Looking Ahead To 2016

I’ve never been one to make New Year’s Resolutions, and I’m certainly not about to start now. Last year, I wrote about certain goals such as quitting smoking (which I’ve accomplished) and losing weight (which I’m still working on). I bought a house in 2015, so there’s lots to do with upkeep and projects I’d like to undertake to make improvements. My career is bit weird right now – on the one hand I was just given another promotion and moved from being hourly to salaried with a raise coming sometime within the next month or so, but on the other hand the product I support is being discontinued which could mean either having to start looking or could be an opportunity to train in something different soon.

I can’t say what 2016 will hold, but if it is even half as successful as 2015 was, it’ll be a good year.

~ JC


Adventures in Home Ownership 3: Kiss my Grass

Our new house came with a big yard. According to the official paperwork, we have 0.79 acres, which is about 3,823 square yards. That’s a lot of grass to mow! (Actually, in our case, it’s a lot of weeds and clover to mow, but that’s probably a topic for a future blog.) In fact, I should probably be out mowing it now instead of sitting at my computer drinking coffee and writing this blog, but it’s raining, so here I am.

Keeping the yard under control has been an adventure for sure. To begin with, when we moved in at the end of May it was already starting to get overgrown and we did not yet own a lawnmower so we hired someone to come cut for us the first time. Shortly after that, we found a riding mower on craigslist for $350 so I was able to cut it myself, the plan being to do so at least once a week (did I mention it’s raining right now or that it rained last weekend too?). The best of plans, of course, don’t always work out the way they are intended. Rainy weather (like today and last weekend) and maintenance issues with “Ducky” (my affectionate nickname for our lawnmower due to the duct tape holding part of the hood together) means our yard doesn’t always get cut like it should.

Even on good weeks when we can take care of the yard, it’s a two-person job, otherwise it would take hours to complete. My fiancée fires up the push mower (which I bought brand new at Home Depot) while I hop on “Ducky”. She gets all the spots that the rider can’t get to and I get the rest, including the massive back yard. The problem I have, from time to time, is how thick it gets when it has rained and a weekly mowing has been skipped. I’m not always able to lower the deck as much as I want because the blades get bogged down. Even on a higher setting, I still have to stop probably every second or third lap to clear clippings from the deflector.

Excessive rainy periods causing the “grass” to grow super-fast aside, there’s also the adventure of keeping a third hand craigslist riding mower running. I paid $350 for it, but I’ve put another $85 into repairs having had to have tubes put in two of tires (so far) and replace the deck belt. I also replaced the seat with a high back seat to better support my back which was around $60. Now “Ducky” is having issues starting (I think/hope it’s the starter or solenoid) and the belt is slipping off the pulleys again. I just need her to get through one or two more cuttings (hopefully) before autumn fully kicks in and I don’t have to worry about it for a few months. I just hope I can get those last couple of cuts in without having to put too much money into repairs; it’s almost time to do Christmas shopping J. If push comes to shove, I can use the push mower (which I call “Duckling”), but using a 21″ push mower versus a 42″ riding mower to do the entire 0.79 acres would kind of suck.

~ JC

Adventures in Home Ownership, part 2 – How to Close a Garage Door

I no sooner post a blog about being a new home owner than, lo and behold, we had one of those, “Oh, that’s just great!” moments. You know what I’m talking about. One of those moments when something breaks or stops working as expected and all you can think of is “How much is this going to cost me?” This adventure, though proving to be minor, also made clear that it was most definitely a wise decision to have bought a home warranty.

This past Monday, as I was leaving for work, when I pushed the button on the remote to close the garage door, nothing happened. I pushed it again; same result. So, thinking that maybe it was the remote that had failed I got out of the car with the intention of closing the garage door from the wall switch and just exiting through the back door. It still wouldn’t close. I kept messing with the wall switch until it closed, and like moron, opened it again hoping it was just a glitch, but, you guessed it, it wouldn’t close again. I headed into the house to let Roxane know, since she was still in bed, locked all the regular doors and headed to work (only barely making it on time).

I proceeded to contact our home warranty company while Roxanne researched “garage door will not close” online. She managed to “fix” it by cleaning the lenses on the optic sensors that prevent the door from closing if something is in the way. Despite it appearing to be simply dirty sensors, we decided to keep the appointment with a service technician that our warranty company had arranged just to make sure.

Thankfully, it turned out to indeed have only been dirt on the sensor lenses, but the technician did notice that there was a loose wire on one of them. He also inspected the entire opener and the door itself, tightened up a couple of things and lubricated the hinges. He also gave us some maintenance pointers and a spare screw drive carriage (because those can wear out eventually). All in all, probably worth the $75 copay for the warranty coverage just to make sure all was well and we now know the process for getting stuff done through our warranty (I see a new gas stove/oven range in our near future).

~ JC

Adventures in Home Ownership

As I wrote about in my last post, my fiancée and I bought our first house. We closed on May 15 and officially moved in on May 28. Here it is almost mid-September and frankly, there are still unpacked boxes and little projects to be done (and bigger ones planned for and dreamt about for the future).

The first thing one learns when going from renting to owning is that picking up the phone and calling maintenance to come fix something ceases to be an option. Thankfully, nothing major requiring a trained, licensed technician has occurred, but still – home ownership is evidently a never ending string of do it yourself projects. Project number one, naturally, was changing the locks. While I’m sure the previous owner gave us all the keys, it’s just peace of mind to spend $50 on new doorknobs and deadbolts at Home Depot and change everything out. In the ensuing weeks, hundreds of additional dollars have been spent on things for the house. We found a rebuilt riding lawnmower on Craigslist for $350 and have subsequently put another $140 into maintenance and repairs so we can keep our very large yard cut, $180 on push mower to get the spots the riding mower can’t get to, $100 each for a weed eater and blower. I also bought a new drill and other sundry tools to help make home projects easier with a wish list of others to soon follow. I’ve lost track of how much we’ve spent to be honest. We bought a new king size bed from IKEA and a mattress for it from a mattress liquidator (not a bad deal really; $1500 Serta mattress for $750). I’ve made so many trips to the local Ace Hardware I just about remember several of the employee’s names there now, usually for little things that I don’t want to have to go all the way to Home Depot to get. And we haven’t even really gotten started on the projects we’d like to do such as turning the extra garage bay into a proper tool room and workshop.

Speaking of lawnmowers and yard work, I have to admit there are times when I wonder what the hell I was thinking buying a house with so much land! It’s been an interesting challenge to keep it cut with the back-and forth of summer rain storms followed by weeks of no rain as is the case in the southeast. There were a couple of times the mower didn’t seem to be doing much because the lack of rain meant the grass hadn’t really grown overly much. Other times, it raining just one or two days out of the week it grew so much that cutting it was a chore even with a riding mower (having to constantly stop to pull clippings out of the deflector).

I’m quite pleased I decided to buy a home warranty. I haven’t used it yet, but it is pretty obvious I need to soon. While there aren’t any major issues with the house, the stove needs some work or to be replace since one burner won’t light (at least, not without using a lighter) and the oven temperature is off by 25-50° and the broiler doesn’t work at all. The tub in the third bathroom downstairs needs repair/replacement too. Neither of those are things that need to be done immediately, but since we have the warranty I figure I might as well try to see if they can be covered by that before it expires next May.

Still, even with the added expenses and chores involved with being a home owner, I wouldn’t give up my 4 bedrooms, 3 full bathrooms, 2100 square feet house that sits on 0.79 acres of land to go back to the tiny 2bed 2bath townhouse we were renting before.

~ JC