Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I Will Laugh Every Time I Sit On the Couch

I'm quickly learning that NYC furnishings and decor are not a reflection of one's taste, necessarily. But rather, a reflection of one's resourcefulness.

I think I'm pretty decent at the game (90% of our Utah home furnishings were Deseret Industries, black paint and sandpaper, after all), but New York - you sly devil with your public transportation, narrow hallways and sixth-floor walkups - you are a trickier opponent.

Perhaps we hit a new low, but I'm not ashamed to admit it as we're now the proud owners of two free couches, a great unit of shelves and another evening of hilarity to add to our arsenal.

I noticed a few free couches on Craiglist that were actually in pretty decent condition and -remarkable! - the owner lived just 1.5 blocks away. We went by after work, affirmed that they were in relatively good condition and did not reek of an identifiable (or worse, unidentifiable) odor and hauled them - in a comical blend of total white trash and Banana Republic business casual - down 10th Avenue to their temporary crash pad (we're moving to our real place on Saturday).

The loveseat made the trip without a hitch. But the larger couch proved to be a little much for my quivering forearms so there were a lot of pauses and readjustments between my bursts of laughter at the situation in general.

The whole ordeal hit a real high when a group of guys walked by and one said to the others, "pivot... pivot..." Hands-down my favorite Friends quote of all time. I was ready to throw the quote out at the opportune time, but thank you, random stranger, for beating me to the punch.

My forearms held in there until we got to the front door of our apartment and our uber-narrow hallway which posed a new threat - nowhere to tilt. Noah maneuvered and tilted with the best of them, the opposite end of the couch thudding against our across-the-hall neighbor's door while I tried my best to stifle my laughter. I could hear our neighbor shuffling around his kitchen (entryway, dining room, it's all one room, really) and I desperately fought off the ensuing church-giggle, knowing our paper-thin walls would have made it sound like I was standing right beside him. I didn't want him getting curious about the commotion and flinging open the door just in time to see my head literally pressed against his door trying to shift the couch just one... more... inch.

Finally, I decided it wisest to let the heretofore stranger neighbor in on our couch conquest and ask him if we could swing the couch into his doorway to allow for that extra inch of tilt. To which he kindly obliged.

And now we have two couches standing upright in what used to be the only walking room in the apartment (for, where else would you have me put them?) and we also know our neighbor. So, win-win.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Guatemala - Quatro, Cinco, Seis, Etc.

I'm disappointed in myself for not recapping this trip more quickly or in better detail. Because truly, it was an incredible trip - gorgeous scenery, fun experiences, the most warm-hearted people and phenomenal tour guides (Christopher and the Choc family). Here is my next-best: Guatemala at warp speed.

In beautiful Antigua...
where we saw famous arches...
got in touch with our inner-animal...
and the missionary still wouldn't come within 10 feet of me. (Sorry Christopher, I have to give you a hard time for this. This is how you know this kid was a good missionary!)
Next to Tikal...
where we climbed ancient ruins...
risked our lives summiting Temple 5 on the steep wooden ladder of death...
and Noah "Steve Irwin" Riley spotted all the really rare animal life.
(no clear photos to document it, however. You would just think it's the trees. But for real, monkeys, toucans and some sort of anteaterish thing - RIGHT above our heads.)

Then to Flores, for this view...
caving (where Allison tests a new picture pose and ends up just looking like she has stiff mannequin arms)...
and a zoo where a monkey grabbed my finger and the jaguar probably could have made a running leap for it.

From there, it was off to one of the country's many volcanoes for one of those "we know we're not in the U.S. because we are literally climbing to the crater of an active volcano and nobody is telling us not to" moments. You know the type.
This picture is at the base before we climbed and does not fully evoke dangerous emotions, I know. But climb we did - on hands and knees at some points - on the dry lava flow, steam rising from its cracks, to the tip-top. Close enough that you start to think, "we are so dumb" every time you feel the rumble from the belly of the beast.

Our last stop was Lake Attitlan and the village of San Pedro...
where we stayed in the lovely Hotel Attitlan...
with a gorgeous view of Lake Attitlan...
and mingled with the locals (this guy was literally outside our door)...bought a skull for Spencer, like any good co-worker would do...
and saw impressive feats of human head strength.

It's good to be home... for, uh, three months now.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Found It!

After learning the hard way and letting a great little one bedroom on the Upper East Side slip through our clutches, we realized apartment hunting in NYC is not: "oooh, good option! Let's gather five or six more and weigh pros and cons before we decide." More like: "I could live here. Could you live here? Great. Quick – offer them our first born.”

So we were thrilled when we looked at approximately 15 apartments one afternoon, settled on one *if memory served* we liked best, negotiated an even lower price (score!), applied, got it and went back to find… ah, we really did like that one after all.

Yesterday afternoon, our bodies completely devoid any semblance of rigorous physical activity for the past four weeks, we decided to run to our new place to get the keys from our super. We wanted to check out a rug for sale at 92nd and 2nd, so we ran that direction from our current spot in Hell’s Kitchen first before making our way back to our new pad in West Harlem. If you are familiar with Manhattan, you will know this means we rock. Six miles on the heels of a full month’s inactivity. It doesn’t hurt, however, when that route means cutting through lovely Central Park twice and the fact that the tiny north/south blocks make counting blocks much more interesting than my run home in Salt Lake… “tttthhhhhiiiiirrrrrrrddd, fffffoooooouuuuurrrrtttthhhh…”

I won’t bore you with too many apartment details, (clearly, I have reserved that right for recounting boring running stories) but I’ll give you a run-down of the stats:

Newly remodeled (new appliances, paint, floors)
New bathroom, new kitchen – implied in the remodel, but worth mentioning twice because, hello, new bathroom and new kitchen. Are there many more sanity-saving things on this planet?
2-3x the size of anything we’ve seen
Least expensive apartment we viewed. Period.
Huge bedroom
Closet space
Full kitchen
Top floor
Plenty o’ room for guests (that, ahem, means you)
Great neighborhood
Free aerobics at the recreation center nearby
Cheap(er) grocery stores in the ‘hood

As we sat catching our breath on the floor of the apartment yesterday, I realized we’d better get used to those seats for a time. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for the inflatable mattresses for Christmas – because at least we will have something to sleep on. But this is going to be a pretty vacant space for a little while.

Pictures are forthcoming. But if you shut your eyes and imagine a big empty room, off to the side picture a big empty kitchen and on the opposite side imagine a big empty bedroom and bathroom. There you have it. Home sweet home.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Finally, A Post With Pictures - Really Good Ones.

I've probably belabored the point too much already, so I apologize if this song is getting a little old. But I tell ya - it's a bummer to put a lot of energy into a home you love just to pick up and leave six months later.

However, thanks to its prime photo spots and Ashley's unbelievable talent (peeps - this gal also has her master's in accounting and her CPA - hello, left-brain/right-brain - and she fits into a 2 post-kids; you have my permission to envy) we have some beautiful photos of us at our place.

It probably seems like a really little thing. But a sister who will take these photos and then run upstairs, change into work clothes and help you pack and move, then go home and delve even more hours into these photos just for us really means the world. I know I'm going to treasure these photos of us and our first home for a long time to come.

Ashley actually snapped this one of us during a Sunday visit last fall. Not the most flattering of me (I'm not a very graceful snuggler...) but I do love this shot of us in our home. And that man of mine is pretty darn handsome.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


We secretly hoped that by moving to Manhattan, we’d become famous.

Little did we know it would be the FIRST weekend here.

To be honest, I was so distracted by the kid with the camera in my face that I hardly even noticed the men in their undies.

You’re intrigued now, huh?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Home is Where You... Use the Communal Restroom

Apartment hunting on a tiny budget in one of the priciest cities on the planet is a lot of fun. It's good blog fodder at least.

When our pittance of a rent budget got us laughed out of the Village – well, maybe not laughed; try “slightly heated debated” us out of the Village – we looked next to the Upper East Side. We found a few interesting prospects and met a few equally interesting brokers.

Favorite Broker of the Day:
Richard (name has not been changed to protect the innocent. this is really his name and typically I shy away from calling strangers out on the blog, but seriously – who’s going to find him among the 39,000 brokers in the city?) who smells of cough drops and tobacco shows us a small studio off 3rd Ave with a lovely fold-out-of-the-wall plywood table, nice touch. He determines it’s a little small for us and tells us to meet him in 20 minutes at another building where he has two apartments available. He shows us the unit on the third floor and invites us to check out the one on the fourth, he’ll wait here to give us some privacy. So we run upstairs, door is locked, head back downstairs just in time to hear “flush.” Turns out, it was Richard who needed the privacy. Bear in mind, this is a vacant apartment. We’re talkin’ no soap and water. We didn’t shake Richard’s hand when we left.

So Close, Should Be A Tie Runner-Up:
James shows us a ridiculously huge apartment further north. I wish I felt better about the ‘hood, because this is a crazy amount of space. Noah and I would both be able to spin around with our arms outstretched and not hit each other. James is a super-friendly guy, but tells us how he doesn’t feel good about the couple who just looked at it because they talked too much, then proceeds to chatter for about 20 minutes without either of the Riley duo getting a word in edgewise. The conversation is laced with general profanity throughout, but garnered raised eyebrows from moi when he described the management’s reaction by flipping us off and dropped the f-bomb when he talked about “messing” with people he thinks are high maintenance by enticing them to a scream of a deal near Central Park that is actually really disgusting and has a common restroom in the hallway. Yeah, that’s super funny.

Achmed and his bro are looking better and better all the time.

Recipe for Disaster

If you are aware of my infamously tiny bladder (Really, though. As a kid I had a mental map of all facilities in the greater Ogden area. One time, I had to bail off a float in Ogden’s 24th of July parade, pass my violin to a “stage” mom and make a mad dash for Nordstrom.) you will know that leaving my keys at home when there is a key to the ladies’ room that is different from the key to the men’s room and I’m the only woman in the office once the receptionist leaves could be a bad thing.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

So This Is Home.

When I began this blog about a year and a half ago, I found a quote I felt summed Noah and I up perfectly. If you're actually reading on our page (cuz you rock it old school, I can respect that), you can refer above - but for you Google Readers, allow me to recap:

"It's when you're safe at home that you wish you were having an adventure. When you're having an adventure you wish you were safe at home."

At the time, we were definitely safe at home. And I was okay with that.

But there was a bit of an itch that needed scratching.

Friday morning we drove away from our safe at home stage, spent a few (un)eventful days on the road (which I've already made you endure) and as of 4:00 p.m. Sunday evening, we drove right smack into our adventure.

You know it's going to reek of adventure when you drive along your new avenue counting building numbers - 83, 87, 91... and realize you live next door to the fine fried chicken eatery "Pluck U." We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

The first walk down the dim, skinny hallway to our January home was a little, "oh man, we're nuts."

Then we met a neighbor on the sidewalk who was looking to move in the next few weeks, he suggested maybe we find a two bedroom place "and you and your husband can be in one room, my brother and I will be in the other?" Noah and I set some pretty wacky ground rules when we said "I do." One of which was to never move in with perfect stranger brothers in Manhattan. I know, it seemed odd at the time... The exchange left me feeling a little, "oh man, we're really nuts."

Monday morning, we had our dependable little BMW washed and the oil changed for its new owner (just treat 'er good...) and went grocery shopping for the basics. After we took out a second mortgage to cover these extravagant activities, I thought, "oh man, we're seriously nuts."

We made a few appointments with some realtors to view some apartments in the Village and decided to try to offset 36 hours in the car by walking the 8 mile roundtrip (or so says MapQuest, and it doesn't even know about the dead end we ran into and had to retrace). In the essence of time, we spedwalked (word?) on our way there. But as we made our way back toward midtown, dropping into any store that caught our attention and stopping for the requisite $1 slice of pizza to call our dinner, it hit me.

We're really lucky.

Bring on this adventure.

And heck, bring on Achmed. And his brother.

Monday, January 5, 2009

On The Road Again

You can’t really embark on a 33-hour drive without an impressive collection of stories on the other end. Buckle up, here are a few of the highlights:

We borrowed a bit of genius from the Kastelers and decided to vacuum pack our clothes – poor man style. Garbage bags, rubber bands and a vacuum. After half my closet reduced to an impressive 3-square foot blob that eerily resembled body parts in a lawn and leaf bag, I was sold on the space-saving idea and I was ready to vacuum pack toiletries, the Bosch, even one of us, if it bought us a little more room in the 318ti.

The morning of our departure, my parents came down to help with last-minute details (a tangent I cannot pursue because this is meant to be a funny post and if I dwell on their utterly amazing selflessness I will get weepy. Again.) and as space in the car rapidly diminished, Noah leaned against the hatchback as my dad handed him the last few items to be shoved into each nook and cranny. Finally, Noah had to throw his whole weight into the hatchback to get it closed.

In the first few miles of the trip, one such vacuum packed blob fell from its precarious perch above my head and spent the remainder of the drive slowly sucking in air and winnowing the passenger out of leg room to the point the driver’s seat actually became the desirable spot to occupy.

The remainder of the PMVPBs (poor man’s vacuum packed bags) were also guilty of sucking and upon our first night’s stop in Grand Island, NE, we determined it wise not to open the hatchback and disturb the growing beast. Which also meant no access to the overnight bag we’d packed with pajamas, a change of clothes, oh – you know, deodorant. I did have toothbrushes and toothpaste in my purse, so don’t fear, our dental well-being was not compromised, but just feel fortunate you didn’t have to meet us on the eastern half of these United States (sorry Bryan and Lauren).

Somewhere outside Chicago, Noah and I engaged in the following brilliant conversation:
A: “It basically blows my mind how much faster you can travel by plane. A flight to Chicago takes, what? Three hours? We’ve been on the road for two days.”
N: “Well, when you’re clipping along at roughly…”
A: “A few thousand miles per hour?”
N: “No. Um, more like 400.”
A: “Maybe I meant the Concorde. You don’t know that.”
N: “Even sound only travels at 700 mph.”
A: “Yeah, okay.”

And that pretty much sums of the highlights of the drive. We leave you now with a few stats and awards compiled mostly out of boredom.

Number of Stolen String Cheese: 2 (Noah slipped them into his pocket – I know, fishy right? – and forgot they were there until he reached in to retrieve the toll ticket in Indiana. He assures me stolen cheese tastes better than the kind you pay for. He feels bad for stealing the cheese but feels devilishly good about sticking it to Walmart.)

Friendliest Stranger: Produce Section Gentleman (We stopped dead in our tracks when we noticed the outrageously low price for oranges in WalMart and paused to debate it – healthier than the sugared candy segments; stickier, however. You know, typical oranges in the car conversations. That’s when the random fellow shopper interjected to see if we were looking for something in particular and could he help us find something? Not even an employee, this guy. Impressive. Maybe he was auditioning for a job there.)

Most Desperate Music Consumption: Lose Yourself – Eminem (Collin, this is on a mix you made for us one time. How did it get by us all these months? I leaned to change the song so we wouldn’t be overwhelmed by its awesomeness, until I realized 33 hours in a car is no time to be picky. Close contenders: Don’t Wanna Lose You Now – Backstreet Boys and Cookie Starts with C.)

Smelliest City: Ogalalla, NE

Most Excellent City Name: Buttzville, NJ