Monday, July 25, 2011

Packing Packing Packing

Closets are scary, scary places. Every time I delve into one that really needs cleaning, I am both horrified and disgusted by what I find in them.

No, this isn't related to my joke about how the new garage floor coating will mask all the bloodstains, or how when we up-sized our fridge, we could fit a whole nother person in it.

We are packrats, but not of the insect-attracting, living-room-composting variety.  We are clean, and the visible parts of our house stay relatively uncluttered.

But oh, the closets.

My husband and I are also both masters at the video game Tetris. That's the one with the different-shaped pieces that drop from the sky and you have to quickly flip them around and scoot them into place at the bottom without leaving any gaps. I bet that we would be pretty darned good at a 3-d version of it also. Because our house is like that. Every square inch of space, every gap, every nook and cranny has been well utilized.

Packing items into fixed-sized boxes for temporary storage and their eventual joyride across town in a semi is very different than Tetris. It is more like eating a restaurant salad. I don't know how they fit so much stuff in those bowls, but no matter how many bites you take, the salad looks as full as ever.

I have to face the fact that we own too many of certain items. Dragons. Crayons. Chip and dip sets. Blenders. Cake pans. Unused glow-in-the-dark bracelets and wands. Dead computer parts. Books on how to write software for the ancestors of those dead computer parts (MS Dos from 1985? VB4? Anyone? Anyone?).

I filled an entire "extra-large" size box with fabric that I never got around to sewing. This is the box to donate. I have about a dresser drawer full of bits that I am keeping for now. We filled three or four large sweater-type storage boxes with college t-shirts. Several more with just sweaters. There are still sweaters in our closet. 

Books. Books. Books. We have purchased and filled 30 book-sized packing boxes from Uhaul. And used a few other smallish boxes. And we haven't packed anything. I own one e-reader, too, which after this will be seeing a lot more action.

The biggest lesson that I'm learning from our moving adventure is that we can't wait eleven years between closet cleanouts. We can't just buy new stuff without getting rid of the old. Even if we have the storage space for the overflow. Because the next house may not be our last house. In another eleven or fifteen or even thirty years, someone will have to clean out our closets again. We don't need to scare them.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Girl Who Powerwashed the Hornet's Nest

Our house sparkles. Day-glow, iridescent, crystal-clear, shiny. Well, parts of it do. In order to show the house we need to get it to the "uncluttered and immaculate" stage. I believe we have achieved "uncluttered" in exactly two rooms (both of them bathrooms), and "immaculate" on a few select planar surfaces of the house, mainly outdoors.

This weekend, we successfully tackled the last* large-scale project in the great summer-fixup: the garage. Our garage floor now has a shiny new, waterproof epoxy coating, complete with colored sprinkles that looks far nicer than our formerly-stained and patched floor. And our neighbors got to view the entire contents of our garage spread across our lawn for a little over twenty-four hours while it dried. But, we sorted and packed (and purged!), and the inside of the garage now looks wonderfully neat and organized.

After helping with the garage floor, I played with our new toy. We spent some of our garage-sale earnings on a powerwasher. Why oh why didn't we buy one of these suckers (blowers?) years ago? I am a total convert. Our concrete patio used to look stained and ugly after eleven years of water and the sooty mess that I think comes from living a little too close to the airport. Our white-vinyl-and-trex deck also had a stained floor and general layer of dirt that made it look grimy and that was nearly impossible to clean, even with a scrub brush and a bottle of housewash.

No longer.

With nothing but high-powered water, I have magically transformed our concrete patio into...wait for it...a concrete patio. Ok, a new-looking concrete patio. And the deck is shiny and sparkly.
And I took my life into my hands in dispatching a hornet's nest with my magic water wand. Poor things were tending eggs, and kept coming back looking for them (every time they would fly back around, I would magically summon a tornado from a safe distance away.) The deck is now free of bird guano and all of its crevasses are free of accumulated dirt.

While I was on a roll, I discovered that our old gray-spotted plastic patio chairs (which moved with us from our last apartment 11 years ago), were actually white. The back of our house was the same gray as the front (and not brown). And we can now sit on the deck box/bench without turning the seat of our pants gray. I might have kept going, but I was getting sunburned and I really don't want to see next month's water bill.

Now that most of the projects are done, we have to do some massive furniture re-arranging (i.e. staging) and some more massive decluttering (holy smokes do we have a lot of junk in our house). And hopefully at least one of the various flooring places we have called will eventually find us worthy of their carpeting and actually agree to both measure *and* install in a timely fashion (seriously, how hard can it be for people to accept the money that we're offering them?)

The house looks pretty good (if you can see past our boxes). Not so good that I'm changing my mind about moving (did I mention the granite countertops in the new place? Double ovens? 9-foot ceilings and wood floors?). But good enough that I will be proud to offer it for sale and hope that it earns a fast bid (or maybe 3? I could totatlly go for a bidding war....don't laugh...)

*Technically, the ginormous-yet-badly-overcrowded office closet may be a bigger project than the garage. But it is air-conditioned.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The start of summer

June 6, 2011

Sometimes I am surprised by how much my children really do understand about complex concepts. And how difficult grownups make things.

Our daughter was preparing for summer school this morning. The local public school district offers a free summer enrichment program for the next few weeks, which should be a fun change for her. She gets to ride the school bus every day and to pick out her own clothes. Her eyes lit up when I told her that if she wanted to wear headbands or barrettes, that they could be any color she liked. My poor, deprived, private-schooled child :)

She asked whether she needed lunch money, and my husband started into a long, complex explanation of how when the original information was sent home in May, that the school had applied for grant money from the state to help with the summer school program. The grant did come through, and lunches were now provided for everyone for free. I jumped in, quick to dumb down the explanation to just say that the school got extra money, so she can have school lunch every day if she likes and not bring any money.

She looked me crooked and then said, "I know what 'grant' means. It's when something is free, like a wish."
Yes, darling, that is exactly what a grant is. It is just like a wish (with perhaps a bit more paperwork).
Guess I didn't need to explain anything after all.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

My Dress Disaster

May 24,  2011

My younger sister got married this weekend. This would be the absolute middle sister. I'm one of 5 sisters. Actually, in Borg terms, I'm 2 of 5. The one getting married is 3 of 5.

For me, the wedding was a rather crazy situation that included my failed attempt at sewing a dress, having to leave my husband and kids at home, and not actually sleeping much for an entire weekend. Plus fake eyelashes.

The wedding was a 1920's theme complete with a jazz band and held at an Austin club called The Speakeasy. It was beautiful, swanky, and impossible to shop for. 1920's dresses come in two flavors: tawdry Halloween flapper dresses, and impossible to find flapper inspired dresses. I tried to be smart about the process and found a reproduction 1920's dress pattern. I bought yards of satin and chiffon, and cut and sewed, and ended up with a monstrosity that would have looked ridiculous had I bothered to pack it. The fault is partly mine as a (not-so-great at womens' wear) dressmaker, and partly mine as a short woman with no hips to speak of.

After shortening the original pattern by several inches and measuring and fitting as I went, I still ended up with a dress that was too long and too big and so unflattering as to look (as I mentioned before) ridiculous on me. 1920's dresses were low-waist-ed and loose with virtually no structure in the tops (no darts, no princess seams, no anything, probably as a rebellion against the corsetry and tailoring of their mothers and grandmothers' styles). It is a style that naturally flatters the tall and willowy. I am neither. Had I followed my instincts and cut the top on the bias instead of on the straight grain (darned pattern directions), it might at least have hugged the curves I do have instead of hiding them in a column of fabric rather reminiscent of a Hawaiian muumuu. Were I about 4 inches taller with wider hips, it might still have been flattering.
The skirt looks very cool. It is a handkerchief hem that I made of layers of chiffon and satin and was a beast to assemble (two layers each consisting of two panels each about a yard-square sewn together to form a giant octagon). The fabric was heavy and the points of the handkerchief do end up on the bias which made the entire thing drape downward. All the way downward to the floor. My sister wanted us in dresses no longer than calf-length. And there was no shortening that hem once it was cut (let alone assembled). It was a bit of a geometry puzzle to cut in the first place.

I tried several options for salvaging my efforts, including pinning some darts and maybe adding a sash belt. But I got the majority of the dress put together on Thursday night at 11pm and had to be on a plane Saturday morning. The simple fixes weren't working and there was just no time for something drastic.

I packed a pair of purchased black cocktail dresses that I already owned and let my mom and sisters vote on which one would look the best. One of my other sisters had a different dress disaster (hers involving ripping her first dress) so there were two of us wearing thoroughly contemporary outfits. In the end, with period hairstyles, jewelry, and feather boas, we still looked great.

Maybe I'll re-work that long satin dress into something else. Cut the top off and add a waistband for a holiday skirt. Re-cut the yardage into a dress for my daughter. Or just wear it for Halloween. With the right hat, it might make a lovely witch costume ;)

Friday, July 08, 2011

Answering the question

As of Saturday, my husband and I have answered my question of whether we stay in our current house or move.

We move.

I suppose not all of the details are cast in stone yet, but we signed a contract on a new house in St. Charles County. Yes, that makes us contributors the St. Louis metro area suburban sprawl. But, we weren't exactly in the city, or even the inner-most ring of suburbs. And the move just makes sense for our family.

Well, it makes sense until I think about the fact that we made a non-contingent offer and haven't yet sold our current house. Details, details. Yes, it's a financial risk, but a calculated one. We think we are getting a tremendous value in the new house and, at first glance, it may even appraise higher than the sell price, based on the comparables in the neighborhood. This risk has been calculated and re-calculated in spreadsheet after spreadsheet after calculator app after spreadsheet.

The house is beautiful and had just about everything on our wishlist. Three bedrooms for the family, one for a dedicated guest bedroom, an office for me, another for my husband, a big kitchen with granite, gas stove, and stainless double ovens, a three car garage, and a Flat Back Yard! The basement is unfinished, so we can spend some time mulling over arrangements of rec rooms or media rooms or craft rooms or whatever (and in the mean time, have a ton of wide-open storage space to help us sort through our junk after the move). It was a builder's spec house and has a lot more bells and whistles than we had hoped to get. I am sure we will find projects as time goes on, but a lot of it is already done.

Now comes the hard part. The packing and moving while simultaneously making our house appear perfect and glowing for potential buyers. Oh, and do all that with two kids, two cats, and a work deadline conveniently timed around the week we should have movers showing up at our door.

The kids are spending the week with one of their grandmothers, happily going to the zoo and fireworks, museums and pools. My husband and I are spending the week painting and painting and painting some more. Plus as much packing and sorting as we can manage to squeeze in. Done so far are two formerly-purple bathrooms and the formerly-navy-blue-and-"cavelike" basement stairwell. The upstairs hallway has sported builders-bare-minimum-off-white until now (it is halfway to a creamy-but-neutral color). The ceilings of nearly the entire first floor will get a refresh too, due to spills on them from the floor above (one our fault, one from leaving the kids alone in the bath too long where they discovered the joys of water fights).

Outside, our shutters are getting a bright coat of paint to even out their color as they have faded over 11 years of south-western sun exposure, and the front porch gets a coat of fresh white paint. Also in the list are a new sealer on the garage floor, mulch all around our assortment of garden beds, and powerwashing of the rest of the house and deck.

Oh yeah, and we will be replacing a fair amount of carpet in the house (a task that is just due after 11 years of wear and tear).

We are exhausted already. But this should be worthwhile.

Did I mention that the new house is already painted in neutrals and spice colors that will coordinate well with our furniture? That means no painting. For a while anyway.

Blog housekeeping..

It has been a while since I've actively updated my blog I guess.  We've been busy. I also have written a series of posts that I never got around to publishing (sometimes it's a two-step process and I forget to do step 2).  So, if you see posts begin to appear with suspicously old dates, my blog isn't broken. I'm just finally hitting the "publish button"

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Ten years ago today

Ten years ago today...
We were fresh-faced and well rested
We had a brand new house with clean white walls and clean white carpets and empty rooms full of promise
We had shiny new wedding bands and I had a beautiful diamond solitaire on my finger
We had airline tickets and suitcases and beachwear ready for our honeymoon
We were surrounded by family and friends for a huge wedding and reception
I was grateful to be marrying my best friend and lover and was looking forward to spending the rest of my life with him.

Our faces have laughed more and cried more and slept far less, and it shows
We have a lived-in house with painted walls and carpet ripe for repair and rooms bursting with memories
We have wedding bands that have developed a patina and my diamond solitaire needs repair.
We have moving packed and stacked and ready for our new house
We have the week to ourselves, with no children, and plans for a quiet dinner together alone
I am grateful to be married to my best friend and lover and am looking forward to spending the rest of my life with him.