Monday, September 24, 2012

Updated Heirloom Tool Caddy

After seeing all of the beautiful tool caddies in the blogosphere I had to get on the bandwagon.

tool caddy 1

Let me show you how it started out. While doing some cleaning in the garage, I ran across this, two of them, in fact.



Quite a work of art! My kids got little wood working kits with tools for Christmas one year and this was one of the projects that they completed. One of them even has a name written on the bottom that I won’t be painting over! I wish that they had dated them too. My kids are now 22 and 23 so these are more than 10 years old!  I added some little knob feet and small wood embellishments and painted away.

tool caddy 6

tool caddy 4

I use it to hold flatware when we are having guests at our summer cottage. Occasionally, I use it for seasonal décor.

tool caddy 5

I love being able to use this “family heirloom!”

I hope that you have a great first week of fall. I have a very busy next three weeks but hope to get some great photos to share with you!

I’ll be linking to Metamorphosis Monday at Between Naps On The Porch and to Wow Us Wednesday at Savvy Southern Style.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Buyers Beware---E Shopping Tips

I know that blog posts should have lots of pretty pictures to go along with good information but sometimes there are no photos that are fitting to essential info. Such is the case today. The purpose of this blog is to inform and inspire and I need to share my recent experience in hopes that others may be spared some trouble.

     Upon returning from our trip to China this summer, we were unable to find the charger for our camera. So, after several weeks, I decided that I would have to purchase a new one. I promptly went to the Canon website to look for a replacement. Much to my dismay, I found that the needed item was out of stock!

              camera battery charger

I then did a quick search for the charger and was delighted to find it at MelloDigital  .com. The price for the charger at Canon was $60 and at Mello it was $26.99 with shipping of $3.99, listed as brand new and in stock! How lucky for me to find it for almost half price! I quickly entered my credit card info and completed my purchase. I was willing to take a chance for a mere $30. This should have been red flag #1. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! In just a few short minutes, my phone rang. This should have been red flag #2. I was told that said item was on national backorder but that a better item could be sent out immediately, but it was $10 more. I told the person on the phone that I did not want the substitute because I was not willing to spend $39. He then told me that it included an additional battery but if I didn’t need another battery he could send the charger for $29. I told him that I would just look for my lost charger again. But, he insisted so I gave him the go ahead to send the $29 model. Fast forward 24 hours. My daughter was going through her things to pack for another trip and pulled out her camera and what should appear but the camera charger! It had gotten put away with her camera and charger. Knowing that my new charger was en route, I decided to wait for its arrival and return it. Fast forward 24 more hours. Said charger arrives as expected. I quickly emailed Mello Digital to ask how to return the item.  I received an immediate reply to call customer service at the given number. I called the number and was immediately put on hold. Red flag #3. I waited until someone finally answered. I explained my dilemma and was told that they did not accept returns!!! She told me to check the policy on the website. I was furious. Seeing that I was getting no where, I told the lady that I was not going to argue with her but that I would take up the matter with my credit card company and I promptly, firmly, and politely ended the call. I went to back the website to “check the policy.” The website says clearly that returns are accepted within 14 days of purchase. However, it goes on to list the items which are not allowed to be returned. Apparently the list includes every item they sell!!! Not to be outdone, I made a copy of my receipt and wrote across the bottom that I did not need said item, that I was returning it unopened in original packaging and that I would be filing a claim with American Express. I then took said package to the post office and mailed it to the return address and paid for delivery confirmation. Fast forward 48 hours. I promptly received an email that my returned item had been received and that the return process had been started. A few hours later, I received another email stating that my refund was being processed. I am happy to report that I received a refund including the $3.99 for shipping! Would I recommend doing business with this company? Absolutely not!! I should have done a quick Google search of the company name before making my purchase. There  were many, many negative reviews and no positive ones for the company. Apparently, their mode of operation is “bait and switch”. So, I learned my lesson the hard way. For those of you who do not know, most credit cards have some type of consumer protection. I use American Express and a Capital One MasterCard for as many purchases as I can in order to accrue travel reward points. I have found that both of these cards offer wonderful consumer protection. Every time I have filed a claim, it has been handled promptly and efficiently. As a small business owner, Lydia's, I have found that credit card companies are on the side of the consumer. I once had a charge back to my business because the consumer reported the charge as fraudulent. She didn’t recognize the name of the business or the location. She had forgotten that she made a purchase from me at an out of town conference. I received a letter from the credit card company asking for documentation including a copy of the signed receipt. I promptly sent them the receipt and documentation. They did nothing! They closed the case and never gave me credit! I called the lady who had made the purchase,luckily I did have her phone number, and she apologized and asked me to run the charge through on her card again. It went through with no problem, no questions asked. That experience let me know that consumers have more rights than retailers! So, do not be misled by anyone telling you that returns are not acceptable. I have been told that any purchase made on a credit card must be able to be returned.

I hope that my negative experience can save someone from a similar headache!

I’ll be linking to Tips, Tidbits, and Tutorials at Stone Gable.



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Summer Cottage Construction

summer cottage 1

One of my readers asked me to share some more info on our summer cottage. We built this cottage 4 summers ago, before I knew what a blog was, so the pictures have gaps in the sequence but I think you can get the idea. After much thought and prayer, we purchased a lot on a small lake 45 minutes from our home. My husband’s office and our church are located between our two houses so commute time is the same from either house, allowing us to spend a considerable amount of time in both locations without missing work or church. The lot we bought did not have a dwelling but had previously had a mobile home so it had a well, a septic tank, a deck, and a boat dock. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it saved us more than $25,000 initially by not having to purchase or install those items immediately. The well and the dock have since been replaced but we did not have those expenses during initial construction. Since both of our children were in college at the time, we needed to be budget conscious. We hired a contractor to build a 1200 square foot cottage with a basement and we finished the basement ourselves after the contractor finished the main floor. Because the lot was only 50 feet wide and I wanted room for a driveway on one side, the cottage needed to be 30 feet wide by 40 feet deep. I searched high and low for a houseplan of those dimensions but to no avail. The contractor allowed me to design the house on graph paper and he built it from that. I had previously designed our main home and had an architect do the professional drawings but the contractor for this cottage did not think that was necessary. He told us that his bank would give us a loan based on the drawings that I had done. Believe it or not, they did! I’ll share more about the floor plan and interior in another post.

summer cottage 2

Here you can see the deck, sitting up on concrete blocks. It was suggested that we burn it! I insisted we keep it. It is a great size and was structurally sound.  I had it moved to the shade, lowered to the ground, covered the underpinning with bamboo fencing, and gave it a good pressure washing. It’s now good to go and we have enjoyed using it.

summer cottage 3 a

As soon as we closed on the property, construction began and was complete in 90 days. Grading began immediately and the concrete walls were poured for the basement.

summer cottage 3 b

The pipes sticking up are drainage pipes for the plumbing so that everything was ready to go when we finished the basement.

summer cottage 4

Framing of the basement walls went very quickly.

summer cottage 5

The framing crew then moved on to frame the upstairs.

summer cottage 6

summer cottage 7

summer cottage 8

Since we did not have detailed professional drawings, I thought that it was important to go to the sight every day to make sure that my vision was coming to fruition. I was there most days with my trusty tape measure in hand.

summer cottage 9

summer cottage 10

Soon it was ready for the siding to go on.

summer cottage 11

I chose a shingle style for the siding on the gable ends of the house to add some architectural interest.

summer cottage 12

Small details go a long way on a tiny house.

summer cottage 13

summer cottage 14

The painting crew was in and out in no time at all.

summer cottage 15

When I arrived one day, the screened porch had been completely framed. However, I did not like it. I thought that it was too closed in and all of the framing obstructed the view.  To me, it looked like a framed wall with no sheetrock. So, I had them go back and cut out every other post. Later, after the inspection, I removed the bottom rails to open up the view more. The rails must be there for code so that had to be done after the inspection. We do not have very small children in our family at this time. Should that ever change, adjustments will need to be made for safety.

summer cottage 16

Hopefully, you can see from here how the view is much more open now.

summer cottage 17

summer cottage 18

summer cottage 19

summer cottage 20

You can see from the photo above how steep the front yard was and from the photo below how steep the driveway was.

summer cottage 21

We took possession of the cottage on June 1 but the concrete crew could not get there until mid August so we had a muddy mess for the first summer!

summer cottage 22

A friend of my son suggested that we build a “bridge” for the front walkway to avoid steps. The concrete guy thought that it was a great idea.

summer cottage 23

summer cottage 24

We had to use cardboard for a walkway until the concrete was poured.

summer cottage 25

summer cottage 26

It is amazing what a big difference concrete, sod, and a few shrubs make!

summer cottage 27

I was able to find someone to do the custom iron railing for the walkway. Thankfully, I got two bids. The craftsman that I used gave me a bid that was one third of the previous bid I had received!  He too was able to work from my rough drawings.

summer cottage 28

summer cottage 29

summer cottage 30

The old deck doesn’t look too shabby in its new home!

summer cottage 31

summer cottage 32

summer cottage 33

summer cottage 34

We enjoy taking a boat ride in the evening and watching the sun go down behind the mountains. Or sometimes, we just sit on the porch and enjoy the reflection of sunset on the lake.

summer cottage 36

This project involved a lot of work on our part and some financial discipline and sacrifice but has certainly been well worth it. I’ll be posting more on the interior and some of my hands on projects.

I’ll be linking to Wow Us Wednesday at Savvy Southern Style  and to Metamorphosis Monday at Between Naps On The Porch.




Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Weekend Visit to Old Town Alexandria, Virginia

We had the opportunity to visit Old Town Alexandria, Virginia last weekend. It is a great place to visit. It is a great town for walking, has great shops and restaurants, and has absolutely wonderful architecture.  I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
Old Town Alexandria 1
Old Town Alexandria 2
Old Town Alexandria 4
There are wonderful planters everywhere.Old Town Alexandria 8
I love all of the row houses! It was hard to get good pictures with all of the cars, traffic lights, and tourists!
Old Town Alexandria 9
Old Town Alexandria 10
Old Town Alexandria 11
I thought the lavender colored trim on this one was quite unique.
Old Town Alexandria 14
Notice the brick pediment above the door on this one.
Old Town Alexandria 16
Old Town Alexandria 18
This lovely church was at the end of one street.
Old Town Alexandria 19
Old Town Alexandria 22
I love the American flags blowing in the breeze.
Old Town Alexandria 23
Old Town Alexandria 25
Old Town Alexandria 28
This hotel is one of three Kimpton hotels in Alexandria. I have found that the Kimpton boutique hotels have a lot of character. I have stayed at one in Alexandria and at another in Boston and loved them both.
Old Town Alexandria 30
The building with gray shutters in the center above was a shop that I went in. It could not have been more than 10 feet wide. It was tiny but delightful. I believe that it was called the Bucket List Boutique.
Old Town Alexandria 32
Many of the buildings and homes have wonderful moldings.
Old Town Alexandria 33
Old Town Alexandria 35Old Town Alexandria 37
Old Town Alexandria 38
This little yellow house on the corner was so cute. My husband walked it off, golf course style, and measured it as 27 feet long and 18 feet deep. That comes to 486 square feet per floor!
Old Town Alexandria 39
Notice on this one where it has had two additions.
Old Town Alexandria 40
Old Town Alexandria 41
I love the wavy glass in the windows of this one. The black trim at the top and on the side porch is quite unusual.
Old Town Alexandria 42
Old Town Alexandria 44
Old Town Alexandria 49
I enjoyed browsing in this shop and thought that the prices were very reasonable.
Old Town Alexandria 48
This is the Morrison House Hotel where we stayed on another visit. The lobby is like a parlor in a wonderful home. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay there.
Old Town Alexandria 51Old Town Alexandria 53
Old Town Alexandria Firehouse 2
Have you ever seen a more beautiful fire house? And the weather vane is delightful!
Old Town Alexandria Firehouse Weather vane
Old Town Alexandria Vintage Truck 1
I love this vintage truck in front of this café.
Old Town Alexandria Vintage Truck 3
Alexandria Masonic Temple 5
This huge Masonic Temple is on a hill at one end of King Street. I believe that some of the scenes from the movie National Treasure were filmed here. It is all lit up at night and can be seen from miles away. I tried to take a picture as best as I could, from the middle of the street without a tripod so it is very fuzzy but you can get the idea.
Alexandria Masonic Temple 4
I would highly recommend a visit to Alexandria. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute there.
I’ll be linking to Wow Us Wednesday at Savvy Southern Style and to Metamorphosis Monday at Between Naps on the Porch.