Friday, January 27, 2012

Apartment hunting

I have an apartment-hunting appointment today and next week. Given that we have one car, our two choices are 1) to live near the kids' school (I just visited an apartment complex two blocks away) or 2) to live in the campus bubble area. Option #1 is $1195 for 3BR/2BA and nearly 1200 square feet (plus gym, outdoor pool, central courtyard with bike and scooter-suitable sidewalks). I haven't seen any option #2 apartments yet, but for 3BR/2BA and bigger they seem to range from around $1200 on up ($1400 is probably the most we'd be willing to pay), with some having more square footage. (We pay $1,000 per month for our current rental from the college, which is not exactly market rate.) In the campus bubble, some of the rentals run $500 per bedroom or more, so some rental units cost over $2,000 a month. Amenities and desirability of location vary. I may have a babysitting gig for an infant next fall, so I'm crossing out the units with trendy concrete floors (I'm not crazy about them for our family either, as some of us are rather accident-prone). A fourth bedroom would be nice just for storing stuff (our current rental house is 2000 square feet plus a garage).

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Cultural bubble quiz

I was just taking the "How Thick Is Your Bubble?" quiz which is designed to test how deeply cocooned in upper middle class America the test-taker is. As you can see, I scored an 8 out of 20, which according to them, means that while I'm "part of the new upper class," I've also "had a lot of exposure to the rest of America."

How Thick Is Your Bubble?

View user's Quiz School Profile
Score » 8 out of 20 (40% )
On a scale from 0 to 20 points, where 20 signifies full engagement with mainstream American culture and 0 signifies deep cultural isolation within the new upper class bubble, you scored between 9 and 12.

In other words, even if you're part of the new upper class, you've had a lot of exposure to the rest of America.
Quiz SchoolTake this quiz & get your score

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Run away!

I just saw the following Spanish-language ad in the real estate section of Craigslist: "Sin credito y seguro social usted puede comprar casa movil nueva."

Run away!!!!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

C is sick

Here's some of what's happening:
  • D came home from school with a fever on Friday, but is feeling better now.
  • My husband went to church with D at a distant suburban parish and notes that D was very appreciative of the architecture. D, my husband says, has architectural needs that we need to keep in mind.
  • C was feverish today and will be home with me tomorrow. She was reading her children's atlas tonight and a P.G. Wodehouse Jeeves and Wooster story. I was reading her some of the Wodehouse, namely an episode where Jeeves books 87 Americans to pay to meet a genuine English duke (unbeknownst to the duke himself).
  • My husband is reading the kids The Black Arrow and In Desert and Wilderness.
  • The kids continue to enjoy watching How It's Made. I caught a few minutes of an episode on maple syrup making.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Great Country French Style

The first thing I have to mention about Great Country French Style (2006) is that the cover photo, while lovely, is misleading. It has a picture of a light blue room with a rustic wood bed decorated with fabric in a small blue-and-white check, a white lace pillow and blue-and-white patterned pillows. I love the cover photo. Unfortunately, that photo is not characteristic of the book as a whole. I'm going to keep the book, but I don't really like the super formal living rooms, the monotone "elegant" color schemes, heavy fabrics, fussy furniture, floral fabrics, gilt mirrors, etc. (I realize that is more or less a description of the traditional French look.) I like Country French (kitchens, for example), but I don't like French formality. Here's what I like from the book:
  • a loud red upholstered (toile?) chair with a white design of a dog and flowers
  • flowers
  • windows
  • wood (especially in more rustic furniture)
  • toile (in small quantities)
  • blue-and-white check (big and small)
  • blue-and-white china
  • red-and-white fabric
  • heavy wrought-iron light fixtures
  • dark wood furniture and light walls

Clutter's Last Stand

A while back, I finished reading Don Aslett's classic Clutter's Last Stand: It's Time to De-Junk Your Life (1984). I have lately been merciless with housecleaning and decluttering books and we are moving in less than half a year to a smallish (for us) apartment and then probably again in 2013, so it's a very high compliment from me that I am holding on to this book, when so many others of its kind have gone to the Goodwill box. Here are some quotes:
  • I have some keepsakes that I can't remember what sake they were kept for.
  • I have souvenirs or knickknacks that I dust, clean, store, and abhor.
  • I've kept books and paperbacks I couldn't force myself to finish.
  • All my life I've been told to save for hard times. So all my life I've saved for harder times to come. But no matter how hard times got, it has never been hard enough to use or re-use all the worn-out, broken junk I've saved. I finally realized that the hard times come when you try to clean around it, keep track of it, or move to another house.
  • Storage units are the ghost towns of clutter, a testimony of shame. Why do people store things in another place? Because they aren't using them!
  • I can't and don't want to pass judgment on your books because you can do it perfectly well if you'll be 100 percent honest with yourself: you wouldn't read many of the books on your shelves if you were trapped with them on a desert island. [Amen!!!]
  • If all of us honestly reflected back in on our lives to the time of greatest satisfaction and enjoyment, when everything seemed to vibrate with feeling and freedom, it was when life was simplest.

Letters of C.S. Lewis

I have some books to talk about. The first one is Letters of C.S. Lewis (1966). I'll quote the bits that jumped out at me:
  • The real Oxford is a close corporation of jolly, untidy, lazy, good-for-nothing, humorous old men, who have been electing their successors since the world began and who intend to go on with it. (This was from a letter of 1921, when Lewis was struggling to find a foothold at Oxford.)
  • [Macaulay] has the journalist's air of being a specialist in everything, of taking in all points of view, and being always on the side of the angels...
  • I am a man, therefore lazy; you a woman, therefore probably a fidget.
  • 'Just what does a don do?' Like a woman, his work is never done. Taking 'tutorials' occupies the best part of his day, i.e. pupils come in pairs, read essays to him, then follows criticism, discussion etc.; then he gives public lectures on his own subject; takes his share in the business of managing the College; prepares his lectures and writes books; and in his spare time stands in queues.... (1948)
  • What is the point in keeping in touch with the contemporary scene? Why shd. one read authors one doesn't like because they happen to be alive at the same time as oneself? (1951)
  • It isn't chiefly men that I am kept in touch with by my huge mail: it is women. The female, happy or unhappy, agreeing or disagreeing, is by nature a much more epistolary animal than the male. (1952)
  • I have just finished Vol. I of Henry James' letters. An interesting man, tho' a dreadful prig; but he did appreciate Stevenson. A phantasmal man, who had never known God, or earth, or war, never done a day's compelled work, never had to earn a living, had no home and no duties....
I can't quote every passage I marked, but this is a really superb book, put together from Lewis's correspondence by his brother W.H. Lewis after Lewis's death.

Friday, January 20, 2012


We saw our third roofer this morning. He leans toward total replacement, but also toward a composition roof (a metal roof would be much more expensive). I'm relieved to hear that it's not totally irresponsible to go with a composition roof. The roofer made a guess about the siding damage that seems increasingly likely--he thinks it's squirrels. The more I think about it, the more likely it sounds. The damaged areas are exactly where you would expect from a squirrel sitting on the roof and gnawing away at the siding it can reach from there. Hopefully, they haven't broken through and moved into the attic.

My husband has been looking at these.

At this point, we're waiting for the rest of the estimates to come in and then we'll give the sellers a summary of the estimates and some photographs of exterior damage. We need to do a contract soon after that, followed by a general inspection, HVAC/plumbing inspection and a termite inspection. My dad also suggests talking to the bank and a real estate attorney in the near future.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Escape from ballet

Here's some of what's happening:
  • C wants to go back to ballet, so my husband did the forms for the ballet class that meets after school. We have some history with that ballet program, but the location is so convenient (it's at the kids' school) that I yielded to temptation. It was an automated online form. After realizing that we had been billed five (!) times for the January costume/performance fee, we emailed the head of the ballet school. She emailed back, explaining that because of C's age, the costume/performance fee would be $2 more expensive per month ($31.50, not $29.50) and because there are no girls C's age in the current class, we would need to pay for a private lesson ($65 per month, not $50 per month). As I told my dad, signing up with this ballet school is like becoming a Scientologist. We bailed, my husband asked for a refund ($197.50 already) and we're hoping to get our money back. I'm not going back, and if I do, please stop me. (The head of the school suggested we try a different location, which would eliminate the need for a private lesson, but if we're going with a different location, we might as well go with a ballet school where the head isn't widely referred to as "the Ballet Nazi.")
  • We've met with 2 of our 3 roofers, have gotten one full set of estimates (for roof repair, roof replacement, siding repair and exterior painting), and the home insurance agent looked at the roof and said the shingles are 30-year shingles and the roof is probably insurable with repairs. We may yet escape without needing to do an immediate roof replacement.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Toy trade

I'm trying to look around and figure out what possessions we have should go to friends. I sent an email to a friend this morning and took over some books, a dusty toy kitchen and some toy food. She in turn gave me a toy accordion that scares her kid. Woo hoo! C is going to love the accordion. I also have some Dora bedding I'm unsuccessfully trying to place. C is so over Dora.

First roof estimate

We saw our first roofer this afternoon. He thinks it's a matter of repair at this point, not replacement. That's very good. It also looks like there are some non-roof exterior areas that will need repair in the near future.

Two more roof estimates to go.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


As of this morning, I now have three roofers scheduled to do an estimate on the house we want to buy.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Women's bookstore

I mentioned at dinner that my husband and I are watching Portlandia, and that there was a skit set at a women's bookstore. The kids were puzzled at the idea of a women's bookstore. I explained that some people believe that women have not been given a fair chance by men, society, etc., and they feel that there need to be special bookstores for women. C seemed to think this was a good idea, but she wasn't entirely clear on the concept.

C: So what do they stock? House magazines?

My husband mentioned that there might be biographies of women, for instance women pilots.

D: How about biographies of good house-pickers?


I was just Google-mapping the route from our proposed apartment complex to school. It's 2 blocks. That is really good--were it not for the space issues, we might never leave. (The plan is to live there for one year.)

Our current rental house is about 2000 sq. ft. The apartment I'm looking at is 1169 sq. ft. and the house we want to buy is 2900 sq. ft. We are going to have square footage whiplash before this is over.

I'm going to have to do some measuring and plotting to figure out what we can move into the apartment with without feeling like we're living on A&E's Hoarders. The bedroom count will be the same as what we have now, but the kitchen is smaller, there's no separate dining room and there's no second living area (i.e. our library/office) and there's no garage. My spatial skills are at best average, but now that I think of it, I should mostly focus on those shared rooms when figuring out what to get rid of and what to put into storage. The bedrooms can probably go just as they are.

I also need to remember that there are such things as hotels and we can stay a night or two until our new home becomes habitable.

C is getting excited about the fact that the apartment complex has a pool.


My husband and D have completed their copper pipe glockenspiel project. (What is the difference between a glockenspiel and a xylophone? The xylophone traditionally has wooden keys, while the glockenspiel has metal keys.) As they learned during the project, there's a lot more to it than just sticking a bunch of pipes together--they have to be precisely the correct length and they have to be attached correctly, or the music will suffer.

I'm not a musician, but I think it sounds fantastic! It sounds like an actual musical instrument, not a haphazardly arranged collection of plumbing equipment.

C's embroidery

I got 24 sheets of variously colored felt for a project for C. C hasn't started the project, but she's been doing embroidery. Yesterday she finished a rather nice embroidered picture of a fat orange cat with green eyes sitting on a fringed red rug on a white sheet of felt.

C is warming up to the idea of apartment living.

Friday, January 6, 2012

End of vacation

Here's some of what's happening:
  • My husband is watching a goofy French spy comedy, OSS 117: Lost in Rio (2009). It's the 1960s and the hero, a chauvinistic totally un-PC French spy is partnered with a red-haired Mossad colonel. They are, naturally, hunting an escaped Nazi in Brazil. There are some jokes that are a little flat (we get it, he's racist, sexist, blah, blah, blah), but it's a very fun movie that lovingly recreates the feel of 1960s spy movies.
  • The cafeteria opened yesterday. Yay!
  • I went to the gym this evening and (after a long delay) got back to my LOTR audiobook. The four hobbits are staying with Tom Bombadil. I did 1.5 miles.
  • In house news, I have all of my inspectors and roofers collected, and now I am waiting to hear back from the homeowners for directions to how to proceed.
  • C said, "I don't want to live in an apartment!"
  • There's a new listing in the older neighborhood I watch. I got really excited at first at the price ($138k!), but eventually realized that it is the decaying pink stucco nightmare that's one empty lot away from a major thoroughfare. Meanwhile, today my neighbors were supposed to have the official inspection for the fixer-upper that they are interested in (listed at $124k, but they were trying to get it for significantly less).


I just made an interesting discovery in the living room. The object is about 4" by 5" and consists of a black foam layer covered with a sheet of black paper and then topped with a sheet of paper representing a screen. The screen has the following menu items:
  • Games Good
  • files
  • science
  • Apps
  • math 1+1
  • Books
C and my husband tell me that D (age 6) made this item, which is supposed to be a computer tablet, and he calls it a "meBoard." One of the interesting things about this is that although we have lots of electronics at home (phones, PDAs, a media player, laptops, desktop, two Kindles, etc.--an exact count is impossible) we do not have any Apple products and certainly no iPad. So, I have no idea where D got this idea from.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

House offer

We just made a $240k offer on a house that was for sale for $285k this past spring and are now waiting to hear back from the homeowners.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

C's activities

Here's some of what C has been doing:
  • When we were at the grocery store, she picked out a set of Crayola markers meant for use on glass. Since we got home, she has been decorating the French doors in the living room. Each pane is like a separate picture, so it's a nice format. C has been using this Doodle Stitching embroidery idea book for inspiration for her pictures.
  • C is much more interested in big fat classics now that she has her Christmas Kindle. She just finished Gulliver's Travels and A Little Princess and is reading Heidi now. My husband is reading her The Black Arrow. Note the uncharacteristic turn toward girl books.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


C and I took a spin around the neighborhood on our bikes. I'd thought of doing this before, but had somehow not gotten around to it. There's a big, green central island and a big loop of road, with a couple dozen houses turned toward the central island. It's a very pleasant ride and because of the break, not a car was stirring. D was running around on the island.

Meanwhile, my husband was getting dinner started. He made some nice thin Polish crepes, mixed up a ricotta/sugar/cinnamon/nutmeg/cardamon filling and cooked it and heated up a can of cherry pie filling. D was dubious about the cheese filling. The rest of us had crepes with the cheese filling, cherry pie filling and various jams and syrups.

For these home-cooked dinners, I've been using my new(ish) blue and white Spode plates (I own all twelve of these plates, but no cups).