Category Archives: House

My first pintrest project!!!

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Was made by my husband…. go figure.

I am slowly… slowly… turning my office into a craft studio. Soon the days where all my craft stuff is buried deep in draws and boxes will be long gone, and everything will be out for me to see.

So, Wes made me a super cute stamp storage space that fits neatly behind my door – thank you honey 🙂

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P.S. Anyone else pin a heapload of stuff, but never actually check their pintrest boards? And then spend hours googling something online (e.g. ‘baby shower cakes’) only to find out you had a whole pintest board devoted to that thing AFTER you spent hours finding a project? OK. Just me then.

I made a blind!

Roman blind of sadness

Roman blind of sadness

A terrible.. terrible blind.

Well, the blind structure is good. The fabric is, as I suspected all along, terrible. Note to self: vintage and old fashioned are very different.

Sigh. Here is how I made the blind…

(1) Cut your fabric & lining 1″ wider than the window, and 4″ longer.

(2) Sew together, with 1/2 ” seams around 3 of the sides (leave the top open), with the outside sides (the sides you want to see) facing together.

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(3) Turn right way out and insert a metal pole (I got mine from Home Depot) into the little bag you have created.

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(4) Sew three sets of brass rings up from the base. I started 5″ from the bottom, then went at 7″, 6″, 5″, 4″, & 3″, intervals.

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(5) Staple gun the open top around some wood, the length of your window frame (I used 1/2″ thick wood) and screw in little hooks for the threads.

(6) Run threads through the brass rings and through the hooks,

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Et voila.

Hang.

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I hate my blind.

I am quite pleased with my valance – this was easy peasy.

(1) Construct a valance out of insulation foam (I glued it with my hot glue gun)

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(2) Cover with fabric and pin into place:

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Et voila a deux:

Blind of sadness

Blind of sadness

Now I have to remake the dratted blind with decent fabric.

A Colour Scheme for my Study

My desire to redo the house has started to take fruition. Inspired by how nice Sam’s room is, and how dismally impersonal and cold the rest of the house is, I have in fact, started in full force. (Note: I tend to start everything in very full force).

Sorry to have this pic again, but I just love how peaceful and warm this room is.

Sorry to have this pic again, but I just love how peaceful and warm this room is.

I am starting with my study / play area (let’s face it: I play far more than I study…) so that I can experiment in a relatively private spot, without wrecking the visible spots of the house. The first thing I decided to do was decide on a color scheme, for, from there, all good creative things flow.

Previously I loved yellow. It was my favorite colour for all rooms: so bright and sunny, and so easy to accent. I think I was swayed by the cold wintery weather here in Houston, because I wanted something more warm and cosy and the word: autumnal kept coming to mind (another note: I do know that winter lasts all of 2 milliseconds in Houston and therefore it is foolish to build a room around winter feelings… but the current urge is too strong to ignore).

So, I decided chocolate brown would be my starting point. Then I needed an accent… powder blue & white & brown will probably be how our bedroom goes (inspired by my boppy).

Boppy. The cushion, not the child.

Boppy. The cushion, not the child.

Our bedroom is currently brown with leaf green and I have decided I HATE that, so that is out.

I hate this so much now. Except now I see this picture, when I quite like it.

I hate this so much now. Except now I see this picture, when I quite like it.

While looking online I became obsessed with this orange candle:

I can almost smell the pumpkin spice

I can almost smell the pumpkin spice

and thus, my accent color was born: burnt orange.

Yes. Brown and orange. I know what you are thinking. I googled ‘brown and orange rooms’ for inspiration and found phrases like ‘brave’ and ‘not often used’. I sat through Wesley’s earnest attempts to talk me into another color. I have seen people’s eyebrows raise sharply when I tell them. I know you are thinking ‘bit sixties… bit dated’.

Sadly I am now thinking them too, but… anyway…

Before I got to that stage of regret and woe, I decided that I needed a statement fabric to make a couple of blinds with. So off to Jo Ann’s I went. Surprisingly – surprisingly – they didn’t have a whole lot of brown and orange fabric. Anyone would think that colour combination was a bad idea… But, I did find this:

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Which I bought. And I also bought some brown and orange craft paint to make accessories. And some scrapbooking things. And I didn’t sign up for my New Year’s Day 5K because they were having a sale in Jo Ann’s and I spent all my money. Boo.

And now, I am in regret and woe stage 2, because now I am home, and we tacked it up at a window, this doesn’t so much look like a funky statement fabric, but rather like something dragged out of an old people’s home. In Jo Ann’s the word ‘vintage’ sprung to mind. At home the words ‘horribly dated’ came forth. There were tears, and laughter, and then sort of tears-laughter.

Doesn't look any better from a distance...

Doesn’t look any better from a distance…

But now. Now there is resolution and determination. Dammit. I will MAKE this fabric work. I will put lots of chocolate brown around it – brown lettering on doors, brown seat covers, brown cushions (all homemade), and lots of autumnal woody accessories: wooden picture frames etc and the odd orange accessory (a button on a cushion, a candle, some orange accents on the letters) and I will MAKE IT LOOK AWESOME.

I like a challenge. But… I am still full of regret and woe at my fabric and color scheme choice. You know what is brown & orange? Lindt Intense Orange Chocolate. Which I am mournfully eating now as I glare dejectedly at my fabric. Any suggestions for working this into a room (this will be the blinds) most welcome. Or just any encouragement. Or any chocolate.

An Early Start on 2013 Resolutions

The title of this post is a bit misleading. I don’t really have any resolutions, but I do have some things I would like to do in 2013 (if you get the distinction). One is to turn our house into a home. The house we live in now is gorgeous structurally: large spacious rooms, wooden floors, sun room, dining room bathed in light. But we have not done much with it, other than move our stuff in, and keep it fairly clean and tidy.

I have not owned, or settled, somewhere for 3 years. I previously owned a flat in London, but I was heinously broke and struggled to deal with how tiny it was – it was a beautiful place, but very cluttered with all my junk (and animals). Then I rented in Birmingham – one nice apartment and one hell hole. Now Wes and I own our own home, and intend to be here a good 3-5 years at the least, I am more motivated to try to do something nice with it – something personal, something Better Homes and Garden-y. It has struck me how nice it is to go into Sam’s room which is properly painted, has a color scheme and decorations and so on. So, with the zest I previously applied to changing my body, I now intend to change the house.

First up: cleaning out my wardrobe, which was an absolute abomination.

This is how it started (and this was a GOOD day):

Messy wardrobe

Messy wardrobe

Yeah… it was bad. So, I put Sam in his jungle gym of entertainment and hilarity:

Fisher Price rainforest jungle gym

So amusing to a 7 week old

And set to it. These were my steps:

1. Take EVERYTHING out. Yes. Everything.

Empty wardrobe

Empty wardrobe

2. Sort it into piles:
‘work trousers’, ‘work skirts’, ‘work tops’, ‘work dresses’
‘weekend trousers’, ‘weekend skirts’, ‘weekend tops’, ‘weekend dresses’
‘sweaters’ ‘evening dresses’ ‘long dresses [not evening’], ‘vest tops’
‘pyjamas’, ‘sports gear’, ‘lounging around the house’

piles of clothes

This is actually organized believe it or not

Note: This is the ‘you have to break eggs to make an omelette’ stage. Also note: if you have been let off other house chores to get this done, and that person who is slaving away cleaning the kitchen sees this, they may go bananas at this stage. Weather the storm… weather the storm.

3. Go through RUTHLESSLY. Remove everything that doesn’t fit (NO it will NEVER fit), is tattered, is only in the wardrobe for sentimental reasons, is ripped or torn, doesn’t have anything else that goes with it or you always put on and take off again.

4. Then look at each pile and remove even more items if the pile is too big for your lifestyle e.g. I have not worn an evening dress for 3 years (sob)… I don’t need 11, no matter how beautiful they are. I don’t need 24 work dresses (yes really).

Every empty hanger is a piece of clothing given to charity!

Every empty hanger is a piece of clothing given to charity!

Yeah, the above pic shows how much I got rid of. Ouch.

5. Rehang in the sections from stage 2.

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All told, it took about 7-8 hours (over 3 days) but felt MARVELOUS when done. Future projects will be more crafty (I am making a blind this weekend… bit nervous about that) but this was a great, and needed, start to sorting this place out.

Monkey stayed with me most of the time, but graduated to his tummy time mat 🙂 :

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Reindeer cupcakes

reindeer cupcakes

Merry Christmas… just 5 more days to go. While I am super excited, I must confess, my Christmas crafts did not go as plentifully as planned. I blame two things:

(1) Sam.

Cute, but time consuming

Cute, but time consuming

(2) Liars in Kroger who tell my husband that you can’t get superfine sugar in the US (wtf? Superfine is the US term! In the UK we call is caster sugar…) nor can you get ground almonds (again: wtf? The country of paleo eating and the birth place of Atkins does indeed have ground almonds / almond meal / almond flour). Eegits have put a halt to my Christmas baking.

So… since I last blogged about my tree and wreath, all I have really managed is some paper chains around the banisters:

paper chains Christmas decoration

The stockings being hung (not even on a mantelpiece… oh dearie me):

Can you guess which one is Sam's?

Can you guess which one is Sam’s?

A party involving mulled wine and mince pies,

And some reindeer cupcakes.

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The decorations were cobbled together from several ideas on the internet, but I basically put chocolate frosting (icing) on some cupcakes and added:

Muzzle: vanilla wafer
Nose: mini chocolate chip / mini morsel
Eyes: Sugar eyes from Target
Antlers: mini pretzels snapped in half.

Easy peasy and very festive.

Oh, and don’t forget to ask your husband to buy an ENORMOUS bag of mini M&M’s so you can extract just one red one for:

Don't forget Rudolph

Don’t forget Rudolph

LOVE Christmas baking. These went to our OB’s office. I may do some more this weekend to give to Texas Children’s Hospital 🙂

New Toy-box and a Final Nursery Tour

Homemade toybox

Toy-box

I have been crafting again – I should do more of this as I really enjoy it. I tend to shy away from craft projects due to lack of inspiration, and a general lack of talent (my Mum used to be an artist – how these genes bypassed me, I’ll never know), but my husband and I agreed that I enjoy it so much, it is worth it anyway. I am going to read some craft / home decor magazines, and I also have found a friend here who is going to teach me to crochet something other than long ‘worms’ which will expand my current ‘painting boxes’ and ‘cake pop’ craft repertoire 😉

Crochet stitch

After many failed internet tutorials, this is the most I can do with crochet. A worm. A pink / brown / blue / yellow worm, if you like. But still, a worm.

So… poor Firework will either be a craft-lover, or a child terribly embarrassed at his mother’s homemade, hokey decorations. Quite frankly, I am OK with either 😉

I wanted a toy-box for FW, but ones I liked were all pretty expensive. I had the idea of using an old apple crate to go well with the tree mural in the nursery… but actually finding apple crates, without paying hundreds of $$s for postage was not easy either. Then a quick trip to Hobby Lobby, and 10 princely dollars later, I emerged with a fake, plywood apple crate. Sweet. Some $5 plywood decorations later (including the name letters – hence the blank square) and I am pretty pleased with how it turned out. At least, pleased for $15. He can totally change it up when he is old enough to care.

I also made another ‘letter box’ – just for funsies.

So, unless the hospital puts us back due to being excessively busy, just 4 days to go. Final bits done to the nursery… all the light switches which were really old and discolored have been replaced with shiny new ones, covers have been put on the sockets (not that we need that yet, but hubby was being proactive) and the last things are in place. We have a changing table:

Changing table in nursery

A bed (it is still the spare room for when guests come, and then FW will stay in the pack ‘n’ play in our room – where he might start anyway) / nursing / play / crib area:

Gender neutral grey Nursery

Creepy uber-cam the husband wanted, which scans the entire room (you have been warned, future guests 😉 ):

Web cam for baby

And a closet full of baby clothes for 3 – 24 months – a sight that makes me smile every time I see it:

Baby clothes in wardrobe

See our bumbo? It’s a must have!

If you have sent us something lovely and cannot see it hanging up, this is because it is for 3 months or under, and is in the changing table ready to be worn! It all seems quite real, and very exciting now.

Making a Mural for Firework

I am nothing, if not stubborn. I got a bee in my bonnet about having a tree on Firework’s wall. Which was going to be simple, as I could just order a nice wall decal (i.e. sticker). After much searching and deciding and comparing and pintresting and getting over the $100+ price, hubby and I decided to go for it. Alas, the new home has textured walls and decals won’t stay up. So I decided to stencil one on. Hubby was skeptical and very unenthusiastic, until he saw my canvases. So, we decided to go for it… except we could not find the tree I wanted. So, I decided I would just draw a tree o the wall! Yeah! How hard could it be? I mean, we’ve all been drawing trees since we were – like – 2, right? Green lollipop with a brown stick.

Little bit of my, ahem, artistic ‘talent’. I went to a super competitive school where we were drummed to be successes and basically forced to be so: the school would do whatever it took to get you to pass their end of year exams. Except, it would seem, actually pass me in Art. Seriously, I tried, but I remain the only girl to fail an internal LEH art exam. Sigh. And, really, quite fairly so. Years later, as a special ed teacher, my ‘art’ was the mirth of my friends, and the despair of my assistants. Lucy politely and in a roundabout way, basically asked if she could redo all my displays, as they were so dire. I said yes *hangs head*

But. Hormones. Age. Memory loss. Stubbornness. Whatever. I decided to make one for FW. Here is how it went:

1. Draw pic on giant paper:

2. Spend three days redrawing and refining pic:


3. Paint in proposed colours:

4. Cut out pic:

5: Tape on wall:

6: Draw around outline in chalk

7: Paint around outline

8: Fill in (painstakingly and boringly. Twice):

9: Paint accents:

10: Outline in black, adding detail:

11: Finally: add name in wooden letters ($1.99 each from Hobby Lobby), you have painted white.

Obviously this is edited on the computer not to show his real name 🙂

Voila! I am actually pretty pleased. No Picasso, or Monet, but I like it. It’ll probably be the bane of the kid’s life.Now we have to decide on cot (US: crib) colour. I say: white, he says: black. We’ll see.

If *I* can do it, trust me, anyone can. Here’s hoping some of you are inspired to give it a go…

Anything Etsy can do…

My blog writing partner tonight.

Saturday

What a weekend. I got up Saturday, excited about the start of our Bradley classes. Bradley is a 12-week birthing course, designed to prepare the couple as a whole for a natural childbirth. 12 weeks seems a long time (one 2 hour class per week), but Bradley’s rationale is that the woman is preparing for a intense endurance exercise which you should try to enter at peak performance, which takes time – a lot of 5K programs are designed to be conducted over 12 weeks; and heck, running 5K (which I first did with no prep) is quicker and easier than giving birth. So, Bradley is designed to teach you optimal nutrition, exercises for fitness, and also proper relaxation. It is also partner / couple-  centric. The idea being that the ‘other half’ supports the labouring woman with full understanding through helping with positions, breathing and massage. When she transitions and wants to give up, it is him that stops her giving in too early. Maybe it is too much… all this ‘preparation’ – after all, didn’t women just give birth without preparation since forever, and don’t women still do it all the time now? Sure, but Wes and figured a few things:

(1) Babies are bigger, our fitness is not as optimal, and our endurance is probably lower than ‘since forever’

(2) Sure, women do it all the time without preparation; but intervention rates are soaring, and many people do not report a happy experience (many do). Why not prepare to make it as good / positive of an experience as possible?

(3) This is a good way for Wes to be involved: reading blogs and talking to girlfriends about birth over coffee is not exactly his style… coming along and learning how to be useful is

(4) The social / emotional aspects are appealing. We are both looking forward to learning massage and relaxation together, and to meeting some people here in Houston (more on that later).

Plus, it is only $250 for 12 weeks… pretty impressive. The only annoying thing, was that I was preparing for a 2.30 class… kind of annoying time. It basically makes it hard to do anything in the morning or afternoon: midday would have suited me better. But, hey ho, I decided to do a manicure in preparation:

RCM Envelope Please

For my birthday, my Mum got me a whole gel polish kit. Gel nail polish is awesome: you apply a basecoat, 2 coats of polish and a top coat, allowing each one to ‘cure’ (read: dry completely) for 45 secs under an LED light. The polish is extremely chip resistant, and your nails tend to be fairly protected against flaking and breaking.

After the final coat was on, I looked up the address for the Bradley class, and found that it was at 12.30 after all. Score one for having a better time, lose one for having missed the class. I was mortified. I texted our class leader to apologise and she was ever so sweet, saying we could come on Monday evening to learn the exercises for the week. Phew.

Not sure what I did after that: tidy up, unpack from NYC, sort and clean out the bathroom. Then I felt at a loose end… which is odd as I have plenty of hobbies I can do at any time: reading, working, gardening, exploring Houston, piano playing, movie watching… but none appealed. Going and getting some craft stuff to start to make things for Firework’s nursery appealed, but didn’t ‘click’ I just felt lonely. I realised: I miss female company. Mostly, I miss hiking with Stella or David, going and playing with Sasha, Liam and Rachel (who will do anything with me), cinema trips and chats with Kat and my bookgroup 😦 It’s fine; we have only been in Houston 6 weeks, and building up those sorts of friendships takes time. But… I do miss it. So, Wes came with me to Hobby Lobby and patiently waited an hour (OK, patiently waited 40 mins, then was a pest for 20 😉 ) while I got some craft stuff. Dinner out, and then home to organize all my craft stuff. Everything put in neat draws and filed away before bed.

For the crafting

Meanwhile… Wes was back in the attic trying to locate the source of water dripping through our ceiling. Joy.

Sunday

Sunday was… dramatic. We left for church in separate cars so that I could go to IKEA after and Wes could go to Home Depot so he could solve the dripping water, which by now was staining our ceiling, causing little holes in it, and threatening to ruin our new laminate floor. More joy.

Wes left 5 mins before me, and then I got stuck at a train crossing for ages. So. I was surprised when Wes was not at church. Very surprised. I called him – no answer. I couldn’t fathom why he had not called if there was a problem… or why he was not answering now. Unless she had been in a horrible accident. So bad, he could not even call to tell me. Cue slow tears descending into complete hysterics as a further 4 minutes passed. Then Wes turned up… no explanation. He forgot to charge his phone and had made his way there. Must have gone a different route. It took me a full 15 minutes to calm down… I do blame hormones.

So, off I went to IKEA. I hate IKEA. The whole thing is stressful. I hate most things in there. I 1/2 believe that Satan sends his minions for training there on a Sunday. BUT, my beloved Clio is coming out, and staying in Firework’s currently empty, save a beautiful changing table, room (also currently called ‘Clio’s room’). She must at least have bed linen and blinds. Blinds are hella expensive (if you want them to look decent), except at IKEA. So, in the interests of Clio sleeping, in something other than bright morning light, I braved IKEA.

It all went quite swimmingly, with me hankering after this for FW’s room:

For the nursing

until I got to the actual blinds. The walls are going to be a fairly dark grey. I could not picture wooden blinds against that. I just couldn’t. I had been all set on them, now I couldn’t see it. I called Wes. 45 minutes I spent discussing / researching blinds and alternately thinking I might like white drapes against the grey. Wes said everything right; from offering opinion, to saying ‘if you like something, get it and I will love it – really, this is your room’. But, I was overwhelmed. Possibly precipitated by the fact I had just fallen down the stairs (shoe broke as I was descending) and in an attempt to protect the bump had bruised my ass (isn’t there enough cushioning there now??) and smashed my teeth into the railing, I just dissolved into more tears draped over a stack of blinds. Not a few – but streaming, snot inducing, dress staining tears. The sight was quite pathetic: pregnant woman in floaty floral peasant-style dress, with broken flip flops weeping into the textiles at IKEA. I grabbed dark grey roller blinds, white drapes, fixing and high tailed it out of there.

To decide on the way home that maybe white blinds would be best.

Which made me cry.

I made it home. Just. My broken and emotional state was faced with the news that the plumbing is up the spout, can’t be fixed until we can get someone in, we can’t get someone in until we speak to the people who deal with our home warranty and so no air conditioning for us. Let me repeat: no air conditioning. It is some 90-100 degrees during the day and 80-100% humidity. NO. AIR. CONDITIONING.

Yes, this is a story of first world problems… but… still.

Wes took me out to buy me a craft table from Walmart ($35 steal) and insisted I bough a ‘chocolate turtle cake’ and bottle of wine. He is a wise man. I went up and crafted myself into calmness (see? I need Bradley. I need to learn how to relax). I am quite pleased with what I made for FW’s room (not Clio’s room, she shall be spared the infantile decor):

To be bookends?

I will make several of these into a tableau

and came down somewhat better. If not. Hear my no air con plea? Yeah. Hot. Comfort food of pizza, and turtle cake and wine later, and I was ready to tackle my plants, which had survived my NYC trip with varying success. They had dried out somewhat, and needed restaking – sadly, some of the stems had snapped under the weight of the leaves 😦 Hoping that they can regrow?

Quite a forest here – hoping they will be ready to acclimatise soon, and be put outside for increasing periods of the day.

So, as above, my seeds grown in a mixture of potting soil and perlite were doing very well. My seeds grown in peat pots, not so much:

Ugh.

But, whatever the outcome, gardening further calmed me. I am now sitting downstairs (it is slightly cooler) on a made up bed, with the dregs of my wine, preparing to read this:

Walter is sitting with me. He got into my chocolate Philadelphia and ate a pot of it, and would have been told off, had he not been looking so ridiculous:

My pot

So proud was he of his steal, that he carried the empty pot EVERYWHERE with him, even into bed with me.

Oh, some good news though. 2 crafting episodes, 1 IKEA trip, 1 gardening trip and 2 sorting binges and check out my manicure:

LOVE gel nail polish 🙂

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary…

How does your garden grow? Well, as this post will tell you, very well. It will also chart, in far too much detail, my weekend, before segueing off into some random thoughts about where I want my career to go.

My little garden

I am amazed, and excited: my watermelon seeds have actually sprouted. I spent today thinning them out and hoping the seedlings I left will survive (I probably should have let the plants grow for more than a week before doing that, but hey – I was excited).

Little watermelon seedlings

In the corner of the top picture you can see my banana pepper, which is a bit of cheat as it is not grown from seed. Inside things are not too shabby, either. My roquette and tomato seeds are doing well, and there are three tiny purple tomatillo shoots coming up. I have got to decide how on Earth to thin these out… The tomatoes I am thinking just pull 1/2 out and plant the plot, the roquette I am thinking divide in half and repot all into 2 much bigger pots?As well, just for funzies, as my favourite cut-flowers are gladioli, I planted those and they are winning the growth war by a long way.

Roquette spelled wrong harking back to a joke between my first ever boyfriend and I

Hidden in there is the tomatillo sprout

Woah gladioli, you’ve only been in there a week.

Not doing so well is my herb garden 😦 Except for sweet basil:

Nothing… yet

Mmmmm…. basil…. I spy caprese salad on the horizon.

Next up, we have cantaloupe planted today, some green bean seeds (well… beans…) soaking and some cherry seeds ready for their 90-day chill. And an experimental attempt to grow seedlings outdoor in the punishing Texas heat, not in my little indoor greenhouse.

See you in three months little stones

Leaving this outside and seeing what survives.

This weekend has been fun 🙂 And, importantly, relaxing. Saturday involved saying goodbye to Wes’ car and picking up a new, family-friendly one. Wes’ cars are the epitome of his Lekki-orientated sacrifices. He gave up his beloved Jeep Cherokee to be able to get me a truck, while he rode around in his terribly beat-up BMW (that often smoked on the road). Then he traded that in not for a cool car, but some 4-door Nissan with hatch back (dog / grocery room), good mileage and an excellent safety record. Poor lad. I however kept my fun, but child-Unfriendly purple truck.

Bye bye Beamer-Beater

Then we had lunch while we were out, and found an awesome Mediterranean buffet (link included for other Houston peeps). Buffet food is always going to be mass produced, but here there were stacks of salads (pasta, fatoush, tabbouleh), different grilled veg and meat, and then LAMB SHANKS all for $12. We were most pleased. Stuffedm we wended our way back home, I dyed my hair one or two shades closer to its natural colour now (baby steps… baby steps…)

By the time Firework gets here, I aim to be free of the chore of hair dying 🙂

and out to see Moonrise Kingdom – one of the funniest films Wes & I have seen for a while. The characters pulled of their quirkiness in away that was utterly bizarre, yet completely hilarious. Murray was a gem, and Bruce Willis impressively understated. But, I think the kids stole the show. Think: Napolean Dynamite meets Amelie. (Although I hate Amelie).

Sunday we went back to Life Pointe church, to hear a sermon about treating those you love with kindness and respecting their God-given uniqueness to help build them up, not break them down. It was another great message from a church Wes & I are so far very happy at. Grocery shopping (boo), work (double boo – I always save my boring tasks for the weekend) and then Sunday is chef’s (Wes’) day off, so I made meringues and spag bol for for dinner. For the first time in America, my meringues turned out perfectly: gooey and light, chewing down to a sticky gooey ball, and holding their shape in the oven to a perfect ‘nest’. Whoop.

Nests of perfection

Tonight I have one review to do (boo) and then it is settling down with my new book. They didn’t have the third in the ‘Dragon Tattoo’ series (just finished the second one) so I took a chance on:

Didn’t like the TV series (but that may be because I kept falling asleep – chicken and egg problem) so we’ll see how this goes.

Then an early night before off to UT 🙂 The first week went well. It was frustrating to be finishing up UAB work that I thought was done, but good to be shifting that into the realm of ‘submitted’. I spent the week talking to people, learning the structure of the institution, the things people were working on, the available data. I feel I am at a cross roads, and have to decide whether to (1) do my own, utterly independent thing or (2) fit into the workings (and data and analysis) of the very successful groups already at UT. Tough call. I was brought in to do 1… but that is much riskier than 2 when one thinks of tenure and promotion and not getting kicked out, grantless in 3 years. I’ll write more soon on how much I decide to burn the boats, follow my heart and my passion, and how much I play it safe.

Hmmm…. sounds like the answer is pretty obvious there 😉 But for this week ahead, I am just looking forward to meetings with both my mentors, and to continuing to count opportunities at UT, and to feeling blessed.

I, as yet, have only one tip for new faculty. Walk up to everyone (even if you have to go into their office), hand outstretched, and just say “Hi, I am so-and-so and I am new faculty in the department of X’. I have met so may people this way, and learned so much. I think changing institutions challenges you in a ways you both could and could not imagine – but then again, from the greatest challenges come the greatest growth 🙂 You are, I guess, playing off ‘papers and grants’ progress against ‘developing as a Scientist’ progress; and I know I am glad I picked the latter – it was right for me. More papers would have been wonderful (man, would it have been wonderful), but I think I personally would feel less fulfilled. I guess that is why I was glad I made such a radical departure for my postdoc, and and why I am glad I have done it again for my first faculty position. It is scary though: to be alone, to trust in your ideas, to follow your (Scientific)-heart. None of the relative safety of incremental Science (I found X to be associated with gene Y, so I am going to deeper sequence Y / sequence another region of Y, or look in different populations, or switch drug X for drug Y in my analysis). Incremental Science has the highest chance of success – we need it for sure. It is just not for me. I’d rather fail at my hypothesis than support the current one.

But again, ask me in 3 years when I am failing to feed my family. Speaking of which, got to go and finish my ‘Daddy’s night off duties’…

 

Daddy’s night off

We finally own our home.

Friday nights don’t get much more wild than this…*

I am kicking back with a Diet Coke: my one allowed caffeinated drink of the week. Yup, it is a wild night to end the week, here Chez Frazier-Wood. But what a week. Deserving of said indulgence I think.

We are finally in our own home. Huzzah. The road to this point was not easy, and went a little something like this:

In mid-April we came house-hunting. Previously we had considered a short term let, or looking at some suburbs, but 6 days after verbally accepting the position at UT, I discovered I was (somewhat unexpectedly… I mean, I know my biology, so how unexpected can it really be?) pregnant. Much joy and happiness: but a few reconsiderations. We knew I would not want to be commuting over an hour each way with a new baby… and that I would not want the disruption of both a new baby, and a house move in my first year of faculty. So, we decided to buy outright (a decision that made my husband much happier) and live as close as possible to work (a decision that made him less happy), while also getting a 3-bedroom house with yard. We knew we could not dilly-dally. Wes spent hours and hours trawling the internet and making short list after short list of houses. I must confess: I did not. We booked a trip (courtesy of UT) and made sure our first day house-hunting was perfectly set-up: houses available, keys at the ready and so on… and we made sure we were pre-approved for a mortgage… and that we only looked at things at about 50-60% of our maximum approval, to minimize last minute problems with finance.

Out we came to Houston. Despite horrible morning sickness and tiredness, Wes wisely made me look at fourteen, yes, FOURTEEN houses the first day. It paid off: despite puking in a gutter, we made a top 3 and saw them again the next day. From there, we made a first choice and put an offer in that night, putting down a grand of ‘earnest money’ – money that was returnable to us within 2 weeks if either party could not reach an agreement, but we lost if we went over the 2 weeks (standard practice here). Within a week we had received a counter offer, which we accepted after deciding not to haggle further so that we could keep the process moving. We were slightly concerned that the realtor texted the acceptance of our offer with “Off to H-town to clear up” [the junk left from the renovation in the yard]. But hey – the offer was accepted.

Time to celebrate and relax at the beach. Or just stress out…

The house inspection was rapidly completed, and there were, of course, several issues. We made our offer dependent on fixing a certain number of these issues: and heard nothing for a week. Nothing. I was chilling at the beach, or was supposed to be, but actually having kittens (and not the good kind) because the realtor for the sellers was not contactable by phone, text email or carrier pigeon – he seemed to have completely disappeared. With 12 hours to go (and we are talking 8pm – 8 am)  husband and I had a decision to make: did we (a) withdraw completely, keep our $1,000 and be homeless when we moved, facing a short term let or (b) hang on, hoping they would agree to fixing the issues. If they did – awesome, we could proceed. If not, well, we’d lose our house and our $1,000. We’re risk takers. Or I am: we proceeded with the offer and actually, just before bed, the final offer was accepted. The mortgage company assured us we would be closing mid-May and boom: we were on our way to being home owners.

Not the kind of kittens I was having through this process.

Only we weren’t. There was a final inspection to be completed (for mandatory insurance purposes), and due to a typo on the zip code, made by the mortgage company, the inspectors were sent to OKLAHOMA (although this is not exactly what they told us… having some flexibility with the truth, dear mortgage company that they were). Good grief. But still, they promised all the paperwork would be ready, and we could close just before we left… in like, the two days between when I returned from giving a talk at ACSM (which went surprisingly well, all things considered) and when we left. And no, just FYI, I don’t advise people to travel in the week the move house (except that it means their ther half will have to do most of the work, tee hee). Okey doke, when I returned from San Fransisco, the paperwork was all ready, apparently. The inspection was in. The insurance set-up. All signed by everyone but us. The mortgage company just couldn’t get it to us before we left on June 1st. Apparently.

So – as the delay was their fault they set-up and paid for a short term lease. From June 1st – June 7th. During which time we would sign the (apparently completed) paperwork. Ok… OK… starting to get nervous, but OK. On June 1st, the day we left, the mortgage company emailed us and said there was a problem: Wes’ employer had ticked 2 boxes for one question on some darn form, and so they couldn’t proceed. But, I hear you say, the paperwork was completed, right? Well… apparently this another ‘flexible’ truth. Luckily, we could get the house on my salary alone, so we had Wes’ salary taken off the mortgage, which (as were still eligible for the house) meant the paperwork was simple, and they promised we could sign on Monday 4th. Which came and went with no paperwork. As did the 5th… and 6th… and 7th…. finally on the 11th the insurance company called us: our quote had expired. We needed a new one, which was $200/year higher. Not impressed, but really FINE. WHATEVER.

We called the mortgage company…. they said we were not approved for this extra amount (of $17/month !!) so the paperwork had to be redone, but they would call us in 15 mins. Every hour we called them… no dice. And no hint of movement from them either. Now, now I hear you say: hadn’t your lease run out at this point? Well… yes, and we did not have the sellers’ confidential details so WE could not renew… and the mortgage company just ‘did think it was important’ to do so. Seriously. No word of a lie, no exaggeration. Most of our stuff was unpacked… things were on the wall… vegetables were planted… we didn’t feel we could get out (heck, with 4 animals, we had no where to go). Which is why, when I was at work on the 12th, the owner (rightfully) appeared and told Wes that he had contacted the police to get us evicted. Holy Moly.

A furious Wes ordered me home from work, and we went and sat, at the solicitors, and told them we would remain in their office until the damn thing was done. Mainly because we couldn’t really go home, as we no longer had a home, but also to put pressure on. And angry Wes = much pressure. 3.5 (very boring, angry-bird-filled) hours later the paperwork arrived. It was not great… instead of getting $900 back, as we should, we ended up PAYING another $350 in recalculated escrow. We felt we had no choice but to sign, and are still working to get it back. But… hey… the house is ours.

Worth it in the end

*NB to self: never squish your arm into your side for photos. It will only look enormous and make people wonder why you are bothering with diet coke.