Space (the Elbow Room Kind)

I was talking with a friend of mine recently. He’s as much of an italophile as I am a francophile; he hopes to retire to Italy one day. (I think he has a better chance of doing it than I do of retiring to France, but we shall see.) To make ourselves feel better, we made a list of things we actually prefer about the United States, since we can both go on all day long about what we prefer about Europe in general and our favorite countries in particular.

The biggest thing, no pun intended, was space. He and his partner have a big house and I have a pretty darn big condo and while homes of these sizes do, indeed, exist in Europe, they’d be way, way, way, way out of our price range, or possibly very far into the countryside (or both).

Tonight I was watching Rachel Khoo’s Little Paris Kitchen show (I bought the cookbook on my Powell’s jaunt last June). I am amazed by what people in tiny kitchens can do —  I saw it in action in 2012 at my friend S’ place in Paris as well. I was just looking at her web site, and she says her entire apartment is 21 square meters. That’s 226 square feet. My condo is 1752 square feet, or almost 163 square meters.

So, yeah. Space.

Having said that, I have always had a secret dream of paring everything down and living in a totally efficient and cozy tiny place. My problem would be my books, although again my friend S squeezes tons of books into every corner of her Parisian apartment, so maybe I’d just have to be creative!

Besides the fact that it’s, well, in Paris, I’m also envying her kitchen tile, seen in the photo here. I am considering whether I could do something like that under my cabinets. Another thing to add to my maybe-to-do list!

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Thursday on the Hillside

On my lazy Thursday off, for the first time in the year I’ve lived here (!), I took a book and walked up the hill to the little park we have in the development. Clicking to embiggen is recommended.

Puffy purple flowers on my walk uphill.

Puffy purple flowers on my walk uphill.

Blossoms and blackberries.

Blossoms and blackberries.

Close up.

Close up.

The park, to the left of my perch.

The park, to the left of my perch.

And to the right.

And to the right.

Later I moved to the other side of the green, with the earlier houses to my back, and looked up the side of the quarry.

Later I moved to the other side of the green, with the earlier houses to my back, and looked up the side of the quarry.

Walking down the stairway from the upper part of my street to the lower, where I live. In real life there was more constrast in the blue of the sky and the grey of the clouds.

Walking down the stairway from the upper part of my street to the lower, where I live. In real life there was more contrast in the blue of the sky and the grey of the clouds.

It ain’t Paris, but it’s home and I like it.

Change

I really prefer most change to come all at once, all of a piece. If I walk out of a room that is white, for instance, and when I walk back in later it’s yellow, then I notice and appreciate the change, and something shifts. If, as is the current case with my kitchen, the room is being painted in slow and piecemeal fashion, the change is too gradual to prompt that shift of feeling. Each yellow bit gets slowly incorporated into The House as I Know It, and when the last stroke is painted the kitchen will only be a little yellower than the day before.

It’s akin to how you can chop off your hair and go from Lady Godiva to pixie overnight — but not the reverse.

(She says, scrutinizing her mid-length curls.)

On the other hand, something like exercise should probably be snuck in stealthily, added in droplets, to one’s routine so one doesn’t notice enough to flee the scene prematurely.

And this is the sort of thing I think about when I should be doing something else.

Done. Not shown: anteroom to the left, also done.

Done. Not shown: anteroom to the left, also done.

 

Not done.

Not done.

 

Maybe never done.

Maybe never done.

 

 

Time, Money, Home, Sleep

Note: Clearly, a bunch of things far more important than my self-indulgent nattering have gone on this week. Having said that, I don’t think there’s anything useful I can add except for relief that it’s over (see last paragraph of entry). I’ve felt like hiding under a blanket for a few days now, but on the other hand, I have not been personally affected by events and I don’t want to steal other people’s legitimate suffering in a drama-queen sort of way. And with that:

Time: Ever since I moved, the evenings have felt so truncated. I do usually get home about a half hour later than I once did, but it seems that I just have time to eat, clean up, and relax a little before I have to go to bed. It doesn’t help that I’ve been going to bed really early (for me) — between 9:30 and 10:30. What on earth is making time speed up like that? Time off always goes faster but this is ridiculous.

Money: I just paid my taxes, and I had an $1,800 vet adventure with Alexander a couple of weeks ago. SO NOT AMUSED. He’s fine, and the friend whose cat the vets think may have made him sick helped out, but sheesh. That’s certainly money I could have used for something else. It led to another bout of Why Did I Buy A House When I Could Have Gone to Europe Every Year Instead? I keep reminding myself that the money I put into the house is not like putting money into a car or various junk, but more like putting it into an investment account. Still, I’ve spent money round here that I really didn’t have to, I guess, but I wanted to — replacing the front door with a steel, you-will-not-be-kicking-me-in model; having a nicer faucet in the kitchen than the wobbly one that was here; buying a really nice dining table and a lovely two-chair bistro set for the little balcony; having my handyman finally hang my sari tapestry properly instead of me hanging it up again via thumbtack; replacing the doorbell that was too corroded to really hear; buying a standalone freezer. It’s not like I recarpeted the whole place (I wish) or gutted it to the studs or anything, but the upshot is that my travel account is a but a wisp and it made me sad. In a First World Problem sort of way. Cue the tiny violins!

Home: I was reading something about the genesis of this development and they called them “luxury condos and townhouses.” Granted, when they were new, just prior to the crash, they went for about twice what I paid for mine. And also granted, I am not an expert on what luxury is. I only saw five properties before I bought this one, and one of the others was in this development as well. Comparing those five, then yes, it’s kinda luxurious. I suppose my big garden bathtub should have told me that. But as I was discussing with the aforementioned handyman, some things were done here really nicely (there’s good tile in the bathrooms and kitchen and hardwood in the dining room; I am all ready for central A/C if I wanted to hook it up; I have granite countertops and good appliances [although the fridge is a bit of a lemon and will be replaced next year]; the windows are double-paned and they almost soundproof the place; speaking of soundproof, you never ever ever hear the neighbors) and then there are things like the kinda crappy cabinets, the not-so-fabulous-in-either-quality-or-color carpet, and the lightweight front door.

And yet, at the same time that I’m kind of ruing buying a place, I’m thinking about how I want to put wood floors in the living room, entry way, and kitchen (I don’t like tile in the kitchen; especially not the same rosy-beige tile as is in the bathrooms); recarpet the stairs to and the floor of my bedroom (oh that will be fun); buy blackout shades for the tv room and my bedroom; get Levelors for the office/guest room; and on and on. I know I won’t do it all at once, but I also think about how I didn’t buy a place at 25 or 30 or 35, but at 45, so I don’t have 30 years to do whatever… well, I might, but considering neither of my parents lived to be 75 and that I’d like to do these things while I’m still young enough to have a few years to enjoy them….

Sleep: I’ve been so exhausted lately — going to bed early, barely able to stay awake at work, miserable. And then I hit on a twofold, and utterly blindingly obvious, idea. Oh heavens, the facepalmingly obvious is apparently news to me. 1.) Take the 7:07 bus to work instead of the 6:37. I still get there in time, although I don’t get a kick-back thirty minutes before I start. But I get to sleep for those thirty minutes instead! A half hour in the morning is precious. 2.) Yes, I need to have plenty of warning and time to hit the snooze; I get too panicky and disoriented if you try to get me out of bed on the first go. But instead of having the first alarm go off at 4:20 AM (only ten minutes shy of two hours before I had to get up) and then having two alternating backup alarms on my phone going off in the five o’clock hour (which was kind of like being locked in a fun house, actually) I’ve changed to having one go off at five (an hour and a half ahead, give or take) and then the backup non-radio alarm going off after six. I may tweak it further, but considering I have to get up between 4 and 5 to feed the cats, I still won’t get entirely unbroken sleep. But it’s done wonders — I have gotten so much more real sleep, and yet I still have enough of a warning that I can get up without flailing.

And now, it’s a lazy Friday night after a hellish week for the United States. So glad this week is over!

Routine Malfunction

I have not yet gotten into a good morning routine at the new house. I had actually just barely gotten into one at the last place. The place before that, I had fourteen years of practice, and I had it down to a science. But then, you could stand just outside my bedroom and see every other point in the apartment, so making a bedroom-bathroom-kitchen-bedroom-GO! loop was very simple.

Since I’ve moved I’ve forgotten various things in the morning. Thursday it was my phone, which means I couldn’t turn off the alarm to let the handyman in and I was cut off from contact except via email. How 1996!

Granted, I’m a confused zombie when I get up and routine can’t mitigate against all morning disasters, but I’ve really got to figure out a way to spend the least amount of time with the greatest likelihood of remembering things. (So far my new-house record is waking up at 6:18 to catch the 6:37 bus.)

In quasi-related news, I bought a blow dryer and diffuser the other day. I’m probably a little old to be wandering into work with wet hair. Though that’s going to add time. :-/

Daily life chez moi. The excitement never stop!

And I Thought It Was Going So Well

In the continuing saga of my first-world problems, today:

  • my handyman came to fix the running toilet in the bathroom off the kitchen and
  • Michaels called — my framed prints were ready. Hello, end of bare white kitchen wall!

Except the toilet is still doing its gurling-then-whooshing stuff, now with added water on the floor, and  I do not know what the hell was going on with Michaels’ framing staff, but every one of the metal frames has non-flush edges at the corners. One of them sliced my index finger.

I texted my handyman, who is beyond awesome and I know will get this sorted (even if I need to buy a new commode — I like the new one in the master bath, with the two-setting push button on the top). He also runs a karate studio and I think he probably was teaching tonight because he didn’t respond, but I expect one before I’m entirely awake tomorrow.

And then I have to call Michaels in the morning and tell them their framing tried to attack me and they need to fix it.

I am not the sort who likes to ask for things like this — I’m like my dad in that respect. He’d grumble about food in a restaurant but never, ever send it back. My mom, on the other hand, was a past master at it. Would that I’d gotten that gene.

So this seems like a two-steps-forward-one-back sort of day. Seriously, though — I have two other bathrooms, so while this is a pain in the ass it’s hardly the end of the world. (First world. I am a single woman with three bathrooms.) And I got these five prints for ten euros (steal!) and they will eventually be non-lethal and on my wall. “Patience is a virtue,” said Dad ad nauseam. In this I am not like him!

Somehow, with all this to-ing and fro-ing, it’s gone ten-thirty. Since I need to be at the bus stop in the dark tomorrow morning, I’d better call it a night. There was more I was mulling over — not about my bathroom or my walls — but I’m losing coherence! Mañana.

 

Movies

I’ll admit upfront that I am generally not a movie person — certainly not a theatre-going movie person. It’s so outrageously expensive to see a movie in the theatre, and then… I have always gotta pee before it’s over, so I’m sitting through the last however much debating whether to miss a good part or just suffer. It detracts from the experience rather.

Even at home, though, I haven’t taken all that much advantage of Netflix. But because this new place is big for one person, and so quiet, I’ve taken to cuddling with the cats in the TV room (ie, the bedroom that is just off the kitchen) and turning the TV on.

Today I actually watched two movies plus the end of a third I’d started the other day. They were all in French — so I can practice comprehension and be engrossed in the physical details when I’m bored with a story or it’s too tense — and all rather different.

I finished up Hadewijc; I found it by turns frustrating, intense, interesting, and perplexing. It was another one of those “people not responding to conversational cues or in other circumstances where I think normal people would say something” films. If I’d been having conversations with the main character, I’m sure I’d have been snapping “What?!” or, er, “Quoi?!” at her a lot. Just say something, woman!

Her piety was both enviable (to feel that God is so very real, and to be truly in love with Him) and seriously unbalanced. As a devout Catholic, I think Mass and confession (especially, for her, confession!) should have been part of her life, but were never seen, and I should have thought she would have worn more traditionally modest clothing, especially when she became close to the Muslim brothers. Also, I’m not quite sure what happened in the end — did she get caught, or no?

Before finishing that one up, I watched Mademoiselle Chambon. There was even less talking in this film, if possible — but much more believable tension. It captured very well the fact that with almost no words, you can still be drawn to someone with a force that slams you together before you realize what’s going on. It was also intense in the sense that there were no good, painless choices for the characters. Bittersweet.

Over dinner I saw When the Sea Rises. Hmm. I remembered Yolande Moreau from Séraphine, and that disconcerted me a bit. Her stage act (which apparently she really performed at the beginning of her career) was creepy and stiff to me, but perhaps that’s a cultural thing. And her leading man did not grab me at all at first. Eventually, though, I was on his side. And again, bittersweet.

Yesterday I saw Special Treatment, which I really enjoyed — it was interesting to see a no-nonsense businesswoman whose business was sex; the sets were awesome; the story quite good. I was struck again, refreshingly, by the realization that sometimes, being extremely thin — while one has a lovely shape — can make one’s face look drawn, haggard, and older. (The one thing I like about being Not Thin is that I look at least ten years younger than I am, long may it continue.) Yet, of course, having that French insouciance and wardrobe offsets a good portion of the haggard. It, thankfully, did not have a bittersweet ending!

Actually, there was one bittersweet thing about the film — bittersweet for me, not for the characters. I was wistfully jealous of the close friendship, camaraderie, and fellowship between Alice and her best friend, also a prostitute. I have never had a friend like that and I don’t expect I will.

Meanwhile, in real life, I sent a couple of packages to friends in France, recycled some boxes and paper at the old place (dumpsters!), and took delivery of the chair-and-a-half that turns into a twin bed and lives in the guest room/office. Now I just need to sort the rest of that room out! Also, the wifi doesn’t really reach there, so I need to have a word with AT&T. I just hope it isn’t going to be an expensive proposition!

Well, That Was a Long Break

I haven’t written since November!

Of course, I bought a house and moved, so I suppose it’s not shocking. Even with having the movers pack things, moving was still a major pain. They packed up on December 28 (including the clothes I was going to wear the next day, my clock radio, and all my chargers… there was some flailing and unpacking on my part) and then schlepped over the whole load on December 29.

Even with Mayflower packing, and even though I moved further and into a house with 3.5 stories, it only cost about $250 more than having Starving Students simply move my self-packed boxes 1 mile in 2011. Kudos to them! Even with packing my clock radio.

On New Year’s Eve I got a 24-hour stomach flu that sent me home from work early (I would rather do anything than throw up, but it was beyond my control and I just prayed I’d make it back home before it happened again). I went to bed at 2:15 and got up around 10 the next morning. I felt hungover, but so much better. Not really a fab way to start the New Year, but alas.

My sister and I went out that day and took advantage of the last day of a sale to buy my dining room table, which should be here in a few weeks. I am dismayed at the amount of money I’ve poured forth in the house experience, beyond the down payment. I really need to build my savings back up! That regime starts with the first payday in March. Right now I still have the pay the rest of the guest room chair-and-a-half that becomes a twin bed, and the new cooktop (it’s got a chunk missing from next to the right front burner).

Oh, and I need a pot stand. Yeah, I know. But I have several large pieces of enamelled cast iron that are taking up a huge amount of cupboard space, because I don’t have a place for the baker’s rack they used to sit on. Also, they’re pretty, and there’s a perfect corner in the dining room for a stand. But those things aren’t cheap.

On the other hand, I don’t intend to ever buy another dining room table, cooktop, or, indeed, pot stand.

Yesterday a friend came for tea and snacks, which was lovely — the more people who come hang out here, the homier it feels to me. It’s so quiet in this neighborhood, apart from the white noise of the nearby freeway (we have double-paned windows so it’s just a whirring hum), and this place is much bigger than anywhere else I’ve lived, that it really took a little getting-used to. As much as I love quiet, that combined with the for-us-very-cold weather made things seem rather less than cozy.

But now it’s warming up a bit, I’ve watched a movie every night for the last few nights, I’ve cooked (made leek and potato soup for Saturday dinner, and cookies for yesterday), and my furnace is working! So things seem more normal.

Now to tackle my to-do list (need to get a bunch of stuff from the dining room staging area to the way-downstairs room, which is going to be the longer-term staging area, plus put some more things on the walls, and rearrange where closet items go) and also go run errands. Thank God for having MLK day off!

I know I won’t be able to travel in 2013, due to using up vacation days and not wanting to wipe out what’s left of the travel account, which is a bit of a bummer and I might cheat a bit and go to Portland for my birthday. I just ordered hard copies of my 2012 travel pictures so I can put them in an album and share with my aunt, and I’m all wistful for going away. 2014!

The Brain That Ate My House…Er, No, Wait.

This month has been a crazy whirlwind for me. I can’t believe in the space of a week I went from “oh, meeting with the realtor on Sunday” to “I just had an offer accepted.”

Everything thus far has gone fine — which means I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, of course. 🙂 But I got a great interest rate, the inspections went fine (just little things; the inspector even said to my realtor, “This is a really nice property!”), the loan got its final approval, all is well. I just got the settlement statement in my email this morning (thank you, Saturday-working mortgage bankers!), and it should close by November 30.

…thus cuing a whirlwind of painters, cleaners, and carpet steamers (all set up), and then moving on December 29.

I have this weird thing about wanting everything to be DONE by the time I unpack my stuff there, even though I know it’s not a reasonable goal, especially since I’m just one person. My sisters will help, and I’m not doing my own packing, but it’s a little easier when there’s a co-inhabitant who is just as invested as you are in restoring order, and who also is there all the time. It’d be nice to wake up on December 30 to someone to putter around with me, getting stuff sorted. But on the other hand, there is great joy in doing things as I want them to do be done. It’s selfish, I know — “I can have everything the way I want! I don’t have to take anyone else into consideration!” — but since that’s how things are, I might as well enjoy it, no? I’m the only one paying the mortgage.

…which is considerably less than my rent, and only  a little more than my previous rent-controlled, lived-in-since-1998 place. Adding in the monthly payments for property tax and homeowner’s insurance makes it a bit more than my current rent, but I don’t figure in my renter’s insurance to my rent. If I were to, then I’m only paying $100 more a month in order to have three bedrooms, three baths, a big new kitchen, a dining room, a two-car garage and a pantry.

A real pantry! My ex-husband used to laugh (not evilly) at me because I commandeered the linen closet in the old place as a pantry. Now I have a real one, and it will be this color. Or possibly this one. Since it gets no natural light I don’t want to go too dark, but I want it to be green green green. (The rest of the house is more neutral, except for the two berry walls, which I like and am leaving.)

However, it is probably all moot because I will never get out of this:

This was the clincher on this house.

Well, I Seem to Have Bought a House

It’s a townhouse, in the same development as the 2-bedroom I liked. It’s 3 bedrooms; 2.5 bath (the tub in my bathroom is sunken!); same huge 2-car garage; laundry room, not just laundry closet; dining room (no dining table in the living room!); gas stove; pantry about twice the size of the first one I saw; small patio/balcony thingie. The living room and the sunken tub have Bay views. My bedroom would look up at the hills on one side (and across the street on the other side, but that’s okay). It’s huge — basically it’s three stories although technically it’s apparently 2.5. And while I am paying quite a bit more than the 2-bedroom, this place is palatial in comparison. It didn’t go to the top of my budget at all, though, so that’s good.

We went to see it last night and then I went back to my realtor’s office with her and we put the offer in. She had to do it over a web site she had not used before, so it was a bit of an adventure. They were accepting offers until 1:15 PM today. Around 2:30 I checked the web site and it said the house was in contract. I was bummed and sent my realtor an email saying that it sounded like I hadn’t gotten it.

She called awhile later and said, “Well, I think you’re seeing that because you got it!” I said, “What? Are you kidding me? I did? Really?” and then I started to cry.

It’s bank-owned, so I will have to do my own spackling/painting/cleaning the range/having the carpets cleaned sort of thing, but if it hadn’t been and I didn’t have to, it would have been out of my price range. So there’s that.

Also, the dining room and living room each have one berry-colored wall. So even though I will be leaving my purple living room wall here, I will be moving to a place with berry walls!

(The brown ones in the bedrooms have GOT to go, though.)

So, wow. Of course I worry about the mortgage not going through, but really it should be okay. Maybe I won’t get the best interest rate ever, but I’m putting 40% down on this place and I have a steady job. It should be fine.

YIKES!