Archive for September, 2011

Variations on a theme, No. 646246918471

At the risk of overemphasizing HGTV and my thoughts thereon, let me just follow-up on my last post. I caught another episode of Property Brothers last night and guess what? The couple bought the more expensive of the two houses! Damnit. At least this time, the renovation included a master bedroom, a meditation room and a living room. Moreover, the master bedroom was turned into an en suite number and Carpenter Brother constructed some sort of custom wall for the living room. All of this plus fixes to major structural problems to the house made the reno seem slightly more impressive than the previous episodes I’ve seen. I’d still like a show with a total overhaul, though.

Moving on … Last weekend, when we probably should have been fighting at Fighting Bob Fest, Aaron & Gracie & I decided to enjoy the beautiful fall day by taking a walk down to campus. We soon found ourselves outside the stock pavilion (after passing a woman who gleefully called Grace a “Heinz 57 dog”) and in the presence of more than a dozen cows.

I was so excited to snap pics of Gracie with the cows. I was pretty sure she would not be excited about this and I was right. I honestly, and embarrassingly, had not considered how the cows would feel about our experiment, so I cannot say I was surprised by them but, had I actually consider their thoughts or feelings, I would have guessed they would, you know, exhibit cow-like indifference. I have to say, although I don’t have a lot of experience around cows (Cow Attack on the Wisconsin Rover 1994 notwithstanding), I dare say these cows were more than intrigued by Baby Puppy. These cows were fascinated with her! The cows would move in sync with each other to follow her movements. UW cows love Gracie!

I started worrying about myself a little bit, thinking, “Am I one of those horribly clueless people they always scared us to death about at camp? One of those mothers that puts jam on her (human) baby’s face so she can get a *cute* pic of the bear licking her baby’s nose?” I was pretty sure these cows were, you know, vegetarians not at all interested in eating my dog, but I admit I worried myself for a second. I’m sure some people would say that putting your dog in a cow photo shoot is weird regardless of danger.

I’m very grateful that those people do not read this blog.



So, I’ve been a little distracted with personal stuff as of late and, frankly, had nothing to say to warrant a blog post. Although both of those things are still true, I’m going to write something down anyway.

Has anyone watched the show Property Brothers on HGTV? I think new episodes may air on Saturday nights, but I keep catching the back-to-back episodes that air at 11 pm and midnight. [I’ve had some trouble sleeping lately.] I really like the premise of the show — two guys (brothers) operate in tandem to get a family the house of their “dreams.” Ok, that premise sounds pretty lame. Let me try again. One of the brothers is a real estate agent of some sort and the other is a contractor/ carpenter/ designer/ handyman/ visionary. I’ll leave it to you to evaluate the more useful of the two. The family, the brothers’ clients, come to them dreaming big. I’m not sure in what city this show takes place, but it’s not Madison. Or any city in Wisconsin. The brothers show the family an amazing house; a house with all of the bells and whistles that makes the family swoon. The family is totally enamoured (and also either good actors or completely in the dark about the whole point of the show) and ready to move in. The catch! The house is way above their budget. What do I mean? Well, the perfect house that they now love is, say, $1.2 million whereas their budget hovers around a *paltry* $700k. Boo! What to do? Property brothers to the rescue! You see, they can find this family a run-down, trashed, diamond in the rough for under budget and then use the “savings” to renovate to get the kids their dream house afterall. Genius! Or, that’s the idea. The problem, from where I sit (or rather lay, as I am in bed at this point, trying to get comfortable and maneuver around Gracie, who has recently decided that her favorite spot to sleep is smack in the middle of the bed) is that this is not what happens. I keep watching the show, waiting for this promise to be realized, but alas, I keep waiting.

What really happens is the family is shown two pretty run-down, ridiculous houses that are, from my financial vantage point, crazy expensive. The houses are in almost comically bad shape. They look like a tornado blew through them right before squatters took over. In fact, in one episode last night, as the group was touring a potential house to buy, the group stumbled upon someone sleeping in one of the bedrooms. That was odd. Anyway, after viewing two of these houses, the family is given a choice, which seems to routinely look something like this: Buy House A for, say, $550k and have $150k to do this amazingly beautiful renovation that will completely change the house into a magazine-worthy abode. Or buy House B for about $650k, which will leave $50k to still do amazing work. In my admittedly limited views of the show, the family always opts for the more expensive home so that I’m instantly disappointed that the reno will be of a much smaller scale. I realize a $50k renovation still sounds substantial, but when compared to three times that much? No contest for me — I’d much rather see the grander plan come true. But, no dice. So, that’s the second major wrinkle in the show (the first for me, in case I wasn’t clear earlier, is that these folks are getting a run-down house for over a half of a million dollars. I know location is everything, but it’s hard for me to contemplate paying that much for a tornado-damaged pit).

And here comes Wrinkle 3. Brother Real Estate is not quite the magician the show could use. He invariably tells the family he thinks he can get the house for a price that is not insignificantly lower than the price the couple ends up forking over. Thus, that already smaller reno budget is reduced again. Boo.

So now we’re about half-way into the hour-long show and we have a crappy house that people have spent a lot of money on. At this point, the buyers need to decide how their going to cut corners. Brother Carpenter/Designer/Contractor has some of tricks up his sleeves here, but they really aren’t anything newsworthy (laminate instead of hardwood, cast-off tiles for the fireplace or bathroom, using the couple’s older furniture) so it’s not very interesting. In one of the episodes last night, the couple’s reno budget had trickled down to $30k, so they were faced with the choice of redoing the kitchen or redoing the “upstairs” of the house, which entailed remaking two kids’ rooms, a guest room and a smallish bathroom. They chose the latter and while the decorating was nice, it was just a few bedrooms and a bathroom. It’s not something that I would think of hiring people to spend a lot of money on. Especially if I could have a spectacular kitchen instead. I was, as I think is now clear, disappointed.

My overall assessment is this should be a much better show than it is. I worry I will continue to waste time on it in the hopes that someone, someday chooses House A and I get to see a top-to-bottom overhaul of a whole house. Dreamy sigh.

On Labor Day

I’m feeling pretty discouraged about the current state of the American labor movement. I don’t think I’m alone in that sentiment, but it feels like a hefty burden to carry nonetheless. I realize I am not at a rally in Chicago in the late 1800s being fired upon by police officers, but the assault on workers feels serious and scary. So, to give myself some levity and ease the stress of these trying times, I turn to, who else? The supermutt. Thanks, Grace, for making my life better.

September 5, 2011

September 2011

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