A Perfect Schedule.

September 1, 2007

This past week has been a little different and has gotten us off our normal routine. Race week was interesting with 160,000 NASCAR fans around, but is now over and our little town is getting back to normal.

Then cousins from Richmond came to town, camping in Aunt Carol’s fifth wheel at the lake.  So we made several trips out there to visit and one day to sightsee with them. This morning we went out to say goodbye and witness the “giving of the quilts”.  My sweet mom and her two equally sweet sisters made these fabric works of art especially for the cousins who were duly surprised and grateful. 

 I am back to working on our project rehab house where the wall paper removal continues to challenge me… but I am winning with only a couple of rooms left to do. 

Yesterday Liza got her new chain saw and Paula Bunyan has been happily felling many small trees that were killed by this Spring’s extreme frost.  There are plenty of trees on this property so the dead ones won’t be missed and will be replaced in the Spring.

Yes, I like having a schedule. Liza’s mom had her own retirement schedule: bathing, coffee, dressing, US TODAY cross word puzzle, breakfast, housework, bill paying or letter writing until it was time for her to prepare the lunch sandwich she would enjoy during “The Young and the Restless”, “As the World Turns” and “The Bold and the Beautiful”, followed by a nap. And so it was, every weekday the same. It seemed to serve her well.

My own mom has a daily routine that I think helps keep her grounded: early rising, grooming, breakfast, projects like quilting, gardening, laundry (she still irons everything) and household chores. Then lunch with her soaps, nap, after which she reads until dinnertime. She reads everything: classics, mystery, romance, historical fiction, you name it. The reading is the reward for her busy and productive mornings. It is her schedule.

What would my perfect schedule be? How could I fit it all in a day? Rehabbing on our project house, reading, writing (which has been reduced to blogging too infrequently), cooking and caring for us, real estate and personal clerical duties, spending time with family and friends, studying and learning, gardening, music, oil painting and other art related activities, traveling…. Trying to find my way and set up a routine that makes me feel happy and productive but not stressed and over-booked. I’m probably not alone in this quest.

But I am grateful for good health and many options. Just sometimes caught myself saying, “I want to do so much but I don’t know what to do next!”

Warm wishes to all.


NASCAR in Bristol!

August 25, 2007







Every hillside and front lawn for miles around the Bristol Motor Speedway is host to campers of every size and shape filled with all-American auto race fans. They are a casual bunch for the most part, sporting bright coolers filled with Busch and Pepsi, and tee shirts picturing the racer they favor.

Yet Nascar fans are serious about their fun… showing up as much as a week early to garner a prized camping spot within an easy walk to the tracks. The race fans also fill every hotel/motel room between Knoxville and Roanoke. But then again, according to race fans, “There is no place like Bristol for racing excitement, down home friendly locals, and the beauty of this Tennessee valley!”

Mobile vendors provide a race parafinalia tent city just across the street from the speedway. There one can purchase clothes, mugs, bath mats, glasses, lighters, food, drinks, race car models, bath towels, key chains, posters, and much more usually inhanced with the name, photo, autograph, or race car number of your favorite racer embossed somewhere on the product.

We think the best spot to watch this race is in our own TV room at home, But Liza volunteered to drop of and pick up some family race attendees this year when she captured the photos above.

All this excitements got the best of us so we watched most of last night’s race and plan to watch the big race tonight on ESPN2.

I was personally amazed by the youth of some of the drivers and their amazing crews. Seasoned drivers were represented as well and all seemed positive and up beat about their sport. No bad boy behavior, drug testing scandals, or mean comments about their competitors. That part was refreshing.

The raceway chatter was about the new surface to the track which most of the drivers approved.

Hope you enjoyed our hometown veiw of Nascar in Bristol. Warm wishes and happy racing!


Wallpaper Removal Day!

August 13, 2007




OK. Today is wallpaper removal day! Here is the “before” shot of bedroom # 2 in our rehab house project.

I am having flashbacks to the old Victorian house I grew up in on Olive Street. My amazing mother scraped wallpaper from 10′ walls in room after room, replacing the tired coverings with fresh peach paint in my bedroom. I remember the tall ladder she bravely mounted and the labor required to remove layer after layer of the hideous stuff.

I am lucky. I beleive there is only one layer in this room with standard 8′ ceilings. Still… seems daunting… but here we go!


dark kitchen

August 3, 2007



Our “before” kitchen was quite the 60’s/70’s charmer. The avocado green built in can opener was our favorite feature!

Seriously, the room is a good size and the basic layout of the appliances is the perfect triangle. But the room still seems dark since the only natural light source is through a cut-out over the sink adjacent to den’s glass doors.

The first day I stood in this room I could see the difference opening up this room would make.  I envisioned the cut-out expanded and the entire left wall above the bottom cabinetry removed. I could imagine slicing cucmbers at my sunny kitchen counter while bird watching through to the lush, rear courtyard.

Within the first few days of ownership we knew we would be spending half of our renovation budget on the 600 sf. kitchen and den areas. It is the heart of the home and the area in most need of updating.

Here’s what needs to be done in these rooms:

1. Demolition of kitchen cabinets, old flooring, paneled walls.  This involves calling the plumber and electrician to disconnect what ever we can not unhook!

2. Build new staircase to lower level and remove impractical and unnecessary spiral.

3. Prepare floors to receive 3/4″ hardwood flooring.

4. Install support header beams where needed.

5. Have plumber Chris and electrician Jamie come back in to update, reconnect, run new lines, etc.

6. Sheetrock on walls and over popcorn ceilings. Sand and paint.

7.  Order and install cabinetry from Kitchen Floyd.

8.  New appliances, countertop, backslash, and fixtures.

9.  Hardwood flooring.

Not particularly in that order… but you get the idea. Total overhaul. It’s OK. I can see the results, smell the food cooking, feel the revived energy of the home’s spirit.

Our project kitchen will be “starting over” too.


demo day one

August 3, 2007



Here is a picture looking into the kitchen from the den. Our rehabbing always gets scary after demo day one. You think…”I just spent a pile of money to purchase this home and now we have torn it apart.” Something about it must get worse before it can get better!


dumpster day

August 3, 2007



The day the dumster was delivered I knew we were nearing demo day. Out with the old and in with the new. I wonder what the neighbors think or how the old owners feel when they drive by and see this 22′ long hunk of steel parked in the drive.

I hate thinking about the debris to go to the land fill but I tell myself it is better to throw out an old kitchen than the whole house. So we will forge ahead in our attempt to recycle this home.

When demo started we filled this metal cavern in two short days with old kitchen cabinetry, rusty filing cabinets, the jade shag carpet from downstairs, and old flooring and paneling from the kitchen.

Time to start anew.


Our New Renovation Project

July 27, 2007



Our new renovation project is pictured here. We don’t know yet whether it will be our new home or a flipper, but here are the beginning stats:

About 1700 square feet on ground level with another 1700 square feet in the basement. Currently, three smallish bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths. This home was built in the 60’s and owned by the same couple for over 35 years which is pretty obvious from the jade shag carpet in the basement and the Michelob sconces in the den. However, this brick rancher has solid bones and palacial grounds.

My very wise father always told me that you make money in real estate when you purchase it not when you sell it. With this in mind, we negotiated on this property for over 6 months, walking away from it several times.

Since the market stinks, most buyers are skiddish right now, and the house needed renovating, we had little competion for the property. We just waited and the sellers finally accepted our offer. Original list price: $275,000 last year. It was re-priced to $219,900 this Spring. We picked it up for $172K in July.

Since most of the homes in this neighborhood are valued at $225 to $400K, we are pretty confident that we accomplished buying the worst house in the hood (also one of Dad’s lessons).

Anyway, the house has multiple personalities. We hope to return it to it’s mid-century modern self with clean unfussy lines and updated finishes. But now it has colonial touches like brass eagles, victorian wallpapers and light fixtures, lovely but inappropriate turn-of-the-century wooden fireplace mantles, an ornate but added-on fireplace gas stove, and traditional and abstract stained glass inserts closing off the kitchen.

The master bath came right out of Hollywood! The huge mirror is surrounded by a dozen bright, round, bare lightbulbs. One sink is a 40’s pedestal that I understand came out of an old school, while the other “modern” sink is beige with swirls of gold flakes. All fixtures are “gold”, even the frames around the mirrored closet doors.

The main defect to the property is definitely the spiral staircase which is the only interior access to the lower level. The lovely but totally impractical stairs came out of the Elizabethton Fire Station we were told. This history does not elliminate the fact that they are impossible to navigate with a basket of laundry on your hip. And since the lower level will house the laundry, a huge family room, and a new bedroom suite, we know this metal monster has to be replaced with traditional and comfortable steps.

We also know that the staircase is the main reason why this property had not sold. Young families with small children are not going to be happy with the spiral. Older folks or people with trouble getting around are not going to be happy with this only access to half of the house. We are going to remove the spiral and replace it with a traditional starcase in the original place in the home.

I love the gardens and Liza loves the big 2 car garage. We are both going to hate the wall paper removal process. But so far we have changed the locks, removed grease from garage floors, arranged for delivery of dumpster and helpers to start demo on Monday.

Did I mention the sixties bomb sheltor in the basement? Soon to be a stocked wine cellar! More about “Fairfield Manor” soon.

Warm wishes.