It is rare to find a contractor that doesn’t have negative associations.  Our flooring guy, Tom Tran is one such contractor.  I think he has done work in most every house in Roanoke, at least according to him.  He is a pleasant person to deal with even through his heavy accent.   He quickly responded to our request for a quote and came over on a Friday.  He walked around, and on the spot gave us a quote that was within a $100 of our budget.  It was a deal and we were anxious to get the process moving.  His crew began work on the following Friday and were done by Monday.  He promised the job would be done in 5 – 6 days and delievered it in 4.   They sanded the floors and quarter round.  Stained back to match the original color.  Lastly topped the floors with 3 coats of matte finish polyurethane.

This process is not for the weak of nose.  It is a dirty, smelly job.  I am glad that it is over and the floor, I am happy to report, looks stunning!



So we have our budget in hand, made our list of wants and try desperately to whittle them down to needs.  The three major renovation items we come up with are refinishing floors, electrical upgrade, and windows.  These items all made the #1 priority ranking for various reasons.  Of course the entire place needs a fresh coat of paint and this is one thing Matt and I feel confident that we can do ourselves.  It is alot of work but we have enlisted Mom and Fish to help us along a bit.

The first thing is to get the wallpaper off the dining room walls.  First a little tear, OK not so bad.  Within minutes we had the vinyl top coat off and on the floor.  We tried several solutions to strip the backing but found that since there was plaster under the paper and not typical modern dry wall, the best strategy was to just get it really really wet and wait about 15 minutes and then scrape. We tried fabric softener and water mixture.  It was just OK and really made the place smell great but didn’t see much difference over plain water.  The picture to the right does not have enough water on it.  As with everything in life after the third (or so) attempt it gets easier.  This was the beginning.  We quickly learned that wetter was better and so much easier.

After the first scrape, we discovered the second layer of wallpaper.  It was a great vintage floral design that has come back into style.  The second layer made the job a little tougher but eventually with everyone’s help we got through all the layers and were ready for the paint.

I was thinking about the day that the wallpapers went up.  How lovely they must have looked.  I hope our version of the same space turns out as nice as it was back in the first days of the wallpaper.

The Before

So just as quickly as we finished getting the last of Matt’s furniture out of his place and finalizing the sell of his house, we turn full attention to getting through the high hoops the bank set for us for the new house.  Matt’s seller’s used a FHA loan and that really slowed the process down.  We thought that since ours was a conventional loan it would be much easier.  We were only marginally correct.  The process was a full up and down two weeks of maybes and ifs.  From my vantage, it isn’t very confusing that our country is struggling to go through an economic recovery.  Are the mortgage companies/banks really doing the country just service?  It is no wonder to me that my tax dollars were used to bail out banks.  It took more effort than should be necessary to close our deal.  Even to the point that in the final hours before the scheduled closing, our closing agent was asking for a copy of the down payment cashier’s check and we were still waiting for an amount from the lender to make that very check out.  The process some how just isn’t working.  I am not sure why but surely someone smarter than me could think about the process for a while and find a simpler better way that wouldn’t cause sleepless nights and heart palpitations.

So after a few of those sleepless night we all met at an office and signed a lot of papers.  Thank goodness Martha our closing agent made it easy and simple.  Whew, finally.  The owner signed, we signed and all was done.  After it was ours, we were both so rung out we went for a quick dinner and headed home to Salem for a good night’s sleep.  I dreamed of an owl that night.  Not sure if I have told anyone that or not.  But it was much bigger than the one I saw the day this all got started.

We closed on a Thursday and I took the next day off.  Over the first weekend we talked to a few contractors and really got the plans into motion.  Matt, Zoe and I just sat on our folding chairs in the empty living room and bonded with our new space.  So for a little tour of our new house.  Here are some of the before pictures.

The view from the living room into the dining room.  Great original mantel and natural wood trim.  We have fallen in love with the radiators.  It has been a warm cozy house during a very cold winter in Virginia.  If we had bought the house at any other time of the year we might have acted on our first instinct to tear the radiators out.  But now I think we are leaving them and learning to live with the covers.

The kitchen that is slated for a total overhaul.  The cabinets were made by Perdue Cabinets.  A quality company that still does business today.  One of the pieces of advice that we have gleemed off the endless hours of HGTV we have been watching is that not all projects need to happen right away.  This one we are going to let unfold while we live there.  We want to get it right so we are going to go slow on this part.

The bathroom on the other hand is one of the first projects we are ready to tackle.  The layout is about right but the circa 50s plastic turquoise tile (typical for a home of that time) is ready to go.  We also think we want a double sink vanity.  Behind the wall to the right is an enormous hall closet. You can also see the smaller bathroom closet door.  This house has ample closet space.  (now there is a statement one doesn’t say or hear often)  We have a couple of ideas and this is one of the few rooms that may end up with a little wall demo.

Overall the house is in great working order.  That I guess is the difference between this and the last project I tackled.  Everything works, we can just move in.  However, we wanted to have a few projects complete before we did move just to make them easier for the contractors and on us.  So while we paint and clean, the floors and electrical project are underway.

Selling out of Staunton

This was my house in Staunton. It was a two story bachelor pad with a basement and an attached room that I used as an office. It had a very steep driveway, so coming home in the snow was fun. It had a steep front yard so mowing was fun. It had a giant pine tree that rained down pine cones on me like it was possessed. I never really decorated, and only bought decent furniture when my grandmother came to visit.

Below is a picture of me and my grandmother and aunt and cousin on a typical family outing.

It is often fun to dress alike so if we get separated in a crowd, people know we belong together.

Anyway, Staunton was a great town. The big industry is a mental hospital. It is primarily known for the Statler Brothers and as the home of Woodrow Wilson. It has a girl’s college, Mary Baldwin. I lived there for 6 years, and really loved the house, the area and the city of Staunton. But I met Kim and had to move to Roanoke.

In order for the move to happen, the first step that had to be completed was for me to sell my house. I put it on the house on the market in March in a very down housing market, and the deal finally closed in December. That’s a long time. My real estate agent looked like Jennifer Aniston, and it still took a long time to sell the house. I only ever got a single offer on the house, and it took a long time to close the deal.

The people who bought it used an FHA loan, which these days take forever to approve. They check every little detail about the house, and want every thing done by a “licensed and insured professional”. If there is any way you can avoid the FHA, and you are buying a house, avoid them. The deal was supposed to close on Nov 16, but didn’t wind up closing until Dec 28. I guess I was lucky to get a banker off their rump between Christmas and New Years. Anyway, when trying to schedule the closing, I refused to get excited about anything until I had a firm time and date in hand. My furniture remained in the house until I was sure that I wasn’t going to be moving back there at some point. So of course, Staunton got a 10 year record snow fall of 28″ before the closing, when I would be moving my stuff. Remember that steep driveway? when it thaws and refreezes, it becomes ice.

Now Kim is terrified of vehicles that don’t go straight, and on my icy driveway, nothing will go straight, it all tends to slide. We dug out as much snow as we could, but the refreezing was the thing that got us in the end. So I let her direct traffic while I slid the Subaru down the drive. Neither of us was injured, but it was fun anyway. Getting up the drive was fun too. I just backed across the street, got a running start, and floored it. Remember sledding on those round saucers when you were a kid? Absolutely no control. That was very much how it felt even in the all-wheel drive Subaru. This kind of driving is fun for me, being from the great white north, but Kim is terrified of anything not absolutely bolted to the ground. Words cannot describe what that little bit of driving did to her, even though she was not in the car, and couldn’t even see it through the tears.

Here I am towing my boat with my canoe on top of the Subaru headed south to Roanoke.

Now all this time, we didn’t really have a place to move to. Kim’s house is about half the size of mine, and I have too much junk for one person. But finally at the end of October, we happened across this house in a very nice neighborhood with all of these strange coincidences that we described in the last two blog posts. So it was kind of shaping up that we would be moving into this new place. However, the new deal was contingent on the Staunton house selling, which was by no means certain. So we would not be able to move stuff from Staunton directly to the new house. Tiny details, so much back pain.

So eventually we got all of my stuff out of my old Staunton house, and instead of moving it into a storage unit, we had a storage unit delivered to us.

They delivered this big box right to Kim’s driveway. This has a garage type door on one end, and was lifted by this gantry-like device that rode on the back of a flat-bed truck. We unloaded stuff from a rental truck into the PODS, and then we continued to fill up the PODS with stuff from Kim’s house. Next, the PODS will be delivered to the new house, where we will unload all of Kim’s stuff and my stuff into the same house.

What an ordeal. Of course its not done yet. There is a lot of work left to be done in this move, including heavy and light renovation, cleanup and a lot of painting. Kim is taking the next part of the story, starting to work on the new house.


Much to Matt’s skepticism, I do believe in signs.  Chalk it up to growing up in the south with county folk for parents and grandparents.  I really had no choice.  Leaves turn up in the wind, it means rains on the way.  Sky turns green, watch out a tornado is coming.  And let’s not forget my favorite of all time, the infamous wooly worm.  So when it came to the signs connected to the new house they were all over and screaming way out loud.  We first learned about the house due to an estate sale.  At that sale, there was a Georgia Tech (go Jackets!) annual, turns out it belonged to a distant relative to the owner and they were not really sure how it got there.  I believe it found it way to the house just to help me.  Then there was the sign on the lamp post that Matt described previously, that bore the name of his grandfather as well as the previous owner.  The street name also being connected to his grandfather.

Most curious to me was the owl.  It appeared at the very moment I phone the previous owner on Halloween to begin the whole process.  I must have sounded like a dits on the phone as I was stunned by the event.  I had always heard that an owl sighting during the day was bad luck.  But after some quick internet research it seems just the opposite.  Owls can be wonderful symbols.  For us it helped to mark the beginning of a crazy two month roller coaster ride to a new home.


Well, we have finally done it. I sold my house in Staunton, and Kim and I bought a house in Roanoke. Phone and email remain the same. The house was formerly owned by the folks who built it in 1949, named Robert Woods. I had a great uncle named Robert Woods. He and my grandfather lived near the town of Clearfield, Pennsylvania. A lot of strange coincidences with this house. Kim also cites seeing an owl in the middle of the day when we first spoke with the owner as a preternatural sign… but I don’t exactly go for that sort of superstition.

This place is in a quiet little neighborhood near Virginia Western Community College, convenient to a lot of stuff, but still a bit secluded and peaceful. It has a giant magnolia tree in the front yard, along with a couple of big pines and an oak. It is a bit of a fixer-upper, with mostly original 1949 decor. Arriving here has been a bit of an adventure, and in future blog posts, Kim and I will detail the journey, from selling the old batchelor pad in Staunton to the progress of renovations.

We are excited about the new place. It has enough room to have guests and to spread out and enjoy our hobbies, especially our newest hobby, do-it-yourself renovations. I’m sure we’re gonna have some parties and get-togethers. Some of the work has started, such as removing wall paper and scheduling contractors for refinishing floors and electrical upgrades. Come back to this blog to follow the progress.