The Joys of Home Ownership

My house is exactly one year old today! Happy Birthday, house! Well, technically, my house was built in 1956, so it’s really 57 years old, but who’s counting? It’s a year old to me and I love it as much today as I did when I stepped into it 13 months ago and had to mow down the other five people trying to buy it. Victory!

Since I moved in, I’ve made a few updates. I’ve painted every inch of it (ceilings, walls, trim, base boards, cabinets, doors, and the entire exterior). I’ve installed new hardware on my doors and cabinets. I’ve installed a new water heater (not by my choosing), put in an awesome new Hansgrohe faucet in my kitchen and Santec faucet in my bathroom, installed marble on my bathroom vanity, and a few other odds and ends. I’m still working on decorating it, with the help of Kristina Wilson of Kristina Wilson Design, but that’s the fun part.

BranchesSo what’s the not-so-fun part? I’ll tell you: my 60-year old water oak trees. If it’s not the leaves falling by the bag-full, it’s the acorns dropping by the ton; and if it’s not the acorns dropping by the ton, it’s the very, very, VERY large branches falling and littering up my yard. I was sweeping and scooping in the fall (hi acorns!), raking in the winter (hi leaves!) and am now building small bonfires in the summer (hi branches!). It looks something like this on the daily.

Don’t get me wrong — I adore every square inch of my house and yard. There is literally nothing I’d change. Nothing! But it’s true what they say: there really is always something to do when you own a home. I have had more than a few moments where I’ve wished I was back in my no-maintenance condo rather than logging trees in my backyard. That or wishing I had a really, really cute yard boy. Either or.

 

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Conserve This

I am not a car flipper by any stretch of the imagination. I had a very un-Carmen-like car flipping episode a little more than a year ago when my beloved Acura TSX that got me through seven years — three — THREE! — of which were Canadian winters — began to have issues, I forced myself to face the reality that I needed to buy a new car. I searched and searched, trying with great might to stay within my monthly affordability price range, and even toyed with going outside my monthly affordability price range when I took home a Mercedes GLK SUV overnight (and that I promptly took back and dropped off at the Service department at 7:15am the next morning, wrote the salesman a nice note something to the effect of “thanks, but no thanks”, picked up my Acura and left). I really wanted an SUV so I could more easily cart around my non-dogs, non-children, and because I like to pay for premium gas, and  and ultimately bought my third Acura — and fifth Acura owned in my family — a 2011 Acura RDX Sport Edition. It was a brand I was familiar with and a brand I dearly loved.

Some things, though, just don’t feel right. It felt like I was trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. While the sound and navigation systems were awesome, the drive was extremely bumpy, so much so that when my friends would ride with me, I could hear their voice “bounce” as we hit bumps. Granted, the car was supposed to be “sporty”, but it got to be uncomfortable. Plus, the tailgate was really heavy and was difficult to close with just one hand…not ideal when you live in a condo and usually have your hands full of crap that needed to be lugged upstairs. I took that car on several road trips and, every time I did, I disliked it more and more. So after just a year of ownership, I decided to trade it in.

Fast forward to February 2012. I’d fully returned to my Texas roots after moving back to Houston and determined I needed a giant SUV. I’d always loved the Chevy Tahoe. And I mean, what single girl doesn’t need a huge, gas-guzzling SUV? Amirite? So after about 752 hours of negotiating at MacHaik, I was the proud owner of a black 2012 Chevy Tahoe. And, true to form, I only bumped into two things from the giantness of it in the first three months — a concrete post at the Galleria, for which I kept taped on my car with clear duct tape until I shelled out $500 to replace it (!) and a dent in the hood when I was testing out the garage of a house I was looking to buy, drove too far forward, and barely tapped a piece of wood sticking out that caused a tiny dent. It’s still there. More on that later. Ahem.

I used to have personalized license plates, but gave them up years ago. Although small, it was an expense I didn’t really need or care to have. But after seeing all the cool new specialty plates on MyPlates.com, the itch became too much to scratch. First I wanted the State of the Arts plates, but when everybody and their sister got them, I balked. As an avid animal rescue advocate, I considered the Animal Friendly plates, but decided they were too juvenile for me; plus, being singel and spoiler of a 14-lb Canadian Tabby cat, I thought those plates might make me borderline “crazy animal lady”, so I balked again. I like the Hunt Texas plates, but I’m not actually a hunter; I really liked the “Come and Take It” plates but was told by more than one person that they weren’t at all “ladylike”. Right. And then I saw them — on a white BMW driving through West U, I saw the Ducks Unlimited Blue Heron plates. And I was in love.

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 10.04.11 PMI am a huge fan of bird prints, especially Audubon. And Herons have always been a favorite. Plus, I’m an avid conservationist — of dogs, anyway — so the Wetlands Conservation plates were perfect for me. Once I figured out those are the ones I wanted, I ordered them so quickly, I practically blew up my keyboard.

So it was all fun and games until my work-husband and I went out for lunch recently. He noticed my new plates and said “oh yes, Ducks Unlimited — they’re the group who protects the birds along the coast so they’ll be plentiful for hunting.” Um, exsqueeze me? THEY PROTECT THE BIRDS ALONG THE COAST SO HUNTERS CAN SWOOP IN AND KILL THEM?! My work-husband witnessed the launch of “Operation Shock & Awe” right then and there. I called a friend who is a big hunter and he too confirmed this was the truth. Oh. Em. Gee.

Don’t get me wrong, y’all…I’m not opposed to hunting. In fact, I am a bonafide CHL holder and took Riflery for two semesters as my kinesiology credit at Texas A&M (whoop!), so I can handle a gun and *will* one day hunt an animal. However. I was none too pleased that I was now driving around Houston promoting the death of birds the world over. So I did what any smart girl would do: I consulted the Google. And, I have good and positive news to report; not only does Ducks Unlimited promote conservation of areas so there will be plentiful flocks for hunting, but they ALSO promote conservation so waterfowl habitats can flourish.

Now, these two things may or may not be nearly identical, but no matter — I’m sticking to the idea that the $30 “donation” I made to get my over-thought-about-fancy-license plates is going to helping the birds along the Texas coast rather than kill them. The point of this overly-long and drawn out story is this: if any of you think anything contrary to what I’ve just said, then my message to you is conserve this! Please and thank you.

My Car Eats Things

It’s a well-known fact that I work the late shift. I am usually one of the last people into the office and am usually one of the last people to leave. I’m not proud of it, but I own it. I just do not function well before 9 am but by 2 pm, I’m kickin’ things pretty hard! Mondays are Mondays for a reason — the first day of a long work week — and today was especially hard to get going because I’m having a new fence put up at my house and I had to talk to the fence guy to discuss things like which way the gates should swing and why they needed to cut down my two gorgeous boxwood trees1. You know, all the important things. Because of all the fence rigamarole, today was one of those days that I just didn’t have time to finish putting on my mascara2 before I left for work, so I grabbed all my eyeball accoutrements and threw them in my purse. As soon as I stepped into the office, things were in full-swing and I never had time to finish putting on my face.

Shockingly, though, I had a few extra minutes before a 4 pm dr appointment this afternoon and thought I’d take the time to dress up my eyes to impress my doctor and all. He is a plastic surgeon, not to mention someone I like immensely, so I forever feel the need to look my best. I had to fish around in my ginormous handbag for five minutes to get my new-and-not-cheap mascara out and when I finally did, it slipped out of its box3 and fell between the driver seat and the console.

There’s not much space between those two things, but I slipped my hand in the miniscule crack to try and fish out the mascara tube. I didn’t feel anything, so I got out of my car and looked under the seat. I saw nothing. I moved the seat back thinking I’d be able to see it, but nope. I moved the seat forward thinking it had fallen back behind me. Nada. By this time, I was totally late for my appointment, but was determined to locate the mascara that was clearly taunting me. I thought I should shed a little light on the situation, so I got out my iPhone and still saw nothing. I moved the seat forward again and, when I say that I was practically standing on my head, I was practically standing on my head in my backseat looking for this mascara. I put my hand in every nook and cranny within two feet of my car seat and still could not find that mascara. I finally conceded defeat and headed in to my appointment, mascara-less and with hair all a-mess.

I repeated the same exact exercise when I got home so I could really stretch out and could use my hot pink LED flashlight. My contortionistic poses did nothing to help the cause though and, for the life of me, could not fine that mascara! The conclusion? My car eats things. And I am none too pleased about it. All I can say is RIP-new-expensive-mascara-that-accidentally-dropped-between-my-console-&-car-seat-&-sucked-into-the-nether-regions-never-to-be-found-again. I’ll miss you. And so will my checkbook.

1 Thanksbeto the gardening gods, my fence guy is also a master gardener so he helped me figure out where to replant them so they won’t die a terrible, sudden death from being ripped out of the ground for the fence. Ahem.
2 Or as I like to say, “finish putting on my eyeballs”. My work-husband is all too familiar with this refrain.
3Yes, I am anal retentive and keep my mascara in its box. It’s how I keep track of the age of them! Why are you looking at me that way?!

Playing Catch Up

My blogging frequency has decreased about one million fold for so many reasons I can hardly count thee. Mostly, I blame Twitter and Facebook because who has time to actually write full-length blog posts when you can pretty much sum things up in <140 characters? I certainly don’t. I saw one of my friends from 1st grade tonight, though, and she practically begged me1 to blog again, beginning with the awesome and hilarious story I told her about some rodeo flirting that went awry. Way awry. More to come on that.

Anyway, I haven’t blogged in six months. I have thought about blogging but have been so freaking busy doing things I could have blogged about that I had no time to actually blog. Some would say I was busier than a one-eyed cat watching two rat holes. So to catch you up, here’s a very brief snapshot of what I’ve been doing, because I know you are all very interested. You’re welcome!

  • Fostered six dogs through K-9 Angels
  • Visited my friend LG in Chicago and ate at Alinea
  • Had a birthday
  • Went to Baton Rouge for my family’s 61st Christmas Eve Eve party
  • Eaten at a ton of great, and not-so-great, restaurants
  • Finished a huge project at work and started another huge project right behind it
  • Spent nearly every night from January 2 through February 9 at the Junior League for Charity Ball rehearsals
  • Spent nearly every night at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo both on the Calf Scramble Committee and with my peeps
  • Was a Transfer Advisor for the Junior League
  • Became a provisional mentor for the Junior League
  • Went to a bar every week for the last 36 weeks, which included becoming mayor of Blanco’s on Foursquare
  • Hired a tree doctor to give my 60-year old water oak trees a haircut
  • Laughed hard
  • Cried hard
  • Drank hard
  • Played hard
  • Worked hard
  • Saw George Strait. Really, is there anything else?
  • Basically had an amazing time

I’m sure there are 5,014 things I’ve forgotten that I’ve done in the last six months, but I still don’t know how to work iCloud on my iPhone and can’t seem to access my calendars prior to March2. Nevertheless, I’m really happy to have some time to blog again. I have no idea how long it will last and I don’t know where I’ll be going, but I know that wherever it is, it won’t be boring.
1And by “begged me”, I mean “mentioned it”.
2 Clearly winning.

How You Know You’re A Grown Up

The last two months have made me wish I had more middle fingers. It’s been what we in the biz call a “cluster”. I sold my condo and leased it back from the buyers for a few weeks. And because timing is sometimes a bitch, I moved out a week before I closed on my new house and had to pay an extra $500 to have the movers load all my worldly goods into a storage unit for seven days and then back into a truck and to my new house. In the interim, I stayed with a friend for two nights and then moved into the garage apartment1 of my sister-wife and sister-wife-husband2. I finally closed on my new house and moved in two days later. So there was that.

I’ll spare you the details of the other clusters that have ensued over the last two months, but I will recap the highlights for your reading pleasure. You’re welcome!

  1. My beloved boss was made redundant3, rendering my team bossless. And rendering me very sad.
  2. A relationship with someone I cared about very much ended. Which hurt and which sucked, but I kept reminding myself that everything happens for a reason. Speaking of reasons, whoever said love and reason were like oil and water was spot-freaking-on.
  3. I was accepted into membership for a volunteer organization and then un-accepted two months later on a technicality. Luckily, #’s 1 and 2 above had just happened, so I didn’t have time to dwell on #3 too long. Small miracles.
  4. I went to Baton Rouge for the LSU/Washington game, as I do, and had a little too much fun at the LSU Shot Ski tailgate, where this tailgating tragedy occurred.
  5. On my way home from Baton Rouge, I got a nail in the sidewall of my tire on my six-month-old car and had to spend $250 on a new tire. Who knew you couldn’t just patch the sidewall of a tire?! I do not remember this lesson in drivers ed or I would have tried harder to get the nail in my actual tire, natch.
  6. To top all this off, when I was leaving for work the Monday after the week of shenanigans, I walked out my house to see this yard tragedy. The limb broke at the midpoint of the branch, so it initially fell in the street and some kind neighbor was nice enough to drag it into my yard for me to deal with. Ahem. The tree from which it fell is a mature oak that’s been in front of my house for 60 years and it’s unfortunate to lose that huge limb. The tree produces so many acorns that I’m pretty sure it’s all tweaked up on ‘roids and am pretty sure it’s healthy but, to be sure, I’ve called an arborist. An ARBORIST! You know you’re a grown up when you’re calling a tree doctor to check out your sick tree. Anyway, it’s super fortunate the limb didn’t fall on a) my house; b) my neighbor’s car; or c) my neighbor. Like they say, there’s always a silver lining!

All this happened in the span of about two weeks. Before y’all speed off to church to light a candle for me, though, you should know I’m thankful my family and I have our health. And that I was able to buy an awesome new/old house. And that I have a great job and get to work with great people. And that I absolutely love the volunteer work I do. And that my 14 pound Tabby cat loves me unconditionally4. I don’t know much, but I know this: the best revenge is living well.

1 A 500 Sq ft garage apartment that I’ll point out was nicer than my house.
2 Actually one of my best friends and her husband who I see so much that we are practically married. But not in *that* way, so get your dirty minds out of the gutter, people!
3 What the Brits call being laid off.
4 And by “unconditionally”, I mean “when it’s 6pm and time for dinner”.

Burgers and Beer: The Only Kinda Combo Plate

The base of my food pyramid is inclusive of several things that includes, but is not limited to: french fries, Texas peaches, roasted corn, Mexican beer and a great burger. It was no surprise then that, when I was invited to CultureMap’s 1st Annual Backyard Burger Grill Off, my response was somewhere in the neighborhood of “not yes, but YES!”

The Backyard Burger Grill Off was held downtown at Discovery Green and was designed to find Houston’s best burger, something I know a thing or two about. For $40, patrons could taste all-you-could-eat sliders from some of Houston’s best restaurants with all the necessary accoutrements, and unlimited as-much-as-y0u-could-stomach beer from some of Houston’s best breweries. Discovery Green was bustling, mostly with parents trying to get their children to run like the wind so they wouldn’t be up all hours of the night, but also with a hip and hungry Houston crowd ready to decide the proprietor of our fair city’s best burger.

The first stop was the Southern Star Brewery table where we kicked things off with a big (plastic) glass of Bombshell Blonde. Not only do I love the cheery blue label complete with a blonde bombshell on it, I actually really love the beer. It’s a not-hoppy American Blonde Ale that is perfect for a hot Houston day. We paired this with the Tasting Room’s Corn Maque Choux and their slider topped with shredded pork. As much as I love The Tasting Room, I was disappointed with their slider; it was bland and, if a burger can even be this, kind of meeley. The corn maque choux was decent, but wasn’t life-changing by any means.

The next stop was the Saint Arnold Brewery table for some Santo. I am nothing if not a die-hard Saint Arnold’s fan, so when I saw they were serving Santo, I made a bee-line. You just cannot go wrong swilling anything from Saint Arnold’s and I may or may not have loitered around their table far longer than a properly lady should have.

The other burgers we had were from J. Black’s (which was great); Roots Bistro (meh); BRIO (decent); Vic & Anthony’s (really good); and The Grove (who won my “pink marble” for best slider of the night). As far as the beer was concerned, I liked the Weisse Verse from No Label and the Oktoberfest from Saint Arnold; however, I especially loved the Leprechaun Dry Cider! As adventurous an eater as I am, I have never tried a hard cider before last night and I absolutely loved it! It tasted like a cross between beer and champagne and, really, what could be better than that? As I always say, the only pain is champagne and combined with beer makes it just that much better.

As a side note, Whole Foods was serving their homemade potato chips (Vanilla Pepper! Maple Pepper! BBQ!) that I didn’t even know they made, and grilled ancho-chile pineapple. Pure deliciousness!

The winners of the best burger turned out to be a tie between J. Black and The Grove, although if I’d have known that they were going to close the voting at 7:30, I’m pretty sure I would have been the deciding voter. Silly swing voters.

The only downfall of the event was that they didn’t have any water — not even to buy. In fact, they had nothing at all to drink except beer. I get that it was a beer-sponsored thing, but it was about 100 degrees with the humidity and I would have paid $1,000 for a bottle of water. I must have looked really desperate at The Counter‘s table because they actually gave me one of their bottles from their own stash. Sweet y’all, so sweet.

All in all, the 1st Annual Backyard Burger Grill Off was a fantastic event. Being there with such great friends in a place I don’t normally go in Houston and finally being able to be outside after a brutal Summer made everything all right.

The post script of this story is that we went to The Railyard when a group of people more senior than us came in celebrating a birthday and carrying a blow up doll. That is certainly not something you see every day and, let’s just say I developed a bit of an affinity for this young, plastic man. He was handsome with big blue yes, trim, polite, and quiet, although a bit shoddily dressed. We snapped a picture and swilled a beer together, and it was actually the best date I’ve had in a long, long time.