From the ground up


The price of homes are so high and the opportunities for massive appreciation on the sale of a restored Victorian that those with time and money on their hands are buying old run down houses and giving them a complete makeover. We met one couple that had this dream and they would drive the streets looking for old houses in need of repair, noting the addresses, and then looking them up at City Hall. If the house had the same owner for more than 30 years, they would write the owner and ask if they were interested in cashing out their home equity by selling. They wrote over 100 letters before they got a positive response.

One problem with the old Vics is that they were often build on a brick foundation which is crumbles over time. Modern building code suggests concrete foundations with the house bolted into the concrete which is what’s going on with this house which is down the block from us.


Tyler’s First Day of Kindergarten


Today was Tyler’s first day of school. Here are the before and after photos of the day.

The parents got to see all the kids get settled and watch the teacher welcome the class and read them a story. I have a good feeling about the school, a nice mix of kids with two teachers to handle the twenty kids in Tyler’s class.



Current Events Home

Electric Coils & Chickens

KitchenA shot of our kitchen/dinning room which looks like one of those life-sized dioramas in the Smithsonian that should be titled something like “Rental Apartment in Alameda, circ. 1980.” Behind me on the wall someone thought it’d be funny to put up a Norman Rockwell print (signed litho by the way) of some Pilgrim in the stockade with the words “Ye Glutton” on a sign around his neck – not exactly the thing you want to see while eating dinner.

The stove has those electric coil things which never really works for cooking anything but Campbell’s soups because it takes forever to heat up. Also, the largest of the coils is busted so we only have three tiny ones to work with.


But the strangest thing in the kitchen are these two stuffed roosters up on the shelf. I know they want to put things up there to fill up the space and make it cozy but stuffed poultry? When you look at them up close, as in the shot below, you’ll see that the one on the right is particularly menacing. There’s really not a good seat at the dinning table – you either have to look at “Ye Glutton,” the menacing chicken, or out the window at this weird stone cherub/angel thing that’s placed right outside the window with the plastic ivy.


New Category: Alameda

As we begin to put down roots (no, we don’t have a permanent home yet) I thought it only fair that I create a new category to bring together all anticipated observations about our new home. Here are some snippets:

– Alameda residents are pround of their city. “A small island off the coast of Oakland” is how one person describes it to outsiders. Most of the local publications (there are two local newspapers) refer to Alameda as “the Island” with a capital “I”

– We just got Izumi’s new cellphone (Verizon provides the best coverage on the Island) at a small local store on Park Street and looking at all the signed photos on the wall, I discoverd that this little mom & pop store has provided almost all the Oakland Raiders with their cell phones.

– I’ve become a big fan of Topix’s Alameda page. A great resource for local news and information about the area.

– The Island has a population of 58,000 and used to host a large naval base which was given over to the county in 1998. They are currently coverting the land to a mixture of housing, high-end shopping (someone mentioned a Nordstrom’s), and buisiness parks.

– Alameda is very convenient. A $5 ferry ride takes you over to the Ferry Terminal in downtown San Francisco. Oakland International Airport is only 10 minutes away and is a hub for Southwest and JetBlue, two of the leading discount domestic airlines, Aloha Air also flys out of Oakland to Hawaii. The Express “O” bus leaves from Alameda over the bus lane to downtown San Francisco. Drive 10 minutes East to the 880 and you can loop around North to the Bay Bridge to San Francisco or South to San Jose.

– Alameda has the feel of a small, semi-urban neighborhood in Los Angeles, circa – 1940. There are cute little 15 foot high lamps that line some of the streets. The houses all have really flimsy locks on them and when I asked, they said that the crime rate is extremely low. Put more simply by another gentleman we were talking to, “There are only three ways on and off the Island. If you have any trouble, call the police and there’s now way for the bad guys to get away.”



We took some time off from the house hunt today to spend some time enjoying the beautiful weather with the kids who were fraying at the edges after three solid days in which we must have previewed over 20 homes around the Bay Area.

We first headed over to Alameda to check out the 20th Annual Park Street Art & Wine Faire. We then caught a ferry over to the Ferry Building in San Francisco to peruse the shops and the weekend farmer’s market. We then hopped on the F line, with it’s historic trolley cars, up to Pier 39 to see the fishies in the Aquarium of the Bay which I highly recommend for it’s two 300 foot glass-walled tunnels which give you a unique view of the fish. We wrapped up the day with a meal at the No. 9 Fishermen’s Grotto, one of those totally tacky 1950’s era SF attractions that is actually quite good.

Tomorrow is open house day so we’re back in the saddle for another day of looking at how other people live.