Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A new addition to the family.

So, after a tremendously busy July (vacation to Maine, wedding in Iowa, and a 100-mile overnight relay race, along with mundane things like work and housework/yardwork), I am finally back and ready to tackle some house projects!

We could have bought a new loveseat or chair for the living room during July, but instead, we brought home this guy:

We have been wanting to get a dog for some time, and now that our busy July is over and the rest of the summer/fall are relatively quiet, it seemed like the perfect time. Meet Rudy! He is a 13-month old German shepherd/border collie mix who we brought home from the animal shelter just over a week ago. He's a wonderful boy, just as rambunctious as you would expect from a guy who's barely over being a puppy. He's quite good around people, but very reactive around other dogs, something we need to work on. I don't know if he's scared or just wants to play, but it involves lots of barking.

Other than that though, he's really a remarkable guy. Loves to run (which suits me just fine!), and learns very quickly. We've already taught him Sit, Lie Down, Off, and Roll Over. I'm working on Look at Me, and also to give us some sort of signal when he wants to go out. I want to teach him Speak for that, but it's hard because he almost never barks (only when there's another dog in sight!).

He's certainly not without his problems, though. Besides the dog-reactivity issue, he is a dedicated chewer, tends to nip or "mouth" us (like a bite but gentle...still, not a good thing to encourage), and likes to jump on people. Normal puppy habits that he's hanging on to. Considering that he came in as a stray and has been through Lord knows what in his short life, and has only been with us a week, he's doing extremely well.

Rudy has certainly been keeping us busy, but we are still looking forward to our kitchen makeover. Today we ordered the cabinet hardware. This weekend we'll be getting paint and other supplies. We've decided on a lovely soft shade of light green for the cabinets, and it's looking like a soft golden-yellow for the breakfast nook wall (it was between that and a light blue-gray, but we decided we wanted a warmer, brighter kitchen). Can't wait to post before-and-after photos!

Monday, June 28, 2010

A kitchen makeover in the offing.

We are putting a lot of house projects and furniture purchases off until we get our tax credit, but we do have a few things we'd like to accomplish sooner. When my in-laws (Joan and Mike) offered to pitch in on a weekend project when they come to visit in August, we narrowed down our projects to a few possibilities:
  • Kitchen makeover. Although maybe one day, in some sunny, distant future in which we have lots of extra cash and time on our hands, we'd love to completely redo the kitchen with new countertops, cabinets, appliances, etc., in reality there's absolutely nothing wrong with what we have now. But one issue we're having is that the place seems very dark all the time, partly due to the fact that both windows face the shady backyard. So for now, painting the dark wood cabinets a lighter color is our solution.
  • Garden touch-up. The garden undeniably needs some help. Lots of weeds and unknown stuff to take out and replace with some nice, friendly perennials. I have more ambitious plans, but in the near future I just want to replace the existing weedy flowerbeds with something more pleasing.
  • Sunroom floor redo. We ripped up a corner of the carpet to reveal what appears to be concrete. After reading about the possibilities for staining or painting a concrete sunroom floor on this blog, we immediately adopted it as one of our near future to-dos.
  • Wallpaper removal/painting. The living and dining rooms need serious help. The wallpaper choices are better in these two rooms than in the master bedroom, but I'm just not a wallpaper fan. I am looking forward to having a clean, uniform look to the walls. The master bedroom, even though it is worse, can wait.
So, after throwing different ideas around, our frontrunner for the August project is...the kitchen cabinets. We decided to concentrate mostly on indoor projects to help prepare the house to receive Thanksgiving guests, so it makes sense that the kitchen would receive some attention. The dining room is the obvious next choice. Hurry up, tax credit!

Here is a current picture of the kitchen.

Actually the camera's flash makes it look better than it is. See, everything's perfectly good! Just imagine that it's a little dimmer than this and you'll have our issue. I think a few coats of a nice light green, as well as new hardware, will do wonders. At least I hope it will. Here is my inspiration:

                                                    Picture courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens.

I especially noticed that the floor looks similar to ours, and that the green works not only with silvery/gray stainless steel, but also with yellowish/tan shades as well. We don't have stainless steel appliances now, but we might someday. We thought about painting the cabinets white, but with with the white tiles and off-white counters, we worried it would be a bit much. Another idea that I am really digging about this picture is the open cabinets. We might try removing the doors from one of the cabinets and storing all the pretty things there for show. Thanks a MILLION to Steph for sending me this link! Steph also gave us the idea of doing a bi-color thing with the cabinets, which we are definitely considering.

The only other thing to figure out is what color should the wall be in the breakfast nook? Very little actual wall in the kitchen itself, but we might give the breakfast nook a new coat of paint while we're at it. Needs some more thought, but the idea is definitely taking shape.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A compostin' we will go.

Composting is something I've always wanted to do, but just never felt like I had the space or means to do so. (Now that I've done a lot more research, I'm well aware I could easily have done a small-time operation on my apartment deck. Oops.) But, better late than never, as they say.

I've read numerous tutorials about using recycled materials to build your own compost bin, as well as window-shopped online for the "deluxe" models. Finally I just decided to jump in the middle--today we bought a 34-gallon plastic Rubbermaid bin at Target for $9.99. Mark drilled some holes in the bottom, sides, and top, and I dumped in some dirt, a mixture of brown and green leaves, and some eggshells as our first kitchen contribution. Voila:

Then I crushed up the eggshells (the smaller the pieces are, the faster and easier they break down), and mixed it all together. Then I popped the lid on. As the bin gets fuller, I'll probably have to use a small spade to keep it mixed, but for now a small garden fork does nicely.

We don't produce very much trash (most things can be recycled, especially now that Bloomington takes 3-7 plastics), and we're hoping this will cut down on our waste even more, not to mention produce some free "black gold" for the garden.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

This blew my mind.

Okay, I apologize for another IRS rant. But a co-worker sent me this very timely article today. GRRRR.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The tree limbs go bye-bye.

Now, I promise I won't update every time we do a bit of yard work, but we were pretty pleased with ourselves after making our giant tree-pile into manageable chunks that the city garbage service can collect tomorrow morning. Here's what it looked like on Saturday afternoon:

We're not quiiiite done because we ran out of yard bags. But here it is now, quaking in fear from me and my saw of destruction:

I have to admit it was some nice therapy to break up all those tree limbs, very nice for working through some IRS-related rage issues. Mark was happy enough to actually strike a funny pose as well.

After years of apartment living, I still find it faintly miraculous that all we have to do is get our stuff out to the curb in the proper container with the proper tag, and it gets whisked away.

I think we had ten bags in all. Yowza.

IRS update: I called this morning for an explanation of the mysterious form. The rep, while friendly and sympathetic, was as stumped as me. Apparently when they mail these returns back, they close the file and therefore have no record of why it was rejected. I think most businesses run out of people's garages are better organized. She suggested I mail it back in. When I expressed concern that I was starting over and had no guarantee that the same thing wouldn't happen again, she suggested enclosing a letter explaining what had happened. Are they working with pencils and notebooks in this place? Couldn't she make a note in my file?!?

I was running late for work, so I gave up on her. Later that morning, I walked over to the IRS office, which is very close to my work. There, both reps pored over my paperwork. One of them was the very one who had pronounced our amended return good to go six weeks earlier. Finally they said that apparently the IRS needs further proof that we closed on April 30 (the deadline to go under contract in order to get the tax credit was April 30).

Me: Why? The closing date is right here. April 30.
Them: Well, we need more documentation. Did you bring your closing documents?
Me: I have my HUD, which is all that I was told was required.
Them: Did you bring the rest of the documents from closing?
Me: I don't know why I would have done that. Which document do you need?
Them: I don't know, just bring it all. We have to confirm that you were under contract before May 1.
Me: Look, what do you want from us? The closing date is spelled out right here. Since we closed on April 30, we were obviously under contract well before that. The deadline to close is well after April 30. I just don't understand what the issue is.
Them: The investigations office does not agree. Here is a list of further documents that you need to bring in. Just bring all that stuff in and we'll get it submitted.

I stormed out. I gathered mortgage statement, bank statements, and a pay stub showing the new address, while Mark ran over to the house to get our closing folder. He brought our entire house bundle just in case. I took the whole mess in right after lunch and dropped in on the counter (thud), saying, "Well, I'm back. I don't know what you want, so here you go, here's everything I've got." They did ask for it, after all.

The whole thing was beyond ridiculous. I mean, did they think we traveled through time in order to go under contract after May 1 and close on April 30? What a neat trick. Anyway, apparently they were able to find sufficient documentation in the book-length pile of papers. I popped out Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to read while I waited for them to process it. So now it's being overnighted back to the IRS, and we're back to waiting another 8-12 weeks for our tax credit. Two hours of yard work therapy after all that crap was sorely needed!

Monday, June 21, 2010

IRS fail.

Today when we got home, we found an envelope from the IRS in the mailbox. Yippee!! Our tax credit check already?!?! Could it be? We weren't expecting to be lucky enough to get it this soon. We dropped it off in person at the local IRS office on May 7, so it's only been about six weeks. We were assured at that time that our paperwork was all in order.

Well, of course it was too good to be true. Instead, we saw this:

and this:

The very next page was our amended tax return, which was this:

Now, not only do we have to call the IRS and find out what the heck is going on (neither of us like confrontational phone calls), but we have to start over on our tax amendment. IRS FAIL.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A tour of Bloomington's private gardens.

Today we spent another day out and about--taking part in the 2010 Garden Walk, a tour of beautiful private gardens in Bloomington. About half a dozen gardens are chosen every year to be stops on the tour. Since I've been so into gardening lately, and thirsty for ideas, it seemed like a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. The tour starts at the Hilltop Garden, which is IU's botanical garden, and you see each stop at your own pace before ending up at the Monroe County History Center, which is a great little museum.

Not exactly house-related, but here a few of my favorite sights:

I got some great ideas, inspiration, and information.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Our haul from Goodwill and the art fair.

Two posts in one day OH THE INSANITY! If you read my running blog, you know that I'm more apt to write only two posts in one month. :) But there is a lot going on with the house, of course, and I am excited about the stuff that I found during our fun day out.

We spent most of the day at Arts on the Square and Taste of Bloomington. I love art fairs, but spend most of my time at them sighing over things that I can't afford. I am especially attracted to ceramic pieces and to wooden pieces. Today I simply couldn't resist this little guy:

I love dragons. I love reading fantasy about dragons and love dragon imagery. So when I see things like this, I just can't resist. I decided he might like a place in my reading corner, which is taking on an Asian flavor.

This is one of the only bits of the house that I've more or less finished. The rest of the room is completely barren and empty. We definitely have a ways to go! But I have my reading nook so I can survive. The dragon is such a nice little detail up there.

So, after a fun but extremely hot and sweaty day at the art fair/food festival, we swung over to the west side to my work because I had left my cell phone there yesterday. Since my work is just a little ways down from Goodwill, we stopped in to see if we could find anything of interest. Found some neat things that just sort of jumped out at me. All for $11!

I have no idea how I'll use this stuff yet. I just liked all the colors!

The joy of trees.

High on my wish list while house hunting was a yard with mature trees. I got my wish. Today we finally had a nice day, so we took the opportunity to work on pruning the trees for a couple of hours before heading out to Arts on the Square and the Taste of Bloomington later today.

Earlier this week we had a couple of spectacular storms move through on successive nights, each with tornado warnings and high winds. We lost a couple of limbs and even a small tree, but at least it left us this beautiful orange sky:

It was not only storm damage that we wanted to tackle, though. We had noticed a lot of dead limbs on the trees, and one tree was situated near the corner of our corner lot, with some lower branches making it hard for people turning out of our street onto the main road to see oncoming traffic, which does not have to stop. So we gave some attention to no less than seven trees, resulting in the following pile:

We finished up with a conifer that I have yet to identify on the southeast corner of the sunroom, which had a lot of dead branches. I forgot to get a good before picture. It's the tree on the left in the photo below; those dead branches extended all the way around the tree from the ground to about shoulder height.

Afterward, I think we have a much prettier tree!

Now I have space to plant something nice underneath.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Welcome to our house.

I've decided to start a new blog to document the many projects we plan to undertake in the coming months and years in and around our house. I've kept a blog for years that mainly chronicles the miles of trials, and the trial of miles, of my running life. It wasn't always strictly a running blog, but it turned into one. Trying to mutate it back into a "here is my life" sort of blog just seemed wrong somehow. So here I am with a clean slate.

A little bit about me, and us: I am Miranda, and people often call me Mir. I like this because Mir is Russian for "peace," and also because it's a homophone for "mere," which complements my self-depreciating personality. I am 28 years old and enjoy running for hours at a time, reading, and now, working on our house. A little over a year ago, I married Mark. Mark likes computers, art, and video games. About a month ago, we moved into our house.

Our house: A Dutch Colonial on a quiet corner in a beautiful tree-filled neighborhood on the east side of Bloomington, Indiana.

We immediately fell in love with it when we went to see it, and were extremely lucky to get it, I think. It was at the upper end of our price range, but well worth it. It has no pressing needs in terms of renovation or repair. Just lots of stuff that we'd like to do eventually.

This is our first house. After years of apartment living, we are both complete and utter novices in every aspect of homeownership. Mark is somewhat handy, and definitely has the potential to be very handy given the opportunity. I am less so, but eager to learn.

Although we are working on filling the rooms out with furnishings first, one other project that I am very eager to tackle is the garden. The house has some wonderful garden space. Much of it has become overgrown, so I really have my work cut out for me. Mark doesn't seem very interested in that part, so the garden will largely be my project, I think. Which is great. I'm eager to really make it my own. I'm even more of a newbie in the garden than I am in the house, though, will be a work in progress!

Our first "test" will come in November, when we somehow agreed to host Thanksgiving for both our families. This could mean as many as 15 people coming to us. Although I am excited and look forward to it, I am also a tad stressed. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I want everything to be right. we go. :)