Our Properties at Present

Cottage West – July 2017

I was looking up an old photo of how Cottage West looked back when we first bought it. To say that there have been a few changes since then is an understatement.

Cottage West – July 2014 You couldn’t even see the front! We had to tear out the old columns along with the porch and re-do it all.

It made me realize just how much we have done which puts into perspective the tasks remaining.

A new porch, new paint job, new windows and new roof go well with a landscaped yard full of flowers. We still have a few parts to paint, but it is looking sooo much better!

Along with that, I took a few more pictures.

This shot really conveys the amount of space between our house and Cottage West. Keep in mind, there were THREE houses in between back in the day. It is such a shame they didn’t have someone to love and care for them. If they had, they would still be standing and I wouldn’t have the massive yard that I do, but still…

Call it a July 2017 State of the Union portrayed in images.

As shocking as it might sound, I may need to just return this garden (outlined in white poles) to grass for a while. We have a LOT to do with renovations in the next two years. After that, I can consider having a food garden again. Albeit a smaller one!

It isn’t perfect.

That’s not an apple – that’s an Asian pear and they are coming in STRONG this year.

Not by a long shot.

The daylilies love this spot in the front.

Look close enough and you will find weeds.

I finally found enough hanging baskets at IKEA at a decent price to populate all the hooks around the entire porch.

GUARANTEED.

The front yard has become my breeding ground and “go to” spot for transplanting flowers out of into other parts of the yard.

But it looks, at least to me, a heck of a sight better than just plain grass. I’ll tame it eventually, I know I will.

The herb garden with horseradish along the front

Or else the gardeners I am eventually able to hire will tame it!

The rains sure helped resuscitate all of the transplants I put into the side yard of Cottage East.

Oh Cottage East, you are going to be so much work! But you are worth it!

 

Posted in Historic Northeast, Historical Home | Comments Off on Our Properties at Present

My Inner Writer Geek Has Been Unleashed!

Just look at this beauty!

A couple of weekends ago, I went to an estate sale. A former cleaning client is moving to California and selling an enormous amount of their belongings.

Among the cool collectibles?

A manual Underwood typewriter.

And I got it, of course, because it was a typewriter. Old. Heavier than hell.

And my inner writer geek had a look of starry-eyed wonder over this fascinating piece.

And of course, I can’t just stick it on a table as a conversation piece. Oh no. I had to get a new ribbon for it.

And then figure out how to replace said ribbon.

Which led to finding the information online (of course) because even old typewriter manuals are online.

I am ridiculously pleased with myself. My inner writer geek is practically salivating to write the Great American Novel while pecking away at worn keys.

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A Four-Day Weekend Means…

The stone and brick steps to the backyard BEFORE being stripped of vines and more.

Boy oh boy, have we been busy little bees!

These stairs are narrow, uneven and problematic with the chain link fence so close to them. Nonetheless, I cleared them and we are using them to access the backyard from the west side of the house.

Around here, the news that my husband would have four days off from work translated to “Amazing loads of sweat and backbreaking labor in both of our futures.”

The backyard “before” picture on Saturday morning. Believe it or not, this is AFTER the initial weed whacking from two weeks ago!

There is, after all, quite a lot to do. I had been tackling the side yard that borders my herb bed, planting hostas, daylilies and other perennials as I cleared the weeds. With Dave on board, however, we could tackle even more.

This photo can not properly convey the ovewhelming amount of vines, rubbish and yard waste we have to clear. It is filled with weeds, trash and will take us several weekends to clear completely. Along with the 40+ rusting paint cans around the corner. Aieee!

In the past three days we have managed to:

  • Clear almost the entire 4×20 bed of weeds and plant plenty of perennials
  • Mow the grass and weed whack the fence line along with the path along the west side of the house to the backyard.
  • Clear another planter directly in front of the porch along with a path of bricks I had no idea were even there!. They were covered with a thick layer of soil and weeds.
  • Remove and clear the thick layer of extra dirt the gas main guys had heaped along the base of the chain link fence.
  • Dug up the remains of one pole that could have hurt someone if they walked over it.
  • Swept the front porch
  • Cleared the inside of the house of most of the trash upstairs – filling three trash bags (trash amnesty day is right around the corner)
  • Determined where we need to go to rid ourselves of the 100+ paint cans that are filling the front room, the basement and a section of the backyard
  • Weed whacked and mowed more of the backyard and filled a trash bag full of trash.
  • Moved a heap of yard waste to the back alley (we will take it to Missouri Organics to be mulched next weekend)
  • Dug up a crap load of daylilies, moved and replanted them.
  • Cleared the stone and brick steps down to the backyard (no more vines and dirt!)
  • Mowed the rest of our properties

Now if that list doesn’t make you exhausted just reading it, then you are always welcome to join us. We could use a hand!

The newly weed whacked west side of Cottage East (looking from back to front)

All of this, while my body is aching and uncooperative.

The front porch planter cleared and the old brick path revealed. Ta da!

We met with two potential contractors today as well. One, a siding company, seemed to be unprepared for the reality that we are facing and told us they couldn’t help us. That was rather surprising.

I weeded this planter area as well, uncovered the old brick path, and planted daylilies in it.

The other guy, who owned a foundation company, assessed all three of our homes and gave us quotes on two of them.

The Cottage East (our newest acquisition) will need around $4,000 – $8,000 worth of foundation work. And the Cottage West needs around $5,000. The good news is that the Cottage West is not urgent and can be put off for a while. But the Cottage East will need work sooner rather than later.

I’m laying some of those side wall bricks directly on the broken concrete sidewalk. I’ll edge with bricks set on their edges, level anything too uneven, and then brush sand on top to close up any gaps.

On Wednesday I have two more siding companies coming out to give bids. Both do siding, windows, exterior doors and roofs, so I’m hoping we can wrap it all up in a nice bundle and “get ‘er done.”

Basement window well BEFORE

That will be a heck of a financial hit, but we can finance it until more money is freed up in April 2018 and then knock the balance out of the way.

Basement window well AFTER

A dear friend came over yesterday and looked it over. She had some great advice on the design of the kitchen as well as positioning of the dining room and more.

That hard working man of mine leveling the edges and hauling away the extra.

As I turn the areas over in my mind, I can see that Cottage East will be a whole house Airbnb, not parted up into separate rooms and co-cohabitation like I had originally thought. It will be great for families who are traveling and want room for kids and more.

As we drove through the neighborhood today I saw this stone lion face fountain. This is exactly what I want for the backyard!

Imagine spending $200 per night to stay in a house, with a full kitchen and laundry facilities available to you and your family.

It will be a couple of years out, but we are on our way.

The back porch – I would like to see this rebuilt to twice the depth and be able to hold an outside table and chairs.

I will admit, it is a staggering amount of work and money. I want to do it RIGHT, and I also see it as an investment in our future.

The white house our neighbors bought. I can’t wait to see what they do with it!

My paternal grandmother did very well for herself developing and selling off the tracts of land that she and her husband, a well-loved dentist in Liberty acquired over the years.

The backyard brick wall before it was cleared of vines.

As we drove back from Minsky’s Pizza today, I said to my husband, “How I wish I had known, in the darkest moments of my life, that this future was waiting for me. Just a hint, just a small reminder that the best was yet to come.”

It isn’t a walk in the park. It isn’t easy. A week ago today I was reeling from inordinate amounts of stress and very little sleep. I have a very tall mountain of work in front of me. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be stress-free.

But it is worth it. And I have to say, I am grateful for the life I live and the home and family that I have. I have so much to smile about each day.

We learned on Saturday that our neighbors (the ones who rehabbed and sold us the house we live in) had bought the white house directly to the east of Cottage East. They approached us about removing the chain link fence which borders the vacant lot and Cottage East.

The latest schematic for Cottage East – 3 bedrooms upstairs, a dining room with a roomy storage closet, an upstairs bathroom with dressing room/lounge area, and more!

I was reticent at first, “If we remove the fence and the brush, we will have a rather clear view of the decrepit white house,” I objected.

He smiled, “Don’t worry, it won’t look like that for long.”

And with that, I was over the moon. We are really looking forward to working with them in a few months to remove the brush and chain link and see what they do with that great old house. It is in desperate need of a facelift, but it is well worth the effort.

As Dave said, “Babe, in a few years, this block is going to look absolutely amazing!”

And I for one could not be happier. I’m excited to be saving so many houses from continuing disrepair and neglect. We are making this block something to be proud of!

Beneath a thick layer of paint in the back bedroom, we found this floral wallpaper. I would love to reproduce this, perhaps using stencils. It’s so delicate and feminine!

Posted in AirBnB, Garden Planning, Goals/Dreams, Historic Northeast | Comments Off on A Four-Day Weekend Means…

Ah…Acrimony…How I Have NOT Missed You

The front yard of Cottage West – I will add more plants now that I have a clean palette to work with.

I deal with others plainly – up front, honest – and I expect the same.

It doesn’t always happen, my approach is not always responded to in kind and I have long said, “That’s their problem, not mine.”

As I was trying to answer some questions for the Northeast Kansas City Historical Society this morning (Cottage West will be listed in their 2nd book), I clicked on Parcel Viewer. And as is a habit for me, I clicked on the 311 cases. For those of you who are not aware, this is where maintenance and property repair complaints show up.

I check these often. I do this so that I can keep abreast of any developing situations. There is usually a delay between a call coming in and the inspection. If I can get in there and fix what needs fixing, I avoid months of a complaint hanging out there on 311, long after it has been resolved.

In any case, I noticed the following:

Case Notes
Date: 06/28/2017
Summary: 311 update
Description:Citizen is complaining that this owner has covered the yard in mulch in an effort to not have to mow the property.

Date: 06/06/2017
Summary: 311 Update
Description:Citizen is reporting that the yard is not being mowed. There is overgrown grass on this property.

So, on the 6th I’m guessing that our friendly neighbor Dale wanted us to mow. But on the 28th someone was complaining about the mulch we had landscaped the yard with.

So in other words, mow it, but how dare you lay down mulch? Thank goodness I don’t live in an HOA!

The city apparently visited on the 8th and declined to write us up. Perhaps they have bigger fish to fry. I doubt they will object to landscaping either. In fact, they will probably wonder why more folks aren’t doing it. Anyone can have grass. It isn’t that hard. But a tasteful display of blooming perennials nestled in clean mulch? That’s some beauty there, folks.

So I figured I should check through ALL of the properties. I quickly found this listed for the front of our house:

Case History
Case ID: 2017066624
Date Submitted: 06/06/2017
Status: RESOL
Summary: Property Violations
Description: Citizen is reporting that this property has not been mowed. There are herbs growing in the ROW and the area is unkempt.

Oh no! Not that dreadful mint again!

This was probably also Dale. But maybe not. Not everyone likes flowers and plants. The city looked at it and declined to open a case, so I’d hazard a guess that improving the neighborhood and feeding the neighbors (our Vietnamese neighbor loves using our mint in her cooking) was fine with the city. Nevertheless, I plan on moving it. It will take several years because mint is notoriously hard to get rid of, but eventually, it will border ALL of my properties.

Perennials in front of Cottage West

Mint is great for keeping out vermin. Ants, mice, rats, they all hate the smell and avoid it. I have been threatening to plant a moat of it around my home for years and now I think it is well overdue. Plus it smells awesome when you keep it in line with the mower and everyone can have mint tea!

I moved on in my perusal of 311 case notes and found this one for the red house, now known as Cottage East, our newest addition:

Case Notes
Date: 06/28/2017
Summary: 311 update
Description:

Citizen who lives across the street wants the brush growning [sic] along the fence line to be cut down/removed.

Oh boy. Would this be the same neighbor who wanted the house? The same one who had calf-high grass on Saturday but just spent the last 2-3 days obsessing over every inch of the corner property with mower and weed whacker in hand? The timing between that and this complaint lodged yesterday is…interesting.

I can’t say this conclusively, and in the end, they have the right to complain about the properties around them however they wish, but it is a little disheartening and petty.

If their purpose is to improve the neighborhood, it is more than understandable, and I do hope that is what it is.

We are a little more concerned with making sure the house itself is shored up – the walls repaired, the roof and windows replaced. We don’t want meth heads breaking in and doing whatever they do there, but hey, if I need to spend a chunk of my weekend making sure every inch of our properties are in pristine condition, we can do that too.

Several companies are coming out to give us quotes on the issues at hand. I don’t want to slap a band-aid on it, because that never works. I want it done right and expect it to last a LONG time.

The newly mowed vacant lot on the left is one our neighbors are buying. We will be cleaning this easement up this weekend.

I can only hope that others would do what I would do in a situation like the one we were faced with in the aftermath of the property sale dispute. Take a moment to grieve, be angry, upset, or whatever about not getting their way – and then move on. It isn’t worth fighting over. It isn’t worth the feeling in your gut or heart to be resentful.

I’ll admit, my stress went zipping up again when I saw those reports. Just like I do when my renter calls me with an issue, I want to fix it RIGHT AWAY. But I also realize that killing myself to satisfy others is not in anyone’s best interest.

Well, maybe someone’s, but not MINE!

The properties will be repaired.

The landscaping will be done.

And eventually, I hope that my neighbors will stand down and recognize that I am not their enemy.

I can hope for it at least. None of us needs that kind of stress in our lives.

The east wall of the property. It may look intact from this angle, but this brick facade is also buckling and threatening to collapse. We will need to pull down the bricks and install Tyvek and siding ASAP.

Posted in Community | 3 Comments

20 Minutes a Day

Em says that gardening is my way of making my mark on the world around me.

I tend to see the big picture – and plan big as well. But then the little things trip me up.

My shady herb garden

Recently that has been lots of land and LOTS of weeds sprouting up. Kind of…everywhere.

Bad weed, full of needles when it blooms!

Combine that with my plantar fasciitis flaring up and it can be tough. I WANT to clear up the weeds and move the plants, but I HURT, and who wants to be on their feet when it hurts that much?

As you can see, I still have a bit of work ahead of me. I have cleared a swath and immediately populated it with lilies and hostas.

A few weeks ago I came up with an idea. I would pick a spot in my yard and spend 20 minutes clearing it. I had no idea if it would work or if I would soon find myself with a machete, hearing the cry of the baboon as I hacked through weeds the size of houses.

The front yard of Cottage West

But I had to do something, and spending several hours working on it, followed by a week of bed rest and hobbling about did not seem to be cutting it.

I began working over on this incline behind Cottage West. It was filled with weeds, creeping charlie, and more. I transplanted around ten daylilies, iris and more and pulled weeds until the section looked good. This took several days of 20-minute sessions to complete.

A close up of the transplanted plants

I then moved on to the front of Cottage West, hoping to get the weeds out from the edges. The center of the tiny yard was then covered with landscaping fabric and mulch was placed on top.

Goodbye weeds! Hello landscaped, low-care front yard!

This little incline still needs a good ground cover, but it looks so much better than it did!

After that, I moved to the herb bed on the east side of our lots, right next to Cottage East’s front yard. There are some nasty weeds in the herb bed. Last year and the year before they “flowered” and produced thousands of these needle sized pokers that stuck to your clothes and of course spread themselves everywhere. I’m determined to not let them this year, so I am picking every one of the shallow rooted little crappers I find.

And now that Cottage East is ours, I want to address the front of the yard immediately. If a pretty, well-tended yard softens the blow to my neighbor at all, then I am ready for the task.

Look at this gorgeous tiger lily I found!

First up, clearing the weeds from the sides of the walkway AND laying a brick sidewalk down. So that’s on my “daily 20 minutes” until it is all done. I have several hostas transplanted already.

Perennials are the bomb. Plant them once, forget them until its time to divide them, or move them somewhere else. Right now my front yard is a breeding ground for perennials that I can now move elsewhere. I love it!

By next year, the yard will be blooming with hostas, columbine, hollyhock, and so much more. Keep watching, I guarantee you will like it!

Hostas in bloom

Just 20-30 minutes at least five days per week has really made a difference. It seems so small, but it has such a big effect.

I put in this gravel and brick path to the water spout on the side of our house a few weeks ago. It made reaching the water spout SO much easier!

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Land Rush in the ‘Hood

Our herb garden (such as it is) is in the foreground

I am very excited to announce that we have purchased yet another contiguous property here in our little corner of the ‘hood. A 1,300 square foot three bedroom, one bath house built circa 1895 to the east of us.

Is that a missing section of brick wall? Why yes, yes it is.

In fact, I have been so excited, that I wrote this post way back at the beginning of June after reaching a verbal agreement with the seller.

BEFORE adding the red brick house to the repertoire (see it there to the right?)

We even got to work on the overgrown back yard in June. There are small trees sprouting, rampant weeds, and even a couple of daylilies that are thriving but need to be moved.

So…much…work!

Now you are going to either laugh, cry or shake your head at me. And honestly, I can understand why. The Cottage (herein renamed Cottage West) is not finished and now I have bought yet another crumbling ruin.

I will NOT be purchasing the last lot on the right after all. More on this later.

Stick with me here, because I promise you, it will be worth it.

I Have a Dream…

It might not be as life-changing as MLK’s speech or vision of the future, but here is mine. The property at 3231 E. 10th is falling apart. It absolutely is. But I believe it can be fixed and I have a plan on how to do it.

This side is in worse shape than the other, but both sides of brick facade will need to be removed. We will replace it with a Tyvek wrap and vinyl siding.

What if I were to say to you that by the summer of 2018, Cottage West will be finished and open for business as an AirBnB? And what if I were to say to you that Cottage East will be ready 12-18 months after that?

Moving from left to right: Cottage West, purchased in July 2014, the last lot we didn’t own, two more empty lots, our house, another lot of ours, and finally Cottage East!

I’ve been crunching the numbers hard here and I have a plan for getting it all done. It’s a lot of work, and a lot of money, but it can be done. Let me say that again, IT CAN BE DONE.

View of bathroom through right-hand window and weird “walk in closet” on the left. I may very well make these into two bathrooms back to back, create a “master suite” out of the front bedroom, and this closet turned bathroom and then let the other two bedrooms share the already established bathroom.

I can’t help but imagine, and dream of, a time in the near future when both Cottage West and Cottage East will see a brisk Air BnB business and help bring visitors into our city and neighborhood. I’m really excited, folks!

A view of the back. Rotting fascia will need to be replaced and I would like to double the depth of the back porch. The floorboards seem to be in good shape, so I might try to save them to use on a ground level porch below. You can’t see it but there is a door access to the basement and a window. Possibly room for a small walkout apartment? We will see!

The Timing Was Less Than Optimal

Last year, when I originally approached Alec about selling, he was asking for $2,000. At that point, I had everything tied up in Cottage West, but I asked the contractor I had working for me to take a look at it. After she gave me a brief review of what was needed, Alec told me that he had someone willing to pay $4,000 for it.

See those crumbling bricks there? We watched a squirrel go inside the house. It seems that we have some rodent control in our future.

“If someone is willing to give you that much,” I said, “Take it, and run like hell.”

What is this odd little square here? It’s too high up for a coal bin.

But the deal fell through, and for some reason, Alec did not come back right away.

Entry hall

It wasn’t until the first weekend in June when he stopped by, saw my husband mowing the front yard of the house (yes, my husband not only mows our own property, but also tries to take care of the ones around us that are being neglected or are unoccupied) and stopped to talk to him.

Front parlor or living room

He thanked Dave, something the owner of that last lot we purchased never did – and we mowed that piece of land for THREE YEARS before the owner finally sold it to us!

Back bedroom

I saw them talking and came over to say hello. And as I came out, he mentioned that he really needed to sell the house.

This partial wall hides the entrance to the basement. Unfortunately, this has given ne’er do wells plenty of privacy and opportunity to take their time breaking into the property. We will remove the wall, reinforce the door and window, and assess the possible uses for the basement.

The city was breathing down his neck, the taxes were overdue, and he didn’t have the money to fix the issues.

The back door. I can’t wait to find some nice hardware, hang curtains, and more. This enters into the kitchen/eating area.

Now buying it now puts it squarely in our laps – and that means we need to fix the wall immediately. I can’t just pull down the brick and slap Tyvek over it, that won’t keep the critters out, nor the two-legged meth head variety either.

Possible future main floor master suite

So we will need to possibly consider installing vinyl siding this year, just to stabilize the structure long enough to get the other project done, earning money, and then move back to this one.

It’s hard to see but there is a brick retaining wall back there. Clear out the brush, put in a cute pathway through the yard and install a fountain and pool on that wall. It would look…FABULOUS!

Cottage West is well on its way, and we just have to:

  • Finish the last of the wiring
  • Run new Pex pipe for the plumbing
  • Install HVAC, gas water heater, and appliances
  • Stairs leading up to the bedrooms. That window with the blue curtain used to be a door!

  • Install insulation and drywall
  • Finish the bathroom floor in that penny floor design I’ve been talking about
  • Install a new exterior door
  • Finish the last of the exterior painting
  • Paint inside, decorate and furnish

Cottage West (formerly “The Old Lady House” or “The Cottage”) in its current state.

Jeez, when I say it that way it sounds like a lot!

Front bedroom – possible upstairs master suite?

But that is why it will take us another 6-8 months of work starting in April of next year.

I would love to rebuild this back porch at twice the current depth, allowing for a table and chairs as well as backyard access to the house and the ability for visitors to park on a gravel or concrete driveway (picture to follow).

After it is complete, we are looking at the works for Cottage East:

  • Demo interior walls to make room for all new up-to-code electrical and plumbing
  • New roof and guttering
  • Vinyl siding to replace the crumbling brick facade (look lots of BRICKS for PATHWAYS!!!!!)
  • New windows

Bathroom upstairs

Behind our house, the alley dead-ends. I would love to put a paved parking spot back here so that we could advertise it as off-street parking. (To the left is the backyard of Cottage East)

  • New Electrical (from box on through the rest of the house)
  • New Plumbing (PEX throughout)
  • HVAC, Water Heater (possibly on demand)
  • Drywall, paint
  • Potentially two full bathrooms upstairs and one downstairs
  • And a ton of other pocketbook draining activities

Cottage East has this fascinating brick retaining wall in the back. Visions of ponds and fountains fill my eyes.

Or this close up…

And since the alley dead-ends behind our house and right next to Cottage East, we could offer off-street parking and access through the backyard for our AirB’nB clients.

Some cool details remain

It is a stunning amount of work, time and money. But in the end, we will have a beautiful little gem of a house. It is our way of making our mark on our street, our neighborhood, and our community at large.

The east wall of the property. It may look intact from this angle, but this brick facade is also buckling and threatening to collapse. We will need to pull down the bricks and install Tyvek and siding ASAP.

It is a worthwhile effort – Historic Northeast has captured our hearts and we are so very happy we live here and share it with so many awesome folks!

Meanwhile down in the kitchen we have a solid wall of cabinetry. They need cleaning, repair, and new drawer pulls, but here is one thing I won’t have to fix!

Timeline:

  • February 2013 – we purchased our house and three lots to the west
  • August 2013 – we purchased the side lot to the east of our house (which borders our newest purchase)
  • July 2014 – we purchased Cottage West a.k.a. Old Lady House a.k.a. The Cottage for $25 from Land Bank
  • November 2016 – we purchased the last lot between our 3 western lots and Cottage West for $500
  • June 2017 – we purchased Cottage East for $2,000

From front bedroom looking down hall to back bedroom. On the right is the bathroom, on the left is the middle bedroom. See the bulls-eye crown moulding on the door? I LOVE that!

It Nearly Went South

This past Saturday, we returned from errands with lunch and noticed that the current owner was there and had it open. We said hello to him, asked if we could take some photos of the inside, and he nodded.

When I came back outside, the neighbors who had sold us the house we live in were standing there, purchase paperwork in hand, ready to make an offer.

Here is a schematic of the main floor

To say that this past weekend was a roller coaster of emotions does not begin to cover it.

I choose to see the good in everyone, so I will sum it up like this:

  • Our neighbors wanted the property and were rather determined to get it.
  • The owner wanted to sell it and preferred to get as much money as possible.
  • I had made an agreement with him back on June 3rd to buy it and was caught in the middle.

It took all of the negotiating skills that I had, along with several impassioned pleas for us to please work this out without courts and lawyers becoming involved. I asked the seller to do the right thing and honor the agreement he had made to sell the property to me.

In the end, I agreed to pay $2,000, double what we had originally agreed on. However, this was half of the price my neighbors had counter-offered. The seller apologized to me for the situation and we signed on the dotted line today.

East side of front porch (our house is in the distance). See why I wanted line of sight? I can really keep an eye on these two properties and that makes all the difference in the world for me.

We have all experienced a great deal of stress and consternation over the past few days and I hope that, despite the acrimony that arose, we can all move past it. In the end, my neighbor and I are very alike, we want to love these old homes, save them for future generations to enjoy, and make our neighborhood a better place to live.

That we were at odds over this property was incredibly distressing for me personally, and I am sure for her as well.

Crawl space off of the front bedroom

With the doubled cost of the house, I was in no position to purchase the last contiguous lot to the east of it. I will leave it to our neighbors to take it on if they so choose at the tax sale in August.

Further Thoughts

I’ve mentioned that the walls are all brick facade. I had originally thought of making pathways with the brick, but after looking at the little backyard over several days, I’ve decided I would like to see it mainly paved throughout with urns full of plants, a fountain/pond along the wall as I described earlier, and little maintenance needed.

This room opposite the kitchen can be turned into a breakfast room and half bath.

I had considered using flagstone pavers for the back yard, but for a 30×20 foot space, the price was rather steep.

Looking from front parlor/living room into the dining room and stairs up. The doorway on right leads to the kitchen.

Instead, I’ll use all of those bricks from the wall facade to create the “floor” of our backyard!

Sort of like this…

Close your eyes and imagine it. Shaded, cool, with water running through a lion’s head mounted on the wall. Plants and seating, even a patio and chairs and a barbecue. Who wouldn’t want to stay with us?!

The floor between the kitchen and what will be the breakfast room and half bath

In the end, we hope to have a romantic English country cottage to offer as an Airbnb. I know it will take plenty of work but we can do it. One step at a time.

Posted in AirBnB, Community, DIY, Goals/Dreams, Historic Northeast, Projects | Comments Off on Land Rush in the ‘Hood

When I Die…

I’ve spent a good part of my life being terrified of death. And honestly, I think that is a healthy attitude to take. I’m not jumping out of planes, plunging off bridges attached to bungees, and I take conservative risks.

Wow, when I put it that way I sound rather boring.

Back to the subject at hand.

In the last few years, I have lost family members and felt my own body slowing down. Don’t worry, I’m good for decades. If anything it is an annoyance right now when my body won’t perform to factory standards.

I have started to think about death, however. And this has included being a little less afraid of it. More accepting of it as a reality that will confront us all.

As I was cleaning the other day, I turned to my TED app to listen to some interesting TED talks and ran across When I Die, Recompose Me.

I listened to the talk and it changed how I want my body to be handled after I die.

For my entire life, I have found cemeteries fascinating . Not to stay in, mind you, but to visit. I like looking at the gravestones, especially those in older cemeteries, finding connections among family members, imagining what their lives must have been like, and lingering over the smaller graves. What if those little babies had had a chance to grow up?

And while I find them interesting, I have never wanted to be buried in one. “I take up space while I’m alive, why do it when I’m dead?”

So I had resigned myself to being cremated until I listened to this TED talk. And now I’m determined to last long enough for this practice to take hold and become the standard.

You can learn more here.

And if you want to learn about the major life lessons before you die, tune in to Annie Lamott’s funny and profound TED talk.

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My Next Refrigerator Will Be Dumb and Non-Magical

Less than two years and you are already broken? Magic Fridge, you SUCK.

Around eighteen months ago, the refrigerator that came with the house began to die. In truth, it had been dying for a year or more before that, but it was finally becoming too much.

And as usually happens, the end came suddenly. So suddenly, and of course right after a grocery shopping trip that had it stocked full, we were desperately in need of a new one.

And folks, I got sucked in, like an idiot. “Look Mom, it’s magic, it has this little door that opens so you can just access milk and salad dressing and such. It saves energy.” My eldest had found it, and Em was right on her heels, admiring it.

“Mama, that’s cool!”

It was very cool. It had an ice maker, water dispenser and that magic door. Press a button and voila, you were saving energy by only accessing a small portion of the fridge. What was there not to like?

And all for the lowest price possible at the Sears Outlet in the East Bottoms – $1100.

So here I am, having bought this damn thing in early October 2015. In January it began dinging. This is the sign that there is a door ajar, but the doors were closed and the seals engaged. Then the water dispenser stopped working, then the freezer warmed up and things became slushy.

Somehow we fixed it – neither of us remembers how now, no doubt due to the fact we were both under enormous stress with my dad here and him still incredibly ill.

And now it is doing it again.

A few days ago it began to ding. Then yesterday the freezer stopped cooling so well. We have emptied it entirely into our chest freezer, cleaned it out, and cannot figure out WHAT the problem is.

It is now morning and the freezer is WARM and the fridge is barely cooling at all – not a good situation when it will be in the high 80s today and no central air in our house.

The appliance repair man is coming between 12-2 pm to look at it. I’m hoping that all the food inside the fridge is not already ruined.

My next fridge will be dumb, non-magical, and won’t even make ice. I’m cool with using ice trays, I really, really am.

Sometimes technology rocks. But other times? It’s not cool, not at all.

Posted in Challenges | Comments Off on My Next Refrigerator Will Be Dumb and Non-Magical

Waste Not…

If you are an Amazon junkie like me, then your house is awash with cardboard boxes in a variety of sizes.

I toss most of them into the recycle container, but recently, I have used them for another purpose…

The west wall of our house

Weed control, soil conditioning, and mulch for our currant bushes. A 3-in-1 solution!

This section of our yard is rather difficult to mow and the creeping charlie has invaded everywhere.

And after Dave accidentally mowed one of our gooseberry bushes that had been buried beneath weeds…

Gooseberry bushes – the nearest one is slowly recovering from having been accidentally mowed

I figured it was time to put those cardboard boxes to use.

You don’t need that many bricks holding down the cardboard, by the way, I just happened to also be relocating a brick pathway and decided to make use of them.

Reasons to use cardboard in your yard:

  • Provides a great weed barrier and smothers the weeds at the same time
  • Clearly defines newly planted areas
  • Attracts earthworms who eat the cardboard and condition the soil

This isn’t a permanent fix by any means. But later in the year, as we clear more of the brush and wood from our yard and drop it off at Missouri Organics – we can also pick up mulch for free and pile it on top of the cardboard. Those weeds won’t be able to take back over for at least a year, possibly two!

I can’t wait for my gooseberry bushes to grow big and tall and start producing. Same for the currant bushes!

The rest of the yard is looking pretty good. I can’t wait to start expanding those mulched areas and adding to them with other fruiting bushes, flowering plants and more!

Posted in Garden Planning, Recycle | Comments Off on Waste Not…

Be a Better Person Than This

I rarely get into Facebook fights. I rarely get into fights at all. Partly because I’m a big-hearted overly emotional wimp, but also because it really messes me up for DAYS afterward. I would as soon someone go around and talk crap about me and think what they are going to think then to expend the mental, emotional and even physical energy to try and convince them otherwise.

Think I’m a horrible person? By all means, go right ahead and think that. Feel free.

However, when it comes to someone else being vilified or ostracized in a manner I find unacceptable – well damned if I cannot keep my mouth shut. I just can’t.

So I wake up this morning to see a post in my Facebook feed…

I just disagreed with the way some people in my neighborhood are handling a situation so they said I must not live here and kicked me out of the neighborhood groups.

And this came from a friend who I know is moderate, kind, generous and just about as laid-back as you can get. She had taken issue with some rather aggressive moves by those tired of prostitution on the Avenue. They have been photographing prostitutes, but now were also advocating sending those photos to the landlords of buildings the women resided in. In the middle of this anti-prostitution thread, she was attacked as being pro-crime and questioned as to whether or not she was even a resident of Historic Northeast (a requirement for being part of the Historic Northeast and Crime Watch pages).

And then, just as quickly, she was unceremoniously dumped and BLOCKED from both Facebook pages.

“Who cares? It’s a bunch of people being all snotty, who needs them” you might say.

And here is the problem. Both pages have thousands of members. And together, as a community, for the most part, we are working together to create change and improve the community. So it is a big deal. Events are posted there – neighborhood meetings are announced, crime is reported on the other page, important details such as photos of trucks and illegal dumpers. This helps the other residents keep an eye out, report suspicious behavior, build illegal dumping cases, draw connections between seemingly unrelated or isolated crimes, and more.

Being forbidden from accessing these pages just because someone takes issue with you disagreeing with them is not only rude, it is foolhardy. Stephanie is an asset, not a liability. She has posted about break-ins and suspicious people in the neighborhood, and that help her fellow neighbors and law enforcement to put together timelines, modus operandi and more.

So of course, seeing this, I had to get involved. Surely it was a case of misunderstanding, at worse, a sore ass.

I sent a PM through FB Messenger to the admin who had deleted her. We were connected on FB after I had stood in for him and interviewed with KSHB about saving Rambo’s restaurant (I STILL miss that place it had the BEST burgers and chicken).

I wrote:

If there was any confusion on whether or not Stephanie Adams is a resident here in Northeast, I would like to clear that up for you. Stephanie lives near the museum, on Norledge, and is a cleaning client of mine. I have learned she has been kicked off of Real Northeast and the crimewatch page as well. So, unless those two pages are NOT for Northeast residents, she should be reinstated on both.

His reply was as follows:

Someone sent me a message that they didn’t think she lived in HNE. She was kicked out of the group for being mean and nasty to me. I work too hard on these groups to be treated like that.

He then sent “proof” of her mean and nasty behavior…

And the following conversation between us ensued…

And in the meanwhile, in the couple of hours it had taken before he responded to my initial post, I ambled over to Real Northeast and the Crime page and posted this…

Responses varied, from “It’s my way or the highway?” to Heather Welch’s thoughtful post:

I can appreciate the frustration that disagreements cause in the heat of the moment. I’ve said and done some things I have later come to regret. But I hope hope hope that with time to cool down and sleep on it, a renewed perspective will prevail and admin will reconsider. Let’s just chalk this one up to our passion for bettering our community, shall we?

But seconds after Christian Stalder commented (and I don’t have it word for word) “Par for the course, by tomorrow this post will have been deleted.” – not only had the post been deleted, but I had been tossed off of Real Northeast and the Crime Watch page.

For daring to ask a question. For daring to question the status quo.

I’ve still got access. I just have to walk up to another computer and access it through another family member’s account on Facebook. So this whole thing is petty, stupid, and sad. It is a case of either a sore ass, snobbery/self-entitlement, the mulish refusal to see any other side but his own, or bullying behavior.

Be a better person than this, folks.

People WILL disagree with you. It is a fact of life. But if you close yourself off from anyone and everyone who does not believe as you believe, live as you would live, or support your every decision in a simple manner of a mindless sycophant – then YOU are the lesser for the experience.

Don’t we have enough extremism in our world already? Do we really need any more of it?

Posted in Advocacy, Community | Comments Off on Be a Better Person Than This