Moving

The Basement Tour

Bill did an extraordinary job this past weekend unpacking the basement. And now every single box is unpacked and the contents are put away (or stored somewhere permanent -- such as the holiday decorations in the back room) and I'm finally feeling like we're settled.

If only the basement weren't so creepy.

Part of it's the lack of natural light. Part of it's the unfinished floors (some kind of cement with parts epoxied to a shine). Part of it's the drop ceilings and acoustical tiles. Part of it is just the feeling that it belongs to a different house -- not our grand old manor.

Still, it's unpacked. And that's no small feat.

So let's go on a photo tour, shall we? (Just for your reference, we're going to be turning right at the bottom of the stairs and working our way counter-clockwise around the room.)

 Come enter the Basement of Doom. Black cats are complimentary.

Come enter the Basement of Doom. Black cats are complimentary.

 Oh wait, it's not that bad. Look, there are even books in a little reading nook! (Sadly, the wicker chair is broken...add it to the list of jobs for Bill!)

Oh wait, it's not that bad. Look, there are even books in a little reading nook! (Sadly, the wicker chair is broken...add it to the list of jobs for Bill!)

 Note the fake windows! You might think there was the possibility of a shred of natural light, but you would be wrong. So sadly wrong. On the upside, there is plenty of room for storage in the Basement of Doom.

Note the fake windows! You might think there was the possibility of a shred of natural light, but you would be wrong. So sadly wrong. On the upside, there is plenty of room for storage in the Basement of Doom.

 Two-thirds of the sofa made it into the new house, with the cushion from the destroyed third acting as a dog bed for Maya and Gracie. Allow me to draw your attention to the dorm-style television set-up (with non-working Netflix and no audio for the DVD player) and the Pile-o-Boxes in the corner. We think it adds a bit of je ne sais quoi.

Two-thirds of the sofa made it into the new house, with the cushion from the destroyed third acting as a dog bed for Maya and Gracie. Allow me to draw your attention to the dorm-style television set-up (with non-working Netflix and no audio for the DVD player) and the Pile-o-Boxes in the corner. We think it adds a bit of je ne sais quoi.

 Behind the sofa is the middle of the room, with plenty of room for a table and chairs for board games later on. And in the far left corner is the kitchen. No Basement of Doom is quite complete without a kitchen.

Behind the sofa is the middle of the room, with plenty of room for a table and chairs for board games later on. And in the far left corner is the kitchen. No Basement of Doom is quite complete without a kitchen.

 See? Plenty of room for a game table.

See? Plenty of room for a game table.

 And continuing around the corner is the back side of the basement. The door in the middle goes to the laundry room and root cellar. The door on the left leads to the outside (and another storage room, accessible only from the outside).

And continuing around the corner is the back side of the basement. The door in the middle goes to the laundry room and root cellar. The door on the left leads to the outside (and another storage room, accessible only from the outside).

 If you walk past the cat and hang a left at the coat rack, you'll find a small coat closet and a half bathroom.

If you walk past the cat and hang a left at the coat rack, you'll find a small coat closet and a half bathroom.

 Pretty yucky, but functional. I have dreams of gutting it and putting in a full bath. But I suspect that will be a Tier 2 project...if I'm lucky.

Pretty yucky, but functional. I have dreams of gutting it and putting in a full bath. But I suspect that will be a Tier 2 project...if I'm lucky.

I don't anticipate spending a lot of time in the Basement of Doom, but I think it will be a great place for the kids to hang out as they grow up. If we can get the TV and associated systems working, I might be talked into watching the occasional movie down there. Otherwise, it will just function as a big hallway for me to get back and forth from the laundry room.

Kitchen Confidential

We finished the kitchen on Sunday, which was no small feat since we had approximately one billion boxes marked "kitchen".

I faced the task with no small amount of trepidation.

The kitchen is pretty small -- at least as compared to the rest of the house. (I mean, if you're going to live in a manor, you kind of want a manor-sized kitchen. Amirite?) I was worried that there weren't enough cabinets for our many, many dishes, But it turned out okay -- with everything in it's place.

When I took these photos on Monday morning, it was looking a bit stark.

Things have since begun looking a little more cheery.

Artfully arranged baskets of green apples and  orange clementines will do that, as well as a few strategically placed turquoise hand towels. My children will tell you that their coats and shoes strewn all over the place also add color, but we agree to disagree on the artistic and aesthetic merit of their detritus. 

My very favorite part of the kitchen is that the island has two deep drawers for my pots and pans. So instead of having to get down on my hands and knees to find the right saucepan, I can just open up a drawer and survey the lot of them. 

I feel very fancy. Like a more jaded Martha Stewart.

I'm less keen on the electric stove -- I got spoiled with a high-end gas stove (and stovetop) in our old house and I'm having trouble adjusting to the temperature control issues in an electric version. First world problems, I know.

Bonus points if you can identify the major appliance that is missing from this kitchen.

Go ahead, I'll wait while you scroll up and scrutinize the photos above.

Seriously, go look.

If you noticed that we were missing a refigerator -- ding ding ding -- you are a winner! Yes, it's true. Our kitchen has no refrigerator. There's not space for one. It's sadly been relegated to the pantry with all of our food stuffs and small appliances.

And there's the rub.

The pantry isn't even connected directly to the kitchen, but sits off the adjacent breakfast room.

Note: I know, I know -- who in this day and age even needs a breakfast room? And who am I to be complaining about the kitchen when I have a house with so many rooms that I don't even use them! Well, that's not strictly true -- right now the breakfast room is the temporary repository of all our empty boxes. And that's no small responsibility.

But basically that means that anytime we want anything from the refrigerator (or the blender, or a handful of goldfish crackers), we have to walk out of the kitchen, through the breakfast room, and into the pantry. It might not seem like a big deal, but consider that it takes 4-5 trips back and forth to move the ingredients for dinner into the kitchen, and then another 4-5 trips to return the items to their proper place when you're done. It adds up.

More on the pantry situation next time, including our short-term ideas for easing the pain and our long-term plan. Hint: it involves some demolition!

Moving with Cats

One of the most entertaining parts of the last few days has been watching the cats get acclimated to the new house.

Expanding their kingdom, one step at a time.

We locked them in the master bathroom for the first night (when we were staying in the hotel). The next day, we let them into the master bedroom, deciding to give them some time to settle before letting them into the rest of the house.

But our cats don't like a slow, measured approach.

By the second night, they were frantically darting at the doorway to the hall every time Bill or I passed through it. (And trying to unpack the bedroom meant we opened the doors about eleventy million times that day.) Freedom was so close they could taste it! To up the ante, Emmie began finding small things (a paperclip, a pen, the x-acto knife) and slapping them with her paw so that they flew under the door and into the hallway.

It was like pinball. But with sharp objects.

 The next morning, I opened the door a crack to see what would happen. Would they slowly peer around the corner to assess the potential danger? Would they meander through the halls, frequently returning to their "safe place?" 

No. No they did not.

They both shot through the doorway and began poking into every room on the second floor. Within five minutes they were chasing each other up and down the stairs. Within 20 minutes I could hear them pouncing on something (please let it be an errant hair clip and not a mouse) in the basement. 

The kingdom was theirs, and it was glorious.

Since then, they have made themselves quite at home. Most notably they enjoy photo-bombing every picture I try to take of the house. So thoughtful!

 Checking out the abundance of wildlife outside the kitchen, and plotting her escape.

Checking out the abundance of wildlife outside the kitchen, and plotting her escape.

 Sitting on the fabric that's ready to be folded and put away? Check!

Sitting on the fabric that's ready to be folded and put away? Check!

 Decorating the new duvet with a sprinkling of black hairs. How thoughtful!

Decorating the new duvet with a sprinkling of black hairs. How thoughtful!

 Taking a nap on the bed and/or pulling all the hair bands out of their basket? Check!

Taking a nap on the bed and/or pulling all the hair bands out of their basket? Check!

Need to assemble some furniture. A cat can help!

No set of tools is complete without a helper cat or two. Just point them in the direction where they can be the most bother and watch them go to work.

 Playing a game of whac-a-kitten with her sister. (No cats were harmed in the making of this Expedit.)

Playing a game of whac-a-kitten with her sister. (No cats were harmed in the making of this Expedit.)

 Watching Bill set up the table in the sewing room. So helpful!

Watching Bill set up the table in the sewing room. So helpful!

Plus they are moody. And decorative.

I may begin a series of photos called "cats in fireplaces." High art, I tell you.

 Emmie lounges in the fireplace. A limited number of these prints are available, signed and numbered by the photographer.

Emmie lounges in the fireplace. A limited number of these prints are available, signed and numbered by the photographer.

 Fiona in the fireplace #6. 

Fiona in the fireplace #6. 

Are they going to cuddle, or scratch your eyes out? It's hard to say.

Aside from their delight in exploring, they are also happy to come sit on my tummy for a snuggle. (But always listening for the front door to open.)

 Emmie can't decide whether to take a nap or race up and down the stairs. She settles for a "high alert" reclining pose.

Emmie can't decide whether to take a nap or race up and down the stairs. She settles for a "high alert" reclining pose.

 And if we're not available, on occasion they will deem to snuggle with each other. But only under duress.

And if we're not available, on occasion they will deem to snuggle with each other. But only under duress.

Moving Day, Part 2

When we left our intrepid homeowners, they were sleeping in the nude in an overpriced hotel room. Why nude, you ask? Because all of their pajamas were loaded into a U-Haul that at that very moment was sitting in the driveway of their new house. (See a full recap of the horror that was Moving Day, Part 1.)

But dawn arrived (as it always does) and another day began. 

A warmer day. A better day.

Bill was once again up at the crack of dawn, dressed in the clothes he wore the day before, and at the new house by 7am when the movers arrived to unload the U-Haul. I, on the other hand, slept another couple of hours until it was time to take our dear friend Lauren to the train station so that she could skedaddle back to her home, husband, and cat. 

It's amazing what a full night of sleep will do for a person's disposition. 

Upon returning to our new house in the full sunlight and springtime weather, I marveled again at our luck in getting to live in this grand old house. 

 Apparently I was off-balance with excitement.

Apparently I was off-balance with excitement.

I also marveled at how it took eight hours to pack up the U-Haul, but only three hours to unload it. There is a Ted Talk waiting to happen -- some kind of mystical engineering at work.

 Note the horrid section couch to the right! Will it be discarded at the landfill, or will we make some kind of 2/3 combination arrangement in the basement? Stay tuned!

Note the horrid section couch to the right! Will it be discarded at the landfill, or will we make some kind of 2/3 combination arrangement in the basement? Stay tuned!

The U-Haul was emptied and returned by noon, and Bill and I spent the next six hours unpacking like mad.

Where to start?

My main focus was the kitchen -- it had the most boxes and was going to be one of the most challenging. Besides, there is something about having a working kitchen that makes the chaos bearable.

 What you see is one tiny fraction of the boxes marked "kitchen."

What you see is one tiny fraction of the boxes marked "kitchen."

Bill was focused on the bedroom, and on locating our most basic toiletry items. Our goal was to be able to apply deodorant before the day was over. 

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Don't forget to rest and re-hydrate. Moving is a marathon, not a sprint.

Unpacking is a lot of work, especially if you've only gotten six hours of sleep combined over the last two nights. So after locating the towels and soap and taking a quick shower, Bill grabbed a quick nap. 

 Bill would like to point out that he only slept for 45 minutes and otherwise was an unpacking machine.

Bill would like to point out that he only slept for 45 minutes and otherwise was an unpacking machine.

I continued to unpack until my general mustiness overcame even my own high tolerance for grunge. Then I took what might possibly be the most satisfying shower of my life, and we went out for dinner. Bill had a glass of wine and I enjoyed an after-dinner coffee, and for an hour we pretended like there wasn't a house full of unpacked boxes waiting for us.

Back to reality.

When we finally dragged ourselves back home, we managed to put in another three hours of unpacking before calling it a night. And as we crawled into bed in our new room, with clean sheets and two happy cats (who have made themselves quite at home), we decided to never refer to Moving Day, Part 1 again.

Moving Day, Part 1

Here's how the day was supposed to go on Friday:

  • 8am -- movers arrive and load the U-Haul
  • 12pm -- movers leave and we tidy up a bit and leave the house for the last time
  • 1pm -- we begin the 4-hour drive south
  • 4pm -- we arrive and I run around taking pictures of the empty house
  • 5pm -- movers arrive to unload the U-Haul
  • 8pm -- the movers leave and we set up the bed and unpack our suitcases
  • 10pm -- we collapse into bed, feeling tired but gratified

Did things go according to plan, dear reader? No, no they did not. Bill wants to call what happened "an adventure". That man can spin a story like no one else I know. Here's what really happened.

6:30am -- Frantically packing the last boxes.

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In an of itself, this was not much of a problem. Yes, it would have been nice to be completely packed the night before, but it was inevitable that a couple of boxes would be left until the morning of the move. The bigger problem was that shelves, brackets, and other things were still left on the walls and it was going to take a LOT longer than planned to get them ready to be packed.

8am -- We're missing a mover.

There were supposed to be three guys arriving at 8am. Only two showed up. Not only does that slow down the process of getting stuff out the door, but it also means that it takes twice as long to get stuff packed correctly (e.g. tightly) into the U-Haul. Take note, future movers: three is a magic number. Get at least three people.

10:30am -- I'm back with moral support, but we're behind schedule.

My dear friend Lauren volunteered to drive our little blue car down South (so I could drive the big car and Bill could drive the U-Haul). When we arrived back at our house, it was immediately obvious that we were behind schedule. A few things were in the U-Haul, but the house was still essentially full.

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12pm -- We're supposed to be leaving, but decide to embark on some sofa wrangling.

If Bill were writing this entry (I gave him the option!) he would probably omit this part. Several years ago, we bought a gigantic three-piece sofa and destroyed the house getting it downstairs into the basement. Literally -- we pulled off the door frames, gouged scratches across several walls, and had to use a mallet to break through the drywall to get an extra couple of inches necessary to turn the final corner.

Since that fateful night, we had joked that the sofa was going to convey to the new owners whenever we sold the house, or else we were going to have to cut it in half with a chainsaw. So, when Friday morning rolled around and the sofa was still in one piece, I assumed we were going to leave it for the next people. Oh no, my other half had another idea. 

Let's skip the 55 minutes that the two movers spent struggling to get the first two pieces of the sectional up the stairs and out the door. (Keep in mind, they are only scheduled to work until 12pm, and we're now WELL past that time. And also keep in mind that 50% of our stuff has yet to be brought outside, let alone loaded up.)

2pm -- The sofa is stuck. Frustration ensues.

The movers get the third piece up the stairs, but it gets stuck rounding the final corner. After 45 minutes of wrangling (including prying the door frame the basement door), Bill decided that we've wasted too much time, and tells the movers to take it back down the stairs and leave it in the basement. Problem solved, right?

Wrong. The sofa is now so wedged in place that it won't go back down the stairs. It's not moving until someone takes a reciprocating saw to the frame. Which is exactly what Bill does. For the next 30 minutes.

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3pm -- The sofa is still stuck. Patience is wearing thin.

While Bill is swearing under his breath and wrestling with the electric saw (and possibly the most awkward and unsafe angle ever -- he eventually makes about 12 cuts since the sofa refuses to collapse into a format that will round the corner), the movers resume loading the rest of the stuff onto the U-Haul. It soon becomes apparent that our stuff is NOT going to fit. Not even close.

As the sofa finally gives up the fight, Bill calls the movers at the new house (remember that we're four hours away, and they are arriving at 5pm) and reschedules for 7am on Saturday morning. Just about this time, the movers announce that the U-Haul is almost full and asks us to prioritize the final pieces.

4pm -- I look for a hotel. But's it's spring break and everything is booked!

Bill suggests to me and Lauren that we can just sleep on the hardwood floor "in our sleeping bags." I explain, in a voice tinged with outrage and disbelief, that there is no way I'm going to sleep in a sleeping bag in my new empty house. The search for a hotel begins, and ends when I finally locate two rooms (one for me and Bill, one for Lauren) for a whopping $500. Suddenly, hiring professional movers to take charge of the entire thing doesn't sound so extravagant.

4:45pm -- We pay the movers and get on the road.

I suspect that movers get most of their money from the premium they charge hapless homeowners for the overage fees. Instead of the four hours we hired them for, they actually worked just over eight hours. And the bills keep piling up.

Of course, it's not like we won't be seeing them again, since we will need to make a second trip to finish moving all the stuff we had to leave behind the first time, including:

  • Everything in the garage (tools, yard equipment, storage, kids bikes, etc.)
  • Half the stuff in the basement (including the rails for the guest bed)
  • Tables, chairs, and bookshelves from our daughter's room
  • The picnic table and six wrought iron chairs
  • Various lights, lamps, tables, bookshelves, chairs, and other materials

Naturally, the house is a mess. Everyone is exhausted and grumpy (except for Lauren, who is a trooper) and we each get into our respective vehicle and get on the road. I pull away in the car and don't look back.

9:30pm -- We arrive at the new house.

The trip that should take three and a half hours takes just over five -- thanks to our departure from the city coinciding with Friday evening rush hour traffic. I play music really loud and sing along at the top of my lungs for the last three hours to stay awake.

Because we can't take the cats to the hotel, we meet at the new house to drop them off. I give Lauren a tour while Bill gets them situated in the master bathroom. The house looks giant and forlorn in the darkness, and I realize that none of the bedrooms have overhead lights.

10:15pm -- We check into the hotel.

There is (SURPRISE!) a nightclub pumping out music on the main floor, and Bill and I are put in a room immediately across from the ice machine (and lots of people who like to talk loudly and laugh uproariously while getting ice). We have no extra clothes, no toiletries, and no energy -- we just collapse into bed and try to forget that this day ever happened.

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Next time -- moving day, part 2! Alternative title: It Gets Better.