Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Red, red walls

Our red hallway, soon to be home of the Awkward Portrait wall.

Trying to show some contrast, forgive the dork-factor.

Finally, another kitchen shot. I cleaned out the cupboards and drawers, need to get some contact paper.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Talkin' Proud

Ex-Buffalo Bills player Willis McGahee, who seems to only spent time at area malls while living in Western New York, decided to shit all over Buffalo in a recent interview. In the greatest thing it's ever done to date, the News published an Open Letter to McGahee in response. Buffalo Pundit has a great breakdown of the exchange.

Also, if you haven't seen this yet it will explain a lot:

You got tickets?...To what?...The Dad Show.

On Friday, Steve wrote that his dad was coming up to Buffalo to help us paint. Immediately, we both knew our meager painting party was about to turn into a production. As Steve said in an email, "he's bring drop cloths, and dad-ness." Dad-ness he brought.

BJ calls a team meeting in the living room.

Steve's dad--heretofore known as BJ or the Beege--came armed with a box full of things we did not have, some of which I never thought of acquiring: plug-in lamps for dark corners, a wire brush, a tall ladder, more brushes, more drop cloths, more trays, and items whose functions I still do not understand.

When we got to the house, BJ and Sara took a look around as neither had seen the place in person. Soon though, a "team meeting" was called and the Beege took a seat on the only chair in the room. He asked for a piece of paper and a pen so that he could write out a work plan.

"What are painting in this room?" He asked. We continued on like this until all rooms were accounted for and then we prioritized based on each job. Agreeing that certain friends/family members might need more supervision than others, BJ agreed to be the resident grump. Or to put it a different way, he agreed to be the Dad of the Painting Party.

And he's nice!

Seeing that it would require the most amount of work, BJ took on my writing room and its pink walls, trim, ceiling, and doors. The rest of us began taping things off and after that was done, we cut in and rolled.

Throughout the day, whenever we needed a deciding opinion, we asked BJ. He almost always had an answer that sounded official and undoubtedly correct.

Inspecting Sara's work in the Orange Room.

At the end of Day One, we sat down for another team meeting done in improved Robert's Rules style. I made a motion to do a second coat of "Pollination" first and Steve seconded my motion. The Beege declared it resolved and we moved on to Towne Restaurant for a late dinner.

Wrapping up Day One with another team meeting.

Not to be upstaged, my Dad--heretofore known as the Coach--decided to come over Sunday morning. When the Coach and BJ met, the world almost exploded because of their dad-ness and mustache power.

The Coach proved to be, as noted earlier on the blog, a beast with the roller. In case you missed it the first time, here he is whipping through a second coat of "Garden Pot," right after he cut in and rolled our red entryway.

Coach doesn't mess around.

The Dads bonded over things like the bizarre consistency of the "Pollination" paint or whether or not we should sand something dry or wet*. They each were quick and precise and finally, when they both decided we were all good to go on our own, they let us snap this final picture:

Mustaches of power!

*What is with the universal Dad qualities? I'm also remembering when my friend Brynn and I shared a storage space one summer before college and our Dads conspired to make our belongings fit inside. Something unspoken went one between them in the process. Bizarre.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Scenes from the painting party, part one

Sara waits for direction on Saturday morning. We began around 10:30 and painted until after nine that night.

Steve's dad came up from the downstate area to help us paint and generally be the dad-figure at the ruckus that was our painting party (ha!). As you can see, he's painting the walls of my writing room a blue-grey. When I took this picture, he had already done the ceiling but you should know that the whole thing was pink: walls, trim, doors, and ceiling. All pink!

This is my helpful brother Joshua. He is a rock n' roller.

Sara again. She's a cutie. By the end of the weekend, she was a pro at cutting in. Here she is in our living room with a bucket of "Aqua Bay." You can't tell from the picture but the wall she's painting is textured. Some time, between 1886 and 2007, someone painted over that velvet, floral wallpaper stuff. We've got patches of that raised design throughout the room--it's very neat.

It was a team effort for sure. In the background: brother Josh and Steve on a ladder. They are painting the room "Pollination," a pukey-yellow-green color that took three coats in the end. In the foreground: Harvey continues on with the "Aqua Bay."

My mother approves our color choice and work (she's standing behind my brother). She said, no less than nine times, a version of the following, "I really like this color." I really like her, and the way she repeats things when she gets excited.

When Mike wasn't rolling "Garden Pot" on our kitchen walls, he was cleaning out the light fixtures and taking apart the ceiling fans. This is why our relationship works so well, my friends. I would never get to shit like that and he sees it and pounces. You go, Mike.

I told my friend Jack to look excited about taping and this is the result. Jack entertained me/eavesdroppers with internet-comic news and the possibility of building a flashlight that could knock a man over from sheer light force. We also discussed the new Tori Amos (concept) album and my accompanying contempt.

My mother told me that my dad was a beast with the painting roller. And that, dear readers, he is. Here he is on Sunday morning doing a second coat of "Garden Pot" in the kitchen. He also cut in and rolled the red entryway (of which I failed to take photographs).

This pictures makes us call our house the "Fun House." We will be filled with bright, bold energy every morning. The orange room, by the way, is Steve's bedroom. The paint is called "Lucky Penny."

Steve's dad needed to head back home but wanted to stop for a "big, expensive" cup of coffee first so I drew him a map of his itinerary. Apparently, while I was on the phone, they all made fun of me for drawing such a nice map. They were jealous of my skillz.

Behold: fresh paint! This photo is a total accident and marks the near-end of our painting party on Sunday morning. It was intense, exhaustive, and successful.

More photos to come!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Round Uno

Well, we made it through the first round of painting and are going back this morning at nine to resume. The only room that is totally complete is my bedroom--hooray for one coats!

Thanks to everyone that came out and we'll post fun pictures soon!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Putting my smug face foward

So over two years ago, when Steve and I first started talking about "this house thing," we decided that the best part of owning a home would be all the condescending things we could say to our friends who don't own homes.*

Above is my impression of the "Yeah well, talk to me when you have a mortgage" face.

Other smug potentialities include: "You just don't understand, being a renter and all," and "Sorry [friend's name], I can't go out tonight--I got a new roof to save up for."

*Full explanation of the Talk to Me When You've Been a Teacher for 35 Years argument can be seen here.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Energy-saving light bulbs

My dad has totally switched over to energy-saving light bulbs. Even Wal-Mart has begun a campaign to sell 100 million of them by 2008. Seems like they're the way to go--Steve and I have pretty much decided to stock our house with them.

Questions though, for those of you who have used them: Are they bright enough? Which brand is best? If you've been using them for awhile, have they lasted longer than conventional bulbs? Any other advice?

Little House in the City, by the way, has promised to document any changes in her electric bill since her switch to compact bulbs. We'll keep you posted.

Scenes from our closing day

At 9 a.m. yesterday we had our final walk through of both houses. I don't know about Steve but I was definitely resisting the urge to run around from room to room and say, "Do you think "Aqua Bay" works in here? The light is great!" and other stuff that would probably bore our Super-Agent Wendy. So, we maintained our cool while she was there, only showing hints of our excitement, like when Steve got to lock the door himself (above).

We then posed for multiple pictures in front of our house, blocking out the HUNT Real Estate sign when Wendy took the official Realty USA photograph. Check out the stained glass window behind my head--pretty awesome. Wendy said she'll send a postcard with our photo to our new neighbors. No doubt they'll think, "Who is that 12-year old girl and her awkward dad?"

Presents! Wendy opens the gift we got her while Steve holds the basket she gave us. Fresh fruit, bottle of wine, and small Lindor truffles--yum. We gave Wendy a certificate for a nice dinner at nearby Left Bank.

After Super-agent Wendy left, Steve and I went back into our house and did some measuring. I promptly did the "we're alone I can dance silly if I want" dance. This was the first time we could go in the house without a realtor or home inspector.

Around lunch time we picked up some loot from the hardware store for this weekend's awesome painting party: rollers, brushes, and paint trays. The clerk at the store gave us some very informative information about paint supplies, including the new Teflon rollers. Just ready for a post on painting supplies.

We also picked up a broom and a mop. Steve told me about these Mr. Clean "magic sponges" that release a chemical so awful and effective that his parents decided not to repaint a wall after wiping it down with the magic sponge. They didn't have any, we'll continue looking. I should note now though that I completely plan on having a wash-windows-with-vinegar-and-water house, free of most chemical cleaners. I just want the heavy duty stuff for an initial cleaning.

At 2:30 we went over to the NACA office and met our lawyer, Dena, in person for the first time. She was great, a total hustler. Steve and I learned much from Dena in the two hours we had with her, including "CYA: Cover Your Ass," and the names of Italian cookies (below). Whenever we feel like wusses on the phone with contractors or banks, we're going to channel Dena and kick ass.

I also signed my name twice on one document. Once above my name and once above Steve's. I thought Dena might kill me but she just called me an ass. We love her!

We also bought a tray of Italian cookies from Romeo & Juliet's for the folks at NACA and totally ate some while we signed our 360 pages of documents.

We finished up our closing around 4:45 p.m., hands tired from signing, and hauled ass to the paint store. As you can tell from Stephen's joyful expression, closing wasn't all that stressful itself. It was the before-work and the running list of after-work that makes us tired, tired people.

As the last piece of paper was signed, Dena said, "Congratulations, you're now in debt!" Yay!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

It's a (painting) party!

WHAT? Much-anticipated painting party.

WHERE? Our house. Email me at whitneyarlene at gmail dot com for directions.

WHEN? This Saturday beginning at noon and Sunday around ten.

WHY? Because we'll give you some food and beer. And prizes, shiny gold prizes.

Note to self

Do not listen to Talk of the Nation program on the current "meltdown in the mortgage industry" and "fall out of homeowners" the day before you close on your first house.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Fun facts about us & our home buying adventure

  1. Still haven't closed.
  2. If we close before June 12, I will be 23 and Steve, 24, when we officially become first-time homeowners.
  3. We looked at over 20 homes during our search, including really tiny ones and mansions that could have an entire floor devoted to roller skating. That's the West side for ya.
  4. Closed? Nope, not yet.
  5. We are working with a super agent named Wendy from Realty USA.
  6. Our house will have creative spaces for both Steve and I: his a music studio and mine a writing room. Come see our organ(s)!
  7. I almost backed out of seeing the house we wound up buying because I was busy and didn't think the listing sounded very interesting.
  8. My mom is giving us her old stove and refrigerator.
  9. Our new, tentative closing date is this coming Tuesday. Maybe Wednesday. Maybe never.
  10. The community aspect: we're inspired by these folks. And these folks.

Friday, March 9, 2007

the fine art of harassment

a while ago i blogged a bit about my strategy of handling issues as being crazy and calling people an endless number of times and just being really intense about the whole process. now i'm pretty sure that's actually the way you're supposed to do it.

so far i've noticed that with every contractor or NACA person i really have to be insistant to get any kind of legitimate information or action. with many contractors i've found that several follow up calls were necessary to actually get an estimate done (i guess business is booming in buffalo). Thats a difficult call to make, "did you get a chance to look at the house?" "no" "really, I put you in touch with my real estate agent last week and you told her it would be done last tuesday." I don't say that, but I want to scream it. To me this practice seemed really shady. If they had told me that they weren't going to get to it until next week, i probably would have called someone else.

I've found the same situation with the paperwork people are quick to give us positive, "yep! you're done!" answers when we've really only completed a minor task in the great paper rodeo that is buying a house and securing a mortgage/rehab loan through the Neighborhood Assistance Coorparation of America. I understand contractors fudging their schedules because they are very busy and they don't want to lose the work, but I can't understand folks not saying that we've completed another of the many tasks we need to complete to buy a home. Are people that eager to please?

I've developed a strategy of calling everybody on my list a couple times a week to see where things stand. Sure, the helpful folks at the switchboard sound a little meaner every time I call, but I get my questions answered and things seem to move forward faster. Does anyone know a way to do this without being a jerk? other than being educated?

"You've just complicated my life so much more"

While we wait for the next surprise, my friend Kevin has made my life much more complicated. On Wednesday night, he gave me a book of paint swatches:

The book is so much fun to play with as it makes a natural fan for which I cool myself down during the oncoming panic attacks!

Anyway, I just want someone else to choose paint colors at this point.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Permission to close!

Our lawyer called me about ten minutes ago and told me that we finally have clearance to close on the house! Next Tuesday the 13th it is!

Exclamation point!

UPDATE: Lawyer jumped the gun, still some NACA/bank paperwork to be done. Pushes us back about 2-3 days. Dammit!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

An Open Letter to New Era Heating & Cooling Inc.

You probably don't know who I am. My friend Steve has been contacting your staff for the most part, working hard to get you into the home we do not yet own so that you can estimate the cost of work we need done.

Steve tells me that you were something of a pain in the ass, New Era. You rarely returned calls, you were often disorganized, and occasionally you were not nice. But we decided to go with you because your estimate seemed fair and, truth be told, we hadn't heard anything bad about you. Excited that we had finally picked a contractor for this job, Steve and I virtually high-fived over the phone.

Yes, New Era Heating & Cooling Inc, we needed you. And because we were about to throw several thousand dollars your way, I thought you needed us too.

But, as you abruptly told us late last week, you "don't do HUD." My brain was moving a little slow that afternoon so it took me a minute to understand what that meant: you don't wait around for payment from people on programs. All that extra paper work is too much. Fair enough, I guess. I can understand how annoying that could be from your perspective.

One thing though, New Era. When we explained to your staff numerous times that we were using the NACA program, why didn't they tell us then that you "don't do HUD?" Why come out to our house? Why make us bug the shit out of you for two weeks straight? Why waste time?

I guess you just wanted to take us for a ride. And it's our fault for assuming that something lasting could come out of this brief encounter. Maybe next time we'll ask more questions.

Best of luck,

Monday, March 5, 2007

We bought this yesterday...

After pricing washers and dryers at Home Depot, Lowe's, and Orville's for a couple weeks, we found an amazing deal at the latter establishment yesterday afternoon. Front loading washer and dryer, 18-month interest-free financing, uses nine gallons of water per washing load compared to the usual forty. We basically got the dryer for free--Orville's rocks. All in all, pretty psyched about this purchase.

Also, I can't believe I'm grown up enough to be "psyched" about this purchase.

Did you know we can do 16 pairs of jeans in this washer or 22 full-size towels or even a king-size comforter? Yeah well, we can.