Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Notify your doctor is you experience any of the following...

Those warnings at the end of pharmaceutical commercials always crack me up... I love the ones for Propecia where they say, "Pregnant women or women who could become pregnant should not TOUCH Propecia." Should not even TOUCH it! Or the new ones for the drugs that make it easier for men with growing prostates to pee more or less often, "Some men using Flowmax have reported side effects such as swelling of the breasts" Really? Would you rather have to explain to your buddies why you have to piss for the 4th time in an hour or explain why you have tits? Those disclaimers always make me think of the SNL Happy Fun Ball sketch:

"Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball" is my favorite!

There have been a few side effects from becoming a home owner that I didn't expect. I now actually dog ear pages in and sometimes hang on to catalogs from the likes of Frontgate & West Elm & Pottery Barn, whereas a year ago they'd be in the trash the day they arrived. I now pay attention to the "housing numbers" when they are reported on the news. Still don't really know what the heck the "housing numbers" are, but when Ali Velshi starts talking about the "real estate market" or "mortgage rates" my ears prick up. I also find my self starting a lot of sentences with "That would look good in my (insert room here)" while out shopping. Oh and I am completely obsessed with flat screen TV's now. I used to just want one, now I crave, no, NEED a wall mounted flat screen TV. It's a feeling similar to the one you get after someone you love calls it off. That kind of lonely ache that settles in right below the chest but above the stomach for weeks... that is the feeling I get when I see any flat screen larger than 42 inches. I want to call it and find out what went wrong and tell it how much I love it, how good we could be together. I know that right now though, it's just not meant to be, and it kills me. That is how bad I want a flat screen TV.

The biggest side effect though has got to be my level of neatness. I am a slob. Like a REAL slob. Dirty clothes on the floor (in any room of the house) for days. Coffee spills mopped up with my socked foot. Bags of salad in the fridge from 3 months ago. Dishes, dusting, mopping, and anything that involved comet or any other abrasive scrubbing agent... those things do not get done in my house. My bathroom... a horror show. When I lived with roommates or my ex I was a little better, but not much (and it's been years since I shared living quarters with anyone). But now... something has changed. A switch has been flipped. I find myself in the kitchen using clorox disinfecting wipes on counters that already appear clean. I keep a bottle of glass cleaner AND paper towels in the bathroom JUST to keep the surfaces in there clean and I have ANOTHER bottle of glass cleaner under the sink in the kitchen! I own a broom and dustpan that both get used several times a week. I've discovered special wipes just for keeping stainless steel appliances fingerprint free. Last night I found myself googleing "Cleaning Glass Shower Doors" because I've noticed that water stains are starting to cloud the lower 3 inches of my shower door and my bathroom glass cleaner is not doing the job. I have even made my bed nearly every day since I moved in! The only thing on my Xmas wish list is a ROOMBA. I actually ASKED to go into (instead of having to be dragged) The Container Store over the weekend. It's a little creepy to be honest. It's still a struggle, I mean, I didn't suddenly start generating grey matter infused with the cleaning gene... I have to make time and make the effort to clean, but I'm much more willing to do it now. Coming home to a clean space is great, not worrying about an unexpected guest is great too but despite my newfound willingness to do so cleaning is still not something I enjoy.

I guess it's better than swelling of the breasts.

Next time: Big Condo Owner vs. Little Condo Gym

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Why is my AC still on?

Dude, it is nearly DECEMBER and I have THIS NEW CONDO's air conditioning on in order to keep it at 70 up in here! I know winter doesn't "officially" start till December 22nd (thank you wikipedia) but it feels weird to be outside in short sleeves anytime after Thanksgiving. Guess I'm still not used to Georgia livin'.

I want to turn on my HEAT, make instant hot cocoa with those nasty micro-marshmellows, put on some big ol socks, throw a blanket over me and mine and watch a movie together while the rain falls and the wind blows outside.

I know that sounded very Ally McBeal, but what you don't know is that there's a quarter cup of burbon in the cocoa, the movie is Aliens, and under the blanket: just the socks.

Bring on WINTER!!!

Next time: This New Condo may cause some side effects...

My embarrasing hobby

There are three things that it's not easy for me to admit to people. It's not that any of these things are secrets, it's just that they are not things that people suspect about me. People are usually surprised to learn that I am gay for example... so offering up that info is sometimes awkward, depending on the situation. People also do not expect me to be an atheist. This one is more esoteric I think, but when the topic comes up (and in this political environment it does quite a bit) and I come out of the godless closet no one ever says, "Cool!" I usually get, "Really? No. Do you mean agnostic? Atheist? Really?" Frankly, it's been easier telling people I'm gay than it has been to tell people I am an atheist. No one ever gives me grief about being gay, but they definitely will make it a point to let me know they are praying for me if I tell em I have no doubt that there is no God. So those two seem like they'd be pretty big announcements to make, at least initially. But the one that I have the hardest time with, the one that people tend to not know how to react to, the one that I am actually a little embarrassed to admit, is that I am a sweeper.

I enter sweepstakes. Lots and lots of them. At any given time I have a list of well over 100 that I try to enter daily, and those are just the internet ones. I have a second list that usually hovers around 40 that require a postal entry, but I do not get to them as often as I should. At my peak, I was spending about 30 hours a week, organizing, finding and entering sweepstakes and it has paid off. I win stuff all the time. Good stuff. I won $1000 in Amex Gift cards from the local newspaper one year, a trip to LA to attend the MTV Movie Awards, my iPod, my iPod Shuffle, my Senseo coffee maker, a Sony PSP, $1000 in credit on eBay with which I bought my TiVo, my Mac Mini and a cool cellphone, a $500 Kroger supermarket gift card, my Treo 650, two digital cameras, several DVD's, many smaller gift cards ($10 gas cards, $25 master cards, $5 iTunes cards), almost ALL of my iTunes downloads have been free, tons of snapfish prints, a professional copier/scanner/fax thing and bottles and bottles and bottles of 2 liter Coke products. My most recent win worth mentioning is a years membership in NetFlix. Yes, I also win a bunch of crap, posters and coasters and flip flops and baseball caps and t-shirts and beer coozies... not to mention the SPAM all this entering has generated but that's what trash cans and free email accounts are for.

I got started in this hobby about 6 years ago when on a whim I entered a mail in sweepstakes to win round trip airline tickets anywhere in the continental US that US AIRWAYS flies. I leared of this sweeps from a button ad on I sent in maybe 3 or 4 entries and forgot about them... about 3 months later I got a registered letter saying I was a winner! I flew me and my boyfriend at the time to NYC for the day on his birthday with that win.

With all my success you'd think that my hobby would get better reviews, but most people thend to get this look of pity or bemusement on their face when my secret comes out. Before they hear about my winnings they look at me like they know that sweepstakes are a rip off and a con and that no one wins, but I just haven't figured it out yet, and they don't want to ruin my fun by telling me. They seem to steer the conversation towards the dark side by asking "what's the catch?" or "but you have to pay all those TAXES!" To which I explain that the taxes aren't all that bad, and if there are catches then it probably IS a scam (I have turned down sweepstakes prizes due to both of those issues). Even when I share my winnings with them, they seem to accept the gifts with skepticism and doubt.

By the way, if you would like to try your hand at sweeping I'd be happy to offer some specific tips, but in the meantime here are three basic things to remember to get you started:

1) READ THE OFFICIAL RULES - any legitimate sweepstakes will have them
2) NEVER PAY TO ENTER OR WIN - if it's legitimate no one will ask you to pay anything
3) BE PERSISTENT - enter as often as the rules allow and for as long as they allow

I've tried to pass on this hobby to friends, but they all loose interest quickly. One friend lasted 4 months and she did pretty well. Won a digital camera and a watch, but she grew weary of the daily grind and now only enters the big ones like the HGTV Dream Home. I have online friends who share my enthusiasm, and we swap tips and links and success stories that keep us motivated when the inevitable slumps hit. For the most part though it's a solitary hobby that I keep to myself until someone asks where I got my cool phone or how I afforded to get my brother a PSP for his birthday or where all those coupons for 2 liter Cokes came from. Then I sheepishly admit to being a sweeper and prepare to assure them that I'm not foolish or ignorant.

There will come a time when UPS will deliver a life changing sweepstakes prize to my door, money or a car or a 50 inch flat screen (THIS NEW CONDO could use all three) and on that day all the embarrassment will have been worth it. On that day I'll stop being a godless, homosexual, sweeper and become a godless, homosexual, WINNER!!!

Next time: why is my AC still on?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Hi Ho!

It's back to work for me today. I had the good fortune to have the last two weeks off and have really gotten used to not working. Almost feels a little weird to be gong back to work. We (THEY really) are in the process of shaking things up as far as shifts and schedules are concerned and so when I go back today, I'll be going back to a very different schedule. Still the same hours and still pushing the same buttons, but doing so at different times than I used to. Your new schedule at any job can be a little weird to adjust to because you get to know your routine, you get to know the people who work with you, their peccadilloes and whatnot, the subtle differences in the machinery and all that... and then, your duties change a little, and everything is just a smidge off.

I used to be a fan of that show, SLIDERS. Ever see that show? Kinda hot dude who is now on Crossing Jordan was the star, his brother was "The Bachelor" one year. Anyway, on SLIDERS the premise was that they were moving between alternate realities all the time. So it always took place in pretty much the same location and always in the present day, but one week they were in a reality where the Nazi's had won the war, in another only Women were allowed to hold public office. Sometimes things would look exactly the same, EXCEPT that bugs were revered and could not be squished... maybe I made that last one up... the point I am trying to make is that when I get back to work today it will be like sliding into a slightly alternate reality. Everything will look the same, but at the same time everything will be just SLIGHTLY askew. A little like crossing the border from Washington State into British Columbia.

Plans for THIS NEW CONDO this week are to get the tile replaced in my bathroom, getting a poster finally framed & hung and returning the ladder that I borrowed from my neighbors.

I'm also going to look into some mirror related ideas I've seen lately. On Small Space, Big Style I saw a woman use mirrors for her kitchen backsplash... what do you think? I think it could be a less expensive alternate to stainless steel. I also saw a BIG use of mirrors in Polo by Ralph Loren at Lenox Square. They used really tall panels of beveled mirror to line the back wall of a really masculine bedroom vignette. My bedroom is not huge, so I thought I'd look into stealing that idea for my space. Speaking of mirrors, anyone know a good glass cleaner? The stuff I have been using leaves a noticeable residue on the mirror I have hung in my living room. When the sunlight hits it it looks really crappy.

Next time: my embarrasing hobby

Saturday, November 25, 2006

...and Schnitzel with noodles...

With great deference to the Von Trapps (and Oprah), here are a few of THIS NEW CONDO's favorite things!

This stuff is so cool! It’s a hard ball of detergent that smells faintly of mothballs that you wrap in a cloth sleeve and then again in a soft rubber shell. Put it in the washing machine and you leave it there... don't take it out for rinsing or spinning or anything... lasts like 40 washes. I have a front loading machine however and while the clothes and the oxy ball are tumbling around it can get a little noisy, like when you put tennis shoes in the dryer. But it's great, no powdered detergent crumbs all over and no liquid detergent goo leaking down the side of the bottle.

I installed this myself (pat, pat, pat). The kit is like 30 bucks at Lowes. If you have not discovered the ease and functionality of a "pull out" drawer or trash can under or in your cabinets, you are missing out. Only problem with this one is that the only cabinet this works for me in, is not in the ideal location in the kitchen. But what it lacks in location it makes up for in awesomeness! May I also recommend getting a trash can that isn't huge. Yes, it means more trips to the garbage chute or dumpster or trash cans or wherever, but it also makes for easier transport and less stinkiness since things won't linger there for long before the can is full and has to be taken out.

I've mentioned that I'm not into ticky-tacky-notchkey-stuff. I don't have a lot of things that serve as display only items. This is one exception to the rule. Nipper is (was?) the mascot/logo for RCA Records and electronics. My father worked there for a time and one of his souvenirs from that gig was this guy. Molded plastic, and clearly worse for wear, I've had him for years. Reminds me of the time I spent working in Radio.

Cool coffee maker. I'm certain that the Senseo is in some way a scam. Like a fancy way to sell instant coffee or something, but it keeps in line with my no-muss lifestyle. Makes just a cup at a time (a very SMALL cup unless you use two "pods" at once). The pods can be hard to find as well... but for ease and simplicity, I love it.

Speaking of "pods..." The senseo can also make darn good tea! These tea pods are awesome! I found these online. They come in all kinds of blends (I like the green). I'm not a big tea guy, but they are great and EASY to have on hand for guests, and according to my brother who lives in Japan (which makes him an authority) Green Tea will cure you of anything. I try for one cup a day.

#6 TiVo!
The greatest invention ever.

THIS NEW CONDO Also rans: Skyy vodka (just cheap enough), Mac Mini, instant flavored oatmeal, the Treo 650, Wired & Dwell & Entertainment Weekly

It Came from Below (the good stuff is near the end of this post)

Hope you are having or had a good long weekend!

I had a great Thanxgiving weekend. Two good meals, one at my Boyfriend's Mom's house in the burbs with most of his family there, and then later that evening a less traditional meal with some good friends on the 22nd floor of a tower in town with cocktails there. All bases covered.

We also saw two good movies... well... two movies that were better than most of the shit I have paid to sit through lately:

Casino Royale was great. The new Bond is unbelievably hot, don't care what your type is, he is hot. Even a straight guy would have to admit, that, "Yeah, he's pretty hot." He didn't have to do much acting... a lot of pursed lips and long stares, but with those eyes... woof. The story was pretty good too. Lots of nice nods to the old movies, little tongue in cheek touches that really made the movie for me. I missed Miss Moneypenny though, and Q. Maybe next movie.

Next up was Bobby, which I thought was really cool. Nothing amazing, but certainly very cool. Outstanding cast. Total love letter to RFK. I had no idea until the credits rolled that Emilio Estevez wrote and directed it. What it was missing for me was the epilogue. You know, "Two years later [character name] went on to become Secretary of Transportation under..." Didn't get any of that.

So both of those get my recommendation. Just a side note, we saw Bobby on Friday at a theater in a mall... and I gotta tell ya, the mall was not crowded. I wonder if that "day after Thanxgiving" shopping thing, Black Friday, is starting to end.

The dog sitting was uneventful. He ate, we walked, he pooped... I forgot to take his picture though... I'm sure you could find one that looks like him on flikr (Awwwwwwwww). Dad paid me for my hard work watching his dog with a half rack of Coors Light! No slowing down with the SILVER BULLET baby!

The big surprise of the weekend (so far) came when I got home from the dog sitting and the dinners. I spent Wednesday and Thursday night at my folks house. While I was gone, construction on the restaurant they are building directly below my unit continued. Yes, Directly beneath me they are building a restaurant. Which I really am very excited about. It's a chain, but kind of an upscale kind of place. Will be nice to have in the 'hood. This place is RIGHT underneath me. So during construction they are constantly drilling into their celling (my floor) in order to attach anchors that they will hang the false celling and AC ducts and all that from. It's a very scary and VERY LOUD sound when they fire up the drill or percussion hammer or whatever they are using to make the holes... sounds like they are coming up through the floor. In fact:

Can you see that? Look right in front of the toilet. Imagine you are sitting on the toilet and look right where your left foot might be. See that? It looks like...

A DRILL CAME UP THROUGH MY FLOOR FROM THE CONSTRUCTION BELOW! They came up so hard through the floor with that thing that a chip of the tile ended up in my TUB! Needless to say, not happy me. When I went down to talk to them about it, they assured me that it could not have been them. "No one's been drilling," the foreman assured me. When he finally came up to look it was clear that, yes his workmen had done it... so I'll be getting a new tile. Freaking weird though... like a tiny little invasion of privacy. I'm also wondering what this says about the construction of my building. I know the floors are several inches thick of solid concrete, I watched them build the place. Just weird.

The restaurant is slated to open in a couple weeks. Here's hoping that the hole in my floor is the last time I'll have to deal with anything coming up from below!

Just a housekeeping note: my second all electronically handled mortgage and HOA payments were transmitted yesterday. No fuss, no muss. My system is holding up!

Next time: Just in time for the holidays, some of THIS NEW CONDO's favorite things.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Would you like a piece of resistance?

OK... last post about this freakin wall. This is going to be so anticlimactic... hell, I painted the thing and I'm over it. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you... A Brown Wall:

Ultimately, below the mirror I will have one or two small benches (preferably with storage) and maybe, just maybe, if I can find the EXACT right ones I will put some sconces (I HATE that word, especially when effeminate men say it, "SsssssssssCONssssssssessssss" not that there is anything wrong with effeminate men... just when they say THAT word. Want to know the WORST word for an effeminate man to say? You do? Oh good. Ready? *ahem* "Ossssssssteoperossssssssssissssssss" We now return you to outside the parenthesis) or some other light fixture on either side of the mirror.

I think it was a good idea to paint the HVAC register, you can barely see it.

Next projects? Not sure... the bathroom needs something, paint or cabinets or drawer liners or something. My computer location is really starting to bug me too. You might just be able to make out in one of the pics of the wall in the mirror, the reflection of my computer on the "breakfast bar" of my kitchen. That stuff needs to go. Ultimately I think the computer stuff will live in the bedroom, but I haven't bought any furniture for that room yet and don't want to put some big ol office "workstation" in there, big dilemma. My closet also needs attention. Actually the closet really, really needs attention. Hmmmmm.

OK... well tomorrow is Thanksgiving. My local family (Dad and his wife and her two children and some of their offspring) are leaving this morning to have their meal with her family in Tennessee. I am staying in Atlanta so I get to dog sit the worlds nicest, sweetest, happiest, dog. I'll take his picture so I can show him to you next time I post. My not-local family (Mom) is REALLY not local this year. She and some girlfriends are spending the holiday in PRAGUE! I'm very jealous.

In addition to my dog sitting duties tomorrow I will also be having a meal with my boyfriend and his whole (very large) family early in the afternoon, and THEN tomorrow evening will be off to a friend's apartment where he and his boyfriend are having some people over for another meal! All of that just to say... not sure when my next post will be...

Until then THIS NEW CONDO and I wish you a very happy holiday. Drive safely.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


While we're waiting for the Brown Velvet (#1011-10 of the American Tradition paints at Lowes) paint to dry... just a couple things I've learned about painting.

1. It's messy.

2. Getting the edges right is hhhaaaarrrrrddd, no matter how much blue tape you use:

3. No matter HOW certain you are about a color, it is going to look different on a wall than it did on the chip.

I'll never admit this to anyone in person, but I'm not really super happy with how the color is looking. It's definitely dark brown, but I get flashes of purple and even black. Let me say this... the FIRST time someone comes in here and says, "That Eggplant color on this wall is really nice!" or "Purple! Interesting choice." I'm putting the builder beige back up!

There is also the issue of a large mirror that I bought specifically to hang on that wall. It has a gold frame around it (which I could always *gulp* paint) and It looked pretty good on the builder beige but on the Brown Velvet it looks a little, um, a little Liberace:

My other dilemma has been what do to with the switch plates and HVAC register. I decided that the switch plates would stay white, since the switches and plugs they surround are going to stay white, but I painted the register to match the wall. Here's my logic: I need to see the switches because they are useful parts of the room, but I DON'T need to see the register because while it IS useful it's not something that gets a lot of attention, and it's 11 feet up. I have always thought it was kind of tacky to paint registers and switch plates (no offense if you disagree) so this is a big step for me. A word of warning, HVAC registers are a PAIN in the butt to paint:

OK... hopefully tomorrow I will be able to post some pics of the final product. Or at least the final step in this painting project. The whole PRODUCT still needs stuff, but the painting and rehanging of the giant mirror will be done.

Next time: the REAL Piece de Resistance (maybe).

Monday, November 20, 2006

the great paint experiment

...or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Brown.

The deed is done... or at least the non-finesse part anyway... a large section of THIS NEW CONDO is Brown. In fact, it is "Brown Velvet." I WAS considering "Fudge Truffle," but in the end the darker color won out. I've been scared shitless about doing this project. Not sure why... I mean, paint is probably the easiest thing to change if I don't like it... but it's also messy, and I am a klutz and this really could have been a disaster. I think it came out all right though.

Here's before:


That's yours truly hiding behind the ladder... artsy no?

Depending on the light the color has just the slightest hint of eggplant in it which COULD be a big issue for me. Not a big purple fan here. So far I have seen the wall in afternoon sun and electric household light and just the fact that I THINK I might see some purple in there is bothering me... once the sun comes up again tomorrow we'll revisit that issue.

Still a work in progress, the tape and tarp have to come down, there are some spots that need touching up (maybe even a full second coat) and there is a big ass mirror that goes on that wall that has to go back... but gonna let what is there dry overnight before I start undoing all that stuff. Normally I'm a very impatient person so I'm pretty proud of myself for holding back.

OK... see y'all later.

Next time: Le Piece de Resistance!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

robot banking

So far this little system I have created for paying my mortgage has worked well for me, or should I say it has, well, worked for me.

Before we get started you should know that I am not good with money. I'm getting better, but I am not good with saving or making smart spending decisions.

In order to keep my mitts off the money I need to pay for where I live I have devised a plan that involves two banks, three accounts and (hopefully) ZERO maintenance on my part. My "paycheck" is direct deposited every other Friday. My employer offers a system under which I can have those paychecks split up either by percentage or dollar amount or variations of both, and deposited into several different accounts on payday. In order to keep the money I need to pay my mortgage and my HOA dues OUT of my hot little hands, I have arranged that an amount equal to half of those two bills combined be direct deposited into an interest earning checking account (which we will call the "mortgage account"). In addition I have a very small percentage of every check automatically deposited into a savings account (which we will call the "never touch" account), and finally whatever is left over goes into my regular, daily spending, checking account (which we'll call my "everything else" account). Now I also have a 401k that I contribute to, but that is like invisible money to me, so it doesn't even really count till I turn 65 or whatever the retirement age will be in 20 years.

The genius here is that just about every bank offers an online banking product these days. These systems can be set up to automatically pay bills, or you can even have your mortgage payment sucked right out of those accounts through programs made available by most mortgage companies or just about any other biller. Either way it is an invisible transaction. Because I am not good with money I have set up my mortgage account to automatically cut checks to my mortgage company and my homeowners association on the 25th of every month. So between the direct deposit and the automatic check cutting, I never have to see, smell, feel, handle, even consider the payment of those two bills. It just happens. And because I am having my bank cut the checks, I have a (an electronic) paper trail I can follow should anything go wrong.

Side note here... when my bank sent me the ATM cards for my mortgage and my never touch accounts I panicked. Too much temptation! I couldn’t bring myself to destroy them though... just in case of an emergency or really great deal on QVC (KIDDING!) I wanted to be sure I could still access those funds if I HAD to, so I kept them. I can actually hear them calling to me from their hiding place sometimes. Urging me to use them to buy ROOMBA or another TiVo, or that flat screen that Wal*Mart has for under $900... but my willpower has grown since becoming a homeowner. So far I have been able to resist their siren songs, but for how long dear reader? How long?

But, I digress...

This genius direct deposit, auto pay system does have one drawback. After everything has been split up very little is left to go into the everything else account. Only about a third of my check. So far I have managed to keep my shit together thanks to limited use of credit, and some creative bill paying, but I'm not gonna lie, it's tight. In my last post I mentioned that I'd dipped below $100 in my everything else account for the first time in a long, long time. This system and my not being used to it was the cause of that.

It's all still very new, AND it's a work in process... I may have to do a little "tweaking" to get it just right, but in the mean time I'll let the bank robots write the important checks for THIS NEW CONDO, and I'll try to manage the little ones best I can.

Next time: the great paint experiment (or) how I learned to stop worrying and love brown

Friday, November 17, 2006

cash flow problems

The tag line I chose for this blog is "a first time home buyer tries not to freak out" and thus far I haven't really... a little, but not much and not here... not yet. Really, just when I thought this might actually work out, that buying a condo might be a GOOD decision, that maybe I really AM capable of being an adult and handling adult sized moneys... Here comes Santa Claus. His midnight ride causes me to freak out every year... and not in a good way.

I'm not a fan of the holidays. Frankly they make me irritable. I don't know if it's because I'm an atheist, or if it's the commercialism, or just that the one time of year I actually get a fair amount of time OFF work, I am expected to fill that hard fought free time with family, and other people's family, and damn it, I "VONT TO BE ALONE!" But the biggest problem I have with the holidays are the gifts.

I don't like receiving them because I really don't feel as though I deserve a present simply because I happen to be alive on December 25th. On the flip side, I LOVE to give them to people, but I rarely have all the cash I need to give people what I think they deserve for simply being alive on December 25th. Not to mention the people who buy me something and I bought nothing for, the GUILT!!! My boyfriend and I long ago decided that we would save our money at the holidays for a trip or something later in the year, and instead of buying things for each other we would MAKE our presents. Honestly at the time, he was (still is) making a lot more money than I so he was sweet and went along with my "make your own present" plan so I wouldn't feel poor. It was really cool... we got all creative. He gave me some votive holders made from small juice glasses that he hot glued these glass "droplets" onto. I still have and use them to this day, I love them. He got a "family tree" made out of sticks and acorns and small twigs with those "googly" eyes that have the rolling pupils in them glued on (sounds lame, but he has a big family and they were all represented and I made it so shut up). This lasted one xmas. The following year we made presents again, but he added some store bought things... inexpensive clothes, and some stationary... so I had to retaliate and I matched those with theater tickets (I think). This is xmas #4 and the homemade item is really just going to be the stocking stuffer, and the store bought stuff will be the main event, I'm sure.

All of this is to say that this year, this year especially, I can't afford it. I have just started adjusting to my cost of housing DOUBLING overnight. I'm still getting settled into my new automatic deposit adjustments and automatic withdrawal of my mortgage and HOA dues... I'm not starving or anything, but this month, for the first time in YEARS my checking account balance dipped (briefly) below $100... in NOVEMBER with freaking Christmas coming, and my financial picture is drastically different and a little uncertain, and I'm under 1 large in my checking account. Crap. Now not to worry... yes, my checking account balance is low (back in the triple digits as I write this), but savings and my special mortgage accounts are fine, I'm far from destitute, it's just that all the money I DO have now has new purpose which leaves me with much less money to blow. My financial diet has changed and right now that means I have to tighten my belt (if only that were the case in my physical life). Hopefully as things settle and I begin to adjust to this new financial structure my fiscal body will adjust to the new restrictions and start to thicken up again.

I remember being a kid and counting the days till christmas... blissfully ignorant of the fact that my parents were probably having the same feelings of "how the fuck can we afford all this" as I am having... now instead of counting the days till xmas, I count the paychecks... and try not to freak out.

Tomorrow: robot banking

the train

The rough draft of this post is being thumbed on my Treo over the course of 3 trips as I ride to and from work on MARTA, Atlanta's transit system. MARTA's rail system is pretty basic, consisting of just two lines: east/west and north/south. They cross each other beneath downtown in a station called 5 Points (which has always bothered me because really its just 1 point. At MOST it could be called 4 Points if you consider that at maximum capacity 4 trains all moving in different directions COULD be in the station at one time. It's called 5 points because of it's proximity to an intersection of 5 streets, which I get, but the STATION, regardless of it's location was misnamed, IMO... Anyway) The rail component of MARTA is definitely the star, but the busses are the real hard workers. Thing is, no one wants to ride the bus. I don't blame 'em. MARTA busses are almost never on time and frequently take very circuitous routes to get where they are going. Having said all that...

When people complain to me about traffic or the price of gas, I very proudly mention that I usually take the train to work so I haven't really noticed. They tell me I’m lucky to live near a station, but I am NOT lucky, I am SMART! I CHOSE to live where I do so I could take advantage of what little mass transit the ATL has to offer. I picked THIS NEW CONDO partly because of it's easy access to Marta. Even when I didn’t live close to a station, I STILL found a way to use mass transit as often as possible.

I admit it's easier for me to make a choice like this because I DO live alone, and I DON’T have any kids and I DON’T want a yard, but there are still mass transit options for people who do. It might mean 20 more minutes travel time to get to work by bus and or train, but you can spend that time reading or playing a game on your phone or even BLOGGING (none of which I recommend while behind the wheel).

So what's more important to you? An extra 20 mins of sleep before you start your commute OR keeping one less car off the road? You can always take a nap, but how are you going to suck that exhaust BACK into your tailpipe?

Tomorrow: THIS NEW CONDO has a cash flow problem.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

kitchen accomplished

Ever since I moved in to my place about 2 months ago HGTV has become like CRACK to me. "Small Space, Big Style," "My First Place," "Curb Appeal," "Divine Design," "Design Star," and now "Making of a Design Star" (DAVID COME MAKEOVER MY BEDROOM), all the incarnations of "I Want That," TiVo records them ALL. One of the things they repeat over and over and over is how important the kitchen is to the overall feel and resale value of one's home. Kitchens and baths are pretty much all they talk about on HGTV anymore. My kitchen is part of a larger room that includes a space where a dining table could go and then my living room. So if a kitchen off by itself in someone's home is IMPORTANT to the average homeowner imagine how an HGTV addict could obsess about the kitchen in his main room!

For my first real home improvement project I decided to do a little tweaking in my kitchen. First I switched out all the white sockets and switches and plastic surrounds with black sockets and stainless surrounds. It's a small touch but I think it really improves the look of the room AND it was pretty cheap! I think the whole project cost just under $50. It was a good education too, I learned a lot about wiring and how things like switches and plugs work. It's pretty simple to swap out the old hardware, you need a flat head and a phillips head screwdriver and a pair of wire cutters. I bought my replacement hardware at Lowes. Make sure the power is turned off to the socket or switch you are working on (I turned off ALL the power in my entire kitchen for my first couple of sockets, then figured out which breakers control what). I only shocked myself once! You also need to make sure you buy the right replacements, there are 15 and 20 amp switches and sockets and they are not interchangeable... look in your breaker box to determine which kind you need before you go to the store. Here's what the old one's looked like:

And here is the new look:

MUCH COOLER if I do say so myself. The one pictured is a GFI socket... I had two of those in my kitchen and they require a little more attention to detail than the plain ol two plug sockets. Really glad I had some touch-up paint around because the metal surrounds were just a little smaller than the plastic ones, so I had to do a little cleanup around sockets where the paint stuck to the old faceplates when I removed them. Hopefully my wiring work won't result in some horrible fire or electrical outage... but if or until that happens my sockets and switches are gonna look HOT!

The other thing I did was inspired by HGTV and a trip to Ikea. Next time you spend the day at your local Ikea take a look through the lighting section when you are on your way out... it's usually just after the textile area and just before the mirrors, art and outdoor area. They sell some pretty cool lighting for under your counters, or inside cabinets. Kind of a pain in the ass to install because you have to actually work UNDER your cabinets to install them, like a mechanic under a car. They will also probably require you to drill at least one hole in your cabinets to make room for the cords (I drilled two but ended up only using one of them, dusty affair by the way, drilling holes in cabinets). If you are a cord nazi like me, you will also want to consider buying some kind of management tools to hide the power wires. Luckily the builder took the possibility of under counter lighting into consideration when they built my place and I have an outlet INSIDE a cabinet, so that helped a little with the cord hiding, but you'll still need a way to conceal the lines underneath.

The effect is pretty dramatic. Here's before:

And after:

Pretty cool, yeah? Between the lights and the sockets and switches the whole project cost about $110. The most expensive part being the lights from Ikea (but I used a housewarming gift card from my mortgage broker to buy those). A couple of notes: the lights tend to get quite warm... I doubt they'd get hot enough to do any damage, I mean, they are DESIGNED to be screwed into the bottoms of cabinets, but after they have been on for a while they are definitely too hot to touch. Ikea sells a different lighting product which is a strip of LED's which I considered before buying the ones I bought that would probably be much more energy efficient, cooler and easier to install, but I doubt they would put out as much light.

Only thing I'd like to do is run a stainless steel backsplash along the wall under the cabinets, but that's a project that can wait till I can afford to pay someone who knows what they are doing to do that!

The question now is what do I do with all the OLD sockets and switches and faceplates?

Seems like such a waste.

Tomorrow THIS NEW CONDO takes the train.

the toolbox

I try and keep the amount of THINGS I have to a minimum. I don't like having things for the sake of having them... not a big nick-nack-n-brick-a-brack collector. I have a couple things that would qualify as nicks or nacks, but I am well below the brick or brack level of stuff. Ironically this desire to keep it simple prevents me from buying things that would help collect some of the necessary clutter that I have accumulated. Specifically tools. I don't have a large selection of tools, two hammers, a mismatched set of screwdrivers, allen wrench set, measuring tape... you know, the basics, but it's enough that not all of it fits in my toolbox. It's a little red jobby that probably initially contained a basic starter set of tools which have since been scattered. Most of the tools I use frequently, screwdrivers, small hammer, measuring tape, ended up in the "junk drawer" in my kitchen and the rest lived in the little red toolbox that resided under my sink. All that changes today:

Little red has been replaced with big blue and for once in my life, all my tools are in one place leaving my junk drawer open for playing cards, sewing kits, thumbtacks, spare keys, a couple of lighters, a penlight, etc.

Problem I am having now is that I anthropomorphize things and it's going to be very hard to throw away little red. He really served me well. Never complained when I tried to stuff too much crap into him... even survived a fire! I think he was a gift from my Mom while I was in college. A buddy of mine has a big yard sale a couple times a year... maybe I'll hold on to little red till his next sale and pass him on.

In other news, the weather around Atlanta today is my favorite kind. Rain, at times hard rain. We even have a "severe weather" warning for later on this afternoon! Not sure why I like rainy days, just always have.

Tomorrow, the before and after pictures of my first real home improvement project which will prove the adage that it's the little things that make all the difference!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

the blog

I waited till I was 38 to become a homeowner (technically this is my second foray into home ownership, but the first experience didn't really count, I'm sure that will come up in future posts). It's been an interesting process involving a lot of paperwork, many many trips to Target, some serious soul searching and the biggest checks I have ever written.

Frankly this blog is something for me to use to keep track of all the stuff that I'm trying to keep up with as I continue this process, but I think it could also be interesting to others who are considering buying a place or who are just moving into a place.

How much about myself and my address I want to reveal are issues I'm working on... so in the meantime here are some generic tidbits that will hopefully provide a base to build on:

Little about me: I'm a 38 year old guy living just outside Atlanta, GA. I'm 6 feet tall and carry about 20 extra lbs around. I am in year three of my relationship with my boyfriend who does not live with me. I work behind the scenes in broadcasting. My salary is in the mid 40's which is good for my line of work. I mention that because lets face it, the financial aspect of this process is of paramount importance. If I am going to write about what it's like for an individual to buy/own/maintain a home those reading need to know how deep the financial pool is.

Little about this new condo: It is, in fact, NEW. The building is still under construction as I write this. When I moved in there were only 13 other units occupied in the building and the units on the upper floors were still being sheet rocked. I'm the first person to live in this space which is a very new experience for me. It's a small (relatively), one bedroom unit at just over 780 square feet. It's on the 3rd floor of a 7 story building in what my friends tell me is a very "hip and trendy" area about 10 minutes away from downtown Atlanta, but outside the city limits. I paid around $170 for my space. This number is less than what the units of similar size go for in my building thanks to a program that my city has in place to make sure that people from all walks of life can live here... I'm sure that we'll talk about that program again in future posts. The unit has wood floors, 12 foot ceilings, granite counter tops, a small balcony, stainless steel appliances (my only upgrade) and travertine tile in the bathroom. Now that may sound like boasting, but that's what the place came with, and again, it's important to document some of the details if I'm going to have an honest dialogue about what it's like to live here. Frankly all that fancy stuff has made me more nervous than proud.

Why blog? It occurred to me that every day since I moved in something NEW has been added to this new condo. Sometimes it's a piece of furniture, sometimes it's a friend. Sometimes it's an annoyance, or a bill. Sometimes it's a new cleaning product. Usually though it's just an insight that I gain simply by being part of the process. At any rate, I thought that might be a cool point of view from which to keep a journal and so today:

THIS NEW CONDO has: a blog