Sunday, August 21, 2011

Yum

These pictures tell you exactly how yummy my chocolate chip cookies are. And just how sad you are that you haven't moved to Balitmore yet so you could have some, too.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I haven't forgotten my blog


Here. Have a picture. Good bloggie.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Why we love Baltimore

This post is eternally long. But if you care, you'll read it, and if you don't, oh well!

When we got to our new house, it was partially furnished. This was both great and terrible. Great because when we had to live here for 6 days without our stuff, we at least had something to sit on and a few dishes to eat off of. Terrible because the owners (and previous occupants) had two large dogs which had shed all over the area rug, all the upstairs carpeting and all the furniture. And I am allergic to dogs. Additionally, the furnishings included chairs that looked like this:

That's right, get a good look at that fabric.


Yikes.

Well, it's taken until now to get rid of most of the furnishings that we didn't need (the landlord just picked up the two ugly chairs), so it's looking a little less crowded and a little easier on the eyes now that all we have in here is furniture that we want/need. So far they have removed:

dishes, cups, pots and pans, cookie sheets, a crock pot, a rice cooker, silverware, a sideboard, a bizarre two-tiered round table of some sort, a vaccuum, a very large and dog hair-covered area rug, and two ugly lamps.

The front room used to look like this (sorry for the junky cell phone picture):

Blech.

So I decided I'd celebrate by taking a couple pictures, which I know at least some of you have been dying to see.

Dining Room
You can't really tell in this picture, but the walls are a light blue, which is sort of a nice change from white, though blue wouldn't have been my first choice. And yes, the chairs all all mix-matched. The house was furnished with 4 dining chairs, including the two very tall ones and two like the one that Bennett's high chair is on. All have woven seats and are particularly uncomfortable. Since I took this picture, we have gotten two more chairs like the one that's second from the left. Thank you craigslist. We are hoping to get another set of 3 from craigslist for cheap (sets of 3 don't sell for much) and then either paint or stain them all to match each other. And we'll get rid of the original 4. Also, yes, that very small thing on the wall that's almost next to the ceiling is the only light in this room. Hence the floor lamp in the corner. Anyway, moving on.


The kitchen
(fridge is to the left of this picture) Yep, that's all our counter space. It is a little inconvenient, but I'm going to get some burner covers for the stove so I have a little more space for prep. Other than the lack of counter space, this may sound weird, but I LOVE having a small kitchen. We got rid of so many excess utensils and appliances because we knew we'd be short on space and now what we have left is all we really need. Plus, everything is really close by when you need it. Don't mind all the stuff out on the counters, either. I am in the middle of cleaning EVERYTHING in our kitchen, because we have had a MAJOR ant problem since we moved in (exterminator comes Tuesday- please pray for us that it works! In the meantime, pluses are I'm learning a lot about ants, and also, our kitchen gets completely cleaned like 6 times a day, so it is super clean.)


As you walk in
Stairs on your left, and our computer, which I actually love having in the front room, as opposed to having an "office." Makes skyping so much easier (Bennett can still play while we all chat) and even if Justin or I have to do something on the computer, we can still be in the same room as the other person.


The front room from the front door

You can get a good idea of how this room is laid out by connecting the piano in this picture with the picture above. That couch is another part of the furnished apartment. We agreed to get new couches when we moved, so as soon as we can settle on a pair, that baby's OUT OF HERE. And thank heavens, because it's also not my fave. The TV and the thing that runs across the wall (what would you call it?) are permanent fixtures. They're not my favorite either, but it did save us from having to buy our own TV right now, and I can live with that across-the-wall thing.


Other strange quirks about this house. You may have noticed some interesting color schemes. The stairs have blue carpet, but orange and greenish paint work. The closet door is green and yellow, and the walls are yellow and blue. The front door (on the inside) is also blue, and the windowsills are gray, along with the radiators. The dining room walls are blue and the kitchen has a very strange wallpaper. We have major big time ant problems, and instead of spiders, we have crickets (it's ok, think Jimminy Cricket and you won't be scared!).

But the pitfalls of this place are no match for the benefits. We have a huge courtyard out front in a city where hardly anyone even has a yard. Also this courtyard is professionally maintained, so no yardwork!


-We have a designated parking space (ahhh the luxury, I know! But most people in the city, again, don't.)
-We have 1 1/2 baths!
-It's a clean house.
-We have a washer and dryer in our house.
-It's just the right size for what we need.
-The rooms are enormous (really, our bedroom is as big as the whole front room! It's awesome)
-Our neighbors couldn't be more friendly, and since these townhomes are all owned, not rented, everyone really knows each other here.
-We are in Roland Park, and this part of town is filled with green space, huge & beautiful single-family homes (many Johns Hopkins professors live here), and there are walking paths built in through the forest all through Roland Park.
-The library is literally 2 blocks away.
-We live right across the street from a shopping plaza that has a farmers market every tuesday night (the plaza also has offices and our new pediatrician is there too).
-Since we are on the far end of the complex from the road, it is SO quiet- we haven't heard anything from the outside besides soothing nature sounds (for real!)
-Our walls are (get this!) a FOOT thick of plaster and brick. We don't hear ANYTHING from the neighbors. Such a change from Logan.
-The storage space is amazing. I'll have to take a good picture of my closet soon, but for now, I can show you this:

This is from before we moved in. You can see about half of the clothes rod, and look at all that shelving. It's amazing. And I don't even have to share, because Justin has his own closet. Yep, two closets in our room!
-The landlords are fantastic. We've had this ant problem right? Well, they told us to keep track of how much we spend on supplies trying to get rid of the ants til the exterminator comes so they can reimburse us. The third day we were here, they bought us a brand hew 10,000 btu window unit to replace the 6,000 btu one they had in the front room just to "make sure we were comfortable." The 6000 one was working just fine! It is just such a change from our previous landlords who were trying to put forth the least amount of effort they could and still get people to rent from them. Not to mention trying to nickel and dime you for every little thing (example: our cleaning list for check out was a page long, single spaced. It went so far as to tell us specialty cleaning chemicals from a local cleaning store that we should purchase to get the house clean enough. Every black mark on the walls/in the closests/anywhere else in the house must be removed entirely. It took 10 people 7 hours to clean the apartment, and it's not like we are filthy people. RIDICULOUS.). Anyway, needless to say, I'm grateful for attentive landlords. They've even offered to let us plant a garden at their house next year.

Well, as you can see, I could go on and on. We really love it here. REALLY love it. I love the variety of people and backgrounds. I love that Bennett gets so much attention for being the only kid in a sea of (mostly) adults. I love that it's still easy to find kids to play with, even when there aren't tons of them. I love that it is green here! I love the thunder storms. I love the ward. I love that we're 15 minutes from downtown, and aquarium, multiple science museums, and beautiful old architecture. I love that we're 30 minutes from the airport. I love that I'm only 6 hours (driving) from my family, who I've spent 7 years away from. I love that the Church is foreign to most people here, and that I can share bits and pieces about the Gospel with others all the time.

One final word on why I love it here. Most people know that I am not a huge fan of Utah. But most people don't really know the main reason. There are several, but the main one is this.

When I first moved to Utah 7 years ago, one of the very first things I noticed was the air of competition. At first, I thought, eh, we're all college freshman, of course all the girls are competing for the same boys, so everyone's going to try to have the biggest, the best, the fanciest name brands, the best hobbies, the prettiest hair, etc. I got lucky (ok, blessed) with 5 great roommates who never really cared about any of that (and were all at the same time beautiful in every possible way), and that's probably the only thing that kept me sane as time wore on.

Months went by, and then years went by, and I noticed nothing changed. Even as people got married, the competitive feeling was still there. It wasn't for years that I finally realized that the competition didn't stem from trying to get the cutest boy, but that it stemmed from the fact that because so many of us were LDS, from similar backgrounds, with similar interests and life goals, with similar ideas about the "right" way to live, we were all just too... similar. Especially since the wards are so small that basically everyone you know (since your neighbors are also your ward members)- are in the same basic socio-economic status. In order to stand out or be different, you had to have something better- better clothes, better taste, better home decor, better vacations, a better wedding, a better blog, better pant size, a better birthday party for your kids.... you can fill in the blanks.

Maybe I'm the only one who ever noticed this, but it drove me absolutely crazy. It was completely different from where I was brought up. I had never experienced so much comparison! And it was a little rough on my self-esteem, I'm not going to lie. It made a lot of people seem so superficial, and sadly, the majority of the relationships I had with people in Utah were just that- so superficial. There were very few people who I actually had genuine friendships with. Who didn't care if I had makeup on and who wouldn't judge me (not even just in their head) if I had gained 5 pounds or looked terrible pregnant (I did-- also not great in a land of ever-pregnant young women who look great pregnant and snap back to a size 2 just minutes after giving birth).

Now listen, in my head, I know none of that stuff matters. And I know it's pride if it's looking down on people, or looking up at people and down on yourself. So obviously, that's a problem from my end. But I can't help but put some stock in what I felt in Utah when I had never experienced it before moving there and also felt it instantly melt away upon leaving.

Now obviously, I'm generalizing here. There are plenty of people who are from/currently live in Utah and are perfectly wonderful and sincere and caring. So if you're reading this and you're from/currently live in Utah, please don't feel like I've lumped you in a category of "shallow people from Utah" just because Utah is where I knew you. If you're reading this, you're probably one of the few people that made my Utah years enjoyable! And congratulations to you if you can live in Utah and not feel the pressure to be bigger and better. You are doing better than I did there! I can just say without an ounce of lying that since we have moved here, not once have I checked my hair in a window before going into the grocery store. Not once have I worried about whether I should be late to something just so I could throw some mascara on. Not once have I gotten together with someone and then thought afterward how they had cuter clothes than I did. And not once has someone looked at me with "that look" that says they're sizing me up, or made a comment that made their comparison of themselves to me crystal clear. Not once. I feel so much more comfortable being just plain me here. No expensive clothes, no fancy car (and yes, we only have one car), renting a house (heaven forbid!), one child (and no we're not trying, thanks for asking!). And loads of friends already. And our neighbors brought us cookies and a fruit basket and ice custard when we moved in and told us where are all the good grocery stores are. All with no hope of being known as the most generous person in the ward. And that, my friends, is just another reason why I am a true east coaster at heart and why we are LOVING Baltimore.