She Speaks!

Sorry, after I finished shooting this video, I was reminded of the whole rigmarole over Greta Garbo’s appearance in her first talking picture. Random.

Anyhoo, just for fun, I thought I’d give you all a glimpse into our home to give you a visual of things that I talk about, the cats in motion (or not, which is generally the case with Beardslee), and so forth. After watching the lengthy clip, I’m reminded as to why I’m much better at typing my thoughts than ad-libbing them. We’ll see what you think. Here’s a tour of our home, in segments…

I’m pretty critical of myself, but a couple of fun, shall we say, reflections upon what I could possibly do better. 😉

– First of all…I will say that my uniform on weekends, unless we’ve got something pretty snazzy happening, is a sweatshirt. So, for that, I won’t apologize, although I somehow feel underdressed just watching it. Oye. However, I do think that I should’ve at least done my makeup. In the future, I shall. 😛
– That lisp. The dreaded lisp. It’s back! It haunted me as a child, and only seems to pop up when I’m drinking. I swear I wasn’t drinking during the making of this video.
– When did I start sounding remarkably like my sister?
– Who cares about a door?
– Apologies to anyone who might have experienced motion sickness while watching.
– Those random boxes belong to the cats. They won’t allow us to be rid of them.
– How many Beatles items can you spot?
– How many superheroes can you spot?
– Yeah, I said “plethora”…

– I don’t remember actually waving at George across the way…
– Do you NEED to now about my migraines?
– OMG I forgot to show the fish!!
– Those silicone mats are Martha Stewart. Spoiled kitties.
– …is this a little long-winded to anyone else? Just checking…
– “Kinda got along”. Yeah, I was mean to him. We were nice, but not friends by any means.
– I do kinda like when I get Dave’s text.
– “I’m a really bad wife that I don’t remember all this stuff.” Hee hee.
– Antique driving gloves. Why do I have them? Weird gift. Cool, but weird.
– Mommy’s talking to…himself?
– Lamp. It’s a lamp. How hard is it to think of that word? Same with dresser. Sheesh.
– Seriously, can someone come up with a sign-off for me or something? What a weirdo.

But, after watching it again, I realized that I actually had some fun making it. Hope it wasn’t too much of a waste of time for you to watch!

Green Buildings…?

Courtesy greenerworking.com

Dave and I regularly find ourselves discussing the pros and cons of our area. I’m pretty sure that most people are this cognizant about their futures and the futures of their families; or, at least, I hope they are. We wonder about the environments that our children should experience, what resources we’d like to have readily available to them, and what they don’t necessarily need at hand in order to be well-adjusted, well-rounded individuals. While we never know what the future holds, I’m the type to at least consider every option and plan for, well, all of them. I’d rather be blindsided briefly, then get up off my butt and take the future by the horns.

One thing that isn’t on our list of “must haves” is an area like this: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2011/01/green-building-where-you-are-as-important-as-what.php?campaign=daily_nl

This article is about the fact that it’s much more ecologically friendly for green builders to do so within city limits. While I agree, in essence, with what the article is saying — ie, that green builders should look toward cities for building initiatives since greener transportation is more viable in these all-packed-within-a-2-mile-square-radius places — I don’t think that it’s a realistic approach for (I won’t say the majority) many people.

There was a time that Dave and I were both “city people” — in thought, at least. I’ve never actually lived in a city, although I’ve spent plenty of time down in THE city. Yeah, that one. I loved the hustle, bustle, and excitement. At one time, Dave, in his search for a fulfilling career in movies and writing, saw himself in a similar fast-paced environment. While I could see both of us living successfully in a city, we’re both in complete agreement that we’d prefer a more family-friendly environment for our future kids.

Our current living situation is what I call subrural. It’s not quite suburban (the closest “city” is Utica…yyyyyyyeah…with Albany and Syracuse an hour in each direction), but we’re not hicks. No, really, we’re not. While there are times I wish I could own chickens and grow my own food, the farm life just isn’t plausible in our area’s depressed economic state (and that description doesn’t just apply to the current recession; our rural population is silently hurting, and it has been for years).

What we DO have access to in the area (not necessarily our current locale, mind you) is the ability to take a walk several blocks to library, community center, park, schools…just to take a WALK, safely. Can’t do that in many cities; can’t do that on a rural road. Getting out, enjoying where you live, being able to talk with your neighbors — that’s what we feel we must have, externally, to raise our kids.

While I’m all for eco-friendly practices, I don’t see a need for these builders to add to the urban sprawl which is killing many parts of America. What I cry, instead, is to remember the never-too-old mantra that I consider my first “green lesson” back in 4th grade – “reduce, reuse, recycle.” Building more, even with green practices, seems to go against these basic, simple ideals. It’s a new way to prove the haves and have nots without the blatantly super-sized McMansions, and it’s not what I’d like to see as a lesson of this recession. Being eco-friendly cannot be an excuse for being socially unaware or downright greedy.

What I propose, instead, is to first look at the buildings that currently exist. We need more grants, more public initiatives to update homes and already-existing buildings. I think that my deep love of our history and newer social awareness and sensitivity makes this seem like an obvious solution. Not only will our Main Streets and neighborhoods be resurrected to safe, happy, locally-run locales, but the concepts behind the green initiatives will reach a broader public mass (rather than the “haves” — who, sorry to say, are not the face of America). Education which is embedded reaches a greater number with less need for persuasion.

We’ve already seen articles and stories about the fact that the current home-buying generation is changing its concept of what they “need” in a house. For the first time in years, people are actually weighing their needs vs. their wants — their “one bathroom would be fine” vs. their “I must have a home with a soaker tub…in our master bath, of course” — even if the HGTV Home Buyer Hour doesn’t indicate such. If smaller is better, we already have a plethora of small, cheaper houses ready for the taking — and greening, in the process.

Not to say that there aren’t towns with revitalized historical sections already. There are plenty of Main Streets that are successful these days, it seems. We visit Northampton, Mass. and its surrounding areas which, to me (an outsider), seem to be doing just fine. However, during our last trip, we found that the architecturally stunning bank had been turned into a national chain clothing store. We were aghast. There are so many culturally- and ecologically-aware storefronts (within historically gorgeous buildings) in these areas, but the economic despair is showing cracks in even their brilliant facades.

There was a time, not too long ago, that every town in the U.S. had its own self-sustaining local economy, from the movie house to its grocery store, and even plenty of hotels. Just think of the Main Street in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” While they had economically-depressed citizens just as we do (hell, it was the Great Depression they were portraying, remember), they had access to a Main Street that provided all its locals needed. That wasn’t just a movie set. I’ve heard from my mother and grandparents more times than I can remember what our old Main Street was like. Just look up, wherever you live, and take notice — that faded artistic writing on the brick exteriors.

Entrepreneurs and home buyers, politicians and normal folks. Everyone could get on board. Yep, I have an idea for greener buildings. Just look around.

Appreciate the Now

After reading this article, it dawned on me that our current surroundings may not just be a starter home — it may be our after-starter home. Certainly not our ending home, but a bigger player in our future as a couple and family and careers than expected. I’ve gotta start coming to terms with that.

We found this house a little over a year ago, thanks to my mother. She was on the look-out for a cheap starter home for us (it seems lots of people were — my sister and Dave’s brother both bought their first homes around the same time). In luck, she found a foreclosed property in our suburban area for a great low price. Yeah, no. Ridiculously low. Dave and I walked through, knowing that it might have some unforeseen issues (the realtors couldn’t inform us due to its foreclosure status, which we were fine with), but the place seemed just right for our needs. I think once Dave saw the brightly-lit sun room in the front, he silently fell for it — I think the age of it (close to that of my first home, where I lived for 18+ years) did me in.

Shortly after moving in, we discovered that the house hadn’t been winterized in sufficient time, so the pipes had burst. A funny story involving our kitchen’s leaking ceiling fan and my niece calmly proclaiming that, “The light’s got water coming out of it” will always be engraved in our memories of our first day in the place.

With great thanks and appreciation for my step-father, before too long we had all new pipes, toilet, and energy-efficient water heater and furnace. Then, he and Dave worked together to put in a pedestal sink, vanity, overhead light, light/heater/fan, front door locks, etc etc etc. Dave’s dad supplied us with well-priced windows, which we’re still working on getting put in — a vast majority are finished. We’ve turned our eyes to getting the lawn green (in a green fashion — like by using his old-school push mower, as mentioned in this post) and will be planting a modern “victory garden” when the weather stays warm for a bit.

Oh, we’ve done more — much more. Lots of painting and cosmetic stuff, but nothing too costly (yet). We put in some cool vintage-looking (but modern material) black-and-white-check flooring in the kitchen, painted nearly every room, and am in the midst of finishing the cellar-way. Oh, and as a wedding present, my stepdad will be helping us put in a back deck. But, we’ve talked over other plans and what we’d like for the rest of the house while we own it. This is where it gets a little complicated.

See, the house itself is pretty small. I’m not sure of its exact square footage, but I’m pretty sure it’s misleading when I say we’ve got 3 bedrooms. In actuality, we have one bedroom (slightly cramped), one guest room (it’s embarrassing to admit, but it’s covered in my clothing — it contains a closet and a large dresser, but I still don’t have much room for clothes), and a den/office which houses 3 not-big desks (Dave uses this closet for some of his clothes; he also has 2 dressers in our room, plus the tiny closet). Add a small bathroom and you’ve got our upstairs.


Downstairs is a little roomier. Our living room feels pretty expansive, but once you get 4 people in it you realize how uncomfortable it really is — it’s a hard room to furnish correctly! But, YAY, at least it’s got a sufficient closet; still tiny, but works for seasonal items. The front door and “sun room” (tiny!) open from the living room, as do the kitchen and dining room (each have a door; this is the 1920s, after all). The kitchen is a sufficient size, but there’s not enough storage and some of the cabinets were downright abused by the prior owners. Mom always says it’s the brightest kitchen she’s ever seen in her life, so once we add a back door onto the deck, it may just be my favorite room. The dining room isn’t very big, and won’t be once we get my piano in there, but it fits its purpose.

The basement is a “future project.” It’s pretty expansive, but with lots of opportunities for head-bumping. We’ve discussed how to do over the basement and have decided not to completely finish it, but to waterproof it and designate storage areas — and even a comfy TV area and bar. Oh, and there’s already an area for a possible 1/2 bath, so it only makes sense to put one in. 🙂 I can’t wait to get some kitchen pantry/storage built in!

Outside, however, is another situation. We have a tree in front of our house which has pushed up the sidewalk and doesn’t allow much to grow around our foundation area. It’s also buckled our already-curvy driveway — so, those projects would pretty much be a necessity if we’re going to stay.

So, that’s what we’re dealing with. I already know that I simply need (need vs. want) to downsize lots of my stuff, particularly clothes. Perhaps we both do. Who knows? I know that people only use 10% of their clothing, which is a discouraging figure, so to garage sale it or give it away would only make sense. But, this is just to get it to be a comfortable living situation for a young-ish engaged couple now — what about the next step?

I’ve thought a lot about what will happen when kids come along — I think we both have. It’s pretty obvious that, for now, we’d stay here; but how long? The article makes me re-think it. When we moved in, I mentioned that things’ll be very different when we move out, to which we both agreed; I figured we’d have a toddler running around, Dave thought we’d have teenagers helping us. Very different ideas!!! I can’t possibly imagine raising 2 or 3 kids in this house — but, I’m sure it was done, back in the day. I know of a family with 3 grown children who did just fine in a house as small as ours, if not smaller…but, they were uber-close and uber-religious (we weren’t raised to be “close” in the literal sense, and our religion was always pretty mute).

But, as they say, desperate times call for desperate measures. It’s not that things are desperate now, just tighter, and I can’t imagine how tight they’ll be with young ones around. However, it may not be plausible to just move, and I’m considering whether we should put more money into the place than we were originally intending to (that tree was definitely a “eh, leave it” thing before).

So, what will help make the house more user-friendly in the long run? I’ve got a few ideas. 🙂
– Well, obviously, get the tree/sidewalk/driveway taken care of. *shivers* These are “little at a time” projects, but, in this case, a priority.
– Finish the basement. Dave recalls his childhood home as having a sort of rec room basement where he and his brother could crash and play to their heart’s content. Well, why can’t our kids have that? We already have an extra TV and entertainment center, and eventually when we get a new living room set, we could easily put our “old one” down there. Plus, waterproofing will help the organization we do create even safer. (And an extra bathroom is helpful in ANY house!)
– Once we have our back door, life will be a lot easier. Currently, our driveway is on one side of the house and both the front and side doors are on the complete opposite side. With the plan of adding this entrance, we can bring groceries directly from the car and into the kitchen — what a luxury!
– If we’re living here long-term, the floors will have to be re-done. While we can pretty easily live with the cheap living room/stairway/office carpet with just the two of us, no amount of steam cleaning will make it sufficient for when we’ve got babies crawling. I’d like to see what wood we’re working with and whether it’d be cheaper to have it repaired/refinished or to get a nice carpet throughout.
– DE-CLUTTER, DE-CLUTTER, DE-CLUTTER!!! We’re currently using pretty much all of our space, which I think is a little bit much (I’m guilty as much as Dave is!!!). This is something that we could pretty easily accomplish without much, or any, money. 😀
– Re-analyze our needs. Do we need all the books we’ve got? Dave does a great job with purging his collections through eBay and amazon.com, but our bookshelves are full. Do we NEED more bookshelves, or less books? (No right or wrong answer.) Do we NEED 3 desks, or more office storage? Do we NEED the huge extra bed in the guest room? (That’s probably one that we won’t work on until *dun dun duuuunnnn* eventual pitter-patter.) Organization isn’t easy in this house, and once you let it slide for a few days, you’re buried — with Dave being pretty particular about his space and us both being brought to tears by the shows about hoarders, it’s pretty obvious what we’ll need to do.
– Eventually, a small kitchen reno — and, hopefully, some new appliances. The cabinets under the sink were very poor quality and currently stink when you open them — seems they had a moisture issue and the bottom of them fell through. I’ve still got some items down there for my cleaning, etc, but it’s pretty ridiculous. Can’t wait to have them GONE and simply something cleaner (and that match the rest of the kitchen — white!) and better-quality. While we’re at it, we may get some granite-esque tops for them, and the old, original cabinets.
– This summer, I’m planning on re-doing the main bathroom. It’s small, but I like it. The tub isn’t white, but it’s livable. The mosaic tiling on the walls I find disgusting and the floor and trim need an update. The paint isn’t staying on correctly, so that’ll take some sanding, and I’d like to fix up the cabinet to be a nice, open concept. Since we have some new items in there already, it shouldn’t be TOO costly — but let’s see if summer school + bathroom reno + wedding planning = happy Meg. 😉
– A cohesive, non-green color scheme outside. (And I don’t mean non-eco friendly, hee hee.) The shutters are pretty yucky and, after replacing the tree, will be quite viewable, so I’d like to paint them a high-gloss black, along with thresholds and doors (possibly a tan thrown in), but we’ll see when the time arises.

So, those are some ideas for our “home sweet home” if it’s going to remain such for 5+ years. If another great deal (higher-priced but within our budget) comes along before that, ’tis fine, but for now my philosophy of “get out and spend relatively little before doing so” may have to go the way of the dinosaurs.