Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Future

Ahhh, the future. That's pretty grand and vague. Are you ready for a text-heavy post?

Do you remember back in August when John and I celebrated 7 years of being together? In my post, I said that I was finally really happy where I was, and for once in my life, I wasn't looking forward to the next big thing. Rather, I was able to live in and appreciate those awesome moments. I'm happy to say that nearly a year later, I still feel the same way. So, while I'm looking forward to the future in a general sense, I don't find myself actively hoping it will come sooner rather than later. We're in such a fantastic chapter of our lives together and I just want to savor every moment!

With that said... the future. Let's talk about that. Currently, John and I live in a 1,400 sqft condo, which is more room than we actually need. Not by much, but we rarely ever use the guest room (guest count: 1 in the past 16 months), and we don't spend much time in the loft, either. Some day though, in the very (very, very, very) distant future, there will be more than just us + Olive. When the time comes for us to get a larger place, we plan to do a sort of property swap with my dad.

Between our condo, my childhood home, our investment property, and my dad's girlfriend's condo, we are lucky to have a lot of flexibility when it comes to a property shuffle. Our current line of thinking is for me and John to move into my childhood home, which is almost 2,200 sqft, for my dad and his girlfriend to move into one of the other three properties, and for us to rent out the remaining two. 

I haven't posted in a while, and that's because 1. I've been super busy with work (woo hoo!) and 2. there's just not much going on around here because I've more or less done everything I'd like to do to the condo. We're slowly replacing the three toilets (one down, two to go), so I should have a post about that eventually... aren't you excited?! ;)

Luckily, there are some things happening over at my childhood home that I can post about! Let's have an introduction, shall we? Like I said, the house is about 2,200 sqft. It sits on a corner lot and has 4 beds, 2.5 baths, a formal dining room, and a second living room. In my next post, I'll share some pictures, but for now, here's the floor plan.


The home is rather outdated. The kitchen was redone in the middle of 2005 (with questionable finishes), and we had the windows replaced at the end of 2010. Other than that, everything is pretty much original to when my parents bought the house in 1987... carpet and wallpaper included. I must say, the carpet is looking pretty good for being nearly 30 years old, which I'd chalk up to the fact that no shoe has ever walked on it. As clean as it may be considering its age, its still in need of replacement, which I hope to do in the next year or so.

The only other thing that's been done is painting, both interior and exterior. Let's just say that our condo is very lucky that my childhood home took the brunt of my novice paint selections and techniques. There were some big oops moments that I'm totally mortified to share with you... but I will. Not today, but soon. 

If you remember, I may have gone a little overboard during the paint selection process for the condo, when I got test pots of nearly 15 cans of paint and painted test patches on every single wall of every single room to see how they'd look in all possible scenarios (morning, noon, night, lights on, lights, off, etc.). The reason I did that is because I truly made some seriously horrendous mistakes in my dad's house by not putting actual paint on the walls and instead merely holding up a paint chip in one kind of light. You won't even believe me if I tell you, so you'll just have to wait and see.

Next time, I'll share some pictures of the actual house, and hopefully I can find some of its original glamour so you can see where it started. Soon, there will be big changes in my dad's back yard that I'll be excited to show you! Plus, we're doing a mini kitchen remodel in our investment property, so I'll share that when the time comes as well.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Holy Union

I always liked the light fixture that was installed in our dining room when we bought our house. It felt fun and interesting... but then two things happened. 1. We painted the walls yellow which made the little votives look kind of dirty in comparison, and 2. the bulbs started burning out, and it turns out they cost $9 a piece. I've already spent $27 replacing bulbs, and I'm sure the other ones are close to burning out as well, so I figured I'd cut my losses and get something new.


Shall we pay our respects with a throwback to this hilarious moment?


Moving on. I've been on the lookout for the perfect fixture for the past 6 months or so, and finally, this guy went on sale at Crate & Barrel.



The mighty Union Pendant was still a little more than I wanted to spend, so lucky me that I got to buy the floor sample for an additional 15% off. I used the last of our wedding gift card money and paid the balance out of pocket which felt very weird, since we've shopped for "free" at Crate & Barrel for over a year now!

Had I hung the fixture exactly as it came, it would have nearly sat on the floor because the chain was so long. Typically, you just remove extra lengths to shorten it up, but the wonderful people at Crate & Barrel had soldered every. single. chain. link. together. This meant that I had to saw through the links and then bend them apart, which added an additional hour or so to the process. I'm a little nervous that I now have little metal filings embedded in my skin from all the sawing, which I only know is something to be concerned about because when you go to get an MRI, they ask you if there's a possibility of having metal shavings in your body. I guess because the magnet would pull them out  (the M of MRI stands for magnetic)? Yikes. Fingers crossed I don't ever have to find out.

Anyway, onto the fun part. Let's install this baby! I don't have very many pictures of the installation process because holy cow are light fixtures heavy, which makes balancing on a ladder and snapping pictures a bit tricky. 

Step 1. Turn off power to the fixture
Step 2. Remove the fixture (de-couple the fixture's wires from the ceiling wires)


Step 3. Install the new fixture (re-couple the fixture's wires with the ceiling wires, being sure to match black to black, white to white, and copper to copper)


Step 4. Have sore arms for 5 days from holding the fixture up for so long. Oh, and marvel at your work.

The old one is sitting in the garage waiting for me to Craigslist it. Know anyone that wants an inexpensive light fixture with semi-expensive bulbs?


Now I have this pretty view when I come down the stairs. It's nice and substantial feeling without being bulky, and it only has one bulb! 


The one that's in there is the one that came with it, but I think I may switch it out for an Edison bulb. Any suggestions on where to get them? Good deals? Cool shapes? I've never bought one before so I'm not "in the know."

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Come. Sit. Play.

Olive's birthday party didn't quite warrant printing out and mailing invitations, so instead I made a Facebook event and DIYed an "invitation" that was posted to the page. Oh Photoshop, what would I do without you?


First I chose a picture of Olive to include on the invite.


Next, I cut her body out (and fudged her paws a little), and applied a watercolor filter.


After that, I started typing. I found some dog birthday party invitations on Pinterest that said "Come, sit, stay" but I felt a little weird instructing humans to "stay," so I went with play instead. The font is Debonair Inline, from dafont.com


I used Janda Elegant Handwriting (also from dafont.com) for some of the details, alternating with more Debonair Inline.


I knew I wanted a "2" somewhere, since Olive was turning two. My first idea was to do it in the background, but because of where Olive's picture was located, it looked a little top heavy.


Instead, I decided to add some balloons which I did by making lots of semi-opaque ovals, and tied those to the number two.


And voila!


Is anyone else as obsessed with Photoshop as I am? I have no idea how I would run my business (let alone my dog's very, very important birthday parties) without it.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Metal Magic

Ok, so back in my post about our trip to Florida, I alluded to creating earrings using magic. I would say that statement is about 50% true. The other 50% of the recipe was, apparently, sheer and utter frustration. BUT, but but but, the result is really cool.  Let it be known up front that the documentation for this project wasn't great. I'll chalk that up to being on vacation, and oh, the fact that my hands were required to be covered in olive oil (really!).

Would you be surprised to know that these earrings started as clay and ended as metal? Hint: no spray paint was involved--they really and truly are silver.


These magical earrings are made from a product called PMC3--precious metal "clay," which is actually not clay at all, but does look and feel similar to clay. It comes in various metals, such as copper, gold, bronze, etc., and we used silver for our project. The stuff is hella expensive, at around $40 for 9 grams (which, for reference, is maybe the size of a AA battery).


The tools you use are the same ones you'd use to work with regular clay, plus a spray bottle filled with water, and a bowl of olive oil. This "clay" is extremely sticky (think gum/silly putty), so the olive oil is supposed to help keep it from sticking to you and whichever tools you're using to manipulate it. The water is for keeping it moist, because it dries out very quickly.


After hours of trying to figure this stuff out (but really), these are the two pieces I made. They don't look all that nice, I know. Trust me though, it was hard to achieve! I couldn't even go into detail about why this product is so impossible because I think I've blocked the trauma from my memory. Ask my aunt--she'll back me up, but it's mainly due to the fact that it sticks to everything it touches.


After the pieces were formed, we put them on a little heating element to dry them out. After they were bone dry, we used very fine sand paper to remove any rough edges, and then we got ready to fire them up!


We used a Beehive Kiln to fire the pieces. Flame is apparently normal, and only lasts for 10 seconds or so. I think it's probably the olive oil burning off. 


This is where we ran into lots of problems. The directions that came with the kiln (which my aunt had never used before) kept referencing a piece that we didn't have, which controlled the temperature. Without this piece, the kiln heated up, but we had no idea if it was too hot or not hot enough. With no alternative, we decided to move forward. We decided to use the "lid" to keep in as much heat as possible.


We knew that once the pieces glowed a salmon color, they would be ready to remove, which is supposed to take about 15-20 minutes. Unfortunately, after 25 minutes, they still weren't glowing. The plate under them was glowing, but the pieces themselves were not.


We decided to remove them anyway, and dropped them in a cup of cold water, as was suggested. They looked more or less the same as they did before they were fired--still a very light grey.


The next step was to scrub them with a metal-bristled brush using water and dish soap. These pictures are of my aunt scrubbing her piece. 



After she finished hers, I very excitedly scrubbed mine. One of them snapped in half. Womp womp. It was the thinner of the two, and was markedly thinner because controlling this material is next to impossible. Regardless, the piece being thin shouldn't have caused it to snap, and we're 99% sure that they didn't get fired hot enough, which didn't allow them to fully transition to silver. My initial plan was to solder the pieces back together, but my grandfather didn't have any silver solder, and I learned once I got back to Austin that PMC3 actually can't be soldered. 


Instead, I decided to get some good ol' metal epoxy. JB Weld was recommended by multiple people, so I thought I'd give it a shot.


I just flipped it over, dabbed it on, and so far, so good.


I added some colorful beads so the earrings weren't so one-dimensional, but made sure to choose something small enough that you could still see the pattern in the metal clay.


So, what do you think? Magic, right? I've vowed to never touch this material again, but have enthusiastically told my aunt to keep at it ;) She's the most creative person I know, and is certainly more patient than I am, so I think she has a good shot at figuring it out. By the end of the process though, we were both totally exhausted and on edge.


Have you all ever worked with this stuff, or even heard of it? Have you ever made jewelry out of something unconventional? There are shops on Etsy that work in metal clay, and I just stare a the pieces in awe knowing how difficult it is to even touch the material and not have it turn into a gunky mess!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Crazy Dog Parents

This past weekend we decided to celebrate Olive's second birthday by having some friends and their pooches over to eat Pok-e-Jo's fajitas. For whatever reason, John and I never have parties for our own birthdays, so we thought this would be a good excuse to get together with people. We kept it pretty small to avoid overwhelming Olive and my mother-in-law's backyard, which is where we gathered since our yard isn't large enough to accommodate everyone.

I made an invitation in Photoshop, and next week (or the week after?) I'll post step-by-step instructions on how I did it.

My mother-in-law doesn't actually live at 12345 Main Street... wouldn't that be cool

Are you ready for some blurry pictures? I wasn't very focused on picture-taking, and I just set my camera to automatic and didn't review what I shot. Stupid me should have set it to a much faster shutter speed. Ah well.

"Why doesn't this taste like Cool Whip?"

Bentley

Simon, hoarding tennis balls. He spent a lot of time trying to pick up two at a time. Bahaha

I mean, you have to have balloons at a party, right?!
This was the extent of my decorations.

Olive (for the most part) played nicely with the other dogs. At one point
she got a little territorial over her bowl of Cool Whip water,
but who wouldn't?! "Cooooool Whiip... COOL WHIP!" Sing it!

Toby

Playing chase

Whoosh!! Cousin Hank is here!

It was a tight squeeze...

Hank really, really wanted to eat fajitas with us. Nom nom nom

John's grandparents came to celebrate with us because they had never been to a dog's
birthday party and wanted to see what it was all about. Makes sense to me!

A friendly game of tug-of-war with a highly coveted stick

The three of us

So, have you ever lost your mind and done something silly like celebrated your dog's birthday? I actually felt much less ridiculous once the party got started. It really was the perfect excuse to get everyone together, and luckily it wasn't insanely hot. Still hot, but a little cooler than it had been during the previous week. Double bonus: I jokingly invited one of my college friends/bridesmaids who lives in New Orleans to come for the party, and she actually did! We had a blast seeing the Austin sights during her 4 day stay, including my new favorite thing--segway tours. OHMYGOD get yourself on a segway.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Syndication Solution

New Policies
The Austin Board of Realtors (ABOR) has announced that starting May 1st, they will no longer syndicate listings that are entered in the MLS. This new policy could have a large impact on your ability to sell your home, depending on the agent you choose to represent you.

Did you know that 95% of homebuyers start their search online? With information about the thousands of homes that are currently for sale just a click away, the internet is a smart place for buyers to get their feet wet. I'm sure you're familiar with many of the prominent websites that host this information, such as Zillow, Trulia, Home Finder, Homes.com, Yahoo Homes, and many more. Would you be shocked to hear that starting this week, ABOR will no longer push listings to any of these websites?

A strong online presence is a key aspect of advertising your home, and helps ensure it receives the most interest, and ultimately, the most money in your pocket. With nearly 30% of all home sales being facilitated via these types of websites, sellers can't afford to have their homes kept off highly trafficked sites. With ABOR's new policy, home listings will only be syndicated to three websites: austinhomesearch.com, realtor.com, and texasrealestate.com.

Since listings will not be automatically pushed to countless high-profile sites like they currently are, it will be up to agents to decide whether or not they spend the copious amounts of time manually entering their listings into dozens of sites to provide their clients' homes with the exposure they deserve.


My Solution
The work-around for this issue is yet another reason I'm thankful to be a part of the Keller Williams family. Because we are such a large company, we have our very own in-house listing service, which pulls in all of our listings from the MLS. After that data is received, it's syndicated out to over 900(!) websites, so our clients' homes have the most exposure possible. While I probably couldn't name 100 real estate websites, much less 900, the impact is simple: if you list your home with me, your home will be exposed to the most buyers possible.


As far as we know, KW is the only brokerage with an internal listing service (known as the KWLS), which means our company is the only one who will not experience a moment of change when this new policy goes into effect. Rather than spending my time entering and re-entering information about my sellers' homes into website after website, KW will automatically do this for me, which helps ensure I reserve my time for more productive activities, such as finding buyers for my listings, communicating with my clients, and educating myself on our ever-changing market.

If you're interested in listing your home for sale with an agent who isn't affiliated with Keller Williams, I urge you to ask them how they plan to market your home, and how quickly they will have information about it available on prominent websites.

A strong online presence is only one facet of my advertising package. If you want to hear more about what I do to get top dollar for my sellers' homes, give me a call!



Thursday, April 24, 2014

Florida Livin'

John and I spent this past weekend visiting my mom's side of the family in Fort Myers, Florida. When I was young and we'd go to visit, we always stayed with my grandparents in my mother's childhood home, and it has always held a special place in my heart. These days, my grandparents spend the majority of the year in their home in the Virginia mountains, which means their home in Florida doesn't get lived in and cared for the way it should. For this reason, they're planning to sell it, so I felt it was important to take John there so he could see where so many of my favorite childhood memories took place.

The idea of someone purchasing their home, which is beautiful and full of character and memories, just so that they can bulldoze it and build a generic McMansion (which seems to be the most likely scenario) has brought me to tears. A few times. Visiting helped a lot with getting some closure, and I took some pictures to immortalize its charm. Since my grandparents are in the process of moving everything out of the house, some rooms are nearly empty and others are full of boxes and misplaced belongings, so the few pictures I took are just of small and random portions (like corners) of the house.

Their house sits on the Caloosahatchee River, and their yard has a sort of delightfully overgrown, jungle feel. It's not actually overgrown--really, it's nicely maintained--but it's so lush and green that it feels totally wild.

The view from their back patio

When I was young, I'd wake up each morning and come outside to find
my dad reading the paper right on the river next to this tree

They have the most beautiful sunsets!

The front of the house. Their windows swing out and have screens on the inside. No AC required!


Clearly you can't see much of the kitchen here--the point is that view!
I've always loved this stairway for some reason

One of the bathrooms

The upstairs hallway

The half bath

I know this picture doesn't look very spectacular, but those used to be exterior windows,
which were left in place when the porch was enclosed. I love the crown
molding and the breadboard ceiling, which are much sweeter in person.

This picture isn't all that glamorous--it's a shot of my grandfather's workshop, where we spent countless hours
making strange gadgets that only he could dream up

Here's his lathe, which he's turned dozens of wooden bowls on. Dozens may be a vast understatement.
This is the same lathe I turned my first bowl on, as well!
If you're unfamiliar with turning bowls on a lathe, here are just a few of the many that my grandfather has made.

The one in the very center is my favorite, followed by the one in the top left. Details like that
take an unbelievable amount of time and work!

In addition to their main house, they also own some land with a creek that runs through it about 30 minutes away. They built a very small, charming house on it in the 60s. This property is where one of my uncles married my aunt, and is also where I learned to drive many years before I should have been behind the wheel. (Shh. I won't tell if you don't.)


Look at those windows!

There's a loft where my three uncles used to sleep, while my mom got her own bedroom. Lucky duck

We ate some mulberries while we were out there. Yummm

This is just some random door near my grandparents' property that leads to somewhere mysterious.
I think it's somewhere amazing and beautiful, like a secret garden. John, on the other hand,
claims it goes to an evil lair. Boys...

Now, shall we get on to what we did other than stare at architecture? Meet my uncle Stephen.

I don't know what kind of knife that actually is, but let's refer to it as a
machete, because that's probably the only kind of knife I can name.

Why does my uncle have a machete in his mouth? Let's back up a sec. The Browns are a much more fun/exciting/adventurous group than I am. Seeing my husband up there on that teeny tiny platform made my risk-averse hear skip a beat, even though I've been up there a thousand times.

John just got a few inches taller...
Why is John standing on a giant platform? To jump off, of course!

John's first time on the bag swing

So, back to the machete. My uncle decided there were tree limbs that were getting in the way of the bag swing rope, so he scaled the tree to cut them down. I'm kicking myself for not taking a panoramic shot of how long the rope is, but it's a long way to the top. You can kind of tell in the picture below.

And in case you're wondering about how my risk-averse self was feeling as my uncle hovered over my husband with a machete in his mouth, I felt great about it.

Don't mind the fact that John's in a different shirt. I took these over different
days. Mah bad

My turn!

Woosh!

It's a shame you can't tell how high up I am in this picture... but it's high!

Aunt Kathie, Uncle Stephen, me, and John

In the name of tradition, which, if you know me, you know is very important to me, we started each morning at the bagel factory.

Best bagel I've ever had... ahhhhh

John was very sweet and learned how to make rubber band bracelets. Perhaps an Etsy shop is in his future? ;)

For Easter, we dyed some eggs. Sarah, Margaret, and Lili are my (not-so-little) little redheaded cousins.

My grandfather, Robin, my grandmother, Jan, me, and John
 
Me and my great aunt Susie. Isn't she beautiful?!

My grandfather and uncle were working on some device with unknown purpose in my
grandfather's workshop. During his waking hours, if he's not eating a meal,
he's guaranteed to be found out there

The gang went to a classical concert one night. Another one of my cousins, Emily, is in the top right.

Outside of the art center, which is where the concert was held, were these amazing
light installments that cast shadows all over the ground and the building

Ahhh, what a trip! I'm very glad we went. I somehow never managed to get a picture of us with my other aunt and uncle, Stacey and Stuart. Dang! Later on, I'll post about a DIY jewelry project I did with my aunt Stacey and you will literally think I performed magic. Seriously. I won't let you down.