Thursday, July 31, 2008

Happy Birthday Alison!

She's one today! If you haven't already been inundated with pictures of Alison, well I've added a short slide show of pictures you might enjoy.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Yet another reason

Way back in the early 1980s, Rick and I lived in Italian Village which is in Columbus, OH. Much like German Village and Victorian Village, this area was targeted for urban renewal and had some amazing houses in it, mostly in really bad shape.

We rented a cute house, which you can sort of see if you Google the address: 790 Kerr, Columbus OH. Go to the street view; it's the little yellow house almost entirely blocked by a tree. A guy at church had rehabbed it, and mostly I loved living there. What I didn’t like were the roaches. Because the houses on either side of us were still uninhabited, the roaches zeroed in on our house. They came in droves or flocks or whatever you call lots of roaches.

It was bad enough when they were in the kitchen. I’d flip on the light and they’d go scuttling. Or I’d open a drawer and they would swarm out of view. I kept asking Rick to have our landlord get an exterminator but for whatever reason, it never happened. I’m sure since I was a stay at home mother at the time, I was a LOT more aware of the situation than Rick was!

The last straw came when I found a roach crawling on the rail of Ben’s crib—on the second floor. I told Rick the boys and I were going to visit my folks (nine hours away in Cape Girardeau MO) and that the roaches needed to be dealt with before we came back.

That did the trick, and an exterminator came in and bombed the house. Rick said the clean up was horrific, he said it was like raking dead leaves.

This morning I noticed Eddie and Chloe staring at something where the kitchen linoleum and the wood floor meet up. It was a roach, about as long as my thumb.

I need to find a count down clock to add to this blog—17 days and counting.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Odds and ends

First, here's a final picture from Friday's rain. Please note this was a very small part of what actually ended up in the glass. Pretty gross, eh?

Next, here's a blurry picture of Wally, who's found the top of Kent's dresser. You may wonder why he's so exhausted when it's still early in the day. Well he's pooped because he's been shredding toilet paper again. I have mixed feelings about this latest shenanigans because on the one hand, that's an activity he did in Kansas City. So I wonder if he's feeling less stressed. On the other hand, he destroys perfectly good toilet paper. . .

Thursday, July 24, 2008

This is why I hate our rental apartment

The window leaks. And it's not just a tiny dribble either. It's been pouring rain since early this morning and isn't supposed to clear up until probably tomorrow. I've already mopped up puddles more than once and with most of our belongings still in storage, I don't have enough towels to soak all this up. And honestly I don't want to use our towels, the water coming in is filthy, probably from the bricks of the building.

So I propped that glass against the window to catch some of the drips. Yes, just some. It got about half full before I emptied it to start over.

August 15 cannot get here soon enough.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wake up kitties

This is why Wally was horrible last night; he slept all day so he could be obnoxious all night. For that he got a one way trip to the pet carrier about 10:30 PM.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Laundry, quarters and cats

Doing laundry here at 127 Saint Botolph Street reminds me of when I lived on Central Street in Kansas City. I worked for a small company that didn’t offer direct deposit but actually handed us paychecks. Every pay day I’d cash my check and get a roll of quarters for laundry.

We do much the same thing here except that with direct deposit, getting quarters takes a little more effort. We hoard our quarters, and when needed, Kent runs across the street to the Laundromat to get change from their change machines. With the large capacity washer and dryer, we can usually get by with two loads of laundry a week. By the way, if you haven’t done laundry in pay machines recently, costs have gone up a bit. To wash one load costs $1.50, and drying also costs $1.50. So each complete load takes 12 quarters.

Kent warned me that when he did laundry, the clothes didn’t get entirely dry even on the hottest setting. So far I hadn’t experienced that, but yesterday I pushed the load limit and ended up with some damp items.

We use a washable duvet cover on the bed which works well here while most of our belongings are still in storage. Chloe has always loved one specific spot on the bed. She creates a kitty-sized divot in the featherbeds and leaves behind massive amounts of cat fur. In Kansas City I would vacuum the bedspread, but since the washer and dryer here are quite large, I decided to wash the cover when I washed our sheets and a light blanket. I also needed to wash a load of light/white clothes. Altogether I estimated I had two loads of laundry, with the sheets and the duvet cover going in one, and everything else going in the other.

However, the duvet cover came unsnapped in the dryer and swallowed the sheets. So that load was not entirely dry. I separated the sheets from the duvet cover and gave them about five more minutes which was enough for them. But I didn’t have enough quarters to continue drying the duvet cover, plus the blanket and light/white clothes that were already washed and waiting their turn. I brought the duvet cover up to the apartment and draped it over Kent’s office chair by the window AC unit. Wally decided that was the perfect hiding spot for a small yellow kitty.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Solving the litter box issue

Having lived in decently sized houses the last six or so years, I’ve gotten used to having space to put litter boxes in discrete spots. In our Overland Park home, we put Chloe’s litter box in the second floor laundry room. In our Hyde Park home, we put all three litter boxes in the basement—the door to the basement had a pet door already installed, which made the basement the perfect location.

We knew when we moved to Boston that we would need to consolidate down to two litter boxes even though cat wisdom says you should have a litter box for each cat. Well, I don’t think that’s possible in Boston, not if you want to have furniture in your apartment too! So we have just two boxes now, and it’s working out OK. Given the weird floor plan of this rental apartment, the only place we could find for the remaining litter boxes was the kitchen pantry. I’m sure you are sitting there thinking EW, and I agree. It’s not ideal—I have a sensitive nose so the smell gets to me plus at least one of the cats is a big litter flinger. Even with litter mats designed to get the litter off their little paws, you’d better wear shoes in this apartment, or else you'll have “sand” sticking to the bottoms of your feet . . .

I’ve been looking around for functional and decorative solutions to the litter box issue. I want to have them hidden but still easy to get to for scooping, and I want them to be somewhat contained. Originally we’d hoped that the front hallway of 3 Claremont Park would be large enough to support a bench—and we would put the litter boxes under the bench and then make a skirt for the bench. But the hall isn’t wide enough, and I think the traffic flow would really be compromised.

Yesterday while scouting online, I found this solution. It’s sturdy enough to be a bench and pretty enough to go in the living room. But did you see the price?? Those run $499 each, plus shipping. Now I love my kitties, otherwise I wouldn’t have named my blog after them. But I don’t love them enough to pay over $1,000 to cover their poop boxes.

So I think I will take one of the extra Ikea tables we have from when Kent was here alone and needed some furniture, and make it into a faux bench/litter box concealer to put somewhere in the living room. You can see it here as a normal table, with Eddie in the foreground. The lower shelf comes off and is the same dimensions as the front side of the table. I’ll find some cool fabric and make a cushion and then a skirt to go around the whole thing. And I guarantee it won’t cost me $1,000 either.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Inspection is done!

And while we do have a few items we will look to have fixed, the unit is in pretty good shape. Kent and I took a lot of pictures, and I've loaded them into the slide show. If you'd rather be able to see bigger images plus their captions, go here.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Quick updates

First, I didn't get lost on my run this morning.

Second, our offer was accepted for 3 Claremont Park #7. We've scheduled the inspection for tomorrow and I plan to take lots of pictures. Look for the slide show to change sometime tomorrow so you can see what our new home looks like.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Running in Boston

I have a running route that works well for me here; it’s just shy of four miles and includes some pretty scenery like the Commonwealth Avenue mall and around the lagoon in the Boston Common.

However I’ve had some issues with my left knee since moving here and I believe its due to the way so many surfaces slant here.

Let me explain. To get to our rental apartment, we climb a lot of stairs and those stairs slant in toward the stairwell. So if you are going up the stairs, you’ll experience the stairs as slanting to the left. Once in the apartment itself, the living room floor is slanted—lots more than our house in Kansas City. I can really feel the slant on the stairs in my left knee. So returning to my running route, I run around the lagoon. It’s very pretty but it’s slanty, uneven and has lots of fairly sharp turns (well they feel sharp when running).

So I’ve eliminated the part of my run that takes me around the lagoon, but that’s left me with a route that’s just a little too short. Yesterday morning I decided to run through the park and then around it on the street sidewalks. Long story made not quite so long, I ended up getting pretty lost and was able to find my way back home only by looking up at the skyline for the Prudential building.

Other than getting lost, I had a great run.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

And the winner is . . .

Last night we checked out the property I mentioned in yesterday’s entry. This unit is a penthouse unit and is on the fourth floor; you climb five flights of stairs to get to it because the building’s entrance is a full flight of stairs above the street. I will say the kitchen was fantastic, and I really liked it a lot. And the apartment was very bright because in addition to the windows, someone had put in a lot of skylights.

But all those skylights limit what can be done on the roof (the unit has roof rights, which is considered a selling point). Boston code requires that any roof structure be set back three feet away from the edge of the roof at all points. Because of the large number of skylights, we’d have had space for at most a four by four deck space. To us, the juice just wouldn’t be worth the squeeze. So combined with the unit being further south than we really wanted to be, plus the huge number of stairs required to get to the apartment, plus no outdoor space since the roof was useless for renovating—we decided against that unit.

As we hiked down the stairs (why did I wear my cute Van Eli sandals?), Kent and I briefly touched base just to make sure we were in agreement, and we were. By the time we reached the second floor, we’d told Paul we were ready to make an offer on 3 Claremont Park.

Now here’s another interesting difference between how real estate is handled in Boston compared to Kansas City. We still have not seen a seller’s disclosure form because apparently those are not shared until an offer is received—the buyer just puts in a contingency about the disclosure. And we don’t know the owner occupancy rate for the building yet—another item that is done after an offer is made. Finally I know if we’d told our realtor in Kansas City that we were ready to make an offer, she’d have hauled out her paperwork on the spot. Paul smiled and said he would pull everything together the next morning.

We had dinner at Stella’s last night. Paul said it was good and he was not wrong. Of course this morning I’m wishing we hadn’t split a bottle of wine. Running will not be much fun.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Updates and changes

So we’ve made a couple of decisions, although not the final decision of which unit to buy.

First, 114 Chandler is off our list. The living space is just too small and that’s something that cannot be fixed. I still love the two floors and the extra half bath but I think we’d all go nuts trying to cram desk space and eating space and living space in the tiny living room.

Second, 31 Concord Square is also off our list. I told Kent last night that while I love the apartment, especially all the light and the really nice kitchen, at the end of the day I think that apartment would be a gilded cage. He got my point immediately, and agreed 100%

3 Claremont remains on our list. We checked it out again last night when there was less natural light, and it was no darker than it had been when we’d seen it Saturday morning. That surprised us both. We love the layout and we really love that it's just a bit bigger.

We have one final potential contender we will look at this evening. Hopefully this link will stay up and you can take a peek at the listing details. I found another site that does show pictures but requires registration. This site doesn't show the pictures but take my word for it, the space looks amazing. We don’t especially like the location since it’s a little further south than we’d prefer to be, and we definitely would prefer not to be on the 4th floor. However this unit does come with a parking space and also roof rights (that’s a fancy way of saying we’d need to spend money to make the roof into deck/outdoor living space).

Sunday, July 13, 2008

House Hunters

We love to watch the show House Hunters on HGTV. Right now I think we are in the show, or at least the at-home version of it. For those of you who’ve been following along in fascinated horror as we look for a place to buy—we’ve narrowed down our options to three choices. I have floor plans for all three, so you can take a look and tell us what you think.

We started by figuring out what was important to us and then sort of ranking those features because we knew we probably wouldn’t get everything. You never really do when you buy a house, there are always trade-offs. So our pie-in-the-sky wish list included a bath and a half, laundry in the unit, some sort of outdoor space, and two levels of living. For anyone familiar with the Boston real estate market (within Boston, not the suburbs), I’m sure you are already shaking your head at us. But as someone we knew in Kansas City was fond of saying, “A closed mouth don’t get fed.”

I'll start by saying all three have laundry in the unit and all three also have some outdoor space. Now for the details:

One property does have all four features—114 Chandler. We saw this unit during an open house, and really liked it a lot. However, it’s the smallest of the three on our list (just 671 square feet), and the living space is small while the bedroom is large. We’d rather have those proportions reversed because really, who needs a bowling ally as a bedroom? On the plus side, we love the deck, we love that the half bath is on the upper level, and we love that the unit isn’t all garden (aka basement) level. On the down side, the kitchen needs to be updated, as does the full bath. However, this unit is the cheapest, with a listing price of $419,000. Yes that one is the cheapest . . .

We also really like 31 Concord Square. This second floor unit is in a brownstone overlooking Concord Square itself, which is a perfect example of the Victorian style of neighborhood common in Boston in the 19th century. Although this unit doesn’t have two levels, and lacks the extra half bath, we do like that you can get to the bathroom either from the living area or the bedroom, plus it’s got in-unit laundry. It’s also a little bit bigger than the Chandler unit at 683 square feet. The deck is pretty big, but since it’s the top deck on the building, it doesn’t get any shade. That can be good in the winter but possibly not so good in the summer. Plus you have to go through the bedroom to get to the deck. The kitchen has been recently updated but the bathroom needs some love. This one is the most expensive of our three choices and is listed for $499,000.

Finally, there’s 3 Claremont Park. Here’s where the variables get tricky. This unit is by far the largest (1038 square feet), and has a huge patio (about 400 square feet). I love the floor plan because the largest amount of living space is where we’d need it—in the living room and the dining nook, not the bedroom. As with Concord Square, there’s only one bathroom but you can get to it from the hallway or the bedroom, plus it has in-unit laundry. However, this is a true garden level unit which means the bedroom is mostly below street grade and has just one small window. The living room has two windows, but they don’t get lots of direct light (one window is below a deck for the unit above it), and the dining nook has an exterior door which has windows in it. But make no mistake, this isn’t a sun-drenched unit by any means. We do think the current owner did himself no favors by the paint colors he’s chosen, and he definitely shorted himself on ceiling lights. Both of those issues are fixable, but there’s no way to add more natural light. The kitchen is up to date and the bathroom is fantastic. This unit lists for $495,000.

The homeowner association fees are about the same for all three units; taxes are not because they are based on size, but they aren’t crazy out of line. We can rent a parking place right by the unit on Claremont for $175 a month (which is a great price); parking isn’t available nearby for the unit on Chandler so you are talking street parking which means you have to move it for the days when the city does street cleaning.

So what do you think?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Cheap entertainment

While I’m still job hunting, I’m mostly stuck in the apartment every day. Partly that’s because I don’t really want to go off exploring by myself since Kent and I love to do that sort of thing together. It’s also a money issue—if I’m out, spending money just got a lot easier. So I spend my days gaming, surfing the web, cleaning this dreadful place and looking online for jobs.

I also work very hard to keep the kitties awake during the day. They still have the nocturnal wild thing going on and can be counted on to spaz out around 11:30 PM, 2 AM, and 4 AM every single night. Eddie is the worst offender mostly because of his size and weight. At over 14 pounds, when he runs into the hallway, he makes a huge thundercat racket. Plus as I’ve mentioned before, he’s got the loudest meow I’ve heard on an indoor neutered cat. It’s bad enough when he stands right beside my head and yowls (remember, the mattress is on the floor). It’s far worse when he does it by the front door because I know from experience that his yowl carries clear to the first floor and even (if windows are open) outside to the street level.

So I pick them up frequently (and annoy the crap out of them when I do it), all to keep them awake. They hate it, and Wally has taken to finding the weirdest, most out of the way spots he can to sleep. This picture isn’t one of those spots (by the time I get the camera, he’s moved); instead it’s the beanbag ottoman I put behind the red chair so that when we open the curtains, they can look outside. They love it, as you can see.

I’ve mentioned before that I sew. I’ve made a couple of dresses for our granddaughter (you can see them here and here), which has been a lot of fun. I have a pattern for a doll which also has a pattern for a doll for the doll. With me so far? Well the doll is pretty big, like 21 inches, so rather than make a doll that’s ¾ size of Alison, I thought I would make the doll’s doll. At six inches I thought it would be perfect for her to play with and still big enough to be a safe toy.

It turned out like crap. I made it from an Irish linen handkerchief I’d bought at an estate sale and boy that material slipped and moved no matter how much I pinned it. I made her, got her face on her, made her little dress and apron, and even put her hair on her before I called it quits. She just looks stupid and lumpy.

The cats, however, adore her. I didn’t intend to let them play with her but they found her before we moved and took turns carrying her around like a dead mouse. Come to think of it, she’s probably about the size of a large mouse. She just has yarn hair. So I gave up and let them play with her because she was definitely too yucky looking to give to Alison. Yesterday as the kitties were voicing their discontent and trying to turn things into toys that ought not to be toys, I remembered the doll. So I dug her out and wow were the cats happy. Here’s what she looks like now.

Just as I finished typing this up, Eddie ran over and got her again for another round of mauling. Cats are freaky aliens, I swear.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


I banished Eddie to the green pet carrier at 11:30 last night. Enough was enough.

We looked at about seven properties yesterday evening. The very first one we saw a week ago remains on the list, along with this parlor level apartment, and this penthouse level apartment. We'll look at more on Saturday.

Monday, July 7, 2008


Well I spoke much too soon. The boys reverted to their earlier (noisy obnoxious) ways last night. First, Eddie cut loose with his incredibly loud penetrating meow. He likes to run to the front door (which is a super cheap hollow door so it has not a bit of sound proofing) and yowl; I suspect he likes the way the sound echoes in the hallway. His other annoying habit is to walk up to the mattress (which is on the floor, by the way, so he doesn't even have to jump up or anything) and yowl until one of us--usually me--tells him to come up. Then I must hold the covers open so he can crawl under them with me, at which point he licks my hand and when I least expect it, bites me. Well OK, he doesn't really bite, but he does put his teeth on my skin and I do feel it.

But wait, there's more. The mantel has--had--a poster leaning against the wall, as well as some books stacked there along with Kent's change holder. In separate occurrences, they knocked most of those things off. Plus at some point, they turned over the kitchen trash can (which was empty so what were they looking for?). Plus we heard assorted kitty fight sounds off and on most of the night.

So today, dear kitties, you will not be allowed to sleep. You can expect much rousing and also some laser pointer play time. Because tonight you will sleep or else you will be in your carriers.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


We had a real breakthrough last night for the kitties. We slept until almost 7 AM—that may not sound like much but you have to realize that since we got here last Saturday, the cats have gone bonzo nuts around the apartment at 5 AM, especially Eddie with his thunder-kitty paws and his penetrating yowl. So yes, we were ecstatic to sleep in a bit this morning. Of course we may have helped them settle down more by staying up a little later last night, watching Stargate (we have the entire series on DVD, why yes I am a geek). As you can see, all three kitties found their way to me.

Yesterday Kent and I spent a couple of hours walking around the South End looking at apartments for sale. We are almost certain that’s the neighborhood we want to live in, partly because of the neighborhood, a lot because of the real estate prices (they are not nearly so insane as the prices in, say, Back Bay) and also because we like the diversity we see there. I found a neighborhood association that had some interesting information about the area; you can also read more about the South End including information about the bowfront row houses here.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


The word of the day on Saturday was exhausting. Oh and tedious. Boring too. Did I mention repetitive? The cats didn’t really settle down very well Friday night and finally at 5:30 AM we gave up and got up. We figured if we weren’t going to get any sleep we might as well get on the road. So we were on our way by 7 AM.

No kitties barfed (hurrah) but they also were pretty needy, crying and stuff in their cages. I’m sure the elevation changes through NY and MA hurt their little ears; I know my ears were sure popping a lot. And on a financial note, those elevation changes just killed our gas mileage. Until then, the worst I’d ever seen my CR-V get was just shy of 20 MPG. Not so in the mountains or foothills or whatever they are considered—we got 15 MPG **cries** But the scenery was beautiful and I look forward to going back sometime sans cats.

We reached the apartment about noon and in a rush of fantastic luck, we found two consecutive parking places right in front of the building. Amazing! Then we had the very sweaty pleasure of hauling stuff from the car and the trailer to the third floor. Neither of us smelled very good about 90 minutes later, but it was done.

Kent took the trailer back to the U-Haul place and I started unpacking boxes and working on soothing the kitties. Here are the results of the soothing:

No picture of Chloe because she was hiding.