All posts by Katie-Leigh Corder

The Joys (and Hell) of Owning Our First Home for a Year

When Mark and I decided to purchase our first home in the ever-growing area of Fort Collins-Loveland, Colorado, we knew it would be a stressful venture. Regardless of the stress, it’s been a rewarding one, too.

Originally, we didn’t plan on buying our first home within the first year of living in CO, but lo’ and behold, everything was increasing with no end in sight: rent and mortgage payments, competition among buyers, interest rates, down payments, my anxiety and blood pressure, etc.

This sums up the competition in CO when you're a buyer in a competitive market especially when looking for your first home.

Prior to talking to a loan officer of real-estate agent, the first thing I did was purchase this first-time homebuyer book.

Home Buying Kit for Dummies

After taking many notes from this helpful resource, we talked with two real estate agents and three loan officers based on online ratings, websites and word-of-mouth; we asked questions suggested from the book. We went with Remax’s Nathan Weinland and Cornerstone Lending’s Brad Dusek—both amazing experts in real estate, so if you’re looking for an agent or loan officer in this area, we highly recommend them!

Afterwards, we toured multiple—over 15 houses—properties in the Fort Collins-Loveland area. We visited a haunted house (I kid you not), a house with three different types of wallpaper in the basement, a house that easily needed $50K+ in repairs, amazing mansions, and more … until we found a house that met our price range and was in fairly good condition in Loveland. We made an offer on it seven hours after it was posted and wa-la!

First time home owners in Loveland!
The day we signed all of our documents and were officially homeowners on April 29, 2016!

After the technicalities of signing (our souls away) the papers and experiencing one hell of an empty bank account after the down payment, we experienced the joys and surprises of our first home:

Here’s a fun list of everything that went wrong within the first few months:

  • Our cat decided that the house was too big for her; therefore, she developed stress, which then turned into a UTI infection causing her to vomit and urinate around 20 times on the lower-level carpet.
  • The refrigerator’s water line cracked causing a semi-flooded kitchen floor. Home warranty wouldn’t cover it, and it was turning into a costly repair … so no more ice machine or water dispenser!
  • I picked up—and continue to pick up—trash in our backyard from previous owners. The soil here works where, after a windy, snowy and/or rainy day, things that are buried below the surface start to emerge like seedlings. From tiny pieces of broken plastic to cigarette butts, chewed up dog toys to metal spoons, shards of glass to army soldiers, I found some interesting ‘treasures’ so far!
  • Dead, embalmed rat carcass in our crawl space … ’nuff said.
  • Every single label in our fuse box is mislabeled. The one labeled ‘outside lights’ turns on/off the bedroom in the lower-level!
  • The chimney wasn’t cleaned in multiple years causing an inch-thick layer of soot to form, which was a big hazard! Apparently, chimney fires can heat up to a whopping 2,000 degrees!
  • The water pipes under the kitchen had legit cracks in them … CRACKS! Over time, the moisture that escaped formed a strange moldy substance in the crawl space.
  • The garage…ooooh the garage! There were two fire wall breaches—down to one—and the walls are slowly stripping away and is home to numerous spiders.

Our initial thoughts after repairing or having numerous items repaired and seeing the money flow to our first home:

Buy a house they said, it'll be fun they said!
Luckily we have yet to experience a flooded basement! *knocks on wood*

However, as we reach our one-year homeownership mark, we can truly say that we do love our home despite the insanity this first year brought both financial- and work-wise!

We made/had the following repairs and upgrades to our first home:

  • Installed New Flooring to the Lower-Level

    Many ‘thanks’ to our furbaby for instigating us to re-do the lower-level flooring a good three years sooner than intended! The (original) vinyl flooring in the downstairs bathroom was replaced with beautiful, natural stone, slate tiles:

    Tiles Make Smiles installed natural stone slate tile in our bathroom area.
    Tiles Make Smiles installed natural stone, slate tiles in our bathroom area.

    The tiles were also installed around our wood-burning fireplace (both projects completed by Tiles Make Smiles):

    New slate tile around our fireplace downstairs.
    Tiles Make Smiles installed natural stone slate around the fireplace.

    Lastly, we ripped up the carpet and padding from the den and had a nice, wood vinyl flooring installed (completed by Mic’s Tile):

    New vinyl wood flooring installed!
    New vinyl wood flooring by Mic’s Tile.
  • Removed Popcorn Ceiling

    Covered in the particles and material in the popcorn ceiling
    Myself covered in the particles and materials from the popcorn ceiling!

    If ever there was a task so tedious that it would make you not only feel like burning down your house, but simultaneously fill your lungs and eyes with more-than-likely horrible substances it is the process of removing popcorn ceiling.

    This process involves spraying warm water on the ceiling, scraping off the popcorn, sanding the remnenants to a flat surface, spackling any scratches and dents from the removal process, vacuuming the floor and wiping down the walls, windows and doors, and then priming/painting the ceiling!

    Before and after the removal of popcorn from the ceiling.
    Before and after the removal of popcorn from the ceiling.

    We have one more room to go: our master bedroom. There is still a ton of popcorn ceiling throughout the house, but to those rooms I say, “Adieu!”

  • Radon Mitigation System

    Our radon mitigation system installed when we first moved into our first home.

    Radon
     was tested in our home with results showing levels above 7 pCi/L, which is above the recommended levels. We added this to one of the fixes we wanted the sellers to fix, which they obliged. After the system was installed in the crawl space, the radon levels are now at 0 pCi/L! (We had BWise Radon install it, and they were amazing!)

  • New Kitchen Pipes Installed

    Another concerning issue that we asked the sellers to take care of involved replacing kitchen pipes in the crawl space because they were leaking and causing mold. This was completed in a day, and it was a good thing since the original pipes had legit cracks in them!

  • Painted Three Rooms and Upgraded Outlets and Covers

    I never painted a room before and was really psyched when we were prepping to paint after removing the popcorn ceilings! We painted Mark’s room—aka man cave—a medium green. Then, we added curtains, and Mark replaced all of the antiquated outlets and covers:
    We painted a room in our home and it became my husband's 'mancave.'

    Next, we painted my ‘lady’s lair’ a retro pink color that turned out better than expected:
    My 'lady's lair' room completed after painting!

    Lastly, prior to the floor installation, we painted the bedroom in the lower level a bright yellow to add more light in what was once a dark and uninviting room:
    Lower level bedroom post-painting.

    We plan on painting the master bedroom a nice silver-grey color after removing the popcorn ceiling in the future.

  • Upgraded the Outdoor Firepit

    This was my first, personal project, and I love working outdoors. The outdoor fire pit was a complete and utter mess prior to upgrading it as it was literally a big pile of rocks with a vast insect ecosystem in it with no fire control or container. After a few months of placing slabs of rocks and gravel from around the yard, I added bricks, sand and lava rocks to the middle to really give it a nice decor:

    Different stages of the fire pit being redone.
    Different stages of the fire pit being redone.
  • Installed a Catio

    One of the joys of being a cat owner is doing anything and everything to make your cat happy! When my family visited, my dad and Mark built a legit, screened-in catio for Squeaky that has become a conversation-starter!
    Squeaky cat in her catio!

  • Replaced the Kitchen Sink and Underlying Cabinet

    The kitchen sink was replaced by Mark, and my dad fixed the cabinet area underneath it since it was water stained and slightly moldy. He completed that part with scrap wood he found around the lot:

    My dad and Mark fixing up various items in the house.
    My dad and Mark fixing various areas in the house. They cut wood in the top photo for the catio and replaced the kitchen sink and a doorknob.
  • Installed an Outdoor Solar Lamp

    Installed an outdoor solar lamp to replace our broken electric one.The original, outdoor lamp that ran off of electricity wouldn’t turn on due to a cut cable 18+” below ground. Instead of paying thousands to fix it, we removed the original lamp head and installed a $90 solar lamp that works just as well!

  • Attic Fan Installed

    We had an attic fan installed by Colorado Heating and Cooling and we've already feel the difference!
    It gets ‘hotter than 40 hells’ in the summertime in Colorado. Despite having the air ducts cleaned, the master bedroom is an oven day and night. We had an attic fan installed for around $600 to mitigate the heat this coming summer.

These are the larger projects that we completed/had completed during our first year. Not bad for our first home if I do say so myself! The number one thing to remember is to pace yourself and your wallet as well as to prioritize first home projects in terms of urgency and home value increases.

Do you have any first home stories (or nightmares)? Share them in the comments!

21, Handy Keyboard Shortcuts and Alt Codes for Digital Journalists

When it comes to completing online projects—rather it’s on a program or the web—I am a huge fan of keyboard shortcuts and alt codes so as to work more efficiently. These are the top keyboard shortcuts and alt codes that I use most often and thought they would come in handy for those who vastly work in the online world.

Visual tutorial of how to use alt codes to create symbols and other text.
Image from Ranker.

21 Keyboard Shortcuts and Alt Codes You Should Know:

  1. ALT+0149
  2. Creates a bullet for a list when rich-text formatting is unavailable: •

  3. ALT+0150
  4. Creates an ‘en’ dash, which is used to represent a span of dates, numbers or time: –

  5. ALT+0151
  6. Creates an ’em’ dash, which is used to create a strong break in a sentence and can replace commas, parentheses or colons: —

  7. ALT+0169
  8. Creates copyright symbol: ©

  9. SHIFT+TAB
  10. Work your way backwards/up in selecting clickable areas on a page, such as input boxes in a form.

  11. SHIFT+Home (or End)
  12. I use this if I’m writing in Word or WordPress. If you’re at the end of a sentence and want to go to the beginning of the same line you’re on, click SHIFT+Home, and it’ll take you to the beginning of that line (same with SHIFT+End)

  13. CTRL+A
  14. Selects all of the text in a document, web page, etc.

  15. CTRL+Z and CTRL+Y
  16. CTRL+Z undos an action; and CTRL+Y redoes an action.

  17. CTRL+X, CTRL+C and CTRL+V
  18. These are probably the most well-known shortcuts, but in case you are new to shortcuts: CTRL+X cuts text, figures/images, etc.; CTRL+C copies text, figures/images, etc.; and CTRL+V pastes text, figures/images, etc., that were copied or cut.

  19. CTRL+T, CTRL+N and CTRL+W
  20. These control your web browser: CTRL+T creates a new tab in an already open window; CTRL+N creates a new browser window; and CTRL+W closes the tabs one-by-one.

  21. CTRL+U
  22. More so for web developers, this shortcut opens up the View Page Source option to view the code on the backend of a page (F12 also does this).

  23. CTRL++ and CTRL+- (CTRL+Mousewheel Up and CTRL+Mousewheel down)
  24. If you want to zoom in on a webpage, hit CTRL + ‘Plus Sign’ or CTRL+Mousewheel Up; and if you’d like to zoom out, CTRL + ‘Dash’ or CTRL+Mousewheel down.

  25. CTRL+Home and CTRL+End
  26. Takes you to the very top or very bottom of a page, document, etc.

  27. CTRL+F
  28. Browser function to find something in a page (F3 also does this).

  29. CTRL+D
  30. Create a bookmark of the webpage you’re currently on.

  31. CTRL+Pageup and CTRL+Page down
  32. Switches between open browser tabs in a window.

  33. CTRL+R
  34. Refreshes the webpage (F5 also does this).

  35. CTRL+J
  36. Opens your online downloads window.

  37. CTRL+K and CTRL+L
  38. CTRL+K allows you to search in your search bar; and CTRL+L selects the text/URL in the search bar (F6 also does this).

  39. F5
  40. Opens your online downloads window.

  41. F11
  42. Makes your browser window fullscreen.

Other handy resources:

Learn important keyboard shortcuts for your online and digital work to increase productivity!
Image from SoftPlan Tuts.

5, Must-Know Standards Citizen Journalists Should Know and Practice

Citizen journalism involves those who aren’t professionally trained in journalism to take part in one of the foundations of democracy by conducting their own reporting and interviewing. The rise of social media has allowed the number of citizen journalists to exponentially grow where information and visuals can be attained and shared in mere seconds. But there’s been skepticism regarding the growing number of citizen journalists and how they contribute, such as the accuracy of information, how that information is portrayed, and a lack of standard training unlike their professional counterparts.

If you want to report news and label such information as factual and journalistic, then you should have a grasp on the foundation and basics of journalism.

Five, Must-Know Standards Citizen Journalists Should Know and Practice:

  1. Journalism Ethics
  2. Learn about journalism ethics for citizen journalists and why upholding ethics while reporting information is vital.
    Image from Journalism Degree.
    Journalists are given or discover powerful information for a story at one time or another. Knowing how to ethically handle such information is important as the main role of a journalist is to report confirmed, factual information to the public while maintaining one’s reputation.

    Aidan White, Director of Ethical Journalism Network, describes the five core values of journalism, which include: accuracy, independence, impartiality, humanity, and accountability.

  3. Media Law
  4. Learn about media law for journalists and why citizen journalists should understand the major and most impactful cases.
    Image from Our Lady of the Lake University: Comm 2340 Media Law.
    What may be considered one of the more complex journalism areas, media law involves learning how past cases were handled and how such legal outcomes influence how journalists practice and report today. Understanding the bigger and more historical significant court cases allows citizen journalists to not only understand their legal rights, but also knowledge of how to handle any issues that may arise from obtaining or publishing information.

    From copyright to libel and slander, to invasion of privacy and first-amendment rights, journalists must know where the law currently stands with such areas, and how journalism and freedom of press evolved before and during those court cases.

    Resources on media law for journalists:

  5. AP Style
  6. Why citizen journalists should know AP Style.Journalists even have their own writing style that citizen journalists should adapt in order to maintain consistency and professionalism.

    When I was accepted into UNC’s School of Media and Journalism, all students were required to take a news-writing class that involved learning the do’s and don’ts of AP Style and other areas. I remember studying various parts of the AP Stylebook—literally—and being tested on them, such as when to write out names of cities and states.

    Purchase the most recently published AP Style guide and read through the more common sections to familiarize yourself with the proper forms of words and grammar. This, in turn, will increase your professionalism as well as the likelihood that a media outlet, professional organization or person will share or re-publish your article.

    Resources on becoming familiar with AP Style:

  7. Interviewing Techniques
  8. Learn how to interview sources and other resources for citizen journalists.
    Image from journalism.about.com.
    Being able to find, interview, and successfully include direct quotes and/or paraphrases into your story is a vital and strong skill to have as a journalist. Also, as discussed earlier in the ethical standards of journalism, ensuring the story has the whole story instead of only one side will not only make your story stronger, but will also seem more impartial.

    One of my first interviews I ever conducted happened my senior year of high school as an intern at my hometown’s local newspaper, The State Port Pilot. I was very nervous and tried to write down every word the source said, which I successfully did—although my notes were almost illegible! However, the more I interviewed, the more confident I became in my ability to find great sources and record the discussion. You don’t need to record every single word, but instead, be able to note the main topics he/she talks about as well as quoting one or two very strong quotes; this method worked well for me. Also, always ask if you can contact them again in case you need to confirm anything.

    Another method involves using a recording device while interviewing; however, there may be some limitations in recording sources, which you should review prior to using one. It’s also polite to let your source know that you would like to record them prior to the interview.

    Resources for bettering your interviewing skills:

  9. Fact-Checking
  10. Fact-checking and journalism: Jon Stewart quote.
    Image from AZ Quotes.
    Double-—no—triple-check the facts: names, places, quotes, and anything else that may slip by. By fact checking your work prior to publication and having a different set of eyes on it, if possible, you’re setting yourself up for success. Ensuring the names of people, places, organizations, etc., are spelled correctly will not only uphold your professionalism but increase the likelihood of no potential conflicts.

    Resources on fact-checking:

Citizen journalists who understand and practice these journalistic standards will find their reporting, ability to handle conflicts, and overall reputation become more confident and professional.

Have another tip or technique that all journalists should know? Please share your thoughts in the comments!