Monday, July 30, 2012

The Great Outdoors

Tonight's home maintenance adventure will involve an irrigation repair guy coming over to tell us how badly our in-ground sprinklers are broken. If one were to drive by the house and guess at the answer to this question based on the state of our lawn, one would probably guess "Pretty badly." I'm sure the neighbors are thrilled.

This was one repair we didn't really know about in advance, in that on her disclosure form next to the "Lawn Sprinkler System" line, the seller checked the box for "Yes, that is working." Then on our closing day it was super hot and we made some crack about running through the sprinklers and the seller was like, "Oh, yeah, those are broken." Kind of brazen, lady! Great timing on that revelation! 

We didn't make a thing of it at the time, but based on the estimate the guy gives us tonight, we may Make a Thing of It. Given that I'm not the best at plant care and maintenance (Exhibit A: All of the plants I bought in May to make the condo patio look cute have gone on to that big organic garden in the sky. It was a miracle I could keep them alive long enough to sell the condo, and after that I was kind of like, Well you guys are on your own now. Get a job.), and given that neither of us has had to think about a lawn for about a decade, the ability to put sprinklers on a scheduled program and forget about them was something I was really looking forward to. Instead we had to go to Home Depot on our first evening of home ownership to purchase hoses and sprinklers, and then proceeded to make fools of ourselves in our front yard trying to figure them out. Probably the neighbors looked out their windows and said to their spouses, "Oh honey, the new couple moved in... They can't seem to operate a sprinkler."

We have also purchased a weed puller and little shovel thingy. They're currently in the shed with the tags still attached but one day soon I will go out and do battle with the dandelions. I swear. The good news is that a lot of the non-lawn part of the landscaping consists of hostas, which I am told are easy to care for and may survive my laissez faire approach.

So, updates to come after we talk to the sprinkler guy! Hey, based on how bad it is, maybe we can kick off next year with the nuclear option.

Friday, July 27, 2012

You gotta play it safe around electricity.

Let's start this post with a throwback PSA that summarizes the extent of my knowledge of home electrical systems:

More accurately, I guess, this WAS the extent of my knowledge. When we were first looking at our house and I looked at the electrical panel in the basement, I thought to myself, Huh, that looks old school. Our inspection confirmed this. We have a fuse box. I know that nowadays people refer to their circuit breaker boxes as fuse boxes, but let me just clarify that we have a fuse box, fo' real. It looks like this. There are little screw-in fuses that go into it.

Before he told us that we should replace it, our inspector explained that fuse boxes are really not such a bad technology, provided you don't screw in higher-strength fuses than you should, and provided you don't have anyone in the house who might playfully stick their finger in one of the sockets and thereby fry their insides to a crisp. Well. There are already higher-strength fuses than there should be in there. They allow 25 amps of current to flow on wires that are meant to accommodate 15 amps. We didn't do this; it already was that way, and the inspector pointed it out as a reason that fuse boxes are really far from foolproof.

So the day after we moved in we had two electricians come over to check it out and give us an estimate on changing this bad boy over to circuit breakers. Circuit breakers are so simple. You overload the circuit, the switch flips, you unplug your junk and go downstairs and flip the switch back. When you blow a fuse, you have to have another fuse on hand to replace it. It's like a light bulb. We haven't technically blown one yet, but when I use my blowdryer it makes a sound like this:


Wherein the big Rs represent the normal blowdryer sound and the little Rs represent the sad flagging sound it makes briefly in between bursts of normal sounds. This makes me nervous and I don't like to use the blowdryer in these conditions, which explains why my hair has looked so disheveled for the past couple days.

We booked our winning electrical company to come in two weeks, so hopefully I only have to tolerate this hair situation for a little longer. My blowdryer and me, we cannot be torn asunder.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Things to Make for Dinner When Your Kitchen is Dysfunctional: Volume I

One of the topics I'll be covering ad nauseum here is the fact that our kitchen does not... how you say... work. We knew most of this from the outset; the seller disclosed on her listing forms that the dishwasher, oven, and range hood were mostly broken. Since moving in, we've also found that two of the stove burners and the garbage disposal are not so functional. I will cover the esthetic issues in another post with photos, but the takeaway is that we are gutting this here kitchen. It's a little terrifying, but the two attempts I've made to cook anything in this place have solidified my commitment to this plan.

In the interim, though, we're getting creative with what and how we cook. Some friends have offered to lend us both a microwave and a toaster oven, but we haven't picked them up yet. (We will eventually buy a microwave but don't want to do it until we know more about our final layout plans.) So this leaves us with two stove burners, and the slow cooker we received as a wedding gift last September. Little did those gift-givers know that one day it would be prized as our least sketchy cooking appliance.

So, following a recipe that was floating around on Pinterest, this morning I put a whole chicken and a can of beer in the slow cooker. "Meat + can of something random" seems to be a common theme of slow cooker recipes; I've seen others with Coke and Dr. Pepper, and in fact I'm sure we'll have the pleasure of trying them out before this kitchen is done. Anyway, the chicken was fine. Very chickeny. Honestly I was just so glad when I came home at the end of the day and the house hadn't burned down (I'm learning a lot about the electrical system, yet another topic for another post) that the chicken was kind of secondary. We ate it on sandwich buns. I wanted barbecue sauce but we have not yet built our condiment selection back up since the move. (I threw out so many condiments. They should really sell hoisin sauce in tablespoon-sized units.)

So yeah, I don't know, put a chicken in your crockpot. It gets tender and stuff. When you're done you can probably scrape your plates into your functional garbage disposal and then put them in your functional dishwasher and think about me and my first-world problems.

Just realized that "Me and My First-World Problems" is a good alternate name for this blog.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Suburbia Calling

Well I can't even tell you how long I've been waiting to start writing here. Superstition kept me from doing it, because these deals have been known to fall apart, of course, but it's been a week and the papers are signed and no one has come to tell us it was all a joke so I feel safe enough now to say that we bought a house. It's a mid-century suburban rambler; it's on a creek; and it is fabulous. Or rather, it once was, and it will be again in five to ten years, give or take. We have some work to do. 

If you had asked me at the beginning of our house search how I felt about the mid-century era, I would have told you "meh." I pictured us in something older, like one of those bungalows in south Minneapolis that all seem to have amazing built-ins. This changed for a couple reasons: 1) My husband, Eric, grew up in outer suburbia with a pretty sizable yard and he wanted the same for future... short people in our family. Fair enough, I said, as long as you're doing the brunt of the mowing. 2) Another Eric reason: as we started going to open houses, it became clear that his height was an issue in a lot of older homes. He's 6'2", which is not astronomically tall, but I guess taller than the average bear back in the day. He would make a little show of standing on his tiptoes and brushing his head against the ceiling in basements, and I eventually conceded that it is reasonable to want to fit, literally, into your house. 

So we found ourselves at an open house in St. Louis Park, at a rambler that had been owned by the same couple for 40-some years. It was very dated... but also very, very cool. The layout made tons of sense. We both kind of loved it, and then a week later it was pending and we realized that duh, cool homes aren't lingering on the market these days. We got serious and listed our condo, and then, in the real estate miracle of our lives, it sold in one showing.

I'll probably get dopey a lot on this blog about how lucky I feel about everything, all the time, but the planets really did align for us. Not only did we get an almost instant offer for our condo, but when we actually found this house it was only because it was back on the market after an earlier deal had gone south. That earlier deal had come after multiple offers, and when we found it there was another offer on it AGAIN, so we made the best offer we could and then went to Don Pablos and ate our feelings and I had a giant margarita, possibly two. It took almost 24 hours to hear back, and when it happened I was at work and I screamed and all the ladies came a'runnin' to my office and I was pretty incoherent. 

That was two months ago. We moved in last Tuesday. I will take some "before" pictures as soon as we locate the camera. Like I said, we have a lot of work to do, but even now things feel kind of amazing. I am sitting on the deck as I write this, looking out over the creek and it is pretty stinking idyllic. I hope that feeling will stay as we discover all the little maintenance Easter eggs in store. The truth is, I have very little knowledge about how to do this stuff. I am armed only with a power drill and a membership to Angie's List. 

So let me see if I can type this with a straight face: I am Kate. I am the lady of the house.