Yard Projects

When summer rolls around here in the Pacific Northwest, I like to do some landscape projects.  With my trusty little Ford Ranger pick up truck (that seems to haul everything I throw into the back of it) and my little old shovel, I’m off.

A few summers back, I managed to build my shed/office.  Then the next summer, I built my new deck with huge 8×8 posts (because it looks way more manly than little crappy 4×4 posts).  I’ve also removed all of the old railroad ties that the previous owners used for landscaping and replaced them with rock walls and rock borders.  A lot of hard work, sweat, and tears have been poured into the various landscaping projects.

And the sick part: I like to do this kind of stuff.  It gives me a wonderful piece of mind just working on yard projects.  I escape from having to do any photography related projects.  I just enjoy the sunshine and the outdoors.  I plan for my yard to be low maintenance.  I want my son to be able to mow the lawn without using the weedeater to trim back the grass.

I also don’t want to worry about watering any plants.  If those plants need my help to survive, they are pretty much doomed.  I don’t even water the lawn.  What’s the point?  It will grow back anyway.


Ahh, summer time! Photo from http://www.holemanlandscape.biz

“Hawaii Life” TV show: Oh, Let’s all move to Kauai!!!

One new show I recently stumbled across on Comcast On Demand in the HGTV section was “Hawaii Life”.  The two episodes I watched both featured the island of Kauai and families moving from the mainland to Kauai.  One family was moving from Alaska to Kauai and the other show highlighted a married couple moving from Indianapolis to Kauai.  From the flow of the show, I’m guessing the show is either taped right after each family’s real estate transaction was closed or maybe it was actually filmed during some of the process.  To me, I felt that the show was taped after the real estate transaction was closed.  I’m not even sure the properties they looked at (during the show) were really the ones they considered.

It was nice to see the island of Kauai and the homes they considered.  As a promotional piece, this show is awesome.  It makes moving and living on Kauai super easy.  “Hawaii Life” skips the education issue by mentioning that the family from Alaska would home school their children.  We also don’t hear about the traffic problems on Kauai.  Don’t get me wrong, Kauai is a wonderful place but the paradise aspect of the show is overdone.

I know that these reality shows don’t want to show you the bad things but it would be nice to know the truth about traffic, education, weather, etc.  In a 21 minute show, I know you can’t do that.  People have to do their own research if they plan to move, not just watch a couple of real estate programs about Kauai, jump on a plane and move.

To be honest, these people had made previous vacation trips to Kauai and had jobs lined up before they moved.  Would I move back to Kauai with my family?  I’m tempted but in reality, I won’t be moving them back any time soon.  I miss the wonderful weather (especially during the Seattle wet winters) but I like my life in Seattle.  I enjoy the different seasons: the snowshoe hikes in the Cascades, swimming on the lake on Anderson Island in the summer, traveling cheaply to other parts of the United States with reasonable airfares, the Oregon Coast, the train trips.

With that reality show on your mind: Kauai hibiscus flowerWhat would you consider the most inspiring television show in history?  Don’t worry; I don’t have a clue either.  With this age of reality shows, most of us would prefer that the most inspiring show was the one that alludes to the end of all other reality shows.  I’m tired of being sucked into these train wrecks reality shows.  I have no self control and like watching them and I know is a totally waste of time.  What does the show “Housewives of Beverly Hills” offer me?  How is “Honey Boo Boo” going to teach me to be a better parent?

However, I do like “Pawn Star” and “American Restoration”.  Now that is interesting….a little history lesson at a pawn store.  Who would have known?

Yard Projects and help from my three year demon neighborhood twins

OK, I admit it. I am addicted to the DIY (Do It Yourself) network. I find myself watching it more and more everyday. Mind you, I’m multi-tasking because I have my handy dandy laptop to use while I’m watching the DIY channel. I can check my email and watch my favorite shows “Turf Wars” and “Yard Crashers” so it’s not like I’m not getting any work done.

I do go down into my office “man cave” and focus on work. I don’t watch any TV in there nor do I log on to the DIY website either. Now, that is some self control, right?

This summer, I want to redo my yard. Overall, I’d like to replace some railroad tie retaining walls with rock walls. I’m also going to add a fence and two gates between my house and my two neighbors. I have come to the conclusion that my neighbors down the street will not be keeping a close eye on their three year old twin boys. This is nothing new. Today, the boys were in a construction zone in our neighborhood. The power company is installing new underground cables and the boys think they should be in the middle of the action. The construction workers have talked to the parents twice and today I called the mother today to tell her to watch the kids (lest they be run over by a backhoe).

Seriously, who lets their kids run around in a construction zone? These two kids are three years old and they wander away all by themselves. Their parents do not watch them. Child Protection Services have been called before. They will be hanging out near my house for hours because my kids are out in the cul-de-sac playing. It is just crazy. Like a Stephen King novel, you turn around and they are just….there.

So I am concerned that they’ll be hanging around my house during all my yard projects, bugging me and possibly getting hurt. We’ll have cement mixers; rocks, gravel, and beauty bark…all laying around for children to play in. Heck, throw in a few shovels, pick axes, and chainsaws and we have all the fixings for a grand old country time…yeee hawww!

Besides, my yard becoming a death trap for small children, I hope to have everything finished by the end of July (if not sooner). I’m sure work will get in the way of my free time and put me behind my yard schedule. Work can be so annoying sometimes.

As always, your comments and links to my blog are more than welcome!

Making Money Online…can a small fish survive?

Jeez, where do you start with building your virtual online business? I have a few websites for my current business ventures (www.hellriegelstudio.com, www.kevinre.com, www.redstarhomes.com, www.kevinhellriegel.com) but these are mostly informational websites that don’t sell anything (except the http://www.hellriegelstudio.com has links to my client’s portrait images). I want to build a website that has e-commerce component to it and will generate money even when I’m not there. But then again, isn’t that everyone’s dream?

Considering the real estate market is in the toilet and all my equity (and my net worth) has disappeared in the real estate crash, I’d like to have some kind of additional income coming in besides my primary business of photography.

Some people have told me that I should get into writing and copywriting. I wouldn’t mind doing that. I enjoy my simple blog and the joy it brings to others (in my arrogant opinion). However, could I write for others as well as I do myself? And is my writing much better than the average “Joe” out there? I must admit that I do try to spell correctly (thanks to spell check!) and get my thoughts out in a concise and easy to understand matter.

I also enjoy making direct mail pieces and writing the copy for my promotional internet pieces. However, I don’t know much about copywriting in general and how to market myself as a copywriter. I don’t have a lot of experience outside my own website and marketing pieces when it comes to copywriting. I suppose that with every new adventure, you need to start somewhere (even if you don’t know exactly where that starting point is).

Ideally, I’d like to make money online by building a new website and calling it something like Hellriegel Creative Services. Then again, no one can spell “Hellriegel” so that wouldn’t work that well. If you take some time and put some thought into, my current Hellriegel’s Foto 1 isn’t exactly easy to remember right now. I’ll have to thank my Dad for that easy to remember name.

Perhaps it would be better to stick to a generic sounding name like HCS or HC Services. Easy to remember…maybe something like Hell Services? Maybe KGHServices?

If any of you dear blog readers have some ideas, drop me an email or leave them in a comment here on this page.

Making Money Online isn’t too easy. I also don’t want a name that sounds like a fly by night web operation located off the coast of Jamaica. Hmmm, “SuperKevintellsall.com”: a website about how to cry yourself to sleep with your empty bank account and your upside down investment properties!

I guess I’ll keep working on the website name and sign up for some more affiliate marketing websites! Oh, and I can work on my self-help ideas as well! I can see my future now (that’s called “visualization”) and it is bright (maybe I’m looking into the sun?)

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

My run in with Jim Bibby City of Burien Code Enforcement Officer

City of Burien Employee Jim Bibby – a man who doesn’t do his homework!

“A man who has committed a mistake and doesn’t correct it, is committing another mistake.” -Confucius

Earlier this week, I received a letter from the code enforcement officer Jim Bibby of the City of Burien stating that my business doesn’t exist and I need to take my business sign down.

What?  Really?  So my City of Burien business license is worthless?  Why do I bother obtaining one every year?  Why was it issued to me by the City of Burien if my business doesn’t really exist?  Hmmm, do I get a refund then?

Jim Bibby doesn’t like me.  I had a run in with him in 2006 about this same sign.  He wouldn’t listen to me so I went over his head to get some answers and some real customer service.  I think he didn’t like that.  I didn’t cower up and do as he said.  He was clearly wrong then and he is wrong now.

I had another run in with him in 2008 in regards to a “For Rent” sign I had posted for an empty apartment we had.  He stated that I had to have a professional real estate sign posted, not a homemade one.  This is even if we (as owners of the property) wanted to rent it out ourselves instead of having a real estate agency do it.  (Please note: I am a Washington State licensed real estate broker).  We ended up post a sign in the window and it rented fairly quickly despite of Jim Bibby’s and the City of Burien’s actions.  Needless to say, the City of Burien is clearly anti-business and anti-landlord in that respect.  They probably hate cute puppies too.

People like Jim Bibby don’t help the City of Burien; they harm it.  Jim Bibby wants to impose his idea of what my photography business should look like onto me.  Jim Bibby stated in his telephone conversation to me that my photography business doesn’t look like a photography business.  Excuse me?  What?  Jim Bibby has moved from being a code enforcement officer to a photography business expert?  When did that happen?  Did I miss something?

I did ask him in his vast knowledge as a photography business owner that he knows exactly what a photography business looks like, right?  He told me he has never owned a photography business!  The how is he suppose to know what one looks like?  He sold shoes before he had a job as the code enforcement officer (according to the West Seattle Herald).  I told him that you can not pigeon hole all photography businesses into one small minded category.  Some photographers create passports, others photograph weddings, and still others like to strictly do commercial photography work.  Thus, we are not all the same and our businesses are all different.

You can say the same thing about people.  I have been mistaken for a cop a number of times.  I guess I have that “cop” look to me….but I’m not a cop.

What truly upsets me is that Jim Bibby has the gall to tell me what my photography business should look like.  He is a public servant working to enforce the code.  He is not an interior decorator designing a photography business.  If I want to paint the inside of my walls black with pink elephants and put photos of kitty cats in orange dresses, I’ll do it.  If I want to take my equipment home every night, I will.  If I want to work out of my studio some days and take other days off, I will.  For Jim Bibby to tell me that I’m not a photography business is beyond his scope of expertise and his job description.

The thing is, I share space with another business and I’m not over at the studio every day.  That is the nature of my photography business…I don’t have to be there every day.  I meet a lot of clients out on location and not at my Burien studio.  That is the way I run my business and that is the way I like it.  If I want to work from home, I’ll do that.  My photography business is strictly “by appointment only”.  If you don’t have an appointment, I probably won’t be there if you stop by unannounced.

If Jim Bibby did his job correctly and the way the taxpayers pay him to do it, he would have properly researched that I do have a LEGAL business license issued by the City of Burien and I do have a LEGAL business license from the State of Washington.  I have had these for years.  I pay my taxes.  I collect sales tax in the area my business is based in and forward it to the State of Washington as I am required to do.  I’m not trying to make waves here, I’m trying to run my business ethically and support my family financially.

Instead, Jim Bibby wastes my time and the taxpayer’s time and money by sending me a certified letter stating that I need to remove my LEGAL sign.  Yes, it is legal according to the laws and codes of the City of Burien!

In my conversation with Jim Bibby today, I asked him point blank: Do I have a business license in Burien?  The answer is yes.  Does that make my sign legal?  His answer: Yes.

Well, I guess you have your answer don’t you?  I informed this fact to code enforcement officer Jim Bibby.  I don’t think he was too happy with me.  I don’t think Jim likes it when someone points out he is wrong.

I also told him that he was harassing me and I didn’t like it.  He can’t tell me what my business is supposed to look like.  I’m not operating a pet store and claiming it is a photography studio.  I operate a photography business and I take my photography equipment with me on location.  If I want my business to be empty, it can be. My equipment doesn’t have to be all set up in the studio if I don’t want it to be.  In fact, the other business I share space with just painted and installed new floors.  The place looks awesome!  My equipment couldn’t stay set up during a remodel anyway. 

So Jim Bibby, Code Enforcement Officer of the City of Burien, please do your homework before you harass me again.  Otherwise, I will file a restraining order against you and have you arrested by the City of Burien Police Department for harassment.

Clutter and Cuddling on the Couch!

Nothing is better than cuddling with your daughter on the couch!

This evening, I had the honor of cuddling with my daughter and watching some high quality TV.  What?  Kevin watching TV when he promotes less TV?  What is the world coming to?

OK, high quality TV is a bit of an oxymoron term but we did have a great time watching the TV show called CLEAN HOUSE on the Style network.  We enjoy this show because it motivates our whole family into cleaning, organizing, and recycling (donating) unused items.  Sure, I’m sitting on the couch cuddling (and not cleaning) however we are discussing the nature of clutter and how to combat it.

Do we have problems in our house with clutter?  Yes, we do.  My garage isn’t too clean.  Underneath the stairs is a storage area and I just discovered it is getting full of clutter (some of that stuff is the kids, not mine).  Our bedroom is fairly clean but the closest does need help.  Perhaps I should get rid of that T-Shirt from 1993.

I fully admit that I need to get rid of stuff.  I have the misguided notion that I need to keep things for tax reasons.  So I have a lot of files and folders for my business in my office.  I carry that over into my personal life but I’m not as organized as I’d like to be in my personal life as I should be.  A better filing system would help to decrease the clutter around the house.

Don’t get the impression that we are hoarders and that our house is just crazy dirty and full of clutter.  We aren’t as nearly as bad as the folks featured on CLEAN HOUSE and no where close to the folks on the show HOARDERS.  Our living room, kitchen, and dining areas are fine.  We are able to use our dining room table for every meal.  We throw out old food in our fridge.  Our kitchen counters are 75% clutter free.  One section does have family paperwork (i.e. clutter) that needs help.  The family room downstairs is the kids’ big playroom and the hobby room both need help.  The problem areas tend to be the “dumping ground” from the other areas of the house.  It is kind of like all of the trash from the Seattle area getting sent off to poorer parts of Washington State.  That might be a good reason why the other areas of the house look good.

However, to be honest, the hobby room does have a great deal of stuff we don’t use.  We have a weight set, a train set, a desk, some shelving, and bins full of Halloween and Christmas decorations.  Heck, we have a very nice elliptical trainer in our family room now one uses.  It is time to start working out with this stuff or sell it on Craigslist.

One tip that I heard and should use (but don’t):

Imagine everything is a pint of ice cream.  When you get that new object, pile of mail, etc. think of it has a pint of ice cream and that you need to take care of it before it melts.  Put it away and take care of it before the piles of clutter accumulate.

 At least I use that above tip for my groceries…..

If you’d like more tips, I’d suggest: http://blog.neatandsimple.com/2009/02/my-top-10-tips.html

 As always, you are more than welcome to leave your comments.

Psst! I final got a blog entry for you to read!

Hey, it’s a new year and I’m finally getting around to posting a new blog entry,  what a way to build that readership up to high levels!  Maybe, I’ll get a whole two new readers.  In fact, I gave my grandma one of my old computers and made the opening page on here search engine my blog page!  Now she is forced to be one of my readers!  Only 6 billion people more to go….

What have I been up to lately?

As you know, I split my interests between photography, reading, and real estate.  Once in a while the three major interests of my life converge together in a most interesting way.  This hasn’t happened to me recently so I don’t have a great story to tell you, however, I did have one of my clients’ homes sell and close this month.  We are looking for a new home for them in the Fairwood/Renton area of Washington.  There are a great deal of homes for sale and there definitely is no lack of inventory to see.  One of our greatest challenges is finding a house with a fairly nice kitchen, a decent size backyard, and a decent master bedroom and master bathroom.  We are looking in the $300K to $430K price range.

Now, this would be easy but once you get into the upper price range, the houses do get large in size: 2800-3500 sq ft.  There are only three people in the family so that house size is extreme.  The smaller and cheaper houses tend to have less square footage and less upgrades making them less appealing.

Add   this mix falling values and overpriced homes, a narrow search area, and you get a lot of homes to look at that don’t quite fit the bill.

You want to know a secret?  I love looking at homes!  I love seeing the layouts, the landscaping, the extras people have added to their homes.  It is fun stuff!  The best part is hanging out with people you enjoy while looking at houses…it is addicting….like Facebook.  Speaking of Facebook, I’m in a dry and sober mode now.  I haven’t been checking out Facebook or updating my Facebook page and I feel free!

Of course, now with a new blog entry I have to post it on Facebook.  Hmm, a problem.

I can log on for just a minute…I can get through it…I can resist to urge to stay of Facebook for hours and hours….I can do this!

Go Google Yourself and Aikido

I always Google myself because I love being number one! Let’s face the facts, my name is unique and so it very easy to be number one. That itself is a problem because I do have a hard last name (hard to spell, not hard to remember…just think of “hell” where you don’t want to go and “regal” and you got it). If you don’t remember exactly how to spell it or what profession I’m in (I’m in so many, it’s hard to keep track).

I’m a photographer…a real estate investor…now a writer… blogger.

A new hobby I’ve taken up is aikido. It is a non aggressive martial art so it suits me just fine. I’m not an aggressive person and subscribe to the the school of thought of staying out of harm’s way. A very good book called “the Gift of Fear”