Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bedside Companions

On each side of our bed, hung over nightstands, our baby pictures keep each other company.

We've kept each other's company since we were 21.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Simple Transaction

Like some happy accident,
Carmen, our 84-year-old neighbor, sold our guest house for us.
No realtor or complicated bank processes necessary~~
just a little Carmen karma.
+   +   +
Last August, Carmen's husband died, leaving her without transportation
 (she never learned to drive).
Social services ruled that she doesn't qualify for a special transport
 so that means she must walk a half-mile to catch a public bus and
carry home her own grocery bags.
She's not able to do that.

We (neighbors) pitch in to keep her going. 
Maggie's son mows her lawn whenever he can stop by,
Margaret takes her to the doctor,
 and I take her to the grocery store.
Anna, Anna's kids, and Amanda check on her regularly.

On one of our grocery-store jaunts,
I asked Carmen if she'd like to see my fix-and-flip house.
(In 2005, I'd fixed the house but couldn't flip it,
 thanks to the real estate bubble.
 Eventually, I took it off the market and turned it into
a guest house for winter tourists.)
Carmen loved the tour through the house, 
taking in all the details.

+   +  +

A month ago, I received a phone call from a woman
who'd heard I may be interested in selling my guest house.
 She asked if she and her husband could see it.
It seemed that Carmen, during one of her Amanda chats,
 learned that Amanda's parents were looking
 for a home in the neighborhood.
Carmen said she knew the PERFECT house.

Amanda's parents came for a look.
They'd recently sold their home and needed to vacate in a month.
 So far, they hadn't found a house they liked.
 But they LOVED this one!
 How much was I asking?
And could the furnishings be included?
Surprised, I said I'd like to get an appraisal before setting a price.
OK, they said.

A week later, I had my price and
two phone calls after that,
we penciled an agreement.
They would be paying with cash.
When I mentioned going to a lawyer to draw up the agreement,
they said all we needed was a title agency
 with the proper form. They had one in mind.
(They'd just been through the process while selling their home.)
The next day, we met at the title agency and started the transaction.
We already owned the deed so the title search was easy.
We also had the survey paper.
Inspections were completed to satisfaction
and we met for the closing.

When all the papers were signed, I turned to the closer.
"This was a simple transaction," I said.
"Yes, it was," she said. "We've been seeing more
 'real' buyers and sellers like you these days.
 No more short sales, foreclosures, and sobbing, disappointed people."

+   +   +

Because Carmen saved me a realtor's commission,
I arranged for my lawn maintenance company to cut her grass
while we're away for the summer.
Maggie's son is happy about that.
And I, owner of much less property, walk the earth more lightly.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Downton Abbey

Just say the word, "abbey," and I'm all ears.
Images of medieval courtyards, cloisters, groined ceilings,
 and candlelight flow to my brain.
So, naturally, when "Downton Abbey" turned up
 on the programming for Masterpiece Classic, I settled in for a look-see.
OK, it wasn't MY idea of life in an ancient abbey.

Highclere Castle, front facade. Filming site for 2011's successful PBS drama, Downton Abbey.    image: Wikipedia

And what's so abbey-esque about the setting?

Turns out, the present English country house
 stands on the foundations of an earlier house~~
the medieval palace of the Bishops of Winchester who owned the estate from the 8th century.
In 1679, it became home to the Carnarvon family.
By 1692, the dwelling was rennovated into a classical Georgian mansion.
In 1839, it was remodeled in the "High Elizabethan" style,
 faced with Bath stone,
and named Highclere Castle.

Today, you can visit the in-residence's open on certain dates.
 Or go there, virtually, by clicking on the link above.
Close to the castle is the Monk's Garden, named so because monks once grew fruit trees and vegetables there. Today it's a walled garden with roses, quinces, figs and lavender.
 Nearby are glass houses of tea roses.
Meanwhile, I'm enjoying the fictional PBS series
 about Edwardian life in the "abbey"/country house.
 I ordered it from Netflix.

Maggie Smith plays Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham