Friday, November 1, 2013

I was talking to an old friend today and she asked about our house.  It reminded me where we started when we purchased "the old person house" in 2007.  This was our second home which we purchased in 2007, I hated it from the start.  Ugly wallpaper in entry/brass accents everywhere (not my style).  I really don't know how we even bought it in the first place.  1978 2 story ranch?  I was after a 50's or 60's daylight basement.  There was not a lot on the market at the time and the space was big, home had been updated...just by old people that liked beige and brass.  My husband was stuck on sticking it through and has worked so hard at making it everything I could want it to be.  We have gone over every surface in and out, quite often twice.  I am notorious for painting a room and then saying its just not right, re-do.  New surfaces include paint, tile, hardwoods, carpet, outlets, counters....everything.  Walls have come down, and walls have gone up.  Even the landscaping had an overhaul, but I have to admit the previous owners did a better job of upkeep.  

Looking back we have come a long way and I think the changes are impressive.  Although I don't know if I will ever love the house, it now feels like ours.  I wanted to add a post for myself and some others to see what we have pulled off.  Truly, this has been done with our own sweat and only a couple jobs were hired out like carpet and some trim install.  Not only that, but I hate to purchase anything new or full price.  Almost every item in our home has been purchased on Craigslist, Habitat Store, eBAy, garage sales (gorgeous true Murano glass chandelier included).  That includes lights, cabinets, toilets, tiles, granite, furniture & decor.  It's been crazy stressful, SO time consuming, but fun.  I just thought I would share some of the results.  

This is what we started with:

Open concept downstairs - Major changes ahead

Eating Nook (Door to Laundry) taking up 1/2 of current kitchen
Dining seperated by 1/2 wall to open living (wall was removed by us)
Nice built-in cabinets from the day of Big TV Sets

Master Bed with very small master bath - there is a reason we never got a before of that one
Avery's Room Before (Bed 3)

Bedroom 2 / Office
Upstairs Jack/Jill Bath -- Really weird, no other walls in the upstairs

One 1/2 of Upstairs separated by bath to similar opposing space

Really nice backyard full of roses and rhododendrons (I hate both!)
Love the back shed
22 Rose bushes in that garden outside master bedroom window, all removed and given to new homes.
Side walkway to house (I do love this area)
Oh those Rhododendrons!

Let the renovations begin!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Oh, our sweet pets!

Oh how we love our pets! We have a few. Spike is the head honcho as far as we're concerned. He's the brown/black guy laying down in his pic. We adopted him from our local Humane Society when he was 5 years old. He was our very first pet as adults and he has been so wonderful from day 1. He is pushing 14 years old and I'm afraid his body is starting to give out. But we are enjoying his calm & quiet presence every day he's with us. He was never a high maintenance dog (except for all the hair he leaves behind).

Caleb's cat Rawlie is about 4. I'm not much of a cat person but our son Caleb is. He always wanted a cat and I always said no way. One day I was at the Bellevue Farmer's market and someone was giving a way kittens. I had a week moment and thought I would bring one home. I asked if they had a girl and they gave me Rawlie. It wasn't until a friend was holding our new kitty that we found out "she" was a truly a he. This really is Caleb's cat, but he is SO tolerant of anybody. He let's Avery drag him around and he just goes limp. He's also huge, he was from a farm cat so I'm sure that's why he's so big.

Jack-Jack is 3. He is our little Havanese, and he want's to be top dog for sure. Zuka just turned 1 and is a Dogue de Bordeaux aka French Mastiff. I will post more on them later.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Just a couple favorites!

Okay just a couple of my favorite sites:

Love this site for their return department. I have scored some great deals on this site for lighting. I have gotten several Robert Abbey lamps for under $100 -- that's a great price! They have tons of different items (lighting is just one department) and a great return policy. What that means for us is 1/2 off the return items. I have found some sites to have 1/2 off sales, but the fact is it is 1/2 off some fake retail price. Well I have found this site to have a legit discount to other prices on the web. They have some great brands and their stock is updated periodically.

Best thing about them? They do stand behind their company. I ran into 2 problems with orders. One time a Robert Abbey lamp showed up without the shade -- I think their shades are handcrafted, but the company was happy to get me another direct from the manufacturer. Another time, the glass part of my lamp broke in the mail. After a quick email they gave me a full refund, and I got to keep the lamp (I took off the glass piece). 2 thumbs up!

Need deals on gear?

A painfully slow website but their prices are great. Another site that sells returns or items new without tags items. Many at super discount prices. Patagonia, Mountain Hardwear, Arcteryx, Northface jackets for $25, pants for $5 -- check it out, you might like what you find! Anybody can sell here but you will see a lot of items from companies like Tons of their stuff is the same brands and items you see at REI (another of my favorites for customer service). Just be sure to read the descriptions because you will run into stuff in a lot of different conditions and sizes.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Internet Shopping #1

People that know me, know that I like to shop but that I always want to find the best deal for whatever it is that I'm looking for. I'm not the type of person that's going to pick out the cheapest one on the shelf, I tend to lean towards the higher quality stuff -- but rarely at retail cost! So what places do I like to shop people ask? Here are just a few ideas to check out.

Ebates & Rebates!

***If you are purchasing online...use eBates, it really is free money for you!

I just checked my account and saw that I have received over $167 in cash over the last few years. All you have to do is go through the link when you are ready to purchase something. So many stores are on there and you can stack a coupon code with your rebate. 5%, 3% and the list goes on. Heck, eBay even gives you 2-6% cash back!

1. find the item on eBay or other online store
2. add it to your watch list or cart (I believe you have to use "Buy it Now" on eBay which is what I use over 75% of the time, more on that later.)
3. go to and find the store link
4. click on the link and purchase
5. Tada! your rebate deposit will get deposited in account (or mailed a check) every few months. It really does add up.

(If you do decide to give it a try, please click through my link and I will get a bonus, but I highly recommend them even without it!)

*** Do a quick search for a coupon or discount code for the store where you are purchasing it from. Just search the address or store name with the words "coupon", "code" or "discount". You might just be surprised what you will find! I am usually able to save at least a few dollars and sometimes a lot more, but sometimes you have to try a few different codes for one that will work., & are a few different sites you will run into. I never use one that wants me to put in an email address to see the code.

Tips to a successful Craigslist transaction:

My #1 favorite has to be, you will be amazed at what you can find there. Someday I will post pics of my house that we have completely remodeled. Most of our furniture or big items where bought via Craigslist. Our gas insert fireplace, brand new double wall oven, full kitchen cabinets, 2 Toto toilets, couches, some lighting, bathroom tile, the list goes on : ) Have a vision and you can find it, it might take time but it will be out there. My beliefs for a successful Craigslist transaction are as follows:

1. Condensed searches. Know what you want and search appropriately. I tend to know what brand or specific item I want before I am searching. Also don't plan on people having it posted in the right category, or spelling for that matter.

2. Frequency, frequency, frequency! Search frequently and somewhat obsessively. Early bird gets the worm. The quickest you find the listing, the better odds of getting it. I have posted many things for sale and usually have my buyers response within the first hour (or minutes).

3. Quick response and make it simple. Sound serious, I put the item name & "I want it!" in my email title and offer a quick pickup with cash. Make it easy and convenient for the seller and let them know your not a flake.

4. In really good deals or something I have had to have (a matching table for instance), I have even been known to offer more cash then the asking in my title. Our kitchen cabinets were another instance. We found them (after a year of searching) and knew they were going to work. I knew they were priced cheap so I offered an extra $100 just to get my name at the top of the list, sorry other cabinet buyers but the seller said that was why he picked me : ) A couple of times people have just let me give them the asking price, even when I hand them extra cash.

5. In some other cases and something I have not been afraid to lose, I send a quick email offering them a lower price on the item if it doesn't sell. Sometimes that works as well, but you have to be willing to lose the deal.

So much more to come later, I started this for a few friends and never realized I would have so much to say. I need to go to sleep :)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Jury Duty - Part II, The Evidence

This is a continuation of my first post on my recent jury duty experience. So people ask, how did you know he did it? So here is what I felt was the most convicting evidence.

For every expert witness confirming their belief in something, there was another expert disputing it. I felt sorry for even the most educated and convinced witness because the opposing counsel could be quite ruthless in their cross-examination.

The blood evidence for myself was key. The prosecution said that there was no way Nancy could have been alive to enter the distress code into the alarm at 5:52a. The said the evidence in this was the blood. The first shot produced a wound that did not produce a lot of blood. There was an area on her head that was coagulated, which takes some time to occur. This matched a spot on the floor where they believed her head had first fallen. When it was noticed whe was still alive (although unconscious), her head was moved from the initial position, this was after 12-20 minutes from the first shot being fired. She was then shot again in the nasal cavity at very closse range. This second shot produced a very large pool of blood. When the police arrived to the house at about 6:20a there was already a large amount of serum separation in the pool of blood. Something that takes time, a considerable amount of time for the amount of separation that was present in this pool.

The defense brought in another "expert" that came up with another story of how things could have happened but it didn't make sense and the blood did not correlate with their story. The blood evidence and timeline that was presented by the defense was the biggest factor in confirming guilt.

Guns. This family owned tons of guns and Mr. Floren frequented the shooting range. There were guns all over this house, in both vehicles and in dresser drawers. There were guns under each side of the master bed. Nancy's gun was found next to her right hand, as if she had confronted a burglar in the home. The holster her gun was held in was buttoned and placed neatly back under her bed. Suspicious of someone to be so neat when frantically awoken and scared enough to grab her gun to go confront an attacker.

The murder weapon was thought to have been a .22 caliber. Mr. Floren did own guns, lots of them. Over the course of the years I think he bought and sold something like 50. Only one was unaccounted for & it was a .22 caliber gun.

Habits. These people were very safety minded people. They always did a perimeter check before bed, always kept the alarm armed and always locked their doors. People that had known them, their maid and family that had stayed with them and dog sat for them attested to this. Tracy claimed he had quit locking the garage to mudroom door because the jingling of the key would startle Nancy upstairs if she was sleeping. This sounded very suspicious to me considering she would hear the car garage door would be much louder then that and key her into Tracy coming home.

He also said that he would leave the alarm unactivated when he left her alone in the early mornings to go to meetings, again this did not seem right. He also said the garage door to the side yard "might have been unlocked". For a family that seemed very concerned with locking doors this seemed strange. There was a very neat square scored on the garage door glass but not pushed in. It was presented by the defense as a burglar who after scoring reached down and realized the door was unlocked in the first place, suspicious????

Internet History. Over a handful of months before the murder, Tracy had looked at plenty of dating and matchmaking sites including the Craigslist personals. He was looking for a new partner, and was dating someone at the time of his arrest in March. Even over their vacation in Sequim he was looking at Chinese mail order bride sites. Suspicious of someone that was having what he called some of the best weeks of his life with Nancy.

There was a lot of talk about plant pieces found in Tracy Floren's clothes. Many pieces matched what was in the retention field (and no where else) which was on the other side of the fence that was climbed in an escape. Human and dog trackers confirmed the route of escape and took many pictures to show it. Pictures from the day of the crime showed no mowing or herbicide activity along the fence line of the home. Photo's from 2 weeks later showed that the area along the fence was weedwacked and sprayed. The defense said that this occured the weekend the family had returned home in the middle of their trip to Sequim, and that Tracy might have had those same pants on the day of the murder. The prosecution said no way. They said this happened days after the murder (Tracy had not been arrested until 6 months later) when he was trying to explain or cover up evidence.

Overall the crime was just too neat. The scored glass was a very neat square, the house was not ransacked and not even a drawer had appeared to have been opened. There were lots of valuables in the office very close to the murder and nothing was touched. The gun holster being so neatly placed back under the bed. Good friends swore Nancy would never confront an attacker, she would hide.

The man that committed this crime was very smart. He did a lot of things to ensure he would not get caught and it was a very well planned crime. I am so thankful that nature played many a roles in confirming his guilt. It would have been a shame if he got a way with such a heinous act of cold blooded murder.

Rest in Peace Nancy Floren, justice was served.

Karma - Lost & Found

So yesterday I put my 13 year old son on a plane on his way to Texas to see his dad. This is the first time I have sent him off to another state alone, scary! Well, last night I got a call from a man in San Diego saying he found an iTouch on a airplane and our # was under home. I explained my son was on the plane and that it must have got left behind. I told him I would be happy to send him some money as a thanks and to cover shipping, he said not to worry about it, "call it karma". What a guy!

I have had many of my own experiences at having lost things found and I have come to find out that there are more good people in the world then bad, and most people I believe want to do the right thing. I was just thinking there are people all across this country that do the right thing and I just don't think we hear enough about the do-gooders in the world.

I have a few examples (please don't judge me on being completely spacey when it comes to keeping track of my stuff!):

I have had my wallet and purse lost a number of times but this is the story that takes the cake. We were in Florida last spring and had a fabulous family trip. We were on our way home, through security and waiting for our plane home. We boarded the plane and it had a quick stop in Indianapolis when my husband checked his voicemail and had a message from his dad saying someone called and said they had one of our bags. Huh, I thought I mentally tracking my stuff I wondered what it was. Well when we landed in Chicago for a plane change I realized what it was. It was my main travel bag with my very important stuff: my wallet w/ both my husbands and my own ID's, my very nice Nikon digital SLR camera (with all of our vacation photo's), my iTouch (this has my life on it), my airplane transfers & my cell phone. My life was in that bag!! Luckily we were able to get new transfers at the airport desk, and we were through security so we were able to make it home without incident and when I got home I got to talk to the lovely lady that found it.

She said she was waiting for a plane when she realized her 3 year old son was going through somebodies bag. He was pulling the wallet apart and happily looking at the Mickey Mouse Disney tickets. She didn't want to leave it with the airport staff because she didn't know who would have access to it so she took it home to Maryland. She ended up sending it to me Fedex and would not even take cash out of my wallet to pay for it. I was so thankful for her help in getting it back to me, I would have been heartbroken to loose all those vacation photos. I did send her a thank you card and some money for a night out on me, but what she did for me was truly priceless.

Another time I had about $500 cash in my wallet because I was hoping to buy a piece of furniture off of Craigslist later in the day. I work at a hospital in Seattle with the methadone clinic right down the street. Needless to say, we get plenty of seedy people that congregate in the area. I went to the Rite Aid across the street to grab some stuff at lunch and kind of spaced and left my wallet (filled with cash) on the counter of the film area. I didn't realize this until later that evening when I was trying to find some cash to get out of the parking garage and realized I had no wallet. Oops! Well, I backtracked and ended up at the Rite Aid where the manager nicely went and retrieved my wallet from the safe, giving me a little warning about keeping that much cash in my wallet at one time. Some nice customer had found it and turned it in to him, saving my day! Not long before that...

I was up at our cabin in a pretty small town called Belfair. I made a grocery run and stopped to fill the tank before we headed to the cabin. Well, I must of left my wallet on the car roof when I was filling up and drove away without moving it. After freaking out for a few days, wondering where it could of gone, I got a big envelope in the mailbox with no return address or anything. In it, was my wallet...with not a dollar or anything else missing. Not even a note was included. Wow!

I just need something to happen so I can return the favor, call it "karma".

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Jury Duty - Part 1, Jury Selection & The Crime

Wow, I obviously haven't taken on to blogging to terribly much but I thought I would share about my recent experience on jury duty. Parts of this blog are graphic, please be advised before reading -- murder is not a nice subject.

I was called to jury duty on 10/26, no big deal I thought 2 days sitting in a room with hundreds of other potential jurors in the King County Superior Courthouse, then back to my regular work schedule. I had had to do this one other time and that was the outcome, I thought my chances of serving on a real jury were slim. Well after a few batches of jurors were called to go be questioned for a trial, my name came up and I was lucky (?) 3 out of 100 jurors. Walking into the courtroom was interesting and before me in the defendants seat sat an older gentleman (64), a Boeing engineer, who the judge declared was going to be tried for 1st degree murder. Wow, this could be interesting I thought. We learned the defendants name was Tracy Floren & he was being charged with 1st degree murder, the victim was his wife of 24 years, Nancy Floren. When I heard the charges I had an uneasy butterfly feeling in my stomach knowing that the rest of this mans life could be held in the hands of myself & 11 other jurors. But still, what were the chances?

Well, as the week progressed they went through about 160 jurors questioning us on how the trial length (4-6 weeks) would cause a burden on our lives. Most jurors were able to get out of it for this reason, because many people were not lucky enough to have an employer like myself who pays my full wage during jury duty. They also asked us about how we felt about alcoholism, lying, previous experiences of our own with the law that could impact our beliefs of guilt or innocence. We were questioned about our lives and read a list of at least 100 names or so asking if we knew any of them (witnesses).

Finally, after the first week in the courtroom it was decided. There were 16 jurors chosen, 12 which would lay judgment during deliberation and 4 to alternate into deliberation if we were needed. Those 4 alternate jurors were chosen by random numbers being drawn, my lucky #3 was one of them. I would still sit & listen to the trial and follow all the rules of the court, knowing I might be called in if needed for deliberation.

The first week of the trial was intense, I came home exhausted from trying to focus so hard. The prosecution opened up showing us a picture of a very nice, professional looking upper class woman and stated she had been assassinated in cold blood by her husband of 24 years. They were a very neat and orderly, upper class couple. They had no children, but a dog and cat that Nancy adored. They had a beautiful home with extremely well manicured gardens and were almost ready to retire from very good jobs. Why would this happen, why would a gentle & well composed gentleman commit such an act after being married to someone (quite happily it seemed) for so long? The prosecutors said it was because he had been struggling for years with an alcohol problem, and although he had kept it under control for many,many years...he relapsed. He relapsed and knew his wife was on her last straw with his drinking, he had been given his last chance and it failed. This thought led him to picture his life without Nancy and it would be an easier life without Nancy.

Over the course of the next 6 weeks this is what we learned.
Summer, 2007. The couple spent 2 weeks in Sequim, vacationing and breaking ground on their dream home which they were custom building in an area they had been in love with for many years, they were going to retire there. By all accounts it seemed like a nice trip, the did return home to Kent for one night about a week into their vacation to get the plants taken care of and manicure the lawn. After that night they returned to Sequim for the following week. Had many dinners with friends and working hard to get things in order for their new home, including trips to pick out the granite they chose for their counter tops. It sounded like a lovely vacation.

They returned from vacation on September 1, 2007. They picked strawberries from their garden, made dinner & strawberry shortcake and Nancy caught up on some of her favorite shows. She drank wine and they looked over the plans for their new home, he drank vodka in secret and hid the airplane sized bottles in trash. They went to bed.

September 2. He got up early to attend an AA meeting called the Kent Earlybirds which met at 6:30a, he did this regularly. This morning was quite different though. He woke up about 4:30 (he was always an early riser), went and unarmed the alarm to let the dog out. He is thought to have hid in the laundry room and gotten his wife to come downstairs. He hid in the laundry room (between the garage and a main downstairs hallway) and when his wife came down the hall he reached out and shot her from a very close distance into her right temple with a .22 caliber gun. She fell to the ground, with a gunshot into her brain...but she didn't die. It is unknown what he did next but it appeared that after about 12-20 minutes he must have realized she was still alive. At that point he lifted her head up and shot her directly up the left nostril at very close range, this finished off the job.

Tracy needed an alibi. So, he left his house and went to Starbucks which was closed. He crossed the parking lot to Circle K and got a cup of coffee and a danish (this was viewed on surveillance video at 5:18 or so). He then returned home. He would have left his car somewhere close to a retention field that his housed backed up to and walked to the house. He verified his wife was truly dead and at that point, he put in an emergency code into their home alarm system, triggering a silent alert to the alarm company. This alarm signal went off at 5:52am. After triggering the alarm he left out of a side garage door, through the yard, and climbed his back fence placing him into the retention field. Here there was some of the only hard evidence in the case, some earplugs that Tracy kept all over his house and used whenever he went shooting.

6:20am: Tracy was first seen at the AA meeting that started at 6:30a. He claimed to have gotten there at 5:45a, but all evidence pointed to 6:20a. He stayed for the meeting and then left to return home, returning home about 7:50. It was when he arrived at home that his life changed forever, that's when the police entered the picture.

This will be a long post, and I will finish it later. I can say this was a big experience for my and I am glad that I got to take part in it. One thing I learned is that murder cases do not happen like on Law & Order.