Friday, May 27, 2016

Potty-Life Part I



 
I'm baaaaaackkkk!

And, true to that greeting, if you really wanted to put an image of me all toothy smile and crazy eyes peeking around my shower curtain, you would not really be that far off from reality.
But, more on that in a second…
First, I’d like to back story it up a few months…errr, a year-ish and get caught up on why I abandoned this blog place in the first place. I swear it was not intentional!
1. As they are wont to do, the Universe has really thrown me some fast, hard shitballs in the past few years. As I mentioned in the last episode, I went through Hell otherwise known as Divorce. It was a true “Dallas” style divorce, complete with lots of drama, bitterness and mean attorneys; however, it was minus the big money and mascara-running crying scenes. Oh, wait…the crying scenes were definitely there, but the lawyers pretty much cleaned out the meager emergency fund, the tiny equity and worthless stocks, plus they even took the found-change jars and then gave us bills. As the saying goes, the only winner in divorce is the money-grubbing, soul-sucking, conflict –causing attorneys. Unlike other life events, divorce cannot be corralled to one single moment in my life. It was not like a wedding date or a birthday or even a blessed death date and no one warns you that divorce happens in a series of torturous showdowns for years to come. But enough about all of that, I am finally divorced, got the Shotgun House and I can finally duct tape back the pieces the attorneys and my ex left me and move forward. And, slowly and carefully and frugally, I have inched forward.


2. Next up on the shit-storm list has been my employment. This, too, has taken up chunks of my spirit, energy and time, but at least this circus of horrors provides a paycheck. It seems, being the youngest on the small workforce in my state (and this is probably the last time in my life I will ever be able to utter that statement) has left me the “last man standing” as every single one of my co-workers retired in the past couple of years. My employer, a huge entity in all our lives, has not back-filled and so my workload not only doubled, but tripled, then quadrupled and then…I lost count. Needless to say, other than a supervisor, I am literally (and mostly figuratively) an Army of One. I hear a rumor we may actually be hiring another person soon and this may make things easier. I won’t begrudge this point as I actually feel blessed to have a great job in my field of study (biology) and I am proud of the work we (as in me, myself and I) do.
Army of One-Note the eye rolling.
3. And, in narrowing the list down to the big 3 of shit-presents from said Universe, I will mention one other thing. It is house related. My other house, a small rental in another state, has been a huge albatross in my life. First, I had to evict a rotten tenant that helped me decide I will never, ever (probably) have another tenant. After eviction, the house could not be sold due to the issues in #1 (court-ordered hold on assets; I use this word loosely). So, it sat empty, yet cared for by my step-father. However, despite my mom and companion’s generous efforts, the house was broken into and all of the copper stolen. This was a huge blow and now I have another house to rehab besides the main one in this blog. I am sure I will share stories of that house as well as I mend her damage and hopefully get her on the market by the end of the year. In case you are wondering, the house is a cute 1933 tiny house before “Tiny House” was a TMed by hipsters.
So, back to the main topic of the blog: What do you do when the Universe insists on throwing poop at you? You remodel the bathroom is what!


I tried to create a scrapbook account of the Shotgun House bathroom rehab. In future posts I do plan to improve in the photography department and rely less on potty-mouth words, I promise (hopefully).

 
 BEFORE:

2012: Here is the photo the realtor took of the bathroom. I can't give credit because I can't remember the listing broker's name, but he took this in early 2012 (in case you can't see that timestamp). I will give him credit for not only photographing a small space, but making it look way better than it actually was. 


2013-2016: I bought the Shotgun in July 2012. I pretty much left it just like that for 2 years and then, in late 2013, I started to tear it apart  by removing/replacing the broken shower surround and tearing up the yucky vinyl flooring. I then lived with it in that stage for more than two years! I'm on the Slow Rehab Plan (SRP) for La Casa.

 
AFTER


I tried to recreate the Real Estate photo complete with crappy light

2016: Current state of things is that it is almost done. I still need to install trim at the ceiling, figure out a light switch, door hardware, and install the new light fixture, but overall I am really happy for how it is progressing. The great thing about buying an abandoned, forgotten home is that you can reimagine it through your own eyes. The house, to me, has a gypsy spirit and a mysterious, New Orleans-esque vibe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Here are some of the features:
  1. I replaced the nasty stock vanity that was falling apart with the base of a Victorian sewing machine ($10 estate sale purchase), a found tabletop (Cheers to Big Garbage Day and free!) and a porcelain sink bought at Habitat Restore for $5. Because this house had some other crazy rehabber at some point who also liked reuse as in whatever was on the super-clearance racks at Home Depot, I had to make due with the current plumbing layout. Eventually I plan to change it all out so it looks and behaves much better. I also need to hide the loo paper.
  2. Shower surround is new stock from the Home Depot. My ex-roommate helped me replace the stained, broken one that was in there. I trimmed it out to give it a more fancy look. Sometimes, one must give in to modern to get a job done.
  3. The tiles were purchased from the Habitat Restore for a forgotten cheap amount. They are grey and green and I made a "rug" pattern. I like them, but they are super hard to keep clean (. I am not too happy about that because I think I am related to Pigpen from the Peanuts, I have two boys and two dogs, so they will probably always be dirty. A couple of tiles also slipped during installation and I missed them! It bothers me greatly to see these out of alignment, but C'est la Vie-the labor was free.
  4. The color of the bathroom is a smoky grey violet (best seen in photo below on the left) and I love it. It is kind of a darker color and I've heard you are not suppose to use dark colors in a small space or else it will make it look even smaller. The space is roughly 36 sq feet-I am pretty sure I am not going to fool anyone with the illusion of space if I painted it all white. I feel quite chillaxed in there and the color goes great with my Mexican artwork collection 
  5. The majority of the décor came from the thrifts*, gifts or travels. I am in the process of paring down the belongings and I was really selective to what would stay. Here is what made the cuts (you'll have to "I spy" for them in all the photos): Alligator dish (gift from friend);  candle (gift from friend); jar of bath salts (jar thrifted, salts a gift from my kids);  she(thrifted); mirror (thrifted); hand towels (Target Halloween clearance); Mexican Artwork, pottery & Ex Votos (thrifted and travels); Madonna bust (thrifted); tarot card sign (eBay).
  6. I am working on the towel bar which is genuine Ohio River driftwood and these really cool towel hooks. I'll update this in Part II.



 
*Thrifts: secondhand stores, flea markets, antique stores, yard sales, etc.
 

Friday, January 1, 2016

2015: Don't Let the Door Hit You in the Ass


2015 was this to me:

  • A shit-storm of emotions, burdens, loneliness, realizations, wake-up calls, growth and change.
  • A finalization to the three-year divorce battle of the roses (insert my last name and his which is not Rose)
  • The year I reached the summit of my life in age (despite feeling at least a decade younger most days).
  • This wonderful time I was able to spend two months on a work-vacation (mostly work) in Puerto Rico.
  • A time when I was unable to complete even one full task on the Broken House (although, I did try!)

So, onward march into a fresh New Year, I say, and here it is upon us! I just feel 2016 is going to a much better one and I made 20 goals to help guide me. And, just to be sure I have all my NY bases covered, I also decided a good word for 2016 is:

Repair (rəˈper)
1. To fix or mend (a thing suffering from damage or a fault).

2. The action of fixing or mending something.

       (Synonyms: Restore to working order, put right, renovate, fix up, overhaul...)
 
2016 Goals
  1. Pay off a third of my debt. More would be even better. How? See the next goal!
  2. No spend for an entire year (basically beyond very necessary items like pet food, a little perishables, TP, and the proverbial new underwear should they be needed, I will buy nada! I will also make a list of wish/wants/possible needs beyond the aforementioned and try to scrounge, borrow, and, last, buy used before succumbing the siren call of retail). This will also mean being creative in finding free entertainment, ways to save on food, and making gifts.
  3. Organize and purge the email boxes (both work and personal). You have no idea how tedious this one is going to be, but both have had years of neglect.
  4. Organize and purge paperwork. Again, work and home need some serious weeding/landscaping in this area.
  5. Read 25 already owned books and then purge, give-away, sell or whatever. Keep only if absolutely irreplaceable (like a reference book).
  6. Restart blog...Hey! Here I am!
  7. Learn something new. I am hoping I learn to identify mushrooms, but we shall see.
  8. Practice/study Spanish every day. I have Rosetta Stone and bilingual friends to call upon for this goal.
  9. Hike 12 new places.
  10. Build raised garden beds and grow something in them (something other than weeds, preferably).
  11. Rehab rental house and sell. I do not have time for a house 8 hours RT away. I had to hang onto it until the divorce was completed and it is. Bye, bye little cottage!
  12. Visit a new state and/or city.
  13. Organize office. Enough said.
  14. Purge/de-clutter/Konmari-the-hell out of the clothes and shit in this house.
  15. Be an urban forager: relearn edible plant ID, learn mushroom ID, try other urban foraging activities.
  16. Learn photo editing software and organize photos.
  17. Find a kennel for the dogs (I should knock this one out fairly quickly as my pet sitter is no longer a part of our lives and I will need one by end of January).
  18. Finish a house project before starting (non-emergency) one. I want to see progress!
  19. If I should happen to finish the many projects already started, begin this one: Pantry/workshop room.
  20. Do three art projects. I have some ideas, but I am leaving this one open.
  21. Do 6 things on the 101/1001 days list I made over a year ago. I am running out of 1001.

Happy New  Year!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Dogs like Cookies Too


I am on my own tonight for Christmas Eve for the first time in decades. Last year, I had a boyfriend. The year before that, I had a housemate. Thirteen years before that I was co-habitating or married to my children's father. Before him, I had another boyfriend and lived in my hometown with siblings and parents and on and on. The last time I was alone on December 24th was when I was 25 and living in Tucson, AZ with my dog Isaak (RIP sweet boy). Exactly twenty years later, I am alone again. Well actually, like in AZ, I am not really completely alone now either; I am sharing the holiday with Banksy and Orca, my current two loving and beautiful dogs.

And, this holiday eve is warm and mild which has been a very lovely break from last year's hellish winter. The pups and I took a long walk along the Ohio river, under a bright, blue sky. When we returned home, I wanted to make cookies; however, I haven't much a sweet tooth these days. So, I made dog cookies!

Here is the recipe if you want to make some for your own loving canine. I based it off this one, but changed it to meet my own specifications. For one, I did not add dried milk or salt.

Canine Cookies

2 cups of whole wheat flour
1 cup of oats (quick or regular)
1/2 cup of nutritional yeast (optional but adds nutrients and flavor)
1 bouillon cube (I'm a vegetarian so I used a vegan "pork" flavoring)

Put in mixer bowl and mix together

Add to flour mix

1 cup peanut butter (I only had chunky, but either one is fine)
2 eggs
1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons of water (enough to make a dough)

Mix well. Turn out on parchment paper and lightly dust with flour. Roll and cutout in desired shapes.
Bake at 300 degrees F for 40 minutes (until lightly browned). Let cool (the cookies will quickly harden up). Keep like any other cookies in airtight container.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Before/After Days


 
Before

It's been over a year since I updated the house/urban living blog o' mine. Since March 2013 (yep!), so much has evolved in my life. I am still living in my wonderful Camelback Shotgun house deep in the urban neighborhood of Portland (Louisville, KY). In fact, I am spending much more time here courtesy of a divorce and a change of job duties. In case I never mentioned it, I previously lived back and forth between here and Northern Indiana due to a job transfer and traveled north every weekend (a story for another time).

The divorce (still pending and still vicious) was petitioned July 2013 almost to the date of my house purchase anniversary (7/12). It's been stressful on my mind, heart and finances to say the least. House renovations basically came to a screeching halt while horrible, greedy lawyers and The Evil Ex sucked away all my savings. My vow to only use cash on the house work had to be adjusted. Sadly.

But, work has commenced and I am actually feeling more in sync with my old house and my new challenging life. I've made beautiful friends, worked in my community by planting trees and gardens, learned to be ultra-frugal and accepted that my life is headed in new and curious ways. I've made great strides even in the wake of a massive war that is divorce. My community involvement, friends and this house have helped me stay above swirling, dark waters. Well, all of those things plus my dogs (new guy joined our motley crew in December).

I hope to pick back up where I left off here. Catch up on all the sorid details. I have lots of photos to share and lots of stories to tell about the neighborhood and house that finally gave me a home. I want to jump back into the adventures of saving the soul of an abandoned house located deep in a transiting urban neighborhood or perhaps this is simply the story of saving the soul of an abandoned girl living deep in a transiting urban life.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Cool Idea


 
 
I came across this interesting group called Good Garbage based here in Louisville. I found it via another local blog, D.I.Y Louisville. The group serves the community by providing an outlet for artists to find, repurpose and reuse items destined for the landfill. I love it! Obviously, having purchased a boarded up, abandoned house in the "throw-away" part of Louisville, I am very much pro-repurposing! I applaud the group!

I also would love to utilize this group. See, I have this idea and I have no idea if the rest of the neighborhood would stand behind me, but I would love to see it happen. Being so close to a major river, but being cut off by a highway has posed a lot of issues for this area. The area that borders the highway is blighted. At some point before I moved to Portland, a group of artists tried to brighten it up by placing street art along the 6-ft chain link fence that separated the sidewalk from the grassy area that runs along the highway. I used to drive by and admire the various works made from recycled materials. Sadly, all of the art installations were removed except for a series of colorful letters.

What I think would be wonderful would be to see a wall replace the ugly chain link next to the highway on ramp. One, the wall would help cut down the noise pollution. And, if it was constructed back a little, trees could be planted to help cut down on general pollution. The view is not worth keeping thanks to really bad city planning at some point in Louisville history (it is literally a view of a highway).



What I think would be even better, though, would be to set the neighborhood apart with art. Why not incorporate a wall made of recycled mosaic art? Can you imagine a wall with a depiction of the neighborhood's history (think steamboats) or a river view of the city. Maybe the faces of past residents. Materials could be old dishes, wine bottles, old tiles, even ceramic figurines. It would keep us weird and wonderful!

While trying to find more mosaic examples and a photo of the area I am referring to in Portland, I stumbled upon this artist's blog. It seems my idea is not unique. I'm still learning who all the visionaries are in my adopted 'hood. I love his idea of incorporating a "permaculture" aspect to the street art and he clearly sees a wall in the same place as I do. I think this was the original sketch for the artwork I mentioned used to be there. I should contact this guy, but I think this group of artists have given up on Portland.



Here are some more mosaic examples:



 
 
 


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Bye, Bye Beautiful

 
Two sad neighborhood occurrences happened this week (and the last part of the one before):
  • The awesome thrift store that first brought me to the neighborhood closed for good.
  • Two more historic shotgun houses were torn down by Metro (I presume).
  •  
A couple of months ago, I attended a meeting with city officials to remove my house from the abandoned properties list. I had no problems and was applauded for being an owner-occupant. The people who helped me were gracious and kind and very much pro-revitalization of the hard hit West End of Louisville. Sadly, however, I learned then that the wonderful building that housed the thrift store was bought and plans were in store to demolish it (note to self: Take photos this week). I also heard that plans included a(nother) dollar store to be built in its place.
 
Then, I saw a town hall meeting to approve a Family Dollar. At first I had plans to attend and voice opposition to the plan. However, a week or so later I saw a woman walking on a very cold day from the General Dollar which is further away. I thought maybe we (as in neighbors without transportation or means to get to shopping centers) might need a Family Dollar. Of course, I have since changed my mind again and regret not going to the meeting. The Dollar General is actually only a few more blocks away, near businesses and other retail, and why is it this is the only type of business investors will bring to us. How about an Aldi's or Walgreens or other chains if this is the way it has to go? How about a sit down restaurant? Why another blessed dollar store?
 
When I first decided to move into this neighborhood, I was smitten with the historic houses and businesses (albeit too many of them boarded up and decaying). I loved that it is near the river and the oldest part of Louisville. It was once a busy steamboat port, the last unboarding/boarding before heading on to the mighty Mississippi. John James Audubon even once lived here and owned a mercantile with a friend.
 
Sadly, technology came and the choice was made to build a lock and dam further to the east. This essentially gave Louisville the steam to become a full fledged city. The neighborhood I live in began its decent into ghost-town-hood soon after it opened. Yes, Louisville killed the steamboat port town (sing to the tune 'Video Killed the Radio Star').
 
But, even with the demise of the port town, things were still hopping in the West End of Louisville. Just to the south, Louisville had it's own version of Harlem. Businesses, restaurateurs, artists African-American weathy and free slaves were building a thriving, prosperous and colorful community. Then, a man came along, sold Louisville on a plan to turn it into a white cake donut (sound familiar?) and killed Louisville's Harlem as well. They built a highway that cut off the main routes into these historic neighborhoods and funds were diverted to the east side of Louisville. The ghost-town disease spread.
 
Now, with other cities revitalizing their historic neighborhoods, Metro Louisville supposedly has a strategic plan to turn the west end around. However, their plan seems to be 'contain the impoverished and build warehouses and dollar stores everywhere else'. Many are proposing other ideas (Portland Orchard Project and Urban Louisville are both visionaries outside the usual box). What saddens me the most is that houses that are highly sought after and selling for $100K elsewhere in the city are just being torn down by heavy equipment in mine. At least one of the houses (the one pictured above) still had life and gorgeous original character. Why did no one at least salvage the wood, windows and other details? And, to make it more poignant, these two houses are located just off the major highway exit and the first houses visitors to the area would see if they headed west. Now they will get to see a Shell station and a effing dollar store.
 
I really think my neighborhood (and the others in the West End) are perfect for the type of revitalization seen in other Louisville neighborhoods like Highlands, St. Matthew's and 'NuLu'. I don't understand why small businesses, artisans and niche entrepreneurs are not flocking to this historic area. Is it just the stigma of urban decay? Is is the Metro? Is it just that people are more interested in McMansions and such? Maybe people are just consumed with their everyday crisis and lack interest or means to change the plan? Where are the artists, the visionaries, the hipsters, the lovers of old houses? Why does the city ignore all these investor and bank owned neglected properties until they can't be saved?
 
I'm not sure I am going to find any valid answers to all my questions, but I intend to at least ask. Meanwhile, I am mourning my neighborhood's latest casualties.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Creaking Old Houses

Well, I was amazed by my lack of posts in a two month time span, but what FOUR months? Here it is a new year, a different season. I seemed to have misplaced autumn altogether.

Anyway, back at the Shotgun, I have slowly (as in faster than a snail, but way slower than a turtle) been plugging away at the house rehab. I started the siding and I cannot stress how much of a change it is from the icky, rotting plywood siding to vinyl. I would have loved to put clapboard on the house, but, in the interest of not overspending what I can ever sell a property in the ghetto for and the time I need to get things done, I decided to go with vinyl. I'm not straying terribly far from the color on it now (I think it's called slate). This was mainly so I could do it in stages and it wouldn't stand out. I'm glad I chose this route as winter really came on fast and I haven't done anything but the back of the house (which was falling down and needed priority repairs).

The next side to be done will be the west side. This side gets direct wind and, even as I type this on a snowy night, I can hear the creaking of the poorly insulated walls. I had to do a temporary job of shoving insulation along the edges of the crawlspace to block the wind off of the pipes. This has pretty much been wide open to the wind and I realized the importance of wind blocking when my pipes froze last week. Fortunately, I had no damage (no thanks to the worthless plumber I called to help me thaw them out-Yes, I'm looking at you T. D.). I am hoping I don't have frozen pipes again tonight as the temperatures are supposed to rapidly drop. I am dripping the faucets as a precaution, but I am not going to like the resulting water bill.

Overall, I am still in love with the house, but she is a problem child (as was expected when I found her abandoned and neglected). I need to regain my rehabbing mojo, but winter doldrums have kept my motivation suppressed. I am hoping to start some seeds tomorrow (Feb 1st!!). And, even though the blustery snow is beautiful tonight, I am really waiting on spring to come back around.