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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Movin' on Down...

Well, it's semi-official: We put in an offer on a house, got a counter-offer, and accepted that. We're going for a long closing (60 days) and a lot can happen during that time, but it looks like we'll be moving early this summer. We're going to have some overlap because our lease doesn't run out until the end of July, and we also want to move slowly and only have to do the truck thing with furniture.

Here's a picture of the trees in the front yard on the very overcast day we saw the house. Beautiful, right?


So, here's the lowdown for those of you who are interested: The house is still in Austin, but further south. It is within a mile of a lot of stuff, but I'm not familiar with anything that's not already a chain in the vicinity. Getting to know it will be fun! There is a Chick-fil-A nearby... not as near as here, but with the added bonus of actually having a dining room and playground, which is important when you have a little kid and live somewhere it's often too hot to play outside.

However, speaking of that... the house is about 1100 feet from Dittmar Park and Recreation Center.


I think our son liked it! Our daughter didn't come with us to see the house this time, because we've been looking at houses for a while and she's kind of over it. Now, of course... well, I'll have her go with me Monday for the end of the inspection.

The location is great, if the commute is a bit further for my husband, but let me tell you something about him and about us to kind of introduce this domicile in all of its glory:

First of all, we are paying for the house 67% of the pre-approval amount we received from the VA. I love this about my husband, and think he loves it about me. We don't want to spend as much as some lender thinks we can afford. We want something reasonable and comfortable. There were several houses we'd see online that James would say, "This one is too hoity-toity for us." And he was always right.

Yesterday, my 13-year-old daughter Daphne asked me, "Are we going to decorate it all the same?" I asked what she meant. She said, "You know. Some places have decorations that match. Are we going to do that, or is it going to be like it is" (gesturing about the Nuthaus) "around here?" I laughed and told her we're not that kind of people, so probably a lot like here. Only not, because we'll have closets and places to put a lot of what looks like clutter but is really just our stuff behind closed doors.

So many doors.

Which leads us to the big thing: This house is weird. It makes no sense. It was built in 1984 as a three-bedroom house. The two non-master bedrooms are so small that Daphne is going to end up with two rooms: a literal bed room and a library/study. Also, the guest bathroom is in that area of the house, and I've promised her that she won't have to deal with a potty-training kid or a young boy in her restroom, so she'll basically have a wing of the house to herself. I'm pretty excited for her.

The house has been added on to in ways that boggle the mind. It looks like they enclosed the back porch to make the "fourth bedroom." You can access this bedroom from the master, or from the back of the house. Direct entry to our room makes this the shoo-in for Mal's room, even though it's probably the biggest bedroom in the house, because being that close to parents is not appealing to the teen, and because baby gear is huge. I'm sure it's much safer than the smaller versions we all survived, though, right?

The living area is in the middle of the house, kind of like a courtyard... except enclosed. It's literally a den. But I have some ideas about how to brighten it up.

There's a galley kitchen, boasting a "custom butcher block" that is a bunch of glued-down pieces of striped wood with a really pretty trim, that matches nothing else in the kitchen. Also, there is one row of tile in the middle of the rest of the counter, and why it's there, who can tell?

There's a "study kiosk" that has a bunch of cable outlets. There is a built-in desk there, but it's so oddly placed, also in the middle of the house, that there is no light, the room is the width of the desk and only has room for a chair, that unless you're a hermit who requires no distractions, working in there would be a little depressing. Fortunately, we have the perfect use for that room! James likes to brew his own beer, and it can ferment in the dark and climate-control in here perfectly!

Speaking of built-ins: They're everywhere. There are inexplicably "two" closets in Daphne's library/study (one closet, really, with two doors and shelving in the middle so you can't walk through) as well as two coat hook things. In the master bedroom, there is a chest of drawers built into the wall under a space built in for an old-fashioned TV and VCR. In the closet beside that, there is another built-in chest of drawers with a mirror over it. Oh, and the closet doors are mirrored. There are built-in bookshelves in the toilet room of the master bathroom. There is a big walk-in closet with built-in drawers and cabinets and even a shoe rack in the master bathroom. There are tons of shelves in Mal's room, that I believe used to be windows (more on that later), and deep shelves in a corner about which I have no idea. There is a "cedar closet" in that room with a bunch of pegs in addition to the hanging racks.

In the back of the house, there are two sun rooms. They both have lockable doors. One of them will be James' office... and there are hanging racks (like in a closet) there, too... but no closet. Cuckoo. I think those are the last add-ons because the house is almost at the drainage ditch (which Mal will know as "The Creek" after it rains) in the back yard.

The Realtor wrote this in the comments about the house after she showed it to us: "Very awkward property. Several different tiles, flooring, and countertops in every room in the house. No natural lighting in living area which is the center of the house. The additions look like recycled materials were used as well as several materials throughout."

Yeah. She pretty much hated it. She didn't even mention (because it's illegal) that the house across the street is a pit. But the owners latticed off the porch for that reason.

Suffice it to say that this is a very "unique" property, and I think that our unique family is the perfect fit for its oddity, and we will love it!

Now for the "fun" process of qualifying fully for a loan. Ugh. Wish us luck and patience and endurance and all of that!

Looks pretty normal from the street, right?!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

An update on the Nuthaus and its surrounds

Well, it's official. There's a lockbox on our door, and we're planning to move when our lease is up this summer. We're looking in town, so will still be in a pretty urban area... but it won't be the same. That has its good points and its bad points.

We love walking everywhere. The walking score where we're looking is nowhere near as good as here. But we'll get to walk a bit further, so maybe get more exercise. And we'll get to know a new area of Austin. This part isn't the only cool part, right?

Someone stole one of our flamingos last night, which brings the stolen flamingo count up to 4, plus the one someone took then abandoned in the alley, and I found it and put it back.

Also, last night our neighbors had a very weird domestic dispute right outside of our bedroom window (the house is like 4 feet from ours) when the woman came home and couldn't get into the house. She said, "Seriously? You're going to be like this? Let me in! I want in the house!" This went on for about 10 minutes before she went upstairs and started trying to get him to open the door up there. Reminding him, "I have a key!" and yelling his name and, "Let me in the house!" THAT went on for about half an hour. I was seriously considering calling 311 because clearly she needed some help.

Side note: She's very sweet. She's offered to help me with my baby, if I need it, but I think I'll take a big old pass on that one for now.

Anyway, the better part of an hour after it started, the guy's voice chimes in. It didn't sound like he came from the house, so maybe he'd parked and walked to a bar or something? He said, "Just a second. I'll let you in." (She was upstairs at that door, and he was down at the lower entry.) He then said, "I found the other key." And we didn't hear anything after that. Weird stuff.

Today, a guy was walking by, saw Mal and me sitting out front, and stopped to chat with us. That happens a lot. But he told me I had a "little blessing" in my lap and said he had gotten 3 packages of wipes and would bring me one, leaving it on the bench cushion outside. Oookay.

Finally, I'm sad to say the crochet guy has disappeared! After like a year! The last time I saw him, I took him some cookies we'd made at a cookie exchange just before Christmas. I figured I'd do that first, and then next time I saw him, ask him what he was making. Now he's gone.

I rode down to get cat food today, and I love this neighborhood. I got a little misty-eyed sitting out on the porch today. This has been a great two years.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Our Vacation

We just spent a week in Seattle. No, really. You can look at the pictures by clicking on the little thing at the bottom right of this slideshow.




We flew out on a Thursday evening, and Mal slept most of both flights (4 hours to San Francisco, 2 hours to Seattle). He was awake in the SF airport, which is probably the nicest airport I've ever visited. We had surprisingly great food, and it was clean and tech-friendly, with tons of outlets and places to sit with your computer (I wasn't packing, but I could appreciate it).

We loved Virgin Air. Each seat has a screen, and we could watch channels or movies or see where we were on Google Maps. I didn't rent headphones, so my favorite channel was GoPro. Also, it got as cold as -87 outside of the plane when we were at 36kish feet! Daphne bought a day's worth of internet so she could message her earthbound friends during the long journey.

This was my favorite video:



Our Town Car wasn't waiting for us at the Seattle airport, so the hotel (through whom we booked the car, even though it's not their drivers) reimbursed us for taking a taxi... so that saved us about $45 right off the bat!

We had a bottom floor room with a view of Elliott Bay, partially obstructed by a cruise terminal. No ships came or went while we were there, which is a bummer, but we got to hear lots of gull calls and ferry horns and loved looking outside.

Oh! Because we needed a lot of diapers and every checked bag costs, I had planned to have diapers shipped from Amazon. They're part of Prime Pantry and it costs $5.99 to ship, but the diapers took up only about 20% of the box. So I bought almond milk, chocolate granola cereal, Nut Thins, Slim Jims, assorted Goldfish, mixed nuts, pumpkin seeds, apple sauce (banana and strawberry) in pouches, sweet potato baby food, some rice puffs, fruit snacks, Diet Coke, and root beer.

Friday, we took the morning super easy. Mal woke up earliest, and I got a shower then took him down to the lobby so James and D could sleep a bit longer. We eventually made our way to Pike Place Market. Daphne was starting to get pretty hungry (James and I had been up longer and eaten some high-protein snacks), so we ducked into the first place we saw... Well, I saw. Buns in the window. It was a great Chinese restaurant, and we had the place to ourselves, even though they were doing a brisk delivery lunch while we were there.

We explored some more and found chocolate and cupcake shops. We bought chocolate and intended to go back later, but never made it. We spent some of the afternoon in our room -- which we did a lot; you know, infant and stuff -- and then went out to dinner at Marrakesh Mediterranean. It was delicious, and the server was so sweet to Mal, who was restless and then had a blow-out and eventually got fussy enough that I wrapped him in a blanket and carried him home while D and James finished dinner.

Saturday, we took the bus up to Green Lake, where James used to live. We overshot the stop for Beth's Cafe, where James used to eat breakfast (a place that is famous for their 12-egg omelet -- I saw it and it took up a whole pizza platter!), and ended up having to backtrack on foot. Well, luck would have it that we happened to stumble upon a Chocolati factory outlet. I'm not sure why those were rejects, but we got half price truffles! Most were $1.45!

We passed a store where everything was purple, and I was tempted... but the entrances on the street seemed to be locked; I guess you had to go in at the back, where there was parking. We finally made it to Beth's and had to wait outside about 15-20 minutes. The food was excellent, and it was a fun place! There was a table of two couples our waitress said must have been huffing before they came in because they were boisterous, crude, and ridiculous. However, it distracted from the fact that Mal was being noisy, so it didn't even bother me.

After lunch, we walked around about 1/3 of Green Lake and mingled with tons of locals. Mal slept the whole time, and Daphne counted dogs. So many dogs. Seattle seems like a very dog-friendly city. We got to see the dog park where James' pup used to play, too. Then we took the bus back home and chilled until dinner.

That night, we didn't want to walk too far, so we had dinner at the Bell Street Diner. Daphne used to love mac and cheese when she was a kid, and she got shrimp macaroni and cheese here. Looked fabulous! And we had a great view of the Ferris wheel from our table.

Sunday was the Super Bowl! We knew we wanted to watch it, and had been looking for a place to go that would be family-friendly. But Mal was the wild card, and I didn't want to have to leave early, so we'd decided to use our snacks and left-overs and have an in-room party. Actually, the restaurant in our hotel was listed in an online "family-friendly places to watch the Super Bowl" article, but it turned out that the restaurant itself closed at 3 and only the lounge was open for the game, and they don't allow anyone under 21.

For a morning event, we took a short walk to the Seattle Aquarium and spent a few hours there. Then we walked to Pike Place Market again for lunch. This time, we chose Lowell's and all had some fresh seafood of one type or another. D got clam chowder in a bread bowl, I had mixed seafood Louie, and James had fish tacos.

We loved watching the game, even though the last few minutes were dumb-founding! Daphne enjoyed being at the hotel and online for the whole afternoon, only looking up at the game every once in a while.

Monday morning, Daphne slept in and the rest of us took a rainy walk to Hook and Plow for breakfast. Then we all took advantage of the hotel's free shuttle and got a ride as far as the Space Needle (it was too cloudy all week to justify paying $20 to ascend it), from where we walked in the drizzle to EMP Museum next door. That was a blast! Everyone in our family actually participated and enjoyed it, which is saying something when you have a baby!

Daphne loved their Fantasy exhibits; Mal loved Sky Church with its two-story screen, and James liked the Star Wars costume special exhibit (as well as other stuff; he just spent the most time there). I loved it all, and, of course, hanging out with my family.

When we'd finished there, it was sunny for the only time we were in town. It was also windy and extremely chilly! Mal slept a long time in the museum and for most of the walk home. We passed Zulily headquarters, which made me fangirl a little bit, and weren't hungry enough to stop anywhere to eat.

Later that afternoon, we went to Paddy Coyne's, just two piers up from us, and I ordered two happy hour specials: sausage wrapped in puff pastry and their version of poutine, whatever it was called. Unfortunately, Mal didn't feel like sitting still. I walked outside with him and he was pleasant as all get out. go back to sit at the table, and he's squirm and scream. I told the others I was going back to the hotel and asked them to get my food to go. We had a beautiful walk home, getting to catch a sunset for the first and only time all week!

A few minutes later, my family followed. Rather than enjoying their meal at the restaurant, they got all of the food to go and we had a picnic. Love those people!

Tuesday, we took to public transportation again, heading up to James' favorite Mexican restaurant (after I spent the whole week telling him that a family from Austin was not going to do Mexican on our Northwest vacation; he'd put this on the "must see" list long before Mal was even born). Gordito's opened at 10:30 (12:30 to our bellies) and we'd planned it on the dot, but our bus was super fast!

When we arrived, it was raining, and we needed some zinc oxide for Mal (actually, we only thought we needed it; I had some in my purse that I didn't find until we were home), so we walked toward a drug store. On the way, we went into Top Ten Toys where, if getting home without checking luggage hadn't been an issue, we all could have spent way too much money.

By the time we browsed there and then got our diaper creme, Gordito's was open. I got a carrot, broccoli, and cauliflower burrito that was delicious! Daphne got a potato burrito, and James a spinach one. They have the word "healthy" in their name, but I think that portion size probably negates that. We all had left-overs.

Before we went all the way back to the hotel, we stopped to visit the Fremont Bridge Troll. Then it was back to our home base to pack, eat all of the left-overs, and rest up for an early morning.

This time, the Town Car was on site half an hour before we needed it, so we were able to take off in plenty of time to get to the airport. Mal is always pleasant in the mornings, and he did great. Our flight had been pushed back half an hour from when we initially purchased the tickets, and when I'd called to ask if our stopover meant we couldn't deplane, I was told that we'd have to stay on due to the short turnaround. I was dreading it! However, the flight crew stopped by to say hi to Mal after he woke up toward the end of the flight, and they told us we could get out and walk around. Daphne elected to stay on, so we went and got us all some lunch and discussed playing a trick on her where we wouldn't board until very late, just to make her a little nervous. We didn't; I'm not *that* mean.

Unfortunately, by this time, Mal had had enough of air travel. He didn't sleep on the flight at all, and he was mad about being restrained. Our saving grace was that the flight was not full. I was able to take up one whole row, letting him sit by himself, chew on the seat belts and arm rests (building immunity!), and crawl a bit. Also, the flight attendants let me stand in the back in their area (they were able to sit in the back row and watch TV since the flight was so empty), and Mal was great back there. He also liked the bathroom; he had fun putting his hands under the faucet. For some of the time, I sat him on the back of the seat in front of James, and I just stood in the aisle. Fortunately, most of the passengers around us had earphones or earbuds. I got a little stressed and cried a moment while James held Mal, and then about half an hour before landing, he finally decided to take a wee nap.

After that, the trek through the airport with my wearing him, the ride on the shuttle, and even the car ride home (we missed rush hour by about 20 minutes!) were fine. My sister and her son had been here to clean up after the cats; she even burned a vanilla candle, so it smelled nice.

We had a great trip. Very relaxing, as we were kind of forced to pause for Mal (actually, this would be D's preference, too... my inclination is to go go go go and keep going until collapse at bedtime!). Somewhat stressful, as traveling with an infant is bound to be. But great times together, and great teamwork, and I'm very glad that we went!

Now I'm looking forward to our next family vacation in a few months! No air travel, fortunately! Can't wait to hang out with these cool people again!