April 6, 2019:


The income taxes are finished and were taken to the Post Office yesterday to send out via certified mail, which now costs nearly $16 for two 8 1/2 11 envelopes with return receipt. Yikes! But worth it because I have proof positive once I get the little green cards back that the returns were delivered and received. And just in case, there are tracking numbers that I can also tap the U.S. Post Office for to verify that delivery was made. In these times, it's better to be safe than sorry

I have been working in little bits and pieces outdoors whenever a window in our crappy weather has presented itself. Today, however, was the first day where I was able to spend an extended period of time outside. First, I cleaned up areas on the sidewalk and driveway along the edges where pine cones and branches tiny branches blown off during the seemingly wind storms we endured over fall and winter 2018-2019. After resting for a bit, and removing the winter hat, gloves and jacket, I moved to the back yard because I'm sick of feeling sick to my stomach every time I look at it through the patio doors in the dining room and window above the kitchen sink. This winter left it a true disaster zone. I worked steadily raking small areas and filled two trash can size black trash bags full of debris blown down from my arborvitaes and neighboring trees over the winter, in addition to about half a ton of nut shells. The nut shells are my fault because I feed all the neighborhood squirrels. They are so entertaining, and very smart! I also made a small dent in starting clean-up of the flower beds, where the "mild" (ahem) weather and thawed earth has encourages perennials to start popping through, whether I'm ready for them or not!

All in all, a somewhat decent start to making a larger dent in clean-up operations. I worked outdoors about 4 hours off and on. I didn't want to overdo it, and truth be told, I'm pooped! It's humbling to not be able to work as long or as hard as I used to. I can get it done, but I have to take lots of rest breaks so it takes quite a bit longer now. Good thing I'm retired


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Shopping for a New House: House 4

The continuing saga of ...

I had started my house hunting by looking first at the brick ranch on Allerton, and then viewed the house at 4029 S. 74 that I fell in love with (fully remodeled living space and loved the kitchen/dinette area), but the seller and I could not reach agreement on a sales price.  I had also scheduled a viewing some weeks ago of 4002 S. 74, located to the north of 4029 (across the street but on the same block), but the seller had cancelled because she was not feeling well.

I had not pursued 4002 after that, but it was always on my radar.  I was checking the listings daily to see if any new properties were coming on the market within my target area (and price range) and also checking to see if any of the houses I was interested in (still including 4029) had been taken off the market or had "pending" offers (contingencies satisfied, getting ready to close).  Thus, after deciding that Allerton was just not what I wanted (despite putting in an offer for it, and receiving a counter-offer that was waiting for a response), I was eager to see 4002. 

I viewed the property on Tuesday evening, May 6th.  It has been on the market for several months; I was hoping that if the house showed as much potential in person as it did in its listing photographs (despite the snowy scenery), it would jump to the top of my list.  I was very tired of the search and wanted to be settled!

With some minor variations, 4002 has essentially the same lay-out as 4029 S. 74.

I loved the curved sidewalk approach to the front door.  I loved the bay window that floods the inside of the house with light, the end windows of which crank out to provide great ventilation with the dinette window at the back of the house.  I really liked the creamy colored brick with black and white speckles in it, and the white aluminum siding and soffits would work with just about any color scheme.  The 2-1/2 car free standing garage is also sided in white aluminum.  The siding is in excellent condition.

This is a solid house.  We could not see any step cracks in the foundation (not unusual in Milwaukee County's clay soil), hardwood floors are all intact (although the bedrooms are still carpeted, the living room had the hardwood refinished and varnished).  There is a lean-to fully enclosed shed area added all away across the back of the garage. 

The back yard is partially fenced -- with neighbors' fences.  To the north, the back yard is shielded from view by a tight planting of tall mature arborvitae and the next-store garage.  The view to the south is open, but partially fenced with a neighbor's chain link.  The rear of the lot is partially shielded by the garage and several shrubs and trees along the lot line, and neighbor to the east's short wood fence (see photo above).  Privacy needs improvement.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Shopping for A New House: House 3

The small brick ranch on Allerton was Plan C that got bumped up to Plan B when the house that was potentially Plan B (4002 S. 74) was not able to be viewed.  But I was feeling uncertain about Allerton and kept looking.  I checked the listings every day to see if anything new had come on the market.

This little brick house, with a family room addition added later at the back, was built in 1939 and is situated on a huge lot.  I wanted to see it because I've walked past this house five or six days a week for nearly 24 years now.  I always thought it looked like a little fair tale cottage and admired its classic lines.

Oh, I know I know.  Crazy.  It was the exact opposite of what I wanted -- a smaller lot, a move-in ready house!  Oy!  But this house tugged at my heart strings.

The house was foreclosed, unfortunately.  The young couple that had lived there were gone.  Fourth of July decorations still hang from the coverless roof frame over the patio on the west side of the house, looking forlorn.  The property is now owned by a bank, and banks could care less about maintaining foreclosed property.  This house is on the market for $146,900:

Yes, that is grass growing out of wood gutters that I would think are original to the house.  Nobody has wood gutters anymore - but this house does.

The brickwork is in excellent shape, did not appear to be any mortar missing or step cracks.  Original woodwork is intact in the original part of the house (except for a disastrous kitchen remodel), but the varnish is crackled and bubbled, the wood dried out.  The house needs a new roof.  The windows, so pretty from a distance, up close have rotting frames and are single paned glass.  It would take extensive repairs to replace the original window framing, repair the rot, and provide storm/screen over-windows to protect the original divided light windows that dress the front of the house.  The wood floors on the first floor are intact, but need refinishing.  All of the rooms in the main part of the house are small, except for the kitchen, which is a bit disjointed.  The best updating was done in the small main floor bathroom.

There is a garage built out of concrete block.  It too needs a new roof and its wood frame holding the garage door is rotting from the ground up.  Because of the family room addition that was put on the back of the house, the garage is less than 2 feet away from the back wall of the house!  I don't think a regular size compact car would fit in that garage.  Better to tear it down and build a new one further away from the house; the lot is plenty large!

Above, side view of the house showing the one story family room addition at the back of the house, and the little amount of space left between the addition and the concrete block garage.  I do not think a modern-day car would fit into that garage, LOL.  But, there is plenty of space on the lot to build a 2 to 3 car garage.

The family room - no framing around the windows and no insulation tucked in (or foam sprayed to seal cracks to keep out cold damp air, snow and rain), so cold air was leaking into the house all winter long; the house felt very damp and very cold.  Here is a picture of the family room from the listing:

The carpet is "inset" into the floor; it is thick, good quality carpeting, and filthy.  The rest of the floor is laminate.  I puzzled as to why until I realized that the people who used to live there used the side door (not seen in this photo, on the left) as the main entrance into the house, and the laminate was their answer to having an easy-to-clean floor.  The area is open to the kitchen, up two steps.  Part of the back wall of the house in its original brick is exposed to this room and it adds a lot of charm.  You can see the rot around the inside of the uncased windows.  Oh my.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

My Last Mantle/Mantel

Hi everyone.

As you know, Maison Newton has been sold.  I am still actively looking for a new home for myself, with little success. But, as the saying goes, hope springs eternal in the human heart.  I have put an offer in this morning on a home and will hear back (I hope), later today. 

None of the homes I have looked at have a fireplace in it.  None of the (now) three homes in which I have put in an offer to purchase have a wall where I could reasonably have a direct vent fireplace installed.  This makes me very very sad, as one of the things I love most about Maison Newton is my cozy fireplace in the front room where I can snuggle on bitterly cold days in the winter or even during cold damp rainy days during the spring, summer and fall.

So, here are some photos of my spring/Easter mantle/mantel decorations.  The last you will see from me for maybe - forever.

My heart was not much into the project this year, as my home was already sold when I did this.  I won't lie -- I've been feeling meloncholia and nostalgic ever since J&J finally signed off on the contingencies in their offer and I knew Maison Newton was well and truly sold.  Despite that, I do like all of the prints of dogwood blossoms that I printed out from the internet and installed in frames I already have, and the old Home Interiors print with the dated border colors from the 1980s (but beautifully framed).  To be honest with you, I'm not sure if the flowers in that print are magnolia blossoms or dogwood blossoms, LOL!  But hey, they sort of look like dogwood and none of my friends who visit know the difference anyway :) 

You may recognize some items from last spring:  the plastic eggs; the ceramic basket filled with artificial green straw and more plastic eggs; the tall pastel green votive candle holder and the large "tome" (a fake book-safe) with the beautifully illustrated covers (TJMaxx purchases a season or two ago), and my favorite, the Godiva Chocolates bunny in bib overhalls, holding a "basket." 

The trio of ceramic bunnies on the right were purchased last September at a rummage sale, as was the candle snuffer resting in front of the t.v. on the right, the little glass globe egg in basket located left of center, and the little bunny that you can only partially see down below; he's resting on top of the fireplace upper vent.

I filled a couple of large decorative glasses with plastic pastel-colored eggs and added two eggs from my collection (left of center) to complete the display.

I put a larger framed print of a dogwood blossom up above the curio cabinet.  I see I caught myself in the mirrored back taking the photo, LOL!

On the Queen Anne side table on the right side of the fireplace, I put up an old watercolor I did years ago (copied out of a book teaching how to do watercolors, LOL), a colorful egg from my collection, and my three ceramic birds (bird on the left is a TJMaxx purchase; pair of porcelain doves on the right were a gift from one of my sisters many years ago, I believe they are Home Interiors).

I added a few framed dogwood prints by the front entry, and a trio of prints (below), centered above my front room desk:

So, that's it for spring/Easter around Maison Newton.  I'm taking it all down this weekend, starting to pack.

It's a beautiful day here today (we haven't had many this "spring") and I'm headed out now to the Pick 'n Save to pick up much needed supplies.  I started to make mac 'n cheese for myself for lunch (my stomach is demanding to be fed) but I realized, right after I dumped the macaroni into the boiling water, that I did not have a drop of milk in the house!  So - off the fire went the pot.  And instead of doing this I really have to get my butt walked down to the supermarket and get some milk, eek!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Shopping for a New House: House 2

Hola darlings!

Well, since writing about House 1, it came to pass that the seller and I were not able to arrive at a mutually acceptable purchase price, and so I let my Offer expire.  We were $2,900 a part, but neither of us was willing to budge another inch.  I know I had budget considerations, and I suppose the seller did too.  Sigh.

On to... House 2. 

House 2 was actually the first house I looked at, because it has the best location vis a vis the places I need to get to on foot:  the Pick 'n Save supermarket, Walgreens, and two bus routes -- a mere 3 blocks away, moving me 6 blocks closer (and NO hill to climb while lugging groceries) than I am right now. 

Location alone put this house #1 on my list.  I met my buyer broker, Laurie, there, for the first time and we hit it off immediately.

This is a small house, no way around that; giving up space (that I don't need), and I've always wanted another brick house.  My first house, purchased in 1986, was a quasi-Tudor style brick 2 bedroom with Spanish plaster, all original woodwork and hardwood floors, built during the Art Deco era, and I loved that house!  But the area the house was located in was headed toward decline, unfortunately.  I sold the house for a profit in 1989 and built Maison Newton, where I've been ever since.  Until now...

House #2 is a cute, but small, all brick ranch, built in 1956.  Solid as they come, and well cared for.  The brickwork is solid, no step cracks at all, no need for tuckpoint repairs.  Three car garage with a summer-room, a small concrete patio out back, concrete drive in not bad condition.  A generator, too, in case electric power ever goes out.  There is no sidewalk on the lot along the roadside; the lawn runs to a shallow culvert and then the blacktop road starts.  Big yard, bigger than I want, but also giving me a clean slate to maybe do the garden of my dreams, as my vision about that has changed so much over the years.  The rear of the property abuts part of a commercial property, the Mad Dog Saloon, LOL!  I've been there several times during it various incarnations over the past 23 plus years I've lived in at Maison Newton.  The property line is delineated by a very tall solid wood fence.  Commercial doesn't bother me.  The road House #2 fronts on is lined with single family homes and it's all very rural feeling, just feet away from 76th Street, one of the city's main drags!  Amazingly quiet, too.

Roof, windows and furnace all newer.  Not a thing has to be done to the exterior of the home, other than creating some curb appeal.  My gardner's hands are already itching.  By the way, 978 days today (and counting down) to retirement! 

The interior is small, 1,012 square feet.  There are three small bedrooms, one small bath, made even smaller by some floor to ceiling cabinets that were installed for additional storage, a small kitchen that has the worst floor plan I've ever seen and is also cut in half but a ceiling-hung display cabinet!  What on earth?  My 56" wide round dining table will NOT fit into the current dinette space -- a card table and 4 card chairs barely fit into the present space!  Well, I'll let the pictures do the talking:

Above photo shows the entry into the front room (living room).  The living room is 11 x 15.  Small.

This is the other side of the front room (living room).  To the left of the sofa is the entry to the bedroom/bathroom hallway and the entry to the kitchen/dinette.  There is a hardwood floor underneath the carpeting per the listing description.  Because of the two large windows, the room is flooded with light.  But, as you can see, it is small.  The furniture I have was purchased for larger rooms. That is an issue.

Hold on to your hats, the kitchen is next:

From the front room walking toward the rear of the home where the kitchen is located.  On the left is the hallway housing the entries to 3 bedrooms and 1 full bath.  The kitchen wall you are looking at is on the east.  There is a tall and spacious pantry cabinet unit, three above-stove or fridge cabinets, the cabinet that the microwave is placed upon, and the fridge.  You can see some of the door to the back hallway on the far right, behind the fridge. You can also see the end of a cabinet jutting out into the room.  That cabinet area, I guess it's a sort of peninsula, cuts the kitchen in half.  Above it is a glass encased cabinet hanging from the ceiling that, right now, contains some stemware.  More about that later.

Another view of the pantry cabinet, microwave cabinet and fridge (from the southwest end of the kitchen).  This view shows you some of the glass-encased ceiling-hung display cabinet that cuts the room in half:

While I'm not crazy about the cabinets, they are in great shape and, as you will see, there is an abundance of cabinet storage in this space.  New hardware would help, I think, and probably a paint job to all white is in their future.  My intention is to re-use the existing cabinets to reconfigure the kitchen into a more functional lay-out, opening up enough space for my 56" round table and four chairs.

So, here is the dinette space.  This photo shows another section of that ceiling-hung glass encased display cabinet, as well as the paneled-over back of an older electric stove.  If you look to your left, you can see where the cord from the electric range is snaked through to the electric outlet underneath the top end cabinet.  That stove must be VERY old, it does not appear to have a three-prong heavy-duty plug requiring a separate electrical circuit!  The window overlooks the driveway and a side of the house next store.  Not a nice view.

As you can see, a card table and four chairs were placed to give an idea of what the dinette would look like.  My table would definitely not fit into this space.  I thought, when I first saw this, that perhaps a built-in banquette and small table, but then, I'd have to give up my beautiful dinette table and chairs, and I don't want to do that!  Not to mention the cost of having a banquette installed (or buying one).  I soon nixed that idea, though, after seeing the rest of the kitchen:

This is the view toward the rear of the house as one walks into the kitchen from the front/living room. To the left of this wall, out of view, is a step-down to a tiny back hallway with a door that opens to the backyard, and opposite that door is the staircase to the basement.  Directly across from the kitchen opening to the back hall landing is a step up to the half-bath, consisting of a small toilet and sink and some rather unique blue laminate countertop.  I'll show you that in a moment.  The kitchen wall we're looking at is along the south of the house.  On the right you can see the "peninsula" sticking out into the room, cutting it in half, and above it, a small part of the ceiling-hung display cabinet.  Facing us is an antique dishwasher on the left, an old front-loading washing machine underneath the window, and a dryer on the right.  I believe they all work. The countertop is faux butcher-block laminate.  It is not a continuous run of countertop, as you can see, it looks like some was added later.  Was the kitchen sink originally under THAT window?  Or did the owners have new plumbling run for the dishwasher and washing machine?  My buyer-broker said she thought the laminate was probably from the 1970's. 

Dryer covered with butcher-block laminate.  Because of the vent there, I thought perhaps this may have been the original location of the stove? But then, it also looks like a cold air return, which doesn't make any sense at all to have it in the middle of the wall...

The sink is on the south wall of the kitchen, view overlooks the driveway.  To the right, you can see the very old electric stove and its plug, and also a good view of the overhead glass display cabinet that cuts the room in half.  That overhead cabinet would be removed.  Electric stove and cabinet on the right next to it would be relocated.  Washer, dryer and antique dish washer would all be removed.  Fridge, cabinet and pantry cabinet would be relocated.  Cha ching, cha ching, cha ching!!!

Here the half-bath (powder room) off the back hall.  I'm not sure that it is 2 feet deep!  But, because if its existence, this house is advertised as bath and a half!  Ridiculous!  This powder room backs up to the plumbing in the full bath.  I would totally junk this space and add much-needed space to the full bath on the other side of the back wall.  There is a "rec" room area, including a bar, in the basement, and a bath could be added down there if some future owner wished it.  For myself, I don't live in my basement.  I live above grade. One larger bathroom for just me to use is fine.

Here you can see the back end of the house (faces south) and the large three-car garage with summer room.  It's a big lot, mostly grass.  There are two Norway maples planted far too close together on the east lot line closer to the back of the house -- you can see part of their branches on the left end of the photo.  The tree nearest the house will have to be cut down.  Makes me cry, but that is the reality.  I KNOW what those trees will be like 10 years from now, should I live that long. 

This is the only photo of the full bath.  Fortunately, it does NOT have a glass block window.  I hate glass block windows, egads!  What is that finish on the walls?  Wallpaper, you might ask?  Nope.  It's a marble look plastic laminate sheathing of some kind, that was screwed to the walls.  It complete surrounds the inside of the bathtub (hidden by the curtains on the right side of this photograph).  From what I figure, directly behind the sink/vanity and toilet is the back-hall "powder room", which I intend to junk if I am successful at buying this house.  The tub has old fashioned style glass shower doors installed, those would be removed   The tub, itself, looks dingy and dirty, probably needs to be replaced.  The faux-marble panels would also be removed, as would the 1950's era mirror/medicine cabinet on the wall at the left of the photograph.  It is flanked on either side by fluorescent lights.  The mirrors actually open out to create a tripod of mirrors. Maybe I could sell it on e-Bay???

The price was recently dropped on this property from $149,900 to $144,500.  So I'm putting an offer in, with a final price range in mind, and we'll see what happens. 

Fingers crossed, darlings!