We Have an Apartment!

Matt & I have our new apartment all lined up! We move in June 16th; it’s at Sutton Club, which is very nice. There’s a pool, and great big decks, and a HUGE living room. Definitely a move up. My current apartment is 600 square feet, which isn’t bad for just me, but isn’t really big enough for two computer geeks. The new apartment is a 2 bedroom, and is 1,100 square feet, which my mom tells me is larger than my parent’s first house by about 60 square feet. Plus it has 1 3/4 bathrooms (the master bath has a shower stall, but no tub), so we won’t be fighting for bathroom space or time.

One of the big things for me, though, is that it has a DINING ROOM! Some of the houses we were looking at before didn’t even have a dining room. I would love actually having a table to have dinner at, instead of just pulling out the TV trays and eating at the couch. Yes, I have a bar in my apartment, but it always manages to be completely covered in stuff that has no better home. Imagine that.

It’s also a 3rd floor apartment, which is both good and bad. Bad, in that it will suck hauling furniture up the steps. But good in that we won’t have upstairs neighbors stomping around, and we won’t have to keep the bedroom window shut in the middle of the sweltering hot summer because the sprinkler is aimed RIGHT at it. We can leave the windows cracked open, and not have to worry about someone breaking in while we’re gone. I can’t wait! Less than a month until move-in…

Slowly Coming Together

Just 5 months and 2 days until the wedding. As far as plans go, I think we have most of the big things down. The church is booked, the reception hall is booked, the DJ is booked, the florist is booked, the cake lady is booked, and the dress is purchased. The last of the big things, the photographer, is almost booked. I went from being unable to find ANY photographer, to having 2 possible options.

Option #1 is Classic Photography by Kim Knauf, who came recommended by the wedding coordinator at the reception hall. I’ve looked at her sample photos on her website, and I like her style. She does proof CD’s, which I like; I anticipate putting up a copy of all the pictures on my gallery, once we get them. The only problem is, the package we would likely do, including the proof CD, would be about $2,200, which is a bit more than I was hoping to spend. And she would need $950 as a retainer to reserve the day, and I don’t keep that kind of cash just lying around.

Option #2 is Bosman Photography – his card showed up on Matt’s desk at home, so we’re not entirely sure who put it there. I’ve looked at the sample photos he has on his website, and his style isn’t bad, but I think I prefer the look of some of the photos from Classic Photography. His prices are much more reasonable, though; the package we would likely do would be between $1,400 and $1,650, depending on which proof CD or DVD we would get. I’m not sure what he requires for a deposit, either.

So therein lies my dilemma; I think I prefer the look of Classic Photography, but I’m not sure I’m willing to pay her rates. I am willing to pay the rates of Bosman Photography, but I’m not totally in love with his samples. What to do?

Slightly Tardy Update

Normally our social life is not terribly busy. Outside of the weekly gathering of our friends, and one or two nights a week at my Matt’s sister’s house, we don’t do too much. Last weekend was the freakish exception. It seems that everyone was conspiring to keep us as busy as possible last weekend. It started on Saturday – at 6pm, my grandmother was getting an award at the VFW hall in Sheridan. So, I requested to be out by 4pm, so I could change into something nicer and drive the 50 miles over to Sheridan. As it turns out, my friend Tim was also throwing a party that night, to celebrate his new job. So after the award dinner in Sheridan, we drove straight to Tim’s house in Byron Center. We arrived just as a game of poker was starting; it was for money, though, and I’m not good enough at poker to play for money, so we sat out. After an hour or two at the party, we headed back to the apartment, as I had to work Sunday morning, and Matt had church. Sunday afternoon, after church, Matt’s cousin had her college graduation open house in Holland. I didn’t go, as I was still working. 5pm on Sunday, a large-ish group of our friends met up at Logan’s Steakhouse, to celebrate Jesse & Jackie’s visit with Ian. After Logan’s, it was back to Tim’s place for the traditional Burning Party. At the Burning Party, I got some excellent pictures of the sunset, and was generally having fun with white balance on my digital camera. So there you have it; my weekend.

Stories from Easter

So I realized it’s been nearly a week, and I haven’t mentioned Easter at all! Since I just finished editing the Easter gallery, I figure it’s just about time. Last Saturday night, Matt & I drove up to Traverse City after I got out of work at 8. On the drive up, it was very snowy – once we exited 131 at Cadillac, there were quite a few patches where I couldn’t see the lines on the road at all. They said it was actually colder on Easter than it was on Christmas, and I can believe it. When we got to my parents’ place, I was actually wishing I’d worn boots instead of sneakers – there was a LOT of snow. On Easter morning, Matt & I were entrusted with hiding the Easter eggs for Laurel & Kial (my niece & nephew). Since there was snow outside, that meant the Easter Egg Hunt was indoors, which meant we had to be devious.

I think Matt was maybe a bit TOO devious – he hid one of the eggs in the sub woofer for Dad’s computer. Of course, I was no better, stashing plastic eggs in with Mom’s basket of wooden eggs. After opening baskets at their place, Nikki, Mark, Kial & Laurel headed over for Easter at Mom & Dad’s. At first Laurel didn’t seem to recognize me – it had been since Christmas since she’d seen me last, and she’s not quite 2 yet. She didn’t seem to recognize Matt, but he had shaggy hair & a beard at Christmas. Of course, it didn’t take her long to recognize me – at Christmas I would lift her under her arms and make like I was going to toss her, and she would shriek and giggle and come back for more. I only had to do that maybe once, and she seemed to remember me. Every time I set her down, she would come running back to me, stomp her little feet, put her arms up and say either “Up!” or “Whooshy!” She did that at Christmas too, but it was more of a “Slave! My feet have TOUCHED THE GROUND! Pick me up!”

So after having tossed her a few times, I had a new permanent shadow. It was especially fun when I pulled out my DS Lite with Sudoku. Apparently Laurel is starting to learn some of her numbers, and the DS has a TOUCH SCREEN, which she discovered made noises and did things when you touched it. So after attempting to actually play for about 30 seconds with a 2 year old in my lap “helping” me play, I gave up and we turned it into a game. “Which one is the 6, Laurel?” “Good Job! You hit the 6!” She was actually pretty good with it, when she wasn’t trying to yank it out of my hands so she could hold it herself. I’m not crazy enough to let a toddler hold my DS Lite.

All in all, I was shocked at how long she lasted without a nap – Nikki said she got up at 6 or 7 am, and we tried to put her down for a nap around 1 or so, and she was having none of that. We could tell she was starting to get cranky, though – she got a diaper change around 4pm, and left the bedroom running full tilt, slipped on the tile and landed hard. All we could hear was “BANG!” followed by wailing. That’s how you can tell she’s cranky; Nikki doesn’t make a big deal out of it when Laurel falls and bumps herself, so she doesn’t learn to start wailing at the littlest thing. Unless she’s tired.

Nikki picked her up, and then passed her off to Mark, who then passed her off to me. Apparently she wanted me, because she stopped screaming as soon as I took her. It was at that point that we started commenting on the fact that she had gone quite a while without a nap, and like that, she nodded off in my lap. At that point, everyone started heading home, and Matt & I started packing to head back to Grand Rapids. The drive down was much better than the drive up; the weather was much nicer, and for whatever reason the drive down always seems faster than the drive up.

Which brings us to Saturday. Mom called Saturday afternoon; apparently she got their photos from Easter developed, and was going through them with Laurel. Mom always plays the “Who is This?” game with Laurel, pointing out people in pictures and waiting for Laurel to identify them. She’s actually pretty good at that game; she can point out quite a few friends and family that she sees regularly. I know Mom & Nikki were trying to get her to say “Aunt Carrie” but it always seemed to come out as “Ah Kah,” which is pretty close I guess. So when Mom got to a picture with me in it, she turned to Laurel and asked who was in the picture, seeing if she would say “Aunt Carrie.” At which point Laurel pointed to me, and said “Whooshy.” That’s right, I exist to toss her in air.

Link to Gallery

Doubletalk & Other Frustrations

I’m still working on wedding plans, and I just about have everything pinned down. We have the church, the reception hall, the DJ, the florist, and the cake booked, and the dress is hanging up in a closet at Matt’s sister’s place. The last detail we need to book is the photographer, and it is becoming quite difficult. I tried the photographer one of Matt’s co-workers is using for his wedding, but she’s already booked. The photographer that the florist recommended is being flaky – I’ve called her a few times, and she’s not returned my calls. I just heard back from the second photographer that the florist recommended, and I’m not terribly impressed with him, thus far. One of my requirements of any photographer is a copy of the negatives, preferably a digital copy. I don’t anticipate ordering a whole slew of prints from the wedding, but any prints I do get, will most likely be from the photographer. I’m not trying to get the digital negatives to usurp their position – I want to be able to post the negatives online at my gallery, so that friends and family can see the photos, even if they can’t get the hard copies. I specifically asked the second photographer about digital negatives, and here was his response;

Digital Negatives? This is included in large wedding packages. We try to keep very tight quality control and with weddings where only selected images have been retouched, it means we’re releasing copies of our work to potential low-quality output. Since we are a full-service studio, we like to keep our quality high through all stages.

Translation? We charge a hell of a lot for photos, and we’re not going to give you the negatives (so you can circumvent our outrageous prices) until we feel you’ve purchased enough photos. Maybe I’m being cynical, but I don’t think so. They HAVE a price list posted on their website, but in his email his said they didn’t. Perhaps it’s not the price list for WEDDINGS, but there’s a price list up. I’m hoping to get in touch with the first photographer, even if she is a bit flaky, just because we’re on a tight budget, and I think this second photographer is going to be out of our price range. Two of my co-workers actually do photography on the side, so I’ll also have to check them out and see what they charge.
My other frustration is people that don’t use email. I generally prefer email to just about all other contact mediums; it’s faster than mail, easier than arranging a face to face meeting, more productive than phone tag, and you can do it at any time of the day or night. Case in point – I’m trying to get in touch with the coordinator at the reception hall. I’m trying to arrange a meeting, in order to iron out a few details. I called her yesterday, and leave a voice mail asking to set up a meeting, with my phone number and other details. She calls this morning while I’m still asleep, and leaves a voicemail, with not much detail other than “This is so-and-so, call me back.” I call her back like an hour later when I get up, and she’s out of the office, and I leave ANOTHER voicemail for her. If she’d just used e-mail, she could have gotten my message, seen that I wanted to set up a meeting, checked HER schedule, set up the meeting and gotten back to me. But no, now we’re in that frustrating limbo stage.

A Slight Change of Plans…

So, after a fair amount of thought, Matt & I have decided that we’re not going to buy a house right now. After touring different houses in our current price range, we’ve discovered we don’t really LIKE what’s in our price range. The profiles always show so much promise, and we’re always disappointed with some aspect of the house. We don’t want to buy a house just because it’s there and we can afford it. With the wedding coming up, it would be pretty much impossible to save for wedding expenses AND a down payment on a house by the end of June. So if we do a year lease in an apartment, and spend a year saving up, hopefully by this time next year we’ll be able to look at some nicer houses. As far as apartments go, we’re considering 2 main options; getting a 2 bedroom in my current apartment complex, or try to get into a 2 bedroom apartment at the Sutton Club. We’ve both been to the Sutton Club for Anime Night at Tom’s, and I was a big fan of the washer/dryer in the unit. My main beef with apartment living is the laundry issue, actually. I hate stuffing $1.25 into the machine every time I need to do a load, and being tied to the apartment while I’m doing laundry. I would love to be able to toss a load of laundry in before bed, or when I go to work, and know that it will still be there when I get back. So, any thoughts or comments?

Post Tour Opinions #4 – 727 Harlan

This house, along with the one on Malta, were my favorites. The garage was a little rough, and “lived in” as it were, but not bad. The breezeway was decent. The downstairs was clearly lived in – that’s where the couch and TV were. On the main floor, the kitchen wasn’t bad; maybe a bit small, but not unworkable. I loved the formal dining room! It wasn’t terribly large, but just large enough to fit a decently sized table into it. The living room was nice, but felt a bit naked. Obviously it’s not used as it had a TV, but nowhere to sit. The fireplace in the living room was nice, too. The den on the first floor wasn’t bad – it had some knotty pine built-ins. Yay for built-ins, but boo for knotty pine. Not a fan. The bathroom on the first floor was very blue, but not too bad. I liked the stairwell up to the second floor, but I’m a bit of a fan of stairwells and 2 story houses. The upstairs bedrooms weren’t bad, but showed their age; neither one had overhead lights, and the closets were atrocious. The lights could be fixed, but you can’t really make more closet space without taking it from something else. The upstairs bathroom, however, upset me. It ADVERTISED itself as a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house, with a FULL bath on the first and second floor. LIES! The upstairs bathroom wasn’t even a 3/4 bathroom – it was a half bath. Toilet, sink, cupboard. No shower, no tub. That violates one of my rules about bathrooms – I don’t care if the house is 1 or 2 story, but I demand a full bathroom on the same level as my bedroom. The den downstairs wasn’t really large enough to be turned into a master bedroom, so that was out of the question. The backyard and patio are where this house really shone. On the back of the breezeway, there was a little patio with a grill. Through an archway, and along a little path behind the garage, you get to the main part of the backyard. It wasn’t too big or too small, it had trees, and flowers, and horseshoe pits….it was a nice backyard. I liked it. But the nice backyard can’t make up for the shortcomings elsewhere. If we could have put the house from Malta on this lot, with this location and backyard, I think we might have had a winner.

Post Tour Opinions #3 – 830 Malta

This house I was really impressed with. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised with this one. The living room was huge, the bathroom was decent, all the bedrooms had hardwood floors, and the kitchen was nice looking. Closet space was maybe a little lacking, but that seems to be the trend, unfortunately. I didn’t find much wrong with the inside of the main floor, actually. The basement was, well, a basement. There was an “office” down there, but it’s clearly not a legal room, and is fairly rough looking. There was also a full bathroom downstairs, although I would probably never use that shower by choice. It’s at least plumbed, though, so the shower itself could be changed. The breezeway connecting the house to the garage felt a little spartan; very “concrete slab” for the style. The garage looked decent; two separate garage doors, one for each car. There were a few things I didn’t like, though. For starters, the yard is non-existent. What you see out front IS the yard. On the side by the garage and around back there is a deck, and NOTHING IS GROWING. Not even weeds. The location is kinda crappy, too. It’s not that it’s in a bad neighborhood; it seems to be in a fairly decent neighborhood, actually. No, the main problem is that it’s DIRECTLY across from an elementary school. A big one. School traffic would suck, not to mention all the children walking to and from school, and potentially cutting across what exists of the yard. See, that’s the other problem; it’s on an “inside corner” of two streets, Malta and Emerald. So overall, I really like this house; this is the style of house I was hoping to be able to find for a first house. I just do not like the location, at all. So the search continues.

Post Tour Opinions #2 – 923 Emerald

So this house was the first we toured, and we had such high hopes for it too. From the street it looks very nice. The photos on the GRAR listing were very nice, too; clearly they know how to market the house. Things were a little different once we got inside, though. For starters, it would appear that the main entrance to the house is through the kitchen. That seems a little weird to me. There is no dining room, so the dining area is just a table stuffed into the kitchen. I am NOT a fan of that – I don’t need a formal dining room, but I want the table to have it’s own space. The kitchen, and by extension, the kitchen cupboards, were very tall. I could probably just barely reach the second shelf. Not all bad, so long as I have a step stool. Directly off from the kitchen was a bedroom, which was again, odd. Not a terribly spacious bedroom, either. From the kitchen, we went to the living room. That’s when we discovered that all the other rooms were directly off of the living room; there was no hallway. The master bedroom was off the living room through some double doors, the den was right next to the master bedroom, and the bathroom was right next to the kitchen. I can handle a den being right off the living room, but I do not want the bathroom right off of the living room. Already points against it. The listing also said the house had a Michigan Basement. I’ve heard about 4 different definitions of Michigan Basement, ranging from “dirt floor cellar” to “normal, but short, basement”. This basement was definitely on the dirt floor end of the spectrum. The washer and dryer were down there (how they accomplished that I do not know), but not much else. I would not feel comfortable putting Zoe’s litter box down there, or leaving the basement open to rest of the house. At this point we had pretty much decided against the house, but wanted to check out the garage, since that was one of the selling points. The garage had been advertised as “built like a fortress” with gas, telephone, electrical and a stairwell to the storage loft. The electrical was outdated – I think we saw maybe 2 grounded outlets out there, which is bad considering most power tools are grounded. The “stairwell” to the loft was a glorified ladder. I wouldn’t feel comfortable climbing it with anything in my hands, which makes the concept of storing anything in the loft rather difficult. Final impressions? Not the house for us; time to continue the search.

Post Tour Opinions #1 – 955 Emerald

Since we toured 4 houses Thursday night, in an effort to keep the posts short and not confuse the houses, each house gets it’s own post. First house in the series; 955 Emerald. From the street, this house doesn’t seem bad. It had a tiny backyard, which means not much mowing. The back stoop is fairly large, as well. The fencing is kind of erractic, or maybe it’s more the landscape; the fencing stays level, but the land dips away towards the corner. I doubt we’d spend much time in the backyard, as it’s small and overlooks the like 5 multi-tenants housing units surrounding it. Ok, so it loses points for the immediate neighborhood. When you first enter from the back door, you can enter the kitchen, or immediately go downstairs. More on the basement later. The kitchen was actually decently sized – a bit monochromatic, but lots of space. Of course, until I got inside the kitchen and gave it a 360. The wall against the staircase to the basement had a bar set up, with a huge mirror. I have never seen a mirror in the kitchen before, and it was kind of weird. Of course, you could rip out the mirror and easily replace the bar with more cupboards, which I suspect we would do. The dining room wasn’t bad – I’m not a fan of carpeting in formal dining rooms, especially red carpet. That could be changed though. The living room wasn’t bad – it had a fireplace, and seemed spacious. The front entrance is obviously not used, as the entryway needs a lot of work. The front bedroom… glows in the dark. And I’m being generous. I have no idea who would possibly think that glowing orange would EVER be a good color to put on the walls of ANYTHING, but someone thought so. We were not impressed. The Master Bedroom is kind of blah – there’s a window in the closet, which is odd. The bathroom isn’t bad – the view from the bathroom window is right into the neighbor’s window, which I don’t like. There is supposedly a bedroom upstairs – the upstairs dormer is SHORT. I would not use that for a bedroom under any circumstance. A kid’s play area, sure, but I would never turn that into a bedroom. The basement is very well maintained, actually. I could see it being remodeled into more living space. The furnace is VERY old, though, and on the way downstairs, we discovered the walls are lath and plaster, and NOT drywall. I don’t think I want to mess with remodeling lath and plaster walls, thanks. So overall, not as bad as the Lurie House, but not for us. I’m not a fan of the neighborhood and lack of yard.