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Archive for March, 2009

 

john on a beach on the oregon coast

john on a beach on the oregon coast

We got in the car and drove West, not sure where we were heading.  It was a rainy windy day but it did not deter us from our mission!  To see the coast!!!  It was a long drive, about 1.5 hours, through moss laden forests and winding mountain roads.  Check out this link to the oregon Coast.   http://visittheoregoncoast.com/cities/tillamook/  We ended up in Cape Meares State Park, near Tillamook.  Hauntingly beautiful, icy waters, silver boulder beaches, sky shrouded in the ever-present Pacific Ocean mist.

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The neighborhood was one of our favorites and since our first month in Portland, it was the one area we returned to to shop and enjoy a pleasant meal. 

a house in hawthorne
a house in hawthorne

Walking around our neighborhood, we dicovered many cute bungalows and front of the house gardens.  

rock garden

rock garden

It is quite a common sight, the local rocks strew abou the landscape.  This one was obviously meticulously arranged by the homeowner.

stately bungalow

stately bungalow

This old bungalow is impressive due to its size and its stately design.

camelia tree

camelia tree

The Camelias grow huge here and bloom in late March.

purple house

purple house

 

pink house

pink house

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about life and art

 

bowl of cherries

bowl of cherries

What if you saw your whole life as your art. Every single bit of it.  Dissatisfaction with ordinary or common expression of art is something that has brought my “creativity” to a halt millions of times throughout my life. Inspiration is rare, and perspiration dull and onerous.  If you are “artistic” but cannot create, you feel dead inside, stifled to no end.  I  have been extremely “creative” and devastatingly “uncreative” throughout the last 30 years of my life.  Whether it was fashion design, filmmaking or art, or even revamping old houses like the one I live in now, I have always struggled with the theme of art’s expression.  It always felt oddly outdated, all art, sort of dead in the water. It seemed the birth of an art piece was its death as well.   To make art, without the goal of retail sales, but simply for the sake of self expression, is anathema to the earth’s thinking.  What?  You’re not making money at it?  You really need a store, a website, a presence, a brand, a trademark,  but no, that’s called business, not art.  

So back to the idea of life as art.  In exploring this “survival” lifestyle, or one not based on sales and commerce, one can feel quite enamored and accepting of even the worst things about one’s life.  My point is that there is no greater creativity than you and your own life.  Your life is your art, no matter how dull it may seem, or how violent or perplexing.  All criticism aside, and taking away the audience of your life, the naysayers and the perpetually discontent advice givers, whose blindness obscures the creativity of their own lives to themselves, one is left with a blank page.  Every moment we can choose, through our new eyes, to see our life as our own canvas.  The pain of harsh self judgement can end.  I am not here to make anyone happy but myself, and I am not here to solve the earth’s problems, and I am not here to become rich or famous, because being here, simply alive and in full presence is all I am here for.

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patio

That started as a pet project for John but soon became “my” project as his workload allowed no time for finding the contractors, much less interviewing them.  So I took over and found someone through Craigslist who claimed he was an expert landscaper.  Right, ahem!  Once again, on a tight budget, wanting this deck that I was asked to imagine and draw by John we struggled through endless chaos and stress, although now, many months later, almost finished, it seems as if it was all worthwhile.  

back yard patio

back yard patio

 

patio base

patio base

compacted patio base

compacted patio base

patio blocks

patio blocks

I took it upon myself to lay the brick path one day, after several landscapers came to give me estimates on it.  It seemed absurd to pay $1,700 for it.  So I took a weekend and slowly did it myself, never having done anything like that before.  We used the bricks from the old chimney we knocked down from the inside of the house.

patio and brick path
patio and brick path

 

 

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deck and stairs

Deck and Stairs

The new back deck was a necessity since we had torn out the original back porch and had put in an 8 foot door in the back wall.  I found a beautiful garden while walking in the Northeast part of Portland and asked who did their landscaping as I was looking for someone to do ours.  Marcos came over and we hired him, much to our detriment.  Everything he touched went wrong, including the rails falling off the next day since he did not use screws but nails. 

 

back yard deck

back yard deck

 

my drawing for the back yard

my drawing for the back yard

 

stairs before

stairs before

Luckily I found someone new who came and repaired the whole thing, from scratch and we were finally standing on sure footings. The final cost was what the original estimates had been before Marcos.  The lesson is don’t try to save money with people who are clueless.

 

back deck after repair

back deck after repair

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back yard

 

overgrown bamboo

overgrown bamboo

The back yard was large and sunny but also suffered from neglect.  Patchy sod, a huge compost pile consisting of bamboo sticks, leaves and pine needles and two homemade raised beds.  There was also a huge uncontrolled bamboo grove, seemingly planted without any consideration for the plant’s pervasive nature.  No easy feat mind you.  We bought the house with a barren back yard. Nothing but a few flat pavers and raspberry bushes.  

back yard before

back yard before

here is the old yard

here is the old yard

consruction debris in backyard

construction debris in backyard

It took 2 full summers to get the garden we have now.  A lot of it I did myself and some of it was done by Marcos, a daylaborer.

I asked him to make me three perennial beds, put in some new sod and create a small space for vegetables.  After that I put in new soil and edged the perennial beds.  I planted hundreds of perennial seeds in small circles, marking each one.  I also planted a few trees, a fig, an apple and various small bushes.

seed beds
seed beds
flower beds

flower beds

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House Renovation 101 “the awful truth”

House renovation, often done as a necessity, does not have to be the headache that homeowners like us endured. In the United States there are over 285,000 original Victorians alone, not counting any older homes built after that period. The house that needs a complete renovation can create lots of stress and drive one to sheer insanity that leaves little time for enjoyment of the actual process.
We all live in a house, or an apartment, and often need to revise the living layout, such as it is, and often invest much time and energy in rethinking it and restructuring it. Familiarity with events that might occur during such a reconstruction will help the homeowner better understand the road ahead and help them examine their own possible responses. The first step is to know the extent of the renovation and then how to achieve it, step by step.

How to do a Home Renovation?

We all understand the concept of deconstruction and rebuilding, and we may have experienced it first hand. Renovation, is a long process, with possible symptoms of unpleasantness, lethargy, sadness, agitation, irritation and ultimately (haha) suicidal/homicidal thoughts. There are many ways to deal with these emotions, but you have to have a master plan. One way to do it is to get three general contractors to look over your project and give you estimates, which will be exorbitant, and another way to do it is to act as your own general contractor and hire each subcontractor separately. One way to better understand this is to imagine that the renovating process can take twice as long if you are your own general contractor, especially if you are hiring people from Craigslist, the phone book or Angie’s list. If you do hire one of these people, expect to frequently have to deal with lack of respect, misunderstandings and other unpleasant feelings. You may feel like they are in charge of your project, not you.

What is the best way to renovate an older house?

If you have some money in savings and can get more from a second mortgage, go for it. The most important fact to remember is that housing always appreciates, you will always get your money back, especially if you hold on to it for a few years. As a real estate agent in New Jersey, where I lived for five years in a 1914 Four Square Sears Catalog Home I renovated with my husband and subcontractors, I saw real estate shoot through the roof. Making a profit is always possible but also a different thing all together. It’s impossible to renovate unless you have the drive and the stamina. If you live in the house during the process it is even more difficult. Your initial ideas may seem either undoable or even impossible to achieve. You may also think it will cost too much and you will never get your money back. No matter what the project, or the extent of it, there is always the possibility of complete chaos and dissatisfaction with it. Renovation, it turns out, is simply not what people look forward to, unless they are truly desperate (off-kilter).

The hysteria behind renovating

Renovating old homes has become more and more popular, as can be seen in numerous home magazines on the market. There is no question that house renovation as a whole has increased significantly. There’s a reason for this. New homes are too expensive and people would rather buy an old home and fix it up, one step at a time. But for many people renovation is not only a choice it is a must. In other words, if a person buys a house with a wet basement, they will definitely become instant renovators. In fact, they can become very serious about rehauling much of the plumbing and all of the bathrooms. But unless the homeowner has funds and the desire and time, there is no chance they will delve into any serious time consuming renovation.

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