Tag Archives: house

Moving at the Speed of Light

Cough cough.  It’s a little dusty in here, isn’t it?

Five weeks have come and gone since I hit the “publish” button, and an explanation is in order.

Shocking even ourselves, Mike and I decided to move over the last month.  This decision happened so quickly we could barely catch our bearings, much less document it.  I do not exaggerate (well I do, but not in this case); let the timeline speak for itself: we posted our condo on Craigslist on a Sunday evening, showed the place to potential renters on Monday, offered the place to one renter on Tuesday, and signed papers that Saturday.  On Sunday we toured a townhome to rent (the first place we looked at) and had our application in the next day.  The following Friday we signed papers.

Bing.  Bam.  Boom.

If you remember anything about our previous move, you know that it went nothing like this.  For instance, in our other move we actually discussed it for more than a day before pulling the trigger.  In this case, it was more like tossing a coin in the air and shouting “move!” or “don’t move!” before it hit the ground. 

At least that’s how it felt — the takeout pizza version.  The gourmet lobster dinner version is that we’re absolutely sure that this was God showing off all over the place.  He couldn’t be stopped.  He took our one little hopeful dream of being able to rent our condo so we could rent a larger home and save up to eventually buy a house, and threw in ribbon, glitter and ponies.  It was that extravagant.

Which is why we take credit for exactly none of it.  If we’d masterminded this entire ordeal, it would have been an unmitigated disaster.   Instead we just took a risk, prayedprayedprayed, watched closely for confirmations, and then saw it all come together.

Our tenant is a wonderful lady, a woman we are thrilled to have in our home.  Plus she has no pets or kids, which really moved things in her direction.  Our new home is in a location we love (still Kirkland) and has more space and features than we have any right having.  Our first month of rent was free.  Do you see where I’m going with this?  Total show-off territory for Jesus.

Now we are settling in, which based on previous accounts, takes us all of about an evening.  We’ve been in the new home just over a week, and everything is coming together.  It’s very, very odd having more than one bedroom.  It’s even odder having a staircase, and multiple doors that can separate us from each other.

“Mike?” I’ll say, fifteen times a day.  “Where are you?”

“I’m upstairs, about to take a shower.”

“Oh,” I’ll say.

“Do you need something?” he’ll ask.

“No,” I reply, slinking away, “I just couldn’t hear or see you, and it’s weird…”

This is an extremely adjustable problem, and everyone says that soon I’ll have filled the house and won’t be able to imagine our former 860 square feet.  But I never had a problem with our small condo; I loved it.  I miss it, but I am so sure on a cellular level that this is where we are supposed to be.  I’m excited, I’m decorating, I’m cooking, I’m shopping for home goods…it’s very strange when I can feel one phase of my life receding and another stepping forward. It’s even stranger when I like it.

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Filed under ForeWORD (Intro), One WORD (Current Events)

El Hostel de Reph

For the past several weeks I’ve been haunted by the realization that I am not able to live up to my own standards.

Not ethically, thank God, but etiquette-ly, which might be worse.

Mike and I recently hosted Sarah and Casey in our home while they were in town for the other other royal wedding.  They booked one night at the hotel across the street, but the rest of the time they stayed on our floor.

I know, the horror.

To be fair, they have stayed with us before, so they know our square footage exactly.  But that doesn’t change the desperate feeling I encounter when I see my guests waking up after a night on an air mattress.

Look, I get that it’s normal to have people stay on one’s floor when there’s no other choice, and it helps out-of-towners save some cash, and it’s not the worst thing in the world.

Unless you write about etiquette on your blog all the time.

We tried to mitigate the situation and do what I would tell anyone else to do: let the guests sleep in our bed.  We even laid down on their air mattress in protest, insisting that they go sleep in our bed.  It turns out doing that is akin to the classic restaurant standoff, “I’m paying the bill,” “No, I’m paying the bill,” until both of you hates the situation enough that the only gracious thing to do is give in.

The chaos of being involved in a family wedding at the time didn’t help either.  We were all sharing one bathroom, and after three days we were out of fresh towels.  Due to the hectic schedule of out-of-towner dinners, the rehearsal dinner, and the wedding itself, I had no time to do a load of laundry.

It was an etiquette-obsessor’s nightmare.

Let me be clear: our guests never once complained.  They were gracious beyond description and even thanked us daily for the hospitality.  I told them hospitality was a loose term in this case, but they insisted.

Long after they’d departed, I was still consumed with thoughts of how I could possibly improve our situation without moving to a three bedroom home.  I continued to be at a loss until we spent the night at the home of two of our good friends.

Their entire home is 540 square feet.  It is a free-standing home, not a condo.  It is completely adorable and should be highlighted in a design magazine for optimizing small spaces.  When they invited us to spend the night, we could not imagine where we would be resting our heads.

We shouldn’t have worried; they invested in an air mattress that blew our minds.  It’s double layered, so when inflated it looks like it has a box spring and a mattress, and it is about two and a half feet high so when getting into or out of the mattress it feels like a normal bed.

The best part — the box spring covers only about two-thirds of the mattress, so the mattress portion rests over a couch.  The result looks like a fold out bed from a couch.  We slept great.

The next morning we were singing the mattress’s praises when they told us they were actually trying to sell it due to their upcoming move into a bigger place.  Would we be interested, they asked?

Sold.

Though this won’t totally alleviate my feelings of hostess failure, I’m convinced the Reph Hostel has just upgraded to bed-and-breakfast.

Now accepting reservations.

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Filed under Good WORD (Etiquette)

Designing Woman: Part Three

People may think of a number of descriptive words for me, but D0-It-Yourself is not among them.

One of my favorite blogs that I read all the time is Young House Love, and they are all about the DIY.  But they’re DIY on crack.  They knock down walls and paint brick and tear out concrete.  They do an incredible job of making it look accessible, but it still scares the junk out of me.

Enter our hideous bar stools that the previous owner of our home left us — and refused to pick up when we found she had left them (but we could hardly blame her — they’re hideous, after all):

Not only is the pattern like something from a Ringling Brother’s Circus, but one of them was actually stained:

How did we live with them for 16 months?  If I think about that question too long I will go into convulsions, so in the interest of time, let’s skip that question.

When Mike and I decided that we finally had to get rid them, naturally we planned to throw them away and buy new ones.  But then some DIY-type friends heard our plan and were aghast that we’d waste money and resources on “such a simple project.”

Sure.  Simple for you.  This coming from the people who carve their own dining room tables.

We promptly ignored their suggestion and proceeded to look for new bar stools.  However, upon finding that any decent bar stool was at least $150 a pop, we figured why not try to fix our current ones?  If we fail we can always throw the embarrassment in the garbage and THEN spend the $450.

Off to the fabric store we went.  We chose a fabric, bought a staple gun and some backing and headed home for the dirty work.

First we took the stools apart to determine if we’d need to strip the fabric.

We decided that the backing on our new fabric was thick enough to prevent any of the old fabric from showing through, so we left the seat fabric on.

The fabric on the back of the stool, however, had to come off.  That was not a fun process.


We then proceeded to iron our new fabric to ensure it was perfectly smooth.  When I say “we,” I mean “he.”  We all know I don’t know how to iron.

Isn’t it a beautiful pattern?

Everything worked like a charm until this point.  The next step was nothing short of maddening.  We had to align the fabric perfectly, staple it correctly and tightly, and make sure the corners didn’t look freaky.  We alternated between talking to each other through gritted teeth like seamstresses on Project Runway, and cheering each other on like we were at the Mathletes Finals.

After dozens of removed staples, we finally had it:

…and then we realized we had to do it again two more times, and we almost decided it would be easier if we just sold our house and left the new owners with two torn apart stools.  Let history repeat itself, we said.

But we motored through, and finished all three seats and one seat back.

Those of you paying attention realize this leaves two seat backs unfinished.  How long do you think it took Mr. and Mrs. Reph to finish those last two seat backs?  I’ll give you some hints:

  • it’s the same amount of time it takes to get five credits at a university
  • it’s the same amount of time it takes to grow 1/3 of a baby
  • it’s the same amount of time that Seattleites enjoy the weather each year

Three months, people.  Three months.  For three months, two of our chairs sat there without backs.  For three months, we told our guests we’d “just started” this project and that we were going to complete it “this weekend.”  It was sometimes the last thing one of us would say to the other before falling asleep, “You know, we really need to finish those bar stools.  No seriously.  It’s embarrassing.”  The other would always dutifully reply, “I know.  Totally.  Let’s do it this weekend.  Oh wait, we’re out-of-town.  Next weekend, then.  For sure.”

This went on for three months.

Until this week.  This week, in a fit of energy, we decided it had to come to an end.  We got home from a date, walked right into the dining room and started stapling like it was our jobs.

Ladies and gentlemen:

Victory!

Aren’t they pretty?  But really, the attractiveness doesn’t even matter to me at this point.  The point is that they are done, complete, finito.

And just as I hoped, they bring in the red from the family room behind them, and help add a little color and interest to the space.

The other side of the victory is that what should have cost $450 ended up only costing $35 ($20 for the fabric and backing, $15 for the staple gun).  Even though they aren’t perfectly done, I’ll take imperfect at $35 over perfect at $450…at least for now.

Instead of teaching us that we are DIY-capable, this certainly proved to us that we should never remodel a home.  It took us three months to do the backs of two stools; I don’t think we should be knocking down walls and replacing granite counter-tops.  For the sake of our marriage, obviously.

To read about other design projects we’ve conquered managed, see here and here.

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Filed under UpWORD (Beauty)

Disposing Martha

There was a time when women got married, bought a four-bedroom house, and expertly knew how to care for every aspect of their home. 

2008, the year I got married, was not that time.

And my mother knew this about me.  She knew that not only did I not really have a clue about home maintainance, but that I was taking the easy road by living in a condo versus a house (thereby eliminating half the work — cleaning out gutters is not part of my spring cleaning routine).

So she turned to the expert to teach me how to become a decent homeowner:

Yes, she bought me Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook, and I’ve never looked back.

While most people would stuff this on a shelf and only dive for it in the wine-on-carpet disaster scenario, I have decided to read it cover-to-cover.  I tend to retain information like this, so I figure if I just read the whole thing I won’t need to look everything up all of the time.  Naturally I do this in a closet with a flashlight, because reading it is, of course, mortifying.

What’s less embarrassing is when that book totally saves the day. 

Last week, Mike and I were talking about how we tend to make each other do chores based on gender.  For instance, I always do the laundry and change the sheets, and he always takes out the garbage and fixes anything that breaks.  

But then the garbage disposal broke.  And we got into a tiny argument about the fact that neither of us intrinsically knows how to fix a garbage disposal.  I was extremely dismissive, you know, in that charming “Not my problem!” manner.  He was slightly irritated that this was his job just because he’s wearing the pants.

And then it hit me — MARTHA!

I ran into the den and pulled Martha off her place on the bookshelf.  I remembered reading a little how-to on fixing the garbage disposal.  I raced through my index, found “Garbage Disposals” and flipped to page 89.

“How to Fix a Jammed Garbage Disposal.”  Eureka! 

(I love how she even has optimism in her How-To.  No, your disposal is not broken — it’s merely jammed!  Let’s fix this in a jiffy!)

Mike opened the cabinet below the sink and had all his tools at the ready.  I started reading from Martha (everything was numbered and extremely detailed with things like “1.  Turn off circuit breaker to stop power to disposal.”  I honestly would not have thought of that).

After shutting off the power, Martha told us all about removing blockage and using our “reset button” (disposals have buttons?). 

After jamming things around in the sink for a few minutes (no actual tools required), we turned the power back on and tested the disposal — voila!  The genius of Martha lives on!

Mike’s look of shock was barely disguised, and my victory dance wasn’t remotely concealed.  We felt like we had broken through the genderism and had actually fixed something together…well, the three of us — Mike, Abby, and Martha.

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Filed under Good WORD (Etiquette)

On Eating My Words

Despite being one of the thriftiest people on Earth, I abhor shopping at Ross. 

And TJ Maxx.

And Nordstrom Rack.

And any place that requires an inordinate amount of “digging” to find what I need.  One would think that a cheap-o like me would call TJ Maxx my mecca, but one would be forgetting that my need for organization will always, always trump my frugality.

I have needed structure and order for as long as I can remember.  Not an obsessive compulsive, lock-and-unlock-the-door-six-times type, but enough that walking into a store with rows and rows of clothes makes me want to turn around and flee.

Did I mention my other disorder, commitment-phobia?  When it takes decades to make seemingly insignificant decisions (which boot?  Black or brown?  Knee-length or ankle?), it becomes nearly impossible to make decisions if nothing is in its proper place.  How do I know if I’ve seen all of my paralyzing options if they are strewn down an aisle?

Last week, however, I had to make a concession:  I was throwing a party, I needed decor, and I needed it cheap. 

And I knew exactly what this meant.

I Binged all the thrift stores I could think of, and was a little embarrassed to find so many of them in such close proximity to my home.  How did I not realize they were there before? 

Anyway.

I walked into Ross and braced myself for feeling like a arachnophobe in a store full of spiders.  But as I made my way to the back of the store I saw the rows upon rows of glass vases — exactly what I was looking for.  I bent over to pick one up to check its price tag, and nearly dropped it to its death on the tile floor — $4.99!  Was I hallucinating?  Is this a joke?  Or is this Merry Christmas to me?

I quickly stashed every last one of them in my cart, totally convinced that I had just snagged the deal of the year and surely 15 angry women would be coming around the corner to claim their vases too. 

Jingle Bell Rock tinged in the background as I had these paranoid thoughts.  No angry women.  Just Jingle Bell Rock.

I hurried around the rest of the store convinced I was going to find a hundred other things I couldn’t live without, but sadly, Ross only had one treasure to offer me that day (or any day).

My next stop was Tuesday Morning, which was so chaotic and out-of-order that I almost reconsidered before making it past the front door.  I walked down two aisles and saw that their glass vases were $9.99 — apparently not all discount stores are created equal.  I felt a surge of pride at my wise Ross choice.

And even though Michael’s isn’t a discount store, it is decidedly crafty, and I had hopes it would be cheap.  It was not.  Not only did they not have anything I could use, but they had things I couldn’t use that were overpriced.  I moved on quickly.

Twenty minutes later I was standing in Target because I couldn’t think of any more discount stores.  Target had exactly the ornaments and ribbon I was looking for, but I realized that I felt like a failure for paying full price.  And since I was in a such a panic about not being able to find more things I needed, I bought twice the ornaments necessary, grossly overestimating the size of my glass vases.

When I got home and started putting the vases and ornaments together, I realized that the vases were filthy.  They were completely covered in dust and I spent 15 minutes hand washing each one.  At first I was irritated, but that feeling quickly dissipated each time I turned a vase over to clean the base and saw the price tag.  Yes, I thought to myself, I am willing to spend 15 minutes for $4.99 vases.  Who wouldn’t?

I feel like I owe an apology to discount stores everywhere: Why do I judge you when you are so good to me?

The decorations worked really well, and I was thrilled with the look.  In fact, I got several compliments on them throughout the evening, and now I am going to use them to decorate our home for Christmas.

I am secretly hoping that someone comes to my house and asks about my vases.  I am looking for an opportunity to sound exactly like the radio commercial, “I got it at Ross!”

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Filed under UpWORD (Beauty)

Despite This, I Still Cry During Marley & Me

You know the rush of affectionate emotion you feel when you enter someone’s home and their dog comes to greet you?  

I rarely feel that.  

I do not know why this is; it’s as if while moving down the human-making assembly line I somehow skipped right past “affection for furry friends” and instead got a nice dose of “allergic to anything with hair.”  

That’s why I don’t feel too guilty about not adoring animals — I was programmed to reject them.  It’s not my fault.  

But I wish I did.  I wish I was one of those people.  I want to be the type of person who adores every kind of animal, large or small, attractive or not, smart or…otherwise.  

Instead, everyone else is always rubbing dogs from head to tail and I’m standing there like I have a black heart.  

Last weekend Mike and I house-sat for my parents while they were traveling, and that included the care of their two dogs, Belle (11 years old) and Griffey (10 months old).  

  

  

They are really good-looking dogs, and are probably the closest thing to a pet I would want.  In fact, my parents’ dogs have always won me over, probably because I knew them as puppies.  Even I can’t resist a puppy; I may have a black heart, but I’m not dead.  

Griffey at 12 weeks

The hiccup in my pet-aversion is the fact that I married not just a dog lover, but a dog OBSESSOR.  Mike is completely sold out for dogs of all shapes and sizes.  He will approach any stranger to befriend their dog and then turn to me with a child’s desperation and say “see?   How can you not love this?!”  

When we walk around the waterfront, I point out adorable children and he points out adorable puppies.  The difference is, I am admiring the children as gorgeous little people who are a pleasure to look at from a distance; Mike is looking at the dogs and silently choosing the breeds of future family members.  

On Saturday, in order for us to have a true doggie adventure with Griffey, we decided to visit the off-leash dog park at Marymoor.  Just to put Mike’s love of dogs in perspective: we have actually visited the dog park without a dog before, solely so Mike could get his fill.  For the record, it felt weird.  Kind of like visiting a daycare without a child.  Creepy.  

This time, dog in hand, we felt like we were card-carrying members of the dog-owner club.  We did the polite nod of acceptance with other dog owners as we proudly entered the park with Griffey.  It didn’t hurt that we had taken my mom’s Mini Cooper convertible to the dog park — we were flying down the freeway with the top down and a happy dog in the backseat.  Everyone stared.  And we all know that I love when everyone stares.   

We were walking along, basking in dog-pride, when a woman passed by and said with more attitude than necessary, “You’re brave to bring food into the dog park.”  No smile — just sass.  

Mike looked at me holding our Chipotle burrito bowls.  The thought of a picnic-in-a-dog-park conflict never crossed our minds.  We had just exposed ourselves as dog-owner fakes.  Rookie mistake.  

I’ll show her, I thought.  

I sat down on a rock and started to open the bag when three dogs came charging at me.  I jumped up, food in hand, while irritated owners called their dogs back.  “Sorry,” I mumbled.  “My bad.”  

Needless to say, I took the food back to the car.  

Griffey got along well with the other dogs, and garnered praise from other owners for being so beautiful.  Mike and I shuffled our feet in bashful pride; we didn’t think it necessary to tell them she wasn’t technically ours.  Why reject a decent compliment?  

The best part was taking her to the waterfront.  She didn’t hesitate to race down the steps into the water.  Every other owner was throwing balls into the water for their dogs to fetch.  I turned to Mike and said, “Oh my gosh.  It’s like we’re the awful parents who don’t buy toys for our child!  Griffey is humiliated!”  

For the next hour she avoided eye-contact with us like an 8-year-old kid getting out of the car for school.  Please, her face said, pretend you don’t know me.  

  

Somehow, she forgave us.  It may or may not have had something to do with the treats in our pockets.   

For proof that I morphed into a dog-liker in one weekend, look no further than my threads:  I am wearing sneakers with jeans.  That does not happen.  

For proof that my black heart is showing signs of color, look no further than this admission:  I miss the pups.  A little.

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Filed under UpWORD (Beauty)

The Double-Edged Sword Known as Craigslist

Few people can argue with the victorious feeling of finding the exact item on Craigslist for which one was searching.

In my case it was a black bookshelf, six feet tall, with five adjustable shelves.  Bingo.

Oh and the irresistable price tag of $20.  Double bingo.

That is more or less the end of the fun of Craigslist:  you find the item.  You email the owner.  You wait in anticipation for them to say they haven’t already sold it. 

Then the work begins.

Where do you live?  Where should we meet?  How am I going to cart a six-foot-tall bookshelf back to my house? 

The seller of this bookcase gave me her address and said to arrive around 6:30PM.  I had plans at 7PM on the other side of town, but as any Craigslist crawler knows, if you snooze, you lose.  I confirmed that I’d be there at 6:30PM.

“Oh and just a FYI,” she noted, “I don’t actually live there anymore.  I have renters in this house.  They said they’ll put my bookshelf in the backyard and you can just pick it up.”

Um.  OK.

“Oh, and one more thing,” she said.  “Can you pay me via PayPal?  Like right after you pick it up?  Since I won’t be there?” 

Clearly this is an exercise in trust.  We both know I could pick it up and disappear without paying her.  I know I wouldn’t do that, but she doesn’t know I wouldn’t do that.  Craigslist transactions are full of this kind of blind faith. 

It occurs to me shortly after making these arrangements that a six-foot tall bookshelf may not fit in our SUV.  I loathe the idea of borrowing someone’s truck, or worse, going there in our SUV only to find it won’t fit and we have to return with someone’s truck.

Mike suggests we buy some twine so we can tie down the hatch if the shelf won’t fit inside, so I stop by Home Depot on my way home from work.  Who knew there were 15 different kinds of twine?  I am not a twine expert, but suddenly I am comparing rope widths, impact resistance, and cotton versus poly.  A phone call to Mike in the middle of the twine aisle solves my problem, and I leave with something called Heavy Duty Jute.

Four hours later, after work, Mike and I hop in the car headed for Leschi. 

Everybody in Seattle knows the tricky thing about the affluent Leschi area — it classifies as Leschi immediately after you cross over Martin Luther King Jr Way.  Before crossing over, however, the neighborhood is notoriously sketchy, a combination of First Hill, the International District, Denny Blaine and Garfield High.  So when someone says they live in Leschi, you’re never sure if they have a two million dollar home or bars on their crack-house windows.

Guess which side of the tracks my bookcase was on?

Technically, it was one block east of MLK Jr Way, which put it in wealthy Leschi.  That doesn’t stop Mike from second-guessing the legitimacy of the deal I’ve arranged.

“This is the house?  The orange one with the porch falling off the front?”  he asks me, incredulous.

“Yes, that’s the address,” I reply. 

“Seriously?” he answers.  “This whole situation looks like an invitation to get robbed.  Didn’t you say she doesn’t live here and she wants us to pick something up in the backyard behind a fence?  Seriously?”

After a bit of back and forth, Mike decides to go look in the backyard and see if there is actually a bookshelf to be had. 

There isn’t. 

He comes back to the car with the biggest I-told-you-so face he’s ever sported.  I immediately call the owner.

“Oh, it’s not?” she asks.  “Did you check on the deck?  I bet she put it on the deck.  Call me back if it’s not there.”

“Did you look on the deck?” I ask Mike.  He stares at me with a less-than-enthusiastic expression.

I put his wallet and cellphone in my purse so there is nothing of value in the car (oh wait, I see his brand new golf clubs in the back…best not to mention).  We both approach the fence and push the door to the side to reveal piles upon piles of garbage.  There are boxes everywhere, sacks of trash, an old couch, several discarded chairs…but no bookshelf. 

After wading through the garbage, we get to the backyard and look up at the deck; it’s on the third floor. 

“You have to be KIDDING me,” Mike says as he stares up the three flights of rickety wooden stairs.

We walk to the top of the deck where, both a blessing and a curse, we find the bookshelf.  It’s in fine condition and it’s exactly what I wanted, so as if I had found a mangy dog that needed a home, I daintily ask, “Can we keep it?” 

Mike rolls his eyes and tells me to grab one side of the shelf.  We hoist it up and begin the arduous climb down three flights of stairs — beginning with Mike almost falling through the first one because it was rotted.

We huff and puff our way to the car and I have to laugh at what I am willing to put us through for a $20 bookcase.  I have no doubt that my husband is silently cursing my thrifty ways.

The miracle of the situation is that it fits in the back of our SUV without any need for my Heavy Duty Jute twine.  Nevermind that we have to move my seat so far forward that if we have a collision the air bag will kill me.  I don’t care; I have my $20 bookcase.

I read plenty of design and Do-it-Yourself blogs where the authors tout their garage-sale/thrift store/Craigslist victories as though the money saved came without a real cost.  Nobody ever mentions the backyard transactions or three flights of stairs. 

Nobody until now, that is.

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Filed under AwkWORD (Humor)