Happy (Late) Anniversary!

July 11, 2009 at 10:28 PM (Home Improvement, Humor, Top 10 Lists)

July 7th marked a very important anniversary for Ben and I and we forgot to even mention it on the blog. We have officially been homeowner’s for 1 year now. Yay! Time has really flown. In case you missed Ben’s very humorous posted entitled Top 10: Pros and Cons of Owning a Home, you can check it out here.

– Stephanie

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Top 10: Pros and Cons of Owning a Home

May 5, 2009 at 8:19 PM (Gardening, Home Improvement, Humor, Top 10 Lists)

Buy a house, have some kids, live the American dream.

Pro #1:  You can paint the rooms in your house any color you like.

We chose some fairly bright colors in an effort to help our house feel more “alive” and fun to be in.  We’re really happy with them and enjoy the fact that they aren’t the neutral beige-ish color that they were when we moved in.  We saved a lot of money doing it ourselves, too.  It felt cool to learn some of the tricks of the trade, if you will, as we went along.  I’m definitely proud of what we did.  We feel as if we’ve put a personal touch on the house and it feels very much like it is ours, despite the fact that we owe Bank of America a small fortune.

Con #1:  You can paint the rooms in your house any color you like.

This works as long as you understand that there will be trim that is going to have colors that you did not originally intend it to have.  Carpet?  Forget it.  You’ll never be able to cover the carpet as well as a professional painter and there is no way to avoid having at least one drip of color in every room.  More if you let Stephanie help you (sorry, I couldn’t help myself 🙂 ).  There are going to be runs, too, and you won’t even notice them until they have long since been dry.  Thought it was no big deal to paint close to those outlets since you were going to replace them and the covers anyway, right?  That’s a great idea until you go to remove them and they peel off a big chunk of paint as you pull them from the wall.  You’ll be doing “touch-ups” for the first year.

Pro #2:  You’ll have a lot of fun doing things to make your home more to your liking.

Some shelves here, replacing a light fixture there.  We had a large pool table light (long, rectangular, green stained glass) in our basement when we moved in.  No doubt, it was a cool light, but we certainly weren’t going to have a pool table in there.  We ended up replacing it with a nice dome-shaped light with brushed nickel trim.  It was much more to our liking.

Con #2:  You’ll have a lot of fun doing things to make your home more to your liking.

Until you realize that it can’t be done correctly by anyone but a professional at quite a price.  One of our rooms, hereby designated The Living Room, has no built-in overhead lighting.  There is just an outlet that is tied in to a switch on one side of the room.  What we would really like, though, is to have that switch control a light fixture that is not yet in the ceiling.  Until we found out what would go into that project, anyway.  Well, since there is no crawl space over that portion of the ceiling, I can’t just fish some wire down the inside of the wall and drag it over to where the fixture would be mounted.  To make matters worse, the joists in the ceiling are oriented the wrong way; i.e. a hole would have to be drilled through each one in order to get the wire from the switch to the target spot in the ceiling.  That means that there would be a hole in the ceiling that would require patching for each joist that needed a hole.  Oh boy.

Pro #3:  You will really get to know your way around Lowe’s and Home Depot.

These stores are absolutely gigantic!  And they have everything!  Fortunately, the projects that come with owning a home mean that you’ll be learning every single aisle.  On top of that, you’ll find things that you didn’t know existed and will make projects you have to work on even easier.  For instance, I was replacing some outlets and needed some spacers to get my new outlets nice and even with the drywall.  Did you know that they make spacers specifically for that purpose?  I mean, specifically for outlets?  I didn’t, and I’m glad I know it now.

Con #3:  You will really get to know your way around Lowe’s and Home Depot.

And you’ll also get to know the people that work in the different departments really well.  So well that there is a good chance they will run and hide when they see you coming.  Why would they do that when it’s only your fourth trip back to the store with questions because they made the project you’re working on sound really easy and filled you with false confidence while describing it to you?  Yeah, I don’t understand it either.

Pro #4:  You’ll learn a lot about being a handyman.

Learning new things is pretty fun.  It’s cool that I know how to patch drywall now.  It’s a useful skill.  I’m glad that I know how to paint and keep the paint where I want it for the most part.  I learned how to identify the “travelers” easily when swapping out a three pole switch.  I know how to properly position a smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector.  I know how to re-engage my garage door opener after using the pull string to open it manually.  All good pieces of knowledge that I think every homeowner should be familiar with.

Con #4:  You’ll learn a lot about being a handyman.

But not until you’ve screwed some stuff up first, usually at significant cost to yourself.  When the light fixture in our laundry room died, I thought it would be no big deal.  Little did I know the horror that was awaiting me.  There wasn’t just a regular box up there.  Oh no, it was a junction box.  Eight wires came into that box.  You know something is up when you pull duct tape off of the old fixture as you’re removing it.  And the switch labeled “laundry room” in the switchbox should turn it off, right?  You don’t find out that one is a fallacy until you’re already up on the aluminum ladder shocking the crap out of yourself.  Surprise!  The box is actually sitting 3 inches above the level of the ceiling drywall.  And it’s crooked!  Go to Lowe’s to get screws that are longer because the ones that came with your replacement fixture definitely won’t do the job.  Go back to Lowe’s again to get screws that are longer than the ones you got the first time, despite the fact that you are sure you measured it correctly.  Head to Lowe’s one more time to get screws that are in between the lengths of the 2 sets of screws that you already bought.  Realize that the chance of mis-threading these long-as-hell screws is high since you’re screwing them into a place you can’t see and are screwing them in at a non-standard angle.  Spend 2 hours getting it right while you feel your arms and shoulders turning into jelly.  Put the screws that you needlessly bought into the bottom of the toolbox on the off chance that they may come in handy for some unknown future project.  Cry yourself to sleep.

Pro #5:  You finally have a yard of your very own.

When we were looking at houses, having a sizable yard was really important to us.  We didn’t want to live in one of those cookie cutter neighborhoods where you could stand between two houses and touch both of them just by stretching out your arms.  We have dogs, too.  We needed some space.  We ended up with a 3/4 acre corner lot that fit what we were imagining pretty well.  We have daffodils around our mailbox and recently placed some perennial pots at the entrances of the stairs in the front and back.  It’s really starting to come together and look pretty nice.

Con #5:  You finally have a yard of your very own.

And the mutant grass growing in your yard must be cut every week.  And those nice shade trees drop a metric ton of leaves every fall.  You know this because you have to rake and bag all of the bastards.  Have pine trees instead of big leafy trees?  You probably think you’re fine because they are evergreens.  Wrong!  You now have to either pick up all the pine cones before you cut the grass or simply deal with having to get the blades on your mower sharpened every season because you dulled them running over the damn pine cones.  In case you were wondering, when your mower shoots a large pine cone fragment at your shins at 1000 mph, it hurts.  Oh, and your yard will never look as good as your neighbors’ yards.  And congratulations on that corner lot, because all of your lawn deficiencies are even more visible and pronounced since you have 2 sides from which to be publicly evaluated.  And trust me, the evaluation is harsh indeed.  Neighbors take leisurely strolls around the development, using exercise as an excuse.  Don’t trust them.  They just want to make sure they don’t have to step up their lawn care game because you have so much catching up to do.

Pro #6:  You can correct mistakes that the previous homeowners made and really take advantage of your home’s strong points.

Our house was initially a dark, dark, dark brown color.  Really dark.  There were a ton of trees around the house, and they made it even darker.  In the tiny pictures you see of homes online when you’re browsing listings, you couldn’t even tell there was a house in there.  So one of the things we had the previous owners do before we bought it was paint the house a brighter color, specifically a color called “Simply Beige” by Sherwin Williams.  We figured we would remove a few trees and really brighten things up, and seeing as it was a corner lot the results would be awesome.

Con #6:  You can correct mistakes that the previous homeowners made and really take advantage of your home’s strong points.

We failed to note that the house needed to be stained, not painted, because it has cedar siding.  We had no idea.  So the effect of putting a very light stain on top of a very dark stain was not exactly as we imagined it to be.  Well, the trees ended up actually needing to be taken down due to various non-cosmetic reasons like fungus and beetle infestations, so that part of the plan really didn’t change too much.  Now that the trees are gone, the sun shines nicely on the house, and you can see how good the mistake we made with the choice of stain doesn’t look.  Correcting mistakes, indeed.

Pro #7:  You are no longer mindlessly throwing money away paying rent.

Now  your money is going towards your home, something that you will own and will eventually belong to just you and no one else.  Your money is becoming home equity and isn’t just disappearing in a rent check.  Your home is a place that will allow you to express your creativity.  It is a place that you can decorate and organize to fit your specific needs.  Not counting building codes and zoning restrictions, there really are no rules and no limits to what you can do if you really want to.

Con #7:  You are no longer mindlessly throwing money away paying rent.

In addition to your mortgage though, you now have homeowners’ insurance to pay too.  Two more words: property taxes!  And I can tell you right now that the 875 sq. ft. apartment you were in was a whole lot cheaper to heat and cool than the 3000+ sq. ft. house you just bought.  Like all those rooms you have?  That’s good, because you’ve got to buy that many more light bulbs.  Your house is probably wooden; termite treatments aren’t cheap.  Did your water heater just go up?  There’s no building maintenance folks to help you now.  If you get bored, ask me to tell you the story about our $1200 laundry room wall.

Pro #8:  Buying a home is a sign of stability.

You can become a part of your community.  When you buy a house, it says to folks, “I’m not going anywhere for a while.”  If you’re single, it probably makes a statement about your level of responsibility and readiness for commitment (I just heard that somewhere, I don’t know if it is true).  In many circles, it is just the smart thing to do.

Con #8:  Buying a home is a sign of stability.

It tells an employer that you’re there for the long haul.  Telling a prospective employer that you’re buying a house in the area means that the employer doesn’t have to worry about you jumping ship immediately for your dream job on the other side of the country.  Additionally, they know they will have you by the balls because most folks will do anything to keep their jobs and not miss a mortgage payment, especially in today’s economy.  Sucker!

Pro #9:  You can have parties at your house.

Chances are your house is bigger than the single room or apartment you used to have, so it will hold a larger number of guests.  You can have music, laugh, and generally have a good time without the grouch who lives below you complaining by pounding his broom on his ceiling.  Even better, you now probably have a room that is suitable for that 52″ LCD HDTV, since the tiny place you were in before made watching it not unlike sitting in the front row of a movie theater.  Time for some football!

Con #9:  You can have parties at your house.

Unfortunately, now that you’re paying for all of this, you’re going to get paranoid.  Stephanie and I were really glad to finally be able to entertain more than 2 people at a time, but the carpet is sometimes a concern.  We had a wine tasting as part of our wedding shower this past weekend and when you have over a dozen people who are inebriated drinking something that is the stereotypical Destroyer of Carpet Worlds, some accidents are going to happen.  Also, ever had a small gathering and had a problem with the toilet in the bathroom halfway through?  We have three toilets, so that’s 3 times as many things that can go wrong.  And we’re only talking about bathrooms at this point.  I’ll stop here, before I make myself cry.

Pro #10:  Now that you and your wife/girlfriend/fiance/partner own a home, you can work together to really make it a statement of your relationship together.

When looking at homes to buy, it was easy for Stephanie and I to see the rooms and imagine/plan them together.  A couch would go well on that side of the room.  The television over there.  The dining room screams for an eight-person table.  Our bedroom furniture can be oriented just so!  It’s a lot of fun when you have a vision that you can build with one another.

Con #10:  Now that you and your wife/girlfriend/fiance/partner own a home, you can work together to really make it a statement of your relationship together.

The placement of the couch was just the easy part of the decision making process.  Pillow back or single piece?  That television is going to need a stand.  Wooden?  Metal?  Glass or no glass?  Doors or no doors?  Wait, where are we going to store my DVD collection?  Not over there, that’s an eyesore.  But it’s the most logical place.  Too bad, I want a picture on that part of the wall.  A picture; you never mentioned a picture.  Yes, and you better get thoughts of dogs playing poker out of your head right now, mister!  But dogs playing poker is cool!  No they aren’t; I have an impressionist print that I got in France that is going to be ideal.  Impressionist piece?!  Yes, I wouldn’t really expect you to know fine art when you see it, anyways.  A 3-year old could have painted that thing!  It is fine art and that is final!  No it’s not!  Yes it is!  No it’s not!  Yes it is!

-Ben

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Top 10: As I Get Older…

April 12, 2009 at 10:16 PM (Family, Food, Friends, Gaming, Home Improvement, Humor, Sports, Top 10 Lists)

This weekend was a busy one for Stephanie and I.  She’s going to write about all of the fun and not so fun stuff we did in a post of her own, but it got us thinking about how we aren’t kids anymore.  So without going into too much detail about the weekend itself, here are 10 things that make me feel as though I’m getting really old really quickly along with 10 things that make me feel like a big kid most of the time.  If you can identify with any of these, let me know.  Feel free to share your own moments, too!

Things That Make Me Feel Old

  1. Stephanie and I drove to 5 different stores looking for just the right pair of large pots in which to plant some perennials. We ended up going back to the 3rd store, in case you were wondering.  I suppose this could be 2 items by itself.  We were shopping for plants and also were looking for a pot, of all things–definitely a moment of realization that reminded me that I am becoming more and more like my parents every day.  Additionally, we’re able to have long, detailed conversations about the plants we see in yards we pass.  I actually know the names of several plants that I would like us to have at some point.  Wisteria, one day I will have a place for you!
  2. I can wait to open things. One of my best friends, Charles (a.ka. Porkchop), got a PS3 for Stephanie and I as a wedding gift.  It sat unopened for at least 3 days.  I certainly never saw that one coming.
  3. I tidied up my desk at work. No one asked me to or anything.  It just happened.  It was almost like an out-of-body experience.
  4. My nephew, age 7, will most likely never play a video game that is not in HD. How am I supposed to explain the hours that my first NES joyfully occupied in my life?
  5. I don’t know if anyone besides me has been looking for good ol’ shooter-type games, like Gradius, Life Force, R-Type, or 1942, but they are damn hard to find. Near impossible.  The side- and top-scrolling shooting genre seems to be left behind.  Thanks to the wonders of the Sony Playstation network, there are a few downloadable games that fit this role.  You can download a direct port of the original R-Type I and II as a bundle and there is a remake of 1942 called 1942 Joint Strike that is pretty fun.  What I really want is a frickin’ $50-$60 full on new game.  I’d take a new sequel, even.  Imagine Gradius V or something, not as some little afterthought $9.99 downloadable special, but as the monster time killer that it could be.  It could have a bajillion different powerups and stuff.  Remember when a lot of enemies would get on screen at one time and the game would slow down because of the overload?  Or imagine if enemy ships were fully realized 3D models that could rotate.  What if the game got more physics based?  There is just a ton of stuff out there, and the best game genre of my youth is a dying creature that has failed to adapt over the years.
  6. I was at a neighbor’s house a few weeks ago and ended up playing some Rockband 2 with his kids.  I sucked.  They rocked. Worse yet, I was sitting there amazed that they were able to kick butt like that.  It seems like an eternity ago that I was the one kicking ass and taking names at any game that was put in front of me.  I beat Golden Axe in 2 hours on Christmas day!  I keep wanting to find a way to make them play the original Ninja Gaiden on the NES with me, but I have a feeling they’d smack me around with that one too after 10 minutes or so.
  7. Some kids rode their bikes across our yard as a shortcut yesterday.  I was mildly offended. I was shocked that I was offended.  I grew up making shortcuts out of peoples’ yards with my bike.  God forbid those poor people had a mild incline or even a hill, because that bad boy was going to get jumped on my badass BMX several times daily.  Egads!
  8. I can watch golf on TV. ‘Nuff said.
  9. I see kids doing things and think to myself that what they are doing isn’t safe and wondering where their parents are. Worse yet, I see kids doing things and make a mental note that my kids are never going to do what I’m witnessing.  Additionally, I see young girls out and about and consider joining a religious cult that will make it impossible for any daughters we have to display any skin at all.
  10. I am used to being called “sir” when I go out. That’s fine.  It’s just good manners.  I still say it to folks, no matter their age.  However, I was called “mister” by a teenager at the grocery store not that long ago.  I don’t even know why that got under my skin, but it did.

Things That Make Me Feel Young

  1. I get excited about playing video games. I was downloading some stuff from the Playstation network and I felt like a kid in a candy shop.
  2. I laugh at farts, especially when I drop a silent one and am waiting for my unsuspecting victim.
  3. I still rate my own belches on a personal scale that takes into account both volume and duration.
  4. I still play with Transformers. Additionally I get a giddy feeling when I think about the new Transformers movie coming out in June.
  5. Baseball is just as boring to watch on television now as it was when I was growing up. I like when some things don’t change.
  6. I still visit Toys ‘R Us and roam the toy aisles of stores. Shopping for stuff for my niece and nephew is my cover story.  Shhhh.
  7. If my friends get a new board game, I can’t wait to play it with them.
  8. I still like Honda Civics.
  9. I still get psyched up about opening Christmas gifts. Sure, I’m not getting Super Mario Bros. 3 this year, but I still think a gas gauge for my grill is pretty spiffy.
  10. Mom’s macaroni and cheese is still as good today as it was when I was growing up. And it’s still a holiday-only specialty.  Let’s hear it for good times!

– Ben

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