Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Dragon Lives in Michigan

This past weekend was our second annual trek to Saugatuck to see the fall colors and spend a weekend in the small tourist-friendly Michigan town. Eric and I went last year when I was pregnant and were excited to engage in the Fall Festival activities at a different level this year. As it turned out, we spent most of our time in bars, as the gift shops and craft booths got a little old and the outdoor festivities got a little cold. BUT in any case, Oliver was a hit in his dragon costume throughout. We're not typically "Halloween people," but something about a kid in a furry suit gives it some appeal.

Our fun started on Thursday, when I my sister
Danielle and her able, helping hands arrived from California to come on the trip with us. Friday was spent packing (a feat seriously underestimated by my husband) and driving (amazingly decent traffic for a Friday). The leaves were pretty along the way, but it was a little overcast, so not nearly as magnificent as they were when we drove around on Sunday while Oliver napped in the car.

First thing we did when we got there was go to the "Whatever we do, I'm not going to that horrible bar across from the hotel" place. Turns out that when you're not pregnant and people are not smoking, a bad bar becomes a great bar with excellent draught selection and a pretty decent menu. In fact, we returned to
The Boathouse on at least three more occassions and an attempted fourth. Oliver was a terror that night, not going to sleep until 10 p.m. and waking up pretty much every two hours thereafter.Ugh.
So we weren't especially well rested for Saturday, the big event. Oh well, such is life with a baby... We started with breakfast at the
diner across the street from our hotel, then it was naptime, so Danielle put The Monk to bed and Eric and I did the touristy shops, where I bought a book and some cards by Brian Andreas, who writes these cool little vingette story poems that actually touched me, even though I'm not normally very schmoopy. We also bought ourselves some toasty warm hats to get us through the inevitable winter.

As we tooled around town all day, we were continually running into this group of women organized into teams who were doing a scavenger hunt. Seemed like a lot of fun, so we got involved where we could and I ended up having a
woman eating a banana while sitting on my shoulders. Turns out they were all staying at our hotel, so we hung out in the community room with them while they did the final scavenger hunt counts and round-ups. Nice ladies. Great idea for the scavenger hunt. I might have to try something similar sometime.

By the time Eric and I were done exploring on our own Saturday morning, Oliver woke up, it was time to don the Dragon costume, to drink an afternoon beer, to cruise through the craft booths, and to do more shopping and time killing until the parade. Was a good time. Everything is just funnier when you have a 9-month-old dressed as a Dragon in tow. The Halloween Parade in Saugatuck is exactly two blocks long and we joined just at the end, but had a good time anyway. (We managed to miss the Adult Halloween Parade in nearby Douglas that night, but that's really another story.)

After the parade, we stayed out and about and tried to tire out our little Dragon, which seemed to work pretty well. A highlight of the tiring out was a trance induced by a Barry White "karaoke" number -- see
the 2:00+ minute video of said Dragon watching a musician at The White House Bistro -- HILARIOUS. We were grateful for the Dragon costume for keeping the little guy toasty throughout the day because it was pretty dang chilly.

Saturday night Eric and I went out to Douglas and I got my face painted like a pumpkin and drank more beer. No surprise there.

The next morning, we packed it up and headed out of town. First to Douglas's
Kalico Kitchen for some breakfast buffet -- grits and biscuits and ham and eggs and potatoes and not a piece of fruit in sight. Then, of course, we had to stop at Crane's Pie Pantry for some PIE and CRISPS. Yum! But before pie, of course, we had to drive around so Oliver could finish his snooze, so we detoured and saw some seriously awe-inspiring leaves. The sun was shining so brightly and the colors were super. We stopped at a lakeside park, too, and took turns bundling up and walking down to the beach where the waves were big and the gusts of wind even bigger. Good times!

On the way home, we stopped at a Halloween USA to get our costumes for the big party next weekend, but more on that later. And that's about it.

Sorry for the length of this posting and the play-by-play nature, but in addition to broadcasting updates to all of you through this blog, it also serves as diary / journal for me, so I'll need to come back to this next year when I start questioning the expense and the hassle of a roadtrip to Michigan. As it turns out, it's all worth it and I'm sure we'll do it again -- hopefully with Aunt Danielle again because that made it all that much more fun!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Chronology is For Losers... and other blogging excuses

So, I've been a bit negligent of the ol' blog here. Sorry 'bout that. I'm suddenly very busy and have also been getting really hung up on the standard convention that says a Blog is a Web Log and a Log should have some sense of order in time, regardless of its web-like medium. Thus, I'd need to post that cute photo I took of Oliver four weeks ago, before I can post a summary of our trip to Madison, before I can post that random thought I had (when was that, anyway?), before I can post a summary of our trip to Saugatuck. Of course, I also have some deluded belief that a blog post is only as good as its accompanying art. So that means I'd have to download all of the related photos to the above posts before anything else. And then, by that point, dammit, it's all old news. Grrr...

But, lucky you, I've decided that the time continuum is bunk. This is my blog and I'll do whatever I please, even if that means random misordering, photo-less posts, or even more than one post in a day if I feel like it. Now, preaching about this new approach and actually embracing it may be two different things for ol' Denise here, but I am going to try to let go of my need for things to be orderly in this case. Let's call it business-analyst therapy.

So stay tuned for some new posts about this and that and the other.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Well, That Made It Easy

Looks like Oliver will be making Hoyne Avenue his home for awhile.

We've been struggling since Oliver was born to figure out our next move house-wise. We hope to bring another Weinstein into the world at some point and the 2BD/2BTH condo probably wouldn't cut it, so we are trying to anticipate what's next for us. For some reason this is an extremely difficult decision for us -- part laziness, part resistance to change, part an aversion to spending money.

So, anyway, one of the top contenders for the next move was converting a 3-flat rental we own into a single family home. It has a beautiful backyard, a three-car garage, a great neighborhood, and would yield 4,900 square feet of living space (including a sunlight adorned third floor for Eric's painting studio) -- quite a move up for us.

We engaged an architect to help us figure out if it could be done, if a 108-year-old home could be converted to modern luxury. We passed that test and worked with him to do a basic layout of the dream home -- 5 bedrooms, 4 baths, and a bonus two-bedroom apartment on the ground floor (to help subsidize the mortgage). Next step was to get a contractor to give a rough estimate based on the layout -- not a specific bid, but a rough estimate. That was three weeks ago and the numbers came back yesterday.


(not including lighting, plumbing fixtures, tile, cabinetry, which would run another $80K). Hold on, let me get my check book. And keep in mind this is an estimate -- we all know what that means, right? Oh, yeah, and let's not forget that we still owe hundreds of thousands on the 3-flat itself. What a mess!

Actually, it's not too much of a mess. It does well as a rental and we'll probably just hold on to it and let the rents pay down the mortgage. And things actually seem a little less messy as we eliminate the myriad options, which was the point of this whole exercise in architecture anyway... but we've still got the big question of WHAT'S NEXT? Could be a new house in this neighborhood, or a move to another hood closer to the highway for Eric's commute, or in a better school district, or gawd-forbid the suburbs.

For now, though, as with all things having to do with finances and economy these days, I think we'll just hold tight and enjoy the conveniences of not having to walk more than 15 steps to get a crying baby from his crib or more than 30 to carry the laundry from the hall stackables to the bedroom. It doesn't mean our dreams of a wrap-around front porch and plenty of room for entertaining and guests are dead, but we are grateful to be one step closer to knowing what the next step is -- or isn't, as the case may be.