Category Archives: Real Estate

Scotland Adventure, Part The Second

Each day after breakfast, there would be a most amazing spread of sandwich materials in the Picnic Room. If we were going out for the day, we’d stop in there and pack up a lunch then head out. The second day, the weather was absolutely nuts, so instead of going out to hunt or fish, most of us decided to go visit a crofter and see how the Harris Tweed is manufactured.

This golden eagle presides over the Picnic Room, along with his friend the stag and more than a few racks of antlers. Another feature of the Picnic Room was the drying closet. This was essentially three or four racks that slid out of the wall and you’d put your wet gear there after coming in from stalking or fishing. Genius, and oh-so-necessary, because the wind and the rain were fairly constant and immense at times.

Golden Eagle in the Picnic Room

Stag and antlers in the picnic room

If you know anything about certain segments of fashionable clothing, you are aware of the Harris Tweed. It has been called “The Champagne of Fabrics” and is the only fabric in the world governed by its own Act of Parliament. Dan Brown name-checks it in The Da Vinci Code (and his other books featuring Robert Langdon) as the jacket of choice for his main character. Jasper Fforde (one of my favorite authors) even has a character named Harris Tweed who appears in the Thursday Next series. If you haven’t read them, you really should.

The tweed is hand-woven by individual artisans, and traditionally uses colors and dyes sourced from the island. It’s gorgeous, surprisingly soft, versatile, and incredibly durable. The Wikipedia entry is fairly detailed and mentions one Mr. Donald John Mackay, pictured below.

Donald John Mackay at the loom

Donald John welcomed 8 or so of us into his tiny (roughly 8 feet by 12 feet) crofter’s hut and we all braved amazingly strong wind and rain to get there (Innes drove us) and huddle around his loom. He showed us the threads and explained his process, then wove a few inches to show us how it’s done. It was utterly fascinating to a fiber nerd such as myself and I honestly could have sat and watched him all day long. He said it takes about a full day to set up the loom (something like 696 individually hand-tied knots) and then about a week to weave 90 meters or so. The amount of skill and care that goes into his work is really astounding.

A one-man company.

The other half of the crofter’s hut was a combination shop/storeroom (again, maybe 8 by 12 feet), and since this is about as close to ‘buying locally’ as I am ever likely to get when it comes to cloth, of course we all bought some. I mean, I literally bought this cloth from the hands that made it. Apparently, it’s 4 meters for a man’s jacket and 3 meters for trousers. Almost all the boys bought enough for a jacket, and in a weird (but not at all surprising) twist, they all bought the same pattern. Thus the Tweed Army was born. When everyone gets around to having their jackets made, we’re going to have a dinner and take hilarious pictures.

Rolls of finished Harris Tweed on the shelves

More Tweed!

I bought 3 meters of a captivating purple tweed, but I am not yet 100% sure what I’m going to do with it. I may have a skirt made, or I might do a shawl/wrap with 2 meters and I had an inspiration for the remaining meter, but I am loath to actually cut into the fabric myself. It would make me sad if I messed it up. We shall see what I end up doing with it.

Donald John measuring my tweed. Measure twice, cut once!

Cutting my tweed. Those shears were like two swords.

Once the tweed is woven, it is picked up by the Harris Tweed Authority for finishing and inspection to ensure it meets standards. Not just any tweed gets to be Harris Tweed, you see. If the roll meets specifications and standards, it is stamped with the Orb, which is one of the most recognized trademarks in fashion. British designer Vivienne Westwood’s brand logo is very similar to the Orb, which makes sense because she is a big fan of the Harris Tweed.

The Orb stamp on a finished roll of Harris Tweed.

Even Nike got in on the act at one point. They released a series of throwback sneakers made with Harris Tweed woven by none other than Donald John Mackay. A quick Google search tells me that various Harris Tweed Nikes are going for at least $80 on Ebay, if you want some.


Once everyone was satisfied with the miles of tweed they’d purchased, we left Donald John to his loom and headed back toward the castle. We’d decided earlier to have lunch at “The Hut” which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a hut alongside a road that leads to three different lochs for fishing and more than a few different areas for stalking. I believe the hut predates the castle itself, and it’s nothing more than a rough stone building with a roof on it. There’s a small stove inside and a table with benches but as far as comfort goes, that’s about it.

Another view from the road. It looks like this every way you turn your head.

The Hut

Inside the hut

The road, if it can rightly be called that, was a one-lane, bumpy affair. In fact, the big van we’d been riding around it couldn’t handle the terrain so we had to switch to the vehicles that could handle it, namely a Mazda something-or-other and a Range Rover. We bumped and squelched our way along the road for a good ten minutes before coming in sight of the hut. Later, we looked at a map of the estate and the road goes on a fair way farther, each mile bumpier and squelchier than the last.

The road

You know this is my kind of trip when “packing a lunch” includes at least four bottles of wine. Mr. Hall appeared later on, carrying what looked like a fat briefcase but opened up to reveal two bottles of whisky and four glasses inside. That man is pretty much a walking party, it seems.


It’s evident that this is very much a man’s sort of estate, because restroom facilities were non-existent out there. I think so, anyway. I didn’t get a chance to ask anyone who might know.

The hut backs up to another “hill.”

After lunch, we all piled back in the vans and went back to the castle. Mr. Hall then gave us a most amazing tour of the castle, including lots of historical details and tidbits. It was built in 1865 for the 7th Earl of Dunmore, who owned the island at the time. The estate has kept records of the hunting and fishing done there, and some of the older Game Books were on display for us to look at. They kept records of who went out in the hunting party, who the ghillie was, what they hunted and what they managed to kill, along with notes such as “David’s first time stalking” or “Elizabeth’s first stag.” One of my favorite notes was from a day when they’d killed 6 stags and a number of birds – the note simply says “Shot at anything that moved.”

Game Book

The estate used to house a great number of dogs used in stalking the deer. This is one of the photos in the albums kept by Lady Sophie Scott, who was a resident of the castle around the turn of the 20th century. She was an avid sportswoman and photographer, and her albums give us a very intimate look into her life and loves.

A very large array of hunting dogs

This is my favorite of all the photos in Lady Sophie’s albums, and I don’t think it’s even from Amhuinnsuidhe. I just thought it was cute, with the caption “Chat!” That is precisely how I would have captioned it.


This is a display case in the Snooker Room (yes, we spent a great deal of time in there). The plaque inside reads “Weapons Taken From A Warrior In The Sudan” but unfortunately it’s not dated.


This one is also from The Sudan, but specifically says that these articles were taken from a “dervish.”

Weapons and regalia taken from a dervish.

The castle understandably requires a great deal of provisions to keep itself going. The nearest town is at least a half-hour away by car NOW, so imagine 150 years ago. The Order Book was a listing of all the things that were ordered by the castle, and gives a really interesting look at the things they needed through the years. The years between 1914 and 1918 are missing, presumably because Great Britain was enmeshed in World War I and needed all her men at the front, not rushing off to their country estates to shoot stag.

Order Book

This is an okay shot of the Drawing Room. Every day around 4, tea would be served. People would wander in from their various pursuits to have tea and chat. It was one of the few times each day that anyone really contacted the outside world. Some of the men were working here and there throughout the day, but teatime was really the only time someone would pull up Yahoo News or similar on the iPad and see what was going on, check baseball scores, etc. It’s a cozy room with comfy furniture, and I spent quite a few happy hours in there just reading and being quiet, which is something I never ever get to do at home. The light was fantastic and it had amazing views of the sea.

The Drawing Room

Again with the snooker. I am sorely tempted to jettison my dining room set and put in a pool table, but Freddie is against this plan. It was mostly the men who were playing, because I am actually terrible at it. I made a couple of really spectacular shots, though. One of them was even the shot I meant to make in the first place. Mostly, I watched and heckled and chatted with whomever else wasn’t playing. I wish these photos were bigger because there is nothing I love more in this life than hanging out with good-looking, well-dressed men, and I got to do that EVERY NIGHT. Alas, WordPress gives me “medium” and “freaking humungous” as photo sizes. Oh well.

Mark, Steve, Freddie

Freddie and Frankie

Reed and Freddie

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Scotland Adventure, Part The First

Overnight flights are not my favorite. Ideally, you’d get a little nap in, then sleep a bit on the plane and be more or less good to go whenever and wherever you land. I’d spent the day running around doing last-minute things and packing up so a nap was not in my plans. Plus, I was seriously excited and ready to get going – I wouldn’t have been able to nap even if I had gotten the opportunity. We [finally] left the house around 4:30 to drive to Newark where we were going to park the truck and ride to the airport with Reed and Steve, two of our travelling companions who work for the company responsible for this adventure in the first place. I knew they were my kind of guys when our first order of business after checking in at the airport was to find a bar.

At the airport!

We found a bar. And then we found another bar after discovering that our flight was delayed. In time, we boarded our plane and it was [mercifully] half-empty which meant we didn’t have to share our row with the weird man who was originally seated next to me. I’m not sure what his deal was, but he was one of those dudes whom you see in line to board the plane and you think to yourself “gosh, I hope he’s not sitting next to me.” Well, he was. But he was able to move to a different row so I got a window seat after all. Turns out, a window seat on an overnight trans-Atlantic flight is pretty useless. Who knew?

Sunrise, taken from the plane

We first landed in Edinburgh. During a three-hour layover, we gathered more people and I discovered that I was not the only woman in the party, hurrah! Not that it would have been a problem, exactly (I have never had trouble being just one of the guys), but it was nice to have another lady along. I fear I was not the most cheerful at this point, since I wasn’t able to sleep on the plane (I tried) and I was just really hanging on by a thread. The coffee we’d acquired at the beginning of the layover was having the wrong/opposite effect. Luckily, I was able to catch a quick nap on the short flight to Stornoway.


Some of the signs on the island were in English and Gaelic, but most of them were only Gaelic. It’s no secret that I am a big fan of Great Britain and her people, and my dearest wish (aside from just picking up and moving there) is to have a pet Englishman to hang out with me and talk at me all the time. My hearing difficulties do make it difficult to understand people, but once I tune into the music of the accent, it’s easier. The Scots accent was a little tougher to handle, and if we got two or more of them talking to one another, I was a goner.

Rather, Steornabhaigh

After we collected our baggage, we were introduced to Innes, who is the estate manager (or equivalent) who was going to be driving us from the airport to the castle. He does approximately 34098 other things around the estate as well.

The drive was twisty and turny and the majority of the road was one lane or less. I was able to get a very good look at the countryside and was surprised to see that there were very few trees. Lots of granite sticking out, but nary a tree in sight. There were a couple of areas with some scrubby pine trees and some things that looked like they might have wanted to be trees but were exhausted from the effort and decided to just be bushes instead.

From the car
The view from the road

We arrived. Words don’t really do justice to the fact that we were staying IN A FREAKING CASTLE. An actual CASTLE. The ridiculousness of this situation as it pertains to me cannot be overstated.

Amhuinnsuidhe Castle

A path around the seawall led out to a rocky outcropping that had a splendid view of the castle, which would make a lovely weekend retreat if getting there wasn’t such an adventure.

Our weekend retreat

The castle has 12 bedrooms, and we only saw a few but apparently each one is more amazing than the next. Our room was The Scarp, which featured a four-poster bed in the bedroom and a huge bathroom outfitted in marble, featuring a gigantic clawfoot tub. The bedding was completely insane, with the hugest, fluffiest down comforter I have ever seen. A person could lay underneath this thing and you wouldn’t even know it because it was that fluffy.

Our bedroom for the week

The number of things adorning the walls of this place is more or less incalculable. These spears were along the grand staircase, and became the center of many “hey, I’m looking for a weapon” jokes over the course of the week.

If you need a spear, I have some right here.

The day we arrived was really the clearest day we had, and this is one of the best photos I managed to get of the castle. Although the castle is quite large, there is a coziness to it that I didn’t expect. Obviously, the Hall family has amazing taste and the money to pull it off, but there was never a sense of it being just “for show.” They live there, it’s their home (well, one of them), and it didn’t have a hotel-ish feel to it at all.

Another angle

It was pretty windy out there on the rocks (though, compared to later on, that was just a pleasant breeze) but our friend Steve bravely took this shot of us.

Braving the wind to get the shot!

They call it “the hill” but it is definitely a mountain.

The castle with “the hill” behind it.

In the UK, they drive on the left side of the road, not the right. While we were in the van being driven to the castle, it wasn’t so strange to me (especially as I was in the very back of the van and busy looking out the window), but once we got in the car with Steve, it was like whoa. My brain was having trouble making sense of it, but luckily for us, Steve is from Manchester originally and is used to it. He was a good sport about doing all the driving while we were exploring.

He’s on the wrong side!

Honestly, if Freddie or I would have been in charge of driving at all, I would have been worried. Not only do you have to remember to be on the correct side of the road, but it’s one lane anyway (passing places!) and 90% of the time there are sheep or cows on the roadway, straight chillin’. There are way more sheep than people on the island, so we had to nudge them out of the way from time to time.

Sheep, wandering into the road whenever they like.

Whoever had the job of making the Passing Place signs was kept very busy for a time, because there are A LOT of them on the island. Every few meters, the road would balloon out in a half-moon, allowing cars to pass each other. There was a lot of waving and nodding going on, but on the whole, we didn’t see that many cars.

Passing Place!

A good thing, too – the road was very narrow, barely wide enough for the VW Passat we were riding in. Later in the week, we had a VERY close encounter with a full-size 18-wheeler, which put us all in hysterics, but for the most part, driving on the Isle of Harris is an exercise in politeness.

The slightly-less-than-one-lane-road.

The beach was amazing. Completely unexpected, and beyond gorgeous. In New Jersey, we are more or less resigned to grey water and coarse sand, so this was just a surprise. The sand was bright white and very fine, and the water was a blue that I was not expecting, not at all. It was very windy down by the water (which probably explains the sand), and the rock pools were gorgeous and the whole thing was just very stark and beautiful. I’d been thinking about what it would take to live in such a remote place, but once I saw the beach, I totally understood. I could have stood there for hours, had I not been worried about freezing to death and/or having all the skin on my face sandblasted off.

Huishinish Crofts

The beach. It literally looks like it’s at the end of the world.

The beach again. Surprisingly blue water.

More beach!

We didn’t swim. A plan was hatched at one point to do it, but it was mostly a joke. I think. Given better weather and enough of the estate’s whisky, who knows what kind of mischief we would have gotten up to?

Still more beach. It wasn’t exactly beach weather, though.

The sheep were everywhere, literally. I tried to get close enough to take some personality shots, but apparently the personality of an Outer Hebrides sheep is “nae.” They would pose quite prettily until I got close enough to take the photo, then they’d turn their heads, suddenly shy.

The sheep were being coy.

The landscape is so incredibly stark that the brilliantly-colored dyes on the sheep were startling. Amid a sea of browns and greens and greys, to suddenly see an electric blue or bright purple blot was a bit of a jolt.

The dye indicates the sheep’s owner.

Here’s another view of the castle through the entry arch. I wasn’t able (well, let’s be honest: given the weather, I wasn’t inclined) to walk up to the arch on the other side and get a picture of the sign. “Amhuinnsuidhe” translates to “house at the mouth of the river” and is pronounced “aven-suey” (yeah… um. That’s Gaelic for you).

View of the castle through one of the entry arches.

The estate is used primarily for hunting stag and fishing, which helps the conservation effort as well. They have to hunt at least a third of the stag every year to keep the population down, otherwise they start coming down from the mountain and eating people’s gardens and generally being a nuisance. The guests go out with guides (called “ghillies”) and climb the hill to stalk the stag. This particular photo was taken in the Great Hall, and there was a stag at either end, actually. Off the Great Hall was the Drawing Room (site of afternoon tea and post-dinner coffee), the TV room, and the dining room, which I did not get a decent photo of, to my lament.

One of the many mounted stag heads around the castle.

Looking through my photos, it appears that the majority of non-landscape shots are of the Snooker Room. The company all ended up there after dinner each night, and with free and easy access to the drinks cabinet, much fun was had. Some of the best laughs and best times were had there.

At first, it seemed like a very strange way to have a vacation. We’re used to doing our own thing, setting our own schedule. This was different – the schedule was set, yes, but it was very loose and you could join in or not as you chose. Breakfast and dinner were communal meals, and having everyone hanging out together after dinner was just the best thing. Instead of being a bunch of people who happened to be in the same castle for the week, we became friends.

Post-dinner shenanigans. That’s Innes on the left.

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One week until new stuff!

A week from tomorrow, we are moving. It will be Freddie’s and my 8th move in ten years. I am sick of moving, and once we get installed in our new shiny house (with a YARD!!), we plan to stay for a good long time.

We’ve been in this house for just over three years now, which is the longest we have stayed at any one address since we’ve been together. We have a pizza place. A backup pizza place. We have a Chinese place. A backup Chinese place. A place that delivers sushi. One of my favorite Thai places. A backup Thai place. A sub place. An ice cream place. Walgreen’s and the post office within walking distance.

And now we’re moving. To a new house. In a new town. We’ll have to start all over!

The good news is that the town to which we’re moving has an excellent Italian heritage, so the pizza should be good. There are two Italian bakeries in town, which means cannoli for everyone! The new house is also pretty close to my OTHER favorite Thai place which has the added bonus of being right next to the bookstore! Too bad I have to drive around the World’s Most Dangerous Traffic “Circle” to get there.

The new town has an actual downtown! I don’t know how close we’ll be in terms of walking there, but the library is right the main street, and there are sidewalks between there and home, so we’ll see.

I think this move will be good for us. We’ll be downsizing a bit, but that can only be a good thing, since as we’ve packed up this house, I have realized how much utterly useless CRAP we have. Between garage sales, Freecycle, and donations, we are getting rid of a lot of it.

To make room for NEW useless crap!


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Busy days

We are moving in about 12 days.

We have way way way way too much crap.

I love Freecycle, which is assisting me in getting rid of said crap.

I am tired.

I always feel like I have nothing to wear, but I have A LOT of clothes. Most of them are pre-pregnancy clothes, and they do not fit me at present. They should, and will, but at present I am under a lot of stress and the primary way I deal with stress is by eating.

I’m not out of control or anything, but getting into my smaller-than-right-now clothing is still a few months off. I’m all right with that, because MY GOD, at least I finally recognize that the stress and the eating go hand-in-hand.

Or hand-in-mouth, as the case may be.

Fall is slowly approaching. While I do not welcome the shorter days, it means Sam Adams Oktoberfest beer is back, and that can only be a good thing. I cannot wait to get into my shiny shiny shiny new kitchen and cook.

Freddie took all of the art off the walls in the living room. Oddly, the room looks a lot smaller without it. I thought it would look bigger, now that there are huge, uninterrupted expanses of wall, but no. Hm.

We own three saxophones. When Jillian is big enough, we’ll be a trio.

I am hungry, but am reluctant to buy a whole bunch of food that I will have to deal with while trying to get things packed up. I did a merciless fridge-cleaning today – to the point where I even pulled out the shelves and stuff.

This is a hallmark of my PMS, which, coupled with yesterday’s all-day fast, is not making me be very pleasant today. The cleaning helps, though.

All in all, it looks like we’ll be out of this house in record time. Considering we’ll be paying the movers by the hour, this is a great, great thing. I’m looking forward to actually unpacking all the boxes. All of them. Even the ones that were packed in 1996 and haven’t been unpacked since.


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I didn’t do a Friday Random thing last week due to my bone-deep laziness. So I’ll do it today and we’ll start the week of right!

1. We are STILL waiting to hear about this house that we have been trying to buy. We are STILL in attorney review. I’m starting to get tired of waiting. We have continued to look at houses, but haven’t found anything that we like, except for one, but they are considering “multiple offers” right now, so we aren’t even going to bother throwing our hat into the ring. It’s a shame, too, because that house was really cute.

2. Except for the basement. First, you have to go down Danger Steps to get to the basement. At the third-to-last step, you need to bend over at the waist to avoid smashing your face on the support beam. Then, if you are any taller than I am, you have to stoop to walk around down there because the ceiling is so low. I can just barely walk upright and I’m only 5’7″! This confuses me SO MUCH that I cannot sleep for wondering WHY someone would build a house with a basement that you can barely access and use. WHY? That makes NO SENSE.

3. The other house that I really liked but definitely will not offer to buy was built in 1870 and has ghosts. I know this because when we went to look at it, the hair on the back of my neck stood up and my ears started ringing [more], which is always a sure sign that I’m not alone. The house itself was actually pretty awesome. Lots and lots of rooms connected willy-nilly by bathrooms and closets. It would be a great house for a bunch of kids. Alas, it would need some very serious updating and love (read: money) to make it truly comfortable. I don’t know that I’d ever be comfortable there, though, considering the fact that I passed by the attic door and realized there was no way in heaven or hell that I would ever, of my own volition, open that door. Nuh-uh.

4. I’ve been putting off washing the car, thinking that surely it will rain soon. Of course, as soon as I can’t stand it any longer and decide that today is the day I will get the car washed, there is rain in the forecast.

5. Jillian threw an entire bowl of peas at me today. It got on me, the fridge, the wall, and the ceiling. So much for letting her feed herself, eh? I am trying to phase out the pureed food in favor of actual pieces of food, but she does the whole gagging Drama Queen act. On the one hand, I don’t want her to starve, but on the other hand, if she gets hungry enough, she’ll eat. I don’t know where on that spectrum I actually am, though.

6. Football season has started, and the Jets are already disappointing me. Nothing unusual there. I just hope they don’t have to get the Reanimated Corpse of Vinny Testaverde again. Actually, I think Vinny is or was under contract to another team last year? I don’t know and am too lazy to look it up. At least the Mets are still in first place.

7. I’m amused to report that the cat is still stupider than the baby gates. This animal can launch himself from the floor to my bed or up through the kitchen pass-thru window, but cannot seem to figure out how to get over the baby gate. He is a stupid, stupid cat. In fact, he fell off the windowsill this morning before I got up, which caused the blinds to click and clack all over themselves and caused me to curse at him and them under my breath. Chester is deeply stupid.

8. The fall TV season is starting up and I have no idea when any of my shows are on. Good thing we have the TiFaux set to record most of them. Too bad I don’t foresee any actual time in which to watch them, what with us about to be homeless and all. We have a maximum of six weeks left in this house, no matter what. This is shaping up to be an interesting autumn.

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Random Friday strikes again!

1. I watched a good portion of the Princess Diana memorial service this morning on BBC World. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Prince Harry is definitely the hot one. And I wish I had more occasions to wear a hat. Nobody rocks hats like the British.

2. Jillian is not quite walking yet, but we’re in no rush. She has a couple of toys that function as walkers and she’ll truck around behind them, but no actual walking yet. Thank GOD. Her balance is getting better, too – we’ve had fewer headsmash bruises these past two weeks. Of course, I’ve just jinxed us and she’ll find a way to give herself a black eye today.

3. Our house is well on its way to being sold! We are out of attorney review and are just waiting for Chuck to get the inspection and his financing in order then we are going to be handing the keys over! AIEEE!

4. As for our house-buying adventure, we’re still hashing out some things on the contract. There are some issues with some wording in the contract regarding “cosmetic defects” which we are taking to mean the siding in the back that has been scratched up by the seller’s two humungous dogs. We’ll try to get them to give us a credit or we’ll have to decide if we can live with it for now. But the whole thing seems to be progressing well enough, so I’m hopeful that we’ll be installed in the new place by the end of September.

5. To that end, we have to start packing. After all, come October 1 we’re going to be moving SOMEWHERE, whether it’s to this new house, or a different house or a hotel or a homeless shelter, so we have to pack. We have waaaaaaay too much shit. Luckily, one of our friends is opening up her house to have a huge yard sale, so maybe we’ll be able to unload some of our crap there. And there’s always Ebay.

6. The job search is coming along. In addition to having the staffing agency look for something, I am also digging around to see if there’s anything else out there that looks promising. My one obstacle is that I cannot do a job that requires me to be on the phone, so that kind of limits me. Sigh. In the meantime, I’m going to start putting together a business plan that will help me get set up to work from home. I’m not sure how it’s all going to shake out just yet, but with some work and some hustle, I might be able to get something off the ground here.

7. I hate the Today show. I think watching it makes me stupider, and god knows I need little help with that. The other morning shows are just as bad if not worse, so we watch Sesame Street instead.

8. Once we get all the house stuff worked out, I’m going to have an actual backyard! I’ll be able to have a real garden! I might have exorcised my brown thumb demons once and for all, since I have managed to keep all my plants alive all summer. I have even been able to eat the peppers and tomatoes I grew, so I have a great deal of hope that I will be able to manage an actual garden. So I need some kind of Gardening Bible, that tells me what to plant and when and what kind of soil and all that stuff. I might even give roses a try, since the rosebush I inherited here actually came back to life. The previous owners of this house probably attempted to take it with them and they hacked the hell out of it. Eventually, it [sorta] grew back under my Benign Neglect regime and actually produced actual flowers that were quickly eaten by the Japanese beetles. So I’m thinking that if I get a rosebush and actually pay attention to it, I might be able to have some pretty, pretty flowers in my garden.

9. The Mets are pissing me off. I can’t believe they got swept by Philly. And yesterday’s game was just stupid. What happened to our relief pitchers? Let’s hope the Atlanta series goes a bit better or we’re fucked.

10. Last weekend we went to the track because they were having a crab cake cookoff. I love me some crab cakes, so we loaded up the family truckster and headed down the shore. It also happened to be Free Chair day, so we got our free little folding chair thingies. They give you a voucher at the gate and then you have to go over to a booth to claim your free chair. While we were standing there, a woman came up and complained that the chair she was given had dirt on the cover. I was like “um, it’s free, lady. Shut it.” God, what a bitch. Even the poor lady in the booth was all “um, what do you want me to do? They’re all pretty dusty.”

10a. I won $31 on the horse that I picked. I suppose I could take some time and learn how to read the racing form and then make a decision based on the horse’s previous stats and stuff, but I pick my horses by name. I usually do pretty well, considering.

11. Go Rutgers!


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Homebuilders on Crack

One of the best things about looking for a house to buy is the fact that we get to walk through other people’s houses. I’m a voyeur like that, in that I like to look in people’s windows as we drive around in the evening. Not because I want to see them naked (most people are not good looking clothed, much less naked, and besides, looking at naked people is easier on teh Internet, which is why it was invented).

Over the past few weeks, we have walked through around 10 different houses. They have ranged from empty but nice enough to “HOLY GOD, what the hell is this?”

The layouts are the most problematic, since I can always paint. Some houses are intelligently laid out, like the two split-levels that we wanted to make and offer for. The first one had already accepted an offer and the second one was offended by our lowball offer so much (so it would seem), that their realtor told ours “It’s obvious your clients can’t afford this house.”

Whatever, jackass.

But for the most part, the houses are put together in some logical fashion, except the one, which had a full bathroom off the living room (?), and the one where you have to walk through a bedroom to get to the Danger Stairs (steep!), and the one we saw today that had three bedrooms and one bathroom. Which was off of the kitchen.


So you’d have to go through the kitchen, through the living room, and then up the stairs? What if you’re having company? Yikes. Plus, the only way to get to the back yard was through the neighbor’s driveway (past their turquiose El Camino, yikes).

The second house we saw today seems like it might be a good fit. We will spend this evening discussing it and the possibilities, then we’ll probably put an offer in tomorrow, if possible. It’s a cute house, right around the block from the one that we “couldn’t afford” and it’s really really cute.

Lots of possibilites, while still being livable. We saw a few houses that had possibilities, but we couldn’t have lived there in their current state. Like the one with NO cupboards in the kitchen. Where would I put all my gadgets? That one was haunted anyway, but that doesn’t bother me. Lack of counter space DOES.

Today’s house has a brand-new kitchen. It’s really sexy, with nice granite work surfaces, new cabinets, and a new double-oven range. Sweet. I could really get my chef on in there. The bedrooms are on the small side, but looking at possibilities, you could bash out the wall in the master bedroom and make it into something really special. It is a VERY cute house.

The challenge now will be to get Mr. Negative to see the house as it COULD be and to get over the small bedroom situation (like we spend that much time in there anyway). He needs to see what can be so he can get over what IS.

Part of his problem is that he is spoiled from living in this townhouse. Our kitchen is HUGE. Our bedroom is ridiculously huge. Much too big, in fact. Plus an en suite bathroom? That’s crazy. For the amount we’re willing to pay for a house, there is NO WAY we’re going to get the kind of space we have here. Sure, the overall square footage might be more, but the layout is going to eat up a lot of it.

So I have to gently steer him away from “it’s smaaaaaallllll” to “oooh, we could add on by a third!”

We shall see.


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Square one, again

Our offer was categorically denied. As in they won’t even negotiate with us denied. We know that this house is on the market because it’s part of an estate and needs to be sold, which leads us to believe that the crazy asking price is more or less set in stone for the seller.


But that’s okay. It’s just Not Our House. We’ll keep looking and in the meantime, that pushes back that sad, sad day when I will have to get an actual job.

It does get frustrating, though, looking at houses and not finding anything even remotely suitable in our price range. I find myself start to wonder just WHY we live in New Jersey. I’ve been VERY good this time around, though, and haven’t started looking at house prices in other areas. That’s the worst thing to do.

Comments Off on Square one, again

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Back to square one!

Poop. Our Realtor called yesterday to tell us that the sellers of the house we were going to make an offer on have already accepted another offer. We can still put our offer in since they haven’t gone to contract just yet, but…

I’m disappointed, but this happened to us last time we bought a house and it worked out for the best. Last time, we walked through a townhouse that had pretty much the sexiest kitchen I have ever seen, anywhere. It had an Aga range, first off, and I think I would live in someone’s garage if there were an Aga in there.

We even put our offer in but someone came in behind us and paid CASH for it. Fuckers.

About a week later, we found the house where we’re living now, and we’ve been happy here… so I’m thinking that this most recent house simply is Not Our House. It just wasn’t meant to be.

Of course, none of the other houses we saw on Saturday are Our House, either. Those were scary as all get-out.

So we’re back to square one. Back to perusing the listings, trying to see if something is worth looking at based on the description. Today, I’m doing a drive-by of at least five houses that were in our “Meh, maybe” pile. I’m hoping that maybe they just didn’t come across on paper as well as the other ones.

Fingers crossed!


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We met with our potential home buyer last night (HI CHUCK!) to hammer out a deal and make him the soon-to-be-ACTUAL buyer of our home. Once we get the contracts written up and signed, we are on our way! Yessss!

Seriously, in the kind of market we’re in now, the fact that we are able to sell our house to a friend and eliminate all the hassle of using a Realtor and paying commission and stuff, well, that’s just a godsend. We are seeing houses that have been on the market for almost 8 months, so you know those people are probably sweating it.

Now that we’re on our way to making a deal on the sell side, it’s our turn to get real serious real fast about buying something. Our Realtor sent us a list of all the houses in our pathetic price range in the areas where we’re looking. How many? 42! The answer!

We quickly narrowed that down to 7 in the “yes, definitely we must go see this house” pile, and 6 in the “eh, maybe” pile. Today we went and had a look-see at five of the top seven.

The first one we looked at is one that I have been eyeing for some time now. I love the street it’s on and I like the look of the house from the photos (which, as we are well aware, are COMPLETELY misleading most of the time). The kitchen desperately needs to be re-done, but the rest of the house seemed to be in pretty good shape. The backyard is nice and level and the house is just really clean overall.

The 2nd house we looked at was a little (okay, a LOT) older. It was built in 1910 and was more or less GINORMOUS but it was crowded on a wee little lot and still would have needed some serious work, especially in the kitchen area. There were NO cupboards! No counter space! Where would I put all my gadgets?

Plus, I’m pretty sure that house was haunted.

The third house was one that I wanted to see but not Freddie. It was an estate sale, so it was really priced to move, but it hadn’t been redecorated since about 1968 and it showed. It was really really horrid inside and the lot was tiny and crowded with the neighbors, so that was a NO.

House #4 was just disgusting. You could tell that the people who had lived there were serious hard-core smokers because even though the house had been empty for quite some time (judging by the cobweb), it stank. It absolutely REEKED. Plus, it was a piece of crap anyway.

House #5 was one that Freddie had been wanting to see since we started this process in April or whenever we first got the idea to find a bigger house. The photos made it look really groovy, with a spiral staircase and really interesting tile in the kitchen and bathroom. But we got there and it was a shithole. It was disgusting and dirty inside, and it turns out that the spiral staircase was the ONLY way to get upstairs. The hell? So…. no.

We are going to make and offer for the first house we saw, since we both really like it and think it has a lot of potential. Plus, it follows the basic rule of Real Estate: buy the crappiest house on the nicest street you can afford. And that’s what we’d like to do, if they accept our offer.

There are a number of things in our favor – the current owners have already moved out, so they probably have another mortgage or something. It’s been on the market almost two months, and that’s helpful, too. Plus, we can pretty much close any time. I’m not placing my furniture just yet, but I’m hoping that this works out somehow.

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