March 22, 2009

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

Lately I’ve become interested in signs; no, not the kind of signs that involve famine, pestilence, earthquakes, etc. I’m talking about road signs. I recently took a day trip to a small town in Washington and was greeted by the following sign as we entered.

Really? When did we give up on trying to stop people from drinking and driving? Now we just warn everyone to watch out for the drunk drivers like we warn them about ice on the road? This seems so wrong. I was even more worried when I got further into town and saw a building that proclaimed it was the Town Hall Pub. Aha! No wonder they have a sign warning visitors about drunk drivers on the road.

But that wasn’t the only interesting sign I came across. I was intrigued by the ones that advised people they had to wear their seat belts both day and night. Sorry I don’t have a picture, but if you’re in Washington, just take a look at the signs on the highway. I guess I just assumed the law covered both day and night. I wonder how many people went to court arguing that it wasn’t specific enough? And did people assume the law didn’t apply to daytime or to evenings? There must have been quite a few for them to go along the highway adding this to every seat belt sign (yes, it’s tacked on under the original portion of the sign).

But this is the Washington state sign that really had me pondering the consequences.

Oh my! And they said Texas’ litter signs sounded too tough (Don’t mess with Texas). At least we weren’t overtly threatening violence and pain. Do they break one finger for your first offense, two for your second and so on? Maybe they just give you a good swift kick in the pants. Whatever the punishment, it was enough to make me hold onto my trash until I was home and could dispose of it without retribution.

I’m going to keep my eyes open for other intriguing signs. If you see a good one, let me know or send me a picture.

March 18, 2009

Kissing Frogs

A couple of people have complained that I'm not updating my blog often enough. Yippee! People are reading and they care. I'll admit, I have been a slacker lately and I promise to post regularly from this point forward. I also promise that not all future posts will be about house browsing. Once spring arrives and I find things that catch my attention, you will see more photos taken by me as well. Now, with all that said, let's move on to what is on my mind today.

Of course it has to do with house browsing because that has been the focus of my attention this week. I've realized there is so much to pay attention to when looking at houses, not just with the house itself, but also the surrounding area. Does it have bus stop in front of it? Is it on a high traffic street? Is there an apartment building next door? Is the neighbor's yard filled with cars or is their yard well maintained? Is it across the street from a high school? Is it on a corner lot? Are there extremely large trees in jeopardy of falling on the house? Is it directly behind a liquor store (yes, I did drive by one that was - note the words drive by, not stopped by)? The number of things to consider is dizzying. Yes, I'm fully aware that I fret too much and some things can be overlooked if it's the right house.

I've also realized that as a single income person (not a large single income), I can only afford homes within a certain price range. Further, it seems that all the houses within my price range are "special" in some way. I expect some uniqueness and I expect to have a few items I'll have to repair or pretty up, but the degree of specialness I've seen lately is causing me to doubt my search for my future dwelling place. You know you're in trouble when the real estate agent gets to the house first and greets you at the door by saying, "Let's go see the next house." My mom is still wondering just how bad that one was; I've moved on.

Searching for the right house is much like searching for Mr. Right. As we all know, you sometimes have to kiss a lot of frogs first. Apparently I'm deep into the frog kissing stage of this house thing. For those who may want to chastise me and tell me that no man and no house are perfect, I realize that. I'm not looking for the perfect house (or the perfect man), but I am looking for the one that is perfect for me. You may say they are one and the same, I say that's not true. When I say I'm looking for the one that is perfect for me, I'm saying I know there will be flaws and there will goofy things that others will find annoying, but for me and my personality, it will suit me and be endearing and achieve near perfection in my eyes.

So the browsing continues. I know I'm probably driving my mom, step dad, and real estate agent crazy but I really can't help it. The right frog that will turn into an enchanted cottage hasn't come along yet. When it does, I will know it, and I will see beyond the warts and rough exterior to the beautiful life I will build inside its walls.

March 3, 2009


We’re all a little quirky, and some would say I’m the queen of quirk, but I’ve discovered there are people out there who might be quirkier than I. For instance, during my recent house browsing, I've been amazed at what people have chosen to do with their homes. Odd things such as adding on a very narrow enclosed space that runs the width of the back of a house, covering up several large windows and adding only one tiny window and a door. Now the large windows look into a narrow, dark room with a concrete floor. What is the purpose of this area? I have no idea.

And then there is the house that has a huge backyard with plenty of room for enlarging the square footage of the house, but the owners chose instead to increase their bedroom size in their driveway. Yes, they blocked their only access to parking their car in the garage in favor of a larger bedroom and closet. So now they have a driveway that goes through their bedroom. Really. It disappears under the house and reemerges on the other side.

One of my personal favorites is the very small house (750 sq. ft.) with three dining rooms. OK. Maybe not all three areas are actually dining rooms, but they've placed dining room type lighting fixtures in the rooms and they hang awfully low. You enter the house through the front door and are in the living room. Turn to your right and there's the first dining room area. Walk to this area and look to your left, there is another dining room area. Beyond that is the kitchen which has a bar that looks out onto, yes, another dining room area. What amused me most was the marketing verbiage. "Plenty of dining space for cozy family dinners!" You've got that right.

But the grand daddy of all quirkiness has to be the house I visited on Sunday. This was truly an OMG! moment. This house is just down the street from my mom's and I've often wondered what it looked like inside. You see, from the outside it had, since I've lived in Spokane, looked like a homemade fortress patched together with corrugated metal, plywood, and chicken wire; quite a thing to behold, I assure you, especially inside city limits. But last year, something happened to the residents. An estate sale was held (I wasn't brave enough to go) and someone attempted to clean up the yard and put new siding on the front portion of the house (just the front and part of two sides). They also replaced the front door so I assumed that they had worked on the inside to prep it for sale. When I saw that they were holding an open house, I raced to my mom and talked her into walking up the street to have a look. The pictures I've included do not do it justice (see below).

The owners were apparently fond of electric blue and painted all of the inside this eye popping color in various shades (floor to ceiling blue, cabinets blue, carpet blue, everything blue). On the living room wall is a very large mural of an ocean scene and they attached an equally large wooden boat structure to it. The lucky new owner gets to keep it for free. The bedrooms and bathroom were old, electric blue and quirky but nothing compared to the "bonus" room the owners had added on without bothering with the legalities of permits, inspections, and what not.

So you walk into the house and you're in the living room facing a bank of windows (which you see once you stop looking at the large mural and boat). If you go further into the room, you'll see the electric blue kitchen to your left with its own bank of windows. Both sets of large windows look directly into the "bonus" room which is two stories tall. Talk about vaulted ceilings! There is no backyard to be seen from this view, only blue carpet, plywood walls, odd wooden pilings, and two strange concrete squares. It’s about the size of a basketball court. I felt sorry for the poor real estate salesman. He really was giving it his best shot and offered that this might make a good day care. Um, yeah. I don't think so. But points for creativity.

The owners had apparently built the room as a place for their grandchildren to play. In one of the odd square concrete areas, they had once had a tall tank with a wooden structure the kids could climb onto so they could dive into the tank. No safety issues there. The other concrete square used to hold a hot tub. There were two or three sets of handmade wooden ladders that led to platforms high above the vivid blue carpet and concrete squares. A basketball hoop adorned one wall, although I don't know how they kept from knocking the plywood walls down when making shots. Maybe they were just very good.

It was shocking. There was a finished basement, but Mom and I were so entranced by the "bonus" room that we never made it to the basement. OK, maybe there was a bit of fear involved too. This was the ultimate in quirkiness. I have to really wonder what people are thinking sometimes, but then I look at my own life and I see things that, if I were to disappear suddenly today, would make people wonder.

We’re all a little quirky, and most of the time I think that’s a good thing; however, when you’re trying to sell your house, you probably don’t want your quirkiness to come through. But then again, they say there is something for everyone out there. Perhaps there is someone who is looking for an odd narrow room, a garage with no driveway, three dining rooms in a small house, or a plywood bonus room with retro blue carpet. I’m sure the place I ultimately end up living in will have a bit of quirk as well. The difference will be that I will think it’s charming simply because it's mine. That's the nice thing about being quirky, there's always someone who thinks it's loveable.

If you have a quirky feature you’ve added to your house and you’re willing to admit it, I’d love to hear about it. E-mail me or comment below.