I'm always looking for sponsors, advertisers and products or services to review for the blog. Contact me if you are interested!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Outdoor Living Part 2, Water Features

I think I am Jamie Durhie's biggest fan...this morning I woke up to watch the Outdoor Room that was recorded yesterday on my DVR.  This one was inspired by Miami.  Since we live in Miami, naturally I was intrigued.  Low and behold, one of the features of the design was the outdoor daybed.  I like this version a little better because the bed is higher off the ground.  Initially I thought I wanted it lower, but now I think its better to have it at a sitting height so its easier to get in and out of.  I haven't made the final decision, but I'm leaning towards higher, unless I put them on a platform and then they'd definitely be lower to the ground.

It's funny because I woke up with a notebook in hand trying to draw a design for the new backyard outdoor living area.  I think I want to extend the pool deck all the way to the Koi Pond right in front of the tennis courts.  I am a frustrated Architect and Interior Designer.  Those are the careers I would have chosen innately however I was convinced otherwise because Math was not my strong-suit and I am the world's worst artist.  I can't draw a picture if my life depended on it.  Although I have to explain my drawings to others, I get them and I can "see" what the end-product will look like. They are not to scale, because I have no idea how to do that and I don't want to waste time figuring it out.  I just want to put my ideas down on paper so I don't forget them.

I was thinking of including one of my drawings on this post for your enjoyment, but I have to work on them a little.  I will try to add one some time this week.  Meanwhile I'll let you enjoy the Outdoor Room Miami-inspired episode.  I love the water feature that includes the lounging/dining area.

Photo from HGTV website

Although I like the idea of this water feature with the lounge chairs and dining table in the water, I would like a slightly different look for it for the new casa.  I would do it in more "earthy" tones and not as contemporary.  I'd also like the back wall to be a little shorter and possible have gardenia or jazmin shrubs on the other side of the wall  peeking over for fragrance and a softer backdrop.

Gardnia hedge 

 Gardenia flower

 Jasmin hedge

Jasmin flower

 I searched for a photo of a wall with the creeping flowers hanging over the front, but was not able to find exactly what I wanted.  You get the idea...

Friday, May 27, 2011

Short Sale Update

I'm so excited!!!!
I received a call from the attorney today, he wanted us to sign an amendment the bank requested.  It was a document stating that we would close on or before July 30, 2011.  Basically, he feels they will approve the transaction because otherwise why would they ask us to sign that?????

I can't wait!!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Backyard Edible Garden

My family and I are transitioning to a more "green" way of life.  I would have never thought I'd be interested in this sort of thing, because it seemed very time-consuming.  Now I realize it doesn't take much effort and is so beneficial for our health and the well-being of our planet (and our wallets).  We are looking into solar energy, energy efficient appliances, growing our own organic food, raising chickens to lay eggs and anything else that might seem interesting along the way. 

As I've written before, I am looking into the possibility of installing solar panels for the entire house or at least for the air conditioning unit.  I have contacted several vendors and am waiting for their responses ( more on this in an upcoming post).  When the time comes I plan to purchase all energy-star appliances.

In addition, a friend that lives in the neighborhood, recently put in a chicken coup.  This, in addition to the garden where they grow a lot of the organic vegetables and herbs they use for cooking.  When I heard about the chicken coup I was very interested in getting one for the new casa.  The idea of my children being able to experience that and being able to eat eggs laid by our own chickens, made me very excited.  I think it will be fun for them to experience. 

With the chickens we will definitely be moving into a new realm of obtaining food we've never done before.  Earlier this week I was watching one of my favorite HGTV shows, The Outdoor Room with Jamie Durie, and came across this episode where he built an edible backyard garden.  I was inspired to do this at the new casa also.  We've had an herb garden in our current casa but we were not very consistent in keeping up with it.  We grew a variety of herbs, eggplants and tomatoes.  It was convenient to have, but when it was too overgrown it looked ugly and messy and one day I just took it all out.  I like the idea of growing the food vertically...it seems less messy and cleaner and at least I know our pets won't be able to get into it (other animals I'm not sure about). 

It's also nice that it can be grown in a condensed area rather that taking up a lot of land.  We have an acre but I have big plans for that acre!

I found a website to purchase the "pockets" for vertical gardening.  Woolly pockets are flexible, breathable, modular gardening containers.  There are a couple of options for these pockets, horizontal, on the ground or vertical, hanging on the wall. 
Here's a link to a post with the steps for starting your own vertical edible garden: http://www.good.is/post/how-to-grow-an-edible-vertical-garden-in-5-steps/

I look forward to growing my own herbs and veggies again!  I plan to include posts in the future when I actually set up my edible gardens and eventually start using them.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Outdoor Living

I posted photos of the Outdoor Living  area of the new casa in a previous entry.  I am very excited about our new backyard. I have many ideas of what I'd like to do there.  I have collected hundreds of photographs and television shows with features I'd like to include in the new yard. 

I love watching the Outdoor Room with Jamie Durie on HGTV.  He did a great job on his backyard.   Here's a link to his own backyard makeover.   He always has innovative ideas for outdoor retreats. 

Jamie Durie's Backyard Makeover

 I want our backyard to be an extension of our house.  I want a lot of "living" to take place out there.  In my house now we spend a lot of time outside.  My children use the yard every day.  We use the yard together on weekends and sometimes weekdays.  I hope to use the new yard even more!

Some of the ideas I hope to incorporate from Jamie's own backyard are:  the daybeds, the outdoor bathroom, the dining area under a "pergola" and the entire concept of bringing the outdoors in, and having everything indoors and outdoors mesh together.

I found other daybeds in photographs online:



I plan to build two day beds like in Jamie's house.  However, I like the addition of the curtains like in the photographs above.  I like incorporating curtains outside, as you can see in photos of my current backyard.
I will not add a table like in the first photo, I will probably just have a mattress in each to encourage relaxation and "hanging out".

I can't wait to see this in the new house...
Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear comments, suggestions, ideas, etc.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Short Sale Update

Good news again!
The latest email we received states that the bank is ordering an appraisal to confirm the price on the (BPO) Broker Price Opinion that was done to determine the value of the home.  The appraisal is more accurate and detailed. 

The appraisal will be ordered tomorrow and completed within the next week.  Once the appraiser submits the report to the bank, the bank will take approximately three to four weeks to approve the sale. 

I'm estimating the earliest we will have an approval is June 11th.  Hopefully it will be earlier than later, but it could take until June 18th or 25th.  Once the sale is approved, the normal buying procedures start.  At that point we would order inspections, apply for financing (we've done this already), obtain insurance, etc. 

I am guessing we might be able to close by the middle to the end of July.  This means the entire process would have taken about nine months to complete. 

I was hoping to move in the summer.  Its always easier to find a buyer or tenant before the start of a new school year.  Most people like to move and be settled before their children start school.   I will have to list my house before we close on the other to give buyers/tenants an opportunity to see the house before they choose another. 

It's becoming a reality...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Blogathon 2011 Update

As you may have noticed, I stopped posting for several days.  First there was an issue with the blogger site.  The blogs could be viewed but it was not possible to post for several days last week.  I continued writing in a notebook, in order to post when the site came up.  Unfortunately there were a series of "life events" (nothing serious) just time-consuming things, and in order to get at least 5 to 6 hours of sleep every night I had to give up writing posts for a few days.

I'm back and although I am not in the running to be a winner for the 2011 Blogathon, I will add the blogs I wrote and will continue to write as much as possible the rest of the month.

In addition to maintaining a happy marriage, raising my elementary age children full-time, enjoying quality family time together, I also help my friend with her Educational Materials website (www.thelearningcollection.com), write posts for my three blogs, work as a realtor, and own and rent vacation homes.   I also try to read books, other blogs and try to keep abreast of  global issues.

To add to all the excitement, we are now in the process of buying a new home which happens to be a short sale.  The house has been abandoned for close to two years, so when its finally ours, we are going to have to do a great deal of work to be able to move into it.   Something has to give...I only have 24 hours per day and like 50 hours worth of work...

I still have so much I want to do...I have several children's books I've started and haven't finalized.  My husband and I have an idea for a children's tv show, we've written the treatment but need to pitch it to networks...

I will eventually do everything I want, I just need better time-management skills and a few assistants.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Air Conditioning

Missing a/c unit on right side
One of the things I must do right away before moving into the house is to replace the stolen air conditioning units.  I will make appointments to meet with a/c companies as soon as possible.  I really want to go green with this house. 

 I’d like to purchase solar-powered units or at least have the panels to run all the electrical from solar power. 
I saw these two vendors at  the Miami Beach Home and Remodeling Show so I have a little information.
Solar Air Conditioning... http://www.floridasolarac.com/
Planet Solar, solar installation ... www.planetsolar.com
I would like to know exactly how well these units cool and all the details to make an informed decision.  After all, with temperatures that can exceed 100 degrees in the summer, we can’t have mediocre air conditioning.  We need to have high-quality, efficient, inexpensive units.
I will do my research and let you know the findings and conclusions.  Meanwhile, if any a/c vendors out there would like me to review a product on my blog, let me know.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Planning for the Moving and Packing

I am going to start my research for moving companies.  I just received a quote from a company with portable storage containers.  The price for a 12ft container is $143.95 per month plus $109.00 initial delivery fee plus $50.50 transport fee to move it to the new house.  The price for a 16ft container is $183.95 per month plus $109.00 initial delivery and $50.50 transport fee.  I like the idea of packing the container calmly and then moving it when its full.  From my preliminary research, I don't think this is a cost-effective method.

We own a lot of “stuff” so we’ll probable fill a few containers.  I’m not sure if its more efficient and cost effective to move that way or to just put everything in boxes and have a moving company take everything in one day.

My mother-in-law suggested moving room by room to the new house.  She said they did it in Austin when my brother-in-law and his wife moved.  They literally packed up items one room at a time, took them to the new house and set up each room before moving on to the next.
They hired a moving company but just for the big items.  They moved all the little things themselves. 

I think this might work because we can  move things little by little to avoid becoming overwhelmed when we receive the moving truck.  Each room could essentially be organized before the big items arrive.  Moving this way could take a loooong time.  However, we could plan it to coincide with the work being done to the house.

I'm excited about the new house and anxious to start working on all the little and big things we must do to it.  I can't wait to move.  Since I can't move yet and we have to wait, I am using my anxiety for good rather than evil...I'm either "nesting" or in a "cleaning and organizing frenzy."  I'm not sure which it is, but for over two weeks, I've been a bit out of control.  I am losing sleep and actually preferring to organize cabinets and drawers rather than getting my essential hours of sleep every night. 
So far I've organized every cabinet and drawer in my current kitchen.  I've organized part of the laundry room and a large closet.  I've bought many organizational gadgets and am getting very excited about having every part of this house organized.
This is  a drawer in the pantry.  I bought glass and stainless steel
 canisters for all types of sugars and flour.  Believe it or not, I use to
store those  things in the bag they came in inside a Ziploc bag.
That was very messy!
This is a Lazy Susan in a corner cabinet. 
I use it for my appliances.  It was very messy before. 
Now everything has a place flat on the stand.
This is the top half of our pantry.  Before it was hard to see what
we had in there, especially on top.  I purchased shelves and now
we can see everything at once. 

We have five drawers in this kitchen (not including the pantry). 
Two are for pots and pans and the others for silverware, serving pieces
 and the third for the children's plastic cups and plates. 
This is the middle drawer with cooking utensils and miscellaneous gadgets.
I plan to replace the plastic bins with baskets similar to those pictured.

I'm not a neat person...I used to be, but with age I've let the part of my personality virtually disappear.  It is showing up again and I'm welcoming it with open arms.  This will definitely help with the packing I have ahead of me.   It will also make it easy to transport items to the new house. 
In the organizational process, I've set aside quite a few things for my upcoming garage sale.  I will have a garage sale in our current casa before moving to the new casa.  I want to get rid of all the "stuff" we don't need.  I also plan to sell items on Craig's List and EBay.  My main concern is moving everything from the old to the new casa...what would be the best way?

Suggestions?  Comments?  Ideas?  I'm not sure what is the best way to do this.  I'd love to know what you think...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Getting Closer

We are getting closer…
I received a message from the attorney today, “As of today the bank has the file in for final review.  We cannot get any further updates.  All documents were received and the offer was good according to the person I spoke to."  Good news, right????  My twelve year-old son and seven year-old daughter thought so, but I wanted to be 150% sure it was good news, so I asked him to clarify what he meant by “the offer was good”.
His response was, “Your offer was acceptable and there probably won’t be a counteroffer”.
OMG!!!! I’m so excited, I have big plans…big dreams for our new casa.
Time to get busy with my research…

By the way, the answer to the HAIKU poem is Our New Casa.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Short Sale Update

It has been almost seven months since we first submitted a contract for the purchase of our new casa.  I am a realtor, I know short sales take time, but this has taken sooooooo long!!! 

"A short sale is the process by which a homeowner can sell a house for less money than what is owed on the mortgage.  There are alternatives to bankruptcy or foreclosure proceedings for homeowners/borrowers who can no longer afford to keep mortgage payments current. One of those options is called a "short sale." Sometimes, to avoid going through the costs of foreclosure, a lender will sanction a short sale by allowing a homeowner to sell (allowing a buyer to purchase) the home for less than the mortgage balance while the home is in pre-foreclosure stage. "
from www.phoenix.gov
The seller took about one month to come to an agreement regarding the purchase price with us.  Once we had a contract we submitted it to an attorney with valuable short sale negotiation experience to expedite the process. 
The attorney gave the seller and seller's realtor a checklist of necessary documents to submit to the lender:
  • Two years tax returns with W'2s
  • Three months bank statements
  • Current monthly budget
  • All mortgages with account numbers
  • Any pending bankruptcy
  • Hardship letter
  • Last 30 days pay stubs (if applicable)
The seller finally submitted all the paperwork around March 15, 2011.  The lender appears to be moving quickly.  The BPO was done 2 weeks ago, so we are in the final stages awaiting the lender's approval. 

We were in limbo for a long time, I didn't even want to think about it because I didn't want to get my hopes up, but now I am getting very excited.
Hopefully we'll have the approval soon...

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Vanda Orchids

Aren't these the most beautiful orchids you've ever seen?

I love them.  I know of a wonderful retailer where you can buy these in South Florida.

I've had several but I can't have them any more.  I have annoying iguanas that visit my yard and love to munch on them.  I've caught them actually sitting on the trunk munching on the flowers. 
This one in the picture was one of its meals last year...I'm surprised it survived. 
I lost two last year because of the  iguanas.

As much as I would love to have my yard full of these flowers right now, I don't want to waste that kind of money on food for iguanas that are not even mine and I don't want.  SO, until I move to my new casa, I will just enjoy the soul survivor of last year's eating frenzy.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

My Current Casa, "After" pictures of the Outdoor Room

This is one of my favorite rooms in the house.  The room with only two walls...
It is a great room for entertaining, for hanging out and just being together.

I love this Indonesian Teak bed.  We've never used it for sleeping but have
used it as a sofa on many occasions.  It's comfy and a great conversation piece.

 The curtains are draped around the open arches of the terrace.  After attempting different fabrics out there, I have come to the conclusion that the sheer, cotton curtains from Ikea are the best fit for this area.  If they get wet, they dry quickly and don't get mold stains like thicker fabrics might.  They also look beautiful blowing in the wind.

We moved the Foosball table out from the playroom because it wasn't getting any use there.
  Now children play with this all the time.

Side view of the patio.

View from the backyard towards the patio.

View of the back of the house.

Our baby Coco up to her antics.  She's walking on a wicker storage basket.
We have many furniture pieces here and its not by choice. 
I would prefer to have less furniture in every room of the house.  I inherited some pieces from my mother and others from a vacation rental we redecorated .  They are all in good condition, and I hope to purchase another vacation property where I can put them all in the near future.  Meanwhile, we keep them here, safe from the dangers of the sun and the rain.

The armoire holds a tv set and small refrigerator with water and other drinks.  We also have sunblock and insect repellent, etc. stored in there.

Friday, May 6, 2011

My Current Casa, "After" pictures of the Backyard

The backyard in our current casa, is a small  tropical oasis.  We love to spend time outside just hanging out and playing with the children.

 Many palms adorn the yard, including the fishtail palms that line the entire rear fence of the property.  We have a canal behind the property, but its not very pretty and I didn't want my small children and their friends enticed by it, so I covered it with the palms so they wouldn't even know it was back there.

There are many areas to sit and sun bathe, relax or watch the children while they swim or play around the yard.  We made the pool deck wide enough so the children can ride their ride-on toys or bikes and scooters around the pool.  We have a very family-friendly neighborhood, but sometimes we just want to stay home.  I can keep an eye on the children from inside and they can play outside in a safe and comfortable environment.

One of my favorite furniture pieces is this double chaise.  It's very comfortable and the entire family can snuggle up and lounge here.

The second step of the pool was enlarged to four feet wide to allow
comfortable wading for smaller children.  (similar to the depth of a kiddie pool).
In addition, we added a bench that extends from the steps to the end of the pool. 
This bench allows the smaller children more freedom to roam from one end of the pool
to the other without stepping out.

Another nice, shady, comfy lounging area.

Another favorite piece is this iron bench I found at TJ Maxx.  It was a perfect fit. 
All I did was paint it brown.  It's not really super comfortable to sit on, but its cute and I love how it looks.  I struggled to find something for that area for a long time.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

My Current Casa, "After" pictures of the bathrooms

These are my bathrooms.  We built two brand new and remodeled two.  One of my bathrooms is so messy right now, I am embarrassed to take the pictures and post for the world to see the mess.  Suffice it to say that it is similar to the size of my children's bathroom and for some odd reason (although we have 3 other bathrooms)  everyone uses it.  It is clean but very messy.  I will eventually take pictures and post them.  That bathroom has travertine marble throughout and has a shower similar to the cabana bath.

These are the other three:

This is a cabana bath.  It is new from the construction. 
 It was not one of the remodeled baths.
It has slate tile throughout, the glass vessel sink
and a floating mirror.

The vanity was made from a concrete slab covered with mosaic tile.

The baskets in the picture provide storage for pool towels, extra bathing suits for friends that forget their own and extra tissue paper.

This is my children's bathroom.  We purchased a "Mexican" piece to use as a vanity and had a very difficult time finding a sink that would fit in it.  We opted for a custom made top with ample space.  The piece is not really functional, it is more decorative than anything.  We had a custom mirror made along the entire wall behind the sink. 

This is the bathroom in our home office.  It is very convenient.  We use it as a back-up when guests are over.  It has a river rock trim, french pattern marble tile and a shower to the right (not shown).
The mirror is not built in, its just a hanging mirror I picked up at Marshall's for a decent price.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Current Casa, "After" pictures of the dining room and living room

This is the "before" picture of the living room.  It was and still is a sunken living room.  Originally, it had a very thin walkway along the doorway (pictured below).  We wanted to raise the entire area, but we'd have to move up the support beam where the sliding doors are.  It was too expensive to do, so we raised only to the end of the wall on the right side.  Doing this added about six feet to the existing area and thus created a decent-sized foyer.

This is the "before" dining area.  We knocked down the wall with the opening to the left of the dining area, and built a new wall with no openings three feet in towards the kitchen.  By moving that wall we added additional necessary space to the dining room.

                                   After Pictures

View from the dining area towards the foyer.  We also created the archway that separates the dining room from the foyer.

Dining Room

This is the wall we moved three feet.   Beyond the buffet, you'll notice the doorway to the new breakfast area, which provides access to the kitchen, playroom, office, garage and storage closet.  Since we added three feet to the dining room it allows us space to walk comfortably to the new part of the house.

Dining room with view of the breakfast area/informal dining area just beyond the doorway.

You'll notice the step down just to the right of the chair, to the sunken  living room.

Part of the living room.

Another partial view of the living room.  I didn't want to post the full living room, because it gives a peek of the backyard.  I want to keep the yard under wraps until I do the backyard post.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My Current casa, "After" pictures of our kitchen

Things we did in the renovation:

  • took three feet away from the kitchen and added it to the dining room
  • closed off the entrance from the dining room and mad a full wall of cabinets and moved the refrigerator to that wall
  • removed the wall from the kitchen to the old garage, in its place is a peninsula with cabinets above and below and a breakfast area, laundry room and playroom where the garage was
  • removed the window behind the sink, added a large bar and a family room where the yard had been

View of the kitchen from the family room.

To the left of the refrigerator, I have a built-in pantry from floor to ceiling. 
 The bottom half contains six pull-out drawers. 
 The pantry is one of my favorite features in this kitchen.

I love this bar and the lighting above.  My children have snacks and meals here. 
 Sometimes I use it to put out appetizers when entertaining.

I love the convenient features in this kitchen...the under-cabinet lighting, the corner cabinets with tons of storage space, the lazy susan in the bottom  corner cabinet for appliances, and my huge drawers.
In my new house, if given the option and space permits, I would love to have only drawers on the bottom.

The deep drawers are extremely convenient.  I store pots, pans, baking dishes, etc.  
They are very comfortable and you don't have to be a contortionist to find and reach what you are looking for.
The only problem is the top drawer where we keep our silverware, opens by itself..
 I close it and seconds after I turn around and its open again.  We have to have it fixed but we haven't gotten around to it.

Peninsula with double cabinets on the bottom and glass hutch above.
It stands where the old wall between the kitchen and garage once stood.
About three ft. away is the breakfast area with a large 6' x 3' table.

The stools in the picture were purchased a year ago, because everyone would just come and hang out in the kitchen standing up.  Since we don't have an "island" where people normally gather, this is a great substitute.