, and decorate with a chocolate and turquoise design scheme centered around my oatmeal colord couches. Luckily, I have a grandma who can sew curtains and pillows in any color I desire.

The kitchen has white cabinets I would like to reface, and I'd like to re-do the counters and floor with new laminates, as well as paint the walls a gun metal blue. I'd also like to find some used black appliances, and maybe purchase a butcher block island to put in the center, (the previous owners fit a set of table and chairs, so it's quite large).

The bathroom is going to be either cream or light celedon, and I bought a leaf covered shower curtain and candle from Pottery Barn that were both on sale, as well as an antiqued map wooden wall hanging that was 50% off at Hobby Lobby and will match the shower curtain beautifully.

To top off what I bought for the house I don't even technically own yet, I bought a beautiful vanity/mirror/stool set that I found at a high end furniture gallery for about 45% off. I go pick it up tomorrow. It's a bit feminine for staging a home, but it will go nicely with my wrought iron bed that has been sitting sadly in storage all year and the pistachio walls I intend to paint in one of the bedrooms.

The good news is that the backyard is big and fenced so I can have both my black lab and M.'s chow mix come live with me.

The interest rate on the house is good, too, coming in at 5.7%. Now is a good time to buy properties as prices are low due to lots of product on the market, and banks really want to seduce qualified buyers into making home purchases. NPR said that home sales are actually on the up-swing because of this. Hopefully it will last. I would like to put my home back on the market by July/August and seek a $95,000 initial price tag. Or it may be wiser to rent it to university students and just hold on to it for a few years and hope it appreciates.

Who knows. As a last ditch effort, M. can move in with me in August if the property is still unsold/unrented, and we can split the costs.

I hope buying this doesn't shackle me to my job teaching, because I am on the hunt for a new job that doesn't involve a commute or teenage children. If I could be guaranteed I'd make $8,000-$12,000 on this house I wouldn't need to renew my contract, but of course, in life there are no guarantees. But, there's also no reward without risk! And hopefully the house will be cute enough to be reward unto itself.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Reality Doesn't Bite

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Clearly, the same can be said in regards to public trends. It seems that the new trend is among young professionals who are putting the brakes on "virtual reality" and embracing reality - deceptively simple and mindfully technical with the added bonus of being cordless. Reality is making a come back.

The New York Times posted an article today called "Leaving Behind the Trucker Hat" that is reminiscent of the 1960's back-to-the-land movement. It profiled young, former urban professionals who are founding organic farms in rural communities in order to fulfill the societal demand for fresh, local and organic produce in surrounding cities, as well as the personal itch to abandon office high rises and paperwork for tactile and emotional experience.
The most notable difference between the modern trend and the the 60's terra hajj seems to be the element of success. The 60's and 70's saw the rise of modern convenience services and goods, while the 00's is seeing a national disgust with pre-fabbed food and products with large carbon footprints. This bodes well for those who no longer want to spend their days staring at computer screens and filing cabinets and instead wish to make their living through communing with seasonal cycles and applied organic chemistry.

There also seems to be a growing interest in where things actually come from, since the invention of cryptic labels eliminated public knowledge of what an item contains and where it originated. The desire to know the story behind food, from seed to aisle seems to also be fueling the organic and local foods movement - all facts I find very exciting. One of my good friends who studied to be a chef at C.I.A. has been working on farms in upstate New York since graduation to get a thorough education in food production. He is one of a growing number of gourmands interested in increasing the intimacy of food through both the growing and preparing aspects of cooking.

I'd say I'm an example of wanting the experience of doing rather than simulating, as I began my historic house restoration with the desire to use my hands to accomplish something. Pushing pencils towards success became old by about 12th grade. Popping nails out of hundred year old studs is much more satisfactory than grading a paper that goes in the trash five second after retuning it to its owner.

So - virtual reality? Take a virtual hike.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sore Like a Day Laborer

I haven't been getting home until 8/8:30 at night since work on the house officially commenced. Each evening I have returned with bits of insulation and ancient, compacted dust in my hair, nostrils, and under my fingernails. My feet and back ache from shovelling, sweeping, and hauling debris. Interestingly, though, I feel amazing and I love having a project to manage and keep in motion. Seeing this house look beautiful again could possibly be one of the most satisfactory things I've ever experienced...if I survive to that point!

So far we have been jerked around by bureaucrats and incompetent service providers (delivering a dumpster to the wrong address, among other things), and found used hypodermic needles in the wreckage that was once the house's blown insulation.

Yes, I own a crack house! I think I need longer work gloves.

It is now 9:35 pm, I am exhausted, and I've got to go back to my day job in the morning! I'm afraid this project may begin to affect my teaching - I'm spending less time planning lessons and have less stamina to stay at the front of the room. (My teaching fatigue set in when the initial planning for this flip began after Christmas break). I can see how flipping can easily be a full time career. If this is a success, I might consider it. As much as I hate to say this out loud or in writing - some of my students are so mean that I dread having to deal with them. We'll see how the end of this year plays out. It may result in my financial ruin - who knows!?

In other better-late-than-never news, Bush is actually doing something to reduce air pollution. Nice move now that he's stepping down and won't be in a position to take bribes from major, polluting corporations!

As I type this, M. is watching King of Kong. Two words: oh, my. They are using The Cure, though, as background music, so rock on.

I'm so tired and scattered I can hardly think. Now the only things I can focus on are trying not have post-consumption remorse of the $5.00 Little Ceaser's pizza I just ate, a shower, and sleep!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

More daylight!

While M. laments about losing an hour of sleep tonight, I am relishing the thought of having more of a DAY in the coming weeks. My desire to sleep is intimately linked with how much sunlight is in the sky - if it's dark, my body says it's night and I can't accomplish anything else except bed. Now I'll have more time after work to function.

Yesterday the south was hit with an uncharacteristic snow storm. Since it's the south and we don't have snow plows, the entire city shuts down. My school district actually closed, so I'm ok with the chicken-little reaction to inclement weather. When my family lived in Dekalb, IL (outside Chicago), I LITERALLY had to walk in two feet of snow my first week at Clinton Rosette Middle School because we had moved from Texas, didn't own a snow shovel, and the snow plows that cleared the streets had shoveled all of the snow into a mound on our driveway and we had no way to dig ourselves out. That was a long three years. We did acquire a snow shovel - after walking/trudging to the Jewel Osco to buy one.

Today, after batting the last hunks of slushy snow off the windshield of my car, I escaped renovation duties to go get my hair done. After getting highlights and lowlights, a shampoo, and a trim, my stylist began putting a mysterious powder product on my hair. It looked like baby powder and I thought it might be dry shampoo, but I'd just had my hair washed - it was still sopping wet.

The mysterious substance turned out to be this:

A hair thickening powder to add volume by Aveda. I don't know if it is this stuff or all the teasing she did to the hair on the back of my head, but it's now 12:30 at night and my hair is still looking voluminous and pouffy.

Of course D's hair looks better than mine, but when you're part chow, there's really no competition there.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Salsa Pasta

Twice a week the boyfriend has class at night, and I like to play house by having dinner ready for him when he gets home. We are not a very eco-couple, though, when it comes to grocery shopping. When I lived by myself I made it a point to plan all of my meals on Sunday, (I even used an excel spread sheet organized by day and type of meal - sick, yes, but economical too), thus ensuring I only made one trip to the grocery store a week. M. and I tend to go at least three times a week, as we only get what we need for each meal because we can't seem to plan out our food ahead of time - necessitating wasted mileage on our cars - awful, I know.

My point being, I wanted to make something quick, easy, low-fat, and vegetarian, so I contrived an interesting recipe that actually turned out really well. The fact that M. had two helpings testifies to my success.

So here is my first ever made-up recipe: "Weird Salsa Pasta"


1 package whole wheat egg noodles

1 tbs olive oil

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 cup broccoli florets

1 can beans - red beans and/or black beans, rinsed

Sliced olives

1 jar salsa (the kind without corn syrup in it)

1 small container fat-free cottage cheese

Shredded cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Boil noodles according to package

2. Saute pepper and broccoli in a skillet with olive oil

3. Add beans and olives to skillet, stir

4. Add vegetables and beans to drained noodles

5. Mix in salsa and cottage cheese, stir

6. Serve in a bowl and sprinkle with cheese

After he tried it he said "why haven't you made this before?" This adds to my theory that salsa makes everything better. That, and avocado.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Snow & Closings

Today we got our first snow storm of the year. I don't teach in district, so I have a 45 minute commute to get to work - and my district did NOT cancel!! It was the only district in that county that decided to have school. I took a look outside at 7AM, saw the snow blanketing the hill I live on, and called in a sub while feigning illness.

It's amazing how fast a day off goes by. I never did make it on my new Tony Gazelle as I had planned, but I did work on an article I would like to submit to the English Journal concerning my stance on homework. Basic premise: I don't give it because it never gets done when I do. Am I worried about the future of America's work ethic? Yes. You should be too.

I did accomplish something significant, though: the loan has finally been approved for the house I am going to renovate with my new company. Our first bank appraised it way under value, thus ensuring we would NOT have enough money to actually complete the project. And they were such dolls they had the low appraisal done two days before we were supposed to close.

Bad appraisal + immediate closing date = FUCKED and $500 earnest money gone.

Neeless to say, we switched banks. Our loan is now for $200,000, and that includes the purchase price of the house - $70,000, plus the construction money. The new appraisal is $240,000 upon completion, so ideally we will be seeing a nice turn around in six months or so. Our real estate market is semi-sheltered from the disasters going on elsewhere in the country.

Here is our salmon colored historic 1886 beauty:
It is going to be a very busy spring break, summer, weekends...

Monday, March 3, 2008

Oxymorons: Eco-terrorists

"By definition, an environmentalist cherishes all life - including greedy, thoughtless people." - John Hanna, founder of the (original) ELF

On CNN today, an article titled "Homes Burn in Act of Terror" caught my eye. Apparently, burning $2 million dollar homes (and subsequently wasting resources and threatening any and all surrounding wildlife) advances the cause of both eco and animal rights warriors. Do they really think people in position to enact substantial enviornmental changes are going to listen to violent temper tantrums? Perhaps extremists groups succeed at being intimidating, but they also excel at being aggrivating and discredited.

In my definition, a true eco-warrior would practice ahimsa, or extreme nonviolence, rather than extremist guerilla eco-warfare.

Prior to today, I have never heard of (save in passing) ELF or ALF, let alone the results of their terroristic tactics. Who have I heard of? Rachel Carson, Henry David Thoreau, Jane Goodall, Gary Snyder, William O. Douglas... etc. Does the public sit up and listen to these guys? A good lot of them, and that's a start.

Perhaps the members of ELF and ALF could channel some of their negative energy into the motivation to do something that would actually give their fellow conservationists eco-loving compatriots some credibility in the public eye.

And for my own little tirade - I'm quite sick of meat-eating-if-I-don't-see-it-then-it-didn't-happen people dissing on Peta. As long as they aren't blowing any one up while forcing people to face the ugly truth of their meat loving ways, then let them demonstrate without the feminist/decency/etc. attempts at denouncing them. If you can't face the truth about your food, then stop eating it.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl

With the boyfriend out of town I am finally free to do all of the girly things I've wanted that have been growing into a rather lengthy list.

First thing to tick off: going to a chick flick (period films are automatically girly) with a fellow first year English teacher. The best part of the evening was in the first five minutes, when standing in line to get Sarah a sprite - a brave, pimpled and baby fat full young man behind us began chatting both of us up about what movie we were seeing. We humored his advances and eyed each other as we debated via ESP if we should inquire as to his age (16 - max) and reveal that the "girls" he chose to flirt with were literally old enough to be his teachers at 24 and 27. Oh, and one of us is two months pregnant, and as luck would have it we are teachers. Funny and creepy all at once. Also a reminder why I don't teach in the district where I live - running into students on the weekend is not my idea of relaxing!

The film, The Other Boleyn Girl, almost killed itself within five minutes as the dialogue and opening scene were both terrible and utter cheese. I liked it, though, for the same reason I liked Marie Antoinette. The costumes were sumptuous and I like it when the idea of royal figures is translated for modern audiences as total rockstar - because that is the royalty a modern audience understands. I did not like the dichotomy of Anne and Mary's personalities, though. Mary became 100% victimized, self-sacrificing angel and Anne never really deviated from crazy bitch after returning from her anachronistic trip to France. Although, there was something about the rape scene that added a sense of Anne's humanity in the film and seemed to symbolize Henry VIII's desire to literally devour women (just like he did food when got old, fat, and pus-full). Also to the film's credit, it did a good job of highlighting the exploitation of women as a means to political ends. Even Anne's ambitions were framed by the insatiable desires of her male relatives. While the extent of outside scheming in Anne's rise to power in order to garner wealth for her family may be stretched and fabricated for this movie, the concept of woman as pawn is by no means a unique occurrence in history, sadly. Sad, too, is the ending of the movie. But like Titanic, you walk into the theatre knowing the proverbial boat is going to sink. Unlike Titanic, though, I am much happier watching Jim Sturgiss play out a tragic male lead than Leo. Beautiful boy. Final verdict: good girls-only movie, but next time I'm going for romantic comedy rather than romantic period tragedy. In defense of Anne's decisions though - Elizabeth is an incredible asset to world history, but it's sad her mother's life had to be forfeited in order to set the course for her birth. On a happy note - more Jim!
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