Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Craft Room Frustration

EXPEDIT Workstation, white Width: 60 5/8 " Depth: 31 1/8 " Height: 58 5/8 "  Width: 154 cm Depth: 79 cm Height: 149 cm   
So with the new house, I have an official craftroom that our cat is not allowed in. It's painted a beautiful green, and all of the stuff in the room is white or natural wood (pictures to come). But there's still something missing. Right now I'm working on a rickety brown card table until we have the time, energy, and money to buy the white shelf/desk set and 2-drawer white filing cabinet that I've had my eye on at IKEA for a while now.

But even when I can envision that furniture in the space, there's just something missing. Part of it is the perpetually closed door, the lack of a cute kitty following me wherever I go, the fact that it's the coldest room upstairs, and it kind of echoes. I really think I need a nice plush rug on the floor (I'm thinking green, maybe something like the one on the right). Maybe I need some pictures on the walls, maybe I just need another spot of color (I'm thinking lavender or red). Whatever it is, I currently avoid that room like it's my job, and that's sad considering I've wanted a craft room for ages. I'm hoping finally having the shelf and desk in there will help, but who knows. My husband thinks it's silly that I'm not using the room I was so excited about when we moved in. But I just can't explain to him what's bugging me until I figure it out for myself.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


So at the end of June, we decided that one of the walls in the Man Cave (basement) really needed something. We weren't quite sure what that something was, but we knew it needed it. On one of our many trips out to College Park, to go to IKEA, I looked up a PetCo. My intent was to get some better dry food for my cat, but what we ended up doing there was figuring out exactly what that empty wall needed... an aquarium.
Both Eric and I have had aquariums in the past. I had a 25 gallon freshwater tank while we lived in Spain with several fun, peaceful tropical fish, as well as freshwater shrimp, and snails (with live plants). Eric had a 10 or 20 gallon tank with a Tiger Oscar that he fed live goldfish. We decided we wanted to go as big as our budget allowed. So we ended up getting a 55 gallon aquarium kit over the 4th of July weekend.
We set up the stand and aquarium, filled it with 110 lbs. of gravel and filled it with water (by dragging the garden hose through the basement and into the house). We also set up the filter, rigged an ingenious way of making it almost soundless (this involved two pieces of sponge stuck into the intake zone), the thermometer, and a timer for the two hood lights. Because we have a cat, we decided a hood was a definite necessity, even though he hasn't bothered to try and jump up on top of it yet.
We let it run from Friday until Sunday, and brought the water to a speciality aquarium store in Rockville, MD to get tested.  Since everything checked out, we came home with two fake plants, a huge log, four rocks, a backdrop, and a bag of 12 Zebra Danios. We put the log to soak in our bathtub for a day and a half, to try and make it less boyant (weighing it down with a can of paint). In the meantime we set up the rocks and plants and introduced the Danios to our pristine new tank.
We were going for a blackwater Amazonian river, but the guys at the aquarium shop got it wrong when they suggested Danios (which are from India). We finally added the log, which dominates the tank completely, and that forced us to move around the rocks. A few weeks later we lost our first Danio, another one mysteriously disappeared that same week, and we added a Rubberlip Plecostomus (an algae eater). Unfortunately, we didn't wait long enough and there was barely any algae in the tank yet, so the poor thing croaked on us 8 days later.
The algae is finally starting to take hold now though, and I'm hoping we'll be able to try for another plecos sometime soon. My end goal is to have at least one or two more swarms of small fish (we're talking neon or cardinal tetras and possibly something else), 2 plecos, and 2-3 South American dwarf cichlids. But we'll probably let the tank cycle for another week or two before we attempt any of that. And even though Eric is opposed to live plants, I think they really add something to the tank that the fake plants just can't.

Movie Review: The Help

I had the opportunity to see The Help yesterday and I must say, it is one of the best and most powerful movies in a long time. The movie is based on a book (which I must admit, I have not read), and is set in Civil Rights era Jackson, Mississippi. The three main characters are Skeeter, a privileged white girl who was raised by the family's black maid, Constantine; Aibileen, a black maid, who works for one of Skeeter's childhood friends; and Minny, a second black maid, who was fired by another one of Skeeter's childhood friends. The general themes throughout the movie are friendship, racism, and the courage to make a difference. Woven throughout the movie are moments you learned about in the history books (the prevalence of Jim Crow in every day life, some powerful speeches by various civil rights leaders, the murder of Emmett Till, Kennedy's assassination, etc.), but you see these moments through the eyes of "small town" people.

The movie is not only powerful but has its funny parts as well. So funny that half of the theater was practically rolling in the aisles with laughter. But there were also moments that brought tears to my eyes, parts where the whole theater gasped in disbelief and outrage. But perhaps the most interesting part was that I heard several young African-American women who had been sitting behind me talk about how glad they were that they were born in 1985. I don't blame them, I'm glad I was born in 1985 too. I would whole heartedly recommend that you go see this film. The acting and story are amazing.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Longer Post to Come

We've been quite busy these last few weeks with various things. Primarily getting everything unpacked and situated, having a housewarming party, getting some new furniture and setting it up, watching our garden grow, and planning for the future.

Right now my hard drive is not occupying its usual space in my computer, which is why I haven't posted anything in a while. I ordered a new hard drive, but found out it wasn't the right kind, so now I have to wait for the bridging piece to get here. I could just put the old hard drive back in, but I really just want to be done with that piece of crap and think about the new one and my reformated computer.

Hopefully a longer post will follow soon (with pictures).

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Moved In and Enjoying Our New Place

We are officially moved into our new place. I've moved all the utilities over into our name, still have to do the trash, recycling, and decide about the alarm system, but otherwise we're all set. We managed to get the first coat of paint on the walls the day of the closing in our two bedrooms. The kitchen and stairwell will need to wait a while longer. Second coat of paint went up the day after. We managed to move all of our large stuff over the day after the closing and the last of the small stuff got moved on Friday. We have also spent every night in our new home since the closing.

Our cat is getting acclimated to the new place just fine. There was a lot of confused meowing the first day, but he's settled in nicely and gotten into all kinds of trouble. Furniture is now in the correct place, with a few exceptions (mainly furniture we are still planning on buying, when we have the money). There are still piles in various places, but they'll get taken care of. The storage space in the basement looks like a disaster area, but I don't think I've spent more than five minutes in there at one time for the past week.

We also got the first couple plants in the ground, some cannas and myrtle along the driveway and two more hostas in the front yard.

The backyard has seen our very first grilling session, a potted tomato plant, and a potted herb garden (peppermint, sage, thyme, oregano, parsley, basil, and rosemary). I'll try and keep you updated on their progress.

We still have a very long list of wants and needs for the new house, but for right now we're enjoying the additional space (triple what we had in the apartment and we're only paying an additional $100 over what our rent was, plus the additional utilities, crazy right!). I think I'm going to enjoy home ownership a great deal.

Left: Next to the driveway (Cannas and Myrtle) Right: Canna peeking through the soil

Tomato Plant

Myrtle next to the driveway

One of the new hostas.

Friday, May 27, 2011

One last freak out?

So we received notice today from the mortgage company how much money we would have to bring to closing. No surprises there, in fact it was slightly less than anticipated. However, the next part of the sentence stopped me in my tracks and threw me into a major panic, "and needs to be a certified check or wire!" Umm, why would you tell us that 1 business day before the closing? It's not like Monday counts, it's a federal holiday, the banks will be closed. How fucking stupid are you? Remember, first time homeowners... wtf! So I sent the woman an email back asking why she couldn't have told us that a few or two ago? She managed to misunderstand what I meant so I spelled it out for her. Could you have told us we needed a certified check or wire transfer from the bank holding our down-payment money... a few weeks ago?

Now, this may not seem like a big deal, but let me elaborate. Our down-payment money is happily sitting in the bank... in Michigan! We are buying a house in Washington, DC! Our bank in Michigan does not have a local branch, which is why we finally looked for a new bank a few months ago. If I'd known a few weeks ago, I would have just cut myself a check from the MI to the DC bank and gotten that certified check or wire transfer no problem. And I checked with our DC bank, a check was not going to clear by Tuesday morning. Then I checked with the MI bank, they don't do wire transfers. But they could overnight a certified check to us, but no guarantees it would get there in time either (especially with the way our mail services drags around here).

Finally my hubby came up with the perfect solution, have my father-in-law pick up the check and bring it with when he drives to DC on Sunday. So, I wrote a letter to the bank asking them to process a certified check and release it to my father-in-law, ran down to the bank on the corner and got it notarized, ran back to work and faxed it to the bank, and then kept calling the bank to try and get the manager on the phone I'd talked to previously to make sure he'd gotten my fax. I kept getting his voice mail. My father-in-law called me to tell me that he needed to pick up the check that day instead of the next day, because he was going to my sister-in-law's place which is an hour out of town. And he and my brother-in-law had planned on leaving right from there. So I tried calling the bank manager again, still no answer. Finally I called my father-in-law to ask if my brother had dropped off the stuff my mom wanted my in-laws to take to DC, and he told me that the check was in his car. Why couldn't someone call me and tell me it was taken care of? I hate banks.

So, yet another crisis averted. But I might go gray by the time we sign our paperwork.

On the utilities front, I sent an online form to Pepco asking them to start service on Tuesday. The automated response email said a representative would contact me in the next FIVE days! We need it turned on asap, not in five or more days. Crap. Then I called the gas company, they just wanted me to set up an account, but the service is already on and will remain on. Next I called the water and sewer company, but the office wasn't open and won't be until Tuesday, so I guess I'll have to pray that they either a) didn't interrupt service or that they b) can start service quickly. Next stop, Comcast for our internet. No problem there to move it from our current residence to the new house. But because I didn't know when we'd have electricity, I decided to make our appointment for Friday to give Pepco some extra time to get back to me.

In happier more exciting news, my mother-in-law is sending several plants with my father- and brother-in-law for our garden. I'm so happy at the thought that I get to dig in dirt and make our yard something beautiful and peaceful. I've never had a yard of my own to take care of. I don't even know if I'll be a good gardener. I guess we'll find out.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"Division Street" and "The Calf-Path"

At work today, one of the departments screened a documentary called "Division Street." The movie explains the history of why roads were built in the United States and that currently the furthest you can get from a road in the lower 48 states is in the wilderness of Yellowstone Park (the distance to the nearest road is 22 miles). In the Eastern United States you can't go further than 5 miles from the nearest roads and that spot is somewhere in the mountains of Virginia. It also explains the need for wildlife over and underpasses because roads divide the historic territories of most wild animals, and lead to localized extinction. Out West, most of the wildlife related accidents happen on about 2-5% of the total roads, so it's very easy to pinpoint those stretches and do something about it. In the East this is not quite so easy, in part because we have a much denser population and road network.

It was also recommended that we take a look at the poem "The Calf-Path" by Sam Foss which talks about how roads were built on the top of 2-lane wagon trails, which were built on top of wildlife paths, etc. That poem really made me think about the wisdom of how we build things and its impact on the environment. I'm always so amazed when people talk about Portland, OR and about how concerned the politicians there are about city planning and the environmental impacts of urban sprawl. The movie made a point that no one seems to be willing to talk about the issue of urban and road planning on a national level or about the need for a shift in societal thinking.

Both the movie and the poem make me so mad that a country as rich and powerful as the United States can't get its act together and do something positive for the environment on a national scale. It acts as a model for other countries around the world just developing their own infrastructures. For example, the Tanzanian president is pushing for a trans-country highway that will cut across the oldest and longest wildlife migration in the world and has rejected offers of help to make the road more friendly to wildlife.

However, there seems to be hope on the horizon at a local level. Western States and American Indian reservations are taking up the fight. Arizona started a wildlife-friendly road program in 2008, which routinely includes over and underpasses for local wildlife such as mule deer, elk, desert tortoises, and other animals. Some Eastern states have joined the movement. Even Orlando, Florida is experimenting with ways of getting more cars off the roads (mainly through commuter rails) to cut down on the need for a larger road network.

Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett

Another book by Terry Pratchett, which I actually finished right before starting Wyrd Sisters from my previous post. On Discworld, the fantasy world that Pratchett created to "play" in, a lot of ideas have personifications shaped by the way humans think of those ideas. In this case, Death, one of my favorite characters of the series, has a "body" and a persona that has been created by the way people image death to look. Which is why Death is a skeleton wearing a black hooded robe, carrying a scythe, and speaking in all capital letters. He can also only be seen by the magically inclined, small children, and people who don't know that you shouldn't be able to see Death. The book Reaper Man starts out with the Auditors (beings that Pratchett calls the "bean counters of the universe") deciding that death is a messy part of being alive and therefore figure out a way to kill Death.

Death knows when to collect a soul because he has all of these "life timers," hourglasses that when the sand runs out so does your life force. Suddenly one appears that is labeled "Death" and because Death finally has time to spend, he decides to go off and use his last weeks of life taking a holiday. Of course that means that there is no one fulfilling his role of taking away the souls of the newly departed, the spirit world starts filling up with uncollected souls, and the life force is building up. And of course, it's Pratchett, so general hilarity and chaos ensues.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

I just finished reading [make that devoured] Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett. If you're into satire, fantasy, or "That Scottish Play" [yes, I'm a theater geek, what of it] you might like this book too. Basic plotline: King gets assassinated, evil duke takes over throne, three witches try to make things right again. Enter playwriting dwarves, someone so crazy he's sane, a Fool who hates being a Fool, and Pratchett's trademark hilarity and you get a pretty epic story.

For everyone who has not made any forays into Pratchett's Diskworld series, you're in for a treat. The whole premise of his series is that there is a flat world on the back of four elephants which in turn are standing on the back of a giant turtle floating through space. There is of course plenty of magic, many unlikely heroes, a benevolent tyrant, a city watch made up of persons dead and alive, and other antics. I highly suggest any one of his books.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

To Do List

Only the bottom boxes have stuff in them so far.
Closing Date: 5/31/11

To Do List before then: seemingly endless!

Eric putting together boxes
For a small sample:
1) pack up four floor-to-ceiling bookshelves worth of books [most double rowed] as well as the rest of the stuff in our 1-bedroom apartment
2) turn off water and internet
3) turn on trash, recycling, water, electricity, gas, and internet at the new place
4) cancel renter's insurance [we're getting some money back from that, so that's a plus]
5) make a list of stuff we want the in-laws to bring from Michigan
6) figure out how the apartment complex handles last month's rent [I know they pro-rate if it's not a full month, but I don't know if they want the full amount up front and then reimburse us for the difference or if they just want a check for the pro-rated amount]
Sir decided to help by boxing himself up.
 7) change address at 2 banks and on numerous other things like our phone bill and car insurance, and forward our mail from the apartment
8) measure the rooms and pick out paint colors
9) start planning a house warming party
10) start making plans for the garden
11) figure out a list of needs and wants for the new house and prioritize [we're going to be fairly poor after the closing costs come out of our accounts]

Modest progress

My goal is to keep a pretty acurate picture log of before and after shots of our house.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

We're Buying a House

After several interminable days of waiting (we sent the appraisal notice to the seller on Thursday and heard back today), we found out that the seller is willing to accept the appraised value as the sales price. But she is not willing to pay $5,000 towards the closing costs. I did a bit of quick math and with the reduced down payment and figuring in the Earnest Money Deposit, we should be just fine! I'm waiting on our loan officer to send us a new estimated closing cost sheet, but I'm fairly positive that my estimate is going to be very close.

Between the original negotiated value and seller subsidy, and the reduced sales price, she's come down $20,000 from what we originally offered!

So we close on the 31st and we're already planning on what needs to happen when. The day of the closing, we're getting everything ready to paint and starting to move our stuff over. The day after the closing we're going to paint and move most of our big stuff over. Hopefully both my mom and the in-laws will be here to help with the move. My biggest concern is the cat. I don't know how he's going to handle the move. I do know that I'm going to need a second litter box with three floors worth of space. And it's going to be hilarious seeing him race up and down stairs.

And the thing I'm looking forward to the most? The dishwasher and gardening!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Appraisal... I hate you!

So, we found out today that our appraisal came in low. It's the thing I had completely forgotten about, I wasn't worried about it, or anything. And now it comes in low. And not just $5000 under, $25,000 under the price we negotiated. I haven't gotten any answers from our realtor or our loan officers, but if our FHA loan isn't willing to cover anything over the appraised value, we might not be getting a house. We can't afford to pay the difference out of pocket, we just don't have that money. We can barely cover the closing costs and down-payment. This is completely fucked up!
In other news, I stayed home sick today with the worst stomach ache in history. And I ended up sleeping most of the day until our realtor called to tell me about the appraisal.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Termite and Home Inspection

We had our termite and home inspection on Saturday. The termite inspection didn't turn up any problems, except some un-baited termite traps set around the house.

The home inspection didn't turn up any major issues, just a few minor issues. One thing that might be in issue in the future but isn't one right now is the air conditioner. It's beyond its useful life, but it's still trucking along. There also seems to be some water dripping down into the electrical fuse box and the bottom of the box is corroded, but the wire in the box itself is fine. So just a few minor issues, we're going to ask the home owner to fix the electrical fuse box, and I guess we'll see if she agrees or not.

We're both so excited about the house now. The last hurdle is whether or not we get our loan. And right now that's a huge question mark. We brought some paint samples, and talked about what colors we wanted in which room.

My mother is going to come and help us move and paint. And Eric's parents and maybe his younger (not little) brother may come as well. I'm really hoping everything goes smoothly so we can see them. I really want to see my mother, and I saw my family in February, and Eric hasn't seen his family since last September. So this is proving to be a catalyst to see them all again. My father is also talking about driving down mid June.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Our offer was accepted!!!!!!!

Source in bottom right corner

So, the above picture is roughly how I feel right now. Light, happy, a few butterflies. Our realtor called this morning and said "I hate to say this, but you were right." I asked him why, and he said, "the seller accepted your offer without making a counter-offer." I was stunned. I had fully expected her to counter our offer, because we sent her an offer that was $10,000 below list price AND we had asked for a $5,000 seller subsidy on top of that. So technically we're getting the house for $15,000 under list price.

I was at work at the time, otherwise I might have done a happy dance right then and there. And luckily, as if he knew what was going on, Eric had just signed on to AIM, so I didn't even have to try to wake him up via phone call [an impossibility, especially when his phone is in the other room.... whereas I wake up to a phone call or text message even if the phone is in the farthest corner of our apartment from our bed]. He also couldn't believe it for a few minutes. And then it hit us, we're officially under contract for our house! The house I've been mentally moving into and gardening in since I first saw the place. It's going to be ours!!!!!! [Pending an inspection, appraisal, loan application, and all of the many other tasks looming ahead of us prior to our closing on the 31st of May, but really, who's thinking about those things... well, ok, that would be me].

My mother has already offered to come help us move in, paint, and get the garden started. Right now (if you'll remember my previous post) the yard is one empty rectangle of lawn. My in-laws have expressed similar interests, and I told them that they were more than welcome to come visit and help once my mother has vacated the guest room. She has dibs, because she's been planning to come help ever since we started talking about finding a house.

Hopefully, I'll be able to keep this thing updated now that I have something so exciting to write about. Here's wishing myself good luck. :)

Thursday, April 28, 2011


So yesterday I finally got an answer about a few last questions we had about the offer. I sent our realtor all the paperwork and we've officially submitted our offer. So kind of scary, but also extremely exciting. I'm already mentally gardening and moving in. I started packing in my mind while looking at our living room last night. But I hate waiting for something to happen! I want to know. I'm thinking the seller will come back with a counter-offer, but I want to know.

In other, more geeky news, the printer I ordered on Sunday arrived yesterday. It's an all-in-one, large format (it prints 12"x12" paper) wireless Brother printer. It's huge! And the box it came in was even bigger. But I got it out of the box and got it set up. Our wireless internet stopped working a few weeks ago, so we haven't been able to use our Wii to watch Netflix. And the printer couldn't find our wireless network either. So I finally figured out what was wrong with it. Our router's wireless was turned off. I'm not sure how it happened, but I turned it back on, and our network popped up again. I got the printer onto our wireless network and printed a test page from my computer via the wireless network. I was so happy and felt so wonderfully nerdy! That also means I'll be able to watch Netflix while playing on my computer. It's funny how the little things in life make such a difference.

One of the biggest reasons I'm so excited about moving into a house of our own is that I'll finally have a craft room to which I'll be able to shut the door and just leave my projects laying out whenever I want. Leaving out my projects usually leads to me actually finishing or at least continuing to work on them. The problem is that our cat has a love afair with paper and plastic. He has chewed up several photos before I finally became wise to his ways. Another thing a craft room with a door will accomplish is that I will have a place to put houseplants without having to fear for them disappearing in between my cat's teeth. Eric insisted on buying a large potted palm at our local Giant the other day, on the theory that the cat wouldn't be able to destroy it all in one day. So far he's been proven correct.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Offer #2

Well, the perfect house from the last post didn't work out quite like expected. Apparently there were several other people who thought the same thing we did. Oddly enough I'm not in the least disappointed. DH, on the other hand, really wanted this to work out. But I had several reservations, like the lack of driveway and the distance to the Metro. Other than that, it was great. But we'd actually found a house a few weeks before that I can't get out of my mind. It's on the smaller side, but it's really well maintained. It's close to the Metro, has a driveway, and all the stuff we wanted.

Including storage in the basement and a dishwasher. It even has a fenced yard that is just waiting for us to put our stamp on it. We've been using it as our "yard stick of perfection," and measuring all other houses against it.

The kitchen is a bit on the small side and it might get crowded once we start having kids, but I know we can make it work. I already have a plan for how I want to arrange the furniture. That was one of my other problems with the first house, the layout was less than ideal, and I couldn't figure out how everything would work with the furniture.

Anyway, we've been debating back and forth about this place. And we couldn't seem to come to decision. But since the first house didn't work out, and we still haven't seen anything else to measure up to this one, we've finally decided to put in an offer. I'm extremely excited!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Putting in an offer today

Front of the house
So, we saw a house this Sunday that we liked. And it's amazing how quickly things happen sometimes, but our realtor called us that night to tell us that two other people/couples/families had expressed an interest and would be putting in offers for the house. And if we wanted it, we had to move fast. Not even having sketched the house, let alone measured, or thought about anything, we had to make a decision on whether or not we actually wanted to put in an offer, and if yes, how much. It's slightly above our comfortable price range, but with two other offers, we had to make sure to come in at a reasonable amount. It's at the very top of what we had set as our range, go figure.

Main room when you come in the front door
However, the house itself is so worth it. It even has enough space that we could rent out the basement as a 2 bedroom/1 bathroom apartment to someone we knew. It has a kitchen sink and room for a microwave and mini fridge down there too, but we would probably end up having to share our kitchen with whoever rented the basement. The information sheet said 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms. But in terms of what I know about bedroom "specs" (which admittedly isn't much), it looks more like 6 bedrooms to me, if the ones in the basement count. The main floor has hardwood floors throughout, which we love. You can get a taste of those in the picture of the Main room.
The drool-worthy kitchen
The kitchen is amazing! Especially with a chef in the house, the kitchen was really important to us. It even has a double sink and a dishwasher, which we were looking for. And since it has a built-in microwave, DH can't even complain about that. (He has some sort of personal vendetta against microwaves because they heat food by "shaking" the molecules. I don't know what he thinks heating it up on a stove does.) We might be able to fit a small bistro table in the kitchen, but it's definitely not an eat-in kitchen. From the kitchen you get down to the basement with 2 bedrooms, a wet bar area/"pseudo second kitchen", a bathroom, and brand new washer, dryer, furnace, and hot water heater. And new carpet. I'm not sure how I feel about said new white carpet, but at least it's new.

Back of the house
The backyard can also be accessed from the kitchen and it has a more gentle slope than the front yard, which has a hill. It also features a nice shed which we could use for gardening and storing various equipment and bikes. The only problem is that you need to climb three steps to get to the door, which as Eric pointed out might be a problem with a lawnmower. The back of the house has a covered patio, perfect for summer dining and grilling. We could even sit out there in the rain or during a nice summer thunderstorm and enjoy a glass of wine or something. There's two bedrooms and a bathroom on the main level, one of which may end up being our master bedroom for now. As my mother pointed out, we can always rearrange everything once our situation changes (aka once we have kids). The other downstairs room may end up being our living room/entertainment room, because there's really not enough room in the "main room" for a dining and entertaining area.

One of the three bathrooms
The attic is also finished and has one large open room (which could count as a bedroom since it has a closet and windows), another smaller bedroom, and the third bathroom. At first we thought of that as a potential master suite with craft room, and put the guest bedroom downstairs. But we weren't sure if that was the best arrangement for us right now. My mother said to put guests and our computers up there, for now (see earlier point about rearranging). All in all, I'm very excited about it, but it's going to take a bit more thinking and hopefully they accept our offer. If not, it's back to the drawing board, and DH for one will be very sad to see the last of that kitchen.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Blog Makeover

So, my blog is getting a bit of a make-over. Primarily because the old one felt way too dark and depressing. I didn't feel like it was inviting anyone in to read and comment. It also made for some depressing entries, because, let's face it, if the blog is dark and brooding, why shouldn't my posts match?

As you may have noticed, I've fallen a bit behind with my 30 Days of Lists. Never fear, I plan to continue, but definitely at my own pace, since the actual prompt is long since done.

There's been a lot of stuff happening in my life lately and I haven't had the chance to share it with much of anyone. Our house hunt continues, maybe more on that once I am at home and can post a few pictures. My job is going superbly well. DH and I had an altercation last night, but as always were able to patch things up rather quickly [after I retreated to the bathroom and he retreated to a friend's house for some much needed time to reflect on what happened and why, followed by the obligatory "talk" to explain why we thought it had happened and what we could have done differently]. The cat is still superbly silly and has returned to sleeping curled up in bed next to me. He had a good long sulk for kicking him out of the bedroom while my sister was there, and wasn't ready to believe that he could go back into the bedroom once she was gone [my sister is mildly allergic to cats, primarily to cat dander in her bed].

Well, perhaps more later.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Shutdown Avoided

Well, the Democrats and Republicans managed to play chicken with 800,000 people's jobs until an hour and a half before the deadline. They signed a stop-gap measure that would allow the government to remain open until they could vote on the larger bill early next week. At the end of the day, they agreed to cut funding by about $38 billion dollars which is closer to what the Republicans wanted and meant the Democrats had to give a little. And the Republicans agreed to drop the riders that would have eliminated funding to Planned Parenthood and EPA regulations for air and water. Federal funds to PP don't even fund abortions, just the other services they offer that is important for women's health, but I think it was the Republican's poster child for their anti-abortion campaign, because most people know about the organization. But they did get Congress to agree to vote on the PP and health care law repeal separately next week.

I think Obama put it best when he said, to paraphrase, that these issues need to be discussed, but not as part of the budget.

So the two sides compromised. Each side gave a little. But playing chicken until the last minute was so not necessary.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Government Shutdown?

So, for everyone living in and around Washington, DC or who has a loved one working in a government agency, you've probably heard about the potential government shutdown.

Most people ask two questions: why is it happening and how is it going to affect us?

The why is easy: Freshmen Republican/Tea Party Congressmen (read right-wing conservatives) are butting heads with the Democratic house and President over the federal budget. The Rebublican's biggest worry is cutting the budget, abortion and EPA regulations (including emissions standards). The Democrat's biggest worry is cutting the DOD budget instead of social programs, continuing to fund women's health, and keeping environmental regulations that impact respiratory health in place. In other words, they can't agree on where to cut funding. Republicans won't budge on the Planned Parenthood (abortion v. women's health) issue, because all they see is their abortion and family planning services instead of looking at the broader pictures which admittedly includes those services but also includes preventative care for women of other types (cancer screening, gynecological exams, etc.). They also want to decrease the scope of the government, hence their desire to cut social spending and EPA regulations.

Democrats on the other hand don't want to cut social spending and would rather cut most of the deficit from the DoD budget. The Pentagon receives over half of the yearly federal budget (therefore the easiest place to cut funding). Some of that money goes to paying our soldiers, something I'm very much in favor of. Other money goes towards Research and Development and the production of up-to-date weapons systems, again realistically I don't have a problem with this, although I do have problems with war in general so idealistic I guess I oppose this. However, another large portion goes towards making defunct weapons systems that then get sold to our allies (and potential future enemies)... I think that's a problem. Sorry, I'm making this personal. I just meant it to be informative. They also see Planned Parenthood as a way for poor women to get preventative health care. EPA regulations are in place for multiple reasons, the biggest human impact is respiratory illnesses which tend to rise in countries that have a lot of air pollution. There are probably many smaller issues, but these are the big reasons being touted on both sides as to why they cannot come to a consensus.

Personally I think it's all bullshit... the Democrats seem to be budging on the budget cut issues but not on EPA regs and PP, Republicans don't seem to be budging at all. There has to be some compromise in the middle! My biggest pet peeve is that the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority leader still find time to talk to the press. Someone should lock them all in a small room and make them fight it out until they come to an agreement. No food, no water, and certainly no pay.

What this means for the rest of us: Well, the most real aspect is that 800,000 people are going to temporarily lose their jobs. All federally funded agencies and portions of agencies will shut down. Congressmen, the President, and their staff will continue to get paid (big baloney, if you ask me- although to be fair, they may refuse that pay on principle). The animals at the National Zoo will continue to get fed. The Post Office will remain open, although their passport services will be suspended. The IRS will shut down, but taxes are still due by April 18th, deductions will still be made from accounts if you owe the IRS money, and tax refunds will still happen if you file electronically. Some portions of various agencies will remain open if they are funded by something other than federal appropriations (interest income, private money, etc.). Federally funded libraries, museums, and trash collection will shut down. Schools apparently will not. Whether or not those furloughed employees will receive backpay once this is all figured out is still up in the air.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ideals v. Realism

I've always been an idealist. When I was a child, I read about the horrible corruption in the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and I wanted to do something about it. I decided that I was going to become the head of the BIA and erradicate corruption from the system. That dream has mostly fallen by the wayside, primarily because I don't have a drop of Native American blood in me (I'm all German), and I feel strongly that the Tribes need one of their own to represent them on the federal stage. Unfortunately, that idealistic view has not led to any reforms. But the dream did drop off my radar.

A while ago, I was out to lunch and trying to find the Whole Foods near my work and I happened to walk by the BIA headquarters in DC. It brought my dream right back to me. And although I'm extremely happy in my professional life right now, that dream keeps niggling at the back of my mind. But unfortunately, I'm also a realist, thanks to a college education focused on teaching me the difference between laws and practice. Besides the whole not being a Native American thing, my biggest concern is that I wouldn't actually be able to achieve anything even if I were to become the Director at some point. In theory, I could do anything as the Director. However, I think I would have to work my way up to get that far. And one of the many whistleblowers that has worked for the BIA, was fired as soon as he reported what was going on in the Agency financially. So if I had to work my way up, I don't think there's any way that I could watch the corruption going on and not say anything about it. Then I would get fired and never make it to Director.

Dreams suck when you get realistic about them.

List #13: DIY's I Want To Try

List #12: Weekly Rituals

Friday, March 11, 2011

Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan

Usually I don't follow the news. I get my updates at the end of the day when DH comes home from work. And even then I only hear about it, if it's major. So I was really impressed that I knew about the earthquake and tsunami warnings in Japan only minutes after it happened. Why, because I got lucky. Someone had posted on Facebook that they couldn't believe the fire and flooding that they were watching Live. So of course, I had to google "fire and flooding" and I managed to get the first updates about the earthquake in Japan and the tsunami that followed as it was happening.

That being said, my heart goes out to the people of Japan and everyone else caught in the path of the resulting tsunamis. Tsunami warnings are in effect all along the West Coast of North, Central and South America. Waves have hit Hawaii and were only slightly higher than average and the evacuation seems to have been a success. Reports of tsunami waves hitting Alaska's Aleutian Island chains vary from 5 feet to 18 inches. Worst hit was northern Japan, with waves reported at 13 feet.

I've seen so many comments about mother nature being angry or that this signals the end of the world, etc. That the tsunami looked like the one in the movie 2012. I think that's all fear mongering. Granted, natural disasters have recently seemed to gain in intensity. But for every earthquake, tsunami, volcano, bad hurricane, etc. I can point to a like natural disaster at some point in history. And the earth hasn't ended yet.

And while I'm an environmentalist with a very real appreciation for how much human activity can screw with the workings of nature, I just don't think that an earthquake occuring deep in the ocean was related to anything we are doing. So, it's not the action of some sentient nature spirit, or a higher power, or the end of the earth punishing us for our collective sins. It's a natural occurance which triggered another natural occurance. I'm pretty sure if mother nature were actually sentient, we'd see much more targeted disasters (forest fires to discourage loggers, tsunamis to discourage overfishing, earthquakes to protest urban sprawl, droughts to protest overuse of water, flooding of strip mines, etc.).

List #11: Date Night Ideas

Date Night Ideas
1) Candlelit dinner under the stars (doesn't necessarily need to be on the beach)
2) Picnic by a lake (a lot of my date night ideas revolve around food)
3) Slow night in, home cooked meal, Netflix movie
4) Playing World of Warcraft together (I once staged a scavenger hunt while we were doing the long distance thing, and at the end he found my character with a virtual picnic basket)
5) Dinner at Meskerem (our favorite Ethiopian restaurant), followed by a play or concert (if I could ever manage to drag him to one, I know he'd enjoy it, he did last time)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

List #10: Wishlist

1) A Savannah Cat (but DH needs a dog first)
2) A house with a yard
3) A cute new pair of shoes (it's been a while)
4) A raise/new job for DH
5) Another bookshelf

List #9: Favorite Websites/Blogs

Favorite Websites/Blogs
1) Gmail
2) Facebook
3) Blogger
4) Etsy
5) Havertys- room designer

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

List #8: What is in Your Bag?

What is in Your Bag*?
1) Cell Phone- the boring flip variety with only a camera and no apps
2) Large black leather wallet (think check sized)
3) The Exile of Sara Stevenson by Darci Hannah
4) Several pens and pencils
5) Several unused Kleenex- a holdover from my long recuperation
6) Chap Stick
7) Red Umbrella
8) Black Day Runner Organizer
9) House/Car Keys
10) Fob and Picture ID for work

*The purse in the picture has no relation to my actual purse, except in the sense that my actual purse is black leather with silver metal studs. And there the similarity ends.

Monday, March 7, 2011

List #7: Blog Goals

Blog Goals
1) Add more pictures to my blog for visual interest (by the way, I have no clue what that picture has to do with blog goals, but it does add visual interest, because I LOVE that dress)
2) Post more often (I seem to go on hiatus for weeks, sometimes months at a time)
3) Finish out year 2 of my blog
4) Look more into getting my blog printed in book form (I'm thinking of doing one year per book)
5) Start my hubby and my cooking blog in earnest (right now it has the welcome post and that's it)