Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Dirt Bandit and my new best friends

The home directly behind us has two rottweilers, this crazy dog fortress (read: a series of connected sheds), and what has appeared to be a garden. We suspected that the two households to the right of that home also contained avid gardeners and this week, our suspicions were confirmed.

We've got a great view from our kitchen windows of the backyards and have spent many a night spying. We obviously can't see the front of the homes and we've never met their owners but it doesn't matter: I wanna be besties with these people.

Yesterday morning, I woke up to find the yards of the three houses looking like this:

When I first saw it, I immediately assumed that during the night, someone had come and dumped dirt on the yards, spread it out evenly, and fled. A dirt bandit! It wasn't until later last night when one of our friends suggested, "Do you think maybe they just overturned the soil?"

Man, I felt dumb. Feel dumb. Present tense.

As a girl who often begins stories with, "When I lived on the farm..." I failed miserably at deciphering this simple reality. I am shamed, deeply, and must never let my new best friends know that I'm such a goon.

As you can see from the photos, one of the yards has already been worked. I can't wait to see what pops up--literally, hahaha so funny--this summer. We'll keep you posted.

Scene from the kitchen table

A daffodil that our tenant's daughter gave Steve because he is "handsome." Oooooh.

I'll be heading up to Toronto on Saturday with my dear friend Brynn. I suspect that we'll make a stop at IKEA along the way although I'm not sure if she's aware of this plan. Brynn has not yet seen the house in person--only through the blog!--and I'm excited to see her reaction to our color choices and basically everything else. Brynn and I are going to a Knitter's Frolic, by the way. We're nerds like that.

As I was walking into the house a couple of a minutes ago (home for lunch, how cool is that?), I spotted some bright yellow buds on our bushes out front. I've been wondering about them since January, whether they'd flower or be green or what.

Spring will definitely be full of treats.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Reflections, all kinds

We've got two dollar stores around the corner from our house, and I set off yesterday in search of some storage boxes for my office. What I got instead was a new mirror for my bedroom:

Obviously taken with a cell phone camera.

I know the updates have been slow-coming lately, I've got a gazillion pictures on my digital camera that need to be uploaded. But hey, what can I say besides BUYING A HOUSE IS EFFING OVERWHELMING?!

I'm experiencing a lot of anxiety and fear lately, feelings that strike me as pretty understandable. Throughout the whole home-buying process, I kept a lot of those feelings under wraps or just between me and Steve and a couple of friends. Often times I just kept them to myself. In part, it stemmed from the desire to be ridiculously upbeat about a decision that caused many people to raise their eyebrows and nervously ask, "Where'd you buy a house?" Or, "Who'd you buy a house with?" Or, "How old are you?"

But it also stems from being so damn busy with all the shit that needs to get done that you don't have time to think about how you feel, you just do it. Shit like moving in and learning how to be a landlord and rushing home to deal with flooded basements and trying to get another room unpacked and keeping afloat your personal relationships and making sure you smile at your neighbors and manage your checking account--shit like that. Plus more.

I'm not hopeless though, and truth be told, yesterday was a much better day because I had begun to articulate some of my feelings. Sometimes acknowledging fear and anxiety helps it go away.

And this weekend was beautiful--both days in the 70s. I sat in the kitchen for a good part of Sunday morning, drinking coffee and writing and looking at my neighbors' backyards. Our kitchen has shaped up to be a sweet little room and with the shelves that Steve hung up, it is looking more and more complete each day. I went for a walk, mailed some letters, and just generally tried to take some deep breaths while I had the chance.

I think I will remember that lesson: deep breaths, when I have the chance.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Yay! Water in the basement! Yay!

So Buffalo was somehow miraculously saved from that bad Nor'easter that put New Jersey and West Virginia into states of emergency. We got a little bit of freezing rain, and lots of complaints from people who thought spring had sprung and packed away their winter clothes accordingly (this includes me).

Around 8:00 last night, I picked up a voicemail message from our tenant informing us that the basement in her house was flooded. Given that I was at a meeting, I let Steve handled the first shock of going over there and hurried home.

About two inches of water covered the basement floor, which wasn't so bad considering other times when apparently four feet of water was hanging out, sometimes with sewage (Oh seller's real estate agent, why did you not tell us?). When I got there, Steve was already at the store getting whatever we needed to fix the problem--he came back with a sump pump.

In a painless 10 minutes or less, the sump pump was set up and pumping and we were back home chugging wine* and eating two boxes of macaroni and cheese. And I did my taxes.

I think some part of the flood seemed novel, one of our first potential disasters. Like: Yay! Let's sump pump this mother! Yay, we did it! Yay! Wine!

Questions is though, when does the novelty wear off?

*"chugging" is the appropriate term

Sunday, April 15, 2007

funny money

In the process of moving I've spent $4,000. To me, that's a pretty sizeable investment especially considering that the money we saved with NACA basically eliminated closing costs. Paint, moving truck rentals, shelves, garbage pales, pizza, snacks and beer for friends and family who helped us paint and move, a minor plumbing situation, etc. Its easy to spend a hundred dollars and I've done it thirty times in the past thirty days, plus a couple of big purchases. I'm always amazed at how much things cost, and in this case, the incidental expenses have been gigantic.

I should have studio pictures up soon.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Friday, April 13, 2007

Scenes from unpacking...

It's a little better than this now although the room next to it is still totally empty and devoid of any warmth. Or places to sit. Or anything.

Who knew I had so many items of clothing? Oh yeah, EVERYONE that helped me move. Frequently heard: "You are ridiculous, get rid of this crap."

It's so hard though! My skirts from eighth grade that just might fit someday! That crazy dress I know I'll wear somewhere someday and got for $4.99 at a garage sale! My hats, my beautiful never-worn hats!

I am ridiculous and full of crap.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Eating "better"

So remember how I thought that once I moved into the house, all these magical things would start happening to my personal and professional life? Well, dear readers, I'm here to tell you that they have! They have indeed.

Behold: I am eating better.

Check out those homes fries slathered in butter and fried to crispy perfection. Did I mention I'm saving money by not going out to a diner every day?

Avocados are totally the good kind of fat, c'mon.

What? Cookies aren't healthy? What do you mean it doesn't look like I'm eating "better?" There are organic eggs in those suckers!

Whatevs. I don't even care.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The inaugural gentrification post

So I've been hesitant to write about this from the get-go--despite knowing that it is an absolutely unavoidable topic given our situation--because I know that it is a sprawling, heated subject and because I am honestly overwhelmed by its layers and history. I'm talking, of course, about gentrification.

Here's the Wikipedia entry for "gentrification:"
Gentrification, or more specifically urban gentrification, is a process in which low-cost, physically deteriorated neighborhoods experience physical renovation and an increase in property values, along with an influx of wealthier residents who typically displace the prior residents.

I don't bring this up because I'm coming from a defensive place. I don't seek pats on the back and encouragement, "Oh you guys aren't gentrifying, Whitney." I'm simply trying to open up a discussion about what's inevitable and what's not when two young, white kids buy a house in a predominantly Hispanic and black neighborhood.

And let's be totally honest here too: we're not from the neighborhood. I grew up in suburban Amherst for the majority of my childhood, and Steve lived downstate. I've got a lamp from IKEA in my bedroom, too.

I also won't say that we didn't move into the neighborhood with an idea to improve it and I think maybe in here lies the crux of the gentrification question. Herein lies the unexposed racism, the misguided good intentions—the real sticky stuff.

I find myself talking about our plans for the house and our desires for the block differently depending on with whom I’m speaking. I tell my family members that of course I want to see our property values rise and that it’s really an up-and-coming neighborhood. I hear myself using words like “pioneer,” as if I’m some sort of savior out there in the ‘hood dealing with shit that thousands of poor and disenfranchised people have been dealing with for years.

Other times I’m less ambitious, it depends on the audience.

The truth is that I don’t have any sort of conclusions about our situation and the larger question of gentrification except that it is a complex tangle of racism, classism, and institutionalized disinvestment. I can’t decide if I’m fighting it or joining it—maybe both.

Bring on the discussion, this is just the start as I will write more soon. Thoughts?

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Yes, we're always this adorable

Check out these scenes from our first night at the house--March 31.

It doesn't stop at our home, we're cute and squishy all the time.

This recent dose of cuteness was brought to you by Wegmans' free internet access and my (late) lunch break--hurray!


So we don't have internet or phone service at the house right now which has limited our blogging capacity. It's also limited our contact with the outside world.

Last night while Steve was wearing a hat he made of tinfoil, he started talking to "friends" that I couldn't see or hear and telling me that we really should look into "protective, black universe curtains" for our windows. Help us--we must make contact!

In all seriousness, our unpacking process inches ahead and has now gotten to boxes containing the Dregs of Moving. You know, the crap you didn't pack up with all the rest of your stuff but can't bear to throw away yet.

For example, in one box I've got six pairs of shoes, fairy wings, Mardi Gras beads, CDs, mixtapes, pens, electric mixer wands, and a couple mugs. These boxes may very well take years to unload.

Photos of our move to come soon, in the meantime you can take a look at the view from one of the kitchen windows. The wires here taunt us daily: We carry the internet, We carry phone service, We are not yours to touch or use or love...

The dark, scary quality of this photo may cause my suburban relatives to refuse to visit me.
It's usually bright and sunny up in here!

Monday, April 2, 2007


So, we're moved in.

I have pictures but my battery charger is in some box somewhere and will not be found until it wants to be found. Other things that will not be found until they want to be found include my missing left boot, a proper corkscrew, and several plates.

Flickr madness

The Buffalo Flickr group is on the front page of the News! Ha!