Thursday, July 29, 2010

The side yard project

My new trees arrived today! You have no idea how exciting it is for a desert rat such as myself to have a tree added to their yard that adds instant shade. Seriously. It is so awesome I cannot even begin to tell you.

When we bought this house, the west side of the house (you know, the HOT side) looked like this...

Lots of concrete and gravel next to the block wall. Always an effective landscaping strategy to keep things cooler.

The lone green thing in the foreground is supposed to be an orange tree. They must have planted the seed when they built the house in '98 because that's about how big a tree of that age would be. Why someone would not plant decent trees on the west side immediately, I have no idea. Also, that "garden" looking boxed off area? Yeah, huge litter box. I so wish I were kidding about that.

So, Mister C and I went ahead and ordered some trees for the west side within about a week of moving in. We put in a ficus, a lemon and a navel orange. You can't see the ficus in this picture, but you can see the lemon and the orange.

The only problem was that the two citrus trees were the same size when we planted them and as you can see, the orange tree hasn't done so well. In case you're wondering, the orange tree is the tiny greenish/yellow thing hiding behind the awesome lemon tree. I'm not sure, but I think it may have shrunk since we bought it. Also, the dirt you see strewn across the sidewalk in front of the lemon is from my idiotic dog Izzy who has no manners and hasn't figured out that exposing tree roots doesn't enhance their growth in any way.

Either way, we planted trees because we wanted shade. We planted citrus because we wanted fruit. But nobody told us that orange trees grow so dang slow. So a few days ago Mister C & I decided to go ahead and get a larger tree put in where the orange tree was and then move the orange tree elsewhere.

After talking with the guys at the nursery for awhile, we figured out that it was going to cost us about $200 to have a specialist move the orange tree and they wouldn't guarantee that the tree would even survive. So we decided to just buy a new one and have the original one pulled out. Which made us kind of sad, because honestly neither one of us cherished the thought of killing a perfectly good tree just because it was slow growing.

After thinking about it overnight, I called my folks and asked them if they would be interested in the orange tree if I helped dig it up. Of course, no guarantee that it would live, but at least it wouldn't cost a boatload of money and there was a chance it would survive. They gladly accepted and I started watering the tree to help loosen the soil. Long story short, I mostly dug up and loosened up the tree and then my dad and uncle came over and pulled it out. They dug a hole back at their house and stuck the tree in the ground. We're really hopeful that it will take but we'll have to just wait and see.

In the meantime, my new ash tree arrived this morning and got planted in the place of the orange tree. It immediately started shading the place up. Now my side yard looks like this...

And from the opposite end you can see how much nicer the west side is now. You can see the ficus tree at the far end of the sidewalk in this picture. Behind it, in the corner, is our grapefruit tree which was the only decent sized and healthy tree in the back yard when we moved in.

And here is our new orange tree. It's already bigger than our original one and I'm hoping that having it away from all of the concrete might help it do a little better as well. Eventually, it should block the view of our neighbors roof and give us some nice fruit.

Now, I'm heading out to brave the one hundred degree heat just to go look at my beautiful new shade tree again.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Starting at the top

We have finally started painting. And when I say "we", I mean "I" since Mister C does not generally paint. He's too ADD to do the cutting in because it requires patience. And he's too ADD to do the rolling because he rushes and annoys me. So there you go. Five previous houses and a current one and all have been or will have been almost exclusively painted by me. Also by Ninny who contributed greatly to our home in Chandler and taught me how to do some fancy painting. But I digress.

As I mentioned yesterday, we've now been in this home for twenty one months and it looks like we're going to be here for the long haul. Up until now, I really wasn't too keen on starting any projects.

Our usual m.o. is to move in to a house and start painting on day one. First, everything gets painted. Then, we add or replace ceiling fans throughout, sometimes other lighting as well. We almost always have to replace the microwave and dishwasher. One or the other of them usually dies within the first month. If the rest of the appliances are in good shape and white, we just replace the broken item. If everything else is a mish mosh of different colors, styles or makers, we replace everything. Sometimes we replace the counter tops, especially when they are pink. We've bought homes with pink laminate counters twice. Seriously.

While all this is going on inside, we are almost always also fixing the exterior as well. We pull out dead plants and weed out neglected gardens (and one exceedingly stubborn vine from hell). Our last garden in Nebraska was so bad that after I spent an entire day weeding it, it still looked so bad that we actually hired guys. It took three guys two full days to get the job done. I would normally say that they were stretching the job out, trying to earn more money, but they got paid by the job not the hour. It looked really great but even better was that the neighbors were so excited when it was done. After the clean out, we plant trees and new flowers. We get the grass looking good.

The very last thing we do is replace the flooring. And then...we sell the house. Because there's no way in hell it is ever going to look this good again. It's so predictable that when the carpet guys showed up at the last house we had, Master J looked at us and asked "Are we moving?" Yeah, that predictable.

So, here we are in this house and we haven't done hardly anything. We did replace the lighting in the kitchen and halls but really, that's it. Until now.

Three weeks ago we had a security system installed in the house. The kind where they put it in the walls. So now, my entire house has these spots on the walls and ceilings where the guys installed the wiring and then patched the walls. Add to this the previous patch jobs from the lighting project and Mister C's failed cable wiring project and it looks pretty tough in here.

On Wednesday, Mister C bought a five gallon bucket of ceiling paint. Yesterday, I started painting. I started in our bathroom since it's a fairly small room and I wanted a feeling of accomplishment to keep me motivated. I started assembling my tools and taping off the fixtures at 9:30 and figured I'd be done by 10:30 or so. Not so much. I finished the second coat at 1:55 in the afternoon. This does not bode well. Only 95% of the ceilings to go before I start on the walls. Sigh.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Catching up...

Kind of left you hanging out there, didn't I? Yeah, sorry about that. So, air conditioners...

After leaving a message with the warranty company regarding our broken ac unit, Mister C sat on the couch mumbling things like:

"Every damn house!" and "Just paid off the balance this morning!" and "Ridiculous!" and "Had enough of this!" and on and on. Eventually I figured out that he was actually considering replacing, not just repairing, our air conditioner. It boils down to a few things.

When we bought our home twenty one months ago, we got a really good deal because it was a foreclosure that had been bought by an investor. No doubt the investor made money on the deal, but we got a good deal. And then the market continued to drop. So now, twenty one months later, it's definitely worth less than we owe on it. In other words, we're not going anywhere any time soon.

Additionally, this is the second time we've had to repair this air conditioner. In talking with our neighbors, we figured out that it had already been repaired at least twice prior to our buying the house. At this point, it's only twelve years old yet it's already broken down at least four times? That doesn't seem right.

And lastly, it's undersized and inefficient. It strains to keep the house at a steady temperature and it seems to run constantly. Loudly at that.

So, the debate was between fixing the ac (again) for the short term, or replacing it altogether with a correctly sized and much more efficient new one. Since it looks like we're going to be here for at least a few more years it seemed like getting the new one was the way to go. We'll never get our money out of a new air conditioner but at least we can enjoy consistent cooling and lower utility bills while we're here. And, since one of the main reasons we have a home warranty is to cover an air conditioner break down, we can drop it and save the monthly fee.

Okay, so now we've made a decision and it's time to move on it. Mister C works with a gentleman who recently replaced his ac after spending literally months debating the pros and cons of various manufacturers and units. He shopped around for the best deal on the best product and replaced his in January. He got a really good deal. Mister C called this walking consumer reports/salesman's nightmare and got the name and contact information of the guy he had worked with. Mister C said he would call the guy. On Saturday, this guy called Mister C. He said his co-worker had called him and convinced him he needed to give us the same deal he got. And he agreed. Now, we did want a slighter different unit because it fit our needs better, but we still got a heck of a deal. But the best part was that they could install it on Monday.

So basically, by the time the warranty company was getting around to calling us back, we already had the new ac being installed. I was able to start basking in the cool happiness that is good air conditioning in Arizona in July by Monday afternoon. Better yet, it is so quiet I don't even know it's running! And that in itself has been worth it.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The day the a/c died...(again)

We played this tune last year around this time as well. The a/c went out, we called the warranty company and they sent someone out to fix it. Of course it takes a full business day for them to call back just to set up the appointment. Luckily it happened early in the week. So last year we went to Lowe's just before they closed and picked up two window a/c units. One for our room, one for the room where Master J would be sleeping. And then we buried ourselves in our respective rooms until the main a/c got fixed two days later.

So here we are this year. In sunny Arizona. In July. Aaannnddd....yup, the a/c failed again. We got our two units from last year's breakdown out and started them up right away. Because this time, the failure happened late on a Friday. Which means we won't even get the call back to set up the appointment until some time on Monday. Which means we won't have an appointment until at least Tuesday or Wednesday and it could be Thursday or Friday until it's actually fixed. Which means we went back out to Lowe's and purchased two more window units because it's going to be a long six or so days of 110+ degrees outside and 90+ degrees inside. Excuse me while I go sweat underneath a ceiling fan.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Update on yesterday's post...

I got a call from the listing agent that wrote yesterday's poorly worded addendum this morning. I saw her name pop up on my caller id and greeted her by name. The first words out of her mouth were "So I guess I don't understand what the problem is with the addendum." Really?

So I explained it to her.

She kept asking me "Well, what should it say instead?" and I kept telling her "It should either say that the seller is paying for their share of the taxes and all commissions or is should specify what the buyer is expected to pay." It seems so simple to me but evidently it was confusing. I think I actually heard the light bulb go on for her because after about the third time through, she paused and then said "Ooohhhh, you think the bank will actually try and make the buyer pay for commissions because the addendum says they will pay for all closing costs." Yeah, that's what I mean. Because it's a contract. A legally binding contract. And you can bet that if the bank can save a penny by putting it on the back of someone else, they will.

Once she understood, she got me a correct addendum within an hour. I got it signed by my guy within an hour of getting it and had it sent back to her immediately. Now we just wait for the title company to put everything together for the closing and hope there will be a clean title at the end of it all.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I really hope I'm misunderstanding this...

So I have a client I've been working with for about a month. We found a great house but it's a short sale, and I really hate short sales. But it's a great house and a good deal and according to the listing agent it only involves one bank. Which normally would be great. But the one bank in this situation is Tank of Tabearica, and we all know what that means: big, fat pain in the arse and probably won't work out. But my client really likes the house so we put in a cash offer at ninety percent of the asking price. Well, the owners immediately accept the offer, as they almost always do, with only two minor changes regarding the title company and the earnest money. Then the whole signed thing gets sent to the negotiator for the bank.

Three weeks later we get a response, the bank has countered for almost asking price. Which we kind of knew they would do. We countered back, coming up almost to their counter price, but no deal. They won't budge. Now, my client is a good guy and he says "well we tried, go ahead and accept their counter because I still want the house". Good so far.

I email the listing agent to let her know we'll take it and to request from her the written counter offer so I can get signatures from the buyer. That was Monday morning. Last night, around 10:20, approximately thirty seven hours later, I got an email from the listing agent with the counter offer attached. But it was the wrong counter offer, it was the one originally sent to us from the owners at the beginning of the process. So I email her back immediately to let her know that what she sent is not what we need to sign and point out that the new price should be part of the addendum.

Twenty one hours later, I finally get a response to my email. The only thing the email says is "hope this will work" and there's an attachment. I check the attachment and now she's re-worded the terms of the original counter offer and added the new price. So far, so good. But underneath that is a line that says "Buyer to pay all closing costs except for seller's share of prorated property taxes as provided by title." Seriously? Do they really expect the buyer to pay all of the seller's closing costs? Including both sides of the commission? Because that's how it reads and I guarantee that if my buyer signs it, they'll hold him to it.

Needless to say, my response back was "No, actually this won't work. Do the sellers/bank really expect the buyer to pay commissions? Please clarify." Because if they are...seriously, what the hell?

Monday, July 12, 2010

August 9th

I adore Master J, I really do. He's bright, inquisitive, loving and funny as hell...but there's only 28 more days until school starts. I'm just saying.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Bountiful Baskets, week 2

This is what I picked up this week.

On the fruit side:

I'm sure my husband will be thrilled with the blueberries as that is one fruit that he just adores. We got one cantaloupe last week and it was delicious so I'm glad to get two of them this week. Since we were down to one banana from last week's haul, the new ones won't go to waste for sure. Grapes, nectarines and oranges round out the fruits.

As for the vegetables:

I love green peppers and will probably dice them up right away to start using in my eggs for breakfast or with some chicken and brown rice for lunch. We got corn last week as well and it was wonderful so I'm happy to see more of the same. I still have iceberg lettuce from last week and I'll most likely mix that with the Romaine I got this week to make a healthier salad with the cherry tomatoes. I'm not a huge fan of squash but with only two to deal with, I'm sure I can make stir fry of some sort that incorporates them. And I'll be perfectly honest when I tell you I have no idea what to do with white asparagus. Regular asparagus is not something I would go out of my way to consume, but supposedly the white is sweeter. There are directions on the packaging as to how to cook it so I'll give it a shot and see what happens.

I have already washed everything. I cut up the cantaloupes as soon as they were dry and put them in a storage container in the fridge. Last week I figured out that if I prepped the fruits and vegetables, I would eat them. As long as it was just as easy to grab as the other packaged snacks were, I actually made the right choice.

Friday, July 9, 2010

She looks so innocent

But most of her time is spent trying to figure out a new way to be obnoxious.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sugar Addict

I've discovered that I'm not really addicted to caffeine. For the past fifteen years I've been under the impression that I was and I usually drink no less than a pot of coffee a day. But what I'm really addicted to is the sugar I put in my coffee. How do I know this? Because I stopped putting sugar in my coffee. And I stopped craving coffee.

I've had only a few days in the past few weeks that I put sugar in my coffee. On those days I drank my "normal" amount of coffee. The rest of the time I've drank my coffee black. On those days, I've been drinking 3-4 cups of coffee, max. And I'm not craving it at all. Today is a good example of my new normal. By 8:30 this morning, I had been up for about 3 hours and I wasn't even halfway through my second cup of coffee. Previously by that time I would have consumed at least three cups, and I would have only been up for maybe an hour and a half.

I've been reading lately about all the negative health risks associated with high sugar consumption, not the least of which is cancer. Diabetes and hypertension are also risks. Visiting Ninny in Maryland last week and seeing how hard she's fighting cancer had an impact. Because here's the thing that struck me, as far back as I can remember, she's smoked and drank coffee by the pot. Coffee that was doctored up just like I love mine to be, with sugar and milk. Now, no doubt that her smoking has not done her a bit of good and very well could be a contributing factor in her cancer. But I have to believe it's more than just that. I have to believe it's a whole lifestyle choice that contributes even more.

While I've never smoked, in the past fifteen years I've consumed way too much sugar and other processed food and managed to avoid both consistent exercise and fresh fruits and vegetables. I've always proclaimed that I'd rather have no coffee at all than to drink it black. I guess I'm changing my mind on that. Just for today, I'll drink my coffee black and be grateful that I'm doing something good for my body. Just for today, I'll get in thirty minutes of some sort of exercise and use my body for what it's designed for. And just for today, I'll make a point to eat at least one fruit and one vegetable that I washed the dirt off of. I'm hoping that if I string enough "todays" together that I'll change my future.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Playing around with B&W

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

More from the National Aquarium

What are you looking at?

Update: This is a saddleback butterfly fish (thanks WicketsMom!)

Yellow Tang

Just watching lunch stroll by...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Independance Day

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Bountiful Baskets

This is what I picked up this morning for my first experience with the produce co-op. I can't tell you how excited I am about this. First of all, the pick up process was simple and quick. I was in and out in under fifteen minutes. Secondly, everyone was super nice and helpful. The gal next to me in line has been doing this for about four months and she said there's very rarely anything in the baskets that she just won't eat (she mentioned chard specifically). As I packed my bags from their baskets, the only thing I ran across that was questionable was brussel sprouts. I'm just not a fan. But I'm pretty sure Mamoo is so I'll probably send them home with her tomorrow.

After I got home and before I laid it all out, I weighed the three bags and they came out to just under thirty five pounds. As a first time buyer, I had an extra three dollar charge on top of the original $16.50 ($15 for the basket, $1.50 handling fee). But even at $19.50, that's just about fifty eight cents a pound for fresh produce. Which is awesome. The best part is that (other than the brussel sprouts) everything I got was something that not only would we eat, but that we actually like. And since we are a family that is horrified by the concept of over ripe bananas, the ones we got being green was just a bonus.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Weak, starving tree hugger

Guess I haven't posted in a few days. That's probably because I'm weak from lack of food. Yeah, I'm watching what I eat. What of it? Sorry, I'm a bit out of sorts. Who knew a lack of bacon could do that to a girl?

I decided while on my trip to visit Ninny that I really need to start taking better care of myself. Not necessarily so I can look good, although that wouldn't bother me in the least, but because I'm finally realizing that not taking care of myself will eventually shorten my life. And I want to be around for a long time. Mostly so I can continue to harass and torture Mister C. But also because we just seem to die off too young in my family. So I started with the basics.

On Wednesday morning, I logged back onto my SparkPeople page and got to work. I've been documenting every time food crosses my lips. Just for the record, that's a lot of documenting. The nice thing with this method is if I'm feeling too lazy to go type in the food I'm thinking of eating, there's a pretty good chance I'm not going to eat it. I also reaffirmed my decision not to consume soda. The empty calories are bad enough, the insane desire for pizza as soon as I take the first sip is worse. And finally, my coffee absolutely sucks. No sugar. No milk. No creamer. No happiness.

As for the exercise portion of things, well that's a little bit harder. Because the treadmill is probably a full two feet from my side of the bed. Two feet! Normally I practically trip over it on my way to get my warm, sweet caffeine fix. Now, I have to force myself to actually get on it.

So on Wednesday, I did twenty minutes of walking. Yesterday I opted to go pull weeds for fifteen minutes and then do some strength training for my flabby upper body. Today, I managed to walk at a decent pace for thirty seven minutes. Mostly this was due to the fact that a home improvement show started not long after I got on that I wanted to finish watching. Because I was in shock. Apparently on this particular show, three different renovations are evaluated and compared for which family got the most for their money. That's not the shocking part. The shocking part is that each of these people spent $100,000 on a basement renovation. What the hell? That's almost three times as much as I spent on my first house! I mean, I've sold houses recently that cost less than that. For the entire house. And the land it's sitting on. And they were livable as they were. Long story short, I think I'm in the wrong line of work and I'll be tuning in tomorrow.

One more thing is part of my change towards a healthier me, I'm going to try a produce co-op. It's not one where I have to sign up for a year or commit to a lifelong willingness to hug trees. I just have to order and pay for a basket of fresh produce on Tuesday and then pick it up on Saturday morning. I have no say in what I get, I just know it will be six fruits and six vegetables that are currently in season. At $15 it seemed like a good deal but I'll know for sure tomorrow when I pick it up. If it sucks, it's not a huge loss. If it's awesome, I got a great deal. I'll take a picture of my basket after I get it home tomorrow. Part of what's interesting to me about this is that I'm pretty confident we'll be trying some new foods around here. I'm also pretty sure I'll have to start looking up new recipes to figure out what to do with some of it. Either way, by this time tomorrow I'll know if I'm going to do it again next week.

So, lack of food, crappy coffee, forcing myself to exercise and possibly turning into a tree hugger. Yeah, that about wraps it up.