Moving day! Again!

December 1, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Honestly, sometimes it feels like all we ever do is move boxes from one place to another and live out of our suitcase. But not anymore! Today is the last time for quite a while. For the first time since July 2010, we are planning on residing in the same building for at least one full year. (You may recall that at each stage of our time in Seattle, we thought we’d only be in the current place for a few months — which prevented us from really settling in.)

Sunset over San Bruno Mountain on our last night in San Francisco. (Looking southwest.)

So here we are (finally!) in the lovely town of Foster City. We actually were able to get into the apartment one day early — on November 28 — which made our transition from the San Francisco apartment much less hurried.  We had almost 48 hours of overlap between the two places, so I could ferry items over in several trips while Blake was working. It was stressful, but nothing too terrible. And every time I walked down the path to our new building with a load of stuff, it was so nice to see the trees and the birds and the lagoon and the grass and the flowers and the sunshine. Rarely have I been so happy to move into a place.

On Tuesday the moving truck came, and for five hours the movers squeezed boxes and furniture from an 1,800-square-foot house into a  1,050-square-foot apartment. We knew it would be tight and we expected to have to get rid of a lot of stuff before it’ll really be pleasant in here, but the movers still made me nervous. As each new guy would come in for the first time with a handtruck full of boxes, he’d look around, widen his eyes, frown a little, and say “Do you have a garage? I don’t know if this will all fit in here.” We don’t have a garage, but I told them we expected it to be tight and we’d just deal with it. Then he’d give a look of concern and futility, look around some more, and say “okay…” And even though he was saying okay, his tone said “you’re the customer and I’m not going to argue, but no way is this going to work.” And these were professional movers. They put boxes in houses for a living. My confidence cracked a little.

The dining room. This shot was taken when the movers had unloaded about 30% of our stuff. (It's more crowded now.) But look, it's my ficus! Just seeing it makes me happy. (The paper lanterns in it were a gift from Bonny many years ago.)

But it all fit. We knew it would. It is tight, though. The guest bed is leaning up against the wall, and my white couch is still wrapped in plastic and up on its end in the second bedroom. We’re planning to get rid of some of my excess furniture, a fair amount of excess kitchen stuff (since Blake and I each had a full kitchen before we met), and a boatload of excess clothes. Okay, really the excess clothes mostly just belong to me. I think I might have ten pairs of shoes for each one Blake has. Maybe fifteen.

Everybody knows I have trouble getting rid of stuff. I love to look at some old piece of junk and think “Ooh, remember when I was [some age] and I went to [some place] and I had to buy that pair of shoes because my other pair broke? That was a nice trip.” And now that pair of shoes is scuffed up and dirty and kind of outdated and pinches my toe a little and I have five other pairs that I like better that are also black and cute and look nicer and are more comfortable. But it still makes me sad to contemplate throwing them away! Honestly, I think at least 40% of my clothes fit into that category. It’s going to to be rough.

Who doesn't love close-ups of dogs' faces? Nobody, that's who. Have some Nano.

But I’m determined. And having lived in Uwajimaya for a year is really helping. When I moved into Blake’s house I went through my clothes and got rid of a lot, but there were many items I just couldn’t part with. Like the yellow shirt I got in Rome when I went to Europe with Brad and Eric in college. It’s kind of stretched out and the arms are stained (bleached?) with deodorant. I never want to wear it. Yellow doesn’t really look very good on me. But there it hangs in the closet reminding me of college and Italy and Brad and Eric, and the idea of getting rid of it just tugs at my heartstrings. Those were good times!

But being in Uwajimaya for a year and not seeing my stuff for so long has reminded me of how little I care about some of it. I don’t know if I can part with my yellow Rome shirt yet, but as we’ve unpacked I’ve seen lots of clothes that I can kiss goodbye with a clear conscience.

There’s more to say, but I need to go run some errands and do some more unpacking. The rest will have to wait for a future post. But life is good! We’re finally settled in a place for a long time, and that’s pretty exciting. It’s nice here.

The view from our porch. It's so beautiful!

Moving to San Francisco: Part 2 (The exciting* conclusion!)

November 20, 2011 at 7:50 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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*Disclaimer: may not actually be exciting. This post is part 2 of 2 — you may want to check out part 1 first.

As we drove into San Francisco in our two separate cars, the first thing that struck me was the sheer number of little buildings. I couldn’t really look carefully since I was driving, and I definitely couldn’t take a photo. But all around us — on both sides of the highway and as far as we could see — it just seemed to be low rolling hills that were made of little houses. In most cities (I think?), that continuity is broken by apartment buildings and billboards and water towers and lots of structures of different heights. But for whatever reason — zoning and other government regulations, no doubt — all the buildings just formed a continuous gentle slope that looked like it matched the ground beneath it. It was very strange looking and almost alien. Not bad, really, just… surreal.

The Victorian house from the street

Eventually we got to the place we’re staying. It’s a little cottage in a neighborhood called Glen Park, and it’s situated sort of behind and below a pretty Victorian-style house. Since this is San Francisco, however, it’s of course on a big steep hill. It’s an interesting setup: the Victorian house at street level only appears to be 1 or 1.5 stories tall, but the land slopes away steeply as you go further away from the street. So from the car you walk down eight or ten steps to the area under the front porch, open a locked gate, then walk down ten more steps (which are much more rickety) under part of the house. Then you go down a straight section (where yesterday’s photo was taken)  and come out from under the house, and then it’s down about ten more steps, and then you’re at the front door to the cottage. It wasn’t too terrible a distance or too strenuous a climb, but we weren’t relishing unloading our cars this way.

Happily, however, we knew that there was a cute little alley behind the row of houses. It’s an old-fashioned alley — the kind that runs parallel to the street and all the houses’ garages open up to it.  After a while we also realized that our cottage seems to be a studio apartment over the free-standing garage that goes with the Victorian house — there’s a little internal staircase in the “cottage” that goes down to the alley below. It’s good for walking the dogs.

The back of the Victorian house rising up into the sky (blue building) with the back of our "cottage" on the left (dark building with white on the corners). The street level, where our cars are parked, is even with the top floor of the blue house.

Anyway, so having just arrived with our two laden cars, we got the bright idea to pull our cars into the alley one at a time and then unload them via the single flight of stairs in the cottage — far easier than the trek from the street, which was nearly three stories tall. Since Blake’s car had most of the stuff, we decided to do his first, and I waited in the alley for him to drive around. It actually ended up taking quite a while — the entrance to the alley was a block or so away, and the tiny streets were technically two-way but certainly not big enough to turn a car around. But eventually he arrived and we got to work. The whole unloading part went pretty quickly, and we were psyched. It had been such a long day already, and with most of the unpacking done, surely it was just going to be downhill from there.

The alley. Pretty, but not very wide. Our "cottage" is the dark building above the garage on the right.

Unfortunately, we still had a few more obstacles. Once the car was empty, Blake drove forward and made the sad discovery that the alley was a dead end. And even worse, there was no cul-de-sac down there. It just ended in someone’s garage, and there was absolutely not enough room to turn around. So instead he had to start backing up, and it was probably a good eighth of a mile. Which wouldn’t have been so bad, but near the main road the alley started getting very curvy and narrow and hilly and full of pot holes. Apparently it hadn’t been too difficult driving in, but it was considerably less fun to back out of.

And next we had my car. Blake warned me about the length and unpleasantness of the alley, which I hadn’t yet seen, and we weighed our options. Eventually we decided that the trek from the street would still be worse than the complexity of navigating the alley backwards, and so off I went to bring my car around. To my dismay, the curviness and narrowness were even worse than I’d pictured, and I was starting to get a little nervous in advance. But I kept driving until I got to our building where Blake was waiting.

…at which point we discovered that we had locked ourselves out of the cottage. The back door had fallen closed and locked automatically, and there we both were in the alley — four stories and a several-minute walk from the path to the cottage’s front door. So we cursed our luck and Blake made the walk back around while I stayed with the car. As mentioned previously, the alley is definitely not wide enough for two cars to pass, so the entire time he was gone I kept nervously glancing at my rear-view mirror and hoping nobody was going to drive up behind me. Thankfully, nobody did, and after about eight minutes Blake reappeared from inside the cottage and everything was fine. (We hadn’t even been certain that the front door was still unlocked, so I was very relieved to see him.)

The view from the cottage with my plants in the foreground

So we unloaded my car, which was even faster still, and then we began the arduous process of extricating it from the alley. But although Blake’s car couldn’t have turned around, a mini-driveway at the end of the alley looked more promising for my smaller car. So I put the top down for increased visibility, Blake climbed out to tell me exactly where the corners of my car were, and after about twelve minutes we were able to actually drive forward out of the alley. I think I could have done it backwards if necessary — especially with the top down so I could see everything — but it was certainly pleasant to drive out the way nature intended people to drive: facing forward.

Walking the dogs in the alley in the rain. (Blake took this from the window of the cottage.)

After so much unloading, the cottage looked like a bomb had gone off in it. Every horizontal surface was full of stuff. As I’m writing this, 24 hours later, it looks substantially better but still pretty crowded. (This is why there are no photos of the cottage’s interior yet.) I hope to make it look a lot better in here while Blake’s at work tomorrow, and then maybe I’ll get a shot or two.

But the inside of the cottage really is cute. It’s about 400 square feet, but in that space they’ve squeezed a small couch, a small fridge, a small microwave, a small table and chairs, small bedside tables, a small closet, and a full-size oven. With no dishwasher, though, we aren’t going to attempt to make Thanksgiving dinner here. (We have restaurant reservations near Foster City.) The listing for this place said there were laundry facilities available, but it turns out that “available” means four blocks away in a laundromat (up and down a steep hill, of course). That’s a little irritating, but otherwise the place is great and the price is good.

The view at sunset tonight. Our window faces southwest.

So all in all we’re pretty pleased. The place is clean and cute and meets almost all our needs. We had a lovely dinner at an upscale pizza place a few blocks away, and I think it will be fun living in San Francisco for a short time. It’s funny; walking around here, I can see why people love it — but I’m also very glad that we’re not going to be living here permanently. I’ll have to expand on that in another post, however, because now it’s time to relax.

Moving to San Francisco: Part 1

November 20, 2011 at 12:07 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Today Blake and I packed up our stuff from the corporate housing in San Bruno and drove fifteen minutes to San Francisco. (We rented a little cottage here for ten days until our apartment in Foster City is ready.) It’s actually been a pretty eventful day.

For the last 90 minutes we’ve been listening to something we haven’t heard in a long time: the sound of rain on the roof. You’d think we’d have encountered that frequently in Seattle, but we were on the second floor of a five-story building — well insulated from charming rainy roof sounds. The rare hard rain would occasionally pitter-pat against our window, but not that frequently. I guess the last time we heard this was in our house in Austin. It’s cozy.

Adding to the coze is the intermittent gentle bonking of the south-facing window. Every time the wind blows, it bonks around a little in its frame and I think, “Hm? What’s that?” Then an instant later I remember it’s the wind outside and we’re warm in here, and I feel even cozier. I’m sure I’ll get used to it in an hour or two — it’s not unpleasant.

Pico and Blake in the San Bruno apartment

Anyhow, here we are after an exhausting day. We started out at the crack of 8 a.m., which is pretty early for us, and began loading the car and doing some last-minute cleaning. (We’d loaded as much as possible last night, but there was still quite a collection of bags and stuff to go this morning.) When we moved in last month there was a fantastic large orange cart — big, like the ones at Home Depot — which made our move-in process take about 30 minutes tops. Maybe two trips max. We had to take an elevator from the parking garage to our floor, so the cart was invaluable.

But yesterday when I went to retrieve the cart to load some stuff, I couldn’t find it. I walked all around the garage, looked high and low, but it was nowhere to be found — or any of the four others which are often sitting there when I come home with a trunk full of groceries. Then, just as I was about to give up, I spied one cart sitting forlornly in a dusty corner. It was pretty sad — dirty, small, in cosmetic disrepair, and just altogether not very good. But it had wheels that worked, and that was good enough for me. So the cart and I rolled back towards the elevator.

Just as I was about to press the button, however, an apartment employee stopped me with some bad news: the carts had all apparently been stolen from nearby stores and were being returned. And the ones that weren’t stolen or whose sources were unknown — like my poor little cart I’d found — well, they were being thrown away. After a little discussion it became apparent that the carts were mostly being removed because people bonked them into walls and made little marks, which seemed like a pretty crappy reason. As Blake pointed out, they could just buy two carts with corner guards and they’d have happy residents and clean walls.

Nano is cozy.

But no, this guy really wanted me to leave the cart so he could throw it away! I told him we were leaving the next morning, and after much effort I convinced him to delay its demise for 24 more hours. It was pretty irritating in the first place, because that apartment would suck without a way to get stuff upstairs, but c’est la vie. At least we won’t be living there anymore.

But anyway, the whole point of this side story is that it took us nearly three hours to load the car and get ready to go — even though we had only one carload of stuff. The cart was like a long narrow trapezoid, but it was smaller than a regular grocery cart. I couldn’t even fit a banker’s box in there because the cart was so narrow! So we took stuff down, trip after trip, waiting for the elevator twice per trip, and it took forever. Each trip was easy because the cart sure wasn’t heavy and there was little stuff to move each time, but it just sort of dragged on and on.

Once we got everything packed, we had a lot of time to kill. Apartment checkout was 11 a.m., but our place in San Francisco wasn’t available til 3. So we had two cars full of worldly possessions, two people, two dogs, and a bag or two of perishable groceries — with no place to go.

Except we kind of had a place to go because we had known this was going to happen. So we dropped off Blake’s car at a safe shopping center and then headed over the Santa Cruz mountains to the charming town of Pacifica. It’s pretty quaint and very beautiful and right on the Pacific, so we mostly just walked around with the dogs and soaked up the sunny beachy views. Here are some nice shots of Pacifica, and the story continues (briefly) afterwards:

As we came over the Santa Cruz mountains, this view of Pacifica's Rockaway Beach opened up in front of us. It's hard to tell from this photo, but the waves crashing on the beach were huge! Nothing like the Atlantic waves I'm used to.

The beach in Pacifica looking southeastish

Looking northwestish

A nice guy took this photo of us on the rocks at Pacifica. We mostly stayed off the sand because of the dogs -- we didn't need eight dirty paws to clean before putting them back in the car.

A little trail in Pacifica. This place is so beautiful!

After that we headed south on highway 1 to Half Moon Bay, and I think I can wholeheartedly describe the drive between the two cities as “stunning.” Simply one of the most incredible stretches of road I have ever seen — amazing ocean views and trees and land and surf and surfers and boats. It was amazing and beautiful, and everybody who comes to visit us will definitely get a trip there. Northern California is really something.

After a few hours of that, we headed back to San Bruno to pick up Blake’s car and continued north to San Francisco. And that seems like a good place to stop for now. To be continued in part 2!

The entrance to the cottage is down the stairs to the right. Doesn't it look charming?

Foster City, California!

November 14, 2011 at 12:49 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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So as some of you may recall from an earlier post, our new apartment is in Foster City. And it turns out that Foster City is really cool! When I found the apartment I had no idea what  a great place it was, but now I just keep finding out more and more spiffy things about it. We’re not moving in until the end of November, so I’ve got a good two weeks to keep being excited.

Let’s just get right down to the cool things about it. First of all, here’s what it looks like:

What Foster City looks like from space! Or maybe a plane.

Cool, huh? Coincidentally, the last time I flew into San Jose (at which point I knew nothing about the area), I noted Foster City from the air and thought it looked really cool. “Gee,” I said to myself, “I bet that place is neat. It looks so cool but it’s probably a kajillion dollars to live there.” (As it turns out, it is a kajillion dollars by anywhere-else standards, but by Silicon Valley standards it’s pretty reasonable.)

As you can probably infer from the photo, Foster City is a planned city. It was built by a guy (whose last name was Foster) in the 1960s. It has a planned-city feel to it, too — the roads are gently curving and have beautiful medians and lovely views of the bay and the lagoon. And there’s water everywhere — the city is 19.8 square miles and only 3.8 of them are land! Our little apartment complex has a man-made lagoon snaking through it with willow trees and fountains and cute bridges. It’s adorable.

And the town seems really… nice. As you drive through it it just feels clean and orderly. There are no plastic bags blowing against chain-link fences. There are no unsightly bags of trash or appliances sitting on a porch or tacky-looking houses or businesses or cars. There are no crazy people causing disturbances or pooping in the street. But at the same time, the town feels very real and homey and non-fake. The houses are all different (and have an average cost of $800K!) and interesting and nice and you don’t feel like you’re in a white-washed fake Pleasantville. It’s neat.

I'm going to feed the ducks all the time. I love feeding ducks!

Before we signed the papers at the apartment complex, I asked the leasing agent if they ever had car break-ins. This is a question I ask routinely when evaluating apartment complexes, and the answer is virtually always some variant of “Well, every place has break-ins sometimes — especially if you leave stuff in your car.” (In fact, given that the answers are almost always the same, I don’t know why I keep asking.) But instead she said “Oh, I don’t think so. I’ve been here for a year or so and there haven’t been any while I’ve been here. In fact, in Foster City there’s sort of a running joke that the cops here are really bored. There’s hardly any crime, so they have nothing to do all day long except drive around. Just make sure you come to a complete stop at stop signs!”

That sounded pretty good, and once I thought about it I could see that crime wasn’t a problem: every balcony had chairs and tables and wind chimes and other pretty things. Anybody could have walked off with the stuff if they’d been so inclined, but it clearly wasn’t a problem here. Later I looked at the Wikipedia page and discovered that Foster City is one of the safest places in the country — with a murder rate of one per decade.

The walking trail that surrounds all of Foster City

As if Foster City weren’t great enough already, it also has a bunch of lovely features: a walking/biking trail that surrounds the whole town (shown above next to our complex’s parking lot), an abundance of parks and other recreational areas, a public amphitheater with oodles of free summertime events and a beautiful lagoon where you can rent canoes and kayaks and boats and the like. Oh yeah, and the city takes care of keeping the mosquito population under control. If they’re going to take our tax dollars anyway, that is at least a benefit I will enjoy! And Foster City is within a comfortable distance of San Bruno, so Blake can take his motorcycle in our charming (and frequent) sunny weather.

And finally, our apartment itself looks really great. It was built in the 80s, I believe, but they’re being totally refurbished. The new kitchen looks beautiful and there’s laminate wood flooring everywhere except the bedrooms. Our little patio has enough space for the dogs to do their business — no more waiting for them to poop in the tea garden on cold nights! — and it looks out on a private mini-lagoon. The whole complex is surrounded by beautiful trees and flowers and it’s just… lovely.

As a funny side note, many of Blake’s youthful and single coworkers eschew Foster City because it’s too suburb-y. It’s full of families and yuppies and people who don’t go out to bars and wear hipster glasses. They all live in San Francisco and drink expensive coffees and listen to music so cool that we’ve probably never heard of it. And they don’t live in Foster City and they don’t want to. =) Which is fine with us — we’ve done the city thing, and it was really fun. But we’re ready to live in a place where it’s quiet at night and the streets are clean and you can park for free and there are Cheesecake Factories and malls and nobody plays a vuvuzela on the sidewalk at 1 a.m. We like suburbia.

Anyway, we’re very excited.

What we’ve been up to

November 11, 2011 at 10:44 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Since we arrived on October 20, we’ve actually been pretty busy. Here’s what’s been going on:

The view from our balcony at Archstone San Bruno

Blake went to Startup School. Many of you know that Blake would like to start a company, and Silicon Valley is of course the best place to do that. Startup School is a free two-day event where famous successful entrepreneurs come and speak to people (like Blake) who would like to be famous successful entrepreneurs. The event is hosted by a famous startup funding firm called Y Combinator. It’s invitation only, though, and only a few hundred people are accepted out of (I believe) thousands of applicants. Which makes it pretty nifty that they invited him!

I would have liked to go also, but due to a miscommunication between me and Blake, I thought I was covered by his application but I wasn’t.  So I stayed at home while he got to listen to Mark Zuckerberg, Marc Andreessen (founder of Netscape and other things), Max Levchin (cofounder of PayPal and other things), Mark Pincus (founder of Zynga – creator of Farmville), Ashton Kutcher (the actor — who is apparently a big investor in tech startups), and many other famous people who are less well-known if you aren’t into startups. I was pretty jealous.

Apartment hunting. For those of you who haven’t heard, we finally, finally, finally sold our house in Austin. Coincidentally, we were actually in Austin for the closing date when my friend Beth got married in September, so we didn’t have to mess with faxing and notary publics and other inconveniences. Also, as my regular readers know, we came very close to buying a house in Seattle. If we had done that we’d now be in the same situation that we were before: moving to a new city and paying rent there while also having a house payment back where we used to live and trying to sell from afar. As a result, we’re feeling a bit reluctant to jump into another house right now. (Like many people.)

Nano can make the tiniest ball ever.

Additionally, since we plan to stay in California for a while and houses here are insanely expensive, we don’t want to buy a house until we know the area a lot better. Like, in a year or two. A series of mopey news articles continue to inform me that the housing market will still be crappy by then (for sellers), so maybe we can get an inexpensive $1.6 million house for only $700K. (Seriously, housing here is SO pricey!)

Anyway, this is an extremely roundabout way of saying that we decided to find an apartment here instead of jumping into house hunting the way we did in Seattle. Google covers thirty days of temporary housing, which means that we’ll be out of here on November 19.

So we spent much of our first two weeks driving around looking at rental houses and apartments. We had four main constraints: under $2000/month,  some sort of fenced-in yard (so we won’t have to walk the dogs), at least 1000 square feet (so we can fit all our stuff in), and within 35 minutes of YouTube. Sadly, this mythical paradise of an apartment just doesn’t exist in Silicon Valley — at least, not at that price. After searching in vain for days and days, we slowly inched up our max rent until we found a place for $2240 — which increases to $2340 after pet rent. The place is lovely and is in the also-lovely town of Foster City, but I’ll talk about that more in a future post.

I made cupcakes the other day. Yum.

Arguing with Plus Relocation. Google contracts with a relocation company called Plus Relocation, and they manage a series of other move-related contractors — the people who ship our cars, the guys who pack and load our stuff onto a truck, the people who handle our temporary housing here in CA, and etc. Plus has mostly been great throughout the move, but they kind of screwed us over at the end. They accidentally gave us incorrect information that was going to cost us six or seven hundred dollars, and then they were unwilling to make it up to us even though they admitted it was their mistake. I may go into the details in another post, but every time I think about writing it my smile turns into a frown and I become irritated all over again. So we’ll see. But it’s taken a lot of time to argue with them on the phone, write emails explaining our circumstances, and etc. It’s been very frustrating and time-consuming and has somewhat tarnished what was otherwise a charming stay in our temporary housing.

Finding a place to stay until November 29. Our little dispute with Plus is related to the fact that our new apartment in Foster City won’t be available until November 29 but our temporary housing expires ten days earlier on November 19. As a result, we’ve had to scramble to find some place to stay — for a carload of stuff and two dogs — for ten days over Thanksgiving. Now obviously there are places to stay in this area, but they all cost a kajillion dollars. In the end we found a place using Airbnb.com that looks pretty nice: it’s a mother-in-law suite in a Victorian house on the south side of San Francisco. There’s a little kitchen and they take dogs and it looks great in the photos, so I think it should be pretty fun to stay there for ten days. We finally booked that this past Wednesday night, and now we can finally relax. Before we had that lined up, there was always the nagging feeling of us having no place to go and the clock ticking on our time here.

So now there are no nagging problems to be dealt with, which is fantastic. We can truly relax for our last week in temporary housing before heading to SF.

Moving complete!

October 31, 2010 at 11:38 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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The Space Needle in silhouette at sunset

I'll miss the view of the Space Needle from our old apartment, but the view from the new place isn't too shabby either.

I’m writing this post from our comfy new apartment over Uwajimaya, and it’s pretty delightful. Last week was such a blur, but now it seems things have finally settled down. There was some unexpected drama during the move, though, which I’ll describe in this post. I’m not sure how interesting it’ll be, but I hope it won’t be boring.

Blake and I signed the lease here to move in this past Tuesday, but we didn’t have to be out of the Taylor 28 (the corporate housing) til Thursday. We thought this would give us a nice comfortable amount of time to move out, and so beginning Tuesday we’d take a carload of stuff down to Uwajimaya every so often when we had the time. On Thursday we had planned for me to ferry the many non-heavy objects over during the day while Blake was at work, and then when he was free we’d get the last few heavy things in just a couple of trips before we dropped off our keys for good. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to us we were supposed to be out of Taylor by 11 a.m., which I discovered around 10:30 a.m. that same morning! (This was due to a miscommunication with our corporate-housing contact that really wasn’t anyone’s fault.) Anyway, I found out accidentally when I was asking about what time in the evening to drop off the key, and you can imagine how thrilled I was to find that I had 25 minutes to get to Taylor, move everything down to the car, make a few trips between the two apartments, and clean up. To make matters worse, 11 a.m. wasn’t just an arbitrary checkout time — there were cleaning and furniture crews set to arrive at that time to make the apartment ready for the next corporate tenants!

Well, the corporate housing guy from Aboda has been absolutely fantastic through every interaction since we arrived in Seattle, and he didn’t disappoint this time either. He was able to defer the crew til 3, which meant that with a lot of hurrying we just might be able to get out in time. So I spent about 45 minutes packing all our stuff into bags and suitcases and then I drove down to Amazon to pick up Blake from work at his lunch hour. So instead of eating, he spent two hours carrying heavy boxes up and down stairs in the middle of his workday.

Nano with a tiny bear

Aw, she's cute. I might have turned the bear so it faced the camera and looked a bit more picturesque, though.

As if this wasn’t already unpleasant enough, it was raining pretty solidly. Which I prefer in general, but it was not my favorite thing on this particular occasion as we trooped out to the car and got wetter each time. Eventually we decided to start filling up Blake’s Honda instead of my VW, so we agreed that Blake would start ferrying boxes down to the curb and I’d retrieve his car from the garage and bring it up to the loading zone. When I got down there, though, his car wouldn’t start! It hadn’t been driven since we got to Seattle, and its battery had died. So Blake brought all the boxes back inside, one by one, and we left them by the leasing office while we drove my car around to jump start it. Fortunately there was nobody parked next to him when I got there, so that simplified matters a little bit.

After we got his car started we went back to the loading area, and after about an hour his car was full. So I sent him on his way down to Uwajimaya where he parked in the garage and then went back to work having eaten no lunch at all. Meanwhile, I stayed up at the apartment and continued loading my car as quickly as possible, and after about 90 more minutes I finally finished.

At this point you may be wondering why we had so much stuff that it took us so long to move. It’s a valid question, and there are several answers:

  1. When we came from Austin, there were certain belongings that we just didn’t want to keep in storage for months. Either because they were fragile, valuable, or had extreme sentimental value. So we brought a lot of extra things we didn’t really need for life in Seattle.
  2. When we left Texas, we didn’t have many details about what would be available in the corporate housing, so we brought a lot of things that we ended up not needing.
  3. There were many things we needed that the corporate housing didn’t provide, so even though we already owned them, we couldn’t access our stuff in storage and had to just buy more. Lots of kitchen utensils, some housewares, toiletries, etc.
  4. We don’t own many winter clothes — me especially — so we’ve bought a lot of clothing since we got here.
  5. We acquired a whole kitchen full of food.
  6. Finally, we didn’t really have such a large quantity of stuff — it was more that there wasn’t a very good way to move it all. We thought there was less than there actually was, so instead of boxes we had some Whole Foods bags and suitcases. It took a lot more trips per volume than your typical moving job.
  7. We had to take the stairs because the freight elevator was being used for something else. Since there were two flights of stairs, this really reduced the amount of things we could take per trip.

Pico in a box

All in all, it was a pretty unpleasant afternoon. And once Blake got off work we still had a lot of effort in front of us because both our cars were jammed full of stuff. Blake helped with that, though, by borrowing a few shopping carts from Uwajimaya which we could fill up and then ferry upstairs three at a time. That made things move much faster, and we emptied both cars in about 45 minutes.

The next day I spent the morning and afternoon overseeing the delivery of our stuff from corporate storage into the Public Storage unit we’re renting in Kent. It took a surprisingly long time, but the guys doing it were just excellent and I couldn’t believe how wonderful and helpful they were. Then I drove home around 3:30, and at 5 we met with one of Blake’s coworkers and his wife. They had offered to help if we needed to move any furniture, so we rented a Uhaul and with their help we got our bed, piano, desk, vacuum, and a few other items we didn’t want to re-buy. Later in the evening Blake and I returned the Uhaul truck, and then at long last we got back to our new place — thoroughly drained and sore — and slept the wonderful sleep of the truly exhausted.

But now we’re done! Yay!

We’ve been straightening and unpacking throughout the weekend, and things are starting to get neater in here. I’m planning to do a lot of that while Blake’s at work tomorrow. It’s so wonderful to be settled again, and especially to have so much of our stuff with us. I can’t tell you how delighted I was to go to sleep in my bed Friday night.

So that’s why last week was a blur. But it’s finally over and we’re very glad. Tomorrow I shall post something much less complainy and much more happy.

The house we aren’t getting

August 18, 2010 at 11:35 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The house we're not getting

The house we're not getting

I’ve been doing a lot of house hunting lately. Our apartment downtown is great, but it has some drawbacks: it’s very small (about 680 square feet), parking is sometimes frustrating (the Scion xB that parks next to us sometimes doesn’t leave enough room for our rental car between it and a big concrete column), we have to take an elevator up and down — which is slow (there doesn’t seem to be a way to take the stairs to the parking deck below the building), and we miss our stuff. I want to be able to print things out on my printer and store paperwork in my file cabinet and choose what to wear from more than the few articles of clothing we brought in our luggage.

So, as I said, I’m doing a lot of house hunting. In doing so, last week I found this beautiful house you see before you. I immediately fell in love with it from its photos, and when we went to check it out in person it did not disappoint. (It turns out I am nearly always disappointed when I actually go see a house in person.)

The kitchen we're not getting

The kitchen we're not getting

The kitchen was beautiful, the tile was beautiful, the yard was beautiful, the street was beautiful, the floorplan was great, the neighborhood was nice, and everything seemed well-made and well-kept. I was really excited. A few days later we went back out with Blake so he could see it too (and meet the realtor), and he too was very happy with it. We hadn’t looked at many houses yet, so we weren’t exactly ready to make an offer, but it was so great and we had found it after such a short amount of looking.

For days, I’d look at other houses’ listings online and immediately turn them down because this spiffy place was better for the same price. I imagined us walking down to the green area in the center of the neighborhood with Pico and Nano and having them poop on its beautiful landscaping. (Don’t worry, I pick up after my dogs!) There was only one hitch: it had a homeowner’s association (HOA). And not just any HOA — one with sizable monthly dues and an iron-fisted regime that had quite a lot of limitations.

The dining room we're getting. Just kidding, we're not getting this one either.

The dining room we're getting. Just kidding, we're not getting it.

Also, we’ve always wanted to live in the next house for a while and then, several years down the road, buy another house and rent the old one out for a steady income. This HOA, however, has restrictions: only a certain percentage of the houses in the neighborhood can be rented, and each renter would have to be approved by the HOA as well. So hypothetically we could get a renter for a while and then not be able to rent again for a few years, during which time we’d just be paying house payments and taking a loss. But even despite these drawbacks, we were considering it. We both loved the house, and the HOA dues did at least go to making the neighborhood look beautiful and all the landscaping for the front yard. We were torn, but there was no hurry: we’d just begun to really look around, so we could browse for a while and see if there was anything we liked more.

Well, then yesterday we got some bad news: someone had made an offer on the house. In retrospect we should have expected it — surely everybody else could see what we saw in this house. Our realtor had told the seller’s realtor that we had some interest, so the seller’s realtor had informed us in hopes of getting a bidding war going.

Not this either

Not this either

I was planning to see some houses in Lynnwood (a Seattle suburb) with the realtor today, Wednesday, and we thought that perhaps Lynnwood would have a multitude of houses of similar quality and price. So he bought us some time to look today and then re-evaluate our position once we had the new information.

Sadly, none of the homes we saw today had quite the same charm. Which brought us to a difficult decision: a house we loved at a high price with a bossy HOA and possible problems renting in the future? Or should we stay the course, keep looking, and hope something else appears that we like more?

In some ways, it was an easy decision. But at the same time, it’s also been haunting me since we made it this afternoon.

Of course, by now you know that we passed on it. It was a lot of extra money per month — if we were willing to pay the total amount as a house payment, we could actually get a house that costs $50,000 more! And we’re selfish individualists. We would chafe under their rules and restrictions about what you could and couldn’t do on your own property. And it even runs counter to our longer-term plans to rent the place. Good reasons, all. But gosh, it was great! The street was lined with beautiful little trees and the houses had gables and bay windows and old-fashioned alleys and cute porches. It was like something out of Pleasantville or Leave It to Beaver. I know, I know, I’m sure it was only able to achieve that look through some esthetically-minded Orwellian dictatorship, but just because I can’t have my cake and eat it too… well, it doesn’t mean I can’t want to both have it and eat it.

So we passed. We both feel it’s the right decision, but it still pains me to have made it.

Surprise! Please pay $236.

August 10, 2010 at 7:00 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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After unpacking the boxes we had quite a pile of paper

After unpacking the boxes we had quite a pile of paper. Somebody might have used it to bury Pico. (This photo was taken when the pile was only about 30% of its maximum size!)

Much of our stuff from Austin was delivered to temporary housing this weekend, which is really nice. There were a bunch of things in there that we needed, and we’re really glad to have them finally. As we unpacked the seven or so boxes, we discovered for the first time what a really good job the packers had done. (You may recall that I had had some doubts about them mentioned in this post.) They spared no expense with the wrapping paper to cushion objects, and it really made me feel confident about the rest of our stuff that’s still in storage.

That said, we’re having a little mini-dispute with Graebel at the moment about a delivery charge for some of our belongings. (Graebel is the relocating service contracted by Amazon to move us.) Before we left Austin, we were told by a Graebel employee that our moving package included (a) packing of our stuff, (b) transport of most of our stuff to storage while we’re in the temporary housing, (c) cost of storage while we’re in temporary housing, and (d) transport of some stuff to the temporary housing. So before the movers came we divided the house into storage-destined items and temporary-housing-destined items. It’s worth noting here that he didn’t just mention (d) — we asked him explicitly if delivery to the temporary housing was covered and he assured us that it was.

Well, this past Friday Blake got a call from Graebel: our stuff would be delivered the next day and it would cost about $236! Apparently the package included only delivery to the storage facility, and our items for the temporary housing were being charged to us despite our original assurance that it was included. I called our contact at Graebel, and he confirmed that no, it wasn’t covered by the package and yes, it would cost $236.

So he suggested I send an email to a few people at Graebel and see if they’ll cover it. He doesn’t sound too confident, but I can see that this is a dispute that may go on for a while: we have no intention of paying for something that we were told was free. In fact, it would have been a trivial matter to trim down our pile of temporary-housing-destined belongings and then bring a few more suitcases on the plane. Alaska Airlines would allow us to bring additional bags for only $20 apiece, so we definitely had other options.

I guess we’ll see what happens. Happily, they’re going to bill us for the delivery and didn’t make us pay when they dropped off our stuff. This is helpful because it’s way easier to get companies to decide they don’t want your money after all than to get them to give you money back. Stay tuned.

Pico moves to Seattle

August 2, 2010 at 11:44 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Please enjoy this photographic chronicle of some of the highlights of Pico’s move from Austin to Seattle.

Pico gets in the movers' way

Pico gets in the movers' way

Somebody put Pico on some boxes in the driveway

Somebody put Pico on some boxes in the driveway

Pico sitting on a comfy chair

Pico waits to be fed at the Hilton Austin Airport. (He curled up in that chair later that evening while Blake and I slept in the bed.)

Pico sitting on a couch surrounded by suitcase and our other belongings

Waiting in the Hilton lobby after checkout but before taking the shuttle to the airport. (We had about two hours to kill.)

Pico sitting on a stool looking out the window

Under Pico's watchful eye, the world remains safe for democracy

Pico on his perch

Pico on his window perch

Pico out on the balcony

Pico out on the balcony with the bottom of the Space Needle rising in the background

Car shipping photos

August 2, 2010 at 5:01 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I took some photos when they loaded up our cars the other night. We should be getting them in ten or so days. The guy who drove them onto the truck made me a little nervous because the ramps were so narrow, but he did just fine. (I knew he had done it a million times and so I wasn’t really worried, but I still breathed a sigh of relief once all the back tires had made it onto the truck safely.)

Loading the Accord

Loading the Accord

Loading the Eos

Loading the Eos

Car-securing equipment

Car-securing equipment

Securing the Accord

Securing the Accord

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