Thursday, June 30, 2011

Breaking My Fast

Around the New Year, I read everyone's resolutions, sighed at the inevitability of failure and went on with my life sans resolution.  That is until a few weeks later when I got caught up with my friend Janet's blog.  Janet and her family resolved to not buy any new clothes, shoes or accessories in 2011.  There were certain allowances involving gift cards and such, but the idea was that they were in want of nothing and wanted to be content with what they had.  Though I didn't publicly answer her call to arms, I silently pledged to fast as well.  It was true.  I lack nothing.  If I felt like buying clothes before, I would just do it.  I didn't think beyond "That's cute, I want it."  Injecting thought into the process of accumulation in the area of clothing would be at best a life altering change in my attitude towards material possessions and at worst an interesting game of how long I can hold out.

Well, I lasted 5 and a half months.  In that time, I unsubscribed from all clothing store coupon emails.  I went to the mall once.  I paired new things in my closet.  I treasured gift cards I received for my birthday and carefully weighed items to buy including a pair of sensible black boots.  I really liked the way I felt free from advertising and countered the alluring siren calls with the retort, "I don't really need it anyways."  It was freeing and I spent nearly zero time pining after new items.

Then it became clear that we were going to make a big cross country move.  I looked at my shoe collection full of high heels that are sensible if you drive to work, sit at a desk and drive home.  I looked at the hills of San Francisco.  I convinced myself that I sorely lacked in the flats department.  I hemmed.  I hawed.  I spent two weeks searching online for the right pair of flats that were worthy of breaking my fast for.  Then I did what you shouldn't do, I bid for a pair of shoes that I was undecided about on eBay.  Turns out I was the only bidder.

They're not my favorite shoes, but I do find them attractive in an English Bull Dog sort of way - so ugly they're cute.  Thankfully, I didn't disobey my under $50 rule, so these flats came right to my door for less than 50 smackeroos.  

I haven't had the chance to wear them yet because they were entirely the wrong season for the sweltering Southern heat and now they're in a box on an 18 wheeler crossing Nebraska.  I have a bit of buyer's remorse though.  And not only because this purchase opened the floodgates to other weather related justifications for a few more items . . . I think another fast is in order.

Have you tried a fast on fashion or some other type of indulgence?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

California or Bust!

In our case it was California rather than bust! The trip was awesome and if you followed me on Twitter, you got a little taste of our various stops.  First we said "Goodbye" to the ole homestead in Durham, NC.

We finished packing a truck to take to my brother's new house, and in 100 degree heat and 90% humidity, we captured the last moment in front of house in all of it's sweaty, grody glory.

My brother and his lovely fiance treated us to Red Robin and we gave them our best tips for house renovating.

We hung out with my family and I paid a lot of extra special attention to our adorable family dog who is celebrating her 15th birthday next week!

From my parent's, we left for my grandparents' house with a stop at the Flight 93 National Memorial.  Even though it was a temporary memorial, it was very moving.  We both got emotional reading the transcripts of the phone calls received from the victims on the plane.

We took my grandparents out to King's Family Restaurant and then they caught us up on the Casey Anthony trial.  They e njoy both the liver/onions meal and the litigation.

From there, we headed to Chicago for the very first time!  What a great city!  The weather was perfect and we walked all over the city as we recovered from massive slices at Giordano's.

In Chicago we got an awesome deal from Hotwire at the Palmer House Hotel.  We highly recommend both!  From Chicago, we made our way across Illinois with a stop at Ronald Reagan's boyhood home in   Dixon.

While Mr. Palindrome drove  90% of the way, I set up a mobile office using my phone as a mobile hot spot connection and a power converter for my laptop through the cigarette lighter.  Coffee was also at hand always!

It seemed like a Presidential sort of day as we later stopped at Herbert Hoover's birthplace and Presidential Library in Iowa.  The cottage was amazingly small and  inspirational.  There was certainly no silver spoon in his mouth.  While he may have been an unpopular President, his work for starving children as outlined in the adjacent museum was admirable.

As we ended our day, we knew that we had to partake of some famous Omaha steak!  I perused a few travel sites and found that locals went to Johnny's Cafe near the stockyards.  We lived it up with wine, appetizers, steak, and our own desserts!

The next day was my favorite part of the trip - driving top down through Rocky Mountain National Park!

There was still quite a bit of snow on the ground in places, even covering up some of the park signs.

I was hoping to see a bear, but we had to settle for a Marmot and a Mule deer.

In trying to get as many National Park Passport stamps as possible in my book, we stopped at Dinosaur National Monument on the Utah side.  Beyond stamps, we were also hoping to see some dinosaur bones, but we arrived too late in the day to take the shuttle to the dinosaur quarry.  If we every pass through again, I'd love to see it!

Later than night, we arrived in Salt Lake City ready to see the sights and eat dinner.  The temple square and visitor's center offered a fascinating view into the history and building of the temple.

We dined at the Copper Onion and highly recommend it, same as our hotel, the Hilton, which we again scored on Hotwire for an amazing deal.  The hotel desk attendant was incredibly nice and upgraded us on account of our first visit to Utah!  This is the view from our 18th floor room overlooking the mountains:

At this point in the trip, I quit taking as many pictures because the anticipation of being almost there just about killed me.  We landed in Reno that night and instead of taking pictures, we focused all our energy on gambling.  It was a great trade off as we won $100 and nearly paid for our delicious dinner at La Strada in the El Dorado.  The last leg of the journey from Reno to Mountain View (where we're staying temporarily until our apartment in the city is ready), included a 2 hour stopover at the outlets for Mr. P to buy himself a new work outfit for his first day.  

Our route was a little bit out of the way, but only by 400 miles total which allowed us to see family in 3 different states.  Also, the road through Rocky Mountain National Park is only open in the summer, so we wanted to take advantage of that and warm weather throughout the Rockies  and Chicago in general.  Here's the bird's eye view of our route which we thoroughly enjoyed:

Have you driven cross country?  What route did you take?  What was your favorite stop?

Monday, June 27, 2011

We Asked This Old House

Back when we had cable, we watched plenty of This Old House reruns on the DIY Network and PBS.  The guys knew what they were doing.  They broke it down in an understandable way.  Then there was always the beautiful old house eye candy.  I even subscribed to the magazine for a while when the Brownies were selling those discounted magazine coupons.  We followed Tom's instructions for a quick patch to our laminate counter tops shortly after moving into the Carolina House.  In short, we adore This Old House and have long dreamed of meeting the guys in real life and featuring a project of our own.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I proudly announce that we are one step closer to our goal!  In newsstands now, the Palindromes asked This Old House and received an answer!

About stinkbugs!

Unbeknownst to me, Mr. Palindrome had sent in a picture of some red bugs we found on our front walk last spring.  He was just curious and thought they might know.  When an editor wrote back saying they wanted to run it in the Q&A section we almost peed ourselves with excitement.  We zipped off a print ready picture of the little buggers and waited patiently for this month's edition.  Roger actually answered the question and it was fun to see Mr. Palindrome's pseudonym in print.   Thanks to some good, old fashioned stink bugs for paving our way to This Old House!

Next time, maybe a bathroom renovation?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Amazing! or Why I Love America

My mobile hot spot internet connection has been spotty and our days have been full from sun up to sun down, so this is  just a little post as I pop in from our hotel in Salt Lake City.  I've included a short vlog from our drive through Rocky Mountain National Park.  I think it's hilarious and Mr. Palindrome wants to know who still reads my cheese ball blog after I post things like this.  :)

TGIF!  More from the road later!

Monday, June 20, 2011

For Everything There is a Season

If I let myself absorb the magnitude of our move, I get a little sad.  Perhaps not sad, but definitely nostalgic.  I feel this way about the house, about some of the possessions we're selling, but especially about the seasons.  Where many people say that San Francisco weather is perfect at a temperate year round 60 degrees, I cling to the passage of time marked by the change of season.  I know that I'll enjoy a mild winter and still mark seasons by holidays and such, but there's something about full, glorious seasons of extreme weather change that makes me feel at home.  In homage to seasons, here is a collection of our house throughout the year:





Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday Finds - Road Trip!

Well blog friends (and real friends and blog friends who are friends), we're just one Penske truck load away from hitting the road.  It seems so surreal seeing our house empty and thinking that when we drive away, we won't be coming back.  This isn't a short vacation, it's a cross country move.  It's also a serious road trip!  This trip inspired the collection this week.  I'll be rocking the top down drive with a headscarf to protect my locks (more about that to come!) and taking pictures along the way, but here's a vintage throw back road trip collection to tide you over until then.


Clockwise from Top L:
Fido the Cat - Flash Back Vintage Kodak Instamatic with Box
studio brian - Ocean Drive Vintage Tail Light
Gallivanting Girls - National Geographic Close-Up USA Map Set
Carnival of the Maniac - Oversized Red Vinyl American Roadster

Durham House Tour

When the house was staged for sale, I really wanted to vlog a house tour.  There's this saying about intentions . . . I'm hoping late is better than never in this instance.    It's always funny to hear myself recorded, but this vlog strikes me as particularly funny because you can tell how much of the southern accent I've picked up while here.  I grew up with no accent at all (the news anchor accent) but I've discovered that I'm a crazy, unintentional mimic.  I would visit my grandparents in Pittsburgh and come home saying "younz."  I studied abroad in England and would slip into accents all over the place.   The worst was when I was involved in theater and I would bring character voices into my real life.  Y'all has infiltrated pretty heavily into my vocabulary and you'll hear traces of other southern specialties too.

I feel a little like Paula Dean, but c'mon y'all! Come on my house tour!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Dabbling with Monetizing

I think most of y'all reading are also bloggers yourselves.  Is that right? Since you know the name of the game (including domain costs, hosting, design, etc.), I thought you might also have some insights as I dip my toe into the pool of monetization.

I joined Social Spark coming off a huge failure with My Blog Spark.  I was sick of getting surveys which didn't lead to any good offers and being bombarded by products I just can't stand behind.  Pillsbury, I love your dough boy, but you've got to cut out the trans fat!

When I saw Kimberly Michelle do a review for a product, I hopped over to Social Spark to see what they were about.  I liked the idea of seeing offers and only accepting them if I actually believed in the product. After a few weeks, I finally got an offer for a product which I've had sitting as a draft in my queue.  Brilliant, right?  Then I sat down to actually write this thing.  Ugh.  There were all sorts of funny rules and we'll see later this week if it's even accepted, but I figure it was worth a shot.  We'll call this one an experiment.

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to monetize thoughtfully.  Part of what it means to me is only reviewing products that I already use.  Another part of it means seeking out advertisers myself.  After the move, I have two companies that I want to introduce you all to - both women owned small businesses where passion guides the business.  The women are my friends and I trust them.  Trust is rare in the monetizing world and I want to do my best to preserve your trust in me, while helping to build trust in companies, products and services I endorse.

Have you monetized your blog?  Which services do you use?  What's important to you about monetizing?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Family Room Makeover!

Makeover posts are a little wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am style over here while I wrap up the Durham house blog posts before we hit the road.  We're jumping from the front yard to the family room today, which is actually the living room (we pulled a switcheroo! here's the room we're using as our living room/parlor) and just off the dining room which you saw here.

A quick refresher, the renters living in our house before were using the family/dining room as a day care.  We started out with crayon on the wall, beaten down hardwoods and an overall absence of tender lovin' care.

Yeah, that's an open electrical outlet right within the reach of the baby swing.  DOWNRIGHT SCARY!

The taped up posters left a lot of surface damage to the dry wall and the crayon required heavy duty Killz primer to cover.

Just to emphasize the amount of crapola covering the house, here's a picture of the air filters which probably hadn't been cleaned in the past decade.  It literally breaks my heart to think of babies crawling on that floor, sticking their fingers in electrical sockets and breathing that filthy air.  I wouldn't have believed it unless we had the photographic evidence.  While I couldn't save the babies (not even sure who we would report this to if we could), we did save the house.

Like the living room, the first bit of work was refinishing the hardwoods before our furniture arrived.  A close second project was painting all of the trim a bright, glossy white.  We primed and painted and suddenly the room looked fresh and inviting.

We didn't want to break the bank with furnishings so we mostly used what we had.  The couches were hand me downs from Mr. Palindrome's parents, the tables were hand me downs from his aunt and the floor lamp was previously owned as well.  Adding a few pillows, wall art and table accessories finished off the room.

Here's the Budget Breakdown:

Paint and Primer (Home Depot, Behr - Vanilla Custard) - $25
Couches, Coffee Table, Side Tables (inherited) - $0
Bookshelf, Magazine Basket, Candles (previously owned) - $0
Small Painting (HomeGoods) - $39.99
Bronze Accent Platter (HomeGoods Clearance) - $7.99
Tall Vase (HomeGoods) - $8.99
Leaf Platter for Candles (Target) - $6.99
Woven Placemat (World Market Clearance) - $2.99
Lamps (I wrote about them here) - $90
Rug (Overstock) - $150
TV Stand (Actually a fish tank stand from PetsMart!) - $79.99
TV (already owned) - $0
Total: $411.94

We spent a lot less in other rooms, but since we spend the majority of our waking hours in the house parked right on ye ole couch, we didn't regret a penny.  Take a look at how it all came together:

Looking at the pictures, can you believe this place didn't sell this spring?  We sure can't.  Thank goodness for a strong rental market in the area and here's to hoping that the market turns around in the next few years or that we're able to retire in Durham. :)

Anyone in the market for some solidly built, Italian leather furniture?  Our Craigslist sale fell through.  How many times do we have to learn the lesson about needing to sell it to the first person with all the cash????

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday Finds - My House Version

Instead of searching through other people's junk to find a collection this week, I'm just going to show you all the junk we're selling in preparation for our move!  Check out our Craigslist ad and if you're in the area, stop by our big sale tomorrow!

Descriptions and prices in the flickr comments! All photos (embarassingly with a a flash late at night) by me.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Farm Fresh Eggs

I'm sad to be leaving my farm delivery service, Papa Spud's, behind as we pack up to head cross country.  I know that there's tons of fresh farm produce and products out in Cali (wahoo!), but I'm also very sentimental about my routine and I'll miss seeing the box of goodies on my doorstep every Tuesday!

We're eating our way through our fridge and pantry and one of the best garbage disposal type meals I know of involves scrambled eggs.  Saute some veggies, throw in some cheese, add whatever herbs you have - Voila! Weeknight dining fit for a king and healthy to boot.

The cool thing about getting farm eggs is that they're all shapes and sizes!  Variety is the spice of life, no?

This is a good representation of the range of color and sizes - some are even more egg shaped than others!

Look at those deep, beautiful yolks!  It was surprising at first just how bright yellow they are, but now I look for it as a mark of a good, fresh egg.

I've found the secret to scrambles is to briskly whisk the eggs until they're frothy then whisk a few strokes more.  You've got to get the air into them!  The best omelette I ever had was at a diner that mixed their eggs in a milkshake blender!

If you're in the Triangle area, give Papa Spud's a try and let me know what deliciousness you whipped up!  Do you have access to fresh eggs?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Front Yard Makeover!

We wore rose colored glasses when we toured our house for the walk through.  The poor house had been neglected and abused.  We looked at the property with optimism and imagination.  The front yard took a lot of imagination.  Let's just say that the curb appeal was non-existent.

The front bed was full of weeds.  The 5 sad holly bushes had been cut completely to the nubbins and grew back gnarly.  The banisters were rotted and falling off the stoop.  There had been so little care given to the bed that spiders had weaved dense cobwebs on all the windows and across branches of the holly.

We thought the Camelia tree was worth saving and that this one holly bush could be shaped.

But these, these guys had to go! There was no reshaping them.  There was no way to make them even or plant around them and make them look good.

We took one last look for posterity's sake, then Mr. P strapped them to his SUV and ripped those suckers out.  Well, that's what he tried to do, but they snapped the rope.  Instead of spending money on chain, Mr. P dug those bad boys out.  It became a personal challenge and we spent a whole weekend prepping the beds and evening them out.

Just ripping the holly out made everything look so much better!

Luckily we live on a wooded property, so we just dragged a lot of these trimming and holly bush leftovers to our back yard.  Some of it went to my compost pile and the rest went back from whence it came, the earth.

After we had prepped the beds, we laid down several inches of top soil mixed with black gold.  This was a key step for us if we wanted any new planting to grow in the bed.  Here in Durham, we have dense clay soil that isn't hospitable to much besides holly.

To come up with a planting plan, we bought a few gardening magazines which suggested plants and layouts for various climates.  We learned that the design tenets were: 1. Tall stuff in the back, short stuff in the front, 2.  Have a mix of annuals and perennials so there's always color in the beds.  That's pretty much it. Easier that we thought at first.  I sketched out a few drawings  so that we had an idea of how many plants to buy:

Then we went to a local nursery where we got some one on one expert advice.  We returned with 8 Encore Azaleas in coral, 6 hostas, 2 flats of multi color coleus, 2 flats of white begonias, and 1 bleeding heart.  when we first planted them, we thought it look pretty sad and small.  We had to put a lot of trust into the instructions that insisted they needed to be planted 12-18 inches apart.

While we waited for our plants to grow in more fully, we tackled another problem area in the front.  Our yard slopes towards the house created a puddle/pond near our front stoop and right bed.  Mr. P saw an episode of This Old House where they installed a French drain to alleviate a similar problem.

We took turns digging a deep trench along the edge of the bed.  We piled the dirt onto plastic paint covers thinking that we could easily move it to the back, but the flimsy plastic tore almost immediately.  Lesson learned, put the dirt straight into the wheel barrow and empty as needed!

Not going to lie, digging ditches is back breaking work.  I was sore all over my body for 3 days after we dug this trench.  Talk about a full body work out.  We're such weekend warriors.

When the trench was finally deep enough, we headed off to Lowe's with measurements in hand to buy sand, pebbles and rocks to fill the trench and act as a drain.

Mr. P used the calculator on his phone to figure out how much of each layer we would need.

We laid down the drainage materials then topped it off with anti-week cloth.  After a few more handfuls of mulch and rearranging the landscape rocks we reused, the drain was invisible!

Instead of replacing the banisters, we opted to use planters for some color and balance.  We found cedar planters at Lowe's and painted them the same color as the shutters and door.  Then Mr. P's grandparents, who are avid gardeners themselves, helped us choose a nice assortment of plants and flowers from the farmers market.  While just removing the rotten banisters and adding planters made the area look much better, we had a few structural concerns about the stoop.  We ended up hiring a mason to re-pour the concrete and fix the loose brick work.

Mid demolition, it looked pretty scary, but after the new pour of concrete and a quick job on the brick, and we put the welcome back on our stoop.  Here in NC we call it Southern hospitality :)

All in all we spent about $1400 which included plants, top soil, manure, mulch, concrete/mason work, grass seed, grass fertilizer, a hose, and a hose reel.  I don't have a breakdown because Mr. P labeled it all as "Landscaping" in our books.  We were pretty happy with the transformation in curb appeal and have gotten lots of compliments from the neighbors.  

As a reminder, here's the before:

And here's the finished yard once everything filled in!

Are you tackling any big landscaping projects this year?