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Travel: A Room with a View

   There is a house down the street from where I live and I often pass it on my afternoon walks through the neighborhood. It is a small white house, a classic Cape Cod, probably built in the lean years before the second World War. There is ivy climbing up the chimney and a tall evergreen tree anchors one corner of the front yard.

    Most days, there is nothing about the little house that would draw your attention. It is like a hundred others in the city. But if you pass it on a summer evening, just at the softest part of the day when the sky is darkening to a deep shade of violet but still light at the western edge of the horizon, maybe a few of the earliest stars are already out, it’s possible the front door will be open. And through the screen door you can see into the small living room of the compact house where two baby grand pianos sit side by side, situated so that the pianists can see one another as they play.
I know nothing about the house or the people who live there, but to my way of thinking it is the pianos that tell the story, the way they fill the room, claiming it as a place where music is, or has been, made. When I look into that room I see love. There are people there who love music enough to make it the center of the house.

    Once, at the end of a day in Paris, I walked down a narrow street near the Latin Quartier and past an apartment building. A tiny slice of one of the apartments was visible through the open terrace doors and I could see a faded but still elegant armchair, upholstered in a soft blue velvet that was worn in places from years of use. Tall shelves filled with rows and rows of books lined the wall and a lamp cast a soft glow over the chair.

    With nothing more than a glimpse into the room I could imagine the person who lives there. I could see him (I don’t know why, but it felt like a man’s room) come home each evening, scan the shelves, select a book and then settle into the chair to read. From the outside, the building gave no clue to its inhabitants. Rows of windows shuttered the lives of those inside, but the love of books, the familiar and satisfying feel of a favorite book in one’s hands, spilled out out through the open door, carried into the night by the golden lamplight.

    The peek into those two rooms has changed the way I think about my house. Now, I try to look past the usual clutter, the sleeping, shedding, cats and dog, past the unfinished projects on my to-do list. I focus hard on the way the chairs sit next to the window, perfect for watching the seasons change and the parade of people on the way to the park. I look at the books I’ve collected over a lifetime and the photographs I’ve taken of the people and places I love.

    The places we call home say much about us in ways we don’t always appreciate. We focus so much on the superficial—the wreath on the door, the curb appeal, the fresh coat of paint— that we forget that what defines any room as the place we belong has little to do with the decor and everything to do with how we live, and love, in the space.


Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a journalist and travel columnist whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of ‘Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons’ and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com


Deer Park house ‘rental’ actually a scam

Brooke Bear was surprised when several people stopped by her home interested in renting it.

They referenced the ad she posted on Craigslist, but she isn’t renting out the house; she’s selling it, and she never posted an ad on Craigslist.

Bear knew something was fishy, so she hopped online and found the ad, which included a picture and description of her four-bedroom house, located in a rural area south of Deer Park, as well as an email address using her name.

“I was kind of scared,” she said. “I pulled it up and thought, ‘Who is doing this?’ You just kind of go, ‘Ew, creepy.’ ”

Read the rest of Chelsea Bannach's story here.

Owner finds Craigslist ad for own home

An occupied home in north Spokane was recently listed for rent on Craigslist by someone in Africa.

The owner earned about the ad when a couple arrived at her home asking about it. The woman is trying to sell he home - not rent it - and said she never posted an ad on Craigslist. Several other people have also stopped by the home asking about the rental.

The woman emailed the poster and was told the owner was in Africa, had keys to the home and required a minimum of $1,700 be sent to him through Western Union for rent and security deposit.

Spokane County sheriff's Deputy Brandon Armstrong says the ad was posted through an Internet service provider in Nigeria. The ad has been been removed.

A sheriff's office news release called the case  "a reminder to the public that if a Craigslist offer seems too good to be true, it may very well be," though it's unknown who would consider sending $1,700 to a homeowner you've never meet for a Craigslist rental ad "too good to be true."

Green + Solar Home and Landscape Tour 2010

Another awesome Sustainable September event you can’t miss: The second annual GREEN + SOLAR Home & Landscape Tour and Information Fair on Sunday from 11am-4pm. (Yes, it’s on the same day as SpokFest but there’s a tour bike rate for just $8, and five projects within bikeable distance on the South Hill.) But this is one of a kind tour to see various homes using sustainable building techniques like straw bales and structurally insulated panels near you.

From Kelly Lerner: This second annual tour is comprised of new and remodeled projects showcasing differing sustainable design styles, construction strategies and lifestyle choices. Last year over 300 tour-goers visited a wide variety of projects throughout Spokane County.

“The tour features a wide variety of projects ranging from small do-it-yourself owner remodels to large contractor executed additions. We highlight all the ways homeowners can go green – whether it is a custom built strawbale home, a green kitchen remodel or an urban chicken coop designed with reclaimed materials.” says tour organizer Alli Kingfisher.

Builders v. Homeowners: new-home warranty battle continues at the capitol…

From the print paper this morning:

Shortly after moving into her new home three years ago, Karen Veldheer and her family noticed water leaking through the foundation.

Then another leak.

And another.

Those trickles and a host of other problems with the home launched Veldheer on a long and expensive trip through arbitration and court. She has won in both arenas – after racking up more than $20,000 in lawyer fees – but says the builder still won’t pay, apparently out of fear of setting a precedent for neighbors with similar complaints.

Lawmakers in Olympia are considering several proposals to make it easier for homeowners faced with major construction defects to take builders, subcontractors and suppliers to court. Homeowners have little protection, proponents say, in a system that often requires buyers to sign away many rights as a condition for getting the home.

“We have to look out for the consumers who are obligating themselves to 30-year mortgages,” said Rep. Brendan Williams, D-Olympia. The bills include HB 1045 and HB 1393.

Builders don’t object to some of the ideas, like stricter contractor licensing or having the state track complaints to see how bad the problem is. But they’re fighting hard against the idea of making it easier for homeowners to sue. That, they say, will spur lawsuits, drive up their insurance costs and hurt an already-struggling industry.

“Builders are not opposed to warranties,” said Damon Doyle, former president of the Building Industry Association of Washington. “Builders are opposed to broad, vague and involuntary mandatory warranties.”

There are numerous protections already, said BIAW general counsel Timothy Harris. “Existing law allows a number of ways for homeowners to sue,” he said.

And the percentage of contractors who’ve had claims filed against them, Doyle said, is less than 1.5 percent.

“All of the evidence available indicates that the problems are limited to an extremely small percentage of my colleagues,” Doyle told lawmakers. “… We can’t allow the risk of huge cost increases to further hamper an industry that is hanging by a thread.”

Rep. Dennis Flannigan, D-Tacoma, bristled at that.

“If lawyers only have 1 ½ percent of them that are crooks, we have laws about that,” he said. “People are pissed. I’m pissed. … I didn’t hear a single remedy from you about what the needs are for the people who can’t afford the lawyers you so cavalierly tell them to run to.”