Wednesday, December 30, 2009


We didn't really decorate for Christmas so we made this Christmas Bowl which looks cute & festive sitting on a Victorian tray on top of our nice little vent-free gas stove.

George put 2 new nice pieces of furniture together :) A kitchen cart & a bookshelf.

(p.s. Now he is rebuilding/reconfiguring the pantry!)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Let there be heat

I'm happy to share that we have a new heat source (click photo for Home Depot product info)! This little ditty replaced our old eyesore wall furnace. George got to demo the frame wall and cut out some carpet (he did an impressive job too.) You never know what you'll find in a wall, like an old cutter, dice, or a 29 cent postage stamp.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Corbin lockset with porcelain door knobs. Pat 1870

I just pulled out of the old shed that's in the backyard. Here is a little info on it:

Original Antique Rim (Box) Locks After 1865

By the mid 1860's the basic rim lock was being made as it would remain for the next century. Companies continued to work on improving the working of the lock mechanisms mainly by removing as many unnecessary parts as possible. The rim lock remained the backbone of the lock industry and is still the hardiest lock ever made.

A little more history about these locks and how to add antique locks to your Victorian.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tuesday Tidbits

(Image from Google Search - Country Living)
A few random tidbits I've noticed after 3 weeks in the Victorian:

In the morning you can see & hear helicopters hovering over the freeway for the traffic reports.

There is a dog, let's call him 'Old Yeller', that often barks during the hours 1 - 3 a.m.

    The ceiling is high enough in the front room to jump rope.

    Overall, it's quieter than I thought it would be living on a busier street.

    The side deck by our kitchen gets the morning sun and is a great spot for a cup of joe.

    Monday, November 30, 2009

    A little find from 1898

    Santa's first film appearance is the same year as our house, who knew?
    Santa Claus and the Children (UK 1898). The Very first appearance of Santa on film.

    East Bay parks soon to be full of produce - Inside Bay Area

    East Bay parks soon to be full of produce - Inside Bay Area

    Sunday, November 22, 2009

    Connecting with your inner builder

    We've been in the house barely a week and already had installed new bulbs throughout the house, put in several deadbolts, installed motion sensor lights, security cameras, new blinds, pulled out the weeds in the back, yanked out the old phone lines, changed the shower head, put up drapes and finally put in the Weider workout system in the front of the house. We ordered 3 new double-paned windows and will have Jorge, our contractor, come by in a few days to repair the water damaged corner of the house and install these nice windows.

    The house has been very cold because it has no insulation and all the doors and windows have gaps and seem crooked. I suppose a house that has been hanging around the Bay Area for 100 years would have experienced quite a lot of earth movement hence the crookedness of everything. I will need to go and replace all the door and window frames eventually. I started to replace some of the old light switches and found that a few do not have any boxes behind them and are essentially wires surrounded by old wood. Need to deal asap with that.

    I found a couple of very nice, long shutters at Urban Ore and cut them to fit as our new french doors. They are different in that they do not contain any glass but you can move the shutters to let in light from the one room to the next. We could go with glass french doors but I learned the home insurer will ding us for them.

    A fun fact about the house was to learn that Amelia Earhardt, Sergie Eisenstein, Federico Garcia Lorca were born when this house was built and the US went to war with Spain. Street cars regularly ran down the front of our house and the very first car was sold that same year.

    Our contractor has all sorts of ideas to open up the house to make it seem bigger but I really want to keep the quaintness of the original even as I try to understand what that was. I only just discovered that our current entertainment room was once the original kitchen. I hope to have an accurate timeline of when things were added and I will do that by examining the wood studs to determine the changes.

    Thursday, October 22, 2009

    About the "Ghosttown" District for Halloween

    Our house is located at the intersection of Emeryville, W. Oakland, N. Oakland. Known as Ghost Town (sometimes spelled Ghosttown) it is the informal name of the Foster Hoover Historic District neighborhood in West Oakland, Oakland, California.

    The name probably originated from the two casket companies operating side by side on Filbert Street between 30th and 32nd Streets. One of these companies, "American Burial Casket Co" (sign intact) is located at 3102 Filbert Street. The second company was located at 3104 Filbert Street. Other explanations for the name may have originated in the times when eminent domain forced hundreds of families out of their homes and the town looked like a ghost town. It stretches from 31st Street to 35th Street in the area immediately southwest of the Macarthur Maze. This neighborhood has active citizen crime patrols, including one group of seniors who walk the neighborhood weekly to get physical exercise and report blight. Jerry Brown, formerly governor of California and Mayor of Oakland stated: "Instead of an omnibus crime bill, you have to deal with shootings in Ghostown in West Oakland and sideshows in East Oakland."[6] Brown made attempts to turn around the blighted West Oakland neighborhood after 60 Minutes featured it in a television profile.[4]

    The term "Ghost riding" has been attributed to this Oakland neighborhood. According to the Contra Costa Times and The Washington Post, local rapper Mistah F.A.B. popularized the term with his song "Ghost Ride It" and speculated that its origins are in Ghosttown.

    The area has changed remarkably since this wikipedia entry and more regular outlets and fewer liquor stores means the area is becoming a 'ghost' of its former self. lol

    chalkboard paint

    I will add my perspective here which may appeal to the Type A sort of person. I can be creative & insightful which is usually after I get through zipping around like a hummingbird. That's another story.

    I love the idea of painting a chalkboard wall, and we did! It's only like 12 bucks for a small can at Home Depot. You're supposed to let it dry for 3 days. I'll report back once I test it out.

    A project wall = FOCUS (lists work for me).

    In the beginning...

    How did we get here? During the height of the "Great Recession", we talked about the possibility of buying a very inexpensive home somewhere in the U.S. We heard about artists buying homes in Detroit for 7k and for a little bit more you could pick something up in Florida. The key issue was finding work in a new state and lenders at the time were not too keen on lending to a couple of drifters.

    So we thought that looking in the very hot, ugly and unappealing cities of Pittsburg, Concord and San Leandro might be our best bet given our meager price range (under 200k). Andrea found our agent Patricia and I worked on getting a private lender and figuring out how to use Zillow and Redfin to aid in our home search.

    Weeks dragged into months and we made around 10 offers that would lose out to lower all-cash offers. The clock was ticking down to take advantage of the first-time home buyers credit and we suddenly had to change to our new agent (Colin Hill). Things started to look bleak until we landed this 1600 sq ft Victorian on the border of Emeryville, Nor. Oakland and W. Oakland. Not very pretty on the outside and it's along a noisy main street but the price and the terms were exactly what we wanted.

    Things we learned: Zillow isn't very good at keeping track of homes that go off the market but it does have a very good way of helping you find and review a good lender. That's how we found Chris Garza with Vanguard. The man gets back to us on our questions super fast and we received a great loan package and terms. He can close escrow in like 15-20 days! I highly recommend him.

    Redfin was a great tool to check out houses online and deciding whether or not we should take a look at a property. Listings are updated very quickly and the easy interface makes it easy to know where the property is and the condition. I would often scour Redfin for new listings and then forward them to our agent who followed up with phone calls and previewed the homes in advance. In a few cases, we made a "blind offer", meaning we did an offer via e-mail and e-signatures on a property that we saw only online. If our offer was accepted, then we would go check it out and decide if we truly liked it or not. In the case of our new home, I saw the new listing of it on Redfin, shot an email to Colin who visited the home later that day and said it had all the things we were looking for. He went back to the office and sent us an offer sheet which was signed and sent that evening. A few days later, we heard it was accepted.