Home Renovations: Leveling the Floors

Last I left you, I was talking about how the first major renovation project we undertook at our new house was leveling the floors.  Our house was built in 1969 by the former and original owners, Mr. and Mrs. STK.  It’s common for older homes to settle over time thereby creating a slight slant in the floors.  To fix this pitch is a complex and expensive renovation so most homeowners choose to live with the home’s quirk and chalk it up to old house character.  Unfortunately for us, the slant in our floors was extremely obvious – so much so that Mr. S and I would joke that we had to go “climb the hill” to get to the bathroom.

According to the experts, usually when houses settle into the ground, there are tell-tale signs: cracking along the walls and ceilings especially where there are windows and doorways, cracking in the foundation, uneven gaps in the doorjambs, etc.  To the confusion of the contractors we met with, our house exhibited none of these symptoms.  One contractor had the theory that our house didn’t sink, but that it was actually built crooked.  Because the basement in our house is unfinished, he was able to show us exactly the root of the problem.

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We Bought a House, Part 2

So now that I’ve disclosed that we bought a house in our New Jersey hometown directly across the street from my mom and dad, it’s time for a bit of a house tour don’t you think?

My dad has always seen the potential in the ranch house across the street, but my mom on the other hand was aghast. “IT’S SO UGLY INSIDE!”  It’s true, the house was sorely dated having been built by Mr. and Mrs. STK in the 1960s and, as far as we could tell, not updated since then.  I have vague memories as a young child visiting Mr. and Mrs. STK on Easter Sunday to deliver some cookies or cake and even then thinking to myself, “This house smells funny.  It smells old.  I’d like to leave now.”  I remembered it was dark with wood paneling and heavy window treatments, but I’ve watched enough HGTV to know that type of stuff is easily changed and a fresh coat of paint and some new furniture can do wonders for a space.  So I didn’t let my recollections deter me from considering the house.

This is the house as we purchased it.

Curb appeal. This is the view from my parents’ front lawn. Directly. Across. The street. The aluminum awning and the grated storm door were a few of the first things to go once our purchase was official. Someday I’d like to remove the gigantic tree, not only for aesthetics, but also for practical purposes. There have been a few fallen trees/tree branches during recent heavy storms and this one is precariously close to our roof.

DSC01418

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We Bought a House, Part 1

Homeownership, it’s the American dream.  (Although so far as I can tell, it’s entirely overrated.)  We didn’t buy our home in New Jersey in the traditional way, and honestly, our purchase was made somewhat on a whim.  Mr. S and I had been dipping one toe in the real estate market for a couple of years but we were wholly focused on NYC and the surrounding boroughs.  We even placed an offer on a one bedroom apartment back in 2013 on East 102nd Street but we lost to a higher bid.  At that price, we were already stretching ourselves way too thin and we graciously accepted defeat.  The 613 square foot condo eventually sold for $487,000.  NYC real estate is crazy.

We half-heartedly looked at some other apartments in Brooklyn and Central Harlem, just to see what our money could buy us.  Answer: our money could buy us an itty bitty one bedroom with lots of “great quirks” in “up and coming” neighborhoods.  It was disheartening, but we also weren’t super serious about buying in NYC.  Our budget could only afford a one bedroom and we knew we’d grow out of that floor plan within a year or two.  So when we got engaged and shifted our focus to the wedding, I was all too happy to continue renting and to let homeownership wait.  Still, the nagging facts of renting vs. buying and favorable interest rates reminded me that investing in a property was the smart move and we should do so sooner rather than later.

So when my dad called one day with the news that the house across the street from them was going up for sale, I was interested – not as a home for Mr. S and me, but as an investment property.  We could buy the house, fix it up a bit, rent it out, sell it in a few years, and make a good profit – all while still living the good life in our NYC studio.

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The Whole 30: Filipino Style

I’m not usually one for diets or New Year’s resolutions, but in the last weeks of 2014, I threw all caution to the wind when it came to my eating and went absolutely HAM at meal time, snack time, and basically all the time.  I had been semi-careful with my diet in the weeks leading up to our wedding so I figured I had earned the delicious calories.  Then the holidays came around and with it the special family dinners, Christmas parties, and an endless parade of cookies and goodies at work.  So when 2015 arrived, I took the opportunity to join in on a Whole 30 Challenge to rein my eating habits back in.

What’s the Whole 30 Challenge?  I don’t know if I’d categorize it as a “diet” per se.  It’s more of a philosophy to eat less processed, artificial, prepared foods and more whole (hence the name), natural foods.  Basically it boils down to grains, sugar, dairy, legumes, alcohol bad; meat, fish, poultry, fruits, nuts, and veggies good.  The reason I don’t view it as a diet is because there is no calorie counting.  Sure, with the rules set forth above, we’re pushed towards the perimeter of the grocery store where the healthier foods live and therefore are eating better, but according to Whole 30, there’s nothing wrong with scarfing down a 48 oz. steak for dinner if you wanted to.

 

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My Subconscious is Telling Me I’m Not Ready for Children

First they pester you with “When are you getting married?!?” Then when you finally get married, even before the wedding reception is over, they start demanding offspring. Everywhere we go, everyone wants to know, “WHEN ARE YOU HAVING KIDS?!?”
For us, this question was a hot topic even before our wedding. My mother retired a few years ago
and decided that spoiling her grandchildren was the only way to spend her golden years. She even educated me in the process of making babies in case the reason she had no grandchildren yet was because I hadn’t figured it out, “You know, you don’t have to be married to have kids…”For a long time I had some respite from my dad, who forever and ever will see me as his little girl – even when I am post-menopause. But then at our wedding he pulled out this doozy at the end of his toast: “And please, have children soon. We are getting old.” And with that, our alliance was broken. He had joined the dark side.The questions and the pressure don’t bother Mr. S and me. We’re accustomed to the lack of filter my entire family seems to suffer from and as long as he and I are on the same page of life (we both want children eventually, just not yet), we can easily fend off the peanut gallery together. Sometimes it’s a polite, “Oh no, not yet, maybe next year,” and other times (especially when dealing with my mother) it’s a face plant into a throw pillow until she changes the subject.It’s difficult to justify to myself and to others why exactly we are waiting – I’ve just entered my 30s (do you hear the tick tock?), we’re financially secure, we bought a whole house with multiple rooms, we’ve had a lot of time to enjoy each other pre-baby, etc. So when I try to buy us some time with, “We’re just not ready yet.” I myself am perplexed. Why are we not yet ready? And how will we know when we are??
Honestly, I don’t put much active thought into procreating (my mantra is it will happen when it happens), but apparently my subconscious has been wrestling with the idea of children and it is telling me DEFINITELY NOT YET. This is a dream (or nightmare, you decide) that I had a few days ago:
I return home from somewhere and am greeted by my newborn baby boy. A group of faceless women had been looking after him for me while I was out. I pick him up and unlovingly hold him at arm’s length, assess his outfit (not to my liking), and place him into the grocery cart that serves as his stroller. I wheel the grocery cart into the next room where I change his outfit no less than five times. Someone calls my name and I leave the room to answer. When I return, baby boy and grocery cart are gone. Lost. I swear I left it right here… I lethargically move from room to room half-heartedly trying to locate my child. I never feel panicked, just annoyed that I have to go through all the trouble of finding him. Ugh, this blows. After searching all the rooms, I decide that he’ll turn up eventually and leave the house to go to a Chippendale’s show. As I’m getting comfortable with a cocktail in my front row seat, my son appears on stage – except he is now a toddler and wearing leather ass-less chaps. He’s the main attraction, body rockin’ along with the rest of the male ensemble and the women are going CRAAAZZZYYY. My initial reaction is not shock, shame, or guilt, but rather, “Wow, they really do grow up so fast!”
It was at this point that I woke up slightly perturbed that even in my dreams I was a terrible parent, and yet I was still entertained by the absurdity of it all (if I ever come across miniature ass-less chaps, I’m buying five pairs. My future children have no idea what is in store for them). I got out of bed thanking my subconscious for giving me a surefire way to know when the time for motherhood is right. The answer: when the image of my hypothetical two year old son grinding up on some hussy who is stuffing dollar bills down his G-string diaper is no longer emblazoned into my mind. Something tells me it’s gonna take a while for that memory to fade.

2014: A Year to Remember

Before we ring in the New Year, I thought it’d be nice to wrap up 2014 with a little recap.

We got married. For the rest of my life, 2014 will be THE YEAR WE GOT MARRIED. Planning our wedding pretty much consumed my entire year, and I took it on with gusto (however I would NOT do it all over again. Once is enough, thank you very much). We got engaged in September 2013 and up until our wedding in December 2014, I was a bride force to be reckoned with. The obsession with wedding planning only intensified when I was accepted to blog about the whole process over at Weddingbee. But all my planning and Googling were well worth it because our wedding was EPIC.
BEST DAY EVER. | Photo Credit: Clean Plate Pictures
Mr. S graduated from nursing school. While I was busy with wedding dresses, floral arrangements, and vintage furniture, Mr. S kept himself occupied with video games his last few months of nursing school. He graduated with his classmates in May 2014 and passed his NCLEX exam in November 2014. That means he’s officially a registered nurse and my husband so he is legally obligated on two fronts to take care of me for the rest of his life. Yes, you’re allowed to sympathize with him.
The graduate!!
We bought a house. OMG, we bought a house! How did that happen?!? I’m really not sure…we didn’t mean to buy a house. It was kind of an accident. The most expensive impulse buy I’ve ever made. As 2014 was the year of the wedding, 2015 will be the year of the house – but not until June 2015 when our NYC apartment lease is up, at which point I’ll be kicking and screaming my way to the suburbs. Wait, am I gonna have to change my name to the Suburban Rice Ball??? Shit, I really didn’t think this through…
We bought this gigantic tree and the house that came with it. Many home renovations are planned for 2015.
We celebrated Chunk’s first Gotcha Day. In September, we celebrated the one year anniversary of adopting Chunk. We are just as infatuated with him today as we were when we first got him.
Chunk, stopping to smell the bodega roses.
In summary, 2014 has been very painful to our bank accounts, but so very worth all the stress and questionable budgeting. Hopefully 2015 will be a year of replenishing our coffers, travel (LOTS of travel), getting our last fill of NYC’s sights and eats, and turning the little house into our new home. With all the activity of the past year, I’m looking forward to a quiet New Year’s Eve, celebrating in sweatpants with my new husband, our overly flatulent dog, and copious amounts of Chinese food.

Happy New Year to all! May your 2015 be filled with love, laughter, and lots of money!

A New Decade: Happy 30th Birthday to Me

So if you (and by you, I mean the three people who actually read this blog) noticed, I’ve been seriously MIA on the Urban Rice Ball. It’s not that I’ve stopped blogging. Au contraire, I’ve actually been blogging A LOT over at Weddingbee about none other than our wedding. But today marks a new decade for me – turning the big 3-0. I haven’t figured out a way to spin my age into a wedding story, so I’ve come back to my roots to vent, reflect, and memorialize my milestone birthday.In the days leading up to my 30th birthday, I was a cool little cucumber. Actually, no I wasn’t, but the million annoying wedding details clogging my bride brain overshadowed any anxiety I might have had about leaving my 20s. Who cares about fine lines and gray hairs – what were we going to do about wedding programs?! Who’s going to take the floral arrangements to the church?! Send out the rehearsal dinner invitations nowwww!!!

And really, fine lines and gray hairs are not an imminent threat to me. I have friends who’ve already celebrated their 31st birthdays, and they didn’t spontaneously combust into a decrepit heap of loose skin and varicose veins so I knew I was safe. Plus, I’ve been blessed with the anti-aging Asian gene. I’ll look 21 until I turn 60, at which point I will instantly look like I’m 109.

Image via Buzzfeed
It wasn’t until the final hours on the eve of my birthday that I started to feel apprehensive. Gah, 30. It’s the age of a real adult. It’s the age Allure magazine tells you to start buying the expensive skin care products. It’s the age when you start wondering if maybe you’re too old to be shopping at Forever 21 and when a cozy dinner at a wine bar sounds infinitely better than bottle service at the hottest new night club.

My dear friend G had a theory about our 20s that I think sums up why it is so scary for a woman to enter her 30s. Your 20s are the decade when things happen. From the time you turn 20 to the time you turn 29, you theoretically would have graduated from college, entered the workforce, fallen in love, gotten married, bought a house, and had children. It’s not a far-fetched notion, but it is daunting when you consider how many landmark events happen in your 20s, and how almost all of them are foundations for a “successful” life. How exciting is this time in your life, when so many life-changing things are happening. And yet, by some twisted train of stereotypical thought, it leads us to believe that life – real, meaningful life – won’t start until these things are accomplished. What happens if you haven’t had all these experiences by the time you turn 30? Then you’re a failure? And what happens if you have already checked the box on all these to-do’s? What, then, is there left to look forward to in your 30s? I, like the majority of Millennials, don’t subscribe to this strict chronology and will probably argue until we’re blue in the face that a formula for success doesn’t even exist, but that doesn’t mean the pressure goes away.

The crux of my aversion to entering my 30s is that I don’t feel like a real grown-up yet, even despite having achieved most of the things listed above. I don’t cook (thank you Seamless.com), I don’t really clean (thank you Homejoy), and sometimes we run out of dog food and feed Chunk leftover pizza. Real grown-ups have pantries stocked with raw, organic ingredients. Their multi-room, multi-level homes are spotless and they know how to get stubborn stains out of every possible fabric. And they certainly would scold me for giving my dog cheesy, grain-filled table scraps. (Don’t worry, we paid the price in dog poop for that one.)

When I try to explain to anyone why 30 is so bad (“I’m not an adult, I’m not ready yet!”), they (especially the over 50 set) all tell me, “Well I don’t feel like an adult either! I look 62 on the outside, but I feel like 26 on the inside!” So then I’ll never feel like an adult? That sort of makes this whole aging thing somewhat anti-climactic, no?

But, lo and behold, in the span of writing this blog post, I think I’ve figured it out. When I think back to my 20s, I was always chasing something and I realize now it was this notion of who I am supposed to be when I grow up. It was like I had to prove myself to myself. Job security, money, single digit clothing sizes, credibility at work, more money, career paths, an apartment, a house, designer clothes, designer accessories, status symbols, etc. There was always another rung on the ladder to jump for, another standard by which success was measured.

And yet now, on the day of my 30th birthday, I can decidedly say that I have everything and everyone I need to be happy. Whether it’s because I have “arrived” as they say (doubtful), or because self-validation has finally won out over external validation, or because I am just too tired and too ::shudder:: old to keep up with the game, I don’t know. But I don’t want to, nor do I have to, play it anymore. And I’m totally fine with that.

It’s not that I’ve lost my ambition. I still have career goals and life things to accomplish and I will always enjoy the finer aspects of life. But the need to survive and win the rat race that pretty much defined and fueled my 20s is gone. I am content – with myself, with what I have (and what I don’t have) and who I share it with. And this confident, quiet peace didn’t come to me overnight – it’s only now that I even recognize that I’ve had it for some time. So I probably shouldn’t spend my 30s waiting around for the Grown Up Fairy to finally get here because, as it turns out, there is no magic adult pixie dust that will instantly transform me into Rachael Ray or the editor-in-chief of Good Housekeeping magazine. There’s just another decade of experiences to live, happiness to pursue, and stories to tell. And perhaps, somewhere along the way, most likely without me even knowing it, a little bit of growing up too.

tl;dr I guess my 30s won’t be so bad, as long as Seamless.com and Homejoy stay in business. But 60, ugh, I’m definitely not looking forward to that one.

I Live to Entertain You #tbt

The second and final installment in my Throwback Thursday series.  

From: urban rice ball
Sent: Wednesday, March 26, 2008 3:24 PM
To: my good friends
Subject: I live to entertain you….

So, I tried a belly dancing class last night. Let me preface by saying, I consider myself a coordinated person…I can walk and drink coffee at the same time, I can talk and write about 2 different subjects at the same time, I can kick a ball while running…I can even rub my belly and pat my head at the same time.

That said, I have concluded that belly dancing takes the most coordination of any activity one can do on this earth. Think Shakira. She must be superhuman. Imagine — you have to move your hips vigorously while not moving your upper body while keeping your legs calm and relatively still. I can do the hips, but then my shoulders start going and my legs look like they are doing the running man. To top it all off, you have to move you arms slowly…like a serpentine. I don’t know how that is possible when my hips are going at mach speed. Then on top of that, you have to make figure 8’s or boxes or whatever other ridiculous impossible patterns…while maintaining your booty shake, while not moving your upper body, while looking calm and relaxed and not like a drowning worm.

I thought it would be a good change from boxing class and I saw girls in the class got to wear a skirt with coins on it so when they do the Shakira, the sound goes clink clink clink. It looked so fun and it had cute outfits! However, when I did it, I indeed looked like a drowning worm – not an ounce of sex appeal oozed from me. That was unfortunate because the classroom has huge glass walls where the meatheads can look in on your belly dancing moves. Also, when I “shimmied” (that is the technical term for the Shakira move) I felt things jiggling back there that I did not know could jiggle. I know for some guys jiggling is like sexy or whatever, but I don’t find it attractive.

Needless to say, my belly dancing days are over. I do, however, challenge you all to try to shimmy plus do serpentine hands, plus move yourself in figure 8’s, all while looking like a sexy harem lady… Let me know how you do!

I Draw Naked People

When I was 16 years old, I was accepted into a summer art program at the Cooper Union in NYC. I didn’t know it at the time, but the Cooper Union is a prestigious arts and engineering college and the chances of my acceptance were actually pretty slim considering the competition and being an out of state student (the program was geared for NYC kids). In any case, by some miracle I got in and this is where I was first exposed to “artists.” Before this, my only exposure to artists was my high school art teacher, but he didn’t seem to count. The instructors at the Cooper Union wore black jeans decorated with safety pins, had unkempt tie dyed hair, and just had something a bit “off” to their personality. They lived and breathed and died for their art. Me? I just came to draw pretty pictures.The curriculum of the program covered a variety of mediums: sculpture, graphic design, contemporary art appreciation, and my favorite, drawing. While the other mediums were new to me, I knew I could draw better than your above-average bear. My portfolio was full of portraits, landscapes, and other high school-safe topics. So imagine my surprise when on the first day of drawing class, I walked into the room to find not one, but two naked models. Completely. Naked. The rest of the class didn’t seem fazed by the day’s subjects, so I assumed they had experience drawing from live nude models. I tried not to gawk, but this was my first time seeing a living, breathing, adult-sized penis. That’s what they really look like?? Gross…

The instructor had us set up in a semi circle around the models. Were they going to pose frozen in lewd acts?? What the hell was going on here?! I scanned my fellow classmates again to see if anyone was as horrified as I was. They all looked like calm little cucumbers setting up their easels and newsprint pads. I tried harder to control my eyebrows.

The instructor explained that we would be working on gestures – drawing a series of poses done by the models in a short amount of time. Every minute a timer would set off, the models would change their pose, and we would have to start a new drawing. Gesture drawing is particularly useful for artists studying the human body since models can hold complex and strenuous poses (which express movement and emphasize the muscles) if it’s only for a short period of time.

While we were drawing, the instructor came around to each student, standing while giving his critique. When he got to me, he pulled up a chair. I guess he had a lot to say.

“Her legs are too stiff, and you gave her a pregnant belly. She’s not fat. And the proportion of his torso to his legs is off, see here? Focus on the line of the spine first, that will help you place the rest of the body. ”

Phew – at least he didn’t mention that I castrated my male model and just gave him a scribble of pubic hair.

By the end of the morning session, though, I was really starting to enjoy the gesture drawing. It was surprising how much information I could capture in just one minute and the more practice I got, the easier it was to render the shape and proportion of the models. I started to see the man and woman as a series of familiar shapes and lines, not just limbs and genitalia. My improvement was noticeable and my instructor praised my work. “Good job, you started out a little rough, but these last few ones are very good.”

Today, live nude models are my favorite subject to draw. There is certain fluidity and rhythm to drawing the human body that just doesn’t happen when drawing inanimate objects. My favorite studio in NYC is the Spring Street Studio, where you can draw or paint naked people three times a day, seven days a week. I’d still rather draw women than men – women have softer lines and make for prettier finished products. I mean, who wants to hang up a giant drawing of a dude’s wang on their wall? Although, I must say, I have gotten much better at capturing the male figure. (It took me a while to figure out that while a woman is shaped like an hour glass, a man is shaped like an upside down triangle.) I once showed Mr. S my drawing of a nude male model that I was particularly proud of, and his observation was, “Looks like you spent too much time on that penis…” I have to admit, it was a very good penis.

I ran into a pole this morning #tbt

Welcome to my two part throwback Thursday series (that’s what #tbt stands for Mom). I’m reviving some stories from years past that I shared with friends via e-mail. Actually, these e-mails are the ancestors to my blog. When I blog now, I pretend that I’m still writing e-mails to my good friends, updating them on my life and hopefully getting a few laughs along the way. I’m also reviving these stories because I have nothing new to talk about.

From: urban rice ball
Sent: Thursday, May 01, 2008 9:20 AM
To: my good friends
Subject: i ran into a pole this morning

what a way to start the day…

when we pulled up to the train station this morning, the train was already there so i had to make a run for it. i was wearing a trench coat and as i was running the belt was dragging behind me. so in my efforts to try to pick up my belt and make the train, i failed to see the pole coming at me. it wasn’t coming at me — i was coming at it. mind you, i didn’t merely walk gently into it. i was running fast — had to make that train — so i hit it hard, bounced off, a little stunned, but nevertheless unscathed. i looked behind me to see if anyone saw…of course they did, everyone was running to the train too. the train was 5 minutes early — that never happens! so anyway, i saw the pole out of the corner of my eye, and i knew i didn’t have a enough time to slow down so i put up my arms to protect myself. my hand and arm hurt now, but there was no blood.

good news: i made the train.
bad news: my dad saw and called to laugh at me. he said the “no parking” sign on the pole was shaking after i hit it.

happy thursday.