Thursday, January 28, 2010

We Made It!

I wrote this yesterday, before we had internet access...

Tuesday has just ended. We have been here a little over 48 hours. Hard to believe! Everything has gone very smoothly. After a nice shabbos with the E Family (and our first time using the new eruv!), longtime dear friend JD took us to the airport at 5:30 in the morning, and with his help getting all four kids there and unloading our baggage was not nearly as hectic as it might have been. It was a tremendous help having a third adult to help with that. On flight #1 to Washington DC, Avi and Raizel pretty much slept for the first half, so D actually READ A BOOK. WOW. When they woke up, Dean was pretty busy with them. Avi was a little fussy here and there, but never anything unmanageable. He just needed lots of distraction. Amirah and Eli happily explored their backpacks and read, colored, and played with stickers. On the second flight, Eli, Raizel, and Avi slept the whole time, so that one was REALLY easy. We got into Savannah, and Dean and the two littles took a rental car home. The two bigs and I grabbed a taxi, spent a lot of time with the driver lost (he did refund the “lost” part of the fare), and finally were reunited with the rest of them. Seems that I knew better where Varn Drive was than he did. Oh, well!

And now the house. It’s perfect. It’s about 125 square feet smaller than our old house (this one is around 1,550 square feet), plus it has no garage. No garage means we lost a lot of storage. On the other hand, it does have a rough attic. Despite that, we and our belongings fit this house like a glove. I can’t believe how everything we have feels like it was meant for this house, and actually works much better in this house than it did in our old house. The one exception is probably our bedroom set, which is really a little too large for the room. The bed and nightstands do fit on one wall, it’s just a tight squeeze. And that’s after we had already decided to give our tall dresser to the boys for their things. The master bathroom is so small, it reminds me of the hotel/hostel bathrooms I had in Guatemala. The floor is about 4’ x 3’, not counting the shower, which has a half-sized opening to get into it! The best part? I’m pretty sure I can clean the entire bathroom in about 5 minutes and my feet won’t even have to move. We’re truly minimalist bathroom people, so it will serve the two of us just fine. The bedroom has two closets, one two doorway widths wide, and the other about half that width but deeper. All of our clothes easily fit into the first closet (and our long wide dresser), so I would love to see if we can add shelves to the second one and use it for educational supplies.

The back bedroom is carpeted and has a couple of windows looking at the back and side yards. We put in a bunk bed for Amirah & Eli, a twin bed for Raizel and a “funny bed” (what the kids call beds on the floor) for Avi. Plus a dresser for girl clothes and some of their toys. The room feels full, but not crowded despite it's average 10' x 12' size. We had debated between a girls room and a boys room versus a kids room and a play room. Then we needed to figure out a place to put the exercise bike, so play room it was. Not sure what we’ll do with my beloved punching bag, though! For half the year, the sun porch would be perfect, but for the hot months, not so perfect. I’m going to buy under-the-bed boxes for all of our bed sheets to put in their room, then the shelves in their closet can mostly be used for games.

The play room is really pretty – rich wood paneling and wood floors. It feels like a room in the cabins we used to rent in the summers. Very nice feeling. We’ll put all their toys in there, plus a wood table for drawing by the window. Right now it’s a bit of a disaster with toys strewn everywhere, but we’ll get it fixed up soon enough. As soon as we find a bunk bed for the boys, we’ll probably turn it into a boys room, but for now this arrangement will be nice.

Now the kitchen. I love what we decided to do in there. There’s one long 8-foot wall, and one long 6-foot wall. Then there’s the wall with the dishwasher/counter, sink, counter and the other wall with counter, stove/oven, pantry. The kitchen is enclosed, with a swinging door like grandma had (in fact much of the house makes me feel like I’m at grandma’s; it was built in the same era). Along the 8-foot wall we took these industrial strength shelves that we had in the garage and filled up the whole wall with those. I can’t tell you how much I LOVE having that. Because the kitchen is private, it can completely serve practicality rather than aesthetics. It looks plain, but not ugly, and all of my dishes and appliances can be located in a second, with all the taller things on top. Many of my canned goods are there too. It’s also neatly divided, with two dairy shelves, two pareve shelves, two meat shelves, and two canned goods shelves. Underneath on the floor are all eight of our grain barrels. Easy access, so no need to keep smaller amounts in smaller containers like we had before when the barrels were all in the garage. The top has just the right amount of space for our larger things, like canning pots, steam juicer, pressure canner, soy milk machine, pickle crock, fruit drier, etc. It looks full but not crowded, and I’m pretty sure we’ve unpacked everything that will go on those shelves.

The only thing really lacking is additional counter space. There are only two small areas, above the dishwasher and between the sink and the stove. The second space is happily taken up with the kitchenaid, cuisinart, and coffee bean roaster, with enough room leftover to mix a bowl or two but that’s about it. The first space is pretty small. We had thought of getting a restaurant-style stainless steel work surface. They’re very inexpensive (1/8th the cost of a typical butcher block style island), and can be purchased locally at a couple of different restaurant supply stores. Even if we only put in a 2-foot wide island, it would make the kitchen awfully crowded. We’re brainstorming ways to create a kind of “murphy table” that could unfold from the shelving somehow. On the other hand, less surface area, less clutter attraction. We’ll see how it goes with what we’ve got. One thing I really love – the enclosed kitchen. I know it’s very anti-trendy to have a kitchen cut off from the rest of the house, but I LOVE it. I can close both doors if I want to. On shabbos, we won’t have to stare at the mess of dishes.

The dining room is a nice size, and we can be flexible with the space and could arrange tables to easily seat 14 (if I wanted to seat more we’d need another table!). It’s carpeted though (I don’t know why with such beautiful hardwood floors beneath it!), so we’re going to buy a large piece of vinyl to put underneath it. Four young kids and carpet just aren’t a good mix. There are three perfect spots for my three favorite pictures so that will be nice, and there’s a perfect wall for the china cabinet. We were also trying to figure out what to do with a few things we stashed out on the sun porch, such as our chest freezer. Then we did a mind meld and came up with a great place for the freezer, or at least we’ll try it out. We’ll put it in a corner of the living room, make a nice fabric apron for it, and make a tablecloth cover for it in a complementary color that can easily be removed to open the freezer. Then we’ll use it for our shabbat candles, flowers, and sideboard (our table is only three feet wide, so this would be very handy!). I think it will work fine. We’ll move it in tomorrow and see how it looks. [NOTE: It looks fine!]

The living room is just right, and SO much easier to arrange this square space than our old long, rectangular space. Our bookshelves, chairs, and couches just fit just right. Then there’s a little nook near the front door that we’ve turned into a mini office space. More out-of-the-box thinking here. Our old computer desk was a junker so we got rid of it. Dean took another shelf (like what we put in the kitchen). Each section is three feet tall. He used the top board to hold the computer at eye level, and another board to hold the keyboard and mouse at the right level. Surprisingly, it’s incredibly comfortable, and basically free since we had a leftover shelf. I think I’ll make a skirt for this too, then some type of covering for the computer so it too can disappear on shabbos. Eventually, we’d love to make a recessed nook in the wall that the computer sits in, then we just close it up when we’re not using it. We could even use the same shelf we’re using now for the keyboard/mouse, and when the computer was closed up in its nook, it would just look like a side table sitting there. The last part of the living room is another nook that I think is just the right size for our learning table and chairs. I had thought we would just go back to using the kitchen table instead, but I think this will work really well. One last thing about the living room – there are these odd brick planters filled with sand (“Yahoo!!” says Avi). They’re there as room dividers (entry way/living room/dining room). I’m trying to think of some useful purpose for them. Some kind of stacking cubes to put on top for storage, or – bookcases?!? Ikea-style? I’ll have to think about it some more. Bookcases (or cupboards) might be just right. I saw a picture in a magazine once where someone used bookcases to set off the entryway, then on the back of the bookcases by the entry way they put coat hooks. I’ll have to look into that one some more...

And finally, the yards. The back yard is great. Lots of sun for future gardening projects. Lots of space for pet ducks (muscovy, please!). It’s easily 8x bigger than our old yard. The kids are deliriously happy with that. It needs a little fencing so Avi doesn’t wander into the front. [NOTE: Done!] The yard is flat and firm (tough grass), so they can ride bikes all over it. There’s a great big oak tree that will hold a couple of swings before long, no doubt. Nothing much in the way of landscaping, but it’s nice and neat. Ditto for the front. We're imagining our vegetable garden beds in one corner of the yard by the house...

We are very, very pleased with the house. I really hope our other house sells soon (well, first gets the repairs done and gets cleaned up!), and then we can make an offer on this place. I would be very happy to call this place home, and I would really hate to have to move again. The owner is very hopeful we will want to buy it too. It would work out well for all of us, it seems. On first glance, there are only very minor aesthetic changes I would make, like remove the bathroom wallpaper and paint it instead. Put in a stainless steel sink. Remove the (treif) microwave and put in a different one. See if we could switch out the stove for one with gas burners. And remove all the carpets and have the wood floors instead.

What do I think of Savannah? Well... I haven’t seen much beyond our house and the grocery store, but I’ll get out and about soon enough. I love the spring-like winter weather. I love the air here. I love the friendliness, and relaxed pace of everyone we have met. The community has delivered meals to us each night, which has been a huge help. I have a feeling I will really, really love living here. Though honestly, I’d be happy nearly anywhere the six of us are all together. I am awfully glad we ended up here instead of in Pittsburgh or Cleveland. I would have been happy there too (happiness is utterly portable), but I think I’ll REALLY love being here! And I’m really looking forward to being so much closer to shul. Our former castle-on-the-hill was getting way too old. I’ll get lots of pictures soon, especially once the house is put together.

One other note - I'm getting lots of lovely e-mails from friends and family, but for some reason I can receive e-mail but not send it out. Please forgive me if I haven't answered an e-mail (especially from MH - congrats on the referral! And JY - congrats on the birth!). I'll have to have my e-mail on one side and facebook on the other and send messages that way, I guess. Gevalt. Should be fixed soon at any rate. We had a similar problem with our long distance service - we could receive calls but not make them. WEIRD! At least the latter is fixed now.

Good night (morning?)!

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