Sunday, December 22, 2013

DIY Home Improvement

Our home online business has slowed down now that the holiday buying season is nearly complete, so we will hopefully be able to write more often.  We make the majority of our income online with our handcrafted jewelry line.  We don't make a lot, but we enjoy what we do (most of the time), and it is much less stressful than my previous state education job.  Additionally, it allows us to 1) work at home 2) keep our own schedule 3) have time to continue our quest to build a more self sufficient life.  At this point, we do count on the holiday season for some extra income.  Generally, it helps pay taxes for the year.

Our business, combined with continuing to work on the house, has kept us very busy.  I have been spending a lot of time in the bathroom.  Thankfully, not due to any unfortunate need to be frequenting it, but because we have been working on getting it in shape!  Yay!  I will be happy to not take showers while looking through the 6 mil plastic into the walls and finally having the ceiling insulated and enclosed!  No more worry of spiders crawling out of the ceiling down into the shower with me.

Rich has been working hard and aside from one breakage of a pvc fitting has done a great job.  It's now hard to imagine that it once had a rotten ceiling that had to be removed, holes in the floor, leaking pipes, and a disgusting toilet.  We still have a ways to go, but it's coming along.  Here are a few pictures:

Bathroom at the beginning - Deceptively "okay" looking
Torn apart and a new window!

Torn apart

Working on plumbing

Putting in a new ceiling fan

Lots of work

Getting there

Love having enclosed walls!

Almost there!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

House Update

Rich has finished the work needed for Allstate.  We've submitted the photos and they reinstated our insurance.  What a pain, but it is done.  I've included some pictures below.

Allstate Picture of Side of House

Allstate Picture of Open Side of House / Missing Siding

Getting closer

Stairs and everything is buttoned up!

Allstate Picture of the top eave they wanted painted

Completed eave that Rich had to climb up on the roof to paint during the wet rainy season!

We've put up our Christmas decorations.  It looks very festive around here.  We'll include more Christmas pictures next time.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Insurance Issues

Today we're going to focus on our house projects.  We were going to write about work we planned to do in the bathroom, but that has been put on hold for a while because we got word from Allstate, our insurance company, that they were going to drop us in one month on December 28th if we didn't fix what they consider issues with our house. they are...the issues:
  • The siding/frame exterior of our dwelling or garage has missing sections.
  • The windows of your dwelling or garage are boarded up.
  • Your detached structure has vegetation/plant growth.
  • Your soffits/fascia/eaves need paint.  (I had to look up soffit and fascia.)
  • Your side steps are missing.      

Really?  Do they understand that it is November in Washington State.  Who in their right mind is going to paint in November?  We knew those things needed to be done.  There is a 2 - 3 foot spot that needs to be painted (on the highest eave, of course). We were going to wait until spring.  Now, we are putting a rough coat of paint on it because they said we have to (for fire prevention reasons).  Then, we'll have to redo it next spring / summer when we do the whole house like we planned.  Seems silly and is frustrating.  Here is the picture of the eave that Allstate sent (we still have to paint this).

So...Rich went up on the extension ladder today because it's rare to have days without rain this time of year and today was one of those rare days.  That scared the you-know-what out of me because he has not been as sure-footed lately.  I don't know if it's residual from his treatment or not, but it was nerve-racking.  He climbed the ladder and painted the boarded up window that we were going to replace with a cool door down the road when we extend the deck.  Now we have a brown spot instead.  Here is the picture Allstate sent and the finished spot:

Allstate's picture

Our Brown Spot

We had completed the back stairs even before we got their letter.  We figured they wanted them there because we may forget there are no steps and walk out the door falling to the ground...right!  Actually, I suppose it's for liability reasons in case someone visiting our property were to do that.  Following is their picture (we'll show both the steps next time - didn't get a good shot):

Allstate's picture showing that steps are needed

The siding / exterior has also been worked on.  I showed that in a previous post, but now we need to paint the plywood that Rich was putting on for the winter until we can properly side it next spring. Here is Allstate's picture:

Allstate's picture of the siding / foundation

Rich's fix for now - still needs to be finished and painted:

Apparently, it's an Allstate requirement that outbuildings in Washington State have to be insured.  At least that is what I was told when I called.  I asked for clarification because our old barns are just that...old.  We are planning to fix them up for rescue animals someday, but I asked if we could just take them off the policy for now until we can get everything else done.  Clearing the blackberries away from the side of the barn as it shows in their photo is the least of our worries.  Blackberries in Western Washington, imagine!  

She said that we couldn't remove the barns from the policy.  Really?  We can't choose what we insure on our own property?  Oh, my.  Allstate requires that all buildings be in good condition or they will not insure you.  Allstate's picture of our barn: blackberries:

Do you know that I was told by Allstate that if we have some small claim, say, pipes burst doing maybe $1000.00 worth of damage, that we shouldn't claim because they frown on that and may even drop us.  Crazy.  We should only claim if we have a larger issue like our house burns up, or a tree falls on it and completely demolishes it.  

Meanwhile, one website wrote that Thomas Wilson, CEO of Allstate, made 10.7 million a year.  Unbelievable.  I have included a link to a couple of interesting articles / papers about insurance companies and Allstate is specifically mentioned.  One is about a computer program that insurance companies now use that does not benefit policy holders  (click here to read it) The other is a PDF about the Ten Worst Insurance Companies from (click here to get to the PDF on Google)


Quest for the Good Life and Balance 

I'm taking deep breaths and remembering that we're working on finding balance in our lives.  I do admit that the outside world makes it very difficult sometimes.

I'm still reading the books on happiness.  I have finished Dr. Weil's book.  It was good, and I learned some new things, but it seems that I was already familiar with many of the action steps.  The one I am reading now is titled:  Happy for No Reason by Marci Shimoff. It's pretty good.  I'll write more on it as I get further into it.  Takes a while because I don't have a lot of time to read right now.


We have been discussing our idea for our senior animal rescue or sanctuary.  Basically, we would like to take senior animals in that have less chance of being adopted because of their age and give them a good home and lots of love for however long they may be with us.  It's starting to take shape.  We won't have a lot of animals because we want them to have the best care.   This has been one of my dreams since I was a child. I hope to see it finally come to be

Friday, November 8, 2013

Happiness - How To Be Happy

We've now shared with you a little about the house, what it looks like, some of its problems and some of its whimsical charms.  We wrote that we would like to have more balance and serenity in our lives, and some of the things we find important in order to find that balance.

As we go along we will continue to share:

>>different projects around the house that we have undertaken (and will continue to undertake).

>>steps we're taking to create more balance and serenity in our lives.

>>obstacles and blessings we encounter along the way.

In each post, we plan to either focus on what's been happening with the house OR finding balance in our lives, but we will also include a short blurb about the other topic.  One thing I've been thinking about when seeking balance is happiness.  What does it mean to be happy?  It's interesting to read about different perspectives on happiness.

Wikipedia defines happiness as:
Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.

And they have this popular image on their "happiness" page...

I've read there is an epidemic of depression in the United States, and looking in bookstores and online there is a plethora of books about happiness - how to get it, where to find it, why it's missing, and on and on.  Type "happiness" in the search bar at Amazon and there are 159,888 results.  Google it and there are 197,000,000 results.  To borrow a saying from one of The Big Bang Theory characters, Penny, "Holy crap!" That's a lot of results!

I sometimes wonder if we have a false expectation of happiness.  I have been reading Dr. Andrew Weil's book, Spontaneous Happiness.  I find it interesting, as I have many of his books.  He writes that we all have our normal ups and downs, but the trick is to not get stuck there. I believe we should not dwell in a negative mode -  that thinking positively and have optimism are very important, but I also wonder if happiness is the same for everybody.  You see people in the most dire situations that seem to be truly happy - smiling and joyful. 

He also writes about serenity.  I think I have experienced serenity (if momentarily).  It was different from just everyday feeling okay.  It felt like true peace, as if I was exhaling after being tense for a long time.

At any rate, I'm look forward to reading more about happiness.  Not necessarily to learn how to BE happier, but just to contemplate what we, as a society, believe happiness to be and to draw my own conclusions about happiness, emotional balance and serenity.

There are several books I want to read. Here are some of them:


This is the one I am reading now by Dr. Andrew Weil:

As we start our new life here at Huckleberry Hill, we are trying to lighten our spirits some.  Things were hard for a while (with Rich's treatment, financial and work difficulties), so now we are trying to shift gearsThinking patterns that are created over a period of time don't just go away. One of the things we love to do is watch something funny everyday, and preferably right before bed, so we go to bed with lightness in our hearts.

Two of our favorite laugh 'til you cry shows are:
The Big Bang Theory (My uncle introduced us to this show. It's hilarious!)

Some of our favorite belly-laugh movies include:
Date Night
Galaxy Quest
50 First Dates
Blast from the Past
Sex in the City  

Rich worked on the foundation of the house with my dad.  They needed to replace some rotten beams on the northwest side.  What an awful job.  He had to crawl under the house along with our spider population.  We have a ton of spiders - yuck, but the house is fixed.  He needs to button-up the side a bit.  Otherwise it is strong and stable.  He will be replacing the floor in that back corner, but that will wait until next spring.

He had to replace the section all the way from the left to the bay window on the right.  He also put in the new French doors to no where at this point until we get deck rebuilt.


Until next, smile, smile!



Saturday, October 26, 2013

The House at Huckleberry Hill

House at Huckleberry Hill

We haven't talked much about the house other than little comments here and there.  Following is a list of some of the more negative aspects of the house that we are either planning to fix (or have fixed) or learning to live with:
  • We hoped not to have such close neighbors
  • Lots of spiders
  • Roof was covered in moss and not salvageable.  It caused some damage to the inside of the house due to leaking.
  • Dogs had run rampant in the house
  • House was filthy
  • House slopes a little to the back - not from slipping or settling it seems. They just didn't do a great job building on the back part of the house.
  • Plumbing, plumbing and more plumbing
  • Several windows were out and boarded up including the French doors
  • Deck was rotten and falling down   
  • All the floors need to be redone and lots of new sheet rock put in 
We've included some pictures of the house for this post.
Note the moss covered roof and the beginning of the debris pile from the inside of the house
French doors - We found fabulous new (to us) doors on Craigs List.  We'll show them on another posting.

Just some of the dirt and uck that was on the walls when we first arrived

My dad and Rich working on the bathroom - plumbing, plumbing and more plumbing

View from the bottom of the property when we first arrived
View after Rich pruned terribly overgrown laurel.

We will be posting some pictures of the work that has been done shortly. 

I had to include the following pictures of the maple trees leaves. They are beautiful this time of year.
Fall scene at Huckleberry Hill
Big Leaf Maples