Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Ramen Noodles in the $300,000 Kitchen

All hail the kind and generous Rebecca The Reader, who, perhaps recognizing our pending need in married life to sober up on a constant basis, has sent us a Cuisinart coffeemaker and its writer-snobby filter and a grinder and I hereby declare that she utterly, majorly rocks. Thank you, Rebecca. You may come visit us and have coffee. I will let you know when I learn how to make it.

Josh The Pilot and I were so overwhelmed with gratitude for our coffeemaker 'n' Starbucksy accouterments that we immediately attempted to seek out a place to put it. So we went townhouse hunting in Northern Virginia, where property values are such that oxygen molecules are heavily taxed.

Our budget allows for a home of Styrofoam, with support beams of Yaffa Blocks, but fortunately lending companies are amused by people in debt, and so with a much-appreciated assist from Dan The Pending Brother-In-Law, we were cleared for a mortgage which will last until the stars turn cold.

We looked at several places in our price range, which was 27 cents, which made for some fascinating choices.

May I ask something of you, homeselling public? Can we stop with the sponge painting? Who started this? Is it terrorists? Because they're doing a great job of destroying America with nothing more than a half-hour class at Hobby Lobby and a bottle of Bob Ross acrylic paint.

This is the first time I've done any kind of home shopping, and it did nothing but solidify my general fear of other people. Some homeowners stayed while we trotted up and down their stairs and peered up at kitchen cabinets, and the Creepy Factor was pinging at Gary Busey levels. I want to see your house, Other People, not you. It was the worst in Fertility House, where every room we peered into, more children came pouring out, presumably to gather downstairs before the poster-size Glamour Shot of their mother on the wall. This was in no way a building to be trusted, as it obviously really was something in the water.

Then there was Maroon World, which had clearly been a bordello decorated by a Showcase Showdown winner. Burgundy carpet. Black lacquer entertainment center. Wall art that had to be plugged in.

Upstairs: Sponge painting! Purple sponge painting! Floor to ceiling!

We found three places that did not make us cry and run away.

Hardwood Floors House: This was a two-bedroom that consisted of the most gorgeous Brazilian floors I have ever seen, and also the loudest, angriest crated-up Dalmatian I have ever seen. I'm thinking the crate had something to do with it.

Hardwood Floors House had a small kitchen, which was awesome, because I cannot cook. The best part about Hardwood Floors House was, of course, the pompous glory of the hardwood floors. You stand there with your hands on your hips, lord of all you survey: "How many mighty trees shading delicate foliage where gloriously colored tropical birds once frolicked were mowed down that I might skid my Wal-Mart sneakers upon their shiny remains?"

Baby House, so named because it contained a baby, which would presumably be removed as a condition of sale, had a yooge kitchen and a finished basement but highly questionable decor. The kitchen? Was full of apples. Apples. Stencilled on the cabinets.

"Did you see the kitchen?" I demanded of Josh the Pilot the second we were in the car.

"I know, lots of counter space!" he said.

"What are we going to do with all that apple crap? The wallpaper, Josh! It was two hundred square feet of Johnny Appleseed porn in there!"

"What apples?"

You cannot house shop with men; they never notice the important things. At least Josh does not object to my kitchen plans, which are much more classy, and involve sequins.

Perhaps he missed the apples to due the horror that was the Baby Room of Baby House. When we first entered Baby House, the baby herself met us with big eyes and smiled tenuously, then backed up into her father. At first I thought nothing of it, as all children tend to react to me in this manner, but when we saw her room, we understood: It was pink, y'all. The entire thing. Walls, ceiling, embroidery, curtains. And pink is okay, right, if it's a nice calm powdery pink, but this pink was the pink of hell. It was Attack Pink, Electric Youth pink, and the poor child most likely never slept, just lay there in her crib with her eyes wide open, a one-year-old on the outer edge of color trauma.

Then there was Scary Hot Tub House, which had a hot tub, but the hot tub was scary. It looked like a leaf-filled parting gift from COPS.

It also offered a wonderfully inviting entrance hall, which consisted of zero light and a washer/dryer sitting in the hallway. "Welcome to our home! Please do a load of socks."

The rec room was especially homey. Somebody had a cat! For a really really long time!

Comments from real estate listing: "Shows well!"

Comments from potential buyers: "If you're filming the next installment of Animal Rescue."

It sold yesterday. And I am pissed.

continuing the quest on behalf of Rebecca The Reader, that her coffeemaker not remain homeless at:


Craig said...

Well, the real estate market's supposed to be soft now, so you can probably force concessions out of these people, like "lower the price by $10,000 and get rid of the apples."

Anonymous said...

BabyHouse sold too, Craig. Good luck with the Great Pink Debacle, suckers.

the celina(s) said...


What are Yaffa Blocks?

amy lou the reader said...

I'd personally buy a house with hardwood floors - much easier to clean and better for any allergies one may have.

I understand what you're saying about decor, MB.

We may or may not look into buying our in-laws house when they sell it. In the living/dining room, there's ORANGE shag carpeting. Bought because every teenager within a 10 mile radius of my in-laws house used to hang out there in the 70s and 80s.

I told my husband, if we bought said house, not one box was crossing the threshold until that carpet was disposed of.

He goes..."But I LIKE that carpet."


ShannJ said...

Best of luck house hunting! I had a real love/hate relationship with the house hunting each time we did it, and we've had four apartments and two houses. There was lots of hunting.

My advice would be to concentrate on room size, cabinet space, etc. Things that would be difficult to change if you're not happy once you have to live with them, and to try not to get too hung up on decor. I know it's hard, because some of it is scary, but it's amazing how different rooms can look once the furniture and wall hangings are gone, and all you're left with is paint and flooring. Painting is a pain, but it's easier than being unhappy with something major. Although I do agree, dark paint mishaps are much harder to cover up. We did look at a house with a Pepto Bismol girls bedroom. We passed on that house, but I can't remember why. It wasn't the paint alone. The best was the one that had been repossessed, and was in the midst of major rehab, just so it might sell. We pretty much turned around and walked out.

Bigger kitchens are nice - almost necessary, even if you don't cook. Trust me, I cook VERY little, but once you get all that stuff you registered for, kitchen space disappears quickly. I haven't had a house with enough cabinet space yet, and we built the one we're in now!

tamar said...

lol! I left someone a 'Great Pink Debacle' once! What can I say, my daughter was 6, we told her (an my son) that they could choose the paint for their rooms. OMG....My son chose the coolest looking blue, and my daughter chose Attack Pink.

I have to admit, I had an evil little laugh when we left that place and didn't have to ever paint over it. I am glad that you have missed having to rectify a Great Pink Debacle as well. :)

Life's a Laugh said...

Depending on how diy you and your future hubby are, you can always try to look for a place with "potential", a.k.a. a house in need of a little tlc. I myself do not possess this genetic trait as when my brother bought a fixer-upper, the pool was black (as in the water was black, the tiles were black, notice a pattern), the rooms had trash in them and there was a dead frog on the floor in the living room. I left never wanting to come back. He cleaned it out and redid alot of the house so it looks really nice with tile floors, marble countertops and no dead animals anywhere in the vicinity. I still have an aversion to the pool though it is clean now.

Anonymous said...

Good advice, Shannyboat. Actually my horror over the decor was increased for dramatic effect, and my favorite house was Scary Hot Tub, because I could smell the potential over the cat pee. Hardwood Floors was gorgeously decorated, very cleverly done-- we wouldn't have had to change a thing-- but the owners almost had to do that to make up for the fact that the place is pretty small and the basement is a shoebox. My least favorite was Baby House, not due to the apples, but because the basement had very little light (it wasn't a walk-out) and yard was basically an office cubicle in grass form... in DC, there's no such thing as a big yard, but this one was especially bad, very narrow with a high fence. Shudder.

Oh, and Yaffa Blocks:

These were big in the '80's and had just about the cheeziest commercials of all time. As you can see by the link there, they're pretty much using the same pictures from the original ads-- I do believe I see a neon Jazz Cap in that closet. You probably hadn't heard of them, the celinas, because you likely had a life at this time.

Anonymous said...

Hee! I would fear the ghost of the dead frog too, LAL. The realtor did suggest a few "Handyman Specials," which Josh and I immediately understood to mean "RUUUUUUUUUUUUN." As he puts it, "That's beyond our budget and my capabilities." Josh's parents are awesome at this, though, as are my godparents.

Josh did find one place, though, that DOES fit within our budget and his capabilities, and hopefully I'll have more to write about that soon. :)

Tamar, you're a right cool mom to let your kids pick whatever they wanted.

Laney said...

So, your saying this would be a bad wedding gift?

Mmmmmm, Apples. : )

Anonymous said...

Oh, ew. That's probably how that whole nightmare started, Laney. I think I saw that very cookie jar.

LiteraryAlchemist said...

Funniest... post... in... weeks!!!

"...attack pink..."????
"...Johnny Appleseed porn..."???

Where did you get this stuff! I'm dying this morning! WOOHOO!

JeanR said...

I don't know what it is about us but the last two houses we have purchased have been owned by people with a strange love of fake flowers and fruit. The current house had pear wallpaper borders all through the kitchen. Thank goodness they are gone now -- after a $8k "minor" kitchen re-do. But the hideous flowered wallpaper in the bathrooms remains. We actually had to break off the ceramic flowers that were adhered to the exterior brick! But at least we can change that stuff. We once looked at house owned by some Disney movie music composer and he had three bedrooms -- one was dark navy blue, another dark forest green and the last dark, blood red. I told my husband there isn't enough Kilz in the state to cover that - whoever bought the house either lived with the colors or re-sheetrocked. Don't get discouraged -- you will find a place and banish the weirdness of the prior owners and make it your own. Get a priest to bless it -- that is always a good start!

Anonymous said...

Thank you kindly, LA. I thought we needed a laugh this week.

Good advice on the priest, Jeanr.

Em said...

Best of luck on the home hunting. I hope to be doing that myself next year and live in fear of fruit and flowers on the walls.

Abhorring all things pink, Baby House likely would have sent me into convulsions. Or, some kind of angry rash, at least.

On a side comment, read your book this weekend. LOVE IT. Have already loaned it out to begin sharing the high quality hilarity.

Lisa said...

Blessed, THANKFULLY, I have not yet had to house hunt. One of my husband's features was that he came with a newly remodeled house. (How lucky can you get?)
On the other hand, based on the "Welcome to our home, please do a load of socks house" comment, I may move the washing machine to my teenager girls' bedroom. It will save time and angst, since their bedroom is a giant laundry basket anyway. This could lead to a new marketing device for parents of teenagers buying homes.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for ordering the book, dear em. I'm glad you like it :)

The aforementioned baby of Baby House, btw, was named Emma. I saw it embroidered on a wall hanging. In pink.

red pill junkie said...

Well, if you don't find suspicious-looking holes in the walls, and "REDRUM" written in the bathroom mirror, in can't be all that bad... ;-)

PS: Forget about hardwood floors, laminated floors are cheap and easy to install,and replace when you get tired of them. Plus there's the bonus that you don't feel like a tree-killer ;-)

ShannJ said...

Hey MB! I definitely got the dramatic effect - as always, very funny - I just figured I'd share some advice as well. We laughed at lots of frightning decor during the house hunting. Oh, also? Wallpaper? Avoid it like the plague unless you really like it and plan on keeping it forever. Paint can be painted over. Wallpaper however, is a never-ending mess!!!!

Anonymous said...

I think we are gonna go with wallpaper borders, Shannyboat. Most are removable and there are tons to choose from. My favorite: Pigs literarlly wrapped in blankets.

graycie said...

Once while house-hunting I found one with shag carpet -- on the walls -- on the walls all the way up to the ceiling -- on all of the walls.

Didn't buy it.

jcat said...

House hunting can be so frustrating. The fiance and I have been looking for a place for months. Every time we find one online that's 'just perfect' (something we like and can afford) and call the realitor immediately for a showing, it's already sold. It's really starting to suck.
If you have a chance, do a parade of homes. We did that last summer, just for fun, but we made the mistake of starting with the million dollar homes and working our way down. By the time we got to the houses below half a mil, which were awesome and huge, they seemed so small and basic. Only 4 bedrooms? Only 2500 sq ft? No Jacuzzi? Why bother?

Owen the Reader said...

I was fine until "Johnny Appleseed porn". Damn, that's good.

Josh The Pilot said...

Today I made an offer on a place I found on Tuesday. I know MB loves and trusts me because she agreed to it based only on pictures I took for her. It's a foreclosure that the bank has already fixed/cleaned up, as opposed to most foreclosures which are sold as is, in pretty sorry shape, so there's not much we should have to do to make it our love-nest. It has hardwired surround-sound hookups in the basement. Good enough for me!! The only potential drawback is the FAA center is visible from the back deck. I like where I work, but this is bad because if they ever want to call me in for overtime, and I don't want to go in and pull the trick of not answering the phone, all they'll have to do is yell across the road and I'll have to go in because they'll know I got the message.

Jeremiah the pending brother in law said...

Great post, MB! I laughed... *smiles* Good luck on the offer you made, bro.

amy lou the reader said...

Today I made an offer on a place I found on Tuesday.

Good luck. I hope you get it!

Anonymous said...

My bathroom is pink. It is Pepto Pink. It is "they didn't have the pink I wanted in the color chart so I took a Barbie wall decoration to the counter and made them match the color" pink. It screams I am a princess. It is over the top and totally girly. And I don't care cause it is MINE. (I'll post picts tomorrow at

But, hat is the coolest part of having your OWN house, you can do whatever you want. And really in the whole scheme of things, it won't matter if you have a sequin kitchen or all the floors are shag carpet. What will matter is the memories you make there and the family you will become there.

Good luck with the house hunting.

j in Cincy said...

The previous owners of my house had lovingly decorated the walls of one of the bedrooms with a giant-sized, hand-painted Elmo, butterfly, tree, cat, rabbit, towering flowers, and a smiling yellow sun (it obviously had been the children's bedroom). But we bought the house anyway, simply deciding "it's cosmetic" and "we can MAKE IT GO AWAY" with a little paint.

A LITTLE paint indeed: It took two gallons of primer AND two gallons of paint to fully cover the walls of this 10 x 12 room, not to mention that all of the woodwork (baseboards, windowframes, doors), which had been painted with pepto-bismol-pink-high-gloss-latex-paint, had to be sanded down and painted over by hand.

It was a labor of love that turned out beautifully. However, I am sad to say that in our haste to MAKE IT GO AWAY, we failed to take any "before" pictures to prove what a nightmare it had been.

the celina(s) said...

::takes link to look at Yaffa blocks::

OH! Those things had a name? I have some in my dorm room. And they are suitable only for dorm rooms.

I guess you could say I had a life when Yaffa Blocks were all the rage. A life that centered around Teddy Ruxpin and toilet training. I'm a young 'un. So yeah, sorry I can't offer any insight on the whole househunting thing. I've got
one last year of college and a few years of living in a box before I'm faced with that business. Good luck to you.

Oh, I do agree with you about the sponge painting thing. Trading Spaces created a monster, there.

ShannJ said...

Good luck with the offer guys!

Wallpaper borders are good. Wallpaper on all walls, floor to ceiling, that's there when you buy the house, but it's only in one room, so you think "no problem, we can handle this" is not good. I will so never do that again!

Anonymous said...

Oh my. You oughtta be back home here in Cincinnati--we have beaucoop homes for sale and I would love to have you around. Ah well. Good luck--and think happy thoughts and, um . . . buy lots of home insurance--then torch the place and start over.
Did I type that out loud?

Adrian Gentilcore said...

Johnny Appleseed porn??? That's why I love you MB!

I love going house hunting just for the fun of seeing some of these nightmare houses. The funny thing to me is that no matter how ghastly the room looks, you know that at some point, someone leaned back, sighed contendly and said "Oh honey, doesn't that just look wonderful?".

That's the beauty of the whole human race - we're all so darned different!

Anonymous said...

Fear the cat pee; very hard to get rid of that smell if there's carpet in the house. You'd probably have to replace all the carpet. I'm a realtor and have seen it all in decorating, cleanliness, etc.
GOOD STORY: One of the agents in our office went to show a townhome that was listed by a very uppity realtor. Home was supposed to be vacant. He opens up the door and right there on the floor are 2 people having sex! He said he couldn't wait to call the listing agent to tell her!


Lauren said...

Having just bought a house in NoVa, I can definitely relate! Unfortunately, many sellers are not yet willing to accept that the market is soft and are still delusional enough to think that a bidding war will commence at any moment. Seriously- they don't seem to realize that we can look up the tax assessment to see that they are asking for 100k over the assessed value.

We made an offer on a house where the agent tried to tell us that they were entertaining other offers from potential buyers that mysteriously visited after we left that day. On super bowl sunday. At 5:30 p.m. From a house that had been on the market for 9 months. And then tried to get us to pay an additional 10k to allow us the privilege of having a home inspection. Right. We bought elsewhere. Karma - they have dropped the price three times since then and are now asking for what we offered.

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