There is a home-made straw bale building of some sort in our neighbors' yard, just over the fence from our side yard. It was one of the first things I noticed when we first checked out the place while house hunting. I was fascinated with the building and liked the idea of living next to it. On inspection day, after the home inspector had told us all the myriad things that were wrong with the house, I went in the yard and took a picture of that straw bale building because I figured I'd never see it again.
When we got the house, the dryer vent was on upside down, the hot and cold water was backwards in the bathroom faucet, none of the doors closed all the way, the plumbing was DIY in the worst possible way, and there was a plaque reading "World's Best Fisherman" mounted by the front door.
The fix-it guy who took out the old pre-fab fireplace in our bedroom and sheetrocked the walls back up and fixed our windows and put in our new lights was a whistler. Whistled pretty much the whole time he worked. On his last full day of work, I asked him what the tune was that he was whistling just then. He stopped, ticked his eyes upward to think, whistled a little more of it and then said, "Oh, that's a Confederate marching song."
After he took out the pipe that went from the fireplace, through the roof to the chimney, he stuck a plastic bag over the hole in the ceiling for a few days. The plastic bag hanging from the ceiling would gently rise and fall as air currents from the chimney filled and left the bag. It looked like it was breathing.
We were pretty scared of the kitchen for a long time. Its filthy stove and cabinets and old refrigerator. During the period we were fixing up the house, pre-move, while we were spending lots of hours working on the woodwork and painting, we fortified ourselves with daily trips to the Bipartisan Cafe, where we bought mochas and sandwiches. We ate sandwiches from Bipartisan every day for two weeks straight, Stephen also went to the store and got us what he called "ironic snacks." These were string cheese for me and a bag of mini pepperoni pieces for him.
On our first complete day working at the house, as we sanded the woodwork and scraped off the drips and cakes of old paint, the neighbors may have heard us singing along with the film soundtrack to Oklahoma. The most-often-played artist was Patsy Cline.
The professional cleaning woman whom we hired to clean the scary stuff periodically used our CD player when we weren't around and listened to country-western-style Christian music. Our fix-it guy, the whistler, held onto a tune, whistling that and only that for hours as he worked. The guy who put in the baseboards talked to himself [I wrote about that here]. Our plumber listened to the news and podcasts in the basement.
Some of the names of the paints we used are: Belladonna's Leaf, Coffee Shop, Bright Idea, Lickety-Split Dip, Mom's Love, Footy Pajamas.
We finally had the cleaning woman clean out the scary fridge. Most of the shelves were missing and one was broken. The cleaning woman took the broken shelf home and duct taped it back together. The duct tape she used had pictures of bacon and mustaches on it.
Then two days after we officially moved in, the fridge died.
In the basement is a small room whose walls are a strange reflective silver material. When we first saw the house, the man who lived in it and was giving us the tour told us that he used to have someone living in that little room and the weird reflective walls were to help keep the room warm for him. Later, during the house inspection, the inspector took a look at the place, leaned in to us, and said, "That's a grow room."
When we first checked out the house, the guy who lived in it and was giving us the tour showed us the very mismatched backyard fence and instructed us that if pieces of wood ever fell off of it, we should get a staple gun and staple the piece back in place and we'd be good to go.
During our move, while we packed up the last of our boxes and bags of stuff and the movers came to the old apartment to cart everything away and we cleaned the apartment, Nicholas was in doggy boarding. The place had a closed-circuit camera so I could watch him. Sad about leaving the apartment, stressed about the move, I'd periodically lie on a pile of folded-up bedding on the floor and stare at my open laptop computer where I could see a tiny image of Nicholas all alone in a room drinking from his water dish.
Spraying peroxide actually can lift some of the staining that your floor guy claims to be the worst animal urine damage he's seen in all his 27 years of working on floors.
The beautiful wooden columns and windows in the living room and dining room at one time had paint on them, but far before we looked at the house that paint had been removed by the then owner of the house, luckily for us. That woman now lives across the street from us.
House-hunting tip: If your realtor shows you a house listing that highlights the ugly chain link fence and the ugly red couch in the living room and the place where the bathroom door was taken out and the wall only partly patched but doesn't highlight the lovely columns and woodwork, don't overlook this house. Everyone else will be overlooking this house, and you will get a good deal and can do a little work and make it beautiful.
Our realtor was a dream who not only helped us hunt down the right house and endured all our pickiness and obsessiveness along the way but made us feel comfortable and taken care of in the process, which, in this stressful market, was so helpful. She also hooked us up with all the professionals who took that neglected house and whipped it into something beautiful. If you're ever in the market and want a good realtor, check Molly Starr out. While we were fixing up the house we went one night to a wine bar to hear her sing with a jazz combo. She sang God Bless the Child.
During the whole process of finding and buying the house, I mourned the loss of our ten year apartment, and among the things I grieved losing were the sounds of the streetcar going by on the street below the apartment, the sounds of train whistles from the nearby train station, and the beautiful, little touches of our old neighborhood, including the old apartment buildings and the lovely horse rings all along the curbs. While going back and forth between homes, fixing up the house, I used to stare out the car window all along Burnside, looking for horse rings and seeing only naked curbs. It wasn't until we were moved in that I saw, here and there along our new street: