All posts by christine

Get Yourself to Gimpy’s

Seriously adorable, who wouldn’t want to stay here?!

Earlier this year, well, for even longer than that, I had been thinking of going to a writer’s conference. The idea of rubbing shoulders with other writers, and just spending some “me” time away from the daily grind was very appealing.

As I clean client’s houses, I listen to podcasts about writing or Airbnb topics, and late last year, while listening to the Portfolio Life, I heard about TRIBE Conference which was held in Franklin, Tennessee.

This bed was super-comfortable, I slept so well!

This year would be the fifth and final year of the conference, and I pulled the trigger and bought a ticket that I felt like I couldn’t afford, in order to force my brain into a new, uncharted path.

Elaine has written a book Gimpy’s Secret, which she was kind enough to give me a copy of.

I knew nothing about Franklin, Tennessee other than it was relatively close to Nashville and about nine hours car drive away. I toyed with the idea of flying and then just renting a car, but decided that, in combination with the premium ticket I had purchased, would be too great of an expense.

This vintage soda machine works! It was so fun to put a dime in and get a soda out of!

“I’ll drive there, but I’ll stay in an Airbnb. It will be great!”

The first Airbnb that I found was a tiny house, something I was very interested in staying in, but a month ago I received notice that they would not be able to have me stay there. Apparently Airbnb rules had been changed in their area to prohibit tiny houses as Airbnb’s.

My view each morning as I practiced yoga. A darling little hummingbird came by and rested its wings for a brief second as it sipped from the feeder.

It didn’t make much sense to me, but as I searched again for an Airbnb in the area, I was delighted to find Gimpy’s.

Colorful, eclectic, and set in a private space – it was perfect for my needs.

Dinner at Gray’s in historic downtown Franklin. Shrimp, scallop and crab gumbo over gouda grits – this was scrumptious!

I can’t say enough good things about my host, Elaine and her husband. She was as sweet as could be, and her husband even made sure I had plenty of dimes in order to retrieve the darling bottles of Coke from the vintage Coke machine.

The lovely front porch swing. Gimpy’s rural location was wonderfully peaceful!

Each morning, I walked out of the back door onto the enclosed porch, sat and sipped some water and then meditated and practiced yoga on the thoughtfully provided yoga mat.

I loved this funky, fun toilet paper holder!

The bed was wonderfully comfortable, the space was private, and I loved all of the decorations. It definitely showed the personal touch that I love and want to see in my own spaces.

There were so many cool lights you could turn on and off. Tip: the red panel controlled the most important lights inside and the yellow one handled most of the outside front lights.

It was around 15-20 minutes away from The Factory, a factory-turned-mall a short drive away from their historic downtown. Along the way there was plenty of lovely scenery to take in – low, rolling hills and a mix of old and new architecture.

I even had a chandelier to play with!

I enjoyed the trip immensely, learned a great deal, and met some wonderful people. But above all, my stay at Gimpy’s was the best part of the trip!

A fabulous “metal man” sculpture there at The Factory.

Dear reader: If you have made it this far, take it one step further and comment. I LOVE to hear from you, and frankly, the list of spam emails is often demoralizing. Hearing from YOU will make my day!

How Is It Going? Spectacular!

I leave tomorrow for the TRIBE Conference in Franklin, Tennessee. I’m staying at a super-cool Airbnb – a cottage called Gimpy’s which is apparently modeled after the owner/writer’s book. I’m excited to meet a fellow author, and to be surrounded by other creatives.

But before I make the loooonnnggg drive to Tennessee, I wanted to update everyone on our progress. Because wowza, has there been plenty of it!

Take a look…

Front porch – currently cluttered

I’m going to show it as it is right this moment – warts and all. Well, no warts, but still a ways to go.

The living room.

We still have to do something about the fireplace wall. Thanks so much drywall guys, you really did a bang-up job here. They left it uneven and just…stopped…mid-wall! The gas logs are vent-free and mean that we don’t need to worry about lining the chimney. We are waiting for the contractor to find the remaining part needed to hook it up.

From the other side of the living room

It was wonderful to get the wood off of the beautiful beveled glass door. Once we strip the paint off of it, we will refinish it back to its original wood glory, then add window hardware and a curtain to give our guests privacy. Although it is a little cluttered at the moment, we have an entry table and a corner desk for those who need a little bit of writing space.

The former dining room, now new kitchen.

The original kitchen was far too small and we knew we could create a reasonable eat-in kitchen out of the dining room. I love how it turned out, especially now that we refinished the wood floors!

I still have some painting to do before I can re-attach all of the drawer hardware. I also need to hem the curtains and find the third sconce for the light. Eventually I will also repaint all of these chairs. They were at Habitat for Humanity – old Five Guys metal chairs for just $5 each!

I’m currently sorting and labeling door keys. I also bought a photo album and will be posting pictures of the renovations so that guests can see how much work went into creating the warm, comfortable home they are now staying in!

I have found so many amazing deals on Facebook Marketplace. I imagine I have saved thousands! This little table was just $40.

It took a lot of scrubbing, but I finally got the sink clean.

While we couldn’t realistically fit a dishwasher in, the kitchen has everything else. I’ve found a microwave, toaster oven, electric kettle, and so much more!

Built-ins on the pantry side

I have managed to lose the bottom right cabinet door, and the two top doors are glass and need work. For now, I plan on taking off the bottom left door and just hanging a curtain there. The top part will be left open until I can find someone to install replacement glass in one of the doors, then we will put it back in.

The original kitchen, now utility room

We replaced our washer and dryer set earlier this year and will install the older ones into Cottage West. For now, we have a bunch of tools in it. I plan on leaving the brick exposed, but I’ll probably put some kind of clear coat over it.

The back porch – messy, but pretty much done

We will be clearing out the construction debris and then I’ll stencil the floor. It will be a lovely, peaceful place to sit and drink coffee, practice yoga, or just nap in a hammock!

I have been listening to a ton of podcasts and reading articles on best practices for short-term rentals. Guaranteed, this wall-mounted wine bottle opener will be a huge hit!
The built-ins on the hallway side.

I still need to get the little metal brackets in place and figure out where everything should go. I’m labeling everything – light switches, drawers, doors, you name it. This will make it far easier on my guests to find necessary items.

I’m also making a point of including everything from over-the-counter analgesics (Excedrin, Ibuprofen) to cough drops, q-tips, first aid, and even eye wash.

Bedroom 1

Bedroom 1 has a queen size bed. Originally, this room had another door, one that led to the living room. We took it out and that allowed us to put a queen size bed in without having to block any doors.

I need some artwork in here, but I love the quilt and wall color!

Bedroom 1 – view from where the other door used to be

There was a tiny, truly unusable closet here where the IKEA cabinet is. I plan to put a small chair there on the left.

I love this sign. When I saw it, I just had to have it!
We have water flowing in the bathtub and the toilet!

We have just a little ways to go here. My husband still needs to hook up the sink and we need to finish hooking up the shower component of the bathtub and hang the shower curtains. I love how the floor turned out!

Bedroom 2 with a full-size bed

Imagine my dismay when I went into the basement to retrieve the bed frame for this bed, only to discover it was a twin-size daybed!

So I found, and bought, an antique wrought iron frame for $50 from Facebook Marketplace that night. It is fantastic! No creaking, and just as solid as can be.

Bedroom 2’s closet (this is the same exposed brick as in the utility room).

We still need to finish out this closet with a pole.

Another great find on Facebook Marketplace.

I found the matching lamps in both bedrooms at Cargo Largo for $15 each. The bedside clock has two charging ports and it also tells you the local temp and humidity!

I bought luggage racks for both rooms (another good podcast suggestion) and we have some molding, wall art and mirrors to hang.
I had this old box in my library, sitting on one end and serving as a side table.

I love how this old box turned out. I asked my husband to install the light into it. It hangs between the two original metal cabinets, serving as additional storage, a light, and decoration!

Our lending library in the living room

The library will include books that stay with Cottage West (I’ll label them accordingly and put them on the top shelf) and also has a tip jar for folks to add money to if they want to take one of the books.

Wall art in the living room
I have a bit of hemming to do on the curtains! This little coffee table from IKEA was the perfect size and price. Just $12!
This window film looks fantastic and blocks the view of our neighbor’s decrepit house.
The glider looks gorgeous in dark green, don’t you think?!
I can’t wait to get this up on the outside wall!
I plan to add a small pond with solar fountain here in the middle of this tiny front yard.
The althea bush in bloom.

Here’s hoping we can officially open for business in mid-September. It’s been a long haul, folks, but it is so worth it. We have created a HOME. One that, come what may, is 100% paid for.

I can’t say that about my main house, or my rental house in Belton, so I’m pretty damned proud.

This has been an incredibly productive year – first with the front fence and now with Cottage West on the cusp of being complete. We have done well!

Final Week of August – Do or Die

And here I am hoping we don’t die. To just…do…to get it totally and completely done will be a-okay with me.

After all, we have come so far. SO…FAR!

My husband is taking next week off. This was his idea and I certainly was not going to object.

So what do we have left to do?

Well, I made a list. Of course I did. If you have been reading my posts for any time whatsoever, you know how I can be.

What’s Left?

Living room:

  • Troubleshoot one of the fans, the lights come on, but the fan blades don’t rotate.
  • Install gas logs in fireplace
  • Front door – remove paint, paint, add hardware and alarm sensor
  • Fix middle sconce
  • Install bead board around fireplace and re-mount mantel to the wall
  • Refinish floors

Kitchen:

  • Finish plumbing kitchen sink
  • Outlet & switch plate covers
  • Molding and trim
  • Install smoke/monoxide detectors
  • Refinish floors
Em’s treescape on one of our salvaged windows.

Pantry:

  • Troubleshoot light switch (it has a short)
  • Strip/paint cabinet doors to built-ins
  • Remove bottom cabinet door and replace with curtain rod and curtains

Utility Room:

  • Back door – strip paint, paint, and install hardware
  • Install deadbolt on basement door
This bathtub definitely needs a good cleaning!

Hallway:

  • Paint stairs to attic

Attic:

  • Install lighting
  • Add bead board to ceiling and half walls
  • Finish out storage and built-in bookshelves

Front Bedroom:

  • Hang door, install hardware

Back Bedroom:

  • Finish closet interior
  • Back door to porch – strip, paint, add door hardware

Back Porch:

  • Seal with caulk
  • Finish painting
  • Install molding on back door

Basement:

  • Declutter/remove trash
  • Remove random nails/screws and paint walls and rafters

In All Areas:

  • Finish installing trim/molding
  • Add smoke/carbon monoxide detectors
  • Touch up paint
  • Refinish wood floors
  • Finish adding switch plates and outlet covers
Mike and his son. You can find photos of Mike’s other work at his Facebook page: Mike’s “Wow Factory” Carpentry

After Nearly Half a Century of Wanting One…

We now have a playhouse! I have wanted one since I was a child, and now, finally, we have one. My tween is almost too old for it, but that’s almost. The three year old is excited and wants us to paint it pink. We keep telling her that she will grow out of this.

As far as I’m concerned, we got it for a steal. Quality workmanship, solid carpentry, heck, it was even delivered!

Mike’s “Wow Factory” Carpentry really delivered!

I highly recommend Mike for your future woodworking project – be it a playhouse, doghouse, chicken house, she shed – the sky is the limit, I think he can build it all!

We are now working on getting it painted. Eventually, I’ll surround it with hostas and other flowers and even install a brick walkway straight to it.

Em busy painting it. We will put on two coats and then paint the front door red and the trim a cream color.

Now I’m dreaming of two sheds – one for my husband’s brew equipment and one small one that can hold all of our lawn tools – and a gazebo.

Next year, definitely next year!

The First Weekend of August – Not as Productive as I had hoped

The metal sink cabinet that was in Cottage West when we bought it. Believe me, it’s shiny compared to how it used to look!

Renovations laugh in the face of deadlines. For that matter, life laughs at deadlines, and it is usually laughing its ass off at me and my grandiose plans.

This antique glider is too heavy to lift on my own, so I painted it in place. One coat. It will need at least one, probably two, more coats before its done. It will look great on the front porch of Cottage West.

But here we are at the end of the first weekend in August – my husband is laid up with a thrown-out back, we had to spend a good chunk of Saturday hauling two loads of brush to the free brush drop-off site, and the bathroom floor still doesn’t have grout.

I painted this baby with oil rubbed bronze metallic paint. I can’t wait to install it in the bathroom!

My husband is truly the dog to my cheetah. He keeps me calm and I miss his presence acutely when I’m there at the Cottage working on my own.

My brain started to circle around in panic, thinking of deadlines and how we really, REALLY need this project done and for it to be filled with guests…NOW.

This picture is from when the sink cabinet was in the old kitchen, now the utility room. I took it on the first day we went in to look at the house before making an offer of $25 with Land Bank.

I took a few minutes and reminded myself of how many things I can still do without having him there.

Sure, I can’t hang cabinets all by myself, but I can get the cabinets out of the basement, clean them up and paint them.

Another image from that first day, of the back of the house, covered in vines and rotting wooden siding.

I can order the sink faucet and garbage disposal, realize we need to do yet another change order and add another outlet to behind the kitchen sink for the disposal, and that the small cabinet cannot go on the wall I had planned.

So while I might not be as efficient, I still managed to get quite a few things done.

I painted the footsies and toesies black and even added oil rubbed bronze to the little clawsies!

The sink cabinet has been moved into the correct position. The fridge and stove will be placed to the left of it.

I couldn’t help myself, I just had to clean some of the floor. Can you believe the hardwood floor through the entire house was covered with either carpet or linoleum? The floors are in fantastic shape, although we still might need to refinish them. This is the spot where the fridge and stove will go.

I’ve coated the sink cabinet and drawers with three coats of paint and all of the grossness was cleaned out of it. I’ll see if I can’t find a “before” picture.

I keep fighting the temptation to bring furniture and linens over. I’m tired of dust and drywall and dirt. I want color, and softness and shiny wood floors.

I want to be done. I want to finally share with everyone how beautiful and welcoming this place can look.

After five long years of dreaming, sweating, and pouring our money into it – I’m ready to have this job completed!

What a Weekend!

This is definitely my painting shirt now!

I am glad we had the late start to a summer that we had. This past week was awful, heat-wise, and we both would have been miserable, overheated, and dehydrated if we had been out working on the fence.

Thankfully, most of it is done and the rest can wait until more temperate weather.

The back bedroom (and door to the enclosed back porch) as we began to add the primer to the drywall.

This weekend was something I looked forward to all week – it was time to paint Cottage West!

The bathroom sub-floor. It had to be rebuilt due to the water damage. It was a priority to get the bathroom painted and ready. This week we can add cement board and the lovely hexagon tile I will be buying. It’s a tiny bathroom, but it is going to look amazing!

But before we could begin, my husband went out and bought a pole saw so that he could do something that has been bugging him since we moved here…cut off the low-hanging branches of several of our trees.

The double gate next to Cottage West. There is a street light here, but it had been obscured by all of the tree branches. We’ve found all manner of items at the base of this tree, none of it particularly nice.

Ours is a neighborhood in transition. And one of the insights we learned was not to make it easy for criminals. After all, most criminals are, well, lazy. If you make it hard, they go somewhere else.

Before, the branches brushed the top of our SUV (the closest car). Now, there is plenty of room to see and be seen.

With low-hanging branches obscuring the streetlights at night, it gave the ne’er-do-well’s places to hang out, hide out, or get into mischief in.

These are the stairs up to the attic. I want to paint the risers with all manner of interesting books. See example below.

So the pole saw allowed my husband to reach all smaller branches within 25 feet of the ground and he removed so many! This also helped our plum tree that was doing well on one side, but not so much on the other, where the black walnut hung over it. Now those branches are trimmed back and we will get them to Missouri Organics sometime soon where they will turn all of it into free mulch.

Except maybe I’ll do it with my own books!

So that was Friday afternoon and evening. And then he hit some more of our trees with the saw bright and early on Saturday morning.

The living room – all primer’d and ready to be painted!

By 8 a.m., we were at Cottage West, our supplies in hand.

The back bedroom looking into the hall and the front bedroom beyond. I know it’s bright, but I really love this color. Especially when you add in the gorgeous teal velveteen curtains below.
These are the teal curtains (well, they look like this) I’ll put in the back bedroom
And I purchased three bedspreads from Zulily this weekend. I’ll either use this one…
Or this one. Both look gorgeous, don’t you think?

We blasted through a 3 gallon container of primer within a couple of hours. We managed to get the back bedroom, hallway, bathroom, and the utility room mostly done with that 3-gallon container. I estimated it would take at least six more gallons, probably more.

Teton Blue looked rather gray at first. This is in the front bedroom. Sorry there aren’t better pictures of the room, it is occupied by this enormous IKEA cabinet and the clawfoot bathtub. This room is considerably bigger than the back bedroom. It took nearly every last drop of paint to finish the walls in this room!

After lunch, we hit Home Depot and picked up two five-gallon buckets of primer, along with a eclectic palette of colors.

Is it Boho or Just Madness?

The third bedspread which I will put in the front bedroom. I hope it will look good in this room. I also have some dark green velvet drapes for this bedroom.

I had contacted my mom earlier in the week asking for her advice on choosing paint colors. I had found some adorable kitchen towels at Target and wanted to paint the kitchen green like the towels and then the back porch a bright yellow. Other than that, I had no idea what to do.

The dark green velveteen curtains that will go in the front bedroom

I told my mom, “Think bohemian, eclectic, something that makes you think colorful, artistic and books.”

My mom looked at me, “What do you mean, bohemian?”

Umm…

The clawfoot bathtub we got for FREE! It weighs around four hundred pounds and took four strong adults to get it into the house. I’m going to clean it and then paint it with oil rubbed bronze paint, paint the feet black with oil rubbed bronze claws and then re-attach them.

She went home after suggesting I paint all of the rooms in some pale, pale shade of green – but vary the different shades. “Green is calming,” she said. She also suggested that all molding be painted white. And nothing should be shiny.

The hexagon tile that will go in the bathroom complete with black grout.

I basically ignored everything she said.

Instead, when I got to the paint department, I did what I usually do, began to panic. And so, my 12-year-old daughter took command.

This is the “dear lord, what have I done?” shot. The Blue Teton looks GRAY, the beige looks rather orange/yellow, and the blue just looks…schizophrenic!

We found a gorgeous sunny yellow for the sunroom. And Em picked out a lively light blue for the back bedroom to go with the teal velvet curtains I picked up the other day. I tried to pick out a nice beige, and ended up with something that has…a lot orange in it…[sigh].

I will be stripping the paint from these built-in cabinets in the hall. Then I will re-stain the wood. It will be gorgeous…I hope. Stairs to the attic are on the left.

I forgot that I had to match some of the colors in the fireplace tile, so at first I bought teton blue (which actually looks very gray) for the living room. I ended up putting that on the walls of the bigger front bedroom.

This is NOT beige.

The golden, mustardy yellow (boy, do I know how to sell it!) will go in the front living room. The kitchen will be a lovely shade of green, and the back utility room remains open at this time.

Oh, right, and I chose a cream color for the molding. I hate white.

Several times I have told my husband, “You need to take more pictures of me. Otherwise, no one is going to remember what I look like when I’m dead.” I’m the main picture-taker in the family. But now, my smart phone has a way to take selfies. So there, I’ll take my own!

While my husband tackled finishing the living room and a few other areas with the primer, I tackled painting the bathroom, hallway, back and front bedrooms.

A picture of the back bedroom before painting it the light teal.

By the time I rolled on the coat of paint in the front bedroom, I could see I had managed my standard carnival of colors. What was I thinking? I have no idea. Standing there in the front bedroom and seeing the gray-blue, the orange-beige, and pale teal color – what could I do but laugh?

The utility room. I will be stripping the paint off of all of the interior doors and refinishing the wood. Except for that door on the left. That’s a junky NEW door, why bother? I like the exposed brick chimney here (this was originally the kitchen) and I’m still trying to decide what color? Have a good color for me? Send me paint colors. I use Behr exclusively (LOVE Behr) but they can usually color match.

I wanted bohemian…

I think I got it.

Hell, I’ll try it. If it just looks awful, I’ll find a way to fix it.

You’ve come a long way, baby. Just a few more weeks to go!

It’s been a very productive weekend. I’m proud of what we accomplished. All of it is movement forward, and that’s a good thing.

Pie in the Sky Dreams Can Come True

After leaving my first husband and moving back to my home state of Missouri, I had plenty of time on my hands. The year was 1993 and I was just 23 years old. I had found a job, enrolled in college, and a dream began to form as I stayed with my mother in her house in the north part of Kansas City.

It had seemed so impossible in California, but here? Here owning a house was possible. I wrote to the father of my young child and asked him to consider sending her to me. “I want a yard where she can play with her bestest friend and go to the school down the street. I want toys in every corner.”

I poured out my heart and soul, and apparently wanting those simple things made him angry. He wrote back, “Give up your pie in the sky dreams and send me the support I deserve in dollars.”

A month later, he filed for divorce, sole custody, child support and alimony – my hopes for an amicable end to our marriage were crushed and my dreams of a home of my own were put on hold. I returned to California less than six months later, determined to get custody and return to Missouri, a place with a far better standard of living than anything she would have in California.

I returned to San Jose in December of 1993 and I would spend the next three and a half years there, living first in a homeless shelter for three months, until I had a steady job and enough to cover rent in a shabby, one-bedroom apartment in an old, barely maintained 8-plex.

The owners were slum lords. There was no air conditioning, in the winter, the heat was supplied by radiators that began to warm at 8 a.m. in the morning (after I had left for work), were turned off during the day, and then turned on again at 8 p.m., just in time for me to go to bed (yes, even then I was usually an early-to-bed kind of gal).

There were no screens on the windows and there was a serious infestation of beetles from trees outside on the street. A bare lightbulb dangled from the ceiling in the living room, my bathtub dribbled a steady stream of boiling hot water, the wall above the bathtub had collapsed and anytime I took a shower, water ran down inside of the walls. Each winter, the stairs in the basement would swell, cutting off my telephone line. I went through four phones and multiple trips to the pay phone three blocks away trying to fix it, and the landlords tried to refuse to pay for it when the phone company finally did come in and fix it (I took it out of my rent and cited a property code that mandated one working phone line be present in each apartment). I dealt with an onslaught of cockroaches, ants, and even fleas and began to hate my landlords with a passion.

Each day, as I first rode the public transit to work (later I was able to afford a VW Bug that was one year younger than me and broke down at least once per month), and later as I drove to work, I would stare at the tiny bungalows that lined the far side of the street. Formerly homes, but now used mainly as small businesses, I dreamed of one that would have two bedrooms, that I could rent and have fun gardening and fixing up. I dreamed it day and night what I would do if I had that chance. How could I bring value, produce something that was beautiful, welcoming…something that I could call home.

Twenty plus years later, I can say my mind. My first husband was a complete horse’s ass. And I am profoundly grateful that I stopped listening to the idiot, focused on my dreams and when the right opportunities came along, I jumped at them.

It hasn’t been easy. But then again, what good and worthwhile thing is? Dreams take work. They take struggle, sacrifice, sweat and even tears.

I haven’t been standing around waiting for my dreams to come true, I’ve been working hard to make them happen. And with a combination of luck (right place, right time), foresight (seeing a deal and moving on it at just the right time), and tenacity, I see those pie in the sky dreams coming true.

It doesn’t mean I get to sit back and rest on my laurels quite yet. There are still a couple of years (at least) left of sweat, hard work, and out of the box thinking ahead of me – but I see the realization of those dreams every day.

A few weeks ago, exhausted from pulling weeds, moving bricks and fence supplies – I sat down, drank some water and watched my husband work on our front fence. I looked up at the profile of our home, this beautiful brick Victorian that I love so much, and I felt overwhelmed with gratitude. My dreams weren’t pie in the sky, they weren’t irrelevant or unrealistic, they were good, honest dreams.

I examined my relationships and realized that the ones I hold close, who I see each day and interact with, they are true, honest ones. They are people I can depend on, who love me as much as I love them, and the others, the fakes, the manipulators, and the disingenuous – they are all gone.

I find myself wanting to say the words “luck” or “blessed” but both seem insufficient. They don’t fully entail the reality – that this has taken thousands of hours of thought, planning, and execution. It has meant aches in places I never knew could ache, slashing our food budget in half, and recognizing that buying used clothes isn’t something I needed to stop doing, but instead continue ad finitum. It isn’t blind luck, it’s hard fucking work. My eldest used to refer to me as being made of Teflon, but the reality is, I made a decision to be Teflon. I refuse to let failure define me. I learn from the mistakes and move on, it is a mind set, not a series of fortunate turns.

I’ve been in the right place at the right time to buy Cottage West, Cottage East, and heck, even the house I live in. But in all of those, it took persistence, no small amount of craftiness, compromise, and skillful (and plenty of not-so-skillful) negotiations.

We make our own luck. To leave it up to anything or anyone else is foolishness.

As I consider yet another opportunity, a lead on someone in the market to offload some commercial real estate, it is partly terrifying, mostly thrilling. I’m not going to say anything more on it, because it in all likelihood might not happen. I have a price in mind, and if the price exceeds that, if the owner is not open to the terms, then I will walk away, recognizing that I have enough right now that I don’t need to take anything else on if the price is not right.

Here’s what I do know. It is absolutely essential that you dream those pie in the sky dreams. And even more importantly, that you act on them.

Get rid of people who try to make you feel insufficient or lacking. Move away from those who treat you with less than love and respect. Go out the door, grab ahold of those dreams and do not let go. Fight for them. Make them happen. Sacrifice, penny pinch, negotiate, and think creatively. Make the “no’s” turn into “yes” and make your pie in the sky dreams come true.

I’m worth it.

And so are you.

How It Is Going-A Progress Update on Cottage West

While we wait for the contractors to finish, we are making enormous progress on the front fence that will eventually encompass the entire front of our three properties. This is the view looking northeast. Cottage East is out of camera range on the far right.

I am really getting excited. I can’t help it, and I wanted to share it all with you!

As the contractor’s work on Cottage West nears the finish line, I know that our work has yet to begin. And I am hoping (fingers crossed) that we can get it all done by the end of July.

The view from the living room into the old dining room/new kitchen. We had the spray foam done two weeks ago.

What’s Left

The contractors are putting the finishing touches on the electrical outlets, and another team is currently putting in drywall.

When everyone is done and cleared out, then our jobs take center stage.

A view from the back of the house, back bedroom looking north into the hallway (bathroom on right) and into the front bedroom beyond.

We need to:

  • Install a tile floor in the bathroom
  • Prime the ceilings and walls
  • Paint the ceilings and walls
  • Install the toilet, sink and bathtub back in the bathroom
  • Install the cabinets, stove and refrigerator into the kitchen
  • Install the washer and dryer in the utility room
  • Fix a part of the ceiling and install paneling in the back porch
  • Layout the furniture, rugs and wall art
  • Add utensils, dishware, and all of the sundry things folks need in a rental/Airbnb
  • Refinish the front door
  • Hang curtains
  • Take photos and begin advertising on Airbnb and get as many reviews (and reservations) as possible

Special Pricing

I will be offering special pricing, with deeply discounted nightly rates for a limited amount of time, in order to fill the calendar and also garner the most possible reviews on Airbnb. I aim to qualify for Super-Host status as soon as possible!

The bathroom in progress…

If you have family or friends who need a comfortable, safe place to stay, I hope you will recommend Cottage West to them. I’ll have more information on how to reserve it on Airbnb once we have finished the work and taken pictures.

I may also offer some “free” nights’ stay to a handful of folks in exchange for honest reviews. More on that soon.

The Almighty Budget

I live and die by two things: my Google calendar, which I rely on to keep track of my cleanings, my family’s busy schedule, and events, and the almighty budget, which is continually in a state of flux, updated as things change in our lives.

The front living room looking at the shared wall of the front bedroom. We only made two changes to the layout of the house. One of them was changing the kitchen into a utility room and combining the kitchen and dining into a slightly bigger room, and the other was removing the doorway from the front bedroom to the living room. You can see the remains of the doorway in this picture. Both bedrooms are small, so having two doors going into the bedroom didn’t make sense. Now it is simply accessed off of the central hallway.

The almighty budget is what I turn to when I want to specifically track how long a debt will last, what our average monthly and yearly payoff rate is, and how to maximize that payoff to make sure we are doing everything we need to do to get out of debt as quickly as possible.

The budget tells me that, if we maintain the rate of debt reduction we are currently doing, we will be debt free, as in mortgage, loan, everything, in ten years.

It also tells me that by mid-2022, we will have saved enough along the way that Cottage East repairs will be completely covered. Not just that, but I built in a six month delay into any potential profits from Cottage East, just as I have for Cottage West.

I don’t expect Cottage West to begin producing any income at all until at least January of 2020. This means that any funds I do make are gravy on top. For Cottage East, with a finish date of mid-2022, I don’t anticipate any income until January of 2023.

I cannot stress enough how important a budget is. It assesses spending, clarifies areas you need to reduce expenses on, and creates a plan of action. In fact, one of the reasons we are able to do as much as we are in the future is because I slashed our food budget in half.

I realized we were spending around $1,200 per month on dining out and groceries. We are both on a weight loss regimen, so we aren’t consuming the amount of food we were and food was being made, only partially consumed, and then going bad and having to be thrown away. So I cut us down to $600 per month in groceries/dining out, and so far, so good. Far less eating out, and we are doing just fine on the reduced budget.

The future is looking bright!

The Next (and Last) Phase of Work for Cottage East For the Year

Some day, heck maybe it will be today, I’ll sit back and wonder WHY I let codes violations bully me into spending money I should have spent on Cottage West getting it functional instead of just trying to make Codes happy.

After all, it is perfectly acceptable for the maniac down the street to have open gaping holes in his roof, for more than six years now. Any time a report is opened on him, it is magically closed again a few months later. Meanwhile, his house degrading, degrades the rest of the neighborhood. Worse, if it continues, it will cause so much damage to the structure that it won’t be able to be saved. It could collapse on him, even kill him, just because Codes goes after the people they think have money while ignoring those who they assume don’t.

Have I mentioned that we have tried to get him a new roof, for free, TWICE? And each time it has ended with him threatening the person who came to assess his house and see if he qualified for the program.

I’ll step off my soapbox, though, and concentrate on what I CAN change, and that is simply the properties we own, namely Cottage East and West, with our own home sandwiched in between.

Now that we have a utility trailer and a big Ford Expedition capable of pulling it, we will be alternating loads of logs (from trees we have had cut down) with construction debris, like what currently occupies the backyard of Cottage East.

As we put the finishing touches on Cottage West, we have one last step for Cottage East – installing a 200 amp box and running power to it, so that we can also install a burglar alarm.

This is important. With an alarm, and monitoring through Alarm Relay, we won’t have to worry about folks breaking into the property and stealing copper wire, doing drugs, or setting fire to the place. This happened to the quadplex behind us. They had just finished work on the electrical system and someone broke in and ended up starting a fire.

Another positive? The rather sloped and lumpy yard will be very smooth right through here by the time they are done!

By the time someone noticed the smoke and called it in, the fire was going at a good clip. It caused significant damage AND the firemen had to hack through the roof. So now it needs a new roof.

Yikes.

Thanks to adding another window (it seemed like a good idea at the time), we couldn’t put the meter where we had planned (something about clearances, et cetera) unless we trenched from the pole to the house. So that extra window? It cost us an extra $2,500 in electrical work.

That’s a deep trench they are digging!

It’s stuff like this that catches you sideways and knocks you off-kilter.

I like to look at the positive side of things, though. So here it is. I don’t ever have to worry about tree branches in the back of Cottage East interfering with our electrical connection.

Right along here, from left to right behind the brush pile (after significant trimming of vegetation) is where the fence will go.

Oh, and I lied. There’s still ONE MORE THING TO DO this year. Build the back fence. So that folks stop cutting through the property and helping themselves to building supplies or trying to kick in our back door.

Between that and the long run of around 200 feet in the front we hope to install, we have so much fence to build!

There’s some rule about wires near windows, so this window being here meant we had to take it all underground. [sigh] Live and learn.

These Dreams I Have…

They take work. They take sweat, pain, and time. So much time.

Sometimes, I feel as if I am running against a ticking clock. How long will my body last working this hard? I push it, harder than I should, and hope desperately that it is enough.

I imagine the day when I can finally, finally sit down and relax. Just a little bit.

Meanwhile, my dreams fill my mind with visions of secret places where flowers bloom, paths take you in unexpected directions, and my patch of urban life is filled with beautiful blooms and sun-dappled corners.

Walk with me, let me show you where we are at and where we hope to go…

On our lower back porch sits a little cast iron table and chairs. I want to paint this with a bright glossy enamel paint. Possibly cherry red, or maybe grass green. Not this year, though. Too many other things to do! I would love to put it in a special, private spot, on top of some pavers. A place where we could have coffee and cake and enjoy our beautiful garden.
Our “dog yard” – it might not look like much, but I spent a good deal of time on it today, clearing brush, digging up unwanted volunteer trees, and pulling weeds. Eventually I imagine a brick footpath from the gate (it’s hard to see, but it’s near the top of the photo, to the left of the greenery) around to the back door.
A few of the trees are too big to dig out. We will need to cut them out. And the fence, how I hope to re-do the pickets on the fence this year. That is AFTER we build the front fence, however. The front fence takes precedence.
A view from the lower back deck looking west. Our property ends at the far edge, just beyond the large cottonwood tree.
The current rendition of the path that goes down from the front alongside the west of the house to the firepit. We will be re-doing it in a herringbone pattern. In the distance you can see Cottage West and beyond that Crazy Dale’s house.
A delicate pink tulip hiding among the iris and daylily plants along with some lovely alliums. I really love alliums, I want to collect a bunch of different varieties.
My eldest made this sign. You can’t see the Est. 2013, but that was when we first bought the house. Even though I’m not keeping the blog, I hesitate at the thought of getting rid of the sign. I love it so!
This beauty made me smile when I saw it. I adore irises. In the coming years, I plan to expand my iris collection to include many different varieties as we expand the flower plantings and shrink the areas to mow.
The plantings along the front path to Cottage West and doing quite well and I am delighted to see what had been a weed-covered, poison-ivy infested jungle become a colorful focal point. It will continue to be improved over the next few years.
I look forward to the day when I’m able to take the board off of the beautiful front door of Cottage West. It is beveled glass. A beautiful, solid door that is original to the house. One contractor is putting the finishing touches on the HVAC and plumbing and then we will have the insulation and drywall guys in. Here I am, crossing my fingers it will all be done this month. Then we begin painting, hanging cabinets in the kitchen, putting in the finishing touches, and making it available on Airbnb, VRBO, and other short-term rental places!
That red trailer there – it might look small in the picture, but that is an all-steel, 5×12 foot trailer that will be used for hauling wood to the Compost Connection, trash to the dump, and eventually we will take the lathe and plaster out in Cottage East, one load at a time and save ourselves a ton of money hauling it in this trailer. Eventually we hope to put in a driveway from the street to at least halfway back into the property here. It would be nice to have some off-street parking.
This is one of our three Asian pear trees. It is still relatively small, they grow slowly, so we will pinch off most of the fruits this year so that it doesn’t get too overloaded. I have begun adding plants to the bases of all of our trees. Eventually I will also train clematis plants into each tree for added visual effect.
It isn’t super-easy to see, but there are approximately six trees here in our mini-orchard. Three Asian pears, two heirloom apples, and a cherry and an apricot. Eventually I hope to increase the plantings so that there will be paths, and plants, and little or nothing to mow in and around the trees. A few more years…!
In the foreground is our asparagus bed. I say this tongue -in-cheek because mostly it is just a mass of wild violets with a few shoots of asparagus! I have been considering doing high raised beds (at least 2-3 feet off of the ground). I will eventually take this bed apart, transplant the wild violets, dig up the asparagus (and plant a crap-ton more) and put it all in the high raised bed. The height will make it easier to weed and I will be able to put good composted dirt into it that will be far richer than the current sandy fill soil we have.
One of the heirloom apple trees. The fruit off of this tree was AMAZING last year! However, it is also still young, so it looks like I need to reduce some of these to a far reduced number or risk the heavy fruit damaging the tree.
These gorgeous little flowers pop up every year in the yard. I love them! I look for them, dig them up, and relocate them to different areas where they won’t be mowed down. I imagine I will be doing this for many years, because there are a lot of them!
At the back of Cottage West are some stairs I put in. We will need to replace these with something different when we install the retaining wall. Dave keeps talking about the retaining wall, which interests him far more than building a front fence, but the retaining wall will wait until this fall, or possibly next year. I recently weeded this patch, but it will soon be full of iris and daylily blooms.
Here is a close-up of one of the columbine. Behind it is the enclosed back porch for Cottage West. We will be installing an a/c unit underneath the porch and then enclosing it with some of the vinyl lattice we purchased. It will be a nice improvement over the current view!
If you look near the tires you can see more of those lovely white flowers. There’s tons of them! They are hardy bulbs, so I’m not particularly worried that the trailer is on them. Bulbs will return year after year.
My “woodland shade garden” – I plan on adding plenty of easy perennials with bright colors – Mexican blanket flower, lupines, and so much more!
Look at this tree. I want a treehouse built in this so bad! The husband is unwilling, however, to tackle it. I fear I must insist. Children need treehouses. So do adult, middle-aged women for that matter.
I know, I know, I said the pond would happen this year. But then there was a fence to build, and an Airbnb to finish prepping, and…and…and…and so it waits.
I believe this is a cherry tree. We have two or three other cherry trees on the property. We planted this one last spring and it is doing well. I hope to overcome the nasty Bermuda grass with a hardy phlox or other more aggressive groundcover. Heck, if I have to, I’ll plant mint. That would do the trick.
I am aggressively planting this area and expanding it each year. In the center of all of those daylilies was the remains of a cottonwood tree we removed a few years ago. The stump had finally disintegrated enough that I was able to add dirt to the middle of it and plant a serviceberry. They are small to medium trees that produce edible berries. It grows slow, but eventually it will be around 15 feet tall.
The west wall of our home. I have been transplanting garlic, catmint, spearmint, iris and daylilies to the base of the wall. The garlic and mint varieties will dissuade ants and mice from entering our house. They actually are repelled by the smell!
This cherry tree is about five years old now and it means business. We will get at least one pie’s worth of berries out of it this year!
Taken from the front sidewalk…this is my canvas. I will fill it with flowers!
The front of our home. I love it. I love living here. I really do!
We have a few more bricks to lay on the front path. And the maple tree is sending down an avalanche of seedlings. I’ll probably end up picking 10,000 maple treelings out of my yard this year! We need to paint these stairs…soon. I hope it will happen this year. But that is what I’ve said for the past two years.
When we first moved in, there was nothing but grass and mud. I can honestly say that I planted every single plant you see here (except for the tree). This now serves as my inventory as I move the bigger plants, the irises, daylilies, columbine and more to various sections of the yard. Now I can dig plenty of these up, divide them, and begin creating layers of flowers that will bloom in every season, and in varying heights.
This old maple tree apparently thinks it is the end times and is determined to cover the world in maple tree seedlings. As I left for the store today I had to turn on my wipers, just to get the six inch deep layer off of my windshield! You can see the Cottage East with its lovely new green skin peeking out behind the tree. In the distance is our neighbors lovely project. I love the blue siding she chose!
There is a path here, although you can barely see it beneath the maple seedlings. It circles the maple tree and winds its way to the gate that goes into the dog yard.
This delicate beauty was the first iris to bloom. It looks white at first glance, but is actually a delicate pale lilac color.
The horseradish is in bloom along the sidewalk that leads towards Cottage East. At Christmas, we dig some up, peel it, and put it in the food processor along with some sour cream, salt and pepper. It is better than anything you can buy in the store!
The walking onion in the background has spread quite well. This area is mainly occupied by my herbs – onions, chives, oregano, comfrey – as well as lamb’s ear, horseradish, and wild violets
Cottage East – we need to replace the front, back and basement doors. When we do, they will be white, steel, and the front door will have a keyless entry that recognizes our fingerprints and allows visitors access via a code we can reprogram whenever we want. We still need to re-do the columns on the front porch and paint the foundation white (it’s currently painted red), and I will continue planting in the side yard. Once we have gutted it down to the studs, I’ll finish out the front yard with a ton of plants that evoke images of English country cottages.
The east wall of Cottage East. We have plenty of brick to move, and the brick pathway will need to be re-done with better weedblock. I hope to see that happen this year. The bricks are where our property ends to the east. Our neighbors plan on installing a vinyl privacy fence. I’m really looking forward to that!
And then there is this big mess. Plenty of broken bricks, and a ton of weeds and invasive plants that need to be dug out. I think that if we double the weekends in this year, work our children like rented mules, and damn near kill ourselves, we might get this all cleaned up this year!
Ignore all that crap and look at the circular bit near the bottom of the picture. If I clear the weeds and the loose bricks, I’ll actually uncover brick stairs going down. This is so cool!
Along the entire back, we need to build a fence to connect with the gate that is there and being walked AROUND by the local n’er do wells. The same ones who tried to kick in the basement door multiple times. This fence we really hope to do this year.
The back porch of Cottage East. So many bricks to move! And lumber, and stuff. The work never ends. The back porch rebuild will not be for a while.
I’m so glad the worker did not get hurt when the newer portion of the porch collapsed. That was scary to come home to. Eventually, we will fix this, but finances will not allow for that for at least another year, possibly two.
This old light was mounted on the old porch. I know it doesn’t look like much, but I really REALLY like it! I am determined to find a place for it. I know it’s silly, but it just looks cool!
A view from my front porch with the turn in the pathway going west underway.
The lamb’s ear, columbine, iris, and hosta plants are all doing well here. As we re-do this section of bricks, I may back them up a bit in order to gain more area for planting around the base of the tree.
A view of a shady part of my side yard. I’ve planted a small tree (invisible, but its there!), along with a few daylily plants to go with the wisteria. Vinca covers the ground well here. I plan to add quite a few more shade-loving plants, and possibly a Japanese maple (they are delicate and small).
A columbine in the base of the old maple tree.
A view of my herb garden in the background.

I hope you have enjoyed a visual recap of our property. We have around an acre in total with three houses and their respective yards. We have been so lucky to be in the right place at the right time and get each of the properties to form a contiguous patch of land.

I look forward to showing you progress as we finish the work on Cottage West and officially open it this year for use as an Airbnb.

I hope that our visitors will enjoy the beauty of our land along with the Cottage West and spread the word far and wide. Historic Northeast Kansas City has its challenges, but it is home. I love living here!

You Beautiful Beast

Cottage East in summer 2017. Brick facade collapsing, roof in need of replacing, and windows broken and missing. The yard was an overgrown jungle in the back.

It has been so hard waiting for this. And now, the day has finally arrived. Cottage East has a new skin to go with those new windows!

The east side of the house in July 2017 – the wall was intact, but it was bulging. Collapse of the bricks on this side seemed imminent.

This old girl is nearly 125 years old. She’s older than the house I’m living in, which was built in 1899.

I wish I could say she’s had an easy life, but honestly, it has been one full of neglect and half fixes.

We pulled the bricks off of the sides ourselves. That 2×4 you see there came in handy. The bricks were merely a facade over a wood frame house. What a mess it was! That was a lot of bricks to clean up and move!

When we settled on the idea of installing vinyl siding, it was after examining each of our options.

Option #1: Put the bricks back onto the house.

When the west side wall of the house collapsed in a shower of bricks, breaking our fence and leaving piles of bricks just sitting on the side of the house, waiting to fall, we quickly realized it was a wood frame with a brick facade. This was just like Cottage West, except Cottage West’s brick facade had been cared for and reinforced with anchors at some point. Cottage East had not had the same luck. Putting the bricks back would have required a stonemason, and that would have been quite costly. Besides, the upper half of the house already had siding, so we decided it would be best to just tear it all off and cover it entirely with siding.

The east side of Cottage East just before the windows were installed.

Option #2: Put aluminum or wood siding on.

We hemmed and hawed about this for a while. Aluminum siding would have been wonderful, but when we called out the guys who did that kind of work, they took one look at Cottage East, with its partially collapsed brick wall and NEVER CONTACTED US BACK. Wood siding was not appealing to me since it meant being a future target for termites and also meant we would have to repaint regularly.

The windows nearly done…

Option #3: Put on vinyl siding, which might mean replacing it in 15-20 years.

I’m a big one for do it once and never again. My mom has vinyl siding on her house and has lived there for over 25 years. So far, so good. So that was the deciding factor for me, especially when it came to price and you know, an actual quote from someone.

A close-up of what the front eaves looked like after the older vinyl siding was stripped off. No wonder it had failed, it was put directly over the old fishscale siding!

We went with Sunshine Windows, who had also done our windows on Cottage East. A nice enough guy, and his price was $13,000 less than a quote from Champion Windows. For that much in savings, I ignored revisionist history and a love of all things “wall and Trump.”

Just don’t talk politics with him, or mention fences (which turned into a diatribe about how we need a wall) and you should be just fine.

After the fishscale siding was removed, you could see the remains of a chimney doing its best to come out (up to the right of the upstairs window). The guys installed 3/4″ insulation board as well.

And in my defense, I’ll say it again – I saved $13,000 by going with this contractor. For that kind of savings, yes, I’ll put up with a little revisionist history and pro-Trump leanings.

The back of the house needed plenty of plywood – this shot was taken before they had put anything in. As you can see, we still have plenty of bricks to turn into walkways!

The windows had arrived and were installed a few weeks ago and I was eager to see the siding come in. I had settled on a green that was close to the color of Cottage West since our neighbor who had bought the next house over and beaten me to a gorgeous shade of blue (I really like that blue and I’m really sad I didn’t have it to choose from but I did promise her I wouldn’t go with blue).

Siding on the lower front of the house as well as part of the west side. I tried to choose a color that matched Cottage West as much as possible.

Still, having both Cottages in this particular green color provided some connection between the two. Now, when I’m homing Airbnb guests in, I’ll just tell them “First green house on right” or “Second green house on right next to large brick house with wraparound porch” – nice and easy to direct.

The back and east side of Cottage East. In the distance you can see the Airstream, our other Airbnb project in progress.

Between that, and a lovely white fence along the front of our entire property (coming soon!), it will all look rather fabulous and welcoming.

Tearing off the old vinyl siding revealed the original fish scale siding beneath and boy, did it look beat up! Still, I wasn’t very surprised that the newer siding looked so bad. After all, they hadn’t even bothered pulling off the old siding, just nailed it up over the original fish scale. I talked with the owner and he assured me that they would take off the old stuff first before putting anything up.

And here she is. Done except for guttering. We will replace her small columns with bigger ones like we have on our house, removing the brick half columns. We will also paint the foundation white and all of the exterior doors white as well.

We did have to intervene at one point, because the crew that was there were working without the guy who did most of the translating. They started to cover up the old siding with the insulating boards and we told them “no” that it all needed to come off.

So that meant more than a day of extra work for them, most likely two. If it means that we have to pay more, so be it. I want the job done right.

The back porch. We will be clearing out all of the extra bricks, cleaning the yard, and eventually we will rebuild the back deck properly. As you can see, the back porch roof has been reinforced and wrapped in siding.

One piece that truly concerned me, as well as the foreman on the job, was the front porch. The porch was attached mainly to the bricks, which were now gone, and the gap in between the roof of the porch and the house was significant, at least 4-6 inches. The foreman kept saying, “I’m not sure what do with this porch” and I kept saying, “Talk to David” (the owner of the company). The owner was the one who talked me into taking the bricks off the front and back, so I figure it’s his problem to figure out how to stabilize the front porch.

After the 3rd rendition of “I’m not sure what to do with this porch” I looked at the foreman and said, “You’ve got me, I don’t do construction, I just pay the bills.”

The east side of Cottage East. Last year we laid these bricks down directly on the ground. We will pull them up, lay down paver base, and put the bricks back. Our neighbors are planning on installing a vinyl privacy fence on the property line. Hooray! A piece of fencing we no longer need to worry about!

Pretty soon after that I heard quite the bustle of activity. They were pulling off rotten wood off of the front porch and delving into the bowed and rotten ceiling – home to generations of squirrels and birds. Shredded newspaper and piles of old grass rained down with every board removed. The local squirrel population were undoubtedly pissed – goodbye winter home!

The view from our easternmost property line looking west towards our house. I hope to plant a nice tree in this triangle shaped front lawn. After we install the fence, I hope to landscape most of the front (no grass!) with a variety of heights of blooming plants and a solar-powered fountain. I’m leaning towards plants that are perennial and also more of the ones you will see in an English garden.

We still need to paint the portions of the front and back porch in white and also paint the foundation which is currently painted red. Once it is all done, it will look fabulous!

It is a labor of love. How do you make a difference? One little bit at a time. One flowering plant and painted door at a time. A walkway, a dream, a piece of garbage cleared from the path. Small steps, they lead to bigger steps and eventually to a dream realized.

We are still years away from being done. My body’s aches and pains remind me that this is work meant for 20 and 30 year olds, not a woman who will be 49 this year and has degenerative hip disease.

But that’s okay. I’ll take my time. A wheelbarrow full of bricks a day, 2-3 more feet of walkway laid each day, brush cleared and burned a little bit at a time.

Progress.

It is so worth it!