Monthly Archives: January 2011

New House!

Great news! After a week of nail-biting, our application was approved, and we have a move-in date of Feb 17!

It’s a two-bedroom house, with about twice as much space as we have now. The kitchen is HUGE, with space for a window seat as well as a little table. Unlike some of the other places we looked at, it has all the modern amenities, including a dishwasher and electric heat. The location is fantastic — even easier to get to than where we are now, if you can believe that. It does put us in PG county, but we’ll be right up the street from the synagogue and around the corner from major shopping areas. We’ll even be close enough that we don’t have to switch our local Chinese restaurant! This is all VERY exciting for us. This week has been full of waiting, and to finally feel like there is progress… well, I can’t even tell you how happy we are.

Of course, all this means that we’re about to dive head first into packing and moving. The 17th is less than a month away, after all! Obviously, we won’t be moving all at once, but we’re hoping to do the major part of our moving on the 20th or 21st. The beginning of March goes crazy for us, but then maybe by April, we can start having people over for dinner and restarting the pot-lucks. We’ve really missed doing those, but it just wasn’t as feasible in this apartment. The new place will have enough space that we can start having real parties again.

Thank you all for bearing with us while we’ve been going slightly crazy with all this. Just a little longer and we’ll be all settled in and hopefully calming down a little!

Snowy Days and Broken Trees

I’ve been pretty remiss in my updating. “But your last post was five days ago, and for you, that’s really good,” I hear you cry. Well, I appreciate the encouragement, but see, the post from five days ago was random nonsense, which means it’s been ten days since the last post of any meaning. And furthermore, I must add, the past ten days have been, well, full. Full of stress, full of possibility, full of advancement, full of waiting. And I have been remiss, dear readers, in filling you in as I promised I would.

So to recap, when last we left our heroes, they were in the midst of finding a house. One had been located, and the garrulous realtor was, while not extremely helpful, not completely harmful. Yet. But oh how that was to change.

The story is long and potentially tedious. Instead of rehashing it here in full and glorious detail, I am instead going to copy from a conversation I had with a college friend several days ago. If it seems a little disjointed, that would be because Misa’s comments have been removed and I did a very half-assed job of editing. So without further denigration, I present you with the log:

Rosa, this realtor we never hired but somehow ended up with, was now representing us to the house we wanted. What seemed at first like an innocuous tendency to babble and often need things repeated, turned into an inability to remember much about us. We had a bunch of questions for the owners, like “how much of a security deposit do you want?” and “what is the application form?” and “what is the pet deposit policy?” Rosa answered “from her previous experience”, which once we finally got answers turned out to be mostly wrong. She emailed the other realtor, who has a preference for communicating by email. Rosa, by the way, does not like email and insists on talking for 20 minutes about something that can be covered in a text. So when she couldn’t get answers from calling, she called me and would tell me how it’s not her fault because she couldn’t get a hold of the other lady, who was, depending on your interpretation of Rosa’s thick Spanish accent, either “very busy” or “very bitchy”. And then I would get a reiteration of Rosa’s theories as to what the answers ought to be.

We finally emailed out the list of questions to Rosa, since she was incapable of getting them over the phone. She forwarded the email to Wanda, the other realtor, and then forwarded Wanda’s response to us. We had answers to most of our questions, but were missing major things like, oh, say, an application form. Rosa’s response was to “fax” us one she had in her office labeled “For Montgomery County, Maryland and Washington, DC”. The house we want is in PG County. Rosa insisted that the form said it was for Montgomery County (which is in MD), the entire state of Maryland, and Washington DC. She said all she had was that and a form for Anne Arundel County. But this one would be good. Also, it didn’t really matter which form you use because they’re all the same anyways and really all they want is your work phone number so they can verify income. Which, let me tell you, is very reassuring since we’d already told her we both freelance and therefore have nontraditional jobs, i.e. no work phone number. Her form also asked for things like bank account numbers and passport number in addition to driver’s license and social security number. When I asked about the passport number, she had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. She tried to not admit it but it was pretty clear she had no idea what was on the form.

Finally, she got the correct application from Wanda. She told me it was all Wanda’s fault because even though Wanda said the form was attached to the listing, it hadn’t been attached properly because of fear of viruses and so there was no form. Or something. At any rate, I was “fax”-emailed the correct form. (There’s this service that emails you a fax, with cover sheet and everything. I think you fax it to their number and then they email it to the address you specified.) I started to try filling it out. I had many questions.

So here’s the thing about all these forms: she sends them to me blank. Totally blank. So stuff like address of rental property, name of owners/agents, security deposit, terms of lease, all this stuff that’s supposed to be talked over with the people we’re applying to rent from, it’s all missing. And then there’s this big ol’ page at the back for a Pet Addendum, with big blanks for “Pet Deposit” and “additional Pet Rent”! Now, we pay pet rent for Lilit. That’s normal. But I’d sort of like to know what the pet rent will be before I go signing! The last place, we paid $15. Here, we pay $20. (She doesn’t work her little fuzzy butt one bit to pay for her share of the rent either, I’ll have you know.) But if they come back and say they’d like $100 a month additional, this place is no longer in our price range. Which is sort of important information to have before we drop a non-refundable $80 on a credit check.

On top of all this, Lilit had dental surgery Monday, so she’s on pain meds and sounds like a cross between a parrot and a frog. It’s pathetic. Fortunately, her medicine is liquid and she LOVES that she’s on a special diet of pureed boiled chicken and lunch meat.

Ah yes, Lilit’s surgery. We just went back to the vet and she got a clean bill of health, so everything’s fine and she’s a total trooper. But I’ll save that for a post all its own. Back to housing.

With some wonderful advice from the mother of a friend, we fired Rosa the Realtor. From there, we proceeded directly with Wanda, finally getting the answers we needed. The application was turned in last Thursday. Friday morning, they called to confirm that they had received it and would probably finish processing on Friday or Monday. So we waited. It was a very long weekend.

Tuesday, Ben called again to get a time estimate. The woman he spoke with sounded very positive, but couldn’t give us anything specific. She told us we should know by the end of the week. So again, we wait. At this point, I am so tired of waiting. SO TIRED. I’m also a little tired of sitting at the computer right now, so I’m going to get into snow gear and go take some photos outside. I promise I’ll finish the rest of the story this evening.

Your Word for the Day

Charismatic Megafauna.

Enjoy.

Seriously? Stop that.

I was browsing Craigslist this morning just to make sure there weren’t any new housing listings that popped up and looked interesting. As always, I peek into the free section to see if there’s anything that catches my eye. I find this:

UNIVERSE, STOP THAT. THAT’S NOT COOL.

House Hunting

What a day! Ben and I met with a realtor (Rosa) today and looked at five houses! There originally were 7 on the list, but one was only available as Rent to Own and the other had already been taken. So off we went on a tour of Laurel.

The first place is in the same neighborhood as our friends Nicole and Brent. It was nothing like their place. The carpet had been redone… poorly. We’re talking multiple seams in the middle of the room. Half the light switches didn’t work. The cable was run up the stairwell on the stairs. There was a razor blade on the window sill in the second bedroom. And the basement, when we finally found a working light, looks like a ski lodge. We moved on.

The second place was sort of a surprise. It’s less than five minutes from where we live now, but it’s just the cutest little farm house, off a long gravel driveway. It has a huge yard and a screened-in porch. It screams to be an awesome artist hide-away, and the yard would be perfect for some of the most amazing parties you’ve ever seen. This is a house meant for socializing. Unfortunately, we’d have to party on paper plates because there’s no dishwasher. The heat is based on oil, and the unfinished basement would suck all the heat out of the top level, driving up the utility costs beyond what we could afford. The final decision that this really isn’t the right place for us was actually rather heart-breaking.

With heavy hearts and questions like “how would you have a dishwasher installed in a kitchen that was never built for one?”, we headed on to House #3. It’s big – about 1275 sq ft. The kitchen is spacious, with room for us to add both seating and additional shelving. It’s got a great open floor plan, with a fireplace in the middle of the living room/dining room area. The stairwell has mirrors at the bottom and a great curve to it. Upstairs, we were marveling at how  big the bedroom was and that the closet was about the size of our current bathroom when Rosa (the Realtor) came in to tell us we were looking at the small bedroom. Okay, so the front door is backwards and the door to the back yard nearly hits the washing machine, but it’s got wide window sills, mail at the front door, and a cat door already built in to the interior basement door.

Excited, we headed to its sister property in the same development. Same layout, it was supposed to have a couple differences. The landlord had already said that if we had pets, we’d need a pet deposit (which we expected). But she also said she couldn’t possibly wait until March 1st for us; we’d have to move Feb 15th. We’re talking a place to live for the next 3-5 years and you can’t give us two weeks? Okay…
So we get inside the house. Same kitchen, only not swept. Pocket door near the fireplace. Fireplace is glassed in instead, so less heat radiates out. This one has a deck, which is awesome, but we’re warned “the patio is a little messy right now”. Translation: there is a three-foot high briar patch underneath the deck. Theoretically, there is a patio underneath. We head upstairs. No mirrors on the stairwell. And that fabulous closet in the master bedroom? There’s a fireplace right in the middle of it. You now have 2/3 less closet for a fireplace you can use twice a year. There’s a note on the thermostat saying not to turn it up past 55. The place is a wreck: dirt everywhere, a child’s sock on the stairs. There’s no furniture, but nobody bothered to sweep or vacuum even on their way out. We have to jump through your hoops, and all you can do for us is spray a little air freshener in the doorway? Even if the house were perfect, this is not a landlord we want to deal with.

Final stop is a bit down the road. It’s a little pricier than everything else and further south. Sort of a longshot anyways. We get there and it turns out to be a very lovely 2-bedroom one-floor condo that smells like cigarette smoke. It’s an apartment without the apartment management. Cute, but TINY.

Well, you can pretty much see where this is going. We were wrestling with the decision between the farmhouse and the third house. Despite how much the second house tugs at the heartstrings, we’re just not the sort of people who will be happy washing our dishes by hand and paying a fortune for oil every winter. So we’re moving ahead with the one with all the mirrors. Fingers crossed no one snatches it out from under us!!!

Caffeine

For some reason, lately I’ve been playing a little game called “How long can Megan go without her morning coffee?”

Answer: Until about 2:30 pm, and then could you just make a damn pot of coffee and make this headache go away? The coffee isn’t that expensive, even that fancy shit you insist on getting, you snob you, so just boil some water and grind those beans and get me some caffeine before I rebel and squeeze my grey blobby self out your left ear because it is POUNDINGLY LOUD IN HERE.

Ahem.

Our lease is up in mid-March, and if you’ll recall from our move-in plagues (and please do take a moment to refresh yourself on Hiney’s Law, if you have forgotten. I’ll wait.), we have an excess of furniture in our humble 710-sq-ft abode. So the goal is to move around the beginning of March into someplace larger. Someplace where we can stop moving every single year. Someplace where we can hear the little GALUMPH-GALUMPH of tiny kitten paws as Lilit romps up and down the stairs. She misses her stairs. It’s freakishly adorable.

We’re pretty experienced at moving now, so I’m trying to plan it right this time. We’re moving in March, so we hope not to have U-Haul call us to cancel the truck because of three feet of snow. And I’m starting to think about packing already, so we’re not stuck with a bunch of stuff not packed on the day with the truck. Most importantly, we’re starting to look at places to move TO. That’s the tricky part. See, I think where you live is a big decision. The housing industry seems to feel that this is a decision that should be made in no more than two weeks. Prep time? No. You don’t get prep time. I started emailing and calling this week; a realtor called me back today, and when I told her our lease is up in March, you’d think I’d told her two years from now. “Oh no no no, nobody wants to wait that long for someone to move in. Thirty days, ok. But that’s too long!!” Honey, I don’t want to be the one to burst your bubble, but we’re in mid-January. We’re talking like 45-ish days. This is not that much more time. And I’d sort of like to know where we’re going before we start packing.

I shouldn’t bash. She’s been very helpful. I do wish I could be taking care of this on my own, but it seems like houses for rent are only available through realtors. Which kind of sucks, but like I said, she’s been very helpful. We’ve got appointments to go look at 5 houses on Sunday. Whee!

Simple Bean Soup Recipe

A while ago, my cousins and I decided to all start blogging and sharing recipes. Meg shared this fantastic recipe for Bean Soup that we come back to all the time. It’s a great, no-hassle recipe that I point to whenever people say “cooking is hard and I have no time”. I ask them, do you have a can opener and a pot? Great, you can totally do this and it tastes amazing. Ben and I usually skip the “soup” aspect and just pour it over rice, but you could also serve with cornbread on the side. We’re in the process of finding our favorite cornbread recipes (more on that at a later date), so no recipe help there from us yet.

Meg’s blog got eaten somehow, so I haven’t had an easy way to point to the recipe when people ask. But Google Reader had it archived for me, so here it is: below is Meg’s post copied in its entirety.

Simple Three Bean Soup

from Sweet NutMeg by Meg

Today is a rarity in the Arizona desert. It has rained nonstop all day.

Tempe enjoys an average of 330 days of sun per year and receives an annual rainfall of only 9.36 inches total. So when this type of weather creeps in, I reach for a blanket and a book. I don’t want to spend a great deal of time focused on the act of cooking as that would impose upon my time sitting around. Tonight, I decided to go with a simple, healthy, yet extremely tasty three bean soup. I always have cans of beans hanging around the pantry. You’d think I was stocking up for the third world war or something… Three cans of beans, a can of diced tomatoes, a can of corn and some simple spices. You can let it simmer all day or have it ready in a half an hour.

The choice in spices can turn this from a hearty cold night’s dinner to a lite summer’s lunch.

  • 1 can Black Beans, drained
  • 1 can Kidney Beans, drained
  • 1 can Pinto Beans, drained
  • 1 can Diced Tomatoes, with juices
  • 1 can Corn, drained
  • 1 Tbsp Dehydrated Onion
  • 1 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Use 1 cup salty tortilla chips slightly crushed, shredded cheddar cheese or sour cream for topping

Add the three cans of drained beans, the can of tomatoes with juices and spices to a large pot over medium-high heat. Add water or chicken stock until your preferred consistency is reached. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for at least thirty minutes. Serve with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese or a dollop of sour cream. Serve hot with crusty bread.

In the summer, serve with tortilla chips and lime wedges!

I Made A Thing!

I am now a registered store with Etsy! Available for sale are two items: the lovely candlestick pair you see to your left, and a three-armed candelabrum.

If you question my use of the word “candelabrum”, please consult The Wikipedia.

That is all.

“The Deal” in HD

I’ve been working for several months on getting a writing e-store up and running, so I can sell play scripts directly to schools and theaters.  The site now exists, and it is lovely!  Now it’s just a matter of getting people to visit it.

Here’s a dramatic reading of my one-act play “The Deal,” as conducted by two extremely talented CG animals of some variety.  The play takes another look at a certain (in)famous real estate deal.

Tip of the hat to Xtranormal for making the cool video possible  🙂

A New Year, A New Post

Hey, look! It’s January! That must mean we actually survived the holiday season.

Okay, it wasn’t as dire as all that. But Ben and I realized that we’d been celebrating six straight weeks of holidays. Thanksgiving followed by Chanukah, followed by Early Christmas in Asheville, then Christmas back here with his family and then mine, then New Years. It was a whirlwind of activity, and I certainly felt like my life went on hold until it was done. Don’t get me wrong, it was great to see everyone. But now we can settle back into the day to day.

Right now, that mostly consists of website work for both of us. Ben’s been pushing hard on the writing website (Sneak peek!), and I’m working on yet another redesign of the Pique site. I wasn’t completely happy with where it stood before, so before I got too much farther with it, I gave it a complete overhaul. I’m almost done, too. I still need to fix the gallery layout (it crops the larger views of images, which is not cool), and figure out what the index page should look like.

I’ve also got a super-secret project that’s almost ready for announcement. It’s a new direction for my artwork, and I’m pretty excited about it. The hope is to get the prototype finished up this weekend and then up for sale tomorrow.

We got a lot of questions from family over the holidays about this blog, so I’m making it a priority to keep it updated.  Even if it’s only a few sentences, this can be a simple way for us to keep in touch with lots of family all at once. Love you all!