neighbors without borders

When this happens in your backyard you might consider a few things. Like, how good is my homeowners insurance? Or, how did I not hear this thing fall? Or, how lucky am I that gravity had the tree fall away from the house and not onto it?

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We had a macroburst two weekends ago that involved 100 mile-per-hour winds and torrential rain. The neighborhood looks like a hurricane passed through–I’ve never experienced anything like it.

This is an inconvenience largely because we have dogs and our neighbors have dogs, and because it’s a giant mess. (And it’s a million degrees out, and I’m super pregnant, those conditions heighten any disturbance). But this is a joke compared to problems that exist in other parts of the world–or hell–in other parts of Phoenix. But while incredibly annoying, knocking down walls makes for a great social experiment.

It dawned on me today how different life would be without so many walls. What would it be like if we didn’t live in such modular, segmented ways that separate us–literally and figuratively–from those around us? How exactly did we become so reliant on the idea of privacy?

Chances are it would be weird if things were different. I mean, I’d definitely have to dress more appropriately when I let the dogs out in the morning, and there’s always the off chance your neighbors are creepers, or have ugly yards you don’t want to stare at, or run a frat house. But it also might be kind of cool to have a more open sense of community. Lots of cultures live more communally than Americans, and I think that’s neat. Although in these cases it’s often families that live interchangeably, not strangers who happened to prefer the same zip code as you.

At any rate, in the week since our wall was demolished, we’ve gotten to know more neighbors than we did over the past year, and it feels nice to get better acquainted with the people that reside 15 feet from you.

All day at work I sit in an enclosed office. My house is (well, was) surrounded by a six-foot wall. I’m an introvert, so this doesn’t displease me, but I also thrive in social settings and often wish I sat in an open bullpen with coworkers instead of in my own stall. And that I had neighbors dropping by to say hello rather than just waving from behind closed car windows.

The wall should be resurrected by the end of the week, but it’s temporary hiatus has had unexpected perks.

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dabbling in home improvement

Before: Land of the Lost Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 12.25.51 PM

After: Somewhere we actually enjoy spending time.

photo (4)Before: 80s vanity, builder’s mirror, single sink, ugly lighting.

Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 12.24.50 PMAfter: New vanity, new mirror, converted to double sinks and new light fixture.

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Before: Broken, 80s mini blinds. Everywhere.

Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 12.24.14 PMAfter: New blinds and valances throughout.

photo (5)Before: Two-tone 80s vanity.

Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 12.23.59 PMAfter: Painted white until we figure out what do to with it.

photo (6)Before: Popcorn ceilings and whitewashed walls.

Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 1.48.52 PM

After: No more popcorn, no more white.

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The 10 Worst Tasks Associated with Moving

Moving is a lot of work. I moved every summer for nine years in a row after I left for college, and I thought I’d mastered the art of a smooth transition. That was until I experienced the joys associated with moving into a new house while simultaneously prepping another one for sale. You know, spending your time and money to make your house look better than when you lived in it, so that a stranger can enjoy the fruits of your labor. The experience opened my eyes to a range of new activities I’d be ok never repeating.

Here you have it, the 10 Worst Tasks Associated with Moving:

1. Moving four tons of gravel. By shovel and wheelbarrow. To cover up the areas where our dogs dug the crap out of an entire patio of pavers.

2. Cleaning out the refrigerator. I‘m no hoarder—I’ve cleaned it before—but when tasked with making it look new again, things got gross fairly quickly.

3. Deodorizing the carpet. I inhaled the equivalent of two tablespoons of scented baking soda in the process and fear I will forever smell of fresh linen.

4. Cleaning spider webs off the windows. As part of the process I had to violently shake my whole body every two-to-three minutes to remove the imaginary spider army I was convinced was crawling all over me.

5. Getting a new hot water heater. Because of course it went out just as we were about to move. Because it cost $750 for parts and labor. And because It’s still 110 degrees out so you don’t technically need a hot shower right now.

6. Painting. There was a point in life when my brother and I would lament our mundane office jobs and discuss the merits of being a house painter—a job where you see the fruits of simple labor each day, and never take work home with you. Attention: this is no longer an aspiration.

7. Packing. One cannot understand the magnitude of one’s possessions until it must be moved into cardboard cartons and carried to a new location.

8. Dusting window coverings. Blind dusting? I spent about two hours dusting the blinds. That’s a task so boring it doesn’t even have a real name.

9. Scrubbing the driveway. I may have completed a Pinterest project in the driveway last year. I may have used spray paint and neglected to use newspaper as a safety barrier. I may have then spent an hour scrubbing spray paint off the driveway with graffiti remover last week.

10. Cleaning out under the washer and dryer. It’s not convenient to do on a regular basis—or ever—so when the time came, it was gag-inducing. Fur balls and dust bunnies fled the scene like deranged tumbleweeds.

It was a lot of work, but we got it all done and the house went on the market today. Now, we wait, patiently, for the cobweb-free windows and freshly painted trim to draw in buyers by the dozen.

The feel of indoor camping

Everything we own is packed and moved out of one house and into the garage of another. I have no idea where anything is and am living out of cardboard boxes and plastic wardrobe bins. We’re moving.

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The transition has taken on the feel of indoor camping. We have no furniture or decorations and it smells like dust. The only items left are what we’ve deemed absolutely essential for our survival this week: our bed, TV and wine fridge.

A few dishes are still scattered in the kitchen, lonely soldiers abandoned among paint cans and rags, and a lone camping chair sits in the living room. It’s not uncomfortable, per se, but after watching the VMAs sitting on a dog bed last night, I’m ready to have a couch again.

It’s strange how little we actually need, compared with what we have. The nice-to-have things verses the need-to-have ones. Tonight I made spaghetti sauce using a plastic knife to cut veggies and a measuring cup as a ladle. I used leftover red pepper packets from a pizza delivery as seasoning and ate out of a casserole dish. My boxes of expensive culinary tools were nowhere to be found, yet the end result was the same as it would’ve been with my garlic press and colander.

It’s refreshing to feel minimalistic for a while. To define how I feel based off of things that aren’t really things. I don’t want to do this forever, but today, I’m content. There was a wild storm earlier and it was surprisingly fulfilling to sit on the floor and listen to the rain with my crazy dogs. I observed a lot more than I would have taken the time to notice under typical circumstances.

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I’m sad to leave the home we’ve shared for more than four years. We moved in as boyfriend and girlfriend and will leave as husband and wife. We’ve enjoyed countless meals here, shared lots of celebrations and recovered from defeats. We’ve experienced an appendectomy, new puppies and various jobs living here, stretching our lives into greater adventures than we ever imagined.

We grew up here, as a couple and as individuals, and I’ll never, ever, forget what it felt like to own my first home.

There have been wonderful parties here, and heated arguments, too. Early mornings and late evenings, long days and quiet afternoons. We experienced a leaky roof, rats and fallen trees. I learned what an escrow account is and how property taxes impact a mortgage payment. Most of all, I learned that a house and home are two very separate things, that combine under the most fortunate of circumstances.

It feels bittersweet to move on. Exciting and scary and hard to believe. I’m so thankful for this house and the memories we’ve built here, and although it sounds silly and dramatic, a part of my heart will always be here. A lot has happened within these walls.

At the end of the day, sitting on the floor once again, I finally feel ready to move on. It’s time to start the next chapter.

room mate roundup

I have this fantasy where I live in a giant luxury dorm condo complex and all my favorite people are my neighbors. I am surrounded by all my best friends and we win the lottery, quit our jobs and just laugh and drink champagne and walk barefoot through meadows. Or something like that.

I first started this daydream my sophomore year of college, when Anna and I lived next to two of our girlfriends. It was amazing – but short-lived, as the “economical” complex we had chosen was plagued by a panty bandit that spurred us to move – true story.

Anyway, I loved being able to walk to see friends, and know that I’d always have someone to hang out with and that a party could begin at a moment’s notice. We ate brownies or cereal for dinner and I never made my bed. I don’t know that we owned a vacuum and I had no idea what the word Swiffer meant. Glorious, I tell you.

I lived with a series of room mates after college and had a lot of adventures (and dramatic falling outs over absurd things). I always loved the comfort of having a full house. Especially because it quadrupled my wardrobe and provided endless junkfood.But, in time, we all grew up. And fell in love with boys. And then took the crazy wonderful step of living with said boys (and in my case: his dog, two snakes and sword collection).

People warned us that it was going to be so hard (I’m saying those words in a stupid voice in my head), and that we’d really be tested by cohabiting. Well – that never really happened, once the snakes miraculously disappeared…

Jim and I have now lived together for more than three years and I can honestly say he’s been a fantastic boyfriend, fiance and now husband. He somewhat begrudgingly plays the part of my former female room mates by: A) telling me I look fine no matter what I wear, B) eating Doritos with me as I simultaneously complain about feeling fat and C) taking turns cooking and cleaning.

I love my husband and my house, and am excited to come home everyday.

But man I do miss the extra outfit options.

Queen Creek Olive Mill

The idea of going to a mill reminds me of going to Plimouth Plantation as a child. Makes me want to churn butter and make my own flour.

I’ve since learned that doesn’t happen at an olive mill.

But – there are all kinds of delicious olives, oils and spreads. Pretty cool spot to spend a rainy Sunday with a friend, before the two of you spontaneously devote eight hours to redecorating your bedroom.


Decorating preview…

Home Ownership: A Year in Review

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since we settled into our first home. An event of this magnitude can only be summed up in list form. Here are my highlights and most poingant memories from the past year:

1. The blissful realization that I don’t have to move this summer – for the first time in nine years. Actually, I don’t ever have to move ever again unless I feel like it.
2. Shock and awe at a $9,000 plumbing estimate. Kinda made me wish I’d been a plumber. Note – we still haven’t resolved the tree root problem, but are $9,000 richer for it.
3. The joy of having friends and neighbors in the area pop in.
4. Mice and rats and exterminators, oh my.
5. Building a block wall.
6. Witnessing dog jump over block wall.
7. Modifying block wall to dog-proof it.
8. Countless dinner parties, wine club nights and bbq’s with friends.
9. Freaking out when I got my property tax assessment. Called parents, realtor and friends in a panic – only to learn it’s irrelevant to the actual value of the house.
10. Learning how to bribe Jim into endless projects (love you).
11. Trying to plant flowers for the first time with little success.
12. I feeling of pride I get every time I show someone the house for the first time.
13. The harsh realization that there’s no landlord to call when things break.
14. The even harsher realization that any discretionary money is now spent at Home Depot, not on clothes.
15. The irony of getting an anonymous complaint from the City that our weeds are too high.
16. My first experience cleaning baseboards.
17. The rainiest winter in years means roof leaks abound!
18. I have a new interest in seasonal decorations that had previously remained dormant.
19. Dogs + irrigation + grass = mess
20. I love being a home owner.