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A Quick Turnaround on the Garage Apartment

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We are lucky enough to own a home with a garage apartment in Huntsville, Texas. The house is in a good location near Sam Houston State University and Huntsville’s cute downtown Our home is on a pretty corner lot. The one bedroom garage apartment door faces the backyard and has a sidewalk and deck off the doorway that provides privacy and a feeling of living more in the country than the city. My daughter in law says it feels like a treehouse and I agree!

The first of August we got notice that our awesome tenants in the garage apartment would be moving out due to graduating and getting a job in downtown Houston. We were bummed and a little nervous because ideally we like to switch tenants over the summer before August 1 for college students. Our tenants went above and beyond to move out by August 15th and to find us another tenant that we totally approve of and are thrilled to welcome. They move in September 1st.

Since our last tenants were there almost 3 years we knew we had some sprucing up and maintenance before the next move in. The guest house we have been working on recently is on a short hold while we get things taken care of at the garage apartment. Bummer.

I am a worry wart so I made a list about 5:30 one morning when I couldn’t sleep.

We had some leveling to do because a center beam in the garage settled, a little rot around the stairs that needs to be addressed, and some stabilization of the steps by connecting the steps to the garage wall. It is an ongoing struggle with exterior upkeep. Huntsville is pretty hot and humid along with being amazingly rainy, the back yard is in the shade almost all the time, the trees drop leaves everywhere, and well, the building is 71 years old. The original garage floor was dirt which wasn’t uncommon in 1950. At some point concrete without any reinforcement was poured and it made the garage doors so low that only a sports car would fit in there.

Leveling the center joist involves two bottle jacks, wood, and metal shims. You literally jack the post on the right up until you can add shims into the permanent post on the left. We had it professionally done five years ago and this is just maintenance. The exterior walls need to be leveled the next time but we weren’t ready to disconnect all the support beams and lift them this time. It would have taken us several days we don’t have.
Mr. Math wants everyone to know he added strapping to the post to attach it to the joist and keep the metal shims in place. I just didn’t get that picture.

We also touched up paint on the exterior. I am so grossed out every time we switch tenants with the front door that I was positive it wouldn’t be white again. I decided on red- Behr dark crimson to be specific.

This is a picture of the apartment from five years ago when I was mad the painters didn’t paint the trim. I didn’t take a close up picture of the door so imagine a grimy smudged door.

The change is dramatic. I like dramatic.

We also switched from the exterior wall paint on the deck outside apartment to porch paint. I am actually shocked we got five years out of the porch being sprayed with exterior wall paint. We are going with Behr Slate Gray on the wood decked porch. It will provide a nice contrast to the blue paint. Mr. Math spent half a day power washing, nailing in popped nails, and scraping 6 by 6 the deck and stairs to get us ready.

During the hard freeze we got in Texas last winter a pipe burst in the bathroom and thanks to the Texas power grid issue, we went way more than 24 hours in the very low teens with no electricity. All the pipes are exposed in the garage below. Of course we fixed the burst pipe but knew we had damage to fix on the inside this summer. The water from the burst pipe seeped into a crack in the grout then froze under the tiles. The concrete backer board under the tile absorbed enough water that it swelled and burst in places causing four tiles to need to be replaced. We expected hardwood floor damage but weren’t aware of the bathroom issues. Four of the avocado green tiles in the bathroom had to come out. Surprise, surprise, we couldn’t find new green tiles. So, this quick reno involves four new beige tiles. I don’t love it but the bathroom is part of our long term plan and will be totally renovated down the road to allow for stackable washer and dryer and for the bathtub ceiling area to be raised.

The original to 1950 pine flooring is one of my favorite things about the garage apartment along with a super cute phone niche and the original trim and doors complete with crystal door knobs. The floor took a hit during the freeze with water covering the entire floor. There are also some pretty deep scratches from a tenant who lived there when we purchased the property’s two huge dogs that have to be addressed. This time around we will be patch staining and re-polyurethaning the floors. I really wanted to sand and strip but it will involve sanding, stripping, using wood filler, and probably replacing a couple of boards. The exterior walls of the house needs to be leveled before we tackle that. Since we have a two week turnaround, the poly needs to have time to harden before moving in furniture, it will have to wait.

We also cleaned the walls, windows, appliances, did interior touch up paint, cleaned inside the cabinets and will be having all the plumbing redone next week to the kitchen and bathroom. Hopefully the Pex piping will not be as prone to freezing.

We are almost there. The list is nearly complete.

Beside the plumber coming Thursday we need to add new solar lights along the gate sidewalk, exterior cleaning and new silicone to the tub, replacing 2 mini blinds, and a smoke detector, we will be done.

Owning and maintaining our own rental is hard work. It isn’t for someone who doesn’t mind getting theirs hands dirty and backs sore but it is a great investment opportunity.

We love hearing from you,

Karen

Finding Balance

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My sweet baby girl, The Southern Belle, came for a visit this weekend.  She is running in the Houston Marathon.  This will be her third marathon in a year.

Here she is in Boston this year.  She was already headed back to her room when the devastation occurred. We are thankful. blessed.

Rachel Boston Marathon

I have a lot to learn from that very smart young lady.  She is already working on, and succeeding at, something that I have always had hard time with and does a waaay better job than I do.  She has found ways to balance what is important in her life.   She got married this summer to a great guy.  We love Big Cat and attribute some of the fun factor in her life to his influence.

Rachel and Joe

the southern belle

In addition to being married, she holds a very demanding job and all the obligations that it entails, has an active membership in a service organization, is still active in her local chapter of her college sorority, and has set aside time for her passion, which is running.   She is also the first one to mail a birthday card or post card from her travels, she calls her parents and grandparents regularly, keeps up with her college buddies,

Rachel 4

keeps a clean house, and still has time to socialize with her friends.

rachel 1

She is not afraid to tell someone who calls that now is not a good time ( even her mom!), but she will call them back.  I feel guilty doing this.  She is willing to be the first one up on holidays so that she can go to the gym or for a run before the day gets started, she looks for things to do that are fun but still fulfill her responsibilities or include friends. (We passed out pink ribbons at the Carolina Panthers football game before the game got started on one visit and went to a KIPP academy event on another trip .  She planned a Pinterest party on one visit and we ate out at potential wedding rehearsal sites on a pre wedding visit.) As I thought about all she has going on and how she is able to manage it I thought about the rock analogy.   You have probably heard this story told before but like me,  you may not have seen it.  You may also be like me and just need a reminder.

My word this year is focus.  I need to focus on what makes my heart sing, and put those the big rocks first then let the rest settle in around what is important to me. I need to stop relinquishing control of my agenda to others who may not have the same priorities I do, and I need to focus on my spiritual, physical and emotional health.

This Weekend Country Girl is going to put marriage, family, faith, and health in her jar first. Oh, and laughter.  I need a lot more of that.  Doesn’t this picture of my four kids just make you smile? It sure does make my heart sing.

laughter

2013 In Review

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Wow. When I wrote this last December I had no idea what the year would hold for us: Changes in the New Year

A Yiddish proverb says:

Man makes plans, and God laughs.

Here is what we did from our 2013 goals:

We are limiting eating out to one day a week. We did this.
We are taking our lunches to work. We made great progress on this.
We are keeping fruit and cut up veggies in the house. Much improved, but still a work in progress.

We are both committing to move more. We are parking further away from stores, taking the stairs when possible, and finding activities to do that involve physical activities. Hubby is joining a gym and I am getting up thirty minutes sooner so that I can Wii or treadmill in the mornings. Overall we get a B- on this. We did walk in two 5k’s this year, we have started using the treadmill and elliptical, and are more active, but we still have a way to go.

The hardest change I am making is to limit the amount of artificial sweeteners. I do love a diet Mountain Dew… too much. I know that my cutting caffeine and those fake sweeteners at the same time is not a good idea for those that I work with and love so coffee and a teaspoon of agave will keep me fueled up. I am also going to drink more water. Good ole plain water. Yuck. I get an F here. The change in our world set me back. Waaaay back. I have started drinking coffee with monk fruit sweetener and limiting soda to two cans a day. Most days. I am drinking more water.

This past year we sold a home, bought a home, moved into the lake house, moved out of the lake house, moved in to our new suburban home, started new jobs, attended our daughter and son in law’s wedding, and welcomed our son and daughter in law in our new home while they prepare to go overseas for a year of mission work.

It was a memorable year. We are tired. Exhausted. Hubby and I did manage to get some projects done at the lake house and our new home, but hopefully next year we will get a few more projects at both places complete.

We plan to update the master bedroom, finish the covered porch area, refurbish the deck, and get an outdoor shower in at Star Hill.

We are putting in sliding barn door at the burb home, fixing up the guest bath, and working on the back yard.

My personal word of the year is focus. I need to focus on what is important, focus on finishing projects, focus on my personal life, focus on finances, and focus on my relationships.

I am reading Dave Ramsey right now and plan to post one of these 20 things rich people do weekly so that we can get on track for retirement.

Visit his blog here: Dave Ramsey

The following 20 facts will be posted, one by one, weekly. I will have time to post them all twice during the year and re post the problem areas.

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1. 70% of wealthy eat less than 300 junk food calories per day. 97% of poor people eat more than 300 junk food calories per day.

2. 80% of wealthy are focused on accomplishing some single goal. Only 12% of the poor do this.

3. 76% of wealthy exercise aerobically four days a week. 23% of poor do this.

4. 63% of wealthy listen to audio books during commute to work vs. 5% of poor people.

5. 81% of wealthy maintain a to-do list vs. 19% of poor.

6. 63% of wealthy parents make their children read two or more non-fiction books a month vs. 3% of poor.

7. 70% of wealthy parents make their children volunteer 10 hours or more a month vs. 3% of poor.

8. 80% of wealthy make Happy Birthday calls vs. 11% of poor.

9. 67% of wealthy write down their goals vs. 17% of poor.

10. 88% of wealthy read 30 minutes or more each day for education or career reasons vs. 2% of poor.

11. 6% of wealthy say what’s on their mind vs. 69% of poor.

12. 79% of wealthy network five hours or more each month vs. 16% of poor.

13. 67% of wealthy watch one hour or less of TV every day vs. 23% of poor.

14. 6% of wealthy watch reality TV vs. 78% of poor.

15. 44% of wealthy wake up three hours before work starts vs. 3% of poor.

16. 74% of wealthy teach good daily success habits to their children vs. 1% of poor.

17. 84% of wealthy believe good habits create opportunity luck vs. 4% of poor.

18. 76% of wealthy believe bad habits create detrimental luck vs. 9% of poor.

19. 86% of wealthy believe in lifelong educational self-improvement vs. 5% of poor.

20. 86% of wealthy love to read vs. 26% of poor.

I also will be posting a Bible verse weekly in the laundry room.

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Man, do I have my work cut out for me here. In one year, I should be able to post them all two weeks and time to focus on the trouble areas an additional week.

I hope you and yours have a blessed new year.

I would love to hear your goals for the new year,

Blessings,

Karen