Tuesday, February 19, 2008

February Update

Well folks, the winter is wearing on, and I'm already getting psyched up for the beginnings of spring! For one thing, crazy amount of rain have softened the ground and melted a lot of the snow. Just having things unfrozen and smelling like the earth is invigorating and exciting to me. I've started to see some greenish looking grass and thinking to myself; "has that been green all winter? Is it turning green now? Could spring be coming??" This weekend I went to Home Depot and bought a seed starting kit. I'm planning on having a REAL garden this summer (whoohoo! no more pots!). Yesterday I planted some herbs, tomatoes and peppers in the starter kit. I will take some pics when they sprout. :) Until then, I go over and stare at it even though I know they all take 7-10 days to sprout. I'm excited to say the least! I know it will snow more before it's all over- but looking ahead to warm weather just makes me happy.

Another thing I've been thinking a lot about is how to be thrifty with money. It hit me a few weeks ago while looking at our finances that having a mortgage with significantly more $$$ than our rental makes an impact on the budget. All of a sudden the fun things (like traveling) become harder to do, more planning has to be done beforehand. Saving? Before we leave? What's that? So after freaking out and saying 'holy crap we won't be able to travel my life is oooooover', I decided to figure out how we can be thrifty and save more money to travel and keep fixing up the house. We've been spending tons on groceries lately. Part of this has been because we've been eating out less (a good thing!), but I still think it was beginning to get a little excessive. I love shopping at Hannaford (so quiet, peaceful, the food is good....) so I went online to www.hannaford.com and found out they have their circular online and that I can actually make a shopping list using it and print it out from there. I know some of you probably think this is the most boring thing ever, but I was really psyched up about it. :) Since using the circular and actually looking at prices (what a concept!), I have managed to save us around 30$ a week on groceries. I have had to plan out more than usual, but it's totally worth it! I'll keep you updated if I find other ways that we can save (besides just depriving ourselves of everything fun hahaha).

I'll update you on the quilt making that I'm doing. I have not started sewing it yet because of procrastination. I do have my mom's sewing machine at home all plugged in and ready to go, I just need to finish cutting those darn pieces! Michelle and I are going to try to spur each other on to finish them- hopefully by next update I will say something like "Oh I've sewed half the quilt together!" My goal is to finish by the end of May.

Winter in the Haven household has gone pretty well. I have not been too depressed or anything which is awesome. John took me to Northampton MA this past weekend for Valentine's Day weekend. We stayed at the historic Northampton Hotel in town and walked to some of our favorite spots. First we went to one of my all time favorite bars, The Tunnel Bar. It's this classy, dark, bar in a renovated railway tunnel. There are lots of cushy leather arm chairs and low tables. It's not a 'give me a bud' type of bar to say the least. :) If anyone is ever in Northampton, I highly recommend it! We went and had dinner at the Eastside Grill, also a great establishment. On Saturday we went window shopping in town and then headed over to Amherst to hang out. We went to the ABC for lunch (no beer though), and then read our books at Starbucks across the street (RAO's was too crowded!). I love pretending I'm in college again, it's just great. I think I would retire in Amherst if I could. maybe....

That's all for now folks!

Monday, January 14, 2008

A Year of good change

It has been FOREVER since I've last posted on here. I apologize, I know everyone was checking everyday, just longing to hear about my life. ;)
Since I've last posted, I have been on two trips (Haiti and Alabama), and bought a house! As we speak I am covered with sticky bits of wallpaper left over from me scraping the walls of our bedroom for the past few hours. This has become a pretty normal situation in our house (being covered in wallpaper bits), this is the third room we've done in the past month! We have lots of projects we'd like to do before the warm weather and fun come back, I might even post some pics online!
I've also taken up a new hobby, quilting. I am making my very first quilt and am in the middle of step 1: cutting lots and lots of triangles, rectangles, and squares to turn into patterns. My sister in law, Michelle and I are taking this on together. Her quilt is turquoise and white, and mine is shades of browns. I have a horrible history of never finishing any crafty or artsy project that I start, so this year I am going to try to change that about myself. I'm actually not that bad at quilting so far, so maybe it will be something I can stick with.
I have been really excited about some changes in my spiritual life recently. I've been feeling lathargic about life and my relationship with God for the past year or two and I've recently become motivated to actively seek God out and make changes in how I do things. This sounds very vague I know, but just trust me that it's been a very positive thing for me. The first mindset that I'm working on is living in the present. I tend to look ahead to things and then miss living life right in the here and now. This is especially easy for me in the winter because I really don't enjoy the cold weather and being indoors. I tend to feel depressed about it and just long for the warm, balmy air for 5 months. Changing my mindset to looking for joy and life NOW has been so helpful in keeping my spirits up despite the cold and snow. I highly recommend it! In the past years I've realized that I need to actively work to stay happy and healthy mentally in the winter months. Doing things like exercising, going outside as much as I can, and making sure I have things to work on so I'm not moping around the house is key.
So that is a bit of my life right now, I will try to keep you more informed in 2008!
I am off to go sit on the couch with my husband and watch the C's win another game. :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Good Reads

I love goodreads.com. I thoroughly enjoy keeping track of what books I'm reading or have read. And I've been gaining a list of books I would like to read by checking everyone else's sites. So, if you haven't checked this thang out, you should, especially if you enjoy reading and reviewing books. It makes me all smiley to finish a book and be able to change it on my site to 'read' instead of 'currently reading', then I can pick out a new one! It's the small things in life that make all the difference. :)

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Back to the drawing board

The condo is not going through. Which is almost a relief to us in a way. We were afraid that we were going to run into problems that would make the place hard to sell in the future. So, I feel good about walking away from it and finding a place a little more ready for move in without spending lots of money.
I never realized how emotional the house buying process is. It's crazy! #1 rule, never fall in love with a place, because inevitably, a deal will fall through. I did not fall in love with this last place, but there was a condo we saw a few weeks ago that I really, really like and agonized over. It sold before we could even offer on it and it took me a few days to get over it.
I will keep you posted on how our search #2 goes. :)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

buying a condo

John and I have been looking into buying a condo for the past few months. We picked up our looking more after we got back from California a few weeks ago. It's been really interesting trying to find a place that fits out needs. There are a few basic things that we need. I am a piano teacher as most of you know, and I need to have space for a piano in the place. This is a problem with a lot of standard condos and townhouses that are in most complexes because the living space usually isn't big enough to accomodate a piano teaching area, and a waiting area as well. Also, we need to have guaranteed parking for my students each week so our own driveway would be ideal. These requirements limit us to more 'house like' condos or single family houses in general.
We have been looking at condos and houses in Lowell. Most of them in our price range have been pretty run down, although we've found a few that had potential.
A few days ago I went with Carol (our realtor) to see a condo that turned out to have most all of what we're looking for in a place. It has a lot of living space on the first floor, and even a separate room that could be used as a studio for my piano lessons. It has its own driveway, and a shared backyard. We got all excited, showed our parents, and placed an offer. We negotiated a good price with the owner, and accepted. We just had the place inspected, and to our dismay, it has some serious issues, there is work on the foundation that needs to be done, the chimney needs to be replaced or fixed, there is a problem with the gas line, and a few other things. Basically, these things we would not want to do ourselves because it would be way too costly and it's hard to tell if a few other things are going to need fixing just a few years after we get the place. This puts a serious damper on the resale value unless we put some work into the place. So, John and I need to decide if we walk away, or renegotiate for the owner to fix all the issues before we buy. Ahhhh!
I've decided that being a grown up is overated. :)

I will keep you posted on what we decide, but don't be surprised if you hear about us resuming our search for a home. Decisions, decisions.....

Monday, July 16, 2007

Back from Vacation :)

So John and I got back from the west coast this past Tuesday. We had a few days back to do some laundry, make sure my plants were okay, work a bit... Then, on Friday, we went camping for just a night, followed by a weekend in Amherst at our friends Gary and Elise's wedding. We've had a busy few weeks!
CA was AWESOME. We spent two nights in Santa Monica (just outside of LA). It was a pretty, beachy town, which gave John and I two days on the beach to get ourselves in vacation mode. I love going to the beach, so I thoroughly enjoyed seeing some west coast beach culture for the first time. While in Santa Monica, we visited Hollywood (more entertaining than I thought it would be), Beverly Hills (big, beautiful houses and lots of palm trees!), and downtown LA (not much there). It was neat to just get to see the LA area. We stayed at a Double Tree hotel about 3 blocks from the beach. We were just far enough from the water, that it wasn't wicked expensive.
Next we spent a whole day driving route 1, all the way up the coast to San Francisco. We stopped at a few lovely towns along the way, Santa Barbara being my favorite. Santa Barbara was far enough south to be able to fully enjoy the beach and water, and it was beautiful! Quaint little hotels, beautiful, tall palm trees, mountains in the distance, the beach... It was very pretty! John and I said that we would want to vacation there if it wasn't so freaking expensive to fly to CA. :) After beautiful Santa Barbara, we still had a LONG way to go. All in all, it took us 12 hours to make it to our hotel (doorstep to doorstep, including our stops). We passed through mountains, valleys, lots of farmland, beaches, winding roads on cliffs, forests, traffic, everything! I was glad that I made the trip, getting to see how diverse God has made our creation was a sight to see! I took tons of pictures on the trip of the scenery. I became pretty good at timing pictures in the car after awhile, although I still had lots of shots of bushes and road signs where the timing was a little off. :)
Once in San Francisco, the weather was much different. 60's. cloudy. I ended up wearing all my long sleeve shirts all the time while we were there because I didn't pack enough (even though Marie gave me lots of warnings!). We did TONS while we were there!
-Ride in a cable car
-Go to the Pier touristy area
-Ride bikes over the golden gate bridge!!!!!! I have to write about this one because it was one of my favorite things that we did the whole trip. The bridge was in a huge cloud of fog, but we went over anyway. :) It was a blast and I highly recommend it to anyone going to be in San Francisco looking around. After we went across the bridge, we biked down to a town called Saulselito, a cute, bay town that has pretty water views, and quaint restaurants and art shops. We had lunch there, and then took a ferry with our bikes back to San Francisco. It was a really fun day!
-See Union sqaure
-Go to Chinatown
-See the Japanese Tea Gardens
-See Little Italy
-See the 'Painted ladies'. I liked doing this a lot too. The painted ladies are those pretty houses you see at the beginning of the show "full house". A great view of downtown SF is in the background, and you'll love the houses if you like victorian architecture. We took some good pics of them, it was sunny when we stopped by!
We took two day trips as well. The first was to Napa valley- wine country! We toured the V. Sattui winery, tasted some of there wines, and had a picnic lunch of bread/cheese and grapes there. It was fabulous! I loved it! The tour was neat because there were only a few people on it so it was very personal and I learned a lot about wine. :)
Our last day there, we went to the Monteray Bay Aquarium in Monteray.

Oh, and I need to tell you about our hotel because it was fabulous. We stayed at the Golden Gate Hotel (www.goldengatehotel.com). It's a little place in the Nob Hill neighborhood of SF with a slight victorian style. There are 20-something rooms in the place, and you get a wonderful breakfast each morning of coffee/oj and really good croissants. I was in heaven hehe. The rooms were quaint and homey, you didn't feel like you were in a city! Also, just to make things even beter, there was pip, that cat, who owned the place and was really cute. :)

We had quite a full week! It was fun, and relaxing to be away. Now that I've told you about what we did and saw, I'll have to talk to you later about my running thoughts on life currently. I'll have to save that for another post, however.

Monday, July 2, 2007

vacation time

So, we're leaving tomorrow for LA for a week-long stay in California. We'll be staying over the fourth of July in Santa Monica, then driving up the coast to San Francisco to see the sights. I am really excited about this trip for a few reasons; the first one being new sights and places. When I am in a different part of the country or world, I tend to people-watch a lot more than if I was just in Massachusetts. The scenery all of a sudden stands out more, the architecture is more noticeable, and so are the people. I really enjoy seeing how people live in other places. It just stands out to me so much, how creative God is when I see people living lives in so many different ways. He made us all different, he made us creative in His own image, which in turn allows us to have different ways to live, think, and design our lives. I just smile when I think about all the variety we have on earth, and it's just so humbling to realize you are quite a little nothing compared to the vastness of our world. Helps a lot with my prideful "I am the center of the world" ideas that unconsciously creep into my thoughts with each step I take. I believe that if you allow God to take your mind away from yourself and focus it on the world, it has the power to seriously open your eyes to His thoughts and desires for not only yourself, but for others. So, vacation tends to have that effect on me.
I really try to use traveling time as reflective time for myself, not only for John and I and our relationship, but for my own thoughts, actions and general life choices as well. When we go away, I can take a step back and think about my life much more easily than if I was in the muck of it. I like to keep a journal, hopefully I'll be good about it this time. I'm thinking about doing a daily post of our journey, so MAYBE you'll get to ready a little bit as we go.
I think everyone should experience the stress-reducing power of getting away. Whether it's going somewhere fun for the day, or a week, it's can be such a rejuvinating time (at least for me). It's also just exciting and fun!!!! :)
Okay, time to pack.