Listening to Myself

Monday, August 29, 2005

California Exodus?

I read a short piece on Marginal Revolution about U-Haul Pricing, where they cite another blogger who is speculating about what U-Haul's pricing might be able to tell us about moving trends. He checks the price of a LA to Las Vegas rental (and vice versa) and finds that it costs about 3.5 times as much to go from LA to Las Vegas than the other direction!

I thought this was rather interesting, and decided to see what the cost would be to rent a truck from the Bay Area in California to Vancouver, WA. I found that to go from CA to WA the cost of their largest truck was almost $2200, but to go the other direction it was not quite $600. What a phenomenal price difference!

As I've started to talk about our potential move with friends and acquaintances, I'm struck by how many people are thinking of leaving California too - but this seems to only hold true for renters. Some people I talked to have even taken scouting trips and such, so I think it is more than just idle speculation on their part.

If this sort of pricing continues to hold true and we do decide to move, I think we're going to have to drastically increase our moving budget. I've never done a one way move of anywhere this distance, so this could definitely be interesting. I think I am really beginning to understand why people have moving sales!


We have booked a trip up to Portland, OR in October to go take a look around! Matt managed to wrangle two days off (ah, the joys of working for a small company) and we're going up on Oct. 20th for 4 days. I'm really looking forward to having a car and being able to drive around the greater area to take a look. Right now we're focusing our research in southern WA, in Clark County. Right now I'm thinking that we'll show Matt around the downtown area on Thursday (he's particularly looking forward to visiting Powell's!), then spend Friday - Sunday driving around. I'm trying to decide how to do this without making the process too overwhelming - I think we'll need to take good notes as we do this, otherwise everything will probably be a blur. I'm also hoping like mad that it won't be pouring the whole time!

Another big decision we need to make is regarding just what we're looking for up there... I hope we can have some sort of handle on that before we go up there as I think that will make things easier, but things are always bound to change! I think no matter what we'll go for something with an existing home, but it is a matter of whether we look for something with just a large yard (say on .4 acres or more) and in or very near one of the towns/cities in the area or if we go further out and look at something with at least 1.5-2 acres or more. Both environments have their appeal to me - both allow space for kids to play and for us to have a big garden and at least some fruit trees... but having more space just gives a bit more freedom to put up outbuildings and such, as well as possibly have some goats or whatever if we decide to do so. But being further out also means a lot more dependence on our car in order to do anything off the property, and a lot more travel to do errands, visit other people, etc. So... I don't know. I was leaning towards smaller & closer in, but over the weekend I switched again to larger & further out. Matt just watches the mental whole process with amusement, I think. As he said over the weekend, "Nothing's final until we buy something". I think he's a little tired of the see-sawing, but I'm sure that after almost 5 years of marriage he's entirely used to it.

On another note, we visited Ardenwood Historic Farm on Saturday, which was fantastic. We all enjoyed roaming around, seeing the animals and all the different fields and gardens they have going there. We participated in a very interesting, informative, and informal presentation on working with wool and learned all about how to get from sheep to sweater. She demonstrated a drop spindle, a spinning wheel, and a small table loom, as well as how to comb out the fleece to get something you could work with. Emma also really enjoyed the animal feeding, and carefully placed her handful of hay into the appropriate bin rather than just throwing it over the side of the enclosure. They have all sorts of demonstrations and classes going on all the time, and we'll definitely have to go back. It's really neat that they managed to keep this and turn it into a park, even in such an urbanized area.

Also over the weekend I started having a few Braxton-Hicks contractions, which really took me by surprise. I hardly had any with Emma, and none this early. They feel rather odd, and so different from real contractions. It is nice to know the difference though - I think I would be a lot more concerned if this was my first pregnancy! I miss how much energy I used to have... I'm not sure how much of it is because not doing stuff begets more not doing stuff and how much of it is just not having as much energy because of being pregnant. And it isn't like this is going to get any better any time soon... even after the baby is born I'll still be more tired than I was before pregnancy for a at least a couple months, if not more. It is funny though, even with this I still find myself thinking a lot about the next pregnancy and a third child - and not as in "if" but as in "when". *grin*

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Last night we walked up to our local grocery store and they had those smaller watermelons on sale. I've been wanting to try one, so we bought one... then my poor husband had to carry it home because Emma need to rush home to use the potty! (Thanks, hon, I appreciate it!) Emma and I opened it up today and proceeded to eat half of it for lunch. It was so tasty! The funniest part was that Emma peeled the watermelon sticker off the melon, looked around for a place to put it, then with a huge smile stuck it right on my big belly. We both thought that was a pretty funny joke.

It is so much fun watching her develop a sense of humor!

Monday, August 22, 2005


I've been thinking about my last post, and feeling like I need to remind myself of our overall situation a bit and put things in perspective. What I've been considering is more specific than the "well, at least we have our health and a lovely family" type of perspective (not that these things aren't incredibly important!). Instead I've been thinking how fortunate we are that we have as much as we have, especially given our age. We may not have that much given what everything costs where we are now, but if we look at other areas, we have a lot of options. We have absolutely no debt and we are fortunate to have a decent down payment available (well, not for this area, but certainly for other areas). We also have reasonably healthy 401(k) (especially given our age) as well as a few other smaller retirement and savings accounts. We have some money stashed away for a rainy day and we are very good at saving our money and staying pretty close to a budget. I really enjoy handling the finances and the financial planning (and I think I'm pretty decent at it) and luckily Matt is willing to let me take the reins. We do not have any of the money squabbles that a lot of couples seem to have. Matt has a good job that pays reasonably well - not for this region, but certainly in terms of national averages and such - which has the added benefit of being a job that he can continue if (when?) we relocate. So, really, for not having even hit 30 yet (next year!) I think we're really doing pretty well. Sure, we probably could have done some things differently and be even better off, but we could also have done a heck of a lot worse for ourselves too. I think it would have been a lot easier to do the latter than the former. I feel very fortunate that we do have options, and we do have the ability and the means to move fairly well on our way... we just need to make some hard decisions first.

OK, personal pep talk over, thanks for "listening". I'm going to try to start "the easy peasy cardigan" from Little Turtle Knits (scroll down a bit on the page for a picture). This will be the first knitting pattern I've ever attempted, so wish me luck! It is supposed to be easy (hence the name I suppose!) but we'll see how I do.

Forever Home

One blog I really enjoy is called Classic Adventures. It is written by a woman who has a way with words, a great sense of humor, and a good eye for what to write about. They live in Northern Alabama and have 3 boys, with another child on the way. They are also homeschoolers, which I very much enjoy reading about! They have been trying to figure out where and how they can get to their forever home, and I'm very happy to report that they have finally landed!

I love what she has to say at the end, after describing their new home:
But best of all, it's ours. And if we're here for 30 years, we will have no regrets. We won't spend the rest of James' childhood constantly fixing things "for someday". This is Someday. We can enjoy it, and work on it. We can spread our little wings on it, and put down deep, deep roots on it. It's our Forever Home.

Every time I read it, I get tears in my eyes - partially because I'm happy for them, but mostly because it is something I want so much for us, but I'm not sure how we can get there. Well, no, that's not entirely true - I think I do know how to get there, but it involves some pretty hard decisions. There is pretty much no way we could stay around the area where we live now, with the median home price now at 640K (and this is just a little suburban town, almost an hour out of SF and San Jose!) and no homes for sale under a half a million. We could (barely) buy a condo like what we're living in now, but our mortgage payments, HOA dues, insurance, and taxes would cost us at least another $1000-1200 a month than what we pay in rent. Yes, you (hopefully!) get price appreciation and all... but still, yeesh. Just doesn't seem worth it. This is the town I grew up in, and where my parents still live, which is definitely a huge draw. It's a nice town in a lot of ways, and I think we'll be sad to leave... but I really think that is going to be the right thing for us to do. There just isn't any future for us here to live the kind of life we want to live.

So... we've been looking around California (well, northern CA, that is - sorry, SoCal folks, there is no chance of us going down there) and, well, we're not finding much. We had long considered the Auburn to Grass Valley area but at this point we've pretty much been priced out for what we could reasonably afford (I kind of wish we had bought 5 years ago when we first started talking about that area, but oh well - I think all we've done in the interim has been good for us, and I think we're both pretty happy with how we have changed) We considered Sacramento for a bit but it doesn't really do much for either of us, and we're really not that interested in the heat they have there. We've considered the Sonora area, but it is still a bit much, price-wise and heat-wise, and if something were to happen to Matt's currently portable job, we'd be pretty much out of luck. So, yeah, CA starts looking not so good. It is strange to think about leaving here - I'm one of those fairly rare 4th generation Californians (4th generation in the greater Bay Area, even) on both sides of the family tree. It is strange to think about leaving somewhere where I have such a strong sense of place. Driving around the Sierra Nevada reminded me of how much time I have spent there, and all the camping and backpacking trips I've taken through them all my life... and how much I still haven't seen.

I hope I too can write "This is Someday" sometime soon, but I'm not sure how long that will be. I do feel like we are making some slow progress in that direction, but unfortunately I'm coming to the realization that it is me that is holding us back. Matt's not struggling with any of this, and is much more willing to go in whatever direction is best for our family (not that he's entirely sure what/where that is, but he's a lot more willing to take the jump!). I wonder if part of the difference is that he's already made that break from his family, by coming up to Northern CA to go to college... whereas I've never lived more than about 90 miles from my parents. Or maybe it is a male/female thing. Or maybe it is just me. I'm trying to take baby steps towards letting go and following his example, but it is definitely a difficult struggle.

We're back!

Not that I mentioned that we were going anywhere or anything...

We did a 3 day camping trip with my husband's parents down at Sequoia National Park and had a very nice time. We stayed in the Mineral King area of the park, which is definitely off the beaten path. My husband has a knack for picking campgrounds like that! It was 20 miles off the highway on a one lane, seriously windy road. I was a little concerned that his parents would turn back about half-way up, as none of us realized just how far up we had to go and just how bad the road was going to be. The area is very nice though, and I'm glad we got a chance to see it. Yesterday we drove out through the main part of Sequoia (because we just couldn't get enough of all those windy roads, of course!) and stopped to look at the new Sequoia museum (which I definitely recommend) and have a nice picnic. We talked about stopping for a short hike, but we decided that we'd like to get home before dark so we'll just have to go back some other time to see more.

My in-laws really are great people to travel with, camp with, whatever. They get up early like we do (earlier, actually!), get ready to go out reasonably fast, and are up for pretty much whatever. No drama, no hassles, and they (especially my mother-in-law) love to entertain Emma so that I can be off duty for a bit. They are interesting to talk to, caring, and just generally nice people to be around. What more could I ask for? I really feel blessed for marrying into such a great family. (And the extended family on that side is wonderful too!)

Monday, August 15, 2005

This and that

First off, the weather has been glorious the last few days. We woke up on Saturday with a very nice high cloud cover, and it has returned every morning since. The highs have only been in the 70's and the sun has been peeking through in the afternoons... it has been such a welcome relief from the relentless 95+ degree days we've been having for the last month. I've been feeling so much more energetic too - not sure if it is because I can finally stomach the multivitamin that I'm supposed to be taking or if it is because of the change in the weather (although this new burst of energy did start on Friday, when I spent 3 hours scrubbing my bathrooms and still was able to take a 4 mile walk that evening). At any rate, I'm not going to overanalyze it too much, and just enjoy it!

On other fronts, we've been fighting off our annual ant invasion... there is something about August that makes the ants in the front and backyard decide it is time to take a pilgrimage to the cat food bowls (with other stops along the way, as opportunity presents, of course). This year I've been quite impressed at the variety of different places they've been coming in - not only the obvious places like under the sliding glass door, front door, and windows, but also from a crack above the sliding glass door (with no trail going up the outside - they seem to have traveled all the way around the door until they found that opening) and under the baseboards in such unlikely places as the middle of the house. On Friday Emma had left a small pile of goldfish crackers on the floor of the family room and within an hour it was swarmed with ants coming from under the baseboard on one of the center walls of the house. Granted there is a 6-8 inch crawlspace under part of the house which they must be inhabiting, but still I thought the amount of time it took for them to jump on that opportunity was quite impressive. I have also decided that my favorite way of cleaning up ants is using the vacuum cleaner - quite satisfying too, without the risk of having lots and ants crawling up your hands and arms. Last year I used to get really mad at them while cleaning up the house, but so far this year I've seen it as more of a challenge and an opportunity to admire what they can do with such limited mental capacity. Instinct is pretty darn amazing, when I stop to think about it.

Let's see, what else is going on. My daughter helped me make chocolate chip cookies this morning (another plus of the weather - I can use the oven again!) and I'm amazing at all she can do now. She's very adept at measuring ingredients and pouring them in, and she's also figured out how to use the spatula to get the cookies off the cookie sheet. She's also very aware of what is hot, and knowing how to handle that - she is getting better and better at following directions and being aware of her surroundings. I am so enjoying watching her develop and grow.

I was having a perfectly lovely day this morning, but I just got a call from my aunt (my father's brother's wife) saying that my grandmother is in the hospital. It doesn't sound life-threatening, but she will still be in there for a bit while they figure out what exactly is going on and what they need to do about it. The problem is that they are trying to track down my father and step-mother to tell them what is going on, and they seem to have left town or something. They aren't returning calls left at home or on either of their cell phones for the last couple of days - and of course they neglected my grandmother or my aunt & uncle if they were going anywhere, which they said they where going to do. So, I've been asked to try to make phone calls and to track them down because my aunt & uncle can't use their cell phones while they are in the hospital with my grandmother. Much to my chagrin, I've realized that I only have my father's home number... I managed to dig out my step-mother's cell number from an old email, but I don't have my father's. I don't have my step-brother's phone numbers, and I have no phone numbers for anyone on my step-mother's side of the family. Yeah, well, let's just say I'm not particularly close to my father and my relationship with him has not exactly easy. I do best when I think of him as a distant uncle that I can enjoy visiting with upon occasion, with no other expectations. Anyways, this task has called up all sorts of baggage I guess because I feel all agitated and annoyed with him now - much more than I think necessarily. Ah, family - difficult to deal with at times, and impossible to exist without.

Alright, time to end this - Emma wants to plant a plum seed taken from a yummy plum devoured at lunch. I have one peach tree growing from doing something similar, maybe we'll get a plum tree too.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

That cake

Well, the cake didn't turn out quite as well as I had hoped, but it still was pretty good. Making an angel food type cake is an interesting experience. I've never taken 3 egg yolks and 3/4 cup of water and turned it into one quart of mixture before! Amazing what beating eggs for a long time will do. The cake did fall a bit in the oven, which defeated my plan to slice the cake in half and put the filling in the middle. It just didn't have the structural integrity to hold up to that kind of treatment. I added more whipped cream to the filling and used it as a topping rather than an icing or a filling, and that worked reasonably well, although I thought it was a little sweet. I also served the whole concoction with strawberries, which was definitely a good idea. It didn't look nearly as pretty as I had hoped, but it still tasted good... and my family is quite forgiving so long as it still tastes good!

I had a very nice birthday dinner and evening - my sister even made it down, which was a nice surprise. Matt's taking me out to brunch tomorrow and then to a matinee of Golda's Balcony in SF. I'm very much looking forward to both things, it should be a nice treat.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Real Live Preacher

Real Live Preacher (RLP) is a blog written by a somewhat unconventional Baptist minister in Texas. It is one of the first blogs I ever read consistently, and the blog I've read for the longest period of time. I've been reading his blog since sometime in the early spring of 2003, not too long after he got going online. One of his essays, called "The Preacher's Story", was very important in my journey into Christianity. Part four in particular was what I needed to read at that particular point in my life, and it really helped me move forward past a point I had been stuck at for a long time. If I had to cite the three main things that brought me to the point of my baptism in August of 2003 I would have to refer to Real Live Preacher for his thoughtfulness, kindness, and beautiful writings on faith and trying to live an authentic Christian life. I would also have to point to C.S. Lewis for his life-altering logic and clear writing. Last but not least I would also have to point to various family members for "walking the walk" and living a life of example.

But I think I've gotten away from where I meant to go with this. Recently, RLP wrote an essay called "The Future of Real Live Preacher" which I found stunning. I would recommend reading the essay and then coming back, if you don't mind. What I have to say will probably make more sense that way. As I read the essay, I was cringing inside, thinking that RLP was going to go offline, or at least to a much more limited posting regimen. Instead, I found that he is willing to take a huge leap into the unknown and go for what he loves and feels called to do. The sheer guts and audacity of his jump is almost too much for me to believe. I think this is what you'd call a leap of faith - perhaps even a crazy leap of faith. All I can do is sit back, watch in awe, and pray that he has the softest landing possible. I really admire his willingness to take the road that isn't the most pragmatic and safe one... but at the same time I find it terrifying.

I think I find this terrifying because, well, what if Matt were to do the same thing? Matt has it in him to be a terrific writer - although in a completely different genre. He writes sci-fi/cyber punk, and writes it well. He intuitively knows how to create characters and dialogue, and knows how to create tense, compelling action. He has real talent, and a huge part of me wishes he would just run with it and do it. Right now, he writes little snippets when something comes to the front of his mind with enough force to compel him to record it, but not much more than that. I have faith that he could do so much more but I know how hard it is for him to carve out the time to do it. And the thought of chucking the regular paycheck to do this unknown? Terrifying... but compelling, because I think I'd like to know and be with the version of my husband who would be willing to take this leap. I'm not even entirely sure this is what Matt would want for himself - he's reasonably happy doing what he does now, and occasionally even enjoys it. It pays decently, and it comes fairly easily to him. I just sometimes wonder if it is really want he wants to be doing.

OK, enough. Today is my birthday, and it is time for Emma and me to get started on my birthday cake! I'm making Gone with the Wind Cake with Lemon Filling and whipped cream on top. I think it sounds like a very nice summer cake, and I hope it turns out!

Oh, and I should add - Matt's started blogging again. The URL is He has one snippet up that he wrote last night. I wish his archives from his old site were up, but I don't think they are accessible anywhere.

Thursday, August 04, 2005


I have discovered knitting! For the past couple of years, I've been trying to find some sort of portable handicraft I can do. Ever since about half-way through college, I've had a lot of problems with my wrists and hands. My dexterity, especially in my left hand, is nowhere where it should be and my hand strength has never really fully recovered either. I've tried cross-stitch (as my mother-in-law is an amazing stitcher!) but it makes my hand cramp very quickly, and I have a difficult time working with the fibers and with smaller gauge fabrics because of my dexterity issues. I can only cross stitch for about 15 min a day, which if you have any experience with that art, you'll know that it will take about 6 years to finish anything at that pace! I've also tried crochet, as that is my mom's handicraft of choice but I find I have a hard time keeping appropriate tension on the yarn and it also makes my hands cramp. I was a little apprehensive about trying knitting, but with being pregnant and all it's made me want to do *something* (pregnancy nesting is so funny!) so I bought a book and taught myself how to do it. To my surprise and delight, I can knit for pretty long periods of time without any problems, and even better, I also enjoy it! I was itching to knit the whole time I was in Portland, but I didn't bring my needles because I thought I might be carrying on my bag. There's a knitting store an easy walk from the hotel I stayed at (yes, I checked ahead of time!) but when I got there I found out that they are closed until September. Yeesh! I was trying to figure out how to steal away and go to The Yarn Garden, but their hours and the times I had to go just didn't coincide very well. Once I got back I started to think about local yarn shops, and through this great new blog I've been reading, Yarn Harlot (hat tip to Julie D.), I found links to two of them. The one in Berkeley looks like it might be fun to visit, but I think I'd be way too intimidated to visit the one in SF. Yeah, yeah, I know - judging a book by its cover and all, and I know knitting isn't just for little old ladies, but still... I think I'd just be too embarrassed to go in and confess that I want to knit baby clothes. I'll have to look around a bit and see if I can find anything closer. I really like the idea of going to a yarn shop rather than just to Jo-Ann's up the street (which has a horrible selection) or to Michael's (with its abysmal service).

I'm Back!

Well, actually I've been back since late Monday, but it has taken me a couple days to get back in the swing of things. We had a very nice trip to Portland, I really like it up there. The weather was great, we had fun doing the various activities we picked out, and we generally had a very nice time. If anyone is doing any sightseeing in the Portland area, I highly recommend the jet boat tour of the Willamette River that leaves from the dock at the OMSI Science Museum. It was a lot of fun, and a really neat way to see a bit more of the area. I was amazed to see that there are bald eagles and osprey nesting above the river about a mile south of downtown. We also went to their excellent zoo, OMSI (where we also toured the USS Blackhawk, a Cold War era diesel sub), the World Forestry Discovery Center (it just reopened a couple of months ago with all new exhibits, very nicely done), Powell's (of course!), and the Portland Art Museum. All were definitely worthwhile adventures. I also really wanted to go to the Japanese Gardens as I didn't make it there last year, but since I was traveling with some late risers it just didn't happen. It was very strange to not leave the hotel until at least 10:30 every morning... I'm glad they had a good breakfast at the hotel, otherwise I don't think it would have worked out at all! We also had the additional adventure of missing our return flight, mostly due to poor time management and certain individuals not wanting to get to the airport too early. Oh well, Emma and I caught the next flight out without a problem and we had a very nice (and relatively inexpensive) dinner at the airport while we waited. We also read The Mouse and the Motorcycle for about an hour, which we both enjoyed.

I enjoyed the trip, but I think that next time I would rather just go with the munchkin(s) by myself, or with my husband. Traveling with people who work on different time schedules is definitely rather challenging, especially when you can't really hurry them along.

I think northern Oregon and southern Washington are places I would consider moving to - I think having Portland be the nearest "big city" would be pretty cool. Some of our criteria for relocating are that we wouldn't be more than about 1.5 hours from a city with a good airport and with the cultural amenities like a zoo, science museum, art museum and the like. We'd also like a place that isn't as hot as it is here, but still has a decent growing season. I'm not sure about the legendary rain in that area... although if we did move there we'd be more towards the Cascades rather than the coastal mountains, which I think does cut down on the rain somewhat. I think that so long as the sun reaches the ground when it does show itself occasionally we'll be just fine. That was one of the hardest parts of living in a redwood forest - it would be a beautiful, clear, sunny winter day and you'd step outside and it would be extremely damp and cold with not a sunbeam to be found anywhere. I hated that from November to March I had to drive several miles just to stand in a sunbeam! That was one of the biggest factors in deciding we didn't want to stay in the Santa Cruz mountains... well, that and the drowning, smothering feeling we got every time we paid the mortgage. :-)