Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Nine Things I Would Do Differently When I Build This House Again

     After living in our Ryan Homes Ravenna for a year and a half now, I am ready to build the same house again. If the sales staff thought we were the 'non-standard request' people then, they would surely know it after this time. There are so many things we did right, and I can't tell you how much all the research, planning, hard work and spreadsheets have led to us being thrilled with our house and our choices. Having said that, we have now had time to get to know the house. When you get to know your house and how it works for your family you realize what tweaks would make it perfect for you.

     We had to push for some of our requests. Some requests took a lot of work by our PM, in the research phases. Some requests were simply refused. We do not regret a single change we made to what they offered. There are a few more changes I would request.

     Upstairs, I would move the laundry to the big hall closet between the bedrooms. It could hold the machines side by side, there could still be a shelf and rod above them, and the space in the hallway is actually wider than the space remaining after the machines are in the laundry room, so there would be plenty of room to load the machines. I am certain there is plenty of room to run pipes because in between that closet and the bedroom closets is a good two feet of space.

     The space which is now laundry room could become more bathroom/closet space. I would extend the vanity all the way to the end of the wall with the window. The two sinks could be further apart with plenty of counter space. And room for more drawers! I would extend the small bathtub they put in this model. The Avalon has a more suitable tub. Although, I would not want it in a giant tub deck like the Avalon. I do enjoy the practical way we can get in/out of the tub without a huge deck around it. I would love to have a larger whirlpool tub instead. The shower could be little larger to include a seat. The Closet would become just a little larger, as well.

     The mud room, as Ryan Homes calls it, is non-existent. Even in my mud-room loving mind, I can not call this a mud room. It's a tiny space with, count them, four doorways in it. There is not enough wall space to do pretty much anything unless you live in this giant house with just one other person.  I would rip out the coat closet and have actual mud room space. I think it would be better utilized this way.

     And the office? I would make it into a butler's pantry. Built ins all around the walls to house every baking tray, sheet, pan, silpat mat, fondue equipment, crock pots, roaster ovens, George Foreman grill, blender, juicer, coffee maker, etc. you can imagine. It could hold the extra refrigerator and freezer, and house the housecleaning supplies - especially all the stuff for the central vac. The perfect place to put the hoses and attachments still eludes me. (But what a beautiful dilemma to have!) I can imagine hooks full of potholders and aprons. Shelves full of glistening appliances, extra gallons of milk, ALL the housekeeping stuff all in one place, neat and organized.

     Of course, my husband still needs an office. He does work from home, after all. But in this house there is plenty of space for his office. We'll put it somewhere else. Maybe upstairs? One of the bedrooms  could easily serve as an office. And if we used the bonus room there could be (maybe) enough bookshelves installed to hold all the books.  Or we could build the morning room next time, but ask them to wall it off like a study.  Or, better yet, we could use the morning room as a dining room and use the dining room as a big office. It would require the simple installation of two doors and it would be lovely. Even my beautiful little front room would make a nice office if it was closed off. Especially if someone who worked out of their home had their own business and clients who dropped by. Not the case for us, so being near the main entry might not be the best idea for us. Still, it could work.

     The french doors we paid for instead of the sliding door? They aren't really french doors. I wish I had known this when we were in the planning stages. I would have made sure they were. Only one door actually works. The other is stationary and it can not be changed without buying a new set of doors. If they would offer only one real door I would have preferred to have more windows in the wall instead of a fake door panel next to the door. I find it odd. I would make some kind of adjustment to this.

     I would take the three car garage. What was I thinking?  It could have served as the 'shed' without being separate, without needing to submit plans to the HOA design committee for approval. And it would be way more secure than a shed. Plus, where in the world would we put a shed?  Do they make sheds for slopes? It is funny in a sad way that I did not consider this when we were planning. Why didn't anyone shake me and tell me I needed this extra space?

     I would ask for even more driveway. Ours is short enough that we need extra width. The third car width garage would help a lot with this. But with a Ryan, you still need to extend the driveaway area to the outside of the garage instead of where they end it, which is at the garage door opening. This is especially true if you need to open all the doors and load/unload things.  

     I would ask for a custom front porch. As it is I could not get both the elevation and the porch I wanted, and my compulsive need for things to be centered and balanced took over the decision making when it came to elevations. I simply could not abide having two, differently sized, off-center gables on my house. The horror! Could you imagine!? I think I would have become an insomniac, because there is no way I could have slept in such a house. The porch had to go. Building it today I would have asked for the porch of my dreams and told them how I wanted it. With the elevation and stone we have now.

     I would ask the basement bath to be extended all the way to the outer wall. I can not figure out whey they squeezed a small full bath into that tiny space instead of going the extra few feet and making it as spacious and grand as it could be. It is another thing I just did not think of because I didn't see it first. The model homes have a half bath in the basement, and it is plenty roomy. When you squeeze a tub/shower combo in there, it is game changing. There should always be room enough to both sing and dance in a bathroom. Don't you agree?

  *To read more about our Ryan Homes Ravenna click the "Our House" button at the top of the page.  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Update: What I Have Been Thinking Lately. Because Doing is Hard

     While I realize this is possibly both useless and senseless, here is a little update into my life:

  • I still have tens of unfinished projects going on. Bed, bookcase, dressers, etc.
  • I have spent an inordinate amount of time looking at different fondue on Pinterest lately.
  • I am possibly fondue obsessed, having been to the Melting Pot three times in five weeks.
  • I am, as of late, unsettled. It's like my axis has been mis-tilted. I have no idea why. Yet.
  • I feel a deep need to purge.
  • And shop.
  • I am lazy enough that all the purging and shopping is on indefinite hold. 
  • Just like the unfinished projects! It's a pattern...
  • I have to stop myself from beginning new projects on a nearly daily basis.
  • My husband has begun saying "Remember, my bookshelves come first." 
  • The bookshelves are in his office.
  • I've started thinking his office would make an EXCELLENT, giant butlers pantry.
  • Shhhh... don't tell him.
  • Because he works from home. He might take it wrong and find it offensive. 
  • But another fridge could even go in there and hello? How awesome would that be? 
  • Maybe the built in bookshelves could be for small appliances?
  • And then the coat closet turned appliance garage could be a coat closet again?
  • Or something EVEN BETTER?
  • What do you think?
  • Do you know how I can ban my husband from reading/commenting on this post?
  • Not that I would ever do that. 
  • This is pretty much my exact stream of consciousness.
  • You're welcome, world.

Friday, July 19, 2013

This is Why I Always Listen to My Gut

     Since my husband is taking a couple weeks off work right now we have been gallivanting around doing some of our favorite things. So, mostly eating. Yesterday we spent the day at Barnes & Noble, where I read half of the new David Sedaris book. I did not get to the diabetic Owls yet. No spoilers, please.

     First, though, we went to Outback Steakhouse. We shared an obscene blue cheese wedge salad. Those are amazing, and honestly, it was the happiest part of my meal. While we were noshing on bread, my husband got this:
     A mini milkshake,chocolate. Guess what? It is the best chocolate milkshake either of us has ever tasted! I'm not a milkshake fan because they always give me an upset stomach. But this was beyond amazing. It's made with Bluebell ice cream, which is, I suspect, also the reason it did not upset my stomach. Lots of places make milkshakes with something other than ice cream. If you want to taste the be-all end-all of chocolate milkshakes get thee to an Outback Steakhouse this summer!

     They are small, and I actually asked them to bring a second one. My husband loooooves milkshakes! After we ate, our server and the manager were talking with us about the banana pudding milkshake so we tried it, too. Oh my gosh! It tastes exactly like the whole banana pudding with vanilla wafers dessert!  Eventually, our table looked like this:

And then I ate the vanilla wafer.     
Don't be sad. This little army lives on in our hearts and minds forever. 

     We headed across the street to Barnes & Noble. I grabbed the new D. Sedaris book and found a seat. Not the soft comfy seat I used to be able to find at a Barnes & Noble, sadly. I sat in a hard wooden chair for an hour or two, then headed down to the cafe. Now, this B&N cafe has turned into a bizarre bazaar. There's just nothing like it anywhere else in my world. Yesterday the thing I could not stop obsessing about was this. As you can see, I felt it was billboard worthy:

     Oh yes she did! She took off her shoes and put her feet up on a chair in the cafe. As if to say: "Oh, nothing, just lounging around with my feet up doing paperwork." The truth is I felt a little angry because it is what I wanted to be doing all along, but did not let myself. You remember when you were a kid and your friend would do something and get away with it, for like an hour? And then you did it? And after .39 of a second your parents would be all over it? Yeah. That's how this made me feel. 

     Finally we left, and my senses told me that there is no fairness in the world. It was hot, and muggy, and we still had kids at home. To drive places, feed, nag, you know - the whole nine yards. We stopped by the grocery store and got 'a couple of things'. Which loosely translates into a hundred dollars worth of crap. 

     Of course our local store has, no word of a lie, at least ten open self checkouts and two actual cashiers. This is always how it is. So I do self checkout. Everything was going swimmingly until the dang red apples. This may have been partly my fault, because I kept picking up one apple to get the four digit code, and then it would start to weigh the apples as I was putting that apple back in the bag and it would get confused. Finally, as the last item of the transaction, I was able to pull it off! Or so I thought.

      I scanned my coupon, scanned my payment card, pressed 'finish and pay' and I got this blue screen which would beep at me every few seconds telling me help was on the way. Lying blue screen. Help was nowhere around. After a couple of minutes (which felt like an hour, stranded there with no ability to help myself) help arrived. Help told me I had not paid for my gala apples. I told her I had, see? She said I paid for granny smith and macintosh, but no gala. I explained that I only had one bag of red apples and one bag of green. After a thorough inspection of our cart she agreed and fixed the problem. I guess I look exactly like the type of person who will try to scam Giant Eagle out of four red apples. You've been warned.

     We left the store for the heat and humidity. I pulled out the keys and started opening the tailgate as we made our way to the van. Oh! I forgot my receipt. But it's hot. And who needs a grocery receipt, right? So I decided to forget it. Then something nagged at me. I did not know why, but my gut was screaming at me to go back and get it. So I did. Because, and this is the only reason: I learned years ago to always, always, always listen to my gut.  

     I went back into the store. The lady who helped me was standing in front. I told her I forgot my receipt, but now I couldn't remember which lane I was on. I started checking machines for a dangling strip of paper, with no luck. She walked to my machine and simply said:

"You didn't pay."

     Embarrassed, I paid, got my receipt, and left. What would have happened if I decided to go home without the receipt? Would I have ended up on the local police facebook page? The one where they post pictures of people shoplifting and ask you to call if you know who they are? Or would they have just used my frequent shopper card to look up my address and send the police to my house? Or called security when I next scanned my card? 

     The moral of the story is: Listen to your mother. Keep your feet off the furniture and listen to your gut.

*Anyone who knows me well knows I would never steal from the grocery store. I have always said it would take a bank or casino job. My integrity does not go cheap.

P.S. Someone told me she was unable to comment on my blog. If anyone else is having that problem, would you please let me know? Maybe send me an email tammigirl at gmail dot com or tweet @tammigirl  or tell me on facebook? I would really appreciate it.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sleeping Like Babies

Have you ever tried to buy a mattress? Did it make you want to poison people, or am I just watching too much  The Borgias?

I told you about the terrible time we had trying to buy a mattress from Macy's.

I swear to you it was the biggest part of no-fun we have had in our married life. And our history includes surviving The Great Paro (political strike) of 2003 in Venezuela with five kids in the house. Fun times!

I still  contend  shopping for a mattress is even more complicated than car shopping. I can get you a good deal on a car - just call me. But mattresses? Ugh.  The names are different for each store, lots of places have a gimmick with the mattress brands where they do some little thing different for them so they can say nobody else carries one like it, etc. It's the shadiest industry, I swear. The mafia's got nothing on the mattress world. I think this is the true reason why they say "Go to the mattresses" -  they know!

We did so much shopping, deliberation, comparison, had quite a few less than stellar nights of sleep, before we made a decision. I read lots of reviews and paid attention to the reasons people did or did not like the decisions they made.

Finally, I decided to call  GoTo Mattress. I am so glad I did.

We ordered the "Beautyrest Recharge World Class Annapolis Place Luxury Firm Pillow Top Mattress Set" The prices they had beat everything, plus delivery and take away of the old mattress set was included. (Also? No sales tax!)

We have been sleeping like babies for a month now on our new mattress. I'm so happy we stayed with Beautyrest and so happy we decided to buy from GoTo Mattress. I was a little worried about ordering online and not being able to go to the store if we had a problem. Oh, the horror stories people tell when it comes to mattresses! Our experience with GoTo Mattress was great. They even helped me make sure I was getting what I really wanted by researching the mattress I wanted from Macy's and making sure the components matched. There was a very slight difference (It's the mattress game, remember?) but it is wonderful and we can not feel any difference.

This is not something GoTo Mattress asked me to do. They don't even know I am writing this. But gosh, with the trouble we had finding someone we wanted to buy our mattress from I wanted to share the good news about this great company.

You can even go here to try and win a Beautyrest mattress from them by liking them on facebook. They are going to give it away when they get 2,000 likes.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Food Truck Roundup at the Park: Norton, Ohio


Food trucks at the park!

 If you see something which looks like this?  Park your car at once! Get out and explore. Stuff your face. Recruit people to share with so you can taste lots. I wish we had made our boys go with us instead of leaving them home. We brought stuff home to them, but we could have forced our wishes on them and made them share stuff with us. Next time.

For today, I find it necessary to award two blue ribbons: 

Buttermilk fried chicken sandwich, Truk balls, fries, green tomato fried w/crab meat, invisible brisket sandwich
Orange Truk passing out food

The Orange Truk had buttermilk fried chicken sandwiches. They were SO good! Definitely the kind of fried chicken I wish for any time I have fried chicken. I cut the giant piece of chicken and took a portion, leaving my husband with plenty to more than cover the large bun. They also served Truk balls, little fried risotto balls. They are delicious, too.
Orange Truck food truck Northeast Ohio

My other favorite truck was Pig Lickin' Good BBQ. Their brisket sandwiches were fantastic! I've lived in the heart of Texas, and I know good brisket. For me, it's not even so much which region you are from and style you prefer. It's about the meat prepared well. This brisket was as tender as you will find anywhere. Great seasoning on the sandwiches, too. A little kick, but not too much. They added grilled onions and a slice of cheese. Yum! I am going to try to follow this truck and sneak up on it when I can.
Pig Lickin' Good BBQ food truck

Friendly smile from the man with the Q!

This guy Was friendly and had a happy truck/shop vibe.They were having a good time in the truck.
His BBQ melted:
  •  in my mouth  
  •  my heart.

Good food makes me ridiculously happy.