Wednesday, July 23, 2008

T-Minus 96 hours...

Yes that's right - only 96 hours to go before I leave for the beach! Yay! Unfortunately, I'm now getting to the stressful part of vacation prep. I have a million things to do, both at work and at home. This evening, I have to make cookies (my contributions to vacation food), pay all the bills that will be due while I'm gone (that oughta be interesting, since I don't have much moolah in my checking account right now!), start cleaning out my refrigerator, take out my recycling, etc. etc. So naturally, I'm procrastinating on my blog! I also procrastinated at work today, and spent most of my time looking for fun things to do in Atlantic Beach. I discovered the North Carolina Aquarium, in Pine Sholls, which has everything from a 360,000 gallon fish tank to surfing lessons for kids. Awesome. Anyway, I need to get to those cookies! I'll try to remember to post the recipe tomorrow - its a recipe my Aunt Hope gave me, and its perfect for people who can't really bake, like me. In the end you get chocolate chip cookies, but you start out with a yellow cake mix. Awesome.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Blah Sunday...

Perhaps its because I always save my weekend chores for Sundays (laundry, cleaning, etc.), or perhaps its because I know I have to head back to work the next day, but Sunday afternoons are always a little blah for me. Today is no exception, unfortunately. I did my usual Sunday morning routine, which actually I like very much - coffee and a "real" homemade breakfast while watching CBS Sunday Morning on TV. My grandmother watched Sunday Morning every week without fail when I was growing up, and when we would pick her up afterwards to go to church, she would recount every segment of the show in great detail to us during the drive. This used to drive me crazy, and as a kid I always thought of Sunday Morning as an old geezer show. I'm not sure what, but something changed after I started living on my own. Maybe it was just nice to know I was watching something at the same moment as my grandmother, even though she was far away. Whatever it was, Sunday Morning has become part of my weekly ritual, and I really do enjoy it!

Unfortunately, my relaxing morning was followed up by the bleaching of Bailey and Pepper's litter box, which is done in the bathtub, so that lead to me cleaning the whole bathroom, and I couldn't very well put a squeaky clean litter box back on a dirty floor, so I then cleaned the entire kitchen as well. Now, I'm pretty much exhausted. I had planned on working on one of my many home improvement projects today, but that's looking less and less likely! Oh well, at least my house (and the litter box) will be clean while I'm on vacation. GG has very kindly agreed to come in and take care of the cats while I'm gone (she's a saint!), and it will decrease my embarrassment greatly if I know things are neat and tidy when she visits!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Countdown Begins!

Exactly one week from tomorrow, I will be leaving for my long-awaited Summer Vacation. I capitalize it because its important. Almost every summer, my parents, my sister and her family and occasionally a few other family members pack up and drive a really long way to the beach, where we usually rent a house for a week. For most of my life, our summer getaway destination of choice was the idyllic seaside resort of Cape May, New Jersey. Over the last few years, though, the perfect Victorian gingerbread-encrusted paradise of my childhood has been getting more and more crowded with tourists (my family does not consider itself "tourists" - we're practically locals, seeing as we've vacationed there for nearly 30 years) and more importantly, it has been getting more and more expensive. So, despite my family's innate fear of change, we've made the decision to spend our vacation week in an entirely new place - Atlantic Beach, NC. We've rented a big, completely stripped-down house that's literally right on the beach - no air conditioning, no dishwasher, and no tourists. I can't wait!

In my family, the build-up to going on vacation is almost as important as the actual vacation. Most of the places we've rented over the years were pretty strip-down places, which required that you bring your own sheets, towels, dishes, pots and pans, food, etc. So, about a month beforehand, my mother would haul these huge cardboard packing boxes out of the attic and set them up in various rooms of the house. Over those next weeks, they would slowly fill up with tons and tons of stuff, until they were just on the verge of being too heavy to carry. Then, late in the night before we were to leave for vacation, my dad would drive the family vehicle (sometimes a massive station wagon with wood-grain trim, sometimes an aqua-colored minivan) into the back yard, and we'd spend several hours loading the packing boxes and nearly everything else we owned into it. Looking back on it, I'm not really sure why we had to do this after dark, but that's the way it was every year. Then on the morning of departure my mom would wake me up at 4:00am, we would all stumble blindly into the Vacation Mobile, which was still sitting in the backyard and only by the grace of God had not sunk into the ground during the night, and we'd be on the road - still under the cover of darkness. BD remembers the early morning departure well, I'm sure - she came with the fam on several vacations, God bless her!

Anyway, with Summer Vacation '08 looming on the horizon, its time for me to start the preparations. Sadly, I will not be at my parents' house to witness the packing box set-up or the midnight car-packing, but I plan to start a few vacation-prep traditions of my own. This week is going to be awesome!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Today at the Museum

Collections inventory continued today at work, and as usual it was both horribly tedious and at times so ridiculous my intern and I were crying because we were laughing so hard. We didn't find any more explosives, sadly, but we did come across a few conundrums. Here's a few of my favorites:

1) Object ID # 1997.041, Object Name: Unknown, Object Description: Blank, Location: ?
However, whatever 1997.041 is, it was appraised in 2001 at a value of $250. Figure that one out!

2) Object ID # 1976.351, Object Name: Reel to reel film, Object Description: Blank, Location: ?
We searched and searched and searched for like an hour for this reel of film, and finally found a plastic bag containing a cardboard box on which someone had written "1976.351". "Finally!" my intern exclaimed, and we carried our find over to the computer in order to fill in the catalog record a bit more fully. When we opened the box - you guessed it - it was empty.

3) Archival Document # 1979.031, Letter dated 1824
This item actually had a location listed for it, but when we opened the appointed folder, there was a note inside saying that the document had been moved to another folder in 1984. So, we located that folder. Inside it was a note saying the document had been moved to the previous folder in 1984.

Thus endeth another day of inventory. My intern might quit in protest soon, so as a reward I'm taking her on a field trip this Thursday. I'm looking forward to it, too!

P.S. Can someone please explain to me how to change the time on my posts to this blog? I just ntoiced that the times of my posts are way off...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Moving On

Well, after my rude awakening to the realities of homebuying last week, I've decided that the best thing to do is to accept that I'll be living in my teeny-tiny little house for a while longer and make the best of it. I've been kind of living in "temporary" mode ever since I moved in here - "No, I'm not going to hang those pictures on the wall since I'm probably just going to be moving out soon." or "I'll leave the walls white since I don't want to re-paint them again in a few months." I'm going to put an end to that now, and really focus on settling into this place. I really like making things and being creative, so I'm starting a list of projects for my little rental. First on the list is to finish making curtains for the windows. I have a sewing machine, and I actually did make one curtain when I moved in (it actually hides the alcove where Pepper and Bailey's litter box is located), so there's no reason why I can't do some nice window treatments in all the rooms. Also, I'm thinking I need to address storage issues. I have A LOT of stuff sitting in cardboard boxes, which are not really attractive, so I need to come up with a more decorative approach. And I might just paint. I'm not completely sure that I'll do that, but I really don't like white walls. Anyway, the list is growing!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

That's That...

So, I had the appointment with the FHA lender on Friday afternoon. There's good news and there's bad news (and the bad news wasn't so bad that it ruined the rest of my weekend). First the good news: the super-nice mortgage consultant that I spoke with crunched the numbers, and it turns out that I do absolutely qualify for an FHA loan!! Yay - the federal government likes me!! Then there's the bad news: I have a not-so-great "debt to income ratio". What is a debt to income ratio? Well, apparently the way the government decides how much money they can safely loan you is that they add up all the debt payments you make per month and divide it by your monthly income. If the resulting number is too high (or low - I'm not actually sure which) they classify you as being high-risk, and the amount of money they can lend you drops. In my case, I make monthly payments on a car, student loans and a credit card. Now while I have an excellent credit score and I handle these payments without any problem, the government thinks that a house would be too much for me to handle. Well, at least a decent house. I do qualify for about $165,000 in loan money, but in my area of the country that will basically get me a "unique fixer-upper" in a really, really bad neighborhood! So, that as they say is that. I'll do some further checking and see if there are any other possibilities for someone in my situation, but its doubtful. Unless a not-too-dilapidated house in a safe neighborhood for under $165,000 shows up on the market in the near future, it looks like I'm going to renting for a while longer. Bummer.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Dreams and Reality

So, I made my apointment with the FHA lender. Its scheduled for Friday afternoon. I'm hoping that wasn't a dumb move - I don't want a bad experience to ruin my whole weekend! Oh well. Buddy BD, who owns her own house and therefore will be the expert I call on constantly throughout this process, assures me that the lender won't laugh at me. Still, I'm a teensy bit nervous...

Also as BD predicted, I'm already starting to live in a bit of a homeowner's dream world. Last night I drew floorplans for furniture arrangement for a house I saw for sale on line. Cart before the horse much?? I can't help myself though. To have my own space that I can do what I want with, whenever I want, and to know that I'll never have to paint the walls white again before I leave - that will be a beautiful thing. I just have to get through these minor financial considerations first...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Here's a funny story...

Ah, its that time of year again in the museum world! That time when curators everywhere spend hour upon tedious hour conducting that all important Collections Management procedure - a comprehensive collections inventory. Now, if you're not a museum curator, this phrase probably means nothing to you, and furthermore it doesn't sound like it would produce a funny story. Ah, but there you would be wrong - especially when it comes to my museum and its whackadoodle existence. A collections inventory (which in all honesty is not performed every year - maybe every 5 years or so, if you're lucky) is when the staff of a museum visually accounts for every single item in its historical collection. Every plate, every chair, every painting, every fragment of something that might have once been attached to something more important - if its been accessioned into the collection, we (and by "we", I mean "I") have to track it down, verify that its where we thought it was, and make note of the confirmation in a computer database of some sort. If a museum has been professionally run for a number of years, this process isn't too bad - you generally know where your stuff is. When you work at my museum you have a different situation. Since the early 20th century, my museum has collected stuff - lots and lots of stuff. Most of it was squirreled away in drawers and closets and put in boxes without labels. An entire generation of professional curators has spent the last 2 decades trying to rectify the situation, and I swear I'm so close to finally getting the place ship-shape! Then comprehensive collections inventory comes along and totally bursts that bubble. Just to give you a taste of what inventory season is like at my museum, here's a story from my last inventory project in 2005:

My interns and I were climbing around in a small cave-like storage room in the basement of the museum building. When I say "climbing around" I literally mean climbing over huge mountains of wooden crates, and hanging perilously from the edge of old steel shelving units. If I remember correctly, we were looking for a Revolutionary War-era button, which we believed might be in a box labeled "Miscellaneous" (that's a whole other story). One of the interns found a box that was about the size of a shoe box, which looked like a good candidate. We opened it and found a plastic bag containing a large quantity of a powdery substance and several fragments of what looked like old waxed paper. Clearly not a button. However, this new find presented a problem. Not being a historical munitions expert, I couldn't be sure, but the substance in the bag sure looked like gunpowder, and the waxed paper bits sure looked like the remnants of old gun cartridges. The question then arose, how does one responsibly deal with or dispose of old explosives? My interns and I just looked at eachother for a while - this was a new one, even for my museum. So, thinking that the stuff in the bag surely wasn't dangerous anymore (it was obviously old, and it would have exploded by now if it was going to, right?) I tossed the onto my desk, where it sat for several days until I had a chance to make some calls to the local fire department. Apparently my phone calls put the fear of God into the firemen. "You did what with it?!?!?!" they exclaimed, "Its sitting on your desk?!?!?! Get it outside NOW!!!!" Okay, so I ran that baby out the door, down the stairs and into our historic rose garden as fast as I could. Within minutes a fireman showed up and put the bag in a bucket and covered it with sand, then strung up caution tape all around it. Next, in rolls the bomb squad - THE FREAKIN' BOMB SQUAD!! And they're wearing all that gear you see on TV, too! I have to admit it was kinda cool. Anyway, the bomb squad people put the "ordnance" in an iron box, which they would then take to a firing range and blow up. Luckily, it made it out of the museum without blowing up prematurely.

Needless to say, that was one of my more memorable days on the job. And it was all because of the collections inventory. Can't wait to see what I find this year!

Sunday, July 6, 2008


The connections between my real life and Hollywood movies continue. Over the weekend, I happened to watch the movie Wimbledon with some friends. For those of you who don't know, it stars Paul Bettany (pretty much my ideal man and perfect in all ways, except for his current marital status) and Kirsten Dunst, and is predictably about Wimbledon. Today, although I spent nearly 4 hours doing laundry and thought I had missed it, I was able to catch the real Wimbledon Men's Finals between Raphael Nadal and Roger Federer (sorry, G - you were right, Federer was still in) and what a match it was. I don't really know much about tennis, other than what I learned in one summer's worth of ill-fated tennis lessons in the 5th grade, and every time I watch it on TV, it takes me about halfway through the match to remember how the scoring works. And occasionally the crowd will suddenly start cheering and John McEnroe's voice will say "Did you see that?!?! Unbelievable!!!" and I have no idea why, but I still enjoy and appreciate a good match when I see one. Honestly, I think today's Wimbledon championship was even better than what Hollywood concocted for Paul Bettany - either Federer would win his 6th straight Wimbledon title and enter the history books, or Nadal would win his first Wimbledon after losing a heartbreaker to Federer last year. It ended up being the second longest (I think) Wimbledon match ever played, there were 3 rain delays, and it went later into the night than any other Wimbledon match (9:18pm, London time). It took 6 hours to decide the winner. In the end, it was Nadal. And here's the best part: after he won, he climbed up into the stands to hug his parents - just like in the movie!!! Awesome...

So, in other news, I've been doing some more work on the home-buying front. After investigating the FHA programs for first-time homebuyers, I think I qualify income-wise. So, I tracked down an FHA lender in my area and tomorrow I'll be calling her to set up an appointment. I'm figuring this could go one of two ways. Either I'll walk in to this appointment with the lender and find out that absolutely I qualify, and I'll wonder why I took so long to do this, or the lender will laugh her butt off at me and ask what on Earth makes me think I could possibly afford to buy a house? I'll keep you posted...

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Patriotic Spirit

Yesterday, in honor of the 4th of July I went with some friends to take in all the sights and sounds of small-town America on a day when small-town America always shines. There was a 5K race, a parade, an impressive street festival, and some really good fireworks. But, my absolute favorite event of the day was a local tradition - a silly raft race. Groups of people who were moved by the patriotic spirit constructed a variety of floating displays, and then got them from the far end of town, down the river, and finished (if they were lucky) at the city dock. We stood on a bridge over the river at about the halfway point of the race, and we had an excellent view of all the crazy stuff that floated by. The picture above is of my favorite feat of nautical engineering, with a sort of Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn twist. It did not come in first - or even close to first - but you have to admire their pluck. Clearly, this is a bunch of dads who were determined that their kids were going to have a good time. Gotta love dads! Other "rafts" were quite elaborate, featuring foot-powered paddle wheels, sails, and in one case a sound system that amplified the singing talents of a girl who belted out a patriotic medley that was pretty good. It was a great day on the river!

Thursday, July 3, 2008


I found this photo in a box last night while I was trying to organize the piles and piles of stuff I've saved over the last few years to put in scrapbooks. Its of my aforementioned cat, Bailey, trying to squeeze himself into a colander that he likes to sleep in. He fit perfectly in it when he was about 8 weeks old. Its been a challenge ever since. Anyway, the picture made me laugh, so I thought I'd use it as my first attempt to post an image. Ta-Da!

Before I forget, Happy Birthday United States of America! Tomorrow is the 4th, and to get in the right patriotic spirit, I've been watching the HBO series John Adams on Netflix. I swear I didn't plan it this way, but I will be watching the episode where the Continental Congress signs the Declaration of Independence tonight - on the eve of its 232nd anniversary. I'm such a history geek that I'm all excited about that!

I made potato salad this evening for a get-together I'm going to tomorrow, and I tried a Martha Stewart recipe (I know, whoa). It turned out pretty well, but it didn't make nearly as much as I thought it would. Hmmm. Hopefully, no one will be very hungry!

Off to watch JA and his awesome wife Abby...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Great Olive Oil Debacle of '08

So, friend GG wanted to know why I was slacking on my blog postings - I did not post anything for June 30th - and I began to tell her about my adventure last night that prevented me from posting. Both GG and friend MC felt the story would make a great blog posting, so since I did not a) get around to finalizing my financial plan, or b) have a particularly exciting day at work, I will oblige and tell the true and honest events of last evening...

I was making pesto pasta for dinner last night. As I think I've already mentioned, I am not much of a cook, but pesto pasta is something I can whip up fairly quickly and it always tastes good. I had decided to add low-fat feta to the mix last night, so I was feeling rather good about my kitchen skills. Briefly. Have you ever had a run of days when you swear you're more clumsy than usual? Well, I have been a total clutz for the last few days, and it culminated in my kitchen last night, just after the addition of the feta. I had left a bottle of olive oil open on the counter while I was putting things back in my fridge. As I was reaching across the counter for something, I elbowed the bottle and it spilled. Normally, not a huge deal. But the way in which the bottle spilled made it an absolute disaster. Half of the spill flowed onto my stove top. I have a gas stove, which means open burners, so the oil flowed INTO the burners. It also ran like a waterfall down the front of the stove and onto the floor. In addition to being very tiny, my house also kinda tilts to the left a bit, and so upon hitting the floor the oil slick flowed UNDER the stove. If my stove were movable, again this would not be terrible. But being a gas stove, it is permanently in place. I swear, it really was like watching a disaster unfold in slow motion. Within the blink of an eye, the ENTIRE contents of the bottle was on the loose. So, I immediately dove to the floor with wads of paper towels and laid on my stomach and tried to scoop the oil out from underneath. This attempt succeeded only in using up EVERY PAPER TOWEL in the house, and coated my entire front in oil. I moved on to regular towels, which I used to soak up what had spilled into the burners. I sacrificed some really, really cute kitchen towels - I started to cry a little. At this point, in what I believe was an attempt to make me feel better, both my cats (Pepper you know - Bailey is her brother) entered the fray and began walking through the oil that was still on the floor. They soon had oil all over themselves, too, and started jumping up on the countertops to get away from the ooze. I lost my temper and swore pretty loudly, and both the cats went running from the room - tracking pretty little paw-prints in oil down the hallway. I did apologize to them later on, as I tried to wipe the oil from their fur (eventually gave up on that - they'll lick it off, right?). Anyway, what seemed like many hours later, the situation was under control. Every surface in the kitchen had been swabbed down with soap and water, and the stove doesn't seem to be a fire hazard. Casualties included a favorite old, broken-in T-shirt, a pair of shorts, 4 kitchen towels and most of the trees in the Amazon rain forest. And because I'm trying to be more optimistic, I must say that the floor around the stove does have a nice sheen to it now.

So that's why I didn't post anything last night...