Monday, May 30, 2011

New Home

Nah, we still haven't closed on the house, but we've got new virtual digs. Find us at www.reluctantrenovator.com.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wii Games Wii Won't be Playing in our new Home

Is this why my boys want PS3?


Oh wait, they're not real.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Geek House: One Book, One Idea

As we're thinking about renovation, design and decor, we're perusing a lot of books. We don't have time for full reports on all of them, but we're trying to share at least one stand-out idea per book. This week, we're looking a Geek House: 10 Hardwares hacking projects for around the home by Barry and Marcia Press. Written in 2005, which is to say it's hopelessly out of date, the book provides tips on DIY tech projects for nearly every room in the house.

I'd love instructions for hacking a 1950's phonograph/radio console combo to play MP3s. How cool would that be. Hmmm. And then we could get our 1928 player piano to do the same (though unlike the console, it lacks speakers, so maybe not?)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Groupon for Home and Garden

Daily deals are all the rage right now and the trend is growing. This morning I learned about Groupon's new Chicago Home and Garden Deals. Score! I look forward to seeing what great deals come along through this. That said, before committing to anything, I'd want to check out the service provider on Angie's List or even Yelp.

I use an deal aggregator, called Deal Radar Chicago, that sends me a single daily email featuring dozens of Chicago's best deals. It's so much more convenient than having various emails from different deal sites fill my already overstuffed inbox.

After checking the day's features I head to the home products and services section, (though I may stop at the food section. Hubs and I enjoyed a lovely, filling and inexpensive meal at the Himalayan last weekend thanks to Groupon).

As noted above, I'm a bit suspicious about some of the offers given lack of information about the provider's background and the sense that for some types of jobs, it could be easy to pull a bait and switch. I feel most confident of the deals that come through Angie's List (these are included in my Deal Radar emails), because these come with ratings attached. You needn't be members of Angie's List to buy these offers, but List members receive a deeper discount.

What's your favorite service? (She asks despite the fact that this blog has not yet launched and she's talking into the wind.)

Rain, Rain Go Away

Mother Nature's initial housewarming was a cold, windy and rainy day for our house inspection. That made it difficult to get the best look around the outside areas including the roof, but we learned a few things from the inclement weather. Enough to give me bad dreams about the vacant house each time it rains.*

And it's been raining just about every other day


*For example, a neighbor's house is just a few feet away and has their gutter downspouts aimed directly at the foundation of "our" house. I wonder how they will react if we buy them a housewarming gift--rain barrels.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Spouse Vs. House: Would You Let Your Significant Other Decorate Without You?

When I first heard about TLC's new show, Spouse vs. House, I thought it was going to be like that show Me or the Dog. You know, either he finishes everything on his "honey-do" list or he gets booted. But no, it's even crazier.

Spouse vs. House is a home makeover show with a twist. In a nutshell:
  • Couple wants to update their house.
  • TLC give couple a chunk of money to remodel or redecorate.
  • The money comes with strings attached. One member of the couple must move out for three weeks, during which time they are not supposed to have contact with each other.
  • The person who stays home with the money gets to make all of the decorating choices.

Would you do this?

I would not.

Not ever.

Not even for $25,000, which seems to be the going rate on the show.

You?

Mortgage Approved!

The number of road bumps on what's been a long and winding road to home ownership is getting smaller. Last week we learned the house appraised for more than our purchase value (phew!) and our mortgage loan was approved! We've also secured homeowner's insurance

All that's left on the to-do list is the staked property survey and the final walk-through. Well, that and the actual closing, which is still a few weeks away.

Also, maybe a prescription for Xanax for me.

DH has been busy drawing up plans and we're checking out the house again this week with a contractor in tow. As with unmarried couples in days of yore, our visit will  supervised, natch.

Read more about our mortgage adventures at Hormone-colored Days.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ikea!

Since I've yet to put together my own tribute to Ikea, The Source of all things pre-fab and inexpensive, I thought I'd post this.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Evanston Rebuilding Warehouse: New Salvage Spot Grand Opening May 21, 2011

As I've talked to people about renovating and remodeling our (soon to be) house, I've been asked if there's a local salvage source. I found one in Chicago, but I'm especially excited that I found one nearby in Evanston. I can't wait to check out the Evanston Rebuilding Warehouse and hope to be a frequent visitor, if not customer.

It's brand new. In fact, they are holding their grand opening this weekend, May 21, 2011

From their site: The Evanston ReBuilding Warehouse is a non-profit organization that promotes reduction of waste in landfills through sustainable deconstruction and renovation building practices. Reclaimed building materials are sold at our warehouse at low cost to the community and support our education, job-training and job-development programs which foster individual, community and economic growth in Evanston and beyond.

What's not to love?

Speaking of reusing and recycling, the owners of our (hopefully soon to be) house held an estate sale recently, but it was on a weekend we couldn't stop in. A few of my friends did though. It's kinda fun (and odd) that they've already gotten a sneak peak at our place.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Edible Estates: One Book, One Idea

As we're thinking about renovation, design and decor, we're perusing a lot of books. We don't have time for full reports on all of them, but we're trying to share at least one stand-out idea per book. This week, we're looking at Edible Estates: Attack on the front lawn. A project by Fritz Haeg. Like most of the books in the 1 book, 1 idea series, I found it at the library.

Back in the day, a green grassy lawn was a sign of privilege. It announced to the world that you had so much land (and money) that you could afford not to grow food in the area surrounding your house. But now, it's cool to use your real estate in a way that really counts. Besides, ever since reading Made by Hand, I've been thinking about what it would be like to rip up a front lawn and replace the grass with something more practical, like vegetables.

The one idea from this book is apparent upon opening the cover: edible estates are not confined to a single region. In fact the book includes reports from California to Pennsylvania. It also includes a project across the pond in London and one right here in Chicago.

In fact, as I'm paging through the book, it occurs to me there is a family not far from our new house that seems to be doing something very similar to what's outlined in this book. The house has new owners and they are in the midst of a dramatic front yard makeover. I lalways ook forward to passing their house and getting a peek at what's exciting and new. Maybe some day I will work up the nerve to introduce myself.

This book looks like a handy resource with instructions, checklists and planning tips, and, of course, the all-important stories from the field.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ferguson Dream Bathroom Giveaway Featuring Kohler Products

Always on the lookout for kitchen and bath giveaways, I'm happy to share my finds, especially given that the fine print often excludes me because, you know, we don't actually have a house yet.

Anyhoo, Kohler is good stuff. Go win your dream bathroom! We're headed up to Kohler, Wisconsin in just a few weeks for a housemoon. AKA, our last chance to get away without worrying about our house flooding (or being burglarized, burning down, etc.)

In addition to enjoying our time at The American Club, we'll be checking out the Kohler bath and design center. I'll be fantasizing about the tub of my dreams (which I will not get) and DH will be checking out the steam shower systems (which he likely will). They also offer factory tours, which we'll be skipping this time around, but have been on in the past. Watching a bathtub get made? Cool stuff!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Android@Home

Talk about modernizing a home, check out this article about Android@home. I need to show it to The Husband, a man who isn't even sure he wants wi-fi in the house. But how else can we turn off the lights and start the dishwasher while we're two states away?!

The article also mentions that the product development cycle for electronics has morphed from years to months. Which means that buy the time we buy the latest gadgets and get them up and running, they'll be obsolete.

Sigh.

Friday, May 13, 2011

In Praise of the Workshop: Shop-Vac Video

One of the fabulous elements of these 1950s houses is the workshop, the corner of the basement where a person can hammer, saw, paint and generally create in peace. My boys look forward to acting out there own little version of Build, Destroy, Build (uh, without the explosives, natch) and I even have a few projects brewing in my head.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Revolutionary Yardscape: One Book, One Idea

As we're thinking about renovation, design and decor, we're perusing a lot of books. We don't have time for full reports on all of them, but we're trying to share at least one stand-out idea per book. This week, we're looking at The Revolutionary Yarsdscape: Ideas for repurposing local material to create containers, pathways, lighting and more.

When I saw this at the library, I figured it would just be eye candy. Hooray for lots of pictures! Even better, I found more than one good idea, so today I share two.

1) Beyond the typical garage sale or salvage yards, consider hospitals, universities and restaurant supply outlets as likely sources for surplus or "downmarket" supplies.

2) The idea that most intrigued me in this book had to do with an area where the author stores a garden hose. He covered the small area of soil with landscape fabric to block out weeds and then filled it with 4- inch-long pieces of 4-inch diameter PVC pipe. Each piece of pipe was filled with broken dishes that had been tumbled to give them smooth edges (one could use marbles, pebbles or stones). He created a unique honeycomb look that allows for good drainage, something that could be an ongoing issue with our property.

And speaking of honeycomb, I just remembered a wasp's nest I that I forgot to mention to our agent. D'oh!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Should You Join Angie's List?

Should I join Angie's List, the site known for its frank, honest reviews of contractors, plumbers, kitchen designers and now even doctors? It seems to me that given the many opportunities to quickly and easily connect with friends via Twitter and Facebook, I could get all of the professional recommendations I need.

But I was assured by a third party, several of them, actually, that Angie's List is the way to go. We're living large these days, so I'm going for the full-year membership at nearly $40. I'll let you know what I think.

Are you a member?

Updated 5/10 to add. Before I joined, I searched around and found an online discount code, bringing my annual fee down to under $30. Me likey. However, I'm not thrilled with TOS that require me to join only after giving them authorization to automatically renew my membership next year. Back on the positive side, apparently some companies offer discounts to Angie's List members. Woot!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Home Values Drop

When we started looking for a new house in the summer of 2010 and failed to find one, concerned friends asked if we were worried about the market rising in 2011. They worried we would lose out on the best values and interest rates.

We were only slightly concerned. We felt that at best, the Spring Market would bring slightly higher (1-3%) housing prices and interest rates, but given the overall sluggish economic recovery and the vast inventory of foreclosed houses that had yet to come on the market, we wouldn't be hurt by waiting.

Plus, at least in our area, many sellers initially list their homes hoping for the best, which is a nice way of saying they think it's 2006. Ultimately, they get a reality slap, and 3-6 months later they lower their prices by 20% or so and then sell within weeks. So, the houses we saw last fall and felt were overpriced? Based on their closing times and prices--we were right.

We're feeling good that we waited, but now some forecasters think the we haven't hit bottom yet, and that the housing market's lowest dip will actually take place in 2012. Yikes.

Would you like to Win a Soda Stream?

Of course you would! I received a Soda Stream to review, but with all of our house-hunting and bar mitzvah planning, I've yet to write about our bubbly fun soda making experiences. I know our machine will have a spot in our new kitchen, especially when the Teen and Tween have their friends over, because making your own (as we say in these parts) pop, is pure awesome.


My friend Carla at MizFit online is giving away of these snazzy make-your-own-soda machines away. Hop over to enter.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Win a Closet Organizer

There will be hosted giveaways here soon enough. In the meantime, to prepare for the many improvements we're planning for our home, I'm keeping an eye out for giveaways of kitchen makeovers, bathroom makeovers and pretty much any kind of house makeover out there.

And I'm all for sharing the love.

First up, the Stow Company's Do It in Every Room giveaway. Of course, IT is organize. Stow will help organize the closets of a few lucky winners. Let's hope they are yours and mine.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

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