Friday, December 29, 2006

Blog anniversary

Yesterday, Dec 28th was the 2 year anniversary of this blog.

During this time I've posted nearly 200 times. Although this may be less than others, I bet the length of my posts would rival most!

Happy anniversary, blog!

Drag Queen name of the day: Peggy Backride

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Our new house

Only about an hour after we faxed the signed offer to our realtor, we got the call.

"Its been signed."

"You mean the offer? Its done?" I asked.

"Its done. You got the house! Merry Christmas." she confirmed.

Needless to say, we were both very excited! At the same time we were also a little scared about the payments. But we went over our budget and found places where we can save money without really feeling it, and we will also save money because when I begin working from home my company will pay for the broadband internet service and telephone - 2 expenses we are currently paying ourselves. Plus, working from home means I won't be spending $150. a month on gas and tolls commuting to the office.

This house was built in late 2005 but has never been lived in. It has 3 finished levels, with 5 bedrooms and 4 1/2 baths. On the main floor there's a large living room with a corner gas fireplace, dining room, kitchen and breakfast nook, a master bedroom and bath, a 1/2 bath, a washer and dryer, and a screened back porch. On the 2nd floor there is another master bedroom and bath, 2 additional bedrooms that share a hall bath, and a laundry room with a 2nd washer and dryer. On the 3rd floor there is a 3rd master bedroom and bath, and a large family room. All 3 floors of the house have hard wood - there is no carpeting at all. According to the listing it is 3,776 square feet. There are lots of nice touches like granite counters and stainless steel appliances in the kitchen, a whole-house music/intercom system, stained glass windows, upscale light fixtures and ceiling fans, beadboard ceilings in the wrap around porch, and lots of trim and molding around the doors and windows. As I mentioned in a previous post, the drawbacks include no garage and not much storage space. However, we believe the driveway can be covered with a carport that matches the trim of the porch so we'll check into that at some point. And maybe the reduced storage space (from what we have now) will help us to not keep stuff we really don't need.

We're scheduled to go to settlement on Thurs, Jan 25th and the movers will move the contents of our VA house to DE on Fri Jan 26th. Now comes the daunting task of packing.

Drag Queen name of the day: Wendy N. Cold

Sunday, December 24, 2006

And then there were three

On Fri afternoon our DE realtor called to tell us that our offer on the Donahue house had been countered. Despite nearly a year and a half on the market with NO offers, the counter was still unrealistically high, so we told the realtor we did not wish to pursue it any further.

We then instructed her to present the offer on the basement house. Since she was representing the seller we knew this would go quickly. Sure enough, an hour later she called back to say that our offer on the basement house had also been countered. I was very surprised at how high the counter offer was. We'd been told that the seller was "very motivated" and that he'd told the realtor earlier "anything to stop the hemorrhaging" so we expected his counter to be closer to our price than his. When I mentioned this to the realtor she explained that just recently the seller had refinanced the mortgage and been hit with a big penalty, so he wasn't as 'motivated' to sell low as he had been earlier.

We then instructed the realtor to present the 3rd offer, on the water house. By this time it was 4pm on the Fri before Christmas so I wasn't surprised that we didn't hear anything that evening. But I was optimistic since the house did not "show" well, and had been on the market for nearly a year, and was an estate. I thought the benefactor of the estate would be happy to finally get an offer so they could get their cash.

At 8:30 Sat morning our realtor called to say that the offer on the water house had also been countered. Once again, the counter was closer to the asking price than to our price. More than a little surprised, I told the realtor that we would think about the 3 houses again, and possibly on Tues (after Christmas) we'd contact her about making follow-up offers on these houses.

Before we hung up the realtor told me that the deal was still not done on the New Victorian. Apparently after nearly 2 weeks, the potential buyer was continuing to ask for changes and modifications to the house, as well as a further price concession. She confided that the seller, whom she was also representing, was really sick and tired of the potential buyer to the point that he was thinking about discontinuing negotiations with them. The seller built the house and felt it was 'top notch' so his feelings were bruised when the potential buyer kept asking for modifications to be made at the seller's expense.

Although dangerously close to being unethical, our realtor told us "If you guys want this house, I think I can get the seller to sell it to you for the same price the other potential buyer has already negotiated. I think he'd really like to stop dealing with those other people. But you can't ask for anything to be done." We were quite happy with the house 'as is' so this condition didn't present a problem for us. However, the pre-negotiated price did.

The price of this house was higher than we were expecting to pay, not just for this house, but for any house. However, at the same time, it was also the best 'deal' we knew of. The 3 houses we'd already submitted offers on were all countered at just a bit under their asking price. The New Victorian's pre-negotiated price was significantly lower than the asking price, making it the only real 'deal'.

We considered the fact that it is brand new, doesn't need any updates or remodeling, can accommodate all of our furniture, is move-in ready, is the largest of all the homes we'd considered, and is located in the area we most want to live. So, we had our realtor email us an offer for the exact amount that had been pre-negotiated with the other potential buyer, signed and faxed it back to her, and waited.

Drag Queen name of the day: Celia Later

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The final four

This is a house in the downtown/historic part of Lewes we've been interested in. We call it the "New Victorian" since it is not an old house. Its got loads of 'new' charm and space, but has no garage or storage, and is priced well above what we want to spend.

This is another house in the downtown/historic part of Lewes we've been interested in. We call it the "Donahue house" because the owner's last name is Donahue. Its got loads of vintage charm and space, but hasn't been modernized since the 60s or 70s and would require a fair amount of work and money to update. It is unrealistically priced.

This is a brand new house in the Rehoboth Beach Yacht and Country Club community in Rehoboth Beach we've been interested in. We call it the "Basement house" since it is the only house in contention that has a basement. It has a garage, a basement for storage, and good space inside. Although its location makes it a 10 minute bike ride to the beach, it is 10-15 minutes further away from Joe's office, and it is surrounded by other new construction. It is not as over-priced as the New Victorian or the Donahue house and we've been told the seller is "very motivated".

This is the view from the backyard of a ranch-style home in Edgewater Estates (Lewes) we've been interested in. We call it the "water house" because it backs to a huge natural pond. It even has its own dock. On the back of the house is a room made up of 7 sets of sliding glass doors, to maximize the view of the water. This house is significantly less expensive than all of the above houses, although it is also the smallest of all the houses we're interested in. The house is very dated inside, but wouldn't take as much work or money to update as the Donahue house. The lot is big which would allow us to add on later if we wanted.

We have been following these 4 homes along with several others since we began house hunting in the Spring, and we've narrowed down our selection to these 4 and ranked them in the order above.

Last Tues when our VA realtor confirmed that our VA house had a renter, we made an appointment with our DE realtor for Sat. During that call our DE realtor informed us that she'd just gotten a call from another agent indicating his client was likely going to make an offer on the New Victorian. The rest of the week we waited to hear that the offer had come in. When we met up with her on Sat she said the offer had not yet come in, but that the agent confirmed the offer was coming on Sat.

We did not want to compete with the other buyer (which gives the seller the upper hand) nor did we want to move forward with our 2nd choice until we knew the disposition of the house, so we decided to keep on waiting. Mon we learned that the offer was received and that the seller countered it with a price less than the asking price but higher than the offer price. It sounded like it was going to be a 'done deal', so on Tues we wrote up 3 offers, at significantly lower prices, for the Donahue house, the Basement house, and the water house. Our realtor presented the offer to the Donahue house's agent on Tues, and today the agent presented the offer to the seller. We continued to wait.

Meanwhile, our DE realtor called me back to say that the deal on the New Victorian was not 'done' yet. Apparently the buyer is taking their time considering the counter offer, so it is not yet sold. However, it is now out of contention for us, since our offer would have been lower than the one now under debate.

Our DE realtor called again this afternoon to tell me that the owner of the Donahue house wants more time to consider our offer. She wants to talk to her children and consult her accountant. Our realtor said it would likely be Fri before we hear back on it. More waiting. But far from being daunted, Joe & I were excited that she is taking the time to give full consideration to our low offer!

Our offer was not a random one. We took into account the 'sold price' for the only two comparable, nearby houses that have sold in the last 7 months. We also factored in the amount of work and cost required to update the house, as well as our budget.

If Mrs. Donahue accepts our offer we will have truly gotten a 'deal', and we will do again what we have done before: live in a house that is a work-in-progress. But it will be worth it because we love the location, the vintage charm, and amount of space. But if Mrs. Donahue does not accept our offer, we won't be heartbroken. We'll simply move onto the Basement house which is move-in ready, and if necessary, the water house which could be a spectacular property due to its water access and view.

Although we don't yet know where we'll be living in 2 months, we're actually in a very good position because we have 3 houses in which we believe we can be happy living and on which we can get a good deal. Stay tuned...

Drag Queen name of the day: Eileen Over

Richmond to Lewes

I had to be in Richmond last Thurs and Fri for our annual sales training/meeting. Since it started at 8am I had to leave Wed night. The training/meeting was okay, and since I know all of the remote sales folks now it was better than I expected. Its just hard to be away for 2 1/2 days in the middle of Dec. But for the last 3 years we've had the sales training/meeting in mid-Dec so the remote folks will already be in town and can attend the company holiday party. I always skip the company holiday party and go home.

This year I skipped it and drove directly from Richmond to Lewes. It took about 5 hours, which included a quick stop for food, gas, and a restroom break. Originally we had intended on meeting at home in VA for the weekend, but since we secured a renter for our house earlier in the week, we wanted to meet with our DE realtor this past weekend to make an offer on a house. More on that later.

While in DE, the home of tax-free shopping, Joe & I finished our Christmas shopping. Oddly enough, I didn't have a single Christmas card mailed yet, but we finished our gift shopping. I had brought the cards and addresses with me to Richmond, thinking I'd start writing the cards on Thurs night, but by the time I returned from the sales team dinner I decided to simply watch a little TV and go to bed. So Sun night I sat at the dining table and addressed cards and had 1/2 an ear listening to the shows Joe was watching on TV. I addressed more cards on Mon as I listened to Christmas carols on the digital music station on the cable, did some more on Tues evening when I returned to VA, and then finished the cards today. So barring any incorrect addresses, all 122 of my card recipients should get their holiday cards before Christmas. Whew!!!

The reason I was still in DE on Mon and Tues is because I'm on vacation this week. I had to come back to VA on Tues because I had an appointment to take my car into the shop today. Additionally, I have things to do around here in preparation for Christmas. I'm really looking forward to baking an assortment of holiday goodies to put into baskets and tins for our neighbors and friends. I got some great new recipes from the Food Network to try!

The weather at the beach was chilly on Sat, warmer on Sun, and spectacularly warm on Mon. People were wearing shorts and sandals, and I wasn't the only convertible owner driving with my top down in the 74 degree day. Once again I had that odd feeling of driving with the top down with Christmas music on the radio. But it was fun! Tues and today were much cooler, although probably still a few degrees above normal. I was outside today without a coat putting lights on the holly tree in our front yard.

Drag Queen name of the day: Marion Net

Monday, December 11, 2006

Birthday weekend

After luxuriously sleeping in until 9:45 Fri morning, I had my shower and got busy with the necessary tasks before leaving for the beach: paying bills, making the bed, sprucing up the bathroom, emptying the trash, changing the kitty litter, folding and putting away laundry, and making a few phone calls. I had a brief lunch and left for the beach at 1:20.

When I arrived at 3:45 Joe was home; he'd worked thru lunch so he could come home early. When I walked in the door my eyes immediately zoomed over to the large vase of gorgeous, lip stick pink roses on the counter, obviously, for my birthday. The color of these roses is so unusual, they really do look like the same color as medium pink waxy lip stick!

We hopped in the car and discussed real estate as we drove past the houses on our list, but it soon got dark so we went back to the house for a while, then changed clothes and went to dinner at Fish On.

I had a fabulous Stoli sangria martini that tasted like liquid apple pie. Then I had a salad of mixed field greens in champagne vinaigrette with goat cheese, and Joe had scallop and lobster dumplings. For dinner I had the cajun penne, which had several huge shrimp, lumps of crab meat, and andouille sausage in a zesty cajun cream sauce. Dee-lish! Joe had a steak with truffle and herb french fries. Unfortunately we had no room for their fantastic desserts. In fact, I even took home 1/2 of my entree to enjoy the next day. Over dinner we talked about the realization of the fact that we are actually going to be living together at the beach soon, which I considered my birthday present.

After dinner we stopped by the video store and picked up 'Strangers With Candy', and then took a drive through historic Lewes to see all the Christmas lights and decorations. It really was beautiful. Those 100 and 200 year old houses dressed up in lights, garlands, and bows really made me hope that we get to live in downtown/historic Lewes. Quite lovely. Then we went home and watched the DVD and then went to bed.

Sat after breakfast we stopped at the most fabulous dollar store ever and picked up some Christmas tins and baskets. Since we were sure that we will still have our VA house at Christmas, I decided I will bake goodies for my neighbors again this year, so the tins and baskets will be nice to deliver the goodies in.

At 1:00 we left for Dover, which is about 45 minutes from Lewes. Our friends George & Steve (former Washingtonians) invited us to their tree trimming party. We met many nice folks and really enjoyed helping decorate their trees. They had a 6-foot artificial tree in the living room window, which can be seen from the street, and a cut tree in their family room that must be 10 or 12 feet tall. Fortunately their family room has a vaulted ceiling!

We left George & Steve's just after 5:00 and stopped at a store for a little Christmas shopping; picked up 2 gifts there. Once home we had about 45 minutes to relax, take the dog out for a walk, change clothes, and leave for an art show/sale.

I had never been to an art show/sale before, but I imagined it to be like the art gallery openings that Charlotte was always inviting the girls to on the show 'Sex and the City'. People dressed in smart evening wear, nibbling on petit fors and drinking champagne as they viewed the latest up-and-coming artist's collection. This calls for something more stylish than khakis and a pull-over, I decided! So I convinced Joe to wear black slacks and a silvery/grey shirt with embroidery on it. I wore black slacks, a pink and grey on white paisley shirt and a black leather sport jacket. We didn't know the artist nor had we been invited, per se, to this event. But the artist is a client of the same personal trainer that Joe goes to, so the trainer invited some of his other clients too. In reality, it was a private showing and sale of the artists work. The people weren't dressed as smartly as the New Yorkers at Charlotte's gallery, but they weren't wearing khakis either.

The artist is Richard Clifton, and he does wildlife paintings. In fact, one of his painting is or will be on a US postage stamp, for which we understand he will be highly compensated. Although the wildlife paintings aren't really our style, we still appreciated the skill and terrific use of color in his work. Oh, and did I mention the free food and drink? We only stayed a little over an hour, since we didn't know anyone there besides Rick and Nick. But it was kind of fun to be at the art show/sale in nice clothes.

We got a message from our VA realtor that the people interested in our house were willing to accept our suggestion of a pushed-back occupancy date of Jan 15. However, at the time they still had not submitted an application, and they asked our agent if we might accept $100. less per month. Our realtor told us that she was showing the house to 2 more parties on Sun, and when I called into the home answering machine there were 2 messages from agents showing the house on Sat, so we decided to wait until Mon to make a decision.

Since we technically did not have a signed tenant yet, we cancelled the Sun morning appointment with our DE realtor and instead went out to breakfast. We went to a restaurant called the Rookery at a golf club, since we'd heard from Rick that they have a very nice and reasonably priced breakfast buffet. Indeed, it was all you care to eat for $6.50. The blueberry pancakes were especially tasty!

Sun was very sunny and warm, probably close to 60 degrees. We went for a walk on the Rehoboth boardwalk, then walked up and down some of the streets. It felt good to get some exercise. Then we drove into Lewes to drop off Joe's recycling, and then parked and walked up and down a bunch of streets in Lewes. We stopped in a cafe for a drink, then walked to Block House Pond, which has a paved pedestrian path around it, then walked up and down a few more streets before returning to the car. I guestimate that we walked a good 5 or 6 miles. But the weather was so pleasant and we had plenty to talk about, so the time went by quickly.

We had an early dinner at Bona pizza, then went back to the house so I could pack my things. I left at 6:20 and got home at 8:50.

Today while I was at work I got a call from our VA realtor. We had 2 applications for our house! The first is from the couple we'd known about and had been expecting their application. The second, which is the one we accepted, was for full price, with a Feb 15 occupancy date, and the potential for a 2 year lease. So our house is officially rented, and we have until mid-Feb to buy a house in DE and move. I'm excited!!!

Drag Queen name of the day: Patty Melt

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Today is my birthday!

I like celebrating my birthday, not because of gifts or birthday cake, but because its still a relatively 'new' thing for me. Having grown up as a Jehovah's Witness until I was 29, we were prohibited from celebrating birthdays. So it wasn't until I left the JW religion that I began celebrating mine and others' birthdays, almost 14 years ago.

Probably another reason why I like celebrating my birthday is because I don't look my age. Whenever strangers learn my age they are always surprised, usually guessing me to be 8-12 years younger than I am. Not that I can claim any credit for that; I always chalk it up to good genes and clean livin'.

I got several funny birthday cards in the mail this week, as well as some very clever e-cards via email. It is so nice when friends remember your birthday!

In typical Thurs fashion, I went to Joe's mom's house to pick her up for dinner. She had a card and a box for me, and wished me 'happy birthday' as she kissed me on the cheek. I opened the box to find a navy plaid shirt. That will be great since I wear blue jeans so often.

Then we went to Outback Steakhouse where we met Kerry, Hugh, George, Kelly, and Alex. They had cards and gifts for me too! (I was only expecting dinner and wonderful companionship.) Kerry & Hugh gave me a Christmas tree ornament in the shape of a miniature mug with a Washington DC scene on it. So cute! George gave me a gift card for Target, a store I frequent regularly. Kelly gave me a set of retro measuring cups, identical to the ones I'd admired at Kerry's house. How thoughtful!

We talked and enjoyed a terrific dinner, followed by yummy desserts and coffee. Kelly & I shared a 'Chocolate Thunder from Down Under'. Even half was too much for me to finish!

But perhaps the most unexpected birthday 'gift' I received today was the call from our realtor, indicating we have a renter for our house! Its not final yet, as they had not yet signed the application but Betsy said they'd made up their mind they wanted our house. The one 'wrinkle' is that they've asked if they can take possession during the week between Christmas and New Years, which is barely 3 weeks from now. I will talk to Betsy again tomorrow about this, but I don't think we can be ready to move out that quickly. We'll want to make an offer on a house in DE and go to settlement (as quickly as possible) so that we only have to pay the movers to move us once - from this house to the new one. I called our DE realtor and she was a little skeptical of such a quick turn around so I will ask Betsy tomorrow to approach the potential tenants with a month's time from when they sign the application. Hopefully they will understand and be able to work with that.

I'm off work tomorrow so I'm heading to the beach sometime before noon. Joe will be at work so there's no need for me to rush to get there. Not having been there for almost a month, I miss it! On Sat we're going to George & Steve's tree trimming party in the afternoon, and then to an artist's open house with Rick & Nick in the evening. On Sun we're meeting with our DE realtor to work on writing up some offers. I'll be back Sun night.

Drag Queen name of the day: Bunny Hopp

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Holiday spirit

I really enjoy the holidays, especially Christmas. I love the decorations, lights, wreaths, everything. I love to see people putting up decorations the weekend after Thanksgiving (although decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving is a big no-no; you do NOT rush the holidays). I love to see cars with Christmas trees tied to their roofs, knowing they'll soon be at home trimming that wonderful smelling tree.

But this year I had a little difficulty getting into the Christmas spirit. I'm not sure if it was because of that 5-day stretch of 70 degree days, or if it was because I'm not sure exactly where I'm going to be living on Christmas.

I have yet write out a single holiday card or pull out a single decoration because I remain hopeful that someone will want to rent our house soon, and I don't want to have spent all the time decorating if they want/need to move in before Christmas. (One potential renter said "We'd like to be in before Christmas.") I'd have to un-decorate quickly, adding yet another thing for me to do in order to vacate the house. So, as I've done with many things, I've put off getting into the spirit of the holidays, pending the situation with the house.

But on Sat I got a really good shot of holiday spirit, directly into a main artery. We went to the annual Manassas Christmas parade. Its an old-fashioned Christmas parade, complete with fire trucks, marching bands, floats, politicians sitting atop convertibles - everything you'd expect in an old town Christmas parade.

Kerry & Hugh live in the historic district of Manassas. Their house is on the parade route, so for the last several years they have hosted myriads of friends, family, and co-workers at their house for the parade. Their dining room table is filled with tasty treats and there's no shortage of hot coffee and tea, and warm cocoa. Watch the parade, and then come inside for a drink and to warm up. Watch some more of the parade, then come inside to use the bathroom. It couldn't be any more convenient or fun!

We brought Joe's mom, my aunt Mary, and the Newlyweds with us. Joe's mom and my aunt had been before, but it was the first time for the Newlyweds. It was perfect weather for it: chilly and Christmasy but bright and sunny. We all had a great time! After the parade, a group of us went to Anthony's for lunch.

Now I'm feeling much more like myself at this time of the year. I'm itching to pull our Christmas tree up from the basement and start decorating it. But I'll 'hold that thought' for just a few more days, in case we get a contract on our house soon.

Drag Queen name of the day: Rose Garden

Monday, December 04, 2006

So Blest

The other day on my drive into work I saw a Lexus with the license plate "SO BLEST". Obviously, this was the driver's way of telling the world he would not take any credit for the good things in his life, instead giving the credit to God. This made me ponder, yet again, the concept of being "blessed".

I recalled the 'Christmas letters' tucked inside of Christmas cards from my old high school friend Krista. When we were friends in school I don't think Krista even went to church. But many years after graduation when we'd somehow found each other's addresses, and I'd gotten on her Christmas card list and learned from her 'Christmas letters' how she had 'found religion' and been saved. Each year I read about how "blessed" she was to finally meet and marry her husband Arthur, how "blessed" they were to learn she was pregnant, how "blessed" they were to buy a new car, and how "blessed" they were to be able to move into a larger house to accommodate their growing family as yet another "blessing" happened when they adopted a child.

Its not just fundamentalists - lots of people say that they are blessed, or refer to 'what a blessing it was' that something happened the way it did. I think it has become a synonym for being lucky.

For others I think it is a way to appear modest, since they sound as if they don't want to take credit for any of the "blessings". But in reality they are far from modest. Because, if we are to believe that all the good things that have happened to them are the result of God's "blessings", than we'd have to conclude that God was spending an awful lot of time and effort thinking about them and working in their life! Its as if they are saying 'Look how much God thinks about me - I'm so blessed!' Kind of like reverse modesty.

One might be able to simply chalk this up to silly human nature, like saying 'excuse me' after burping when you're completely alone. But there's an element of these "blessings" that starts to make me mad.

Supposedly Krista (and all the others like her) have all these goods things in their lives because God is "blessing" them. If that is true, what are to we to conclude about those who become quadrapalegic due to a terrible car crash? Does the fact that this happened to them mean that they are NOT "blessed"?

What about those who get terrible diseases like cancer, AIDS, and leukemia? Are they also NOT "blessed" by God?

And what about those who died on Sept 11, 2001 in and around the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and the hi-jacked plane that crashed to the ground in PA? How did all of those non-blessed people happen to be at the same place at the same time?

By claiming that good things happened to "blessed" people, one must also reason that bad things happen to non-blessed people, and I have a hard time swallowing that bitter pill.

Instead of Krista claiming that she and Arthur were "blessed" with a new car, perhaps they just made sound choices about how to spend and save their money, which ultimately allowed them to purchase the new car.

Instead of someone else 'modestly' suggesting that the success of their business was a real "blessing", perhaps they could credit their parents and teachers with helping to instill within them good business strategies.

Now, I don't mean to take credit away from God. I do believe that God is active and performs little and big miracles everyday. But I think God's real miracles/blessings are harder to confuse with sound financial choices and good study habits. When I think of God's daily miracles and blessings, they are different.

The 2am phone call from a friend that prevents a suicide attempt.

The unexplainable $20. bill a destitute mother finds in her wallet when she thought there was no money for diapers or baby formula.

The gay man whose family rejects him, but whose partner's family has enough love for them both.

They don't teach THAT in school.

Drag Queen name of the day: Bea Hive