Sunday, August 29, 2010

No Cupcakes for You!

Our temporary solution to the broken oven is to refrain from all baking/broiling activities.

I found the manual for the oven which dates back to 1999. It advises owners to contact a designated repair person to fix the oven. It also advises DIYers that improper repairs or improper attempts at repairs can result in explosion with possible injury or death. The foolhardy readers among you are now wagging your index finger at the screen, scoffing at me that the manuals just say that for liability reasons, and that you know just how to fix our gas oven that refuses to ignite. Thanks for your well-intended cheerleading, but we'll leave this one to the professionals.

Maybe I'll think about calling a repair person after Labor Day. Between the pest control guy, the nice arborist and tree trimmers, the excellent water heater plumbers and the over-scheduled city water heater installation inspector, Chad and I have been tethered to the 1952 house many days between the hours of 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM lately. We have things to do and places to go other than our own home: such as running to the bakery for stuff from their ovens.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


I broke the kitchen last night. I preheated the oven to make corn muffins to accompany vegetable plates. The oven did not get hot, but did stink-up the house something awful with the smell of natural gas. All pets evacuated to the backyard with me, but not before the front of the utensil drawer came off in my hand... again.

So I ask again (mostly rhetorically), why did we buy a house?

Monday, August 23, 2010

To Do Lists


• Vacuum
• Iron clothes from massive laundry attack this weekend
• Wash and chop veggies for dinner salad
• Moonlight kayak
• Walk Janie
• Water the wilting, sunburned plants

This week:

• Contact handyman about patching drywall in water heater closet
• Buy charcoal-grey paint for lower kitchen cabinets
• Paint kitchen walls and cabinets
• Go to IKEA. Be brave. Buy kitchen lights.
Seriously, do not get overwhelmed and leave IKEA without the kitchen lights.
• Maybe skip IKEA
• Paint water heater closet
• Install shelves in new linen closet/old water heater closet
• Read and recycle at least one magazine from growing stack of magazines


• Get the one wonky pier and the one wonky beam under house repaired
• Have carport parking pad concrete either repaired or replaced with interlocking pavers
• When it's not 100 degrees Fahrenheit outside, weed the planting beds & remove dead plants
• When it's not 100 degrees Fahrenheit outside, dig out bad soil from planter and replace with excellent Ladybug soil
• When it's not 100 degrees Fahrenheit outside, plant some fall stuff
• When it's not 100 degrees Fahrenheit outside, clean out gravel/debris from the rain barrel

Friday, August 20, 2010

Idle Hands?

I'm back from five days visiting the five nieces and nephews on my side of the family, plus Mom and my sister and her husband. I'm just a wee bit tired after rollerskating, bowling, letting my seven-year-old niece drive me around the family farm in the Gator (she's an excellent driver, but the terrain was bumpy), back to homeschool supply shopping and general visiting.

While it was great to see my relatives, I'm happy to be back in Austin. I'm getting back into my daily routine of watering the plants, walking Janie, loving on the kitties, going to the gym, etc...

I'm getting back to volunteer activities with Austin Pets Alive: bottle-feeding tiny kittens and writing blog articles for cats available for adoption. I got an email last week that Austin Pets Alive finally has a building for a more permanent home; versus the series of trailers and pop-up tents that previously housed the veterinary clinic and some adoption facilities. The building needs lots of work including painting. I like to paint.

Do I paint my own kitchen this weekend? I have the supplies and it's been on my to-do list for a while. I can rest in the comfort of my own digs between coats of primer and paint. Or, do I volunteer to go paint the APA building where I can meet some new people and socialize a bit while painting? Hmmm...

Or, do I spurn my inner Puritan work ethic and take it easy and not paint anything this weekend? (Gasp!) There are lots of magazines in the living room that aren't going to read themselves between doing loads of laundry.

I'll ponder this further as I give Janie a bath. I love her, but she is super-stinky.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Good News!

We did pay a pretty many pennies for a new tankless water heater. The bill was the only bad news, but it could have been worse.

The good news:

We do not need new pipes. Hooray! (New pipes would have doubled today's bill.) We have good, sturdy, copper pipes.

Since the new tankless heater is mounted outside of the house, we have space for a linen closet where the old water heater tank lived. Add "patch drywall holes" and "build shelves" to the project list.

We will now have plenty of hot water, even when I want to take a bath in the winter. No more boiling water on the stove and toting it to the tub in a manner reminiscent of Little House on the Prairie. (No offense, Laura Ingalls.)

While the plumbing guys were here, they fixed the toilet. For the record, the plumber said my fix-it job a few months ago was done correctly, but that a different part was also worn out. I guess this trouble-shooting ability is one of the many reasons plumbers get a license instead of just watch youtube videos to learn how to do plumbing.

We are eligible for a federal tax credit for upgrading to a more energy-efficient water heater. The amount will be equal to about 40% of today's bill.

While the budget won't allow for any kitchen upgrades past new paint, at least the hot water will last longer as we wash dishes by hand. Maybe we can have a long weekend away this fall if it doesn't involve paying airfare.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Why Did We Buy a House?

We do indeed need a new water heater. We may also need a new pipes throughout the house, or maybe the plumber service guy just has a sales quota to meet. Since Chad and I are not licensed plumbers, we will not be attempting to install our own water heater. It's one thing to fix the toilet (only to have a different part of the toilet break months later), but an entirely different thing to deal with gas lines and water lines running into the same thingy-ma-bob that could go kaboom!

In light of the very necessary new water heater and possibly necessary total re-pipe job on the 1952 house, there will be no kitchen remodel. There will be no automatic dishwasher. I hope for the sake of our budget that there won't be any new kitchen appliances anytime soon. There will also likely be no fall vacation.

Prepare yourself for dizzying logic (and lack thereof) as I try to figure out what we were thinking when we bought a house.

Anyone who tells you that owning a home is cheaper than renting is a real estate agent and/or sorely misinformed. When I add the interest we pay on our mortgage, and how much larger our monthly mortgage payment is than any of our previous rent rates (two to three times more, seriously, and in one case for less square footage), and our ever-rising property taxes, and the amount of money and time we spend maintaining the house inside and outside, and the fact that now we pay all our own utility and cable bills (whereas rental properties usually covered some or all of those bills), my head hurts.

Chad feels renting is an unsettled and unsure way to live, because your rent rate can go up at the end of your lease, or the property owner can decide not to renew your lease. I never agreed with him until we were bribed out of our two-year lease at the posh condo after only thirteen months by a new owner. The location of the posh rental condo proved a deal-breaker when we had the opportunity to buy it - nestled on a freakishly steep hillside of one of Austin's most notoriously dangerous and busy roads. We also gained a bit too much insight into the condo mismanagement when the condo's property management company (allegedly) embezzled the entire reserves fund from the condo association and then declared bankruptcy. Phew! Dodged a bullet there!

As mortgage-payers (I can't honestly say homeowners for another twenty-some years), we can decorate, upgrade and paint knowing that we keep the fruits of our labor, for better or worse. (When I say worse, I'm thinking of the radioactive green paint in our kitchen. Its days are numbered.)

We get federal tax breaks which are pretty much wiped out or usurped by the property taxes. Of course, property taxes pay for local services, but most of those local services are also enjoyed by renters. So I guess that logic makes for some moot financials. Especially when I admit that mortgage payments and home maintenance costs are much higher than rent rates.

We can have more fur-children in our own home than if we were renting or living in a condo.

We have more room for parties. We should throw another party soon...

We have a washer and dryer here that only we use. No more trips down to an overcrowded laundry room or to the dodgy laundromat. Although the washer and dryer are in the carport and get dirty out there. Also, I have to put on clothes to go out there. No streaking to the laundry room for a fresh towel right out of the dryer.

We have a big yard that falls into both the pro and con list.

We're paying a premium for a few freedoms and benefits.

If there's any wisdom I can impart here, it's this: don't buy a house or condo until you are ready. Don't let anyone pressure you into buying a home with the argument that it's cheaper in the long run than renting, because it isn't. Have lots and lots more money saved than you think you'll need. And as my dearly departed dad liked to quip, "you can live in a car, but you can't drive a house."

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Hot Water Heater Erupts

The ancient hot water heater at the 1952 House has erupted. Authorities are unable to pinpoint the actual eruption time, but estimate the occurrence sometime during the past week. Casualties include a Swiffer broom and several floor boards in the hot water heater closet. Residents thought the hot water heater was dormant. They were stunned to discover the soggy mess today. A leading professional in the field of hot water heater research will soon investigate the matter.

After existing peacefully with the hot water heater for several years, residents were lulled into a sense of complacency about the hot water heater, but now fear for the safety of their budget after this eruption. One resident said, "I'm sorry you had to discover that mess today. I'm not excited about spending the money, but if the service guy says we need a new hot water heater, then we'll get one." Stay tuned as this exciting story unfolds.