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Thursday, 29 April 2010

So, you're Australian?

Two or three times a day, someone I'm talking to will remark on my accent, but strangely many people can't seem to tell my English accent from an Australian one. Having worked with Australians, South Africans, New Zealanders, Canadians and Americans over the past fifteen or so years, I have no trouble distinguishing accents, so it does feel a bit odd that as a Londoner with a reasonably refined accent, I could be mistaken for anything else.

The good news is that the revelation that I am English and from London is always received with interest and enthusiasm, and usually further questions on how I ended up in Eugene. Americans really are friendly people in general, keen to stop and chat with someone they may never see or speak to again, and I always feel I have brightened their day by being just a little different.

Beth's reception as an American living in London was a lot less pleasant on many occasions, because she was held individually responsible for the (to some British eyes) corrupt imbecilic monkey-puppet that had somehow gotten to be President for eight years. Her brief time in London after Obama was elected was much more pleasant, but Londoners are a surly bunch, and as likely to swear at you as smile, but almost never keen to talk. I think that's partly the effect of too many people being squashed into too small an area, and trying to maintain a little personal airspace.

I somehow avoid having Gordon Brown blamed on me, probably because most Americans have no interest in British politics, or knowledge of who Gordon Brown is. I am never asked about politics, but about life in London, and how I can leave such a vibrant, exciting city that so many people seem to want to visit but never do. It was easy for Beth and I to move, partly because I've done it for 40 years already, and partly because many things that are unique to London (e.g. West End musicals, and, er) are of no interest to us at all, while other features that come with the package (pollution, noise, graffiti, litter-strewn streets, long commuting times in horribly crowded and expensive public transport) are pleasant to leave behind. We have both attended evening classes and music sessions over the years, but the difficulty and expense of time and money in getting to and from them eventually outweighed any benefits. We can attend similar classes and sessions here in Eugene at a fraction of the investment.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Mowing the Lawn

After we recorded the house tour videos yesterday we went shopping for a garden items at Lowe's, because we had a 10% discount coupon, and needed garden items.

One of the great features of shopping with Beth is that we seldom disagree on what to buy. We have an item in mind, keep looking, and eventually see something that we agree on, or one of us doesn't care strongly enough to disagree on. At Lowe's we bought a BBQ Grill, a Gazebo, a fire-pit, and a push-mower.

Taking them in turn, we've looked at grills several times, and were still torn between using bottled gas, or linking the grill up to our natural gas supply. We decided on bottled gas, as that way we can tell how much we are using, and estimate how much the luxury of a BBQ costs us. We can also move the grill to different loactions, independant of the mains supply. We chose a small 30" wide grill, because most times it'll be just the two of us, and even this one will cook six to ten burgers at once if required.

For the Gazebo we wanted closing covers all round, and so far we've only seen ones with one side fully enclosed. As soon as we saw one at Lowe's with full side covers we decided to get it. It covers 10' x 12', enough to fit a full six seat patio set.

A fire-pit, for the benefit of my UK readers, is a big bucket for an outdoor fire, often with a grate over the top to contain sparks and help radiate the heat, purely for the pleasure of a real fire outdoor and the ability to toast marshmallows. Some houses have a fire-pit built into the patio but ours doesn't, so we've been looking for something simple and effective. Lowe's had exactly what we wanted for $100, so the decision was easy. We may only use the pit a couple of times a year, so we didn't want to go mad.

Finally the mower, my new pride and joy. We have two smallish lawns, too small for a sit-on tractor mower, but that still left a bewildering variety of mowers to choose between. First there's electric or petrol engine, and if you go with electric, mains or battery. Then there's cutting width, push or self-pulling, big or small wheels, red, black or green, and any number of other options. We settled on the cheapest petrol mower in the shop, a shiny red 21" Troy-Bilt petrol-powered push mower armed with powered by a 190cc Briggs & Stratton 675 chokeless engine, rated at 6.75 ft-lbs of gross torque.

We came home from Lowe's with a full car, but half of everything we needed. A mower and spare fuel cans but no fuel, a fire-pit but no logs to burn, propane tanks for the BBQ but no grill. However the next morning a delivery truck rolled up before 9am with our grill and gazebo, and then I popped out to fetch logs, and gas for the mower. By 10:30am I was back, just in time for a visit from our house agent whom we had invited to pop by to see how we were settling in.

An hour later I gassed and oiled the mower, tugged the ripcord, and gave the lawns their first trim of the year. I'd previously dug out various weeds, and after a trim the garden immediately looked better. There are a few small bare patches which I sprinkled with lawnseed, and hopefully in a week or two they will start to sprout and fill in the gaps.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Settling in - 19-21st April

Having said goodbye to our apartment, we return to the task of organising ourselves at Sweetwater.

Unfortunately I have a 7am start at work on the Monday morning, so I have to get to bed early. My internal alarm then wakes me every hour in case I oversleep my radio alarm, and I finally give up and rise around 5am. I get through my shift, and won't be back in until 3:30pm Tuesday.

At home Beth has been organising the kitchen and her craft room, and I continue the kitchen work, empty most of my clothing bags and get my wardrobe organised, set up the tables in my den, and start moving boxes up into the den. As we put things away we decide that on Tuesday morning we'll visit Bed, Bath and Beyond to get various housewares, as we received a 20% off coupon in the mail as new homeowners, and that's better than the 10% I will soon get as a WalMart employee of three months standing. BB&B is more expensive than WalMart but also offers more variety and in some instances better quality.

On Tuesday morning then we head to BB&B, where we fill multiple carts with bedding, towels, a waffle maker, a blender, two garden recliners, two small garden tables, wastepaper baskets, kitchen scales, bathmats, soap dishes, a kitchen paper-towel dispenser, three doormats, a hair dryer, two shower squeegees, and three wooden toilet seats to replace the current plastic ones.


The BB&B load


The BB&B Till Receipt


It just crams into Beth's station wagon, and we head onto Riley's to arrange the dining table change and look at bookcases and other new furniture.

Around 2pm we head home and unpack, as I have to change for my shift. I'm dog tired, and go through the shift on autopilot, determined to get a good night's sleep after my shift is over at 10:30pm. We shut the sliding doors to keep the cats in the back half of the house, and I am able to get a full 8 hours for the first time in a week.

Wednesday is my one whole day off this week, and after hanging a Union Jack on our flagpole to celebrate the Queen's Birthday, we head back to Riley's to finalise our choices. After measuring and pondering, we had decided on the following (all measurements width x height): two 3' x 5' bookcases in the family room to go either side of the fireplace, a 3' x 5 ' DVD stand, and a corner media center to hold the TV, DVD player, and other TV necessities. Two 4' x 6' bookcases, one for the dining/living room and one for the loft area, to hold  Beth's crafting books. A corner computer desk for Bedroom 4 which will become our office and double as a spare bedroom (it already has a twin bed in it), plus a 3' x 5' bookcase and a small 3-drawer cabinet to hold computer stuff. All items to be made in Western Maple to match our coffee and side tables, as we prefer that to the standard oak. It all adds up to quite a lot, brand new handmade wooden furniture will, but it's good quality to last several lifetimes.

We swing by WinCo on our way home, to replenish our food stocks. With a 14 cu ft chest freezer in the garage, plus the usual fridge/freezer combo in the kitchen, we can now stock a bit more variety, and we each fill a cart, though somehow my cartload was 3x the price of Beth's.

Back home, we continue unpacking and working out where things belong. I've been waiting to get my desktop computer unpacked, since we had nowhere in the apartment to put it, and I use it mainly for computer games as the laptop I am typing on provides all my internet, data and music hosting needs. I can go weeks or months without playing a PC computer game, and then have a period where every spare minute is spent on a game. At present I have no new games, but enjoy replaying ones in my collection that, after thinning out the titles I will never play again, made the trip from London.

The computer is, I discover to my delight, compatible with US power supply (120V) as well as UK (240V), so we pop along to Goodwill, a charity shop, where luckily I find the two power cables I need for the screen and CPU, for just $6. We go on to Fred Meyer to check out a garden patio set we had on a rain check, but on further inspection we decide tahe the color isn't right, and anyway we have our two recliners for BB&B. Eventually we plan on a gazebo with a table and chairs, but none we have seen for sale are quite what we want. On the same trip we visit Riley's again to compile our order and finalise costs.

Back home yet more unpacking and organising, but the piles of untouched boxes are now very small. I have a very long sleep in the afternoon, a full three hours, which gets me back into a reasonable state. In the evening we watch some Dr Who episodes recorded off BBC America, up to the point where David Tennant regenerates into the new bloke who I'm not sure I'm going to like.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Move Day 4 - vacating the apartment

By the fourth day of moving we're both exhausted, yet I wake early for no good reason, no cat attacks this time, and spend the hour or two before Beth wakes up in emptying boxes in the kitchen. One feature I really like about this house is that I can close two sliding doors in the kitchen and cut down on any noise that would otherwise echo round the house.

We have one final duty in the old apartment before we can hand in the keys - the clean up.

Actually this isn't too bad, because we've only been there four months, though it feels longer. We drive over in convoy carrying a load of empty cardboard boxes for recycling, and arrive about 11:30am. As we unload these into the dumpsters, Beth gets a call on her Fred Meyer cell phone from Sleep Country, as they are on their way with her replacement mattress. Corks. Her cell doesn't get reception at the new house, and she never got the automated call yesterday confirming the re-delivery. She has to jump back in the car and return home asap, while I start cleaning the kitchen.

Within the hour Beth is back and starts in on the bathroom, while I go to Fred Meyer to gas my car and get a couple of hopefully useful cleaning supplies. It's yet another beautiful sunny day and I wish I could linger, but return to try to clean the oven with some new extra powerful concoction, which is ultimately almost useless. Beth has nearly finished the bathroom and herself, but we continue with hoovering round the edges of all the rooms on hands and knees, dusting blinds, and pulling out the stove, fridge, washer and dryer and vacuuming all the dust bunnies and stray chunks of dry catfood.

By 3:30pm we feel we're there, and Beth finishes the vacuuming by going over the whole carpet again while working her way backwards out of the door, and leaving v-shapes that are so loved by cleaners and apartment rental agencies. Then we go to the office to discover they won't actually check the apartment with us, but will checking it over on Monday and mail us our deposit in a month, or as much of it as we deserve back.

So be it, we hand in the keys and drive home, happy in the knowledge that we had a happy four months there and may never return. It's a nice apartment complex, but we did have noisy upstairs neighbors, and we're looking forward enjoying to our quieter detached house and neighborhood.

Back home we have no really urgent work, but Beth wants to paint feature rail in her hobby room so she can start getting it organised. I work on putting away kitchen stuff, and then my half of the walk-in wardrobe, pulling various clothes out of bags in which they've been stored since August, and finding them new homes on rails, shelves and in drawers. I have far too many clothes, but I'll come back to that another time.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Move Day 4 - 7:58am - some Photos from the last 3 days


Nabbing the parking outside the apartment: Beth's Mercury and my Mazda

Following Beth S on Danebo
View from the kitchen window, with cards from Mum & Dad on display
My den over Beth's shop (the detached garage)
Loading the Budget rental van
Driving S on Northwest Expressway with Spencer's Butte in the distance: this will be half of my regular commute, and this is the usual state of traffic
Some folks settle quicker than others


Panorama of the empty family room
living room
dining room
front hall and stairs

Move Day Three - 11:17pm : Settling In

Woken at 5:15am by Ghost nibbling my toes, I was able to exit the bedroom without waking Beth and took the two scoundrels downstairs to be fed. I sat at the kitchen table updating yesterday's blog, and contemplating the first task of the day, fitting Beth's spare wheel. We initially thought there wasn't one and we would use mine, but Beth found it tucked behind some trim. I witnessed dawn coming up, and the sprinklers watering the lawn front and rear.

Beth came down about an hour later. We agreed that the Tempur-pedic bed is very comfortable, and we had both had a good sleep, at least until the cat attack. I showered and dressed, and tackled the spare wheel issue. I haven't changed many car wheels before, but remembered the lessons my father gave me and was able to get the spare on without mishap. It was a little flat, so I tried pumping it using the shop's air compressor, but couldn't get a good seal. Eventually we jacked the car up again and used a bicycle pump to put a few precious pounds of pressure in.

While we were in and out working on the car our older cat Elbie took the opportunity to wander out and start exploring his new environs. After the scare he gave us on Christmas Eve we wanted him to get to know the house better first, so we carried him back in, and then started looking for Ghost who had vacated his sunny perch by the back windows. We looked everywhere inside, then Beth walked up the road while I checked the back garden. No sign. OK I thought, he'll either find his way back or he won't, and we can't look everywhere and go knocking on doors early on a Saturday morning. He does have a collar with nametag, and our phone numbers.

By 9:30am we were ready to set out in convoy, Beth's car limping along on the emergency tire and me following. A couple of miles away on River Road is a Les Schwab tire center and we pulled in there, discussed options, and eventually left the Mercury with them while they changed the front two tires and adjusted the pressure on the spare. We headed on to the apartment and filled my car with yet more boxes. The apartment was looking almost empty by now, but there would be a couple more loads before it was completely bare.

Just as we were finishing up Les Schwab called to say the car was ready, so we drove back, Beth collecting her car and returning to the apartment, while I went on to Sweetwater to empty my load and grab some empty boxes for the final odds and ends at the apartment. Elbie was being attentive, so I poured him some dry food and suddenly Ghost appeared, stretching and yawning. He'd hidden in the space under my reclining chair, somewhere we hadn't thought to look as he's never done that before. Whether the big house was spooking him, or possibly the sun on the cat tree was too warm, we shall never know, but of course we should have realised that while calling would never find him, but he always responds to the sound of food, especially food being eaten by Elbie.

I phoned Beth to let her know the good news, then set out again with a car stuffed with empty boxes. Beth had been busy at the apartment, and we quickly loaded up both cars to bursting, then vacuumed the carpet and did some cursory wiping and cleaning. We will return tomorrow for a more thorough clean, especially of the bathroom and kitchen, before handing over the keys and hopefully getting our full deposit back.

Back to Sweetwater in the two cars, we unloaded in blazing sunshine, then settled in the kitchen with some reheated pizza as lunch. We wanted to take the afternoon putting things away and getting straighter, but by now I was so exhausted again I had to go and catch up on sleep. Beth kept going while I snoozed for a couple of hours and restored a few sputtering synapses.

When I awoke a couple of hours later, Beth had done some organising, and also cleared space in the garage for my car. I would like to use the garage as an actual garage sometimes, and she had driven my car into its new home for me.

We took a couple more hours getting things into place. I vacuumed my den and put the seven folding tables  in place, and Beth helped me carry my mini-fridge up. I carried up the three heavey boxes that comprise Beth's sewing workstation in the main house, and she laid the pieces out in Bedroom #2 ready for assembly.

As the sun started to lower in the West we ordered a Papa John's Pizza each. Yes, more pizza, but we haven't got the kitchen organised yet, and anyway had no energy to devote to cooking. We watched part of a Bones episode while eating pizza slices, then headed out to the shops on West 11th for some house essentials. First we went to Target to return a faulty lightbulb, and get a couple of iHomes. I bought one iHome back in December, which comprises a radio, docking station for my iPod, and alarm and sleep functions. I liked the model and wanted a couple more, one for my den, and another for the kitchen/family room. As it turned out the model was now on clearance, and about $30 less than I paid for it previously. I also got a wireless mouse for my laptop, so that when we're watching Hulu (an online service providing free viewing of old TV episodes of many series)  I can operate the controls (stop, go, volume) at a distance.

Across the road to WalMart for various hardware items, electrical items, and bathroom items, as we now have two extra bathrooms to equip. I won't bore you with all the details, but one necessity was a curtain and rail for the big plain glass window above the bathtub in the master bedroom. If there's one place I can guarantee being naked it's getting into or out of the bath, and there are a few houses with windows facing that side of the house that could, with a ladder and powerful binoculars, get a free peepshow.

Back home, and we unpack the new supplies and relax in our living room. I'm not sure why Americans call it that, but for us this is the area in the front of the house where we have put two three-seat sofas with muted lighting. It's our quiet zone, no TV or radio, just conversation and reading. I'm now sitting on one of the sofas while Beth lies on the other one using her iPod Touch to check out the internet. We can hear the frogs in the creek out back, muted by the closed windows, and Ghost is chasing himself up and down the cat tree we put in one corner. Elbie has found a quiet corner in the family room. The kitchen is piled with bags and boxes, the garage ditto, Beth's shop is filled with my den stuff, and our walk-in closet has many bags of clothes unopened since we started packing in London back in August, but it's starting to feel like home.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Move Day Two - 11pm

Last night we headed back to Sweetwater around 11pm with a couple more car loads of boxes, and were ready to leave again when I discovered that Beth's car had a flat tire. Rats. The good news is it was parked on our own driveway, so at least we weren't stranded on the highway, but it put a slight kink in our move plans. So be it, for now we headed home in my car, and so to bed.

In the morning we drove back again, to pick up the van and do a couple of collections together. First the four padded kitchen chairs from Paradise Oaks, then seven folding tables for my den from Office Depot. Onwards to the apartment to fill the rest of the van with recliners, bedframes and mattresses, Beth's bicycle, a cat tree, and various odds and ends. By now Elbie and Ghost were certain something was up, and Ghost took the opportunity to slip out for the day. Elbie stayed in, but with nothing left to sit in or on, lay on the carpet.

Back to Sweetwater in the loaded van. Beth had the duty of waiting in for a variety of deliveries, while I had to nip back to the apartment to collect our TV so the Direct TV installer could set us up. I left the full van in the driveway while I drove my car back to collect the TV and a few extra boxes. Back to Sweetwater within the hour, where Beth and I unloaded the van together.

I took the now empty van back to the rental agency, via Fred Meyer's gas station, then walked from the rental agency to the apartment via Little Caesar's Pizza for some nourishment. Elbie was waiting patiently, clearly aware that all was not normal, but as I had nowhere to sit except the floor I quickly scoffed a couple of pizza slices and downed a soda, then got out my bike to cycle back to Sweetwater. As Beth had to wait in on the deliveries we hatched the plan that I would cycle back to Sweetwater after dumping the van, to collect my car and continue collecting boxes from the apartment.

Six and a half miles later I arrive back at Sweetwater, and deliveries are in full swing. The TV guy is installing, and Sleep Country have brought our Tempur-Pedic bed. Unfortunately one half of the split king bed is the wrong size mattress (in the right size box), but the installers realize this immediately, and they are coming back on Sunday to change that. While the TV guy is explaining the recording and programming system, two guys from Riley's Real Wood Furniture arrive with our biggest load of furniture. Beth explains where everything goes and they get to work unloading. Unfortunately the extending dining table does not join properly in the middle, either when open or closed, and so we record our dissatisfaction, and will be doing an exchange. For now they leave the table, as the only other one in the city is their shop display model. The bedroom set is fully satisfactory, side tables, coffee tables, and dining chairs are all fine.

At last all the deliveries are done, and we can see to getting the loveseats and sofas in place, with Chris and Jane's help. By now Beth and I are running on fumes, but we struggle manfully and womanfully, and after removing some doors, moving a fridge, and quite a bit of shoving and squeezing, Chris and I are able to get everything in the right place. Phew.

Chris & Jane head home (four doors down) while Beth takes my car to the apartment to fetch Ghost. I start to unwrap the sofas, and reattach the feet which we removed to get them in. Two sofas and one loveseat later Beth returns with Ghost, who as expected had returned at dusk for his evening scoff, and was promptly fed and boxed. Previous car trips with Ghost in his travel box have been noisy, but this time he settled down and watched the lights rushing past.

At the end of a whirlwind day, two humans and two cats are left to take stock of their new surroundings.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Move Day - 8pm

I collected the hire van at 3pm and Beth and I loaded it up with most of the unopened boxes shipped from London, our (cheap) plastic garden chairs, kitchen table and two chairs, and as much else as we could squeeze in of our bags and boxes. By 4:30pm we had filled it as much as we could, so we drove over to Sweetwater again to see the state of play. Terry Harrison was there with his two daughters, just finishing off their last load of packing with a couple of friends. They also had a friend Debbie cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms.

We had a chat with Terry and the girls, who naturally are a little sad at leaving the home they grew up in, but were more reconciled and chatty than the last time we saw them. Terry left with the girls, and we unloaded the van into the two garages - Beth's craft boxes and our general household stuff into the main garage, and my Playmobil and other hobbies into the detached garage. When the van was empty we drove to Big Lots and collected our sofas and loveseats, and took them straight back. Our friends Jane and Chris came over (they live a few houses down) and helped get the furniture into the garage, but we'll leave it another day before we put them onto the carpets.

During the last couple of days Beth has been fielding calls regarding our deliveries for tomorrow, and nothing is happening until noon, so we decided to sleep in the apartment tonight and move the beds, TV and recliners over tomorrow. We left the van at Sweetwater as there's no place to park it near the apartment overnight.

Before we left Sweetwater we set the heating at 73f, warmer than we usually have it, to help dry the carpets, and checked all the windows were shut. Debbie was still there cleaning and we thanked her for the great job she was doing. The sun was setting as we drove back west along Beltline getting home just before 8pm. This allowed us to watch Bones and The Mentalist, two shows we both like, and also reload Beth's car with another load of boxes. When Mentalist finishes at 11pm we'll take our two cars back and unload the stuff that's been in my car all day, and Beth's second load.

Move Day - 1:30pm

Eager to see our new house, we drove round in two loaded cars at noon, hopeful that we might be able to unload and head home for a second go. As we drove up we spotted some of the Harrison's helpers leaving in a pickup and trailer, but there was nobody at the house. The main house was 99% empty with just a bit of cleaning left to do in the tiled areas, and some tools and sweepings still in the main garage. The carpets had been cleaned but were still quite damp, so we opened some of the windows for better ventilation, as the day has remained warm, dry and breezy.

The shop garage was also still occupied with tools, but it looked like one more trailer load would clean that out. My den is empty, just needing a vacuum over the carpet before I start filling it with my junk.

We drove back to the apartment with two cars still loaded, but in another hour and a half we can pick up the rental van and start loading that. Fortunately we were able to nab the two spaces in front of the apartment again, so we will be able to get the van as close as possible. I'm confident that we can return by five or six with a loaded van and car and disgorge the contents into the two garages.

 

Move Day - 9:45am

Beth has been up since about 6am, thanks to feline ministrations. I woke around 6:30am to what sounded like someone erecting scaffolding, but we never figured out what the noise was. Since then we've showered, breakfasted and filled our cars with the first load of random gubbins, and nabbed the two parking spots nearest the apartment for convenience. We won't be driving over to the new house until noon, but we've freed up a bit of breathing space here.

It's a treat to be able to pack knowing that nobody's going to weigh, customs check, fumigate, repack or otherwise mess with our stuff before we unpack again. Actually packing is really an exaggeration, it's more stuffing things into convenient carrying vessels and putting them into the cars - or just hoicking things straight into the cars.

About 90% of the boxes and bags in the apartment haven't been unpacked since London, so that makes the task a lot easier. We do have two curious cats inspecting our handiwork, and they clearly know something is up because they've both awake.

In a short while we'll pop along to the clubhouse to use their printer, and then go for a stroll for some fresh air. It's dry and sunny now after overnight rain, but with unpromising grey skies.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

New Lamps for Old

Last day before the big move and we finally found some table lamps we like for the living room.

We've been looking in several department stores for a while and nothing had grabbed us. Today we visited two specialist lamp and shade shops, but still saw nothing we liked. On the way home we stopped in Target to recheck their selection, and found a couple of lamps which suited both our tastes and our pockets. Heavy enough to discourage cat-tipping with walnut wooden bodies with metal base for heft, 3-way bulb settings for mood lighting,  and separate shades so we could mix and match. We've gone for tan shades, and if they're too shady we can easily return them for some cream ones.

We still have to fix on lamps for our night stands, but until the bedroom is all set up we're holding off. We will also need a new shower curtain set and possibly rail for one of the three bathrooms, and I want to get more towels so I can use any of them at will for a shower, but I'm holding off until I can get these using my employee discount at WalMart.  Our first set of US towels came from Fred Meyer, and they don't strike me as anything special in the towel line that we can't get cheaper at WalMart.

It's a bright sunny day today, so hopefully we should be rain free tomorrow for the move.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Raccoon

One of my pleasures at Wal*Mart is to take my lunchbreak sitting in my office (i.e. front passenger seat of my car), and listening to stories or podcasts on my iPod. If it's still daylight I can either watch people wandering about the parking lot, or more usually I park facing the "wilderness" that abuts the employees' parking area and watch any wildlife that happens past.

Yesterday I was sitting there quietly when a raccoon stepped out of the bushes right in front of my car.
This isn't the actual raccoon, but one like it. I sat entranced for several minutes as it wandered back and forth before disappearing from my field of view. As this picture shows, a raccoon's front legs are more arm-like than in other fauna I am familiar with, and this one's gait seemed more like a monkey scampering along than a fox or cat.

This sighting was a double pleasure for me. Beth and I always enjoy encounters with wildlife, and often spotted urban foxes in Ealing (though not everyone enjoys the foxes), but this was my first good sighting of a creature we don't have in England, and a reminder that I'm on a different continent. I could not have been more enchanted and delighted (though maybe more suprised) if it had been a koala bear.

Hiccup resolved - 2 days to go till the move starts!

We popped round to the new house (with our wonderful buyer's agent Lori) to see the Harrisons and go over the workings of the heating & sprinkler systems yesterday evening. They are very nearly packed, at least in the rooms we saw, and clearly well on the way to finishing. This wasn't our main purpose in visiting, but we also took the opportunity to discuss the handover time Thursday.

In our original contract (in which we bought the house), the house was legally ours at 6pm 15th March. We then rented the house back to the Harrisons until 15th April. Unfortunately the rental contract (a standard form) didn't specify a time, but we assumed it would carry over as 6pm, so we planned to start our moving in at that time. The Harrisons took it to mean midnight on the 15th. The rental form states that we take possession on the 15th, so we couldn't concur with the midnight deadline, and we really wanted to complete at least four tasks on the Thursday evening.

1) Take some pictures of the totally empty house for our move diary, in daylight.
2) Dump one load of general stuff out of the rental van, including recliner chairs, kitchen table & chairs and our beds, so we could
3) pick up our new sofas and loveseats from Big Lots and get them to the house and
4) have two local friends Jane (a fellow Brit) and her husband Chris help us get them out of the van and into place.

The Harrisons are using the last couple of days of their tenureship to have all the small nailholes etc. made good, and do some necessary and agreed painting, and finally have the whole house cleaned, the carpets steam cleaned and the driveway pressure washed. Their carpet man is starting around 9am on Thursday, and as the carpets are quite thick and luxurious they will take some hours to totally dry.

Of our four tasks we'll be able to get most of it done, but probably won't get soft furniture into place that evening, as we will need to let the drying process continue as long as we can bear. We can access the tiled areas of the house and the garages, so we'll be piling all our boxes in the garages to start with, and putting the sofas and loveseats there, while we wait anxiously for the drying to finish.

The Harrisons said we could start moving stuff into the tiled area and garages from noon, so we will probably use our two cars to dump one load each at the house before picking up the rental van at 3pm. Big Lots are open until 9pm, so we have plenty of time to do one big van load before picking up the furniture from them. Jane and Chris will be popping round around 6pm (they live in the same raod as the new house) so we plan to have the sofas and loveseats in the van and on the driveway by then, and we'll initially just get them into the garage, and move them into their places on the Friday evening, again with Jane and Chris' help. Another local friend Tim has offered to help with the move, but he lives in Springfield so it's further for him to get over to the house, and there isn't really that much we need help with apart from the big sofas. Everything else we have we have moved several times by ourselves already.

Beth took a couple of pictures of the nearly empty house with her new fisheye lens:

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Minifridge

One of the items we ordered from Sears about a month ago was a black minifridge for my den, so I can have ice, cold sodas and milk for making tea on hand.

On Friday Beth got a call from Sears to say that the minifridge we had booked paid for was not available, and to call round to the store to arrange a credit. Hmmph. Beth immediately got online, and checked Sears.com, found an identical fridge (same model number) was in stock at our local branch at Gateway Mall, where we had placed the initial order. Moreover it was $25 cheaper. Beth immediately ordered and paid for this one online.

So in Saturday after my 4 hour shift at Wal*Mart we drove over to Sears in Beth's wagon and spoke to them, confirming the credit, and then telling them about the one in stock. At first the assistant seemed doubtful that there was one in stock, but after checking they confirmed it was, and sitting in the storeroom awaiting for our collection. We drove round to the back of the store and picked it up, and now it's sitting at the end of my bed, still in all its packing, ready for the move.

yay, $25 saved.

Move hiccup?

Yesterday we got in touch with the sellers who are due to be out of the house this Thursday, to try to arrange a time when we could pop round for 1/2 an hour to go over operation of the heating and sprinkler systems. They seem in a bit of a tizzy trying to move out, and even 1/2 an hour would apparently bite into their move time, so at present we have a "we'll call and see if you're free" arrangement for Monday evening. Not quite what we hoped for.

The seller also asked if he could rent the second garage back from us for a few more days so he could leave it uncleared for move day and continue to work on it over the weekend. Again not quite what we wanted to hear, as I need that space to put all my boxes and other possessions quickly, before moving them up into my den. I've booked four days off work so I can complete the move, and I can't complete the move if the property still has someone else's stuff in it. A few days are also likely to turn into a week and then a couple of weeks, so we put our foot down and had to say no, the garage must be empty for us.

Finally, the original change of ownership occurred on 15th March at 6pm, but we rented the house back to the sellers so they could complete a holiday they had booked, and still have time to move out. Beth and I took this to mean that we could take full possession at 6pm 15th April, but the seller though it meant midnight. He's also planning to have all the carpets steamcleaned at noon on the 15th, but leaving them to dry until noon on the 16th. This bites up to 18 hours out of our move process, and leaves us just useable 3 hours of our 24 hour van rental period (van to be returned at 3pm 16th), and we have deliveries booked for the 16th that may all occur before midday. In other words, the latest we want to take possession of an empty house with walkable dry carpets is midnight on the 15th.

We'd like the carpets to be steam cleaned as the sellers have two dogs and two cats, and we'd like our two cats to have a relatively smell-free environment to settle into. Even more, we'd like to be able to move in at 6pm as we've been envisioning for a month, into an clean empty house.

So at present we're waiting for more news on the steam cleaning process. The sellers seem to have left everything to the last possible minute, and then as soon as something slips (as it inevitably does) the deadline is not met. We had expected at least a couple of hours of daylight to move stuff on the 15th, had arranged for friends to come over and help with the bigger sofas and loveseats, and know that we'll be working into the small hours because we'll be too excited not to.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Last week before move

It's less than a week before our move into the new house. I have 4 to 8 hours shifts at Wal*Mart through Wednesday, which is just as well to my mind and body occupied.

We have a couple of appointments booked, one to see State Farm again to finalise our house insurance policy, and one to visit the house itself and go over operation of the heating and garden sprinkler systems. Beth emailed the owners to arrange an evening appointment Monday, and the terse response suggests they're very busy with getting the house emptied and prepared for us.

The move will start on Thursday when I collect a  Budget rental van. Beth compared U-Haul and Budget and for our purposes Budget works out cheaper as we have a promotional code, and there's a pickup location within walking distance of the apartment. We'll fill the van with our bedframes and mattresses, recliner chairs, kitchen table and chairs, cat trees and as much else as we can fit, and take it over no later than 6pm, which is the official handover time. We're hoping the family will vacate earlier as every hour of daylight will help us.

After emptying the van once I have several different places to visit, though not all on Thursday evening - Big Lots for our sofas and loveseats, Paradise Oak Furniture for the new set of kitchen chairs, Office Depot for folding tables for my den, Fred Meyer for our garden patio set (if they have it in), and of course our apartment to continue moving all our unopened boxes and bags from London.

Beth's station wagon will be used for carrying smaller loose items like clothing, TV, crockery cutlery and cookware,  anxious cats (in travel boxes), bed linen and pillows, contents of fridge and freezer, and all the loose bits and pieces we have been using in the last four months.

While I'm out and about Friday with the van loading, Beth has the task of remaining at Sweetwater receiving several deliveries and installations: king size bed from Sleep Country, bedroom and dining room furniture from Riley's Real Wood Furniture, washer, dryer and chest freezer from Sears, Qwest Direct TV, another guy from Qwest for the landline telephone and Internet connections, and Northwest Gas man (to read the meter we think).

Once the flat is emptied and rental van returned, by 3pm Friday, we have the task of a thorough cleaning of the apartment over the next couple of days before we hand over the keys, and hopefully receive back a full deposit on Sunday.

If all that sounds like Operation Overlord it certainly feels like it to us, but Beth is a mastermind at planning and logistics and I can drive a van and lug boxes, so we make a good team. This is after all only the final (?) stage of a plan that has been over 14 months in the preparation.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Easter the American Way

As I recall Easter from my childhood, we each received one (or often several) hollow chocolate eggs, and then went to church, before a standard family Sunday lunch. The eggs were about the size of a closed fist, sometimes larger. Eggs the size of small hen's eggs, with a fondant or caramel filling, would be in the shops for weeks in advance, but they were just a tasty teaser, the big chocolate egg was the thing for Easter Sunday.

The best eggs came with a mug bearing the logo of the manufacturer - Cadbury's Creme Egg, Mars, Milky Way, Crunchie, whatever. The egg would last a day or two at best, but the mug could last a lifetime. When I started thinning down my house contents I dug out several such mugs which I still had stored in the attic, and took them to my office where they are still being used.

As my brothers and I grew up and moved out, we would still return to our parents' home for a family lunch on Easter Sunday, and my mother would still give us each a chocolate egg, or another chocolate item like a bunny, or one year a tractor.

This year is my first experience of Easter in the USA, and also of working in a retail store that is trying to push out as much product as possible. Hollow chocolate eggs barely seem to exist, the only style I saw was a small one with VeggieTales https://bigidea.com/products/shows/shows.aspx characters printed on the foil wrap. Chocolate bunnies, flat and solid or three dimensional and hollow, are much more common. Easter Baskets are very popular, either empty for use by children in Easter Egg hunts, or to fill with your own choice of treats, or ready made with toys and candy for children. One or two companies make chocolate crosses, or stick some biblical quotes on a regular box of their candy. Many companies do nothing at all to the candy itself, and just put some bunny or egg print on the plastic bag to indicate that you should buy this at Easter.
Many manufacturers make tiny eggs the size of marbles in their particular style, and I did invest in a few of these.

The Easter Egg hunt is popular in the US, but as I was working Sunday and it was pouring with rain, I don't know how many hunts actually took place here in Eugene. You can buy hollow plastic eggs in various colors (including camoflage patterns) and fill these with your choice of candy, "hide" them in full view, usually outside in the garden or in a park, and let a bunch of kids go find them. We used to do this at our office in London for children of the staff, and one particularly outgoing employee dressed up as a rabbit or chicken to distribute the eggs.

The US does not recognise Good Friday or Easter Monday as public holidays, so for most people it's just a weekend with a special church service on the Sunday and a lot of kids overdosing on candy. For me it meant several days trying to cram candy onto the seasonal shelves, dodging shopping carts, and on Easter Sunday itself, explaining (politely) that the reason we didn't have a particular candy a customer was looking for at three in the afternoon was that we had sold out, and that it would be a good idea to buy the candy earlier next year.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

More than one Swallow; it must be Summer

Over the last few days we've noticed small birds in the Swallow/Martin family around our apartment complex, and today we got a closer look at three individuals swooping around, who appeared to either be nesting in, or gathering nesting material from, the dryer vents that decorate the apartment blocks' exterior walls.

These vents take the warm damp air from the tumble dryers, and vent it to the exterior, taking a certain amount of fine lint with it, and dumping the grey lint on the flowerbeds beneath. The vents do look very like British  House Martin nests,  though here in the Pacific Northwest the species I am seeling is probably Purple Martin or a Tree Swallow.

I'm looking forward to having a quiet garden to attract the birds so I can get a better look, and start learning some of the species I am seeing.

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