Disregard the fake smile....I got my hair cut today and I LOVE IT!!! It's kind of hard to tell, but it's a bob and it's a bit longer in the front and not too crazy short in the back. I've been getting the same style for a long time and it feels great to switch it up! I've been going to the same person since I moved to Baltimore in 1998 and I've only cheated on her once. Hey, she told me I could! She started out in a salon, but ended up moving to her own place a few years back. I would almost always get my hair done when I came home from the UK and Ireland. I've always been pretty open about hairstyles (it's only hair), but the last few years we've really been in a rut. She did amazing highlights, as usual, and I'm happy to have a new style!
This is a long one, but I felt I should tell you as I didn't want you to think it was all sunshine and butterflies when you move back to the US.
This is me getting health insurance in Ireland:
Me: Hi, I'd like to get health insurance. I've looked online at your different plans and this is the plan I would like to get.
Them: Grand sure! We can have it start immediately. The cost is 75 euro per month. We'll send out all your policy info.
Me: Great! Have a nice day! Click
The process of getting insurance in the US totally sucks.
We don't have jobs, so we have to apply for health insurance on our own. I tried one of the larger companies here in Maryland, but was denied because of my BMI. I wonder if you would be denied if your BMI was too low. Hmmm.... Anyway, they suggested I apply for this federal high risk pool since I was denied for medical reasons. Ironically, the coverage managed by this same large MD company and is actually better and cheaper than what I was denied. One stipulation is that you can not have had insurance in the past 6 months. I called the help line and they very friendly man (seriously friendly) reassured me that all they care about is US healthcare. Off goes the application (with an explanation of my Irish healthcare) and I get a letter last week that the reason I was denied was because I had healthcare in the past 6 months. So I call AGAIN and they assure me that it's only US healthcare that counts. I explain my situation and she asks if I could fax that explanation to them. I could start a whole separate rant about how the US is the only country in the world that still uses fax machines, but I'll spare you. I asked if I could email it. No. So now I have to be inconvenienced to hunt down a freaking fax machine to tell them something that was already written on my original application. Not to mention our brand new printer is a piece of junk, so I'll have to hand write it. I'm pretty excited about this situation.
On to the homeowners insurance....
I never got homeowners in Ireland, but I'm fairly certain it would gone pretty much the same as the health insurance.
Prior to moving to the UK I used a large insurance company that starts with an 'A' and ends with 'state'. I was really happy with them. Unfortunately, they didn't provide insurance for rental properties, so I had to switch to another company. The coverage wasn't as good and the price was the same, but it was fine for a rental. After we moved back into the house I contact my previous company as I was anxious to get more decent coverage on the house again. The woman that I dealt with was an absolute star. Everything was done over email (she didn't ask me to fax anything), it was totally easy peasy. One day a guy comes by and says he wants to take pictures of the house for our application. Great! Nothing has changed on the exterior since the last time I was covered, so no problem. About a week after that we get a very nasty letter from the risk department telling us that they're cancelling our policy based on our dishonesty with the condition of the house. They never would have covered us if they knew we were such high risk.
They cancelled us because of this:
This is a soffit on the back of the house. Apparently it could fall off and injure someone. Okay, fair enough.
What is it, you ask? See how the front stoop only has one railing on it? Yeah. That's why.
This is the one that really ticked me off.
There was no mention in the letter that we had the chance to fix things before they decided to cancel us. So, I emailed my contact person and she said that we do have the chance to fix things, and she agreed the soffit in the back was a bit ridiculous (I had said that it's about $20 to fix it), but that they couldn't be lenient on the railing thing. You may notice in the above picture that my neighbor only has one (not pictured) railing. My neighbor on the other side - one railing. Every house on my block - one railing. 90% of houses in Baltimore city - one railing (I know this because I can't stop looking at railings now). I was furious. How do they get any new business in the city?? Yes, I asked her that and she didn't answer me. The cancellation letter only suggested we trying getting insurance from the company I used when the house was a rental. This is the company that people use when they don't qualify with anyone else, so you can imagine what their rates would be for a comparable policy to the one getting cancelled. Um, no. People in this town are getting their one-railing houses insured by someone and I'm going to find them. What do I do? I go to their major competitor, State F-. I was terrified that we were going to be penalized since the other company was cancelling us, but they put my fears to rest on that. They were sending someone out to take pictures for our application, so Wes had his first DIY project:
(His second one should probably be cleaning the siding!Yikes!)
As I predicted the total project was about $13 and we're the proud new owners of some tin snips! I've been reassured that the railing isn't a problem and he said, that's why you pay for insurance, right? RIGHT!!! And my favorite part was that they gave us a reusable bag for the grocery store and this:
You had me at chocolate fudge brownies....
Seriously though, I actually lost sleep over this situation and more worryingly, I probably sprouted a few new gray hairs. Why? Because that letter from their risk department made it sound like I was this horrible, deceptive person. Everything was fine in 2006, how did I know this now was grounds for cancellation?? Why would I think the stoop would be a problem when that's how the entire city has been designed? My stoop has been like that since at least the 1950s! My parents have faithfully used this company for many years and I was their customer for over 10 (started with auto and then homeowners). Is there no customer loyalty??
Bottom line is they wronged me and if anyone asks me for a suggestion for insurance I will definitely point them in a different direction. I don't feel totally okay about calling them out on this blog, but if you can't work out the company from my very non-cryptic clues, then send me an email and I'll be happy to tell you who it is.
Once I find that stupid fax machine, this should hopefully be the end of our insurance woes for a little while. Thankfully I have a hair appointment on Thursday to cover up all my new gray hairs!
Today we went to the Maryland Vehicle Administration (MVA) and it took 4.5 hours.
Seriously though, it was the pits. Fortunately, in addition to the incredibly nice employees, there is some quality people watching to keep you entertained while you wait. Wes thinks that in America there's an inverse correlation between the size of one's body and the amount of clothing one chooses to cover it with. He's definitely on to something there.
When your number is finally called, after HOURS of waiting, you want to do a little dance going up to the window. One woman did actually hoot her way up and another woman was getting ready to leave and she told her ride that she would be out after she said goodbye to all the new friends she met while waiting. She wasn't even joking.
In the end, we walked out of there with my driving license in my married name (and we thought waiting for an hour at the SSA was bad) and he had his brand new learner's permit! Yay!
The house we've moved into is the one I bought back in 2002. I lived in it until 2006 when I moved to England. While I was gone I rented it out and had 3 different groups of tenants. I really lucked out and even though it was a rental for 4.5 years it's actually in really good shape. Regardless, the house is showing it's wear. Some of the projects are things I wanted to do even before I moved out and some are things that just need replaced after 9 years.
When I bought the house it was totally rehabbed. I didn't have any say in what went on, which was fine. I was young, single, and working, so I didn't want a place that I was going to have to do a lot of work just to make it liveable. The builders (who I later discovered were useless and could be a whole post of their own) put all the basics into the place. Again, that's fine. I was able to buy the house and make changes over the years.
I thought I'd do some posts highlighting different parts of the house and what we'd like to do with it. Once we get jobs we hope to put the ideas into action! I'll start with the first floor since it's the largest area.
This is what the first floor of the house looked like when I bought it:
The stairs with the hideous railings.
Looking from the front door to the kitchen.
Looking toward the front door.
Kitchen with hideous blue counter tops and blue tile floor.
Here is what the first floor looked like right before I moved to England:
It's hard to tell, but I took down the hideous railings when I pulled up the carpet. I replaced the carpet with laminate flooring.
No more blue tile! That was a total pain to get up, but 100% worth it in the end. Notice what's still there...the blue counter tops. They were on my bucket list of things to get rid of.
And, here's what things look like as of today. If you know me in real life and wonder why we haven't invited you around, now you'll see why. Before I took the pictures I thought I should clean up a bit, but really, there's no place to put this stuff.
You may notice a lack of furniture and rugs. Yeah. I sold a lot of stuff to a friend since I knew I'd want something different when I moved back That's why we have no sofa and end tables. What you can't see between the two chairs is the cardboard box we're using as a coffee table. Classy. I'd also like to come up with new railings for the bottom of the stairs.
We had to buy a TV and little TV stand. The old entertainment center weighed about 2 tons and was ugly. My last tenant didn't want it and the ones before that offered to get rid of it, so I took them up on it. Thank goodness I saved that large bookcase since a whole lot of our shipment consisted of books! It's already 90% full!
Blue counter tops?? Check! Extra security bar on the door?? Check! One day I was coming through the door and thought to myself, 'I could probably kick that door in, no problem'. If I can kick it in, anyone can! The kitchen is one of the places that I'm dreaming about a complete overhaul: new stove (one of the burners doesn't work), new dishwasher, and new cabinets/counter tops/back splash. The fridge is new, so no need for a new one. The cabinets are in fine condition, but I find that there is a lot of wasted/unusable space in the back. My parents have shelves in their cabinets that slide out, allowing you to use access the back of the cabinet much more easily. However the space that is my biggest pet peeve is this:
It's the area between the refrigerator and back window. I've considered putting a lot of things in this space, namely a big stand alone butcher block thing with drawers and what not. I can't put a hutch there because it would cover up the fuse box. With the price of those, however, I could probably get the new kitchen cabinets, so I'm thinking more built-in cabinets in this space and around the fridge. At least one cabinet will be a tall one to put brooms in and such. The hope is that this would increase resale value as well.
That's it for my first floor dreams: a couch and a new kitchen. That's not too much to ask for, right?? I suppose my dream for a job needs to come true first!
When each of my nephews turned 5 I took them somewhere special for their birthday. My youngest nephew just turned 7 and since I wasn't really around for his 5th birthday, I finally had the chance to take him for his birthday trip. I gave him a few options of things to do in Baltimore and he picked Urban Pirates. So, we boarded the 'Fearless' in Fell's Point and headed out to learn how to be pirates.
I really had no idea what to expect, but I have to say, it was brilliant. There were some kids on there who were really into pirates. Before we headed out we were having a look out the back side of the boat and this boy comes up to us and says, 'Arghh...it's a great day to hit the high seas'. Um....okay. I wonder if he even noticed that we didn't leave the Inner Harbor. The trip lasted exactly an hour and they kept the kids engaged the entire time. The trip was centered around a story and while they were telling the story they did activities.
He got a kick out of this pirate. He had a French name and his last name was l'Aubergine and they just called him 'Eggplant'. That cracked me up every time.
Listening to the story about Mad Dog, the nasty pirate, and learning how to speak like a pirate.Wes was disappointed to hear that we didn't learn, 'Shiver me timbers!'.
In order to get the kids sweaty and smelly like proper pirates, they had them dance. My nephew loves to dance and good thing because we did that a lot on the trip!
Every now and then Mad Dog would come by in his little boat and the kids had to man the water cannons. You can imagine this part was a huge hit!
Not sure if all pirates do the limbo when they have some downtime, but we did.
Without going into the whole back story (don't want to ruin it for you!), rest assured we got our stolen treasure back and the kids each got to take home some booty!
I even got the chance to take a couple of non-piratey pictures:
I was a little skeptical because of the price, but in the end I felt it was worth it. They had little costumes they could wear, they got a pirate name, they had temporary tattoos (one little girl showed me her mermaid tattoo...it's her favorite animal in the ocean!), and the could have their faces painted with scars and stuff. The crew did a brilliant job at keeping the kids (and adults) interested and engaged. One little girl was doing this for her birthday and they made a big deal out of it. There was a bathroom on board and they provided cups and water which was really nice since it was so hot.
All in all it was a really good time and I would highly recommend it if you're visiting Baltimore. ARGHHHH!!!!
After we moved the stuff from storage, I whittled everything down to 4 boxes left in the living room. Then last week we had 16 boxes delivered from Ireland. I'm not sure why I didn't take a picture when they arrived. Too depressing maybe? It's been less than a week and now the boxes look like this:
BOO-YAH!!! There are about 10 boxes folded up in the smaller box and the tall box is full of packing paper. We've saved a few boxes and they're in the basement. Tomorrow is recycling day, which is why it's all stacked by the back door. We'll also be taking this second batch of stuff to Good Will and there may still be a few things added to the pile:
Everything made it over in one piece, so we were really thankful for that. The strangest thing is the smell that's on all our stuff. I opened the first box and expected it to smell like the moldy apartment we left. It wasn't like that at all. Everything smells...nice. I'm not sure what they do to stuff at customs, but thanks for making my stuff smell better!
One weird thing did happen though. When the guy was bringing the stuff inside, these were on top of one of the boxes:
We have no idea what these are and they are not ours. I pointed that out to the guy and he couldn't care less. He just kept saying they were with the boxes. I suggested he take them back to where they came from, but he wasn't really interested in doing this. Does anyone know what they are? Wes will email the company to let them know we have them, but I'm fairly certain they won't want anything to do with them either.
No one enjoys our ghetto backyard more than the cat.
She loves nothing more than rolling around in hot sunshine and dirt. You might think it's sad there's no grass for her, but it's a blessing. If there's one blade of anything, anywhere, she will chomp away on it; promptly puking it back up when she comes inside.
It was all about summertime these past couple of days. We just got back from a quick trip up to my parent's in PA. They wanted to take Wes golfing for his birthday. While they were doing that I got to go swimming with my friend and her two boys. I lurve swimming, so it was a win-win for everyone! The other week I paid $3.99 for a small pack of basil, so I was anxious to get some herbs to plant. Mom and I found some that were buy one get one free, so I got basil and cilantro. I was so happy when I was planting them last evening!
I could have seriously gone nuts with buying herbs and veggies to plant, but it's a little late in the season and I would have had to buy a bunch of pots and soil. Unfortunately, it's not in the budget right now.
After we left there, we stopped at the local farm shop. It was jammers and I can understand why! All the gorgeous fruits, vegetables, and baked goods. I should have taken my camera along. Again, I could have gone seriously nutso, but I had some restraint. The last minute addition of homemade chocolate chip cookies was my only splurge! I also bought some fresh beetroot which I've never prepared. I'm not sure if I'll roast it or boil it to use for a salad. I also got some local red delicious apples, white peaches, black plums, zucchini, white cabbage, a mixture of little red and yellow tomatoes, and kohlrabi. If we lived closer I would have bought local eggs and milk too. Best of all my mom bought corn for lunch, so we had my first corn on the cob of the summer. YUMMM!!!!! We also had yellow string beans and hot dogs on the grill. Is that summer or what!?
On our way home we stopped to buy some beer. Wes is all about trying different types of local beer, so we got some from the Lancaster Brewing Company. I've had their strawberry wheat beer before and really enjoyed it. I also couldn't resist the packaging:
It was a great couple of days and I told Wes he wins husband of the year for it. He went golfing with my parents and aunt (while I was frolicking in the pool); we hung out with one of my high school friends and his wife (I tried to keep the talking of high school people to a minimum); and he went with my dad to a local military museum (my mom and I were happy to bow out of this one)!
And just as an extra, I found this little guy on my basil plant when I went out this morning to take a picture of it. He was just sitting there until I stuck my camera in his face and he started walking all over the plant. I guess I'm not very stealth!