Tuesday, November 30, 2010

An Unpaid Account From 10 Years Ago, Say What? Say What?

Sometimes the beauty of having a blog is that it's a wonderful opportunity to share stories about a simple interaction that goes south really fast. Today is a day that I must share one of those stories. I have no interest in blabbing the particular name of the company that I interacted with. I'm really not one of those gripe to get my way bloggers. I understand why some have to take that approach out of frustration. I'm not frustrated. I admit I was angry at first, but now I'm having a good laugh.

We closed on our house yesterday, but aren't moving in quite yet. I forgot to set up trash service so I called today to have our weekly trash service set up to start next week. After pressing a series of buttons, I was finally connected with a live account representative. We talked through why I was calling. She asked my name, my husband's name. Mentioned she didn't have us on record. I told her we had an account with them 10 years ago, but oh well. No big deal. Then she asked for my phone number (same number from 10 years ago).

She then proceeded to get very nervous, oh I see here... and asked to put me on hold. Maybe 5 minutes later she finally came back and proceeded to tell me that my former account had gone to collections! I was like collections, well for how much? Of course she couldn't tell me. BUT, her supervisor would allow me to start a new account if I put my credit card on file and paid for at least 3 months of service up front. My only choice was for direct payment to be set up. Apparently I was a former trash delinquent. But really I wasn't. We didn't leave our last house for 2 years after the time frame she said my account went to collections. There is no other trash service in Four Mile Canyon, so I had to have the account through 2002.

After she couldn't tell me the amount that I owed, I started getting agitated.

I then requested the collection agency's information so I could get to the bottom of it. The gentleman at the collection agency was quite delightful, which surprised me. He laughed, you want me to look up a trash account from 10 years ago? I agreed, it was absurd. He had no record of my name or address or my desire to scam the trash conglomerate of a month or two of service. He was even kind enough to call the company for me to clear my good name.

Now mind you, I've bought two homes now in the past 10 years. You can't have any unpaid collections accounts or a mortgage doesn't fly. We also have close to near perfect credit.

An hour later I received a call from my friend at the trash service. The supervisor changed her tune, our account had a balance of zero, and she would like to set up my service.

Only problem with that? I had already called another trash service in town. Same exact service was $30 cheaper a month. That made me feel a bit giddy inside. I never did like that other company and dreaded giving them my money. Now I don't have to.

Friday, November 26, 2010

How Much Is Enough? I'm A Retailers Nightmare...

I suppose it was all the chatter and hoopla surrounding the day after Thanksgiving that sent me into heavy reflection. The notorious Black Friday didn't fill me with any urge or desire to run out to my local big box store in the wee hours of the morning fighting crowds, waiting in line to save some money. Now don't get me wrong, I love a good sale. But, the stuff that I am wanting to spend money on right now wasn't exactly Black Friday hot items.

Here's what I'm hot for, a new sofa, a pantry cabinet, a hutch with great storage, french doors for my family room, a teepee for the backyard. Are we sensing a theme here? I'm still head over heels in new house mode, we close on Monday and move next weekend. I'm dreaming of nesting, dreaming of unpacking boxes of my possessions, some of which have been stored since this summer. I packed 5 huge boxes of the girls toys in July before staging my house, they are going to be so excited to see all their stuff again! In just a couple of weeks, once we are unpacked it's going to feel like Christmas.

But what about December 25th?

The magic of a new home is filling me with excitement. I can't wait to decorate our house, bake cookies, hang our stocking on our mantle above the fireplace, fill the home with holiday joy, but...

The stuff part is leaving me disenchanted.

The process of moving our home that we comfortably settled into over the course of eight years has brought about much reflection. Living in a small two bedroom apartment with only 1/3 of our belongings has really impacted my desire to want more stuff. Honestly I try to fight that notion I mean everyone loves more stuff, isn't weeding out and downsizing a thing you reserve for Spring? Apparently not for me. Don't get me wrong, I've done plenty of purging in the past six months, but I fear bringing on the holiday glut.

I want my girls to have a wonderful memorable holiday, which is always attached to gifts in their minds. I love buying them toys that make their eyes light up and fill them with joy. In this very moment, I'm at a loss as for what toys those are this year which is an awful feeling. Sj's letter to Santa requested her two front teeth and a bouquet of flowers. I joked that I wish it was 1983 and I was fighting tooth and nail for a Cabbage Patch Doll to make my girls' Christmas fantastic.

This year, I'm on a hunt for toys and gifts that will be memorable. We already have bins of polly pockets, littlest pet shops, barbies, american girls, baby dolls, kitchen playset, legos, wooden blocks, a closet of games. In my opinion my girls have enough already.

So the mental debate goes on, how much is enough? What makes a gift memorable? How will Christmas 2010 play out in our home?

Friday, November 19, 2010

It's Not Starting Over, It's Returning Home...

It's hard for me to believe, but we've been back in Boulder for three weeks already! One morning I was brushing my teeth, about to head out to meet a friend when this thought entered my mind:
It's not starting over, it's returning home.
When we first decided to move back to Boulder, part of the process for me was thinking about leaving the place we considered home for eight years. Did I really want to give up all we created just for the location? I would think to myself, are we REALLY doing this? Then BAM! It happened in a flash, house on market, house sold, move cities.

Since the move, I have felt incredibly grounded and content. It's so wonderful to be back in the place that lured us to Colorado 16 years ago. There has been so much change around town, but it's delicately balanced by so many things that are the same. That familiarity has made me realize that our decision to move back to Boulder (or "town" as I casually say) was one of the best decisions we've made.

It feels damn good to be back. Now in just two short weeks, we'll be in our new home and I can nest away like nobody's business. I'm beyond delighted. The holidays are going to be incredibly special for us this year.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Carrot Seed Recreated in One Drawing

Yesterday my 3 year old was busy drawing at the kitchen table. She holds up the picture and begins to explain what she drew. I loved it, so I thought I would share it, deconstructed a little to better see the components of it. As always, you can click on the photo to enlarge it.

The original drawing.

Planting of the seeds, complete with sign.

Then, one day a carrot came up

just as the little boy had known it would.

The end.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Nintendo, San Francisco, and Ten Memorable Women...

Last month I was invited by Nintendo to participate in an advisory group panel at the Nintendo offices in San Francisco. It was almost one year ago I was asked to be a Nintendo Brand Ambassador. I jumped at both opportunities with out hesitation, as Nintendo is a brand I've always been fond of for over two decades. A couple of nights in San Francisco sounded like a nice getaway from being entrenched in all things house (selling and buying). I knew four of us from Colorado would be traveling out together, so that eased my comfort level with being thrown into a new situation solo. Unfortunately my seat mate Julie was stuck next to me on the flight out, so even though she pulled out her laptop to get some writing done mid-flight I basically gabbed her ear off the entire way. Please accept my apology for that Julie, but our conversation helped me suppress all the neurotic thoughts and fears I had while flying. Before I knew it, a dense fog was out my window cascading over the mountain tops, a welcomed hello San Francisco style.

All ten of us agreed to meet downstairs for dinner after we settled into the hotel. I felt comfortable knowing half of the group and I also felt lame for not stopping by the other writer's blogs to do a little background reading before meeting them. I say this with some hesitation, but it's sometimes hard to read how a dinner may go with a group of ten women just off traveling. Everyone had varying levels of relationships with one another from just meeting to deep friendships that have developed over years. I most happily admit, all of those notions I held in the back of my mind walking into the room quickly faded once we all sat down together. I couldn't of been more honored to sit, converse, and laugh until my cheeks hurt for hours with everyone in the group. It amazes me how empowering it is to be in the company of brilliant women who openly discuss their lives and passions. That evening I will always remember with great fondness.

The next day, off to Nintendo we went.

There was some game playing, Wii Party to be exact. I enjoyed seeing how my dinner mates from the night before handled themselves gaming. They all faired pretty well, some of them were even more competitive than I would have imagined! We then had lots of conversation, engaging talks with plenty of honesty in a very comfortable and relaxed atmosphere. Maybe it was because we were in the Mario's Galaxy 2 conference room??? A couple of times I sat there day dreaming and thinking to myself, is this really happening? Am I really sitting at a conference table in San Francisco surrounded by such incredibly progressive thinkers? Yes I was and with that, how lucky am I?

Life is sometimes magically unpredictable and visiting Nintendo was definitely a full circle moment for me. An opportunity I will never forget.

Photos: Dreaming in Progress was the sign outside of the incredible Kirby's Epic Yarn room, dessert at the hotel which made the evening even sweeter, inside Kirby's Epic Yarn room, and the Nintendo offices gaming area.

Bloggers, starting one in from left to right:
Gwen, Amber, Janet, Marsha, Sizzle, Aimee, Me!, Julie, and Tracey

A post I wrote about my fondness for Super Mario Brothers, two years ago, click here.

Disclosure, I was paid a stipend, as well as travel expenses to serve on the advisory panel for Nintendo in San Francisco.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Welcome To Our First Home of Eight Years

Finally I'm ready to share our home of eight years, these photos were used for our real estate listing. I enjoy looking at them because it reminds me of all the things that made me happy about our first house (plus it looks so sparkly and well kept). We went under contract after 31 days on the market, I've never felt so lucky in my entire life! I came across photos from when we moved in and I have to admit, we really did leave a special touch on the place. I love this house and I always will. I actually cried at closing, sitting at the table with a group of people around us! I had no idea it would be that emotional for me. I really liked the woman that purchased the home, I can tell she loved the place already which made it easier for me to say goodbye.

The house was a split level built in 1959. Most of the homes in the neighborhood were brick ranches, so I loved how our two story stood out. We painted all the soffit and gutters before putting the house on the market, they were originally grey but the tone I chose was much softer and matched the garage door. The front door was white, I had never painted it over the years. I was wavering on what color to choose, but went with a green tone that tied everything together nicely. Of course I had one of those a-ha moments walking inside one day, like why didn't we paint this years ago? It's hard to see, but my brother did the wood working where the ceramic sun is hanging in between the two windows out front. We had it just the natural wood over the years and I just painted it when we did all the other exterior painting. It was some cheesy looking grey grate when we moved in, his design just spruced things up wonderfully. My father put his touch on the front of the house as well, the front entryway was sunken in concrete which made the step an awkward height. He put a Trex deck on the front when I was in labor with Sj seven years ago! It was just big enough to hold two Adirondack chairs and one of my antique crocks, I loved it. Click here to see photos of how the house looked for years!

The entire house with the exception of the bathrooms was painted this khaki/yellowish tone when we moved in. I never changed the paint in the main living space and hallways, but we painted almost all of the other rooms. This living room was tricky to arrange furniture in, I was always fighting the "bowling alley" feeling by having everything flow like one narrow track in the room with the focus on the television. With the chairs grouped together on the opposite end of the space, it created a nice place for conversation.

The dining room was one of my favorite rooms of the house. My father added the crown moulding, chair rail, and split pea soup green paint (so my parent's called it) the first few weeks after we moved in. We lightened the tone of the paint right before putting it on the market on the top half of the wall above the chair rail to lighten things up. The far end of the room had French doors which both opened up to create a wonderful way to bring the outside in on a nice day. The oak hardwood floors were really the center piece of the house, you can see a peak of them in this photo. The dining room and kitchen both had pocket doors which closed off those rooms from the living room. We didn't use them much, but I loved that feature.

The kitchen was redone and brand new when we moved in. We had always spoken about putting in a gas range, but we never did. The counters were granite tile, which gave the appearance of an upgraded kitchen with out the cost. I will admit cleaning the grout on a kitchen surface was really a pain, I would never choose to put tile counters in any home! There was a plethora of countertop space in the kitchen and keeping appliances on display to a minimum really helped feature them. The wall where the print hangs was a wasted space, there really should have been more cabinets there. I thought one open cabinet or glass doored cabinet would be a nice touch. We replaced the refrigerator a year ago, one of the items the experts say to upgrade if you are going to do anything in the kitchen because it's so big and catches the eye!

Our bedroom, very simple. I rearranged the furniture about twice a year in there. The bed always had to be under a window, which bothered me because I could never create a focal point above the headboard. It was spacious and had a great wall length closet with built in shelves. We never outgrew that closet.

Our house had two full bathrooms. When we moved in this bathroom, which was upstairs and had a pocket door off the master bedroom desperately needed updating! It had a huge oak cabinet that consumed such a small space, a peeling re-painted tub, lovely linoleum flooring, it felt like 50 square feet of hodge podge gone wrong. My father and I re-did this bathroom in a weekend during one of their visits from New York. Everything in the room was purchased off the shelf at a big box hardware store. We put in travertine floors, the vessel sink, wainscoting, and even replaced the green tile that bordered the shower with white to tie the tub area in with the new sink and toilet. After the remodel I had painted the room a Tiffany blue, but repainted it a friendly neutral tone to get it market ready. I laughed because the paint I had laying around was a left over quart from when we were originally deciding on a dining room color. My best advice, always use what you have. Click here to see before and after photos!

The girls' bedroom, a simple lavender. Pretty much speaks for itself. This room had two awesome closets, one was full of amazing built in shelves so no toys were out cluttering the space. I did take down these curtains before it went on the market, as they are darkening drapes from Pottery Barn and replaced them with sheers from Target. All curtains are a part of the contract, so it's worth buying $5 panels if you want to take your expensive ones with you.

The guest room. We took GL's dresser from upstairs and put it in the guest room to stage it.

Our office, playroom, and potential fourth bedroom. A truly conforming bedroom has to have a closet and if it's in a basement a full window. Our lowest level had full windows in them, as it was just a garden level, not a basement. The cabinets were there when we moved in, but my handy contractor brother put in the built in shelves which I loved. I got rid of most of our bookshelves after he did the work and now I am scrambling to find more! Funny enough that track lighting was in the downstairs hallway when we moved in and the office had a ceiling fan. I moved all of it around, ditched the ceiling fan, and just bought a simple light fixture for the hallway. This is one of the only rooms we never painted, but the walls wiped up nicely before it was market ready.

Lastly, the monster backyard. If you don't know most yards in the area where we live in Colorado are on the smaller side. We fell in love with the mature trees and spaciousness, which is a bonus in the older neighborhoods. The mature trees, aka the cottonwood that canopied the backyard was a blessing in the summer, but a curse every Autumn. We were still raking leaves well into Spring and averaged about 60-80 huge black bags every year. J and I took out the buckling concrete patio that as once out the French doors and put in a tumbled Pavestone patio. My father built the jumbo shed off there in the back left corner, attached a little frame to it for swings, and even built a sandbox.

There you have it, our first home. A place that will always leave me warm inside with wonderful memories. Can't wait to embark on the journey in our second house...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Packing Lunch Again... Post Move!

Oh boy, moving has put a real speed bump in my bento inspiration! Most mornings we are trying to get something nourishing out the door in a flash and a few days it was even in a brown bag! The majority of my bento supplies are in storage, so we are down to the absolute basics. Two laptop lunches and a couple Japanese bentos are all I have in my 1000sqft apartment. In a month we'll be settled into our real home and I'm already devising ways to organize my bentos in the new kitchen!

Whole wheat tortilla gently melted in the toaster oven, cukes, baby carrots, pirate's booty, and some raspberries.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Munchkin Masquerade with a Haunted House Chaser...

Quick update: I'm writing from an apartment that we moved into following closing. I will write about everything once we close on our home at the end of the month. I feel a bit superstitious writing about the entire process of selling and buying before it's a real done deal! As you may imagine packing and moving the contents of a home we settled very comfortably into over eight years was a ton of work, then multiply that by a three and that's really how much work it was. We still have one more move ahead of us, but at least 2/3 of our belongings are in storage and I don't have to repack them, they just need to be hauled.

Now onto more fun things, we spent our first Halloween in Boulder! Pearl St Mall had a great event called Munchkin Masquerade, where some businesses even provided great "green treats". Some of the loot I was delighted to let my girls dig into after the event were bags of trail mix, organic fruit leather, organic fair trade chocolates, and pretzels. Of course there was other candy at the event, but I personally loved the alternatives. Only in Boulder.

After the masquerade we stopped by a haunted house which was done up quite deluxe. We sat out front in the car oohing and aahing from the street. Then the girls asked to get out, so we walked around a bit, then they asked to go on the porch. That was a mistake. Luckily this photo was captured before GL was terrified by the motion sensor creepy masked dummy started screeching and rocking.

We ran off, I had a brave but scared daughter in my arms...