29 December 2009

A Christmas Miracle

Our landlord just said, yes, okay, call the handyman and ask him to fix the main heater, the one that was designed to be used in a home and has the potential ability to actually maintain 65 in all livable rooms in your apartment.

IT'S A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE! A few days late, yes. But wheee! We were rereading Seattle Tenant Law last night and were just about resigned to getting an estimate on fixing the heater, notifying the landlord of the estimate, paying for it ourselves, and deducting it from the rent (because you can do that here, which is pretty cool). But this is what I really wanted--for him to pay for it.

Other Christmas happenings/miracles: great dinner with Noah's aunt and uncle; recurrent chest colds for both of us; great time with Seth; great video chats with family on the 25th; a Kindle; waltzing lessons with Noah; an upcoming trip to Vancouver, WA to visit with Noah's older brother and family for a day or two, since they're visiting our sister-in-law's family there; a visit from our friend CJ, who drove the bus Noah lived on for most of the three years he lived on it, who is now a pilot in Alaska and has amazing photos of Alaska that make me want to go there; and ... I'm sure there's more, but those are the main ones.

Now that we're both recovering from our colds--still sick but able to stand up and walk around--a kitchen full of disaster awaits us. Hooray. And more editing awaits me, which is just fine. And a million loads of laundry and lots of other housecleaning and all that. Yay for the new portable dishwasher!

20 December 2009


Noah is back! And how wonderful it is to be together again. We haven't been apart that long since he went to Japan for six weeks in 2006. Together, together, together. I will say it is weird having him in the apartment after being here alone for that long--whose dirty dishes are those? Who ate all the cereal?

I am still sick, or sick again, it doesn't matter which. Focusing on moving past it, which involves sleeping 12 hours a night and feeling lightheaded for a good part of the day and coughing until my chest hurts. Please, echinacea tea, make me well again. Please, green soup with ginger and sweet potatoes, heal me.

Our new PC is here, and tomorrow we should have Windows 7 from Seth for a decent price, and I will actually do some editing for the two clients I have with manuscripts of the same length (200 pages), due the same time, in mid-January. I may disappear after tomorrow for a while, surface for Christmas, disappear, surface for New Year's, disappear, surface for my FIVE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY, and ... hopefully be close to done. It isn't that much editing, really, since I am not working any other jobs. And I can probably average 5 pages an hour. So, 80 hours worth? I will make the deadline for both of them.

Remember my repetitive stress injury? And my worker's compensation claim? It is settled, 1.25 years later, I have the check, I am depositing it, and that is done. If only I was healed all the way. Still, it is enough money to start the yarn-dyeing business and to throw some serious money at whichever student loan I choose. For that I am thankful. I am also thankful that I have less constant pain now that I ever have since the injury, that I'm more aware of how to manage the pain, what to avoid, what I can do. What I can't do. I had some really amazing occupational therapists to get here, and I am most thankful for them. The lawyer, eh. The doctors, no. But Becky the therapist, yes.

And so, in the middle of this, our new life here in Seattle, we are making enough money to get by without trouble, but we want to pay off all of our loans as quickly as possible while rebuilding our savings that have been totally depleted by leaving Urbana in August and moving to Seattle in November. And trying to set aside money for things like our car which will inevitably die some day and need to be replaced, and how great would it be to buy our next car flat-out in cash, like we did this one because of Noah's careful planning, and not have payments? And set aside money for a house? A house, here in Seattle, where houses in my current neighborhood start at 300k? And the fixer-uppers start at 150k and are described as "needing new plumbing and being stripped down to the studs"? I am handy but that kind of house ... that is a lot of work.

But what I came here to write about is cooking, and eating, for less money, but cooking and eating well.

--use this woman's meal plans--they seem a little boring, but I can use her plans and sub in my favorite recipes with the same ideas, with the goal of feeding the two of us for about $200 a month
--make bread at home, since I love making bread and homemade bread is delicious
--make yogurt at home, in the crock pot?! That's revolutionary.
--make our own cleaning products when possible, with vinegar, baking soda, and a basic degreaser like castile soap, and maybe essential oils that I already have

Now, don't get me wrong--we're planning on buying an LCD TV that is somewhere between 32" and 40" sometime soon. But being thrifty some places means we can spend in other places, right?

On to knitting for Christmas!!

14 December 2009

Guess What? Still Cold

If you are in my family or follow me on Facebook, you already know that my apartment is inadequately heated with 1) a gas heater that hasn't worked in two years, 2) a gas heater that was intended for use on a boat, 3) an electric/ceramic space heater that works well but can only heat a room at a time, and 4) an oil/electric space heater that just doesn't do much. Add to it an old, lathe-and-plaster house that probably isn't insulated at all, old drafty windows, old drafty door with an open gap under the door, in the sill, that leads down into who knows where, a back room that is falling away from the house at maybe a 5 degree angle, leaving a one-inch gap between house wall and room wall, and a two-inch gap in one of the windows that won't close because the room is so out of plumb.

So it's cold. Yeah. Colder than 60 when I wake up, maybe getting up to 65 or 67 on a sunny day in the main room, with both heaters on, with the room totally closed off from the rest of the apartment (which makes the bathroom cold, kitchen cold, hallway cold, office/back room cold, bedroom cold). Cold cold cold.

And I am used to cold. Iowa. Central Illinois. I lived in a turn-of-the-century house in Iowa for a year with four windows in my dorm room (beautiful), and I had a travel alarm clock with a digital thermometer, so I always knew my room was 64 or 66 degrees in all of January when I was taking an American literature survey (month-long class) and reading, literally, 8 hours a day, 200-400 pages a day. I spent the whole month in my down sleeping bag on the couch in my room, reaching out to my electric kettle to boil more water for more tea.

In Illinois almost three years ago, we had a blizzard and campus closed for two days. Something like 15 inches of snow in two days? Last winter, the temperature didn't break 15 for at least a month, maybe a month and a half. One day the high was 0 degrees, and I drove to work, amazed that my little Civic started, made it to work, made it home. That was really cold. The kind of cold that you walk out in and scream as you run to the building, then wish you'd closed your mouth because now your mouth is really cold.

But this cold, in Seattle? Outside it is not so cold at all. 38 or so right now. But inside it is not even 30 degrees warmer. And that is frustrating.

I wrote my landlord a huge email, quoting the Seattle building code's requirements that permanently installed heaters (which is only my boat heater) must maintain an average temperature of 65 in all livable rooms. Ha! Ha ha. I can barely maintain 65 in one room with the two heaters going. And that means all other rooms are 62, 60, 57, 54 or so.

So there's a lot of hat-wearing, fingerless-mitt wearing, technical hiking gear wearing (Patagonia capilene tops and bottoms, fleece jackets, down-filled booties). And a lot of thinking about residual heat from my stove, range, and bathtub water. (I have to bake cookies, right?) A lot of tea drinking. A lot of brainstorming ways to get out of the house and go somewhere else with better heating to thaw for a while.

And Noah is out of town--has been for a week, will get home on Friday night. So it is cold and a little lonely too.

But! Fear not! Seattle is awesome. It is just my landlord that is terrible.

Seattle, home of excellent Thai food everywhere I go, the best coffee I've ever had, a wonderful neighborhood that I'd like to live in forever (Wallingford! Or Green Lake! not sure which one I'm technically in), nice people, and absolutely gorgeous. This town does not hold the title of prettiest place I've ever lived (hello Tetons--that is the view from the part of the park I lived in), but it is indeed a close second. And the artisanal ice cream available does put its total score of awesome a little higher, in a way.

The chickens? I love them. The yard, the gardens, the layout of my apartment, the clawfoot tub (best baths of my LIFE, I am never going to shower here, bath only forever), the giant kitchen, the view of the Olympics from my windows, etc.

But I miss my family, and my friends, and I miss knowing how people drive (hard to put a finger on, but it is quite different here). I miss knowing how to get somewhere without using my GPS. And I think we moved here at the worst time of year, in terms of enjoying Seattle. Everyone we meet is like, Don't believe the weather is always this bad! This is the worst it's been in years, YEARS! Like they have forgotten the blizzard they had last year that caused two buses to dangle off a bridge.

I remember the stories of that storm, how Microsoft told Seth and all other employees to work from home, and then they all logged on to their remote server at once, and they crashed their servers. All of them. For the whole day. Oh, Microsoft.

Noah is liking Accenture, what he's learned of them so far, at least. He's doing a lot of training that seems newer to everyone else but replicates things he's already done before. Good job, Illinois and Noah. His trainers put him and other new hires in a mock client interview to gather specs for a new project, and the other five new hires had never done that kind of interview before. And I guess, they are new hires, they are also fresh from school, but Illinois had Noah doing that for his senior design project and then deliver a completely implementable solution to the problem. Perhaps Illinois is as good at training engineers as they think they are.

Noah's wardrobe is quite different now, though--Accenture requires business casual that is basically anything up to a suit without a tie. So, dress shoes, dress slacks or suit pants, button downs. We thought it would be suits, so he has suits and ties now, too. But, for me, this makes Noah the only person I'm related to directly who has ever worn suit clothes to work. My dad: jeans, Coveralls, work boots. My brother: navy Dockers to cover up all the oil stains. I guess other people wore nurses' uniforms. But I wore jeans and skirts and stuff, but suits? This is foreign.

And I am the girl who focused on textiles in her art degreee and didn't know how to iron. I scorched a lot of white t-shirts before my professor stopped me. Good times.

So, today? Freelance editing, hopefully, if it works on my now-dual-booted MacBook that starts up as a Windows machine, eliminating the virtualization that was killing Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Our new PC is coming sometime this week, though.

Editing, tomato sauce, maybe blanching carrots and kale to freeze, hopefully these cookies. And a walk to a coffee shop to thaw at some point.