Saturday, January 7, 2017

Vacation 2016

This year, we sent ourselves off to another all-inclusive resort in Mexico for some down time at the end of a crazy year. The resort was beautiful, but most certainly not one of the best we've ever visited. Despite it's shortcomings, the sun was shining on us every day, the ocean was warm and welcoming, and it felt so good to lay around and have no responsibilities to time or money for a full week.

Filling Our Small Space

San Jose area in California is one of the most expensive places to live in this country. So when we moved out here, it was necessary for us to seriously down-size. We went from a 2100 square foot house (not including our basement storage) to a 1200 square foot apartment (with no basement). We lost a garage space, and reduced our outside space by a ton! Before the move, I had take a few weeks to seriously clean out our closets, storage areas, cupboards and garage. I donated more than 50 giant bags full of items to Good Will, and we found new homes for many pieces of furniture that we weren't really using. It felt GREAT to purge all of the unnecessary items from our home, and I don't even know how we would have moved into this space without doing it.

The saddest part is that we're still super crammed into this place. (A tiny house would just not be for me, I guess!). We have closets stuffed full, and I've even stacked boxes in the guest bathtub that we never use as last-resort extra storage. On top of that, the apartment is very old with drafty windows and families of mice that like to come visit us. Ultimately, it was a great idea to move into this place to get familiar with the area. We live across the street from my office, so I walk to work every morning. There is a grocery store across the street the other way, so we can walk to do almost all our errands as well. I do love that about this location.

Eventually, we'll start looking for something that suits our needs a little better though. I miss a bigger kitchen for all the cooking that I like to do, and the lack of space for any guests is frustrating. The hubby's bike trainer is set up in the living room, and our dining table sits directly next to our living room entertainment center. It's just not as good as it could be. So we'll start doing some location research soon. If it would just stop raining, maybe we would feel like getting out to explore more...

Moving into the new Apartment

This year's move was pretty horrible, if I'm being honest. It's something that we know we'll end up doing again (this apartment is definitely not a place we want to live for too much longer), but will forever dread from here on out. Here is the review that I sent to our moving company:

I wanted to follow up with you regarding Safeway Moving, the company who packed up our goods at our home in Colorado.

Initial impressions were not spectacular, as their 8:00-10:00am arrival window was surpassed by 30 minutes. When the crew arrived, we took a tour of the house to clarify expectations and to allow the leader to check off the inventory list. As we went through the house, he was rude on several occasions, questioning me on the accuracy of my inventory list when it was clearly all listed there. I was already unimpressed.

During the packing of our belongings, we had one of the crew members cut himself on a food processor blade. Even after bringing him band-aids and cleaning supplies, he bled throughout the packing process of the remainder of our kitchen. Upon opening several kitchen boxes at our new location, we found blood throughout. I don't think I need to express how disgusting this is.

At the same time, we had another member of the crew taking apart our outdoor umbrella. When he discovered that there were sand bags weighing down the base of the umbrella, he emptied the sand into piles in our yard. My husband and I spent the next two hours cleaning sand piles out of the yard of a house we are trying to sell. This was getting increasingly frustrating for us.

When they left the house after the first day, several items had been left unpacked. We thought this was no problem, as they were coming back the next morning and could pack what was left behind. But upon arrival (again late, this time 90 minutes late), I found that the leader did not deem the items worthy of moving, which is why he had left them at the house. And when I explained to him that all items needed to be packed and moved, regardless of his opinion about them, I received a lot of negative attitude and eye rolling. Isn't the whole point of a full pack move to pack up ALL the items in a house? I was appalled at his attitude. He was extraordinarily rude.

The second day was also when they packed up our mattress, as they left for us (just the mattress on the bare floor) to sleep the night before. During the packing process at the house, the mattress appeared to be taken care of well. But when it arrived at our apartment in California, IT HAD BEEN FOLDED IN HALF!! I'm not sure why it would ever be deemed ok to fold someone's mattress in half, and luckily we are not experiencing any issues with it after delivery. But they clearly did not care about our items at all.

Finally, I have to say that I was shocked to be handed a piece of paper at the end of day two explaining to me how a 5% (of the moving bill!!) tip was customary. I have never been put in such an awkward situation, and do not think that should be allowed. If a customer wants to tip a crew, it is up to them. They shouldn't have a piece of paper shoved at them, pressuring them to do so.

My husband and I have moved 8 times in the last 9 years, and we have used 3 different large moving companies to move us. Never in any of those 8 moves have I ended up with so many broken items, dented boxes, dinged up furniture and bloody packaging. The insurance claim that I am filing only lists items that were beyond repair, but every book shelf has a chip in the wood, every dish had to be steam cleaned. and very few items came out of boxes as they went in.

If I could give a recommendation to IVL, I would most certainly say that you should not be outsourcing any jobs to Safeway any longer. And I will be telling all that I know not to contact IVL for moving if you are going to be outsourcing jobs to companies like that.

Holiday Feasts

It's become my favorite tradition at the holidays to cook up a storm for each of the big days. This year was no different, although we had to get a little creative about which days we chose to cook around our vacation time. Thanksgiving was fairly typical though. Our turkey turned out juicy and delicious, and we simplified the feast this year. Instead of making way too much food that would just make the cooking stressful and crazy, we stuck to the basics: Turkey, Gravy, Potatoes, Rolls and Stuffing.

Since we were traveling home on Christmas Eve this year, we had to push out our Italian Feast to the day after Christmas. But it was maybe one of the best results we've ever had. With our new Christmas toys, we ground up our own lamb meat to make a delicious Lamb Ragout Sauce for our fresh Cheese Ravioli. This was one of those "What About Bob" meals for me, where the audible "YUM" sound kept escaping from my mouth. The home-made pasta along with the high quality Lamb meat just couldn't be beat. Amazing!

Next, we did Stuffed French Toast and Berry Compote for Christmas Day. Hubby's traditional Christmas Day meal is his mom's French Toast, so we just stepped it up a notch. This meal also turned out amazing. The ham and cream cheese stuffing helped to balance out the super sweet bread and berry sauce. I sliced the bread too thick, but this is something easily remedied next time we decide to make this meal.

Last but not least, we did our own Steak and Lobster at home this year for New Year's Eve. We usually step out for a fancy dinner for this holiday, but with the College Football Playoffs happening the same day, and our desire to keep testing out the new cast iron pan, we decided to stay home this year. Ultimately, it was a great decision because that was the starting point of hubby's cold (which is now what I'm trying to kick). This meal turned out just ok. I under-cooked the steaks, but it made for some fantastic steak sandwiches on New Year's Day. The lobster was a bit over-cooked, but my Bernaise Sauce turned out pretty good! Not quite the perfect consistency, but better than I've ever done before! I also cooked up a batch of amazing brownies, which went so well with the leftover berry compote for dessert.

Catching Up from the Couch

Just like most everyone else that I know, I've come down with a cold. I've battled through a couple of days with a cough and a sore throat, but I'm going to take a full day on the couch to recover and hopefully kick this thing. I don't really have the luxury of time to be sick these days, so here's hoping that tomorrow, it's gone.

I'm going to use this lazy day to catch up with the blog a bit. I've been slacking off here, and this is the perfect day to just play around on the computer. So some of the next few posts are old events, but better late than never!