Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A new hiding place

This time it's Wally in there, but I've seen Eddie do the same thing. Whichever cat wants to hide will go in our closet, knock over the hamper and then make himself comfortable in the dirty clothes.

(I finally deleted enough photos to post a new photo. Whew.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


OK that title dates me. But yes, it's the end of the world as we know it or at least it's the end of the amount of free storage I have with Google for my photos. I had a cute little cat post all ready to go with a picture but boom! I'm out of free storage.

So I need to go through all my bazillion and one photos and prune out what I can, because frankly I'm reluctant to pay to store more.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

We are family

We had such a great time in Virginia—so glad we went, so very glad Jordan and Sophie could be there also and very grateful that Ben and Jen are willing to host all of us.

We met Colin. Just look at those eyes! They aren't exactly brown (sigh) but they are also very different from Alison's eyes and Eliot's too. Both of those kids have crystal blue eyes. Colin's eyes sometimes look gray or navy blue.

Alison has changed so much. She's looking very grown up, not like she's in kindergarten. Some of that is her height (she's nearly four feet tall at age five), but a lot has to do with her new sense of confidence. This visit, she got to make cake pops with Sophie; watching her break the eggs and use the mixer was a lot of fun.
This picture shows perfectly how Colin is--a little love bug who grabs on tight and likes to cuddle. He's really fond of clutching hair in his little fists and can get a death grip you wouldn't believe. I'm not sure how Jen still has any hair left on her head.
Isn't this a great picture of Jen, Alison, Eliot and Colin? I swear Jen stays calm through anything.

Sophie posted this story yesterday about Jen:
The best mommy quote this holiday was definitely when 2 1/2 yr old Eliot asked his mom to get him out of the highchair. Jen, who had a baby in her arms, said "I can't get you right now Eliot, how about you sing a song to yourself."

Jordan and Sophie are just the coolest, always upbeat and looking to make sure everyone else is having a great time too. Kent took some great pictures of them "dancing" with Alison and Eliot and you should see the grins on the kids' faces.
OK, bear with me. Yes,it's another picture of Colin but this one is pretty cute even if he is crying.
Kent and I had gotten Eliot probably three different sets of train tracks from Ikea last spring before we left Boston.

I'd protested that three were too many plus the package said they were for children ages three and up and that Eliot would only be two at Thanksgiving, all to no avail.

I'm here to say that Kent was right.
Eliot loved his train tracks and splitters and whatever else was in there and so did everyone else.

Finally, here's our annual family picture. We clean up OK, don't we?

Running on empty

There can be only one
When we moved to Boston, I could not find my favorite brand of deodorant anywhere. It's not like I use something unusual, it's just Arrid solid unscented. Apparently the only unscented solid deodorant available in the Boston area also had to be the kind that isn’t supposed to leave those white deodorant streaks. That sounds like a great idea, only whatever is used to make the deodorant streak-free seriously bothers my skin.

That year, we’d gone to visit Ben and Jen for Easter. Kent picked up probably half a dozen sticks of my deodorant at the local store, which left me in good, non-smelly shape for a while.

About six months later, we flooded and poof – no deodorant. At the time, I wasn’t sure if the remaining sticks had been ruined or tossed but either way, I only had a single sad little stick. So the next trip we made, which happened to be to see Jordan and Sophie in Nashville, I bought another six or so sticks.

That last deodorant purchase was in December, 2009. As it turns out, the deodorant involved in the flood had not been ruined, only packed away by the restoration company. So by April, 2010, we had about 10 sticks of deodorant.

Today we’re down to one in use and one left in stock. I haven’t bought deodorant in close to three years. I was a little afraid my brand wasn't around any more, but I did a little scouting and I think I'm in luck. 

So much to say

I learned to type on an IBM Selectric II in high school.  Once I got over how weird a QWERTY keyboard was, I got really fast as long as I used an electric typewriter. A couple of times I was forced to use a manual typewriter while in the Army; I learned that my hands, especially my pinky fingers, just weren’t all that strong and I gratefully returned to the world of electric typewriters.

Later on in my early 20s, I used word processing machines which I absolutely loved. Those early programs used command key combination to move the cursor, they didn’t use mice. I was all about those combinations and couldn’t see why on earth you’d ever need a mouse. The combos just seemed so much more efficient and I got even faster with the keyboard. At the time, I thought that mice were rather like Betamax videos. Boy was I wrong. So of course I learned to use a mouse and stayed super-fast with the keyboard.

Fast forward to the last five years or so and now we’ve got smart phones and tablets with touch screens, which I mostly love. But I don’t do so well typing on a touch screen. I find it slow and frustrating and unless I’m typing something short, like a Facebook update or a quick reply to an email, I stay away from them.

But it’s killing me. I was gone eight days and had some things I wanted to post, longer emails I wanted to write and I was stymied by the lack of a keyboard to go with my tablet (I have a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1). I bought a non-OEM Bluetooth keyboard, which paired with my tablet easily . . . only the (, 9 and . keys didn’t work. That’s sort of a problem, don’t you think?

Other than that gap, I love my tablet. But it’s a pretty big gap. I’ve been looking at the Microsoft Surface but don’t care for the operating system (Windows RT). They’ll release another version of the Surface sometime early next year with Windows 8 on it and I’m intrigued. Kent's intrigued that I'm intrigued because he'll get my tablet if I do switch.

What kills me is that I know the kids growing up using touch screens will look back at keyboards the way I did at those clunky manual typewriters. They'll wonder how we managed to get anything done with physical keyboards. I'll just shake my cane and tell them to get off my lawn.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Still alive

But we're traveling, so posting is spotty. Plus I need to solve some technical issues (portable keyboard struggles with a period and parens, plus my camera's SD card is too big for the tablet). So right now, I type the periods with my touch screen and most of the words with the keyboard. Apparently I'm not the only one to have this issue. I may  just need to break down and call customer service, I guess. Or just get used to using a combo approach to typing.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A sweet story

We’ve been ordering Christmas presents and having them sent to Ben and Jen’s house (we have a small Christmas celebration there after Thanksgiving with Ben and his family and Jordan and Sophie). Kent’s address entry in Amazon for Ben et al says “Ben, Jen, Alison, Eliot, Milo and Smoochie.” Milo and Smoochie are the cats.

When one of the gifts Kent ordered arrived in Virginia yesterday, Alison was very concerned because Colin’s name wasn’t listed. She noticed the omission and said, "I guess Nana doesn't know about Colin."

We know! I promise, we know and can't wait to meet him.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Pics please

Here are pictures of the fabric we got in Italy:

Kent's orange/black houndstooth woven wool.

My lambswool woven wool.
It's kind of difficult to sew in our current place. I think it was easier in some ways to sew in our apartment in Boston, only because getting everything out was slightly easier and we both had a routine in how we got things done.

We will almost certainly use the front room in the new place as our sewing room. We use our dining room table to cut out patterns and the sewing cabinet will look nice in there, not like there's a sewing machine hanging around in the room at all. Plus the built-ins at the end of the room will hold all sorts of things, including fabric, supplies, equipment and so on. Kent's bummed we don't move until the middle of January because he'd like to get cracking on that shirt right now. Oh well.

Easy like Sunday morning

Lional Ritchie, cat style.

He looks worried, doesn't he? But he was actually very content to stay in the bag for about 20 minutes.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pictures at an exhibition

OK not really--pictures at an inspection is more accurate.

Take a look.

And here's a video of the back yard:

More about Stuff

A couple of days ago, I caught up with the blogs I missed while out of town and ran across this blog entry about storage. Her post tied in nicely with the way I’ve been thinking lately about things or stuff.

I’ll never be one of the minimalists who owns just 100 items or less. I’ll probably never participate in the 333 project (although I could pretty easily). But I do subscribe to the idea that whatever I have in my home should serve a useful purpose and be pleasing to the eye. What I don’t find pleasing is seeing stuff cluttering horizontal surfaces, or a house stuffed to the gills with things.

I’ve also always thought that paying for storage at one of those U-Store places is nothing but waste. Get Rich Slowly wrote an excellent article about paying monthly fees to store things you aren’t even using.

I feel the same way about buying home storage solutions only to accommodate more things. Let me be clear, I’m not talking about having some containers to put your lunch in. Or a case for a laptop or some other electronic device. I’m talking about boxes and bins to keep things you’re not using, almost certainly will never use again and yet those things have to stay in your house, weighing you down, taking up space in your home and your mind. That kind of stuff.

One of the most freeing experiences after we’d rebuilt our apartment and our clothing came back from the clothing restoration place was realizing a whole lot of them, in fact, were ruined. We tossed about 2/3 of our clothing, including shoes and coats. Kent says that he missed a couple of pairs of shoes and his winter boots because winter boots and good, comfortable shoes you can walk in are a necessity, and it's really hard to find shoes to fit his size 11 1/2 wide feet. I was luckier in the shoe department or I'd have felt that way too, but otherwise we didn't really miss anything else.

What I learned from the entire experience, not just losing the clothing but losing the furniture and being out of our home for five months, was that my things are not me. They aren't what makes my living space a home. Even more, though, I realized that my things own me as much as I own them, and they take up mental and emotional space I'd rather use elsewhere. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

There's no place like home

We started looking at houses a couple of months ago. I'll spare you the long, drawn out process and not tell you about how awful a lot were and how odd it was to have sellers turn down opportunities to show their houses to buyers. For being still in the middle of a housing sale melt-down, people have some strange ideas about what their properties are worth and how accommodating they should (or shouldn't) be.

It's enough to say we looked at well over 30 houses and probably closer to 50. Some had floor plans that didn't work for us (too chopped up for our taste), or were much too big, or too dated in a bad way (I'm looking at you, mirrored walls in dining rooms), or clearly had had water damage in the basement (first thing I checked). Some had real potential for us (an amazing Brady Bunch-style California split level that was horribly overpriced and someone else bought it at that crazy high price, or a great split entry ranch that was just wonderful except for the neighborhood), and of course we saw a couple owned by smokers (although two out of all those houses is not bad).

About three weeks ago, I ran across one that seemed to have everything we wanted: cozy but not a chopped up floor plan, high ceilings in at least one of the living areas, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and small enough (just over 1600 square feet). The price was a bit high but the neighborhood is fantastic and homes have sold well there for years. We saw it the Sunday before we left for Rome and put in an offer the next day. Although it took the entire week, and involved three rounds of counter-offers, the seller accepted our final offer on Friday.

If you click here, you can see some not very good pictures of the house. I pulled these from the listing and I hope to get better ones on Saturday during the inspection.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Veni, vidi, vici

What a fun trip! We unexpectedly got upgraded to first class the entire trip—including the overseas route—which meant we could actually sleep from JFK to Rome because the international first class had the beds that lie flat. Plus the food was good.

If you ever go to Rome, you should know that much like Boston, Rome is a walking city. And just like Boston, the sidewalks and streets are as likely to be made from old cobblestones and very uneven. Good, flat walking shoes are a requirement unless you want to take bus tours. We prefer to walk so we caught the hotel shuttle into the city after we’d landed, cleared immigrations and gotten cleaned up at the hotel.

Last time we were in Rome, neither of us fully grasped just how many Roman ruins there are in the city. Sure, we’d seen the Coliseum but only at night, and we never did get over to any of the other ruins. I can’t tell you the name of these ruins but as you can tell from this picture, they go on and on. We didn’t walk down through them but instead kept on going and found the Coliseum, this time in rainy daylight. After that we split a bottle of wine and had pizza for what ended up being both lunch and dinner. Let me tell you, the house wine in Italy is pretty tasty.

We also ended up seeing the changing of the guard at the President’s palace. The band played in the rain for the whole ceremony and then played a little concert. I was freaked out that the oboist marched with his oboe and wondered how many reeds he’s broken doing that. I never marched with my oboe, I played piccolo when we marched.

I am quite proud I stayed up until 7 PM that night although I slept the next 13 hours.
We had two goals on Monday: see the Sistine Chapel and find two fabric stores we’d read about online (Fratelli Bassetti Tessuti and Fatucci Tessuti).

I’d foolishly thought that a rainy Monday in November would reduce the number of tourists at the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel but boy was I wrong. All I could think was how awful it must get in the summer, what with the crowds and the heat. I also thought it was worth braving the crush of people. Pictures don’t tell the entire story of any part of the museum or of the chapel. Fortunately we didn’t need to see St. Peter’s again because that line was over two hours long—the line for the museum and chapel was at most 15 minutes.

We did find the fabric stores and I’ve never been so overwhelmed in my life. But I wasn’t leaving Rome without some cloth, doggone it, and so I got two meters of a lovely lambswool woven fabric that is just wonderful to touch. It’s a sort of purple/wine color and I’ll make a skirt out of it. Kent picked up an orange and black houndstooth woven wool (trust me, it does not look garish or Halloweeny at all); he's got plans to make a long-sleeve shirt. We wandered around some more, had more pizza and wine and then headed back to the hotel.

So that’s Rome. I’m not sure when we’ll do another quick jaunt like this one or the one to London last month. Maybe in the spring after we move.

Oh right, I didn’t tell you about that yet, did I? Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Let's go to Rome

We are off for another short trip, this time to Rome. We went there the day after Kent asked me to marry him and got to see pretty much everything except the Sistine Chapel (couldn't see it because we got to Rome really late due to massive snow in London).

Rome was in the grip of a crazy, record-setting cold snap then and we froze our butts off. This time it's supposed to be in the upper 60s/low 70s but rain the whole time. Oh well. Apparently we aren't supposed to see Rome in good weather.

See you on Wednesday.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Take the long way home

Unless you live under a rock, you already know that New Jersey got hit pretty hard with Hurricane Sandy. What you might not know is that I lived there while I was in the Army, and before that I went to the Jersey shore pretty frequently when I was a little girl.

I’ve mentioned before that my father and step-mother lived in Bryn Mawr, PA. We’d head over to Atlantic City or another town on the shore and spend the day playing in the Atlantic Ocean. I remember one drive back when I was about four, a wasp flew in the open window, landed on my knee and stung me. I started to cry and my step-mother hushed me because my brother was napping beside me and she didn’t want him to wake up.

I got stationed at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey when I was 20. I also got married there at the chapel on post. I listened to Supertramp's Breakfast in America album over and over again that first summer as I drove to the shore after work pretty much every day (a 15 minute drive away). I was very close to Long Branch, and Red Bank, too.

New York City took about an hour and every Monday I drove there and took lessons from another oboist who was stationed at Fort Hamilton. At the time, I owned a manual four-speed Civic, and I had a bad habit of keeping my car in second gear as I went through the toll gates on my way to Fort Hamilton. One time, though, I left it in third gear, didn't pull my arm back in fast enough and damn near broke it on the netting on the right side of the coin collector dealie. I had a bad bruise for weeks. Still made it to my lesson though.

This week, I've been reading all the stories out of New Jersey (and New York too) and remembering how it was to live in the area. It's as though part of my younger years has been washed away along with all those houses, the shore, the roads, the bridges, everything is devastated. Fort Monmouth was decommissioned last year, so no one was there for the hurricane. But Monmouth County was hit pretty hard, which makes sense when you look at a map and see exactly how close it is to the ocean. I can't imagine what Sandy Hook looks like now, although I was fascinated by it when I lived there.

I feel for the people who live there and I wish for quick repairs and restorations to all who were affected by this hurricane. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012


I used to love to read Real Simple, and so did Kent. I had a subscription for a few years and we’d both read each issue cover to cover. We especially liked the gift suggestion issues that comes out in November or December. But I let the subscription lapse four years ago because we were living in Boston on one salary, no easy feat, and that was an unnecessary expense. During that same time, we stopped looking at the bazillion catalogues mailed to us. We just tossed them in the trash, unread.

I noticed an interesting side effect from those two small changes—we quit wanting so many new things. Our purchases became more driven by an identified need rather than the allure of something shiny and new in a magazine or catalogue. Building on that, we quit walking through the Pru or Copley, figuring window shopping would have the same effect as leafing through catalogues or reading magazines.

I’m not saying we don’t buy things, because clearly we do. But I find it interesting how much we've reduced impulsive buying. And when we do buy, it's after we've figured out what's missing and what would really fill the need or want.