Still Painting

We postponed our Thanksgiving feasting and celebrating, and spent a long day painting the condo, and continued on Friday.  Most things required two coats, and it is always tedious touching up near the ceiling, baseboards, and door edges where the roller doesn’t reach.  We’ve consumed almost five gallons of regular eggshell wall paint, plus some enamel for the window sills and borders.  We’ve still got the kitchen and one bathroom to go, using semigloss paint.

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While somewhat tedious, painting is a very satisfying and fulfilling task.  You see the attractive results of your efforts.  Everything is looking so crisp and clean.

I finished up two audiobooks while painting.  On Friday I forgot my mp3 player so spent a few hours listening to some great music via Pandora on my iPhone (Pinback and Coldplay styles).

The only thing I shopped for on Black Friday was a washer/dryer set from Home Depot.  They were already on a good sale–I was hoping for something more on Black Friday, but nothing more was gained.  They will be delivered the week after next.

So, new family room carpet on Monday, then we hope to clean things up and get it rented right away.  Perhaps it is a mistake to invest so much effort and emotion in the condo.  While we take such pride in ownership and improvements, many renters will abuse properties.  One property management professional advised me to always view a rental property as just floors and sheetrock, and not get emotionally attached.  Well, so much for that.

Thanksgiving Paint

Some of the window sills in the new condo have paint which is chipping or flaking.  The worst one was just over the kitchen sink.

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I used a putty knife to pry away loose paint, and tried sanding the result.

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I decided to get more aggressive and remove all the paint, and applied some paint remover.  I scraped this off 30 minutes later with mixed results.  I ended up scraping it all off with a putty knife, a rather difficult and tedious job.  Then I sanded it all nice and smooth and applied a primer coat.

One good result from this effort was the ability to take a large paint chip down to the paint store where they have a tool to read the color from a customer’s sample and provide a formula to match it.  This yielded a color similar to Navajo white and we decided on this color for all the walls and trim (baseboards, window sills).

We applied some of this paint to an existing surface of this color and we can’t tell the difference between old and new.  This gives us the option to repaint a wall entirely (like those of a different color), or to simply touch-up areas with the original color that need it.  We are amazed at this technology and are pleased with how it is turning out.

 

Thanksgiving Home Improvement

I have memories of various home improvement projects over the long Thanksgiving weekend.  In particular, I recall Suzanne and I hanging wallpaper on more than one occasion.

This year we have several ongoing projects with our newly acquired condo.  I have already replaced the garbage disposal and fixed the refrigerator and leaking toilet.  We have some carpet replacement scheduled for next Monday.  The big project is repainting almost all the interior walls.

While shopping for paint the manager at Sherwin-Williams offered to give us a contractor’s account, since our rental property is our business.  This gives us everyday discounts on all paints and accessories, and is a smart move for them because we are inclined to buy all our materials from them.

Here are some photos at the start of the project.

DSC03087 The family room had a pleasant slight gray-green wall paint, which we liked well enough.  But we figured we should go with a standard off-white paint for everything, rather than try to match it for touch-up painting.DSC03088 The kitchen has a darker brown paint.DSC03091 One family room wall is also a darker brown color.DSC03095 The master bedroom had two colors, including this red wall.DSC03098The second bedroom was also two colors.

All of these colors were interesting enough, and would be great to personalize a home. But for a rental we want to go with a mainstream off-white for a clean, compatible look.

Being a Landlord

Due to a variety of circumstances, we became full owners of a townhome in Tucson, AZ, in the summer of 2009.  The real estate market had dropped quite a bit so our initial attempts to sell it for our desired price were unsuccessful.  We decided to keep it as a rental and became absentee landlords.

The good news was that the property had a number of merits–it was convenient to the University of Arizona, across the street from a rural farm, and was an end unit by the community pool.  And we have had no problems finding renters.

The bad news has been that, being remote, we had to hire a local property manager (at a cost of 10% of rental receipts), could not observe the upkeep and maintenance, nor do any repair work ourselves to save on expenses.  Further, the market tanked even further, with the market value ultimately dropping to 60 cents on the dollar.  Finally, we had one bad renter who damaged the property significantly, skipped on several months rent, and stole our near new washing machine.

While the monthly rent checks were nice, we became somewhat disillusioned about being landlords.  At a minimum we decided we no longer wanted to be absentee landlords and would sell the property when the current renters left.  We anticipate this within a few months and, after deciding real estate property was a decent diversification asset, we began our search for a local rental property to replace it.

We utilized an experienced real estate agent (with landlord experience) and various online tools, such as rmls.com and zillow.com.  It was actually kind of fun searching for candidate properties, and viewing the best contenders, with automated email coming twice per day.  We have been researching market value histories, and rental rates.  We made a full cash offer on one condo, only to get beat.  We identified another foreclosure that was tied up in the government FHMA system and jumped on it as soon as it got back on the market, offering $2K over listing price.  This time we won and closed on it last week.

Here are some photos of our new 2 bedroom, 2.5 bath rental condo.  It is a very nice unit in a classy neighborhood.

garswoodIt has an attached single car garage.  Our unit is the near corner, all three floors.

garswoodBThis is the master bedroom.  We will repaint the walls and stretch the carpet.

garswoodCThis is the community building for the development.garswoodGOne of the nice walkways.garswoodKHere is the family room/kitchen/dining room leading out to the deck.  We are replacing the stained carpet.garswoodPThe community pool with exercise gym to the right.garswoodPlNeighborhood playground.

Scanning Old Photos

Over the years we have accumulated over 5000 slides and 7000 prints from photographs we have taken.  We got our first digital camera in late 2003, so these photos cover our 33 adult years since 1970, and many from our families when we were youths.

To find or view these photos we had to drag out a box of prints or slides labeled by year, and tediously sort through them, or drag out a clunky slide projector and screen.  If we wanted to email them or edit them on the computer we had to convert them to digital by scanning them.

Two years ago I tackled the job of scanning all the slides, and wrote blog posts about that experience previously (click this link, and this one).

The prints were more problematic, as I was unaware of a high quality bulk print or negative scanner within my price range.  Our old flatbed scanner was in need of an upgrade so I shopped around and bought a Canon CanoScan 9000F.  This reasonably priced flatbed scanner included attachments for scanning slides and negatives, as well as automation helps for scanning multiple prints at a time.

This is a decent scanner, but doesn’t yield the top quality scans that a professional or dedicated photo scanner would.  I did sample scans to compare the results of scanning prints and their negatives.  I would expect scanning the negatives to be superior, but I found the results from the prints to be comparable.  And it was far simpler to scan prints, especially with the automation tools.

Next I had to decide on various scanner settings, such as sharpening, scratch/dust removal, and, most critically, resolution.  Most of our prints were 4″ X 6″, and I found 300dpi yielded optimum results, as 600dpi gave negligible improvements vs. the bloated file sizes and lengthier scan times.

Scanning 7000 photos was a laborious task, and I undertook it in April this year.  I set up my “assembly line” on a desk downstairs.  I used a brush to quickly wipe dust and debris from the prints before laying them down on the scanner bed.  Periodically I would clean the window on the scanner bed.  I wore white lint-free gloves.  I could scan three photos at a time, with the scanner software usually able to detect the separate photos and do individual scans of each (with separate resulting jpg files).  I filtered out doubles and prints with no value (terribly out of focus, or bland shots of landscapes, etc.).  I averaged about 30 seconds per print, so the total job required roughly 60 hours sitting at the desk.  I got through a few audiobooks during the job.

I’m generally pleased with the results.  We now have all our photos in electronic format for ease of access and saving for posterity.  We still have the analog formats stored in boxes.  The print scans are good enough for casual viewing and use–scanning prints has technical limitations.  I figure if I really need a super high quality scan of a photo I can dig through the negatives (no small task) to find it and get a professional scan done.  But it just wasn’t worth the expense and effort to make that investment for our full inventory of photos.

A huge remaining drawback for all our electronic photos is the lack of documentation for each.  I have them sorted by year taken, but I have nothing which indicates who the people are, or the location, or event.  With physical prints or slides this info is sometimes written down on them.  I know there are digital formats for including information on electronic photos, and this is outstanding for sorting and finding, but I don’t know yet how universal these formats are, both for use across multiple vendors and programs, as well as longevity as technology changes over the years.  I’d hate to invest countless hours inputting this documentation only to have it become useless some years down the road.  So, this task remains on my “to do” list.

Another Fair Photo

This photo won a third prize at the county fair.  I actually thought this one was the best of my four entries (the remaining two received no awards).

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This was taken about a year ago in our front yard.  It was not staged or manipulated in any way–totally natural situation.  Just a random leaf sitting partially in a pool of water on a boulder.  I like the colors and textures, and the angle of the leaf across the diagonal.

By the way, the photo yesterday was taken in late October, 2010, in Helvetia, Oregon (nice guess, Kristi–just down the hill from where you were married).  Those familiar with Oregon politics might have caught the sign promoting Chris Dudley in the governor’s race that fall.

1990 Family Vacation

In 1990 I was awarded a four-week sabbatical from work so we planned an extensive family vacation to the east coast.  I spent the first week on a week long bicycle tour around eastern Washington and Oregon, then flew to Rochester, NY, to join Suzanne and the four kids for three weeks of travels.  From there we visited Church history sites around Palmyra.

90SumPit_839Moving on from there we visited Cooperstown, Plymouth and Boston, MA.

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I made a whirlwind weekend trip to Salt Lake City for my brother’s wedding while the family continued to Brattleboro, VT, and Springfield, MA.

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We joined back up near Hartford, CT, traded rental minivans (another story), and drove down to New York City.  We walked up the inside stairs of the Statue of Liberty to the crown, then elevators to the top of the World Trade Center.

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We stayed in one room in inexpensive motels all along the way, crowding two per bed as needed.

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In Philadelphia we visited the US Mint and the Liberty Bell.

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After a stop in Gettysburg we went on to Washington, DC, for the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and more.

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From there we drove on to Williamsburg and Jamestown, VA.

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Next we visited with my brother, Barry, in Sumter, SC.  We made side trips to Charleston and Atlanta.

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What a great trip this was, and such wonderful memories!

 

 

Enchanted Forest

When I was a kid growing up the most fun and unimaginably exciting place to go was Disneyland.  These were visits during the first decade of its existence in Anaheim, CA.  While not nearly as exotic as Disneyland, our kids and grandkids have often gone to the Enchanted Forest theme park just south of Salem, OR.  It has its quirks and things we make fun of and laugh about later.  But I give it high marks for what it is.

Here are Bridget and Teresa about 1991.91.92Roll_363

I have always loved the trash talking gunslinger.91.92Roll_364 And the infamous witch’s mouth.91.92Roll_366

 

 

Here are shots from 2004, when Brooklyn joined for the first time.118_1804_r1 118_1818 118_1819 118_1834

 

And 2005 with Jonah.

141_4117_r1 Jonah didn’t care for the witch’s mouth.141_4125_r1 141_4130 141_4131

 

 

In 2008 it was Miriam who was unsure about the witch.IMG_1123 IMG_1126 IMG_1152

 

 

We were back in 2010, including Eli and Magdalena.

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In 2012 we had all 7 grandkids there.  Paisley had persisting nightmares about the witch.

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In 2013 it took two trips to get all the grandkids there.  I had Miriam, Magdalena, and Eli by myself the first visit.  They were such excellent kids!  Eli got two trips, as he joined with Brooklyn, Jonah, Paisley, and Shiloh for the second group.

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Enchanted Forest is another place where we have many magical family memories.

Jantzen Beach Carousel

When our kids were young we would sometimes visit the Jantzen Beach shopping center in north Portland for rides on the historic carousel.  These first photos with Daniel, Bridget, and Teresa are from 1990.90a__0103

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Here is Brooklyn in 2004.113_1344

Miriam and Magdalena in December, 2009.IMG_1334

And again in September 2010.Sept7 024

Eli, Brooklyn, and Jonah in March 2011.SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC

I loaded several grandkids into the car in summer 2012 for a trip to the Jantzen Beach carousel, and was so disappointed to find it had been dismantled during the renovation of the shopping center.  Now in late 2013 the carousel is still in storage.  The developer is saying they will put it back, but who knows when.  The carousel is a historical rarity, constructed in 1921 and carefully restored in recent years, so it is quite the treasure.  And it is quite the historical treasure with our family, too, so I hope it returns soon.