November, 2008 browsing by month


T-giving weekend and something that seems to have gone right

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

We had a very nice Thanksgiving with dinner at home with Brad’s mom. (I meant to take pictures but only took one of the pumpkin cheesecake. We also had avocado eggrolls, spinach apple salad, cranberry sauce, twice baked potatoes, and roasted veggies.)

Our other plans for the long weekend (before I leave for NC Sat. night) revolved around getting ready for a trip to Portal next week to take a truckload of books to storage. (For those who missed it, we have so many books between home and work that it doubled our moving cost, so we’re doing the books ourselves.) The plan is that I will get back from NC Wed. night around midnight, we’ll leave for AZ early Thurs. morning, unload the truck and meet with the architect on Fri., and drive home on Sat. Then next Tues., I leave for PA. My sister will also be visiting next week (her last vacation to CA while we’re here….I feel really bad that we won’t be in town for much of the time she’s here, but I suspect she doesn’t mind.) Crazy week.

So on Friday, we finished packing our books and rearranged all the book inventory from work to get it ready to load on the truck. It was hot sweaty work. Then I came home and went through our attic, packing boxes of photo albums and organizing bankers’ boxes of old files. After getting it all together, I have decided that we may want to redesign our house as a large filing cabinet/bookcase.

Another thing we’re going to do next week is set up our post box so we can start getting mail. I wanted do somehow personalize our mailbox with something other than ugly stick-on decal letters, so we’ve been working on various ideas. In things like this, I am big on ideas and awful on execution. I frequently end up spending hours on an idea and then throwing the whole thing in the trash at the end. It’s very frustrating, but doesn’t always stop me from trying.

My original idea was to create a stencil by laser printing the address, spray mounting it to chipboard, and then cutting it out with an Exacto knife. We got spray paint to paint with the stencil. After doing this and trying it out on a piece of cardboard, the results were not very attractive.

So on to plan B….we searched the Internet for stencils but didn’t really have time to order online and so thought about going to an art store to see what they had. Brad thought Michael’s would be good. I hadn’t been there before — WOW! I felt the same as I felt the first time I went to Costco. Amazing! Who buys all this stuff? It’s incredible!!! Michael’s was full of a million things I could buy and do incredible projects with (only to throw them out when they failed). It was simultaneously thrilling and horrifying.

After I wandered around for awhile gawking at everything, we found our way to the stencil aisle. Consistent with the rest of the store, there were a hundred solutions to our problem, all of which looked quite manageable. We read all the labels, looked over the accessories (stencil daubers, whole sets of little putty knife kinds of things, and on and on), and made a decision.

Amazingly, we got it home, and it actually seemed manageable. (I stencilled a “K” on the bottom of the mailbox as a test before doing the whole address.)

Here are the results:

Stay tuned next week for a picture of our mailbox in its natural habitat.

Movietime – Driving in to the ranch

Saturday, November 22nd, 2008

(If you have a slow connection, pause the video for a minute or so to let it buffer so it will play smoothly.)

A lemon-themed meal

Friday, November 21st, 2008

Some day when this whole moving and building thing is over, I’m going to write a blog just about all the nice food we eat. Here’s one meal from this week in the meantime.

Avocado and grapefruit salad with sage honey dressing (my recipe)

Avocado and grapefruit salad with sage honey dressing (my recipe)

Asparagus with lemon-egg sauce

Asparagus with lemon-egg sauce

Lemon cream fettuccini

Lemon cream fettuccini

Lemon souffle with chocolate sauce (all sugar free)

Lemon souffle with chocolate sauce (all sugar free)

I know that those who know me and haven’t experienced this don’t believe I can cook, but I really can. :) One more reason to visit when we’re far away.

Trucks and why I love/hate LA

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

So we’re looking for a truck. After much analysis, we had thought we’d get a relatively small-sized Toyota or Nissan, but then after talking to a few people (mostly my dad), we’re now thinking about something bigger. Yesterday, we drove a Dodge 2500 diesel (ok….a lot bigger). It was really big. I’m not sure I can see myself really driving something like this. So now, we are back to square one about the whole thing. Big or small? Diesel or not? Japanese or domestic? I can find online reviews and friends to support every possible option (and to say that every possible option would be a big mistake.) I have no idea.

The truck place we went to was in Studio City (on the much dreaded 101). The traffic was really awful, and it look us almost 2 hours to get home (causing us to miss yoga…we did, however, go to the gym anyway. 24 Hour Fitness and great sushi afterward….this would be a part of LA I love.). The drive was really LA at its worst. Then some maniac got behind us (and then in front of us…and then behind us…he was all over) frantically flashing his lights and swerving back and forth between lanes or just in our lane…basically wherever he could go. He was one of these guys who thinks that if he acts badly, everyone else will just get out of his way. Yeah, the idea is that we’re all standing still in horrendous traffic for hours, but we’ll let him go ahead for some reason. This would be a part of LA I hate.

Brad has a theory that people aren’t meant to be this packed together and they act like caged wild animals when they are. Yes, I’m ready to go.

Moving Part 1-Day at the swap meet

Saturday, November 15th, 2008

So this weekend’s adventure was the swap meet. For those unfamiliar with this (uniquely Californian, I think) custom, it is a weekly event that combines the features of a garage sale and a large trade show with a big dose of mitumba thrown in. The one we go to is several acres large with many hundred vendors and is held at a local college campus. Some sell people used stuff; others sell new stuff. The deals are amazing. There are also things like farmer’s market stands and cooked food vendors. It’s an extremely multicultural affair. I’ve attended often as a buyer but never as a seller.

We reserved our space several weeks ago and were supposed to arrive at 6am or so to set up. (There is a big process for getting in and situated.) We rented a truck on Friday and used it Friday afternoon to also a deliver a donation of 20 heavy cartons of books to a warehouse in LA. After that and loading the truck for the swap meet, we were very tired by Friday night.

Our wares to sell included a fair amount of stuff from the office, as well as miscellaneous stuff from the house including stuff that wouldn’t move well (IKEA furniture), stuff we will no longer need (wet suit, fins, boogie board, etc.), and stuff that we have too much of (keyboards, access points, etc.).

Brad had warned me that the first hour or so before the event even opens to outsiders is when you sell a lot of stuff, because career vendors buy stuff they think they can resell. One thing I didn’t know is that having a UHaul truck as we did marks you as a “occasional vendor” and therefore one with potenially good stuff. I wasn’t prepared to get mobbed by people at 6:30am though…before I had even thought through what prices I wanted to get (and before I’d even finished my first cup of coffee).

In the first hour, we probably sold $100 worth of stuff, which was easily enough to cover our space rental, so I was happy.

The rest of the day went well, though it was a very hot day. We lathered on suntan lotion every hour or so. The wind was blowing hard and gusty. (Yes, parts of CA are burning again.) The wind wasn’t good for a swap meet with lots of loose stuff, large sun umbrellas, and metal framed sun shades. Once it gusted so hard that it started to blow over two six foot high 85 pound or so bookcases we were selling. Brad dove to save anyone potentially in the way and crushed his hand in the process. It doesn’t seem to be broken, but it’s swollen and bruised. Luckily no one (else) was hurt.

Some things that sold surprised me (Brilliant Beginnings baby kits, a big box of binders). There were a few things that I really wanted to have “good homes,” and I was able to place them all with people who will really use and appreciate them. We sold a desk for the office to a really nice guy with kids. We even delivered it for him to his apartment in Little Saigon.

Overall, we made over $300. I enjoyed the bartering and was even pretty good at it thanks to my experience in Africa. I think I only left $10 on the table on a chair that I turned down $15 for and later sold for $5. (The whole thing pretty much wraps up by 1:30, and I didn’t really know that.)

On the way home, hot and sweaty, we stopped to gas up the rental truck, and Brad was approached by a German guy biking down the coast. He had a stove he was trying to buy gasoline for and the gas station wouldn’t sell it to him. Miffed by picky U.S. customs, he asked Brad if he could pump some for him and said he’d of course pay for it. We’d had such a good day that Brad obliged and wouldn’t take any money. We hope we left one nice impression of Americans for this guy.

There will be many more installments in the travails of moving for us over the next couple months, but at least we’re off to a start now.

Pic from our last trip

Friday, November 7th, 2008

Next round of floor plans

Friday, November 7th, 2008

(Click to expand.)

The two buildings will be at right angles to each other with a covered patio between.

We may have to rethink the chi issue….

One of those weeks…

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

This week has not been the best. This morning I was so frustrated that I actually pulled my own hair. (This was after my email program decided to eat half my inbox, as well as about 3 years worth of archived mail, and I found out that the phones that I thought were finally being installed today actually aren’t going to be installed before we print all our new letterhead and business cards. The phone company, who by the way was not the source of the problem, has assured me that we are “100% guaranteed” of getting the numbers they’ve issued us.)

Here are some other challenges from this week:

  • After our insurance agent here told us a few months ago that he could handle our insurance change to AZ, he now suddenly said we were on our own. After calling Aetna, we found out that we have to start all over and reapply from the beginning. And it was *so* much fun the first time (especially for Brad).
  • Our printer of 7+ years is no longer in the printing business.
  • We thought we found a good solution to moving the books, but it doesn’t seem to be panning out. We’ve decided to just rent a truck and do it ourselves
  • We’ve continued to look for an architect, only to be told that apparently no one in Portal has ever used an architect. Everyone just draws plans themselves. (This is usually followed by some insinuation that we must be either rich or stupid or most likely, both.)
  • We found out that no used pickup trucks in LA have 4WD. (However, contrary to what you may have heard, everyone is VERY happy to finance any purchase we’d like to make, especially for a big new shiny truck.)
  • Banks don’t finance owner-builder construction. (It took me about 3 weeks of unreturned phone calls to finally find this out.) Apparently, to get around this, everyone hires a contractor to say they’re the contractor (even though they’re not) so they can get financing. We’re probably going to just forego the whole thing.
  • Verizon used to have a department who would verify that you are a business customer of theirs, but they don’t anymore, so you’re on your own. This took me almost 2 hours on the phone to find out. Verizon reminds me of Wells Fargo. It’s amazing that these companies can function at all.

On the other hand, here are a few good things that have happened:

  • We got the final water test results, and we may have the purest water in America.
  • I told our landlord and a couple of our LA customers (the only customers who could possibly care, since we’ll be closer to everyone else) that we are moving the business.
  • We made arrangements to get a table at the local swap meet in a couple weeks to sell some stuff we don’t want to move.
  • We have gotten moving boxes, put some stuff up for sale on eBay, and started getting rid of stuff we’ll never need.
  • We heard from one of our neighbors about all the wildlife he’s seen this week….bobcats, owls, hawks, etc. Very nice. We can’t wait to get there.

Little steps. Next week will probably be better.