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March 28, 2006

Assuming our roles

I guess I finally feel like a home owner.

This weekend we went up to Portland OR for a cousin's wedding. I'm glad we were there.. but it finally occured to me that I'm thinking of all of our expenses in terms of the house.

"Ah, $122 hotel bill... that's the same as two gallons of paint."

Before we left I visited HRBlock (again). They did indeed screw up my taxes.

Taxes are no longer a wash:

+$6000 Federal Gov't
+$ 600 California State Gov't
-$1500 California Property Tax
$5100 net gain

This is -much- better.

Before, when it was a wash, I tabled all thoughts of projects. Nothing was going to get done. It was easy to just not think about it. Now, suddenly, I'm all a-twitter about how to spend it. Should we do the bathroom remodel? install the concrete pad for the workshop? finish the trim in the bedroom? buy new computer monitors? Run off to Vegas for a wild weekend?

I think when all is said and done we're going to spend a little bit on fixing the garage roof and re-doing the house electrical.. and then save the rest. I know. Kinda Boring. But hopefully it'll keep us from bouncing checks.

March 23, 2006

... and HRBlock giveth back

I'm absurdly happy to report that HRBlock screwed up my taxes.

See: The tax man giveth, the tax man taketh away

I went to HRBlock because I knew taxes this year were going to be difficult. I bought a house and I did a cashless exercise of stock options (my company gives me stock options each year because I'm a good employee. I have the option to buy some stocks at $2/share and then turn around and sell that same shares for $14/share. It's nice for quick, semi-risk free cash.. but the gov't takes a big bite of it). Turns out that the gal I worked with at HRBlock didn't know how to handle this either. So she ended up counting it twice as income (overstating my income by quite a lot). I even asked her twice if she was sure that was the way to do it.. she assured me that it was. HA!

Smith and Barney, the stock purchase company, sent a summary of the transaction and a helpful brochure that shows how to account for it on your taxes. I haven't yet figured out the exact difference.. I'm hoping to go back into the HRBlock office today or tomorrow to get this worked out. At the very least, I hope that my State tax bill of $1500 will go away. I think we could do quite a lot with $1500.

When we bought the house, the PO was required to pass the city inspection (It's a San Pablo city rule). It turns out that they hadn't -actually- passed this inspection. About a week ago I got an all-official looking letter from the city stating that we weren't in compliance because we hadn't passed the final inspection. I called the city. It turns out that Mr. O and realtor had never setup the final inspection (probably because they were waiting for the electrical and window work to finish). Their contractor has been dragging his heels on the window and electrical work since December.

I setup the final inspection for 3/22 and called Mr. O's realtor to inform her that this would be happening. I hoped that she'd light a fire under the contractor to get the work done. It worked!

Well the inspection happened, and we didn't pass. I notified Mr. O's realtor and she assured me that she'll take care of these items.

Why we didn't pass city inspection:
- Need permits for final siding. Someone (probably before Mr. O) installed (icky) vinyl siding on the house but never got a permit for this work. The city wants there to be a permit. At some point in the future I want to remove the vinyl and (hopefully) restore the wood siding. I wonder if I'll need a permit for that?
- The inspector couldn't tell if the bathroom window was tempered. To pass the inspection, Mr. O replaced that window.. I suspect he'll just have to provide documentation that the glass is tempered.
- The initial inspection stated that 5 windows need to be replaced. Mr. O only replaced 4 of them (3 in the bedrooms and 1 in the bathroom). They'll need to identify and replace this other window. I'm hoping it's the 4th bedroom window.. but I suspect it's the kitchen window.
- The final cut over to the new electrical box is not done. This isn't surprising since the electrical work was only just barely completed. I expect this to happen in short order.

The wires are to the left of the door and run to the garage. You can also see here the minty-green siding that is gone now that the new bigger windows are installed.

- The wires from house to garage are not up to code. They need to either bring them up to code or move them underground. Right now there are 3 wires that run from the back door to the garage. They're just bare wires dangling in space. When I viewed the house, Mr. O's realtor assured me that they were taking those down and running them underground. Hopefully that's what will happen shortly.

March 20, 2006

Boxes and boxes and boxes...

This weekend I finally figured out why we have no food in the house.

On Saturday I found a stack of boxes (4 of them) in the garage that had all of our canned goods in them. These have been lost in the garage for the last 3 months. This means that I now have a lot of duplicates. For a while I've been saying things like "Gee, I thought we had Pam." and "Gee, how on earth did I run out of mushroom soup?" and then putting them on a shopping list and buying them. Finally it all makes sense. We weren't out, we were just utterly disorganized.

At this point, after unpacking the boxes, I have about 10 cans of mushroom soup in the cupboard. It's not that I love mushroom soup.. it's just that it's a staple in my kitchen. Something you should never be without... and obviously something I won't run out of for a while.

To accomodate all this new food I had to rearrange our pantry cupboard. The good news is that it all fit. The bad news is that, well, I'm still short.. so I need a step to reach most of the goods.

Sunday was spent doing more reorganization on the garage. We're trying to get all of the stuff that should be in the house, into the house. Hopefully this will free up enough space to get all of the stuff that should be in storage, into the garage. We're also going through the "Great Purge of 2006"

The problem with the "Great Purge" is that I hate to throw stuff away. Deep (deep) down inside I'm really a green-y tree-hugger and I despise the idea of filling up the landfill with still-usable-but-junk-to-me items. My solution to this is to donate all of these items to "Ducal" (an SCA event run by KHTI in September that takes donated junk and resells it to the SCA populace so that someday the SCA group can purchase a permanant property for SCA events).

Marc -hates- this idea. He's repelled by the idea of storing our junk for another 6 months just so we can haul it to Ducal and give it away. I can see his point. It's taking up 6 months worth of space in our leaky garage. He suggested we get a storage unit for this stuff.

It just seems -wrong- to spend money on a storage unit for junk we don't want just to free up space in our leaky garage for the junk we do want. Just wrong!


My Mom and Dad are (hopefully) starting a blog(Neverdone) about the house they're building in Montana. They're kind of shy and a little intimidated by technology, but if you have a chance, please pop over and say "Hi" and something encouraging. I think they'd really appreciate it. I'm pretty sure that after no time they'll be part of the "Houseblogs.net" family.

For reference, they're building a 3 story Queen Anne victorian that is on the Yellowstone River outside of Billings, Montana. They started building in 2001 and I think they'll finally be moving in this year (2006). The only contractors they hired were the guys who poured the gypcrete for the radiant floor heating and the guy they have checking to make sure the elevator is correctly installed. Everything else they did themselves (with a little bit of help from family and friends). I have such house-envy.

March 16, 2006

Technorati and Blogsome

Because I'm a -huge- geek I did some research into Shauna's question about Blogsome and Technorati. Standard disclaimer: I'm no expert.. I just have unchecked need to know.

Shauna said:
That is very kewl. I've been trying to futz with my site for Technorati as well, but under my free host (Blogsome, which has a server-side, limited version of Wordpress), it's not going so well. I am completely baffled by the coding involved in getting stuff to work.

Because, as mentioned, I'm a -huge- geek I setup a test blog on Blogsome to figure out how to get it working with Technorati.

I setup multiple categories under Blogsome and filed an entry into those categories. (my special category is "xyzza")

I logged into Technorati and claimed my blog. I've had no luck getting the "Quick Claim" to work so I skipped that step and did it the manual way. If you Skip the Quick Claim, Technorati shows you some HTML that you need to place in the front door of your blog. I copied this text and then went into editing in Blogsome. I found the front door by clicking on "Manage" and then choosing "Files". The first file listed there "index.html" is the front door. I pasted Technorati's code into that file just below the line that reads:
<div id="sidebar"><div id="sidebar2">

It could probably go anywhere in the <body> of that page. Save the changes to the template. Finish with the claim.

At this point Technorati is aware of my Blog but won't notice updates automaticaly. To do this you have to setup your blog to ping Technorati when a post is added. Technorati has nice instructions for this (under WordPress in their listing).

WordPress (and BlogSome by extention) doesn't seem to have a concept of "primary" category. Off hand I don't see how you'd be able to setup both a heirarchy and logical tags. Possibly through the "meta tags". It looks a little sketchy.

Technorati, Tags and Heirachy

I'm new to the world of blogging but not new to web design and programming.

I've poked at Movabletype for a couple months and today is the first time I've found something I wanted to do that didn't have an "official" fix. I finally had to apply a hack to get MT to do what I want.

That could be because I'm still mostly unfamliar with the application.. but I wanted to document what I did.. in case I ever need to reverse it.

Today at work I delved into the world of tags and specifically Technorati. The word "Technorati" just sounds cool. I've known of it for a while.. but never really had a good understanding of what it's doing.

In a nutshell.. Technorati is a search engine for blogs.

I have a blog.. I logged into Technorati and "claimed my blog". This essentially registers my blog on Technorati and allows it to be found by the tags used in the blog. Because I use MovableType, the "categories" are used to designate the tags. After claiming the blog I also had to update MTs settings to ping Technorati when entries are added. All of that was relatively painless.

For a long time I've failed to see the usefulness of filing entries under multiple categories in MT. Yes, a project may fall in multiple queues, but if I'm Joe Internet user.. and I arrive at BungalowDreams.. I get disappointed when I find out that all of the categories seem to have the same entries under them. I, Joe, would like to see groupings of posts.. that roll up nice and neat in a heirarchy.

So that's the crux of the problem. I want to maintain a heiractical category list.. while allowing for deeper tagging.

The path to accomplish this seems to be to use the Primary category for the heirarchy and the additional categories for the tagging.

MT understands the concept of a primary category.. but when listing out the categories I couldn't figure out a way to have MT show only those categories that have at least one post that lists -this- category as the primary category. Granted.. I only spent 20 or so minutes trying to figure this out.. so it may exist.. but it wasn't easy to find so I gave up.. and went for the hack.

When I setup my categories I didn't specify a Category Description. Honestly if "Diary" isn't descriptive of what is contained in the category, then I can't see how adding more words is going to clarify the meaning. To get this hack to work I went into all of my "primary" categories.. and added a description (in this case I just re-entered the category label as the description).

Then on the "MAIN" page I updated my category listing to only show those categories that have a description:

<MTIfArchiveTypeEnabled archive_type="Category"<div class="module-categories module">
<h2 class="module-header">Categories</h2>
<div class="module-content">
<MTSubCatIsFirst><ul class="module-list"></MTSubCatIsFirst>
<MTIfNonZero tag="MTCategoryDescription">
<MTIfNonZero tag="MTCategoryCount">
<li class="module-list-item"><a href="<$MTCategoryArchiveLink$>" title="<$MTCategoryDescription$>"><MTCategoryLabel></a> (<MTCategoryCount>)
<li class="module-list-item"><MTCategoryLabel>

Then I updaed the "Individual Entry Archive" to show the tags at the bottom of the page and link to Technorati: Ie, just in case Joe wants to find more blogs that are tagged with these same words.

<br />
<$MTEntryCategories glue=", "$><a href="http://technorati.com/tags/<MTCategoryLabel>"><MTCategoryLabel></a></MTEntryCategories>

As an example, the primary category of this post is "Utterly Off-Topic" (which it is when you consider the topic is "house blogging"). The secondary categories are "Tags" and "Hack".

March 15, 2006

Repairing a subfloor without demolition

We're very new to this (where "this" is defined as house repair). I'm looking for input from die-hard rennovators.. AKA the houseblog community (and hopefully my Dad).. how would -you- fix this?

While walking around on the hardwood floor in the NE bedroom, both Marc and I noticed a specific piece of hardwood that "flexes" when you step on it. It's about 6-8 inches away from the middle of the north wall of the bedroom. Only one 6 inch section of the hardwood flexes.

This seemed like a "bad thing" so this last Sunday Marc went in to check out the crawlspace. It's our first foray under the house.

He took a lot of pictures but I haven't yet had time to sort through them.

Looking up in the crawlspace, the subfloor looks like it's 2x6 boards set at an angle(ie, subfloor laid at 45° to the hardwood floor). Right under the spot that "flexes" Marc found some termite damage (we treated for termites the week we moved in so no live termites there). I believe it's about the size of the palm of your hand.

I want to fix this... and stop the flexing.. but I don't want to have to tear up the hardwood floor (we just got done refinishing it).

Any suggestions?

EDIT: Visit Repairing a subfloor without demolition (part 2) to see how we actually solved this problem.

March 14, 2006

The little things

Sometimes it's just the littlest things that really make you happy. Yesterday Marc installed the curtain hardware for the bedroom. I still need to sew the curtains but just having the hardware up is a warm fuzzy step in the right direction.

Late last night I went around to our bedroom and bathroom doors and installed doorstops like the one shown here (brushed nickle in the bathroom, oiled bronze Antique Brass in the bedrooms). Just this one little thing gave me a warm glow of accomplishment.

"There! Now I've done something tonight on the house". Forget for a minute that there are 1000 other things to do and that some of them are way more important than door stops. Just one tiny little 10 minute installation and I'm -right- with the universe. I wish it was always that easy.

March 13, 2006

The tax man giveth, the tax man taketh away

Taxes this year are a wash.

+$3000 Federal Gov't
-$1500 California State Gov't
-$1500 California Property Tax (I paid $1500 when we closed on the house.. still owe $1500)
$0 net gain/loss

I guess it's better than owing thousands to Uncle Sam.. but I would have prefered to have a nice hefty "tax check" to buy stuff for the house.

I think next year will be better. God, I hope so.

March 10, 2006

Get Color! - Playing along at home - Part 2

Welcome back! (Did you miss part 1? See it here.)

We're redesigning a moldy, cold, depressing bedroom into a warm relaxing Napa-like retreat. So far we've started with the warm rich brown of the hardwood floors. To that we added the warm bright tones of the sunflower as the wall color.


Before: View of the southwest corner of the room
After: So much better. Just a coat of paint makes this much much better.

Now we need to choose the color for the biggest furniture piece in the room, the bed.

Choosing the color for the biggest furniture piece

Let's go back to our personalized Napa color wheel.
The colors of the Napa Valley
Starting with our floor and wall colors, I really love how they work with the red of the rose. I just keep going back to that. This would setup an analogous color pallate. It's harmonious and would bring a lot of energy and excitement to the room. Possibly too much excitement. I do want to sleep in here.
Another color that really attracts me is the green of the pine needles. Green is on the cool side of the color wheel. This would make it recede from the viewer. Although it's not the exact oposite, the green does read as a complement to the colors we've chosen so far. I believe this would draw the eye to the walls and floor and away from the bed.
I'm also really pleased with the look of the yellow. This is another color that would lead to an analogous color palate. I believe that the yellow would cause the bed to become the focus of the room.

Since we have two very active whippets who run around outside and then track mud into the house and right up onto the bed. I'm really leery of having a light-colored duvet, so 'no' to the Yellow. Just to hide their paw prints I'm leaning towards the darker colors. I'm sorely tempted by the red.. but Marc got me the loveliest green velvet duvet for Christmas and I found a green silk striped duvet at Target in the clearance section($149 marked down to $14. You've got to love Target). Since we're on a shoe-string budget..and because I dearly love green, I'm going to go with the green.

Fenris and Tiggy approve of the green on the bed

This color choice also works nicely with the bookshelves my Dad made for me a few years ago. These are a combination of dark stained oak and green. This ties the two colors together nicely. I'll leave this piece unchanged.

Stay tuned for more after this commercial break...

Tears of Joy

I'm exceptionally proud to be able to show to you (all my virtual friends and family) our first before and after photos.


Wednesday, while I was at work, Marc moved us back into the bedroom. When I got home, I was so pleased I actually cried. It was just so lovely. This is the first room where I've actually seen progress on the house. This is the first time that I've actually felt that there's some rhyme or reason to pouring all of my income into this house. If the rest of the house comes out as nicely as this bedroom... then there's actual hope that someday I'll have a "nice" house.. instead of just a pit.

Room: Northeast Bedroom
Paint color: American Traditions, Clarified Butter 3001-6B (I got the color recommendation from Kim over at One Woman's Cottage Life)
Ceiling color: Glidden ceiling paint (goes on pink, dries white)
Hardwood floor stain color: Olympic oil based wood stain, "Special Walnut"

Lessons learned:
- Paint the ceiling first, then the walls, then refinish the floor. We refinished the floor first and that made the painting work that much harder.
- Half-assed work isn't actually something that a home owner sets out to do.. sometimes it's the temporary fix you put in place that somehow becomes permanant. Sometimes it's the only thing you can do because you don't know how to do the project the right way. Sometimes it's pure laziness. Although I want to avoid all half-assed-ness, right now money is the biggest problem. All of the trim in this room is now paint splattered. The intention is to completely rip it out and replace it. Unfortunately, the funds just aren't there. So at this point it looks kind of half-assed.

Marc left me a love note on the closet door. Don't worry, it's the closet we're getting rid of when we do the Bathroom remodel

Still to do:
- Rewire electrical outlets (possibly add more)
- Add phone outlets
- Replace baseboard
- Replace light fixture
- Replace bedroom door
- Replace east window
- Replace window trim
- Add crown molding
- Add new closet (part of bathroom remodel project)

We also have a new addition to the family. Tiggy is a whippet puppy(AKC: Sylvie's Toy Tiger). She was born on November 28, 2005. She likes long walks in the park and snuggling. Her favorite saying is "Grrrr, aroo". She thinks thumbs are overrated and tripe is yummy. And she's settling in nicely with her new family.

March 9, 2006

Get Color! - Playing along at home

Host Jane Lockhart from "Get Color!"
I admit it, I'm addicted to home owner porn. I can barely contemplate giving up cable TV just because I'd lose access to HGTV. If I had the spare money I'd darn sure have DIY (and every other organizing, decorating, DIY channel out there).

I justify my addiction by saying that I'll apply what I learn some day. Some day I'll use all this information to the good of my home.

Today is that day. Today I'm going to use the principles from the show "Get Color!" to design my bedroom (to be honest I've been planning this for a while.. so some of the pieces are already in place).

View of the southwest corner of the room
That said, I have two limits that never seem to be discussed on the show. I'm on a shoe-string budget and my room is tiny (about 10'x12'). Information about the Northeast Bedroom.

Up until now I've always lived in apartments where I wasn't allowed to paint the walls. All of my color choices have been in furnishings. This will actually be the first time ever that I've been able to choose a color and paint the walls. I'm very excited about that.

Establishing the feel: Choosing our personal color wheel

We're starting with a bedroom that is moldy, cold and depressing. I want a bedroom that is elegant, warm and inviting. It should be a peaceful, relaxing place. The room faces north which brings in a cool-blueish light. I don't want the room to feel cold.

I'm going to base my personal color wheel on colors found in the Napa Valley. Napa is just slightly north of me.. and I'd love to live there (can't afford to buy property there.. and the commute would kill me). If I can't live there.. I can bring that feeling to me. Wine tasting, French Laundry, B&Bs, and vineyards, these are the things that say "Napa" to me.

The colors of the Napa Valley

Jumping off point: The hardwood floors.

Late last year (read December) we refinished the hardwood floors. These are oak and have a deep rich stain applied to them. The hardwood floors now echo the color of the pine cones. This is in the orange family. Usually I would run screaming at the idea of putting orange in my house. But dark brown makes me happy. This is also the color of coffee beans and black truffles.

Choosing a wall color

Starting with the color of the pinecones, the first color that really speaks to me is the Yellow-Orange of the sunflower. It's a really bright warm color. I think as long as I stay away from the "traffic cone orange" part of the orange family it will be alright.

The Yellow-Orange is on the warm side of the color wheel. It is very closely tied to the brown as they're side-by-side on the color wheel. This makes for a harmonious combination. This color will also cause the walls and the hardwood floors to blend together.

The second color that really speaks to me is the Red of the rose. This is a very romantic color and I love the rich red against the rich brown.

Red is a very bold color. It's on the warm side of the color wheel so it will bring a lot of energy to the room. It's tied very closely with the brown as they're only separated by a couple of places on the color wheel. This will cause the walls and the hardwood floors to blend together.

The third color that really speaks to me is the Green of the pine needles. The pine cones and the pine needles make a natural pairing. The green and brown is a very earthy combination.

The Green is on the cool side of the color wheel. This color on the walls will contrast with the hardwood floors. This color will draw more attention to the floors.

I choose to go with the Yellow-Orange. Although I'm really tempted by the Red, I know Marc would never go for it. He's very anti-Red. The green, on the cool side of the wheel, doesn't mesh well as a wall color to bring warmth to the room.

So we went with Yellow-Orange. Specifically, Kim over at "One Woman's Cottage Life" recommended "Clarified Butter" from American Traditions. It's a perfect combination of bright without being too yellow or too orange. (at this point, if I was being true to the show, I should have some bubble about the effect of yellow-orange on mood.. but I don't know the effect.. so just pretend you saw a cool bubble here.)

Stay tuned for more after this commercial break...

Visit the Get Color! website at HGTV.com.
More information about colors and the color wheel:

* Ok, for the sake of honesty I have to admit.. we've already painted the room.. . This was still fun. Even when I already knew the outcome.