Saturday, December 30, 2006

A very ghetto x-mas

I've been AWOL for a while now, but that doesn't mean I've been slacking on the sledge. Au contraire. In the interim, there've been at least six trips to Home Depot, and six thousand dollars (probably much more) spent on supplies and building materials. I've also acquired a live-in contractor. Maybe it started as a crazy idea, to find a live-in contractor via CraigsList (list of all lists!), but, my, my, it was BRILLIANT. Not only is the guy pretty cool, he has a sweet, scary-looking dog (Rex's latest gay lover). He's pretty easy to live with, not a sketchball, and, most importantly, he knows what he's doing. I've never been a woman to swoon over guys with powertools, but now I'm enlightened. Not that I'm swooning. (Sorry kids, not at all.) I just see the value in having someone on-hand to fix things you can't easily figure out. (I've had my bed on milk crates for the last six months b/c the frame was broken...and this dude fixed it in five minutes! What's so bad about that?)

I didn't realize how hard it is to do something as seemingly simple as selecting a faucet or lighting fixture until I found myself staring at them. THOUSANDS of them! The contractor, who has seen and remodeled hundreds of re-sells, is like a re-do guru. Forget Martha Stewart and those TLC people. I've realized, over the course of making these plans and buying this stuff, that if I can't even pick out a fixture (it's like staring at a menu with too many choices), there's no way I could've done this remodel myself. (As ever, in over my head...then, by magic, in the clear.) I feel really fortunate. And I'm psyched to see it come to fruition!

The master plan:
Get the place ready for a re-appraisal so that I can get a home equity loan (HELOC) (right now, there's so little equity, I'd be a fool to apply). This includes re-doing:
Kitchen, living and dining rooms, and two of the bedrooms. Also, install the windows, for which I paid cold, hard cash. (Ouch.)
With the HELOC, I can pay off the supplies I've charged thus far AND remodel the back bedroom, bathroom, and add ANOTHER bathroom, which will be exculsive to the back bedroom (a room to rent, w/ private entrance from garden). By the summer, I should have the front and back lawns xeriscaped. Vision: French doors from kitchen lead to back garden patio (fenced, private...many mornings of coffee and the NYT w/ dogs at my feet...heavenly), which will be very GREEN and include a sauna...and maybe a hot tub, too, if I feel really extravagant. I plan on living in the place for at least a few years before I can re-sell, so I want it to be NICE (and to include those features that rich people can't resist).

Bought poplar to trim ALL rooms and add lighted crown moulding to cieling in living (and maybe dining) room.

In the living room: built-in bookshelves on either side of the chimney (will install wood stove), refinish wood floor, bought new front door and door to hide furnace, knock out part of wall btw. liv/din. rms (add ballustrade)= gorgeous.

In kitchen: Laundry room (pretty big) becomes a part of the kitchen; door in laundry room disappears, thus making French doors (from kitch to back patio) main back entry. Hide laundry stuff w/ a closet; add pantry, new cabinets, new counters/countertops (custom butcher block mixed w/ sandy-colored slate); saltillo tile on the floor (also in dining); breakfast nook btw. dining and kitchen (requires removing a wall).

Serious undertakings! But I'm psyched. Now that we have all of the materials, it's really going to start coming together. I spent an entire day hunched over the kitchen floor, chipping away at the layers of ancient linoleum, all the way down to the concrete. It's still not entirely done, but it's close! It's going to be slow, I realize, but, well worth it, I think. Like anything else, I've got to suffer a little before I can eat my cake. (Speaking of which, I'm afraid I'm getting scurvy from eating so many xmas goodies.)

It's been nearly a year now that I've lived in NM (I drove out after Xmas last year, and arrived Jan. 3), and though I never meant to stay, it feels exactly right that I did. I can't imagine going back to NYC...not now, anyway. I couldn't take the hustle-bustle, not any more! (I don't know if I could've withstood another year...I'd be bald from too much stress, fat from all the drinking, and terminally insomniac.)

It's SO flippin' BEAUTIFUL here. We're in the midst of a major snow storm, and the entire city is blanketed in this pristine white crust. Coupled with that electric sunset? Outrageous. It never tires. Even the ghetto looks stunning, covered in snow. This was Rex's first encounter with the stuff, and he went nuts. We went for a run in the snow today, and he went loping through the woods, snarfing up the snow like a coke fiend. Totally adorable. At the park, he chased after kids on sleds, bounding in front of them as they torpedoed down the hill, then issuing drooly kisses as the kids lay face-up in the snow. Most succumbed in half-terror, half-glee. Who could resist?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Littlest (Living) Christmas Tree.

I shouldn't be blogging (WORK up the WAZOO!), but I can't resist. Check out the latest developments, in photo form (inc. my littlest Christmas tree. Cute! And, even better, it's alive.) Dog pics because I can't resist. You should also know that I spent $1400 at Home Depot last night. I can't think of anything I own that's worth that much money. I had to grip the register counter when the cashier told me the total. But, I'm going to have a GORGEOUS bathroom in just a few days! I bought a totally classy porcelain sink (Kohler!) and other fineries, inc. matching fixtures (faucets, showerheads, etc.). To save money, I'm salvaging the bathtub w/ this incredible refinishing spray, and am laying saltillo tile in the bathroom. (I LOVE saltillo tile...more in the kitchen, too.) I bought a wet tile saw, too, which is my favorite tool in the universe. More ltr!

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Dropping the Bomb (on-board)

I’ve been listening to All Things Considered every morning, like I used to – before I read that listening to a morning newscast puts you in a sour mood for the rest of the day (whereas listening to music makes you happy.) Maybe that’s why I’ve been feeling like crap? I guess I’d rather hear about the civilian death toll in Iraq and get angry about it than listen to the inane morning radio hosts discuss dirty x-mas gifts. Worse is the holiday music. I can’t venture out to any public venue in this wretchedly chipper season without hearing Nat King Cole belt out White Christmas, and I can’t hear a Christmas song without bursting into tears. (I actually cried over a head of lettuce while grocery shopping. Jingle Bells was blaring over the loud-speaker.) I wish I weren’t such a sorrowful scrooge.

Anyway, my intended point: I heard something SO FUNNY, SO ABSURD on the news this morning, I can’t resist sharing it. It proves NPR has a sense of humor. Reportedly, a woman on a flight to Nashville (?) lit a match on-board the plane. According to the NPR report, the FBI concluded that the woman lit the match b/c she had GAS and was trying to conceal the odor.

That’s fucking hilarious. And retarded. Who needs pop music in the morning when you can hear shit like that on the radio?! Made my day.

News of the “Bombplex” the feds are planning to build in NM sort of soured my cheer. Ironic how people flock to NM for spiritual renewal, when the gov’t. views it as a repository for nuclear waste and weaponry. (Fact: NM is home to the only site in the nation where nuclear waste is deliberately --and legally -- dumped...just miles from a world-famous spa.)

In other ironic news, I also hear that New York City is trying to pass an ordinance which would ban all food svc. establishments from using trans-fats. Who’s behind this? A coalition of anorexic supermodels? NYC is not SoCal. NYC is skinny, yes, and beautiful. Glamorous. But NYC is not healthy. NYC is about indulgence and excess and hedonism. I’ve never bought a donut from one of those street vendors, but if ever I do, I want it fried in the kind of oil that’s going to kill me. That’s just the NYC way.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Shaking my the Poor House

The house sometimes feels like an unbearable burden. I'm not as daunted by the work that needs to happen as I am by the cost of it. I'm one of the few people I know who's both debt-free and independent of their 'rents, and the prospect of going into debt is making me panic. I can afford the mortgage, but that plus my living costs, plus renovations is way beyond my capability. So, it looks like I'm destined for a loan of some sort, at least eventually. I can only hope that the house will be a money-maker (shake it), not a money pit. After all, that's the sole reason I bought it: to make some loot. I try to console myself w/ the fact that millions of other people take out loans to fix up their homes and aren't agonized by it. But are those the millions of people who buy diamonds and convertibles with borrowed money? I'm a simple girl. I like things to be simple. Not fancy. Not complicated. Simple. I like having one credit card (now I have more -- and they're all in the freezer), one bank account (I have four), and a budget that doesn't stretch beyond rent, food, and the occasional haircut. When did I get so fucking high maintenance?!

Here's what I figure: charge essential stuff to the new Home Depot cred card (uh, yeah. I have a HD credit card. Hard-core.), which is interest-free/no payments for six to twelve mos. By then, the place will be fixed up enough to rent out a bedroom, maybe two (rental income, also part of Plan A), and I can get a home equity loan (fixed rate!) for the amount I owe. Sounds reasonable, but I'm still sick over all of that money. But, no pain, no gain...right? Bring on the burn!

I've found a contractor who's willing to buy into my barter agreement (free rent in exchange for contracting svcs.). He and his dog are moving in this week. I'm not thrilled to have a roommate, but I am psyched to really get serious about the renovation (and for Rex to have a dog buddy w/o my adopting another). I chose this dude as opposed to the others b/c he doesn't seem crazy or creepy (most were automatically eliminated on some grounds, i.e. the Vietnam vet who told me he hoped to get "raped by an Indian lady" on his drive through NM...I don't know what's worse, the rape or the fact that he said "Indian lady"). The guy also sees what I see in the place: serious potential. He agreed that most of the stuff that needs to be done is simple (for him) and cosmetic -- nothing major, as I suspected. Reassuring. An interesting little deal that we've waged...I hope it works out.

This wknd was mostly a bust. I've been feeling anxious and cranky, and especially lethargic. Lazy and leaden-limbed. I figured that if the contractor guy was moving in, he could take care of the stuff that needed to be done, and I could rest. All I did was wash the bedroom walls to prep them for paint. This was my hot Friday night, on which I turned down a date w/ the geophysics professor in favor of spackling the walls. I'm convinced the spackling paste is more dynamic, albeit a little disappointing over dinner. I did, however, make friends w/ a neighbor who seems like a v. cool chick. She's a teacher, like me, and (also like me) very interested in the institutionalized racism in the schools. We talked for almost an hour over her picket fence, while Rex made gay love to her dog, Mr. Fluffy. (What's more gay than a guy dog named "Fluffy?") Pretty psyched to have met a neighbor who doesn't have an NRA sticker slapped onto the bumper of their SUV.