Thursday, August 26, 2010

It's been a long time

OK, a very long time. More than a year actually. I can't promise I'll start updating regularly again. But here's an update on my life:

  • We eventually succeeded in selling the house. Received an offer in Nov 2009 and after much delay finally closed in Feb 2010. We had to drop the price substantially and took a bit of a loss, but at least we got rid of it.
  • When we moved out of the house, we packed most of our stuff up in a PODS unit to be stored in Schenectady. I moved into my parent's new place in Utica with our clothes, computer gear, toiletries, and a few miscilani that hadn't fit in the unit. We actually moved out nearly a month before closing was finalized, so I had to deal with that from Utica, alone, because...
  • Billy immediately went off to work in Brazil and Russia on back to back trips. We're talking like a day a home in between to repack. While in Brazil his backpack with his laptop, backup drive, camera, calculator, passport and lots of other important stuff got stolen. Due to some very suspicious circumstances, his business card collection and passport were recovered, but not before he'd reported the passport stolen to the consulate. The good news was that the Russian visa it contains was still valid, but the passport could no longer be used to the enter the US. As a result, in addition to replacing all his "stuff" Billy now has 4 passports: The original 10-yr, a 10-yr duplicate (now invalidated as stolen, but containing important visas), a temporary passport (now expired, but also containing a still-valid visa), and a replacement 2-yr duplicate. It will be about a year before he can go back to carrying just 2.
  • I got to go back to Porto Seguro with Billy for a relatively short trip (<2 months). It was really nice to be "home". And it's not the beach that I miss... it's having people everywhere we go recognize us! When Billy's there w/o me, people even ask where I am. That sure never happened in Glens Falls.
  • Now that the house was sold and we could be in the U.S. together for a couple months, Billy and I went on a big house-hunting road trip. After much debate, we decided our best bets were to move to the Charlotte or Nashville area. Access to airports, weather, and availability of someone to watch our house/check our mail when we're away were the major factors.
  • We checked out the area where our friend lives north of Charlotte and it was way too suburban for me. Really nice area, but not walkable, and that's really important to me. We cut our visit there short (no sense falling in love with the inside of townhouses when I don't like the neighborhood) and headed to Georgia for Billy to have a business meeting. Fun guy there will likely be sending some work our way in the future.
  • After 1 night in Georgia, headed to the ATL airport so we could test out the drive from there to Nashville. Met up with a friend who lives in Atlanta for lunch on the way. It's not a bad drive. No worse than our JFK-Glens Falls commute. It's good to have the option to skip the connecting leg on international flights. Especially on the way out (less risk of lost luggage).
  • Stayed with Billy's cousins in Nashville while we went house-hunting. Hooked up with their friend to be our realtor. We drove around a lot ruling out options based on location. We only went into 4 townhouses. We found the perfect place just above our price-range search and finagled a bit more down payment to make it work. Just outside downtown and only a couple blocks from the farmers market with a 2-car garage and rooftop patio. What more could we ask for? We did the inspection and met with some painters before we left town.
  • Financing turned out to be a huge pain. Mortgage companies would even look at Billy's income because he went contractor this year. In the end, we were forced to cosign with Billy's dad (my parents had just bought a house and therefore could help). But we got a 5 year ARM at 3.75% which is amazing. At the end of the 5 years we'll plan to refinance his dad out of the loan, assuming the rate for a refi would be better than just letting the one we have adjust.
  • We put the offer in on the house near the end of April. The rains that caused Nashville to flood arrived the day we left town. Luckily, the water didn't reach our house (within 1 block on 3 sides). The fact that we're slightly uphill from the surrounding area is barely noticeable, but made all the difference. But the mortgage underwriter's house was underwater and so our application got sent to corporate to process. That mean delaying closing by a few weeks.
  • Billy's brothers flew up to help us move down. I packed up what we had at my parents, which they put in a huge Enterprise truck, drove to Schenectady to pick up the stuff from our PODS unit, then drove it down to Alabama to stay at his parents until closing. Then Billy went off to Switzerland for a training course.
  • When we finally closed, I flew down to Huntsville, meeting up with Billy in ATL on his way back from europe. Then we drove up to sign the papers and move in.
  • The 3 boys did most of the unpacking (I supervised in the 90+ degree weather) and it took all afternoon. Considering the size of the truck and the fact that our new place is 3 stories, they made really good time. Then they all left and I spent my first night in my new house alone. Billy had left so he could return the next day with his motorcycle.
  • The first couple weeks were full of painting (a serious ordeal as the colors I picked are a bit extreme and weren't cooperating) and installations (cable, security system, etc.). We were also forced to get a new dishwasher shortly after moving in because the old one hadn't been installed properly (it was GLUED to the granite countertop, not actually mounted to anything). Stupid thing started tipping forward whenever you pulled the drawers out after the first couple uses. The microwave also has issues, but we're putting off replacing that as long as possible.
  • With the house painted and our stuff in, it was time to get this house put together. We bought nearly all new furniture. The only things we'd kept were our living room set (sofa, chaise, TV and console purchased just before receiving the offer on our old place) and the guest bed. Shopping has been fun, but expensive. And we've made a few poor choices. The master bedroom color isn't working out very well, and the master bed we picked is so large there's no room for dressers. We've ended up with an enormous, but shallow, wardrobe from Ikea to solve that issue.
  • In mid-June, Billy left on another trip to Brazil while I continued to work on the house. At the end of June I flew out to San Francisco for my brother's wedding and finally got to meet my colleagues at oDesk. It was a little odd because my visit to the office was also my boss's last day. My job has been a bit up in the air ever since - I'm reporting to different people on different things and it's all rather awkward. Billy flew out and met us there for the wedding. Then we spent a long weekend in SanFran being tourists.
  • We flew from SanFran to Buffalo instead of heading right back to Nashville. We had another wedding in Chautauqua the following weekend. In between, we swung by Rochester for a quick visit. We had a nice little MacRIT reunion at BWW and got to stay at my friend Brad's new house. We'd been each other to closing (he won, but only because of the floods). Down in Chautauqua we got to stay with friends of my family from Wilson who'd also been at my brother's wedding (parents of one of his best friends). They have the cutest little lake cottage and the day after the wedding we spent the day riding around on their boat before driving up to Buffalo to spend the night and catch a 6am flight.
  • From Buffalo we flew to ATL, took a taxi to an Enterprise truck place, then spent a very long day at Ikea. We got our wardrobe, bookshelves for the guest room, a whole set of dishes, and a variety of other small stuff. Sadly, we failed to get me a cute little desk because they were out of stock. It was very late by the time we arrived back in Nashville and unpacked.
  • Again, Billy only got to spend a few days at home before hitting the road. This time he was flying to London to drive the Mongol Rally - a road trip from England to Mongolia as part of a 3-person team in a Citroen Saxo. We got the wardrobe assembled before he left, but it still doesn't have doors hung on it.
  • A few days after Billy left, my mom came down for a visit. She helped me unpack a lot of the remaining boxes, build the bookshelves, and shop for additional furniture. I totally blame her for my purchase of a bunch of patio furniture for our roof. It was on sale for a really good price at world market, but that was so not on my list!
  • She stayed a week, then I was here myself for a couple weeks before flying up to see her again at the beginning of August. In between I discovered a friend from college lives in the area. Her husband's shipped out in the military, so it's nice to have someone around who doesn't act like I'm crazy for having my husband gone for a few months. I went up north again so we could drive to grandma's and go to a family reunion. This is an annual event, but I've only been to it once before, my mother twice before, and my grandmother never. For some reason my grandfather always refused to go. It was fun and I found I have a second cousin who spells Jacqui the same way I do. A weekend at grandma's then a few more days working from my parents house followed. I stayed a week because that's the way the flights were cheapest.
  • Been home since then, and still shopping and organizing like mad. All the boxes are unpacked now, though there's still a pile of empty cardboard in my dining room that hasn't made it to the dumpster yet. The addition of a coffee table in the living room makes it feel like the house is really getting put together. A couple side-tables still need to be purchased, but most of the spending spree is complete. And tomorrow a big day of cleaning lays ahead - time to put away the stuff still sitting around and vacuum/mop/etc. the whole place. It's about time this place got presentable so I can invite over all the new people I've been meeting!

Monday, May 18, 2009

We're MLS Listed!

We're selling our house! Want to buy it? Updated link

No time for a real update, too much to clean and huge deadline at work is looming. I've been working my tail off and still feel like I'm spinning my wheels. Vacation will be much appreciated.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Thoughts on antibiotics, hummus, picanha, and sushi

Since my last update:

  • I got sick. I had a bladder infection. Hurray for pharmacies that let you walk in and buy antibiotics. The pharmacist was even able to give me a shot so I was feeling better within hours.
  • We switched back to day shift. The transition wasn't as rough as I'd feared.
  • My first kindle book completed was 20,000 leagues under the sea. Did you know that refers to distance, not depth? Anyway, it's really rather dry, so I wouldn't recommend it for most people. The book's about 1/3 a cataloging of undersea species, 1/3 nautical history lessons, and 1/3 adventure.
  • One of the Fins showed us a Lebanese restaurant in Tres Lagoas! Why could we not have found out about that 2 months ago?! Hurray for hummus!
  • We went to the churrascaria one last time when Billy had a day off.
  • We went to the Picanha Bar one last time - it was absolutely fantastic that night. Glad Alex could come out and share a bottle of wine with us even if no one else came.
  • Said goodbye to Titina and Aaron. I do so hope we'll see them again! Not sure if it's more likely to happen by visiting their house in Atlanta or running into each other on the road again.
  • We finally left Tres Lagoas. Our maid was so sad to see us leave. (Seriously, she looked like she was going to cry - she's such a sweetie!) I'll miss her too even though we were almost entirely unable to communicate.
  • We had a great dinner at the fancy restaurant in the Sao Paulo airport. I highly recommend hitting them up for the dessert buffet! It's in the steak & sushi place at the far left end of the 2nd floor. Yum!
  • Flew 'home' to Porto Seguro. Yes, we're back in the Brisa da Praia. No we couldn't get our old room - we had to settle for the one next door :P
  • Trying to hit up all our favorite old restaurants is difficult with so few days in town. First night I feasted on sushi at the Japanese place by the ferry. Second night we went out for 'gnocchi on the 29th' at the place we were introduced to it. We had a terrible time finding the restaurant but it was worth it. We'd almost forgotten what it was like to have proper 'service' in a restaurant!

Tonight's our last dinner here. I'm hoping to convince Billy to go out for Italian. But he'll probably want his favorite chicken and catipury pizza one last time.

Tomorrow we leave in the afternoon for Sao Paulo. Our chances of making it are about 50-50. I hear the connect we have to take from Salvador gets canceled a lot (they send you to a hotel if they do). Good thing we don't fly out on Air France until Sunday afternoon!

I've been very busy working - I maxed out at 50 hours last week - in a desperate attempt to stay on track with my big project for oDesk. It's going pretty well (the content is great) but there's just so many pages to write! Apologies for not writing more here because I'm writing so much there...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Time to Get Away

Yes, I have my Kindle. But I'll have to talk about its awesomeness another day.

I think Delta must be hurting for money. I keep getting emails from them (I'm on the newsletter list) with all kinds of crazy deals. And a couple really caught my eye. For example, now until June 15 you can get up to triple medallion qualifying miles just for flying in the higher fair classes. Take a few good long trips, and you'll be at Platinum in no time. These bonus miles only count towards you status level, you can't redeem them for free flights. The other was for up to 50,000 bonus miles for flying round trip to the UK. These bonus miles don't count towards you status level, they can only be used for free flights.

And there's nothing stopping you from taking both deals at once - so we're flying to the UK! We dropped our plans for a big Europe by rail trip in favor of trying to clean up and sell the house. But a 2 week vacation would be awesome. We've got our tickets booked, but no other plans yet.

Even better, we're squeezing some very cool free flights (and more miles) out of Billy's company. Instead of flying Sao Paulo (GRU) to New York (JFK), we flying to London (LHR). It was cheaper, so they don't mind. And that lets us book a round trip LHR-JFK-LHR and then fly home from the vacation Dublin (DUB) to Albany (ALB) (through JFK). The weirdest part is, booking GRU to LHR plus DUB to ALB is cheaper than booking GRU to LHR alone. So we won't have to buy that leg of the journey. Crazy stuff.

The itinerary:

  • May 3 : GRU to LHR (on Air France with a half day layover in Paris)
  • May 4 : Visit with our friend Oz in London for a couple days.
  • May 6 : LHR to JFK (on Delta, business class)
  • May 20 : ALB to HSV (on Delta, but the flight's too cheap for bonus points)
  • Go townhouse-hunting in Huntsville. Hoping to put in an offer on something - I'm still working this week
  • May 26 : HSV to ALB (on Delta, again too cheap for bonus)
  • May 31 : JFK to LHR (on Delta, business class)
  • June 14 : DUB to ALB (on Air France operated by Delta - we may or may not get some bonus points for this leg)

Other than trying to hit up as much of the British Isles as possible in two weeks, we have no set plans for the trip. We'll gladly accept suggestions!

Now all I have to do is complete my giant project work before the end of May. A vacation sounds like a good motivator!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What's the point of going to the club anyway?

I'm not sure how going to a club usually works in the US - I've never been to one - but it's sure an elaborate process here in Brazil!

  1. Stand in line. At about midnight.
  2. Get past bouncer(s) there's usually 1-3 in a cluster at the door.
  3. Go to cashier. She will need your phone number and name, and give you a card to used to track your bill.
  4. Show card to another bouncer at inner entrance. Guys are often frisked at this point.
  5. Hurray, you've made it into the club! Go find your friends.
  6. Know a 'regular' or somehow finaggled your way to the VIP section? You'll now need to get past the section gatekeeper.
  7. Want a drink? Give VIP waitress your drink card and order, or go up to the bar and wait in line to give them to a bartender.
  8. The odds of your card and drink being returned by the same person you gave them to are about 50-50. They may even been given to you by different people.
  9. Repeat previous step every time you want a drink. Generally, there's not any food available. It will be very loud and smokey for the remainder of your stay. The later it gets, the louder the music will be.
  10. Want to leave? Go find and wait in the check-out line!
  11. Give cashier your card and pay up. She will give you back your card.
  12. Take card to the outer set of cashiers (where you checked in). They will confirm you paid in the computer, and then give you the back your card.
  13. Take card to the cluster of bouncers at the door. One of them will scan your card and mark you as having left the building.
  14. Now you can leave. If it's earlier than 4AM, you're obviously completely lame.

Personally, I'm interested in going to a club for one, and only one, reason: to go dancing. I've tried the here club twice so far, and failed in that objective both times.

The first time, the place was packed, but it was 'country night'. So they played techno until the band started (but no one danced), a country band was played for a few hours, and then (I'm told) the DJ came back on and people did dance. I just didn't stick around long enough.

The second time, a more generic band played. Same deal - DJ, Band, DJ. I did stick around long enough (you have to wait until after 2 for the dance party to start)- but the place was dead. It's not very fun to go dancing in a big club that's 3/4 empty. And most of them were just standing around. There were maybe 5-10 people dancing in the whole place. I know that doesn't mean I couldn't dance, but it's just not the same to dance by yourself - maybe if I'd been in a group with those 5-10 other people... but they weren't even in my section. I kinda doubt I'll bother to go again. It's nice to see everybody having a good time, but I hate paying a cover charge just to hang out in a loud, smokey room drinking.

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