The Lawn Mower Saga

Owning your house as previously mentioned has many advantages, disadvantages and added responsibilities. One of the added responsibilities is Lawn Care. At our townhouse, mowing and shoveling were all included as part of the rent, but now we are it.

Before we went on vacation we had mowed the lawn a couple times with our friend’s reel mower and decided it was not for us. Our lawn is just a little too big, the mower swath just a little too small, and I simply don’t have the muscles (I imagine I may be doing some mowing while Chris is surviving residency).

So we decided to buy a mower. But we didn’t want a gas can. And we didn’t want a cord. And that left us with pretty much one option; a  self-propelled battery-powered electric lawn mower.

Yes, it exists.In fact, it arrived (special order) the night after we returned from Hawaii. We picked it up at the store, brought it home, and cut open the package expectantly… only to find that it had been damaged. Sad day. We took it back and decided to hire a lawn service because after our trip to Hawaii, the grass was calf-high and seeding.

I actually got turned down by one lawn service and ignored by another. The fellow I eventually found ended up charging me more than expected, although they were very nice. They did get it down to a manageable level…

This led to all kinds of existential questions. “Should we keep the lawn service? Are they overcharging us?” (yes) “Will we be dependent on them forever? Is it cheaper in the long run to mow our own?” (maybe) “Why don’t we have nice readily available manual labor at a good price?”

We decided to go ahead and spring for the good mower, and it got in last week (thanks Amazon) and works like a charm. According to Chris… I still haven’t had to mow yet. But my day is coming!

This evening, I saw a little girl playing with a pretend lawn mower while her dad mowed the real lawn. Hers was pink and blew bubbles. I need that lawn mower. Come on, girly pink mower. I bet there’s a market for it!

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Top 5 Things To Do in Maui

We went to Maui for a week and it was amazing. Afterwards I had a little bit of a Hawaiian hangover, like “why am I not moving to Hawaii?” (I believe this is a very understandable reaction to staying in a tropical paradise for a week after a long cold winter-spring!) I had been to Oahu and the Big Island before and I have to say, Maui and Hawaii are about tied for “favorite island” status. I mean, Hawaii has a (usually) active volcano, but Maui is just spectacular in so many ways. It’s like a mixture of Hawaii and my parents’ descriptions of tropical garden-island Kauai. No wonder it’s honeymoon central!

So here are my top 5 things to do, plus a bonus. They are similar to every guidebook’s top 5, but with a twist.

1. Hang out on a beach! Maui has splendid beaches all over the place. There are beautiful, sunny, dry beaches on the “south” shore. They’re great for sunbathing (or “under-umbrellla-basking”), paddleboarding and snorkeling in the morning, and boogie-boarding in the windier afternoons. In Makena State Park, you’ll find Big Beach, an enormous classic sliver of sand with no resorts. Adjoining is Little Beach, a skinny dipping haven. Across the volcano near Hana, there are red sand and black sand beaches. Whether you want to lie on a blanket or take a walk with the sand squishing between your toes, or just take lots of pictures of beach sunsets, nothing is more relaxing than a good beach.

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2. Get under the water! Our family took a snorkeling tour to the steep-walled islet of Molikini, spying some dolphins racing under the boat on the way, and also to a “turtle city” where we saw a few of the slow moving sea turtles. Chris and my dad also got scuba certified. Yes, it might be a little cold, but it’s so cool to see the amazing world under the waves… if only for a few hours.

3. Go to a luau! At least once in your lifetime, anyway. Held in a variety of venues, all of them are fun, spendy celebrations of one interpretation of Hawaiian culture (that’s a whole anthropological post in itself). We attended the one at the Grand Wailea and enjoyed a meal that satisfied my desire to taste poi, the Hawaiian staple made from taro (it tastes like tangy, runny, purple mashed potatoes). There were many dishes more attractive to the non-Hawaiian palate. The hula and fire dancers put on a fascinating show and we received beautiful shell leis and looked at souvenirs made by native craftsmen.

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4. Check out Haleakala, Maui’s local volcano. Apparently it’s really awe-inspiring at sunrise, but guess what… it’s also really awe-inspiring in the afternoon! And not nearly as frigid!

You drive up from sea level into this barren volcanic wasteland (similar to Mars) with a sparse population of the beautiful native silversword plants. It’s a nice change from the beach. If you’re really into riding downhill fast on a bike, you can do that on your own or with an outfitter.

I enjoyed the car ride down just fine.

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5. Go to Hana and explore the nearby coves and waterfalls. Everyone raves about the Road to Hana and it is great… if you like sinuous, convoluted narrow roads that frequently disappear to one lane (particularly over bridges) and have thousands of blind curves where you play chicken with fearless locals. No, really, the waterfalls and ocean views are stunning.

Hana is a quiet town but “still waters run deep.” I’d love to spend more time there. We flew back from Hana and got some amazing views of the craggy coastline and the silver sparkle of inland waterfalls.

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6. Read The Parrot Talks in Chocolate by Everett Peacock. A tiki bar, mai tais, a surfing bartender and a beautiful Tahitian dancer… it’ll put you right in the Maui mood.

I really enjoyed Maui. The only downside was coming back. Of course, now that I’m back I can actually get unpacked.

Well, aloha to all of you, and I can’t wait to hear about your summer adventures!

Ariel’s Guide to Buying A House

Back in March, when we realized we were probably staying in Rochester, we started looking for a house. For some, houses are a way to obtain status and of course financial equity. For us, it was mostly a means to assure we could get a dog and a backyard that we could let it outside into. Of course the whole equity thing is nice too.

So here are my tips for house buying (especially for residents and nurses):

1) Identify why you want a house. It’s a big decision! Yes, the mortgage may be cheaper than your rent, but when you factor in maintenance, lawn duties, and things breaking… It’s an investment of time and money. Make sure you want and need a house. Renting is a perfectly acceptable choice.

2) Talk to a bank. Get preapproved. Find a loan officer you like because you’ll probably have to talk to them. Know how much you can afford before you fall in love with a house far, far beyond your price range.

Note – we got preapproved on my income. It’s trickier to get a loan with a resident’s income. You’ll have to shop lenders, and you may have to rent first and get some “paycheck proof” built up.

3) Some people wander through the woods and stumble into the yard of their dream house, finding a “for sale by owner” sign staked into the front yard (true story!)

My advice for everyone else… get a great realtor. Our realtor, Jennifer Mitchell, was awesome. She made herself available for last-minute house hunting trips, answered all our random ignorant questions, and responded quickly to texts, emails and phone calls. She also had a great sense of humor and made looking at dozens of houses as fun as possible. She also helped us clarify our “wish list” which leads me to # 4…

4) Make a couple lists, “wants” and “needs” and use that to narrow down what you’re looking for – and update the lists as you oook. At the beginning we looked at a lot of different houses all over Rochester and we soon figured out that was inefficient. We honed in on the type of house we ended up with… Newer ranch style on the west side of town with a fenced back yard and large kitchen, reasonably close to the hospital, and requiring relatively little updating.

(FYI this blog will never turn into an account of our home remodeling projects because we’re not really that kind of couple. Fixtures? Maybe. Redo a bathroom? Doubtful!)

5) Be patient and give yourself lots of time. We had just despaired offending anything and talked to our landlord about extending our lease when – ding! – we found 2 houses we liked in the same day. They were both newish ranches on the west side of town. We soon decided we wanted the fenced back yard more than the walk out basement and bought ourselves a house.

I have to say I really like having a house. We have so much room and we can’t hear our neighbors at all. I can park my car in the garage at last (poor thing has never lived in a garage). We’re getting ready to have a dog.

Oh, I’m sure it won’t be a complete cake walk. But for us, this house was a Godsend.