LOVE IT OR LIST IT: A. POP VERSION

*Disclaimer: There is absolutely no geographical, biological, botanical, or zoological fact in this post. This is also not endorsed by or reflecting views of anyone on HGTV or the Love it or List it team – the entire thing is made up by yours truly.

You know the premise of the show – Couple/family has “outgrown” their current house, except one of them wants to stay (the memories!! My grandma’s quilts were made here!!), while the other one is Googling “how to burn the house down and make it look like an accident so this woman will agree to move”. Obviously, something has to be done to resolve this conflict, before the authorities show up to investigate this arson “research”.

In comes the LIOLI team – David the realtor (to find them a new house), who we will call DaRe in the spirit of brevity, and Hilary the designer (to fix the current one) – let’s call her HiDe. They meet with the couple for this episode.

Wife: Alexi (Al). Artist by day, Mother Earth Worshipper by night.
Husband: Yanni (Ya). Wood scholar. Makes furniture and donates it to orphanages.
Children: Twins, boy and girl, named Taylor and Rolyat. Age: 6

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Meeting goes as follows:

DaRe: So, what do you need me to find for you?

Al: In order for me to want to leave, I need at least 6 bedrooms with as many bathrooms on a second floor, open concept floor plan so basically one huge space on first floor because we love to entertain, and a dance studio. It is of great importance for me to have a place in the woods where I can have an altar for the Goddess, and plenty of outdoors space because we foster animals in distress: Dogs, cats, the occasional alligator, and we currently have a pregnant bat who became cave-less due to her not knowing who’s the father, so she’s now expelled from her family bat cave, therefore a nearby small cave (say a 50-bat capacity), and a medium size lagoon would be perfect. We would also need an inside mini-pond for the swans/ducks, because Manfred (the alligator) keeps eating them if they swim in the outside lagoon. Oh, and it should be in the same neighborhood – there’s hardly any bear maulings around here. Our budget is $1.2M.

DaRe: Doable. I’m curious though, who do you entertain? Grizzly bears? Elk? Visiting wildlife flown in from Canada? What do you mean neighborhood? This is deep Montana, they don’t neighborhood here! Also, would you please advise where you obtained an alligator? Did you smuggle him from the Everglades? I believe this is unheard of in this area, surprised that the Homeowners Association even let you keep him. And please note that normal people call the “inside mini-pond” a “pool”. But I’ll find it if it kills me and you’re going to list this house! (which it might [kill me] in this God-forsaken nowhere in the middle of the mountains place *mumbles to himself).

HiDe: And what do you need me to fix so you can stay in your house?

Ya: Well, thank you for asking Hilary. We are in need of changing the front door’s direction, because of Feng Shui energy flow. We would like to have the front be in the back and vice versa. It is imperative that the front door faces West – which brings me to the color: it should be some earthy color, maybe muted gray-brownish, like a wolf-color. Marilyn (the bat) needs a cave built by January when the baby is due. The current lagoon needs to be relocated, at least partly; we should want a tributary inside the house, for the house swans. Open up the kitchen area so we can keep an eye on the twins when we’re cooking, as it gets hard to tell them apart when they leave our sight for a while and exchange clothes. I also need a place to have my workshop – as you know I make furniture, and need to be in total solitude while I create. Our budget for this is $98, not a penny more.

HiDe: That is a ridiculous budget and you know it. You just want to deprive Al of her spiritual center. But no worries, I’ll figure it out and when I’m done, you’ll love it – however you may need to make some sacrifices. For example, has it occurred to you that you can tell the twins apart by having them go naked? I mean they are different genders for crying out loud, not to mention 6 years old and they’re already fooling you (*shakes head). As to your workshop, how about where the wood lives?? Like outside?? There is not a soul for hundreds of miles here, you’ll be more alone than in the house with this crowded family and by the way, was that an armadillo just passing by?Armadillo

Al/Ya: (excitedly) – Oh she’s back??!!! That’s Hester, yes she’s an armadillo. We suspect her coming here, as we experienced with Manfred (because you did point out, David, that he’s not local), is due to climate change – they are not supposed to be so up North, but we found her a few months back. We thought she’d died in the last blizzard, as we hadn’t seen her in a while. We’d like to decorate a cactus-themed room for her, to make her feel at home, maybe throw in some desert sand.

HiDe: Well that’s going to cost you, you understand? Already making miracles happen with this pitiful budget. That may cut into the lagoon project so possibly we’ll have to make do with an artificial one instead of a tributary. Just being transparent here.

[WE SKIP TO END OF EPISODE DUE TO: a) David not finding a house even in neighboring states, so he quits, and b) Hilary “making it happen” for Alexi and Yanni and their interminable family with nothing short of magic]

*HiDe explains the newly renovated house:

So you see here your front door. I have relocated the road to the back, and have coated the (ex-back, now front) door with copper stains from melted old pots I got for a song in an antiques site.

Hester has her room now out of what was the front door steps. I have enclosed the area and added finely minced wood chips (she won’t know the difference from that to sand, I guarantee it), plus added a few cacti I had shipped over. Please note that the cacti need to be permanently encased in glass as the temperatures here are too harsh and, despite their thorny reputation, they are quite delicate once out of their comfort zone (which is roughly 120 degrees). Alternatively, you can set the wood chips on fire regularly and that may be sufficient, provided you cover the plants with burlap for frost protection.

Marilyn will be quite comfortable in the bat nursery I have provided here on the side of the house, in a lean-to cave-like enclosure made out of hard plastic mimicking rocks. There is a fountain-like stagnant water basin in the cave, to provide the necessary sustenance mosquitoes and the like – after all, she needs to eat for two! Please use the provided torch hanging to the side of the cave to melt the water at regular intervals and release the larvae. There is also a sack of ripe fruit – do not remove even if it begins to smell! That is a main source of nutrients for the bat family.bats-in-blankets

Lastly, my most impactful gift to you: I had my contractor install a funnel-like contraption on your barn’s roof going in to where I have made a huge hole on the floor. The beauty of this funnel is that it is THERMAL! Yes! It will act as an automatic snow melting device and re-direct all that melted snow – of which you will have no shortage of in this frozen tundra – to the hole (we had it roughly cleaned up but rather rustic and natural-looking, because seriously, do swans need fiberglass?). By doing this, we have had to relocate the horses to your new open concept kitchen area – you do recall that I mentioned having to make some sacrifices? But I believe they are very comfy! And you still have a space for entertaining, because I got rid of the outside wall and have now installed a garage-like door that simply rolls up to the ceiling so you have the entire outdoors as your living room!

Many thanks for the opportunity to work with you. I hope you’ll be very happy. And congratulations on the new addition to your family – I thought I saw a moose? He’ll be happy with the horses, I’d say. Enjoy your new house!! cartoon-moose-9

Adventures of DIYers (AKA “Universe, why do you hate me?”)

So my husband is a handy man. Which, as you may infer, comes in handy. It is good, in a way – he can replace flooring, dishwashers, garbage disposals; install washers and dryers, you name it. However, with all this home improvement comes a lot of Home Depot visiting. Now, I have nothing against Home Depot, per se. I just hate shopping in general. And the DIY experience is adventurous, to say the least.

It was a shock to me to find out, as I started my homeowner life with my husband in this fine country, that things here are a “standard” size. You have your standard doors, windows, sinks, cabinets, chunks of wood. You see, I come from a country where there is not one thing the same size/shape as another. This might be partly due to the fact that almost every single skilled worker, be it carpenter, electrician, plumber, etc., is either drunk (Tuesday through Sunday) or hung-over (Monday). So you, the helpless homeowner, give them money IN ADVANCE (for the materials. What, you thought they had their own?), and, say you needed four 2x4s to patch that armoire that’s been in your family for centuries. Well, when the contractor finally comes back 2 or 3 months later, you get three 1x3s and have by now forgotten what you wanted to do with the boards – plus that repurposed shower curtain is quite convenient.

Nice, organized Home Depot lumber aisle

Anyway, the good and practical US does have its standards, and that applies to home appliances/parts/most children and some pets. So it should be a piece of cake to just go to the hardware store and get a [insert appropriate size] vanity or window, correct? Wrong! Wronger than wrong! Wrongissimo!! Because YOUR PARTICULAR HOUSE, the one you naively bought a couple of years ago, and the one that appears (to the naked eye) as perfectly standard and ordinary, IS NOT. Why, you ask? Because the previous owner (may he die a slow death and then rot in Hell for Eternity, or at the very least catch the pox – or an equally disfiguring medieval disease such as leprosy – from an unsanitary street person in Hong Kong), had everything CUSTOM-BUILT. That, or just plain made holes and inserted pieces however he pleased with no regards to the laws of physics and mathematics. Take the following (recent) experience in my house:

  • Handy Man Husband: Hey, we need to replace one of the pantry’s folding doors. I’m going to get it off and measure so we can go to Home Depot and get a new one.
  • Un-Handy Woman Wife (me): OK.
  • HMH: [Swearing] Of course, it’s NOT standard size (proceeds to explain that normal closet doors are – making up the number since I don’t remember – 32”. The OPENING on this pantry is 311/8”. Please note that all the discrepancies in these projects are based on eights of an inch).
  • U-HWW: Why am I not surprised.
  • HMH: Let me get online and get all the specs; then we’ll go put in a special order.

OK, so previous owner who I hope is as we speak choking on his fried clam or current seasonal shellfish, perhaps you didn’t have ENOUGH WALL there to put a closet? Anyway, what’s done it’s done.

After all necessary research, and armed with a notebook of serial numbers and measurements, off we go to Home Depot, armed with practical equipment*. Now, for some reason, it is a law that Home Depot will never be anywhere near your house (*it is thus recommended that you bring with you a change of clothes, plenty of water and provisions, toiletries, and charged cell phones – also, if you live in the Northeast, blankets and firewood). This peculiarity could be because it occupies an entire city – so first thing one has to do is pay attention, once one gets there, to which door is the closest to where one parked one’s truck. There are several doors at these places, and they are all in different counties.

As we enter the store, we are immediately welcomed by Friendly Home Depot Employees standing by the door (two of them!).

Well, this is not really the entrance, but you get the picture 

See, each one of these stores has approximately 1.3 million employees. I am convinced it also has its own government, like your average small town. These employees are divided into two categories:

  1.  Friendly, Willing to Help Generalists – these are the ones that roam the aisles doing various tasks, such as greeting you, mopping the floors (for which they need a tractor-like thing they ride; otherwise it would be the equivalent of mopping your streets with a Swiffer). Willing as they are to help, the only thing they actually know is which aisle you need to go to so that you can then ask a:
  2. Specialist – These are highly trained employees and only know about the particular section they are assigned to. It is no use, for example, to ask a Kitchen Person about Lighting.

So we go over to the Doors section, while fending off Generalists offering help at every step. When we get there, we are greeted by… nobody. Well, there ARE all kinds of doors – front doors, patio doors, sliding doors, closet doors, screen doors, storm doors, trap doors, hidden doors – as you can probably not really see in this picture:

However, there is no Door Specialist here. This must be the only section of the entire Home Depot that is actually deserted. There is, though, a stand with a little sign that reads “Please push button and a customer service rep will be right with you”. We push it and, what do you know, a light goes on THE ACTUAL BUTTON. I wonder, at this point, if this is some sort of bat signal and find myself discreetly looking at the ceiling, trying to spot a hammer-shaped light (or a doorknob shaped light, in this case) – similar to the below, except with a more appropriate tool shape. Because unless the Door Specialist has a built-in chip that captures a signal from this light, or unless he/she/it IS ALREADY THERE, there is no way in hell that anyone else (besides the button-pushers) can see this little light.

Finally, we hear voices (not the ones in our heads, if you were wondering). Here comes The Door Person, along with a customer. Sigh. “Be right with you”, he (not entirely cheerfully) says. The customer, a young man (note: young for me is anyone 40 or younger) and a little kid, who looks like a mix between Alfalfa (Little Rascal) and Will Robinson (Lost in Space). The young customer proceeds to put in his order (after apparently having been taken on a tour of the entire store) on every possible variation of door you can think of. Perhaps he owns an apartment building, or a castle. It takes approximately 2 hours, during which my husband goes to the bathroom twice, I watch the little Alfalfa/Will kid daringly going through doors that are staged in frames and lead nowhere (and indulge in wondering if maybe one of those could potentially fall on him and kill him, or injure him fatally, but the adult with him is naturally oblivious); I peruse all the different doorknobs on display (not that we are buying any), etc. Finally, after what seems to be like our 5th day since we left home, the customer is done and says, a bit apologetically (to his credit) – He’s all yours!

Well, you’d think we are near completion of the expedition. Sadly, you would be wrong again. Door Person asks what we need, HMH proceeds to explain. Door Person gets out from somewhere inside the stand a book roughly the size of the Bible, if the Bible were printed twice and then bound together.

  • Door Person: Hmm. Interesting. I don’t seem to have that particular model. It appears as if they discontinued it.
  • HMH: This house was built in 2002.
  • Door Person: That’s odd. Perhaps it wasn’t popular [no sh*t Batman! They only made my previous homeowner’s single door and workers at factory are dead after laughing until they choked in their own spit, thinking once the damn door fell off not even the actual creator would have a replacement!]. Let me call the manufacturer [calls. Silence. “I see”. Silence. “Thank you”]. Well, they discontinued it.
  • HMH: Great. What can I do?
  • Door Person: I don’t know [tries, but does not succeed, to look sorry].
  • HMH: So I should, basically, build a door from scratch?
  • Door Person: If you know how to, that would be my recommendation, yes.
  • HMH: Thank you.
  • U-HWW: (in my mind) For nothing.

So, roughly a week after we left home, the non-standard one with the now half-open to the entire world to see pantry, we get back. I ask (as a last resource, though I know the answer) if husband can put old door back. Of course he can’t. Door is practically disintegrated, which is why we needed one in the first place. Next steps are not brought up or discussed, I wonder but am scared to ask. Four months later, I still have half the closet exposed to the elements and seeing eyes of all who go by. Considering that re-purposed shower curtain as we speak….

EXTREME MAKEOVERS – HOME AND SPACE

I have to confess, I ADORE HGTV programs, home makeovers, organizing, real estate, buying/selling/staging. So I have taken to watch (God forgive me) HGTV. One of the programs I like to watch (please indulge me) is “Love it or List it”.

OK. Here’s where my true nature comes up. Please refer to my observations on this program, even if you (I’ll understand) don’t share or even care about them:

1. The designer who promises to remodel the house so that they don’t have to move annoys me. How, you ask? See list below:

She never closes her mouth. I happen to think that people who keep their mouth open are dumb, or at least live in outer space.

She has a horrid British accent. Is it real? Not sure. But not nice even if it is (please note that I have nothing whatsoever against British accents, or Britain in general. But this woman I truly dislike).

2. The homeowners who want to a) sell their house or b) have it remodeled so they can stay.

Usually, the man wants to stay (has no clue), and the woman wants to go to preferably another hemisphere.

They are, to be blunt, MORONS.

3. Problems:

Never fails: Person remodeling the house ALWAYS finds some HORRID structural flaw, such as, the second floor just about to cave in. She informs homeowners that she’ll have to fix that, but they won’t get, say, a second bathroom as budgeted since she has to spend the money on (gasp!) SAFETY.

Homeowners, after hearing this, are PISSED at designer. YOU MEAN WE WON’T GET FINISHED BASEMENT? We gave you $10,000!!

At this point, I turn off TV. But I wonder. Please, people out there who know about these things… Is this staged? I want to regain faith on the human race… but have not a lot of hope.