Thursday, October 27, 2016

Spiffing Up the Exterior

With all the dirt washed away, time to address issues on the exterior.

Den window: before, during (see old wood on ground), and after

The wood trim really needed replacing in many places (more than we thought), and all of it needed a good paint (even after the power wash, some areas looked a little dim). 

Front porch before and after

Fortunately, the siding is HardiPlank and has held up well over the years, so no repairs needed there. They left us the paint remaining in the two 5-gal buckets, for touch-ups and for the new owners. We kept the same color scheme so as not to run afoul of our homeowners association.

West corner before and after

These guys are much braver on those tall ladders than I ever would be (and they’re working way up there). Some of the trim was a real challenge to remove, judging from the loud banging echoing through the house.

The last step: removing the deck. The wood wasn’t in good shape, and the whole thing sagged in the middle, so no way to salvage it. (Even if they’d power washed it, it would still have been a saggy deck and not a good selling point.)

I am very glad they have access to a dump site; it would have been a challenge for us to remove all this debris.

Working the front porch; Nathan on the circular saw; and that's not all the trash

We’re thrilled with the results, and once again, saying “We should have done this a long time ago.”

Next up: So what replaces the deck?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Washing Away 18 Years of Dirt

Surprise! (Not.) Our contractor recommended a thorough power wash as a first step, before starting any other exterior work. Frankly, we considered doing this even before the decision to sell, but just hadn’t gotten around to it. A colossal amount of dirt builds up over 18 years.
Back soffit before, during, and after cleaning.

Gary and Rueben did a fabulous job, even getting up on some pretty aggressive ladders to get the soffits on the upper level (which must be at least 20’ off the ground).

As they washed the back porch, they revealed a bit of what the deck actually looks like under all that dirt. But with deck removal soon to follow, they didn’t wash it.
Revealing what's underneath all that dirt on the deck.

Once the dirt washed away, we discovered more trim that either needed replacing or painting (or both).

And lest you think it doesn’t make a big difference:
Top: sidewalk not yet washed. Bottom: washed.

Side note: Katie the Beagle was not pleased. Between the water, the noise, and the unfamiliar people, she stayed close by my side all day. Bruce expressed it perfectly (in her “voice”) when he got home: “DAD!!! They put my house through a car wash!!”
Back porch before and after power washing.

Even without trim repair and painting, the house looks magnitudes better without all that dirt. And the neighbors have started to notice all the commotion about the house. I’ve told a couple of them of our decision, but not everyone knows yet. And once again we said, "We should have done this a long time ago."

Next up: trim repair and painting, plus painting the siding.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Finalist Again! Central Market's Apple Recipe Contest

We interrupt our normally scheduled "get the house ready to sell" programming for a cooking update. In October, Central Market sponsored an apple recipe contest; once again, we entered, and once again, we were finalists. (8 contests, 8 finals appearances; not bad.)

We worked on recipes over a weekend. Bruce prepped a sweet recipe (saving the idea for next year), and I modified my Frannie's cornbread dressing recipe (thanks for the idea, Robyn!). I added apples and mild Italian sausage to the recipe, and substituted apple cider for some of the chicken broth. They have changed the rules, so we were able to submit both recipes.

After a longer-than-expected wait, an email informed me they selected the dressing recipe as a finalist. Finals scheduled for two days hence. Scramble to rearrange Friday/Saturday schedule. At least we weren't out of town.

I did the bulk of the work on Friday; all I had to do on Saturday was cut up the apple, stir everything together, and pop into the oven. I plated at the store.
Frannie's Cornbread Dressing with Apples and Sausage

During preparation, we were all surprised when the Spurs Coyote showed up! He wasn't going to do much eating in that costume, but he was fun to have around, very interactive, and very generous with photos. (Kids at the store went berzerk.)
From left: Apple Quince Tart, Apple Cilantro Slaw, Vietnamese Summer Rolls, and Apple Bundt Cake

Four other finalists presented the pictured dishes (two savory, two sweet). As usual, we each presented to the panel of three judges (none of whom I recognized).

After several minutes of deliberation, they selected the apple-quince tart as the winner. (We learned during the Hatch contest that the judges have a predeliction for sweet dishes, although Bruce won once with a savory recipe.)
He tried to abscond with it after the photo.

It's always fun to participate, and as corny as it sounds, it was a lot of fun to meet the Spurs Coyote. 

Watching carefully for their next contest.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

First Step: Tree Removal/Trimming

Volunteer trees along back deck rail
Our first step: removing volunteer trees and several crepe myrtles sited too close to the house.

We’ve needed a trim for a while now. Windy storms would blow branches into several areas of the house. And the tree guys needed to finish before the “exterior work” guys arrived. The fewer trees they have to get around, the better. We’ll do another “cosmetic” trim closer to listing time.
Volunteers outside the music room window

When I walked around with the estimator, I asked him to get rid of every single volunteer tree/bush he found. I’ve hated those scraggly things for years, and I could never fully eliminate them. (The one along the deck rail in the back was particularly resilient.) After their removal, he suggested going around every couple of weeks with a bottle of Round-Up to squirt any new growth; after a few rounds, they’ll quit trying. I already have my bottle at the ready.

I happened to be in the music room when they felled the big volunteer tree. It was as if someone opened a dark curtain. I love how much more light reaches that room now. The outside isn’t much to look at now, but I have plans this winter for mulch, a simple border, and some kind of garden art. (*No* Weeping Angels allowed.)
Cutting the volunteers away

Taking out the two volunteers along the back deck rail opened things up and makes the upper backyard more visible.
Look, no more volunteers!

I was surprised at how much they hauled away. One guy had to cut branches with his chain saw and jump up and down on the pile so it would all fit in their trailer.
And no volunteers here either!

After seeing the end result, we both said, “We should have done this a *long* time ago.” I suspect we’ll be saying that a lot over the next few weeks. My sister keeps telling me, “You won’t want to move!” But unless they figure out a way to shave off the second story, we’ll be happy to leave, no matter how good it looks.
Full trailer

Next up: power washing away 18 years of dirt.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

It's Time

13502 Charter Bend

Have you ever made a big decision, then thought of it later with a big sigh of relief and feelings of “this just feels right”? Deciding to sell the Charter Bend house feels just that way.

We have tossed around the idea for years of “downsizing” into a smaller one-story house, but never did anything but talk about it. Our financial advisor asked if we’d thought about moving into a smaller place, outside the city (smaller mortgage, no city taxes). Well, yes, we said, but we hadn’t gotten serious about it. “Maybe this is the right time.” (Bruce is gradually transitioning to work from home, so the commute will be non-existent.)

We knew, right from the start, that the house is nowhere *near* ready to list. Carey’s mother Becky is a real estate agent, and she was kind enough to come over one morning, walk through the house, and let us know what needs fixing/repairing/replacing, and what can stay “as-is.” (We want the house to be “sell-able,” not the jewel of the neighborhood.) She also had a favorite contractor, who visited soon after. We now have a list of projects and a budget.
A lot of junk accumulates in a backyard after 18 years. Headed to the dump.

But it’s not just the work on the house; it’s the whole “decluttering inside” required before we move. A family (even an empty-nest one) builds up a *lot* of stuff over 18 years. We’re systematically going through the house and sorting things into various categories: keep, save for Sean, give away, yard sale, trash. It’s not a fun project, but it has to happen. Fortunately, we are in no rush and have the time to properly work the issue.

Bruce is trying to weather the maelstrom that is me when I have the “project bit” between my teeth. I can be a little---um---over-enthusiastic.

We were blessed and lucky in our choice of home. Since we moved here in 1998, Wurzbach Pkwy has been completed, HEB/Alon opened, NW Military has been upgraded, the Jewish Community Center was built, and Hardberger Park and the Salado Park Greenway opened. All directly touch/border our neighborhood (the Salado gate is less than a quarter mile away).
Salado Creek Greenway; gate is an easy bike ride away.

Next up: exterior work (replace trim, power washing, remove deck), then interior painting. I’ll post updates here as we go along. We hope to have the place listed by the spring.

Wish us luck!