Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Ah yes.

I'm having one of those, "Holycowhyohwhydidwebuythisterriblehouse" moments.


Because it's in the 90's for the first time this week....and our AC is out.


Nope. Nope. Nope.

We're getting a quote for new HVAC tomorrow.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Houses We Have Known: Part 2 and Why We Move So Much

As some of you know, we sold one of our houses to our best friends. At the time, they were just really cute strangers, but we knew they were special and "collected" them right away. This is why I'm so in love with For Sale By Owner and Craigslist....we never would have met if we'd gone through a traditional Realtor.

This house is also one of the reasons that I have a bad reputation for getting bored and selling houses. We loved this house but it was kind of small for our family of three and we were thinking of expanding to four. So when someone wrote the neighborhood listserv asking if anyone was thinking about putting their house on the market I hemmed, hawwed and wrote them an email. I WAS thinking about it....why not see what happened?

Before the person came to see it I cleaned the house from top to bottom. Even though she was interested in the house she decided to go with something larger in a fancier neighborhood downtown. That's cool. No harm. No foul and now the house is spotless.

In fact, it's so spotless....that I should just list it For Sale By Owner on Craigslist. Two weeks later we had a bidding war....and shortly after we had sold our house to our cute friends.

The best thing about selling a house you love to friends is that you can still visit it! They've decorated it with their cool and cozy style, added a bathroom and knocked down a wall...but it's still nice to visit it and see the bushes I planted and the paint colors I picked.

This house, like our current house, was such a "The right thing will happen" moment. We'd been looking for houses for months with no winners. Everything was too much work, in a bad spot or just not for us. That day we had been shopping at Costco when a friend called to say that his movers never showed and he needed help unloading his moving van before it was due back to UHaul. We dropped what we were doing and went out to help. (Ya'll, don't pack Rubbermaid bins with books. Especially if you live on the second floor. Liquor store boxes with handles are for books or you can move yourselves.) On the way back to scoop up our car from Costco we were exhausted and hungry....but I just had to check out the new Home for Sale sign in the neighborhood near the museum. We turned the corner and it was love at first sight! What a gorgeous little house! Location wise it was a dream...walking distance to the museum and an aquatics center. Biking distance to downtown and the Famers Market. Trails in the neighborhood and a huge park. I could not wait to see it with the Realtor. Rob Bray, my favorite Realtor, was kind enough to bring us out after his son's birthday but he was running late so we sat on the screened in porch. It was a hot, humid day but the ceiling fan cooled us off. We knew before he even showed up to let us in that we were buying this house.

The inside was even cuter. I love a bungalow.

I made this "stained glass" with plastic stickers from the Scrap Exchange. 

Looks like a real galley kitchen...because it's sinking! This kitchen was small...which was bad since when you have a party, everyone wants to be in the kitchen.

The office/spare bedroom was only ever this neat during showings.

It had one bathroom. (Now it has two!) B and I would walk around looking in closets and in corners and thinking about adding bathrooms. The new owners squeezed one into a closet and it's a great fit.

Fun story about this carpet....I pulled up the old carpet the Thursday before we were supposed to have houseguests to reveal ANCIENT linoleum made from real linols. Yuck. We had Home Depot put this carpet down soon after.

All my listing pictures are listing to the side.  

I found this gem of a tiny Mr. G while I was looking through old photos.

One bad thing about this house is that trees kept falling. I don't know why...but for some reason we lost a TON of trees to the point that I have some PTSD about trees falling and the WOOSH THUMP sounds that it makes. 

It was convenient of this tree to fall between all of the outdoor items.

I just realized that I still have these chairs. They are really faded but still work. 

The house even had a waterfall. Can you believe it? A w-a-t-e-r-f-a-l-l.

Close to downtown, greenways that go to the Farmer's Market, hiking trails and two huge parks in the neighborhood, a community center with a great pool AND a science museum with bears? Where do I sign up, right? So, Julie, I hear you asking....what made you decide to move? It seems like a great house in fantastic location.

It really was. I don't generally talk about why we moved from this house to the huge house. The huge house that we lived in only briefly....what's the mystery? Why do you move so much? Do you just love moving?! 

No mystery. It's just hard for me to talk about, but with Mother's Day coming up it's on my mind so it's now or never. 

Summary: We got married and sold our individual houses to move to one house we both chose, we moved to a big house to have a bigger family but when that didn't work out it seemed silly to keep the expensive big house. Now we're here in the cottage and we don't plan on moving but....sometimes the best thing happens even if you don't know why it's the best thing at the time.

Long version: We moved because we had decided that we were finally ready to expand our family. G was still pretty young and B and I had been married for a few years so it seemed like it was time. We knew we wanted something with more space and more bathrooms. So we bought a huge house with a ton of bathrooms and a ton of space that was marginally closer to my parents.

Soon after we moved in I finally received a diagnosis of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). I had suspected that I had PCOS for a while but it was still jarring.  I had been undiagnosed for almost ten years things and that had taken some tolls on my body. Why didn't I go to a doctor sooner? There's such a stigma about being overweight that I had assumed that I was just not working hard enough and that's why I had all of these symptoms. It hadn't occurred to me that it might be something outside of my own control that I would need help with.

 PCOS is a very common problem for many women. Symptoms include obesity, blood sugar issues, thyroid and lipid problems, difficulty getting pregnant and other gross stuff I don't care to discuss on my DIY blog. It is possible to get pregnant if you have PCOS but it generally involves a lot of work. I renewed my efforts of getting healthier through triathlon training and working with a nutritionist (Hi Laura!) and then met with a specialist at Duke who told me that at my advanced age (side eye, lady) I would probably need expensive medical intervention and it would be a long, stressful and unsure road.

If you know anything about me you know that I don't like a long and unsure road. I applaud people who are brave enough to spend thousands of dollars for hope but that can't be my journey. Maybe I just didn't want it bad enough or maybe I just know myself well enough to know which path is not for me.

I have (mostly) come to terms with the fact that I am not going to have any children of my own but it's been a hard and silent process. I'm sure that a lot of people who know me assume that I just didn't want kids or that since G is more of a man than a child now that we had decided that one was enough. 

I did want kids. I do want to be a mom. I don't talk about it but this time of year is hard. I'm only writing about it because I'm starting to realize that it's hard for many people. 

Being a step-mom has been a blessing in many ways but is also a near constant reminder that I am not a "real" mom. This is not G's fault. He's a great guy who is generous with his appreciation and affection and makes me feel like a valued caregiver. But let's face it, it's tough on the streets for step-parents. According to books and movies when we're not beating children and spending their inheritance on purses we're trying way too hard to replace their real parents and calling them, "Champ." Strangely, even more hurtful are the fellow parents who know me who assume that I somehow don't have the same responsibilities they do. No solidarity for step moms.


So that's the mystery of why we've moved so much and also about why I just let people tease me about it instead of explaining. I know this is very personal stuff but I'm starting to realize that staying silent doesn't help people.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Bathroom Remodel Progresses

Excavation has begun on the bathroom. Of all the projects in the house this has been one of the few that we found in our inspection report. Since the house is a foreclosure the Seller doesn't make repairs... so every time you sat on the toilet you said a little prayer about the rotten subfloor. The question was..., "How rotten is it?"

Pretty rotten.

And this patch they so shabbily put in has always had a nice view of the crawl space.

Careful! Don't spill your Red Bull!

 Beneath the rotten subfloor is a rotten beam. It was soft enough to put the shovel through and crumbled in B's hands. I'm starting to think the only thing keeping the toilet afloat was the sewer pipe it was sitting on.

The good news is that the rot doesn't extend to the entire subfloor as we feared and doesn't continue all the way under the tub.

While B was doing this I was working in the garden...but I kept feeling like something was in my shoe.

This weekend my adorable, teeny tiny, baby nephews went to prom. We also bought Mr. G a tux for his Junior prom. I can't handle all the feelings.

We also got the first installment of veggies from our CSA! I like having a CSA because it rounds out whatever it going on in the garden, and they usually get things a few weeks before I can grow it myself.

Cheer up, CSA Box. You'll be filled with yummy veggies again soon.

Check out more DIY Before, Durings and Afters at "Between Naps on the Porch!"

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Tater Tot "Kofta" Curry with Greens and Garbanzos

The other day I was pinning Indian food recipes and ran across a few for potato kofta curries. Kofta is basically a type of Indian meatball made with lamb or beef. Since we eat meatless meals most nights, I was more interested in the veggie recipes. Potato koftas are made with riced potatoes, onions and spices. Most of the recipes I read went through the painstaking instructions of how to make these potato balls...I read through them and realized, "They are just making tater tots."

I've been known to scoff at home made tater tots in all shapes and sizes so I decided that I'd make my own version of potato kofta for our lunches this week....kof-tot curry.

  • 2 cups of unseasoned tater tots (I used 365 brand from Whole Foods)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse 
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of water cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 small onion
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 Tablespoons plain yogurt, cream or cream cheese (I used yogurt.)
  • I cup of mixed greens ( I used frozen kale and collards)
  • 1 can of garbanzos

  1. For the "koftas": Bake tater tots as directed. Do not fry them or add oil or salt.
  2. Combine spices with 1/2 cup of water.
  3. Cook your onions in olive oil until translucent. Add the garlic until and cook until everyting is starting to turn golden.
  4. Add the spices and stir.
  5. Add tomato paste, water, and greens. Stir until all items are combined and the tomato sauce is not clumpy.
  6. Drain and rinse your garbanzos and add them to the pan.
  7. Let simmer for 10-12 minutes or until the sauce thickens and the greens are cooked.
  8. Add dairy and mix gently. (Or omit this, up to you, it does make it creamier.)
  9. Once your tots, I mean, "koftas" are done you can add them to the sauce. Eat a few off the pan to make sure tater tots are still delicious.  Let them sit to absorb the sauce. At this point I put them in containers in the fridge for lunches in the week but you can also eat it back up and serve it. More time marinating with the rest of the curry makes it more delicious.

Don't serve this to any Indian food purists...they will laugh you out of the kitchen. Do make it if you want a quick and hearty meat free meal that makes excellent leftovers. It's probably the most glamorous way I've ever eaten tater tots...though not the most memorable. That award goes to this:

In 2012 a few of my friends and I decided that we would walk a half marathon. We knew we'd be too slow to make the cut off times of a standard half but we knew that we could do it and we wanted to try. So, in November, after months of training, we went to Topsail, NC and walked almost the entire island from tip to tip. 13.1 miles....plus two flights of stairs. It took about six hours. It was my first and last half marathon.

What does this have to do with tater tots? About 9 miles in our husbands/Sagwagon called to find out where we were. We were in desperate search of a casa azul and not in the mood for conversation.  Right as we found a construction site with a port-a-potty and stopped for a break, they pulled up with HOT tater tots. OMG.  We were all sick of water, granola bars and trail mix and those heavenly tots really hit the spot. 

Which is why our make shift, grassroots, half marathon will always been known as the Tater Tot Trudge.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Welcome to the Biological Field Station

So yeah, sometimes this house bums me out....because it's not done and a bit of a shanty.

But sometimes it's worth the hassle.

I love living in the woods. Sometimes I joke with B and call our yard the, "Biological Field Station."

We've got gorgeous trees with sunshine streaming through them everywhere you look.

And for once in my life I feel good literally putting down roots...because if we're going to be here for a while then I can finally invest in some of my favorite flowers. Do you know when the best time to plant an apple tree is? Twenty years ago. The second best? Right now. My new blueberry bushes are more like blueberry twigs...but in just a few years they are going to be incredible.

Today a rose-breasted grosbeak came to my feeder as it was passing through town. I've seen a wider variety of birds here than any place I've ever been. We've got frogs and toads hopping down the street. Deer, bunnies and coyotes roam the woods between houses. At night in the summer a whippoorwill sings in the distance. It's tranquil as heck. 

(Well, when we're not chainsawing.)

Don't quote me on this, but of all the houses we've lived at this one brings me the most joy.  It's all in the tiny moments of connection and discovery.

At some point the house will be whole. It's going to be worth it.