California Dreamin’

Despite striking out on our first official offer last week, we’re charging ahead with high hopes.  Of course, we haven’t made another offer on anything, but we’ve been continuing to pour through open houses.  And that’s where we found this beauty, er, at least if you squint your eyes real tight and tilt your head sideways . . .

Zero Curb Appeal

Yeah, we know there’s no curb appeal.  None.  Zippo.  Zilch.  (Oh, and bonus to anyone who spots Spider-Man.)

But don’t think we’re totally crazy just yet.  First, let’s take a look at the stats for this “California Ranch” home (maybe if we live in a home designed for California, then it won’t feel quite so bad in the dead of winter surrounded by feet and feet of snow?  Maybe?):

  • Location: Amherst (not in Snyder like the other two homes, but still in the best Elementary School district), in a neighborhood with sidewalks (that’s for you Nancy)
  • Square Footage: 2,406
  • 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms
  • Lot Size: 0.21 acres
  • Built in 1957
  • All brick exterior (except for the attached garage)
  • Attached 2-car garage
  • Days on Market: 40
  • Asking Price: $165,000 (down from $169,900)

Yeah, the asking price is NOT a typo–this home is C-H-E-A-P.  Why?  We’re not so sure, but we think it’s because the homes in the neighborhood just tend to be lower-priced, although they also tend to be much smaller (the house next door is currently on the market for the same price, but it’s only 1,700 square feet).  And as you’re about to see, it also needs a little bit of style.

Upon walking in the front door, you walk through a wide hallway that leads to an open living/dining room (complete with some pretty rad Terrazzo floors . . . if only the whole house was done that way–wouldn’t that be gnarly?  Can you tell I’m trying to get into the California spirit?).  Mr. Bunches, being a flooring genius, has informed me that Terrazzo floors are some of the most durable (and expensive) floors out there.  They’re usually used in commercial applications for that reason.

Dining and Living Combo

I’m a little in love with all the exposed brick and the huge sliders and wall of windows.  Here’s a more complete view of the living room:

Living Room

So yeah, that’s a huge projection screen on the left.  These people apparently L-O-V-E to entertain.  To the right of those rooms is the kitchen which opens to another huge area:

Pool Room

Another fireplace and more huge windows and sliders.  The kitchen is open to the left of the pool table above.

Excuse the quality of the kitchen picture, but that one’s taken from the actual realtor’s site since I forgot to snap a picture of it when we were there.  You can just barely see a doorway in the far left of the above picture–that connects through to the dining area from the earlier pictures.  However, you can also go around from the pool table room . . . basically, it’s almost completely open.

The master bedroom is a bit separated from the other bedrooms, and also has its own bathroom:

Master Bedroom

There are more huge windows at the foot of the bed and another exposed brick wall (forgive me–we were rushing to lots of open houses, so I was snapping quickly).  The master bath has a separate room for the toilet and stand-up shower:

Master Bath

Toilet and Shower Room

The other three bedrooms are decent-sized and have either exposed brick . . .

Bedroom 1

Bedroom 2

. . . OR the requisite wood paneling (it must be part of Upstate New York’s building code that every house has wood paneling in at least one room):

Bedroom 3

And the other full bathroom is sort of standard; that is, if standard means yellow.

Yellow Bathroom

There’s also a two-car attached garage (again, bonus points if you find Spider-Man):

Garage

The home has a totally private, fenced backyard (and yes Deenie–that’s a hot tub, although if we buy the place, chances are that won’t survive for long–sorry).

Backyard Shot

So that’s the house.  We’re a little nervous about the whole flat-roof thing, but our contractor friend Steve says it’s not that big of a deal.  In fact, from just what the Mr. has told Steve of the place, he’s a fan (he likes all brick construction and stuff built in the 1950s).  But maybe we’ll get him out there for a more thorough inspection before we decide to make an offer or not. 

Overall, we like the open floor plan, the exposed brick, and the potential that seems to be oozing from the home.  Does it need work?  Sure–what doesn’t?  But it seems that at least this home has the square footage and the good bone structure to make something that works.  So that’s where we’re at–we’re tossing it around and now we’re tossing it at you.

So what do y’all think?  Yay or Nay?  Do you see the potential?  Or do you think we’re now completely and totally certifiable?  You can be honest . . . no, really.  Tell us what you think (leave a comment on this post).  Please.  Clearly we need guidance ;).

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Big Apple Bite

New York Stock Exchange

The Mr.’s next big idea?  Stand in front of the New York Stock Exchange acting like a crazy man everyday . . . shouting out ticker symbols, placing imaginary buy and sell orders, and doing the frantic hand signals that you see in movies like Trading Places.  He thinks he could become famous that way . . . umm, sure honey.

Needless to say, I shot that idea down.  But that didn’t put a damper on our 24-hour trip to New York earlier this week.  I had to travel for work, so the Mr. came with and did his own work in the city.  Since it was such a short trip, we only had about 3 hours of downtime to eat dinner, walk around the city, and take in the sites.  Of course, since we were staying in the Financial District, the only sites we partook of were Wall Street,  the NYSE, and the Bull.  Thrilling, I know–we’re dorky like that.

Wall Street

Wall Street

The Mr. was convinced that this was the site of the Apprentice expulsions, but I disagreed . . . I think they walked out of the other Trump Tower and not this one.  Anyone know the answer?

Trump Tower

And of course, since we were in NYC, we encountered an interesting character . . . all dressed up at 9:00 PM on a Monday night and nowhere to go?  Poor gal guy. 

Tutu Man

That is, except for a photography shoot on the Bull . . .

Tutu Man on Bull

The Mr. and Tutu Man

Seriously?!  How awesome was that guy?

So yeah, it was a quick trip.  We had dinner at Mad Dog & Beans where we scarfed down unlimited tacos (don’t worry–they were only the size of my thumb . . . that was the second time we’ve been in NYC and had tacos made for miniature people–what’s up with that?) and the strongest margarita I’ve ever had.  We tried hunting around for a sweet treat, but nothing was open except for the worst place on earth, aka McDonald’s. 

McDonald's

Joanne–don’t hate me, but we went in.  And we ordered.  McFlurries.  And we ate them.  And they were good.  But if it makes you feel any better, I sort of felt like this afterwards:

Garbage

So that’s it–our little break from the never-ending disappointment of house-hunting.  Sigh.

Strike One

Quick update: our offer got rejected.  :(  Both of the other offers were apparently higher, and closer to the asking price, so this is officially STRIKE ONE.  But, we do feel encouraged that even basic updates in a home in Snyder (the neighborhood we’re leaning towards) means that a house can sell quickly, and for a decent amount.  The original owners bought the home 11 years ago for $160,000 and now were selling it for at least $214,900 without doing much work (the addition had been put on by previous owners).  Soooo, that means maybe if we want to spend money to fix up this beauty, then it might be worth it?  Hmmm . . . jury’s still out on that one.

Carport Castle

Bidding Wars, aka Offer #2

A lot transpired this past weekend.  First, we managed to survive the end of the world.  Phew.  Second, we found a new favorite pizza joint, which means Mozzeroni’s has officially fallen into second place.  And third, we’ve made an offer on a house, and this one in writing!  Of course, in true Bunches style, we didn’t offer on this house like we blogged about last week.  No–that would be way too straightforward.  And well, we want to keep y’all on your toes.  No, we put in an offer on a totally new-to-the-market house.  One that we only just saw this past Saturday.  Spontaneous, aren’t we?!

Here are the stats:

  • Location: Snyder (only a few streets over from the earlier house we liked)
  • Square Footage: 2,016
  • 3 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms
  • Lot size: 0.19 acres
  • Built in 1950
  • Two-car attached garage
  • Asking price: $214,900
  • Days on Market: ONE!
  • Our offer: $208,000

I wish I could show you a ton of pictures, but unfortunately my memory card was full after I took only 3, and all of those from the outside.  Plus, at the time, I thought for sure that the Carport Castle was the one, so I wasn’t thinking that pictures of this one would be that important.  But here’s a shot of part of the outside–this is the original home–an all-brick Cape.  To the right in the picture is the addition that houses the family room and master suite upstairs.

Option 2 Front

To the right of the addition is an attached two-car garage, which is also not original to the home.

Additions

That woman in the picture is actually the owner–she let us in the place (the guy is our realtor).  Behind the white picket fence is a front porch slash patio.  Quaint, huh?  To the right of the garage is a fully-fenced yard (the house is on a corner lot, so there’s no backyard, and only a side yard):

Side Yard

We saw a total of four houses on Saturday: 1) this one; 2) the one we made a verbal offer on last week; 3) another option that I’ll be posting about soon; and 4) a smaller home in the same neighborhood with a recent price drop.  And since we were serious about the Carport Castle, we brought along Steve, a handyman slash contractor extraordinaire, who frequently does excellent work for Moose.  So basically, with Steve in tow, we conducted mini inspections of all 4 homes.  And he sort of convinced us that this house was the best deal–it had a new kitchen, dry basement, and with just some updated paint colors and new hardwood floors, it would be move-in ready.  We talked it over, hemmed and hawwed a bit, and then called our realtor to make an offer, only to learn that there was already one offer on the house and potentially another offer coming in!  Are you kidding?!  We’re still in Buffalo, right?!

Long story short–we’ve offered $208,000 and we’re waiting to see what happens.  We’re not interested in getting into a bidding war in western New York, so if they don’t want our offer, we’ll walk.  If they do, then hooray for us.  So we’ll keep you posted on who wins this battle . . .

Quinoa Salad

Quick house-hunt update: there’s no new news.  Apparently, things move slower in Upstate New York.  I’m trying to be patient.  Trying being the operative word there.

So with no housing news, instead, here’s a great quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) recipe adapted from an old Gourmet magazine . . . since I’ve been away all week, I made this last Sunday so that the Mr. had something healthy to eat while I was gone (and didn’t just make a run for the border ;) ).  Quinoa is one of the newly touted super foods–it’s a complete protein, which means it has all nine essential amino acids, and better than even that: it tastes good.  It’s a great replacement for boring (and, quite frankly, bad-for-you white rice), so I recommend giving it a try.  The Mr. and I are most definitely hooked on the stuff.

Quinoa Salad Yields 4-6 main course servings, 8 side-dish servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa (I used the organic kind from Costco)
  • 2 cups black beans (if from a can, then drain and rinse the beans)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (I would have used red wine vinegar like the original recipe called for, but this was all I had available)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked corn (from 2 ears)
  • 2 finely chopped green bell peppers
  • one bunch green onions, chopped
  • one pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro

For the dressing

  • 5 tbsp fresh lime juice (from about 3 limes)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp chili powder (or cumin, but again–I used what I had on hand)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Special Equipment Needed: Large Fine Sieve, like this one (the quinoa is so fine that you can’t use a regular strainer)

Ingredients

1. Cook the quinoa as described in the original recipe:  In a bowl wash quinoa in at least 5 changes cold water, rubbing grains and letting them settle before pouring off most of water, until water runs clear and drain in a large fine sieve.

Wash the quinoa

2.  In a saucepan of salted, boiling water cook quinoa 10 minutes. Drain quinoa in sieve and rinse under cold water. Set sieve over a saucepan of boiling water (quinoa should not touch water) and steam quinoa, covered with a kitchen towel and lid, until fluffy and dry, about 10 minutes (check water level in kettle occasionally, adding water if necessary).

Steam the Quinoa

3. While the quinoa’s cooking, prepare your vegetables . . . chop the green onions (using the whole onion–the white, light green, and dark green parts):

Chopped Green Onions

. . . cut the corn off the cobs (only after cooking the corn first, duh) . . .

Corn off the cob

. . . slice the green peppers and then chop them into small 1/2 inch pieces . . .

Sliced Green Peppers

. . . and halve the cherry tomatoes:

Halved Cherry Tomatoes

4. Add the vinegar (either apple cider, red wine, or even balsamic–just whatever you have on hand) to a bowl with the black beans and season with fresh ground pepper.  I had cooked a bag of dried black beans a few weeks earlier and froze 2-cup portions, so I just added the vinegar and let the beans defrost while I prepared everything else.

Black Beans

5. Transfer quinoa to a large bowl and let cool.  Then add the corn, black beans, green onions, tomatoes, green peppers, and chopped cilantro.  Toss well to combine.

Quinoa with Veggies

6. Prepare your dressing: whisk together the lime juice, salt, and chili powder (or cumin) until combined.  Slowly add olive oil in a stream while constantly whisking.

Quinoa Salad Dressing

7. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss well to combine.  Refrigerate salad if not serving immediately.  Bring to room temperature before serving.  Optional: before serving, add two chopped avocados and toss well.  Enjoy!

Spring has Sprung!

Yet another housing update.  From yesterday, you know that we finally heard back on our offer.  And, like we thought yesterday, we did end up making a counter-offer of $178k for the Carport Castle (I’m thinking that might be its new name . . . sounds classy, right?  or wrong?).  So thus far this isn’t much of an update, but more of a regurgitation.  So here’s the actual update: we’ve heard nothing.  Consider yourself updated.  But, we do have an appointment to see it again this Saturday, and this time we’re bringing flashlights and a critical eye (not sure if it will be mine or the Mr.’s yet).  Maybe we’ll even get more pics to share . . . but, until then, here’s a little post to disprove my family’s theory that Buffalo is covered in snow year-round.

Yes–this is a thermometer.  Yes–it works.  Yes–it’s in Fahrenheit.  Yes–the reading is 102 degrees.  And YES–it made that reading while being outside in Brockport, NY just this past week!  Take that naysayers!!

Brockport Reaches 100 Degrees!

And, because this was not a one-time-flash-heat-freak-of-nature-type occurence, that means that this has finally happened:

Rochester Blooming

. . . and this . . .

Brockport Blooming

. . . and this . . .

Morning Dew

Basically, the Mr. was right–spring has EXPLODED in Upstate New York and it’s absolutely gorgeous.  We got our fill this past weekend at Rochester’s annual Lilac Festival (which is currently ongoing for anyone who’s interested–it runs from May 13 through the 22nd this year, and best of all: it’s FREE).  You can see and smell not only all different types of lilacs, but tons of other blooming beauties as well . . .

Lilacs

More Lilacs

The smell was intoxicating . . .

Stop and smell the lilacs

The flowers on this magnolia tree were bigger than my head (and that’s saying a lot)!

Huge flower

Isn’t nature incredible?

Magnolia bloom

There was also a huge array of tulips to marvel at, and marvel we did.

All in all, the lilac festival was a great time, and despite the threat of thunderstorms, there was a pretty sizeable crowd present:

Lilac Festival Crowd

So take that family–see all those tanktops, shorts, and open-toed shoes! :)

Vegas Baby–Yeah!

Quick housing update: I was a bit hasty yesterday.  Turns out the owners of what’s-behind-door-number-one were just kind of slow in getting back to us, but they aren’t completely rejecting our offer.  Hooray!  Although, this would have been good to know before I started extrapolating on all my doubts in order to make the impending loss of the home less traumatic . . . but, back to being Positive Polly.  So they sort of countered with $185,000 (remember from here: the listing price was $209,900 and we offered $173,500), which means we’re in the game!  We’re going to go back verbally with $178,000 and see what happens next . . . fingers and toes crossed everyone!

Okay, so now back to our regularly scheduled program . . .

Even though most of you have read here, here, here, here, here, and here about our trip to California (wow–probably overkill, huh?), I realized that I forgot to bore you to death tell you all about our trip to Vegas.  We took the following route from Santa Barbara over to Sin City, and most definitely the first bit (from A to B below) was beautiful.  The last bit?  Not so much.  The map kind of sums it up nicely: green=gorgeous; sand color=well, sand.  Who’s ever had fun staring at miles and miles of sand?  Oh yeah, I guess maybe people on a beach.  Nevermind.

Santa Barbara to Vegas

But I’m sure you’re all dying to know what is that point B?!  What could it be?!  A magical land?  Buried treasure?  Home of the newest OREO?  The World’s Largest Thermometer?  Well, those would all be good guesses, but the winner is . . .

The Mr can find a Buffalo ANYWHERE!

Yep, it’s a store that sells EVERYTHING in the middle of nowheresville.  And I do mean everything . . .

What’s a Cowboy Hot Stick?  Er, this kind that is . . . 

Charlie Brown's Varied Nuts

Ice cream and made-to-order mini donuts?  Yes please.

It was a good thing we stopped . . . we’ve been looking for an Ostrich egg for some time now.

All that stuff left us almost crippled with indecision.  That is, until we saw the milkshake sign and those three little words that signify all that is good and great in this world: peanut butter chocolate. 

And you know what they (aka Deenie) say about milkshakes: they coat the stomach.  Yum.

Once we finished up hanging out with good ol’ Charlie Brown, we continued on to the next highlight of our trip . . . yep, that’s right: there was a teaser earlier in the post, and so maybe you’ve guessed it . . . the World’s Largest Thermometer!

Good thing we got that checked off our bucket list, huh?  After spending a couple hours seconds at the historic site, which conveniently also houses a Bob’s Big Boy (apparently those are still in business.  Why?  Not so sure), we got back on the road in our fancy schmancy rental car . . .

. . . (yeah, it was a pimpin’ ride) and watched more sand go by.

Finally, after what seemed like days ;), we saw the big city . . . but immediately exited early in order to grab ourselves some lunch at In-n-Out.  I had already looked up the secret menu and we had decided to get some burgers, Animal Style.  Boy were we excited.

So how were the burgers you ask?  Oh, well, I DON’T KNOW!  Because guess who decided to be closed on Easter Sunday?!  Yeah–all the In-n-Out chains EVERYWHERE!  Grr.  Back on to Vegas I guess . . . the Mr. assured me there would be food (duh).  So we headed down the street to Mandalay Bay.

And got a primo room on the 33rd floor overlooking the strip.

Not too shabby, huh?  It probably helps that they knew about Vacation Bunches from his trip only a few weeks earlier.  Apparently he made quite the impression at this poolside cabana:

Maybe even with a little help from this guy . . .

Luckily we got to hang out a little with one Mr. Taylor Scott on our trip, and it was great.  Besides some good pool time . . .

We also got in our fair share of “walkabouts” as the Mr.’s friends call them.  The thing with Vegas is that it’s deceiving . . . everything looks close together until you try to walk there.  But we love walking, so it worked for us.

I call this the Bellagio Stare . . . lots of deep thoughts I’m sure.  One of the best parts of our trip clearly was our visit to our homeland, our joy of all joys, our lifeforce if you will . . .

Yeah, I know.  We’re sort of odd.  But dang if we both don’t love M&Ms.  And M&M World?!  Heaven–just heaven.  Sigh.

Of course, we also did some more grown-up things . . . like dine at Koi in Planet Hollywood (where the Mr. had some fantastic sea bass, and I had pretty ho-hum sushi), play some games . . .  

Do some posing with celebrities . . .

. . . and just overall be sophisticated (this is my favorite shot from our two days there):

We also saw “O“, the Cirque du Soleil show at the Bellagio.  It was I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E.  Absolutely stunning.  Definitely put it on your bucket list!

Oh, and the Mr. was right–there was food in Vegas.  Lots and lots of food.  We did the breakfast buffet at the Wynn for $18.99 per person, and it was pretty good.  Not great, but pretty good.  The next day we did the breakfast buffet at the Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan (the new swanky 5-star hotel slash casino), which only cost $17.99 and was actually much better (lots more fresh fruit, red velvet pancakes, beet and goat cheese salad, shrimp cocktail, meats galore, I could go on).  And, we learned a little trick entirely by accident: we went to breakfast around 10:30 AM and took our time; then, at around 11:00 AM, the buffet transitioned to a lunch buffet!  They opened another wall, doubled the size of the dining options, and we just saddled right up.  Talk about food!  We’re talking sushi, short ribs, bacon-wrapped salmon, tacos, desserts, lamb, basically anything and everything!  Sigh.  Good thing we were both wearing stretchy pants.

Overall, we had such a great trip.  And, it didn’t hurt that we finished each night with this view:

Aahh . . . Sin City.  We’ll miss you–although, not for long!  We’ll be back there in only a few weeks for Round 2!

(I know–I’m officially dork-tastic.)

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