July 2013 Archives

Decade in Review: Kitchen Renovation 2003-2004

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 renovation kitchen

I did not blog much about my first renovation in the house 10 years ago. I can only find a few posts about it. It was the 1st home that I owned and my first major contractor hire. Hearing the stories of other howmeowners, I have lucked out pretty well. I found a trustworthy contractor and stuck with him for 2 other reno jobs.

The picture is of the kitchen, which is about 8x10, before the real demo began in December of 2003. That space you see was the extent of all my counterspace which was about a square foot. The rest of the kitchen was occupied by a refrigerator, a stacked washer and dryer and the stove. So a formica square foot to prep meals and dry dishes.

The work was done by January 2004. The floor was straightened and the wall was stabilized but the contractor wanted to do more. I got heated floors, which I keep off most of the time, Corian counter tops and sink, a dishwasher, a microwave, garbage disposal and more counter space. We could do with a new dishwasher and microwave. I have been happy with the kitchen but I'm thinking of another kitchen reno.

Fast forward 10 years and for most houses on my row their little 1 story kitchens in the rear have been torn down and rebuilt as 2 story additions. So we're thinking of sort of matching the rest of the block. However a more pressing reason, besides maybe getting an extra 100 sq ft, is the rear wall is looking weak. Back in 2003 the contractor wanted to better address the cracky brick wall. At the time I wanted to stick to my small budget and so it was patched up to get another 10-15 years out of it. I had no money for structural things that could be put off till later. Well later is now.

Does it still look like the finished product below? No. It's got a covering of dirt and olive oil on the walls and the cabinet doors, the stove has been replaced (the one seen came with the house) and there is more crap on the counters.

kitchen 2004 finshed

Decade in Review: But they were on crack

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My intention was to write something nice about a Realtor, but came across a post in my search from 2005 about the real estate market then:

Lastly, I've been thinking of the whole, well now our Truxton/Shaw houses are worth 2x or 3x as much so such and such should happen. The fault I find in this is that houses in more established DC neighborhoods are also worth 2x to 4x as much. It is not that anything has happened. There have been improvements in transitional neighborhoods such as ours that make the price raises just more than inflation. However, my $300K (formerly $100K) fee simple house with yard is worth as much as a studio sized condo in Dupont with no parking or balcony.

And back in 2004, when my blog voice was way more snarkier:

There is a house at 1611 New Jersey Avenue for sale for, get this, $798,000. Crack, crack, PCP with an LSD chaser Crack is what the Realtors are smoking. And they must be giving it to their buyers. Yeah, it has 3 bedrooms and 2 baths, and I'm quite sure they are big and everything, but $800K? I know this place has no parking. For $800 grand you should have parking and your own personal crack ho. For less you can get a 5 bedroom 4 bath at 34 Quincy for less than $500K, or at $500K 69 Florida Ave. With the extra $300K you could buy an extra condo or for a tad more 1647 New Jersey Ave (a 2 bedroom 1 bath) for $310K.
Please stop the maddness, just say no to the real estate crack.


It's 2013 and what do I say after writing this week about 1621 4th St, saying, "A lot of thought and time has gone into making 1642 what it is, time and thought worth more than the $586,000 asking price." In 2004 & 2005 the prices were on crack.

In the early 00s this area was all 'up and coming' but there wasn't anything here but crackhos, drug dealers, nightly sounds of gunfire, greasy carry-outs and liquor stores behind scratched up bulletproof glass. No Big Bear, no Rustik, no Shaw Tavern, no Beau Thai... The cool stuff had yet to come. I can still remember when the building that housed Beau Thai was Dave's carry out, the smell from that place was bad. Now a lot of the plexiglass is gone, at many area businesses there is nothing between you and the employees but air. Oh yeah, and crime. There is still crime, but now the area has several cool places to make up for it. And there are fewer prostitutes. I don't see anyone working anymore, so I am guessing it's moved elsewhere or methods have changed, maybe girls are hooking using iphone apps these days, who knows?

In the early 00s Realtors were selling the promise of a better neighborhood, which isn't worth as much as the presence of a better neighborhood.


Decade in Review: Oh no! Ralphie moving?

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Dunbar Band Practice 3
Originally uploaded by In Shaw.
I was surprised to see a realtor sign in front of 1642, the grey house on the right in this 2009 picture. My first thought was "Oh no! Ralphie's moving!" Ralphie, is a hyper mininature greyhound with a taste for wild caught cat poop. Oh and he's very cute. I'll miss his people too.

The following will be reasons why you will want to get into a bidding war and pay over the asking price, and show why being a good neighbor pays off.

I visited the house at 1642 4th St NW first in 2005 when it was a shell. Since then the owners (Ralphie's people) have put a lot of love and care in renovating the property. There is good quality workmanship behind those walls. Structural stuff, the things that you don't see in the inspection, that is well done. The house used to be in bad shape, structurally as was the neighboring house. The owners fixed their wall as well as the neighbor's. So the bones are strong. It has been pulled back to the brick and beams and is stronger than ever. 

The interior design, like Ralphie, is pretty cute too. The pictures on Realtor John Bratton's (former 4th St resident) site is the house as it normally looks. This is not too staged. Ralphie's people have good taste and I gather that's what the house looks like when they are not hosting a party. In addition to missing Ralphie, I'll miss the Vietnamese New Year's party. The design of the house flows very well and is well lit. Also note there is very little that screams Home Depot special or Ikea (I love Ikea, but sometimes you can have too much of a Swedish thing). The owners have spent the years looking for things that are right for that house. A lot of thought and time has gone into making 1642 what it is, time and thought worth more than the $586,000 asking price.

Lastly, Ralphie's people have been great neighbors, the kind of people who make the 1600 block of 4th Street a great place to live. If I haven't said it before, and I believe I have, this is a great block.

UPDATE 7/23/13: Congrats to the winning bidder and to J&J for getting their house under contract so fast.  I won't be crass enough to ask what the final price was, I'll wait till it shows up online.

Decade in Review- Boundaries of Shaw

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Shawbound.jpgInspired by the Washington Post article, "National Building Museum helps teens explore Shaw, a neighborhood in transition," that includes a perfect map of Shaw, I'm going to report my June 2008 post, "Shaw no boundaries":

What is and where is Shaw? I am somewhat doubtful if you asked someone on the street in 1900 where was the Shaw neighborhood they would know how to direct you, as Shaw as a neighborhood, an area with borders was not there then. "Shaw" became "Shaw" in the late 60s. Looking at the Washington Post from that time first it was the Shaw school district and then it just became "Shaw".
See the map and see the 1973 borders of Shaw. Note that Mt. Vernon Square is not included in its entirety. The eastern border is 15th St. NW, the northern border is roughly Florida Ave (formerly Boundary), east is North Capitol and M & N make up the southern side. This is the definition of Shaw I have clung to and it is confirmed occasionally in over 30 years of the odd Washington Post article when referring to different parts of the area as Shaw.
The key word is occasionally, because there was that odd article that defined Shaw as its middle being 9th and 6th St. Then last week I found on my doorstep the Fagon Community Guide: MidCity DC 2006. I found the maps on pages 22 & 23 of Shaw and U Street to be a bit off. For one, the Shaw map has annexed parts of Dupont and LeDroit, as anything past 16th is Dupont and that bordering Howard Hospital is LeDriot. And maybe it ate bits of Adams Morgan too as the boundary goes past Florida Ave and has part of Meridian Park... or is that more Mt. Pleasant?
Anyway as the blog says, I'm in Shaw. But wait you say, "Aren't you in Truxton Circle?" Yes, why yes I am. "But how can you be 'In Shaw'?" Elementary. Think of those Russian nested dolls. Truxton is in Shaw. As is Logan Circle. As is U Street. As is Blagden Alley. Shaw is a big neighborhood encompassing several other neighborhoods. We are bound together by the history of riots and revitalization and schools and hope.
If you want your very own copy of the above map, it is somewhere in the MLK's Washingtonia Div's vertical file.

Since then I have loaded up a few other Shaw School Urban Renewal maps (not new to regular readers) here, here and here. Still haven't bothered the Wikipedia page.

Decade in Review: Fringe Festival


My first Fringe was back in 2009 with a production that was different and interesting sounding performance art piece. This was my first Fringe event because most performances never seemed to appeal to me. Here's what I wrote:

Weird but good. I enjoyed it.
There was an announcement that went up on the MVSQ blog about a preview for this... thing. So I went, not really knowing what to expect except that it was about food. I like food.
Food was deconstructed and the audience was the participant. No sitting back and just observing. It was a futurist meal. We "ate" beef (or mushroom if vegetarian) air, had salad (locally grown) without the aid of forks and knives, had a sugar cube course, and ended the meal with a spray of coffee or tea. Throw in some dance, and wrap it in futurism and a good time was had.

And thus we met now friends of the blog Banished?Productions, and I'm willing to give Fringe a go, as opposed to ingoring the whole thing.

The Help and I are looking at this years Fringe Festival, and wondering if the price for multipasses went up along with the price of the button that you HAVE TO BUY in addition to the tickets. We've done Fringe for a few years now and we know what we might like, it is still hit or miss. This year the main thing is 'it has to have AC'. So that cuts out almost anything at Fort Fringe. So there was a lot of, "wow that looks really cool/interesting... oh wait, no AC." I suffered the feeling of standing in place as sweat rolled down my back at one Fringe performance in July. Never again.

We've picked two performances, due to our arts budget. One, because the Help's boss is in it. Lucky for us, it also includes AC. The other, I forgot which one, also with AC.

Decade in Review- Our Yearly Power Outage

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From July 7, 2012:

The dehumidifier clued us in first. It began beeping due to low power. When we turned on the cellar lights, they were very dim. Ah, a brownout. Then eventually, the whole below ground floor was without power while the 1st floor and the second floor lights were fine. It wasn't until later that I noticed somethings that the outlets for the second floor were on exceedingly low juice.
We ran an orange extension cord to the basement for essentials and were happy that we had ceiling fans. Oh yeah, the A/C also low juice. There was a low breeze coming from the vents. I figured it was best to turn that off and use the box, vent and ceiling fans to keep  cool.
Without A/C it got to about 83F. We normally keep it at 80F.
Then sometime in the night it went to black. No fans, no nothin'. I woke up because I was sweating like a pig. We were about to retreat to the cooler basement when the power came back on.

Well yesterday July 7, 2013, we completely lost power for about 14 hours. We were out most of Sunday and when we returned power had been out for 2 hours. Neighbors told us of hearing a boom, sounding like a really big illegal firework, going off in the vicinity of 3rd St NW, where we've heard fireworks going off before. Then there was a car accident at Q and New Jersey Ave NW, because there were no lights at that intersection, or a bunch of other intersections.

We walked around looking for a cool drink. Beau Thai was closed, as was Shaw Tavern and Bistro Bohme, all due to the power outage. Yes, we should have walked east, stuff was open along 1st Street.

This is not our first power outage nor our last. We also lost power last year around 7/2/12, and blogged about other power losses in  2008 and 2005. Yet, I swear it seems we loose power every year.

Taking a look at last year's Post-Blackout Review, there is still room for improvement for the next blackout. We did get a portable battery pack, and I have been using it for power needs in the back yard so I don't have to drag the big orange extension cord out there. However, I didn' t test how much fan power it would give, for how long, so we decamped to the Aunt's house in Hyattsville. Freezer items were fine, because when we filled up on gas we grabbed 2 bags of ice to keep the freezer frozen and the fridge from not getting warm. The milk with the 7/7/13 sell by date tasted fine when we returned to the house this morning. Still haven't bought a portable radio. Though I have thought about getting a portable generator, it seems a bit unnecessary for now. The power outtages where we are don't go for longer than 24 hours, and that doesn't seem to justify keeping a big loud generator on hand.

Decade in Review: 4th of July

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Once again we will be home on the 4th. In the past my reasons were to protect the house on that day because people in and from outside the neighborhood would get too close to the house (and other's residences) with the fireworks, legal and illegal. One time a minivan with Maryland tags vomited out a family who then blew off a bunch of fireworks on the corner, then hopped back in the minivan and drove away. As the years went on the level of smoke filling our street from the various fireworks became less and less. I would be fine with leaving the house, but less confident in dodging all the small scale firework shows I'd have to go through to get home.

I have suspected that someone is putting on a show somewhere in the region of the Cook School, and it was confirmed at last nights BACA meeting. Apparently last year, there were about 200-300 people on the unit block of P St, and so rightly so residents are concerned. This was brought to the attention of the police representatives at the meeting, so we'll see if the police will a) shut it down or b) just do crowd control, or c) nada. The concern is that the schools across the street (Langston and Slater) will catch on fire.

Last thought, there are some neighbors who like to burn sparklers and small legal fireowrks off in the alleys. If you haven't seen a firetruck go down your alley there is a pretty good chance a firetruck can't get into your alley, so if something catches fire (hopefully not with all the rain we've had), if and when the firemen arrive, there will be a delay. Always have a fire extinguisher on hand and have a fun 4th of July.