Archive for the 'Moving' category

How Hard Is It to Buy a Freaking Vacuum? Let Me Tell You…

One of the things we ditched when we left Portland in 2008 was our vacuum, which broke all of the time, and, as a result, we hated it.

After moving into an apartment that had never been lived in before, we noticed that the carpets in the bedrooms were really shedding, and we knew that we had to get a vacuum post haste. I thought to myself, “no problem, I will just hop onto Consumer Reports and pick out a machine…wham bam, we’ll get it done.”

Well, suffice to say after my online tour of reviewed vacuums, I sunk into a deep depression. During my research, I learned several things:

1) Nearly every person in America dislikes their vacuum.
2) Most of the dirt suckers were not very highly rated.
3) The vacuums that Consumer Reports liked were insanely expensive.

I just gave up…which, when you are married, means you pass the mantle to your spouse.

Tom launched his own exploration, filled with optimism and hope. Sadly, when faced with the vitriol felt by vacuum owners the country over, he too fell into a deep funk.

First, my dearest husband briefly had a geek-induced love affair with the Kirby vacuum, which costs about a million dollars and was also a carpet shampooer, floor buffer, and came with a myriad of attachments. I put the kibosh on that one. Next, he flirted with a Miele model that was going to set us back about $600. While it was reasonably well reviewed, I am just genetically incapable of paying $600 for a vacuum.

We ultimately settled on a $75 Hoover model that Amazon could deliver in 2 days for free (pictured above). I didn’t even care that it was rated a bit further down the list on Consumer Reports. It was $75 — I loved it.

Report after our first use? It’s $75-good, baby. I just don’t think a vacuum could perform to my expectations if I spent $600 on it!

Moving Back Learning Curve

I am sharing our latest moving wisdoms…

Deep sinks. Our new apartment has a double sink that seems to be as deep as a utility sink. At first, i wasn’t sure how i felt about it, but I’ve discovered it’s primary function — hiding dirty dishes. You can pile up those bad boys in the sink for days and not notice them unless you are standing right over the sink.

Disappearing Stuff. As with any move, something will go missing. We have unpacked all of the boxes and have lost a) microwave safe glass containers with lids that we used for the Z’s lunches; and, b) all of the Zs twin-sized sheets. *sigh*

Fancy Swedish Appliances. I have learned that I cannot operate a Swedish washing machine without a manual, to the point of not even being able to open the front loading door.

Downsizing Reflections. A smaller apartment means that moving in will take longer, even if you are shrinking the amount of crap in your life, because you have less room for stowing things as you unpack, and you have to be more efficient as you cram it all in there (there’s always an element of stuffing, no matter how much crap you think you’ve gotten rid of)! Which leads me to my second point about living simpler, if you are moving into a building that offers a small storage unit, take it — even if you can fit everything in your apartment, it’s nice to be able to put luggage, etc. somewhere else.

Ikea Sales. We needed a TV stand and 2 desks for the Zs. I saw that Ikea was going to have a one-day sale of both of those items at DIRT CHEAP prices yesterday, but only while supplies lasted. Our intention was to arrive at the store as it opened, but of course, getting the Zs out of the house is nigh on impossible, so we were about half an hour late. As we walked into the store, people were streaming out with boxes piled high of the very items we were there to purchase. I panicked. We raced in the back door, found our items in the warehouse, and staked our claim. If we had been just 10 minutes later, we wouldn’t have gotten a desk. Whew.

Putting Together Ikea Furniture. If you do this with your children, it takes 3 times longer.

Vases. I know I got rid of many vases before we left for Argentina, but I could have done so much more. After a while, I felt like every box I opened contained a vase and I didn’t know where to put them all. I don’t even have fresh cut flowers in the house very often (I’m pretty lazy). What is with all the vases?

Mysteries. You wonder why you got rid of some things and why you kept others. Aside from the vases, the other big surprise for me was end tables/night stands. I think we had about 5 of them before leaving, but I must have given them all away in a fit of downsizing because we don’t have any left!

The Act of Moving Back, Day 2

Hello beautiful mattress, we missed you!

After 8 months of sleeping in a full size bed that was a couple inches shorter than Tom’s 6’2″ frame, we found our big fluffy queen sized mattress to be an absolute dream last night, despite the fact that we were still in sleeping bags.

Day 2 of our move was very interesting. Willamette Valley Movers went to our storage space and were impressed with Tom’s Tetris packing of our 10′ x 15′ unit and asked if my perfectly balanced boxes (I’m so modest) were packed by movers. That being said, Charles and Dustin were not entirely thrilled with Tom’s system of placing pallets on the storage unit floor to keep air circulating and water away from our stuff. It meant everything had to be taken out by hand.

Most of the move went off without a hitch, until a freak snow storm began developing at the end of our transferring everything into our new abode. We ran to our previously blogged about smoking Internet connection and looked up the weather forecast — it said: “nothing would stick and the snow would end shortly.”

We made…well, okay…I made a command decision to pile the family in the parents’ 4 wheel drive Jeep to run to the store and pick out some lamps since we couldn’t really start unpacking in the dark (both bedrooms and the living room have no overhead lighting).

That was a HUGE mistake.

The snow storm brought the entire city to a standstill. It took us 2 hours to return from the store, something that would have normally taken ten minutes. We saw buses moving in scary, slow motion broadside skids on modest hills. Cars stalled out everywhere, squealing rear wheels turning on the slippery roads. At one point, we were stuck for 30 minutes behind a semi that couldn’t get up a short slope.

By the time we had crossed the river, I couldn’t sit in the car for another second. I hopped out of the vehicle, with Zoe and Zelda in tow, and we walked the rest of the way home. Part of our trek took us over a pedestrian foot bridge that spans the train tracks in Old Town near an historic train station — it was so beautiful. The snow falling in big fat flakes upon the pristine white rail yard and brick buildings, which we viewed from above, top lit dramatically from the span of the bridge.

A sign of the slow going — The Zs and I reached the apartment before Tom did in the car.

Furthermore, our snow outing put a serious dent in our unpacking productivity. We only put together and placed all of our furniture. I didn’t unpack a single box. (For those of you who know me, that is faint-worthy information.)

Pictured Above: From our place we have a view of the Willamette River, the Fremont Bridge, and part of what you see here — the riding grounds and training ring for the Portland mounted police. Every morning we watch them and sympathize with the newly minted equestrian officers of the law!

The Act of Moving Back, Day 1

Pictured here is the master bedroom of our new place…we went a bit spare!

Our first day in our new apartment involved getting lease paperwork signed, taking a look at our storage space and figuring out what we needed to get together so the movers could actually move us, stole some towels from my parents’ place so we could shower, did some moving ourselves, met with the cable guy to get our smoking fast Internet connection, shopped for some food, put away all of the wonderful pantry staples my parents bought us…blah blah blah.

The kids have decided to try an experiment with our new living quarters. The girls are once again sharing a room, which Zoe, being older, is not thrilled about. However, their room has a humongous walk-in closet, so they have decided they would like to sleep on Aerobeds, which they can stow away in their closet with the rest of all of their belongings, leaving them with an entire room for playing.

We’re not sure how long this is going to last, or how much time will pass before they pop a hole in one of the beds, but we’re willing to give it a try!

Of course, for our first night in the apartment, sans furniture, Tom and I stole the Aerobeds and left our poor children to catch their Zs in sleeping bags on the floor. My 43 year old body doesn’t really rest sans mattress!

Kicking It Urban Style in Portland


During our 14 months in Argentina, we downsized quite a bit by living in a smallish apartment and by not owning a car — we just used public transportation and taxis for everything. It was lovely, for the most part. We could clean quickly, we consumed less crap because we didn’t have room for anything, and were generally a lot happier without a lot of stuff.

As a result of our experiences, we would like to extend our downsizing and use of public transportation to our life in Portland. So, what specifically does that mean for us?

Housing. We have decided to start out renting a condo in NW Portland that puts us within several blocks of multiple transportation options. The unit we settled on, while bigger than our 950 SF Argentine apartment, is still significantly smaller than our old house!

Transportation. We are within 3-5 blocks of multiple Zipcars, the Portland Streetcar, the Max, and TriMet buses.

School. The girls will go to a school we can travel to via Portland Streetcar.

We put our resolve to the test during our first week in Portland. It poured rain (hovered around freezing the first day) the entire time the four of us trudged around the city wearing zillions of layers (we still feel like it’s summer), armed only with our umbrellas and some TriMet travel passes. Even though we had signed up for Zipcar, we took pride in the fact that we didn’t use it once as we looked for apartments, went to doctor’s appointments, met up with family, got glasses repaired, paid for a parking permit for the movers, shopped for birthday presents, etc. etc.

Can we make it through a Portland winter without running out to buy a car? Let the experiment begin!!

Thou Shalt Miss…

  1. All of the amazing people we’ve met in Argentina — Argentines, Australians, Malaysians, Brits, Canadians, Irish, Americans, Brazilians, Colombians, Venezuelans, Chinese, parents at school, the Zs Spanish tutor Maria, their tennis teacher Cesar, and lastly, the wonderful cab driver who returned Zelda’s school blazer after she left it in the back of a cab one day.
  2. Radiant floor heating.
  3. The Zs school.
  4. Living in such a child-friendly city. Really, Buenos Aires has a million things for kids to do, and showing up with your little ones in tow never phases anyone. LOVE IT!
  5. Coffee, tea and medialunas.
  6. The central boiler hot water in our current apartment building — it is scalding hot with awesome water pressure and! This will, of course, present a problem when we return to the States and the girls have to begin rationing their shower time.
  7. All of the vendors around our apartment, including the verdulería family from Bolivia, the Deli guys who laugh at Tom’s lomito munich order every week, and the Persicco ice cream guy who doggedly tried to converse with Tom in Spanish every time he visits.
  8. Our doormen (although one of them has fallen in our regard since he forced us to buy the less-than-stellar CD of his band)!
  9. For the Zs: their friends, buying junkfood at the kiosko on field day, the fact that we give them a few Oreos in their lunch once a week “because all of the other kids have them every day!” (That will come to a halt when we return to the US!)
  10. Traveling in this beautiful beautiful country.
  11. The adventure that is gadding about Buenos Aires on the colectivo (city bus)! We will especially miss the 64, which is our closest bus…I swear it goes everywhere. We’ve been all over the city, by cab, and invariably we look up and there it is, the 64. I ADORE that bus.
  12. Zoe and Tom: attending chess tournaments on the outskirts of the city with Gil and Sebastian
  13. The fact that no one complains about noise in apartment living. Granted, that means we hear our neighbors at ridiculous hours engaged in ridiculously loud activities, but on the flip side, no one bitches about our loud music, running little person feet, us screaming at the kids, you know — life.
  14. Spring, fall and winter in Buenos Aires. (Summer, not so much!)

Waxing Philosophic

There’s going to be a lot of waxing around here for the next few posts…forewarned is forearmed!

Why the need to expound on our pondering? Because our 14 month family mid-life crisis sabbatical is coming to an end. I know, boo hoo for us — everyone feels really sympathetic! *smile*

Of course, the end of the free time means that we must resume the mantle of adult responsibility and actually earn some money. THAT is a bummer.

10 more days in Argentina. It’s all going by so fast, and we have a zillion little ends to tie up…end-of-school dinners, play parties for Zelda, chess tournaments for Zoe, goodbyes to tutors and teachers, farewells to all of the wonderful wonderful people that we’ve met, cleaning the apartment, donating stuff to the Z’s school, figuring out what we’re packing and what we aren’t, making cards, going through paperwork… .

I’m not even mentioning all of the shyte we have to get done on the US end, but I won’t go into that…at least not now!

Suffice to say that the knowledge of our departure looms large and we have much to think about. More later.

Say Goodbye to Flight Cankle

travelsocksWe heart travel socks.

The magical foot coverings pictured here are really compression garments in disguise as ordinary cotton socks. They squeeze your little ankles, getting progressively looser as they run up your calf. We decided to experiment with them on our return trip to the US, and needless to say, we were very impressed!

Before: When we flew to Buenos Aires in October of 2008, I was 4 months into my recovery from ACL replacement and other clean up on my right knee. Not surprisingly, my right ankle and foot were Michelin Man-esque by the time we arrived in BA. Tough to get the shoes on. Stiff and swollen.

After: Fast forward 9 months to my trip home with the handy dandy travel socks — nada, nothing, zip, zero. Not really any detectable swelling at all. My feet fit in my shoes completely normally at the end of 24 hours of traveling.

So run, don’t walk, to your nearest store and buy some travel socks if you have a long car/boat/train/plane trip planned. They are truly amazing.

(I’d like to thank my model, Tom Offermann, for being willing to pose for this blog, yet again!)

Trip Home at 9 Months: Pros & Cons

So, what are the ramifications of leaving Argentina and returning to the US for a vacation nine months into our 14 month sabbatical?

We wondered, would we go back to America and feel we didn’t want to return to Buenos Aires? Or, would we confirm that we didn’t want to live in the US anytime soon? I was going to participate in an intense professional conference, how would I feel about working again? Would the kids have an even harder time coming back to Latin America after a taste of Portland?

The answers to these questions were surprising.

After being home for a bit, it almost seemed as if we had never left. Yet, when we returned to Argentina last weekend, it seemed we had never left as well. We are happy and comfortable in both places. So much for a resolution on that front.

Going home and participating in the Mayor’s Institute on City Design completely re-energized me in terms of work. I was pretty burned out by the time we left, so it’s nice to know that this sabbatical has recharged my intellectual batteries.

And the kids. Going home was very valuable, which was counter-intuitive. I really didn’t expect it. When we first landed in Argentina, whenever they were unhappy, the Zs would compare their experience against what I call “idealized Portland.” In other words, everything suffered in comparison to “idealized Portland.” But, going back at 9 months allowed them to have a good time at home, but cement a more “real Portland” in their heads. And, after starting back to school this week, where they received a warm welcome, they both felt a sense of happiness, familiarity and comfort. They were the “new kids” no longer.

For that alone, it would have been worth the trip!

The Return — It’s the Small Things

Salt Shakers. At a restaurant yesterday, I created the Iguazu of salt while seasoning some chicken because I forgot that Argentine shakers are very porous and make for the easy distribution of sodium chloride, unlike American shakers that require vigorous pumping up and down to earn a mere few granules.

Piano. One of our neighbors, who is learning to play the piano, is still working on the same song that they were 4 weeks ago (and the 4 weeks before that, to be honest). Sadly, not a whole lot of improvement.

Solo Dining. We love Campo Bravo because it is a yummy parilla within walking distance of our house that is open all day, which means we can get a meal at 6:00 p.m. Of course, it does require that we dine completely alone while staff sets up for dinner — we had forgotten about our eating dinner when the rest of the country is enjoying merienda (tea time)!

Winter. It is always disconcerting to climb aboard a slim metal tube during a Hotlanta summer, and then emerge 10 hours later in winter. Although, I really enjoy the winter here — very fresca — which is normally a good thing, but yesterday it was perhaps a little too fresca. The girls had the first half of their tennis lesson in the wind and the rain, with one Z dancing around, hands in pockets, while the other Z took their turn with Cesar. We called it a day after 30 minutes.

Tranquilo. Getting off the American “go go go” track is very tangible. For instance, we flew in on Saturday, still owing rent for the 2nd half of our stay in our apartment. La dueña of our home didn’t sweat it though, she waited until Wednesday to collect. In fact, we were the ones trying to track her down so that we could pay!

Listerine. When we first moved here, we noticed that the Listerine tasted different than its counterpart in the US. However, we must have gotten used to it, because when we went home, we hated the taste of the mouthwash in the US. Nothing like a good swish of citrus Argentine Listerine to let us know that we’re home!