Saturday, June 26, 2010

circle of life

The world of second-hand bargain shopping has it's own ecosystem - an ebb and flow, a tidal pattern of scarce and plenty.

Take today, for example. We spent the morning looking for a used changing table, filing cabinet, picture frames, and baskets. Previously, we had bid on a changing table from craigslist for $15, $10 less than the asking price. The sellers weren't interested. The first thrift store we went to this morning, we saw about the same table. It was $19. We asked for $15 and got it.


Then we went to a second thrift store and found out that all their furniture was 75% off. Of course, we found a similar changing table there for $18. With 75% off that comes out to about $4.50.


But it's all just part of a balanced system. A few months ago I bought several maternity clothes from a thrift store and they decided to give me a 5 for $5 deal that the clothes didn't qualify for, just because the check out line was long and it was the cashier's last day. I saved about $20.

Today's circle was completed when we went to pick up a free baby swing from a friend. She threw into the deal 4-foot tall giraffe and zebra stuffed animals.

Ghengis, you are one lucky kid.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

weathering storms

My parents came out for Memorial Day weekend. We spent one beautiful day sailing on a small lake just off of Lake Michigan. I had made the executive decision earlier in the week when reserving the sail boat that, between Abe's boy scout sailing merit badge and my dad's days as a young man building his own catamaran, that they had enough combined experience to handle a 6-person, 18-ft sail boat.

I was mostly right. Once we figured out that we should never, ever, ever get the boat near the shallows we did pretty well. It was hard not have a good time when the weather was pretty much perfect all day.

Here we are on a different day, stuck in the primitive world of charcoal grilling. Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating. You can see us attempting to keep the coals going under a light drizzle, and then our flight from the park back home (partially warmed hamburger patties were carried on Abe's lap), and our final dinner on the screened in patio.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

figures 1 and 2

I thought some visuals might help demonstrate the "No Mess Zone" principle (previous post).

Figure 1. This is the "No Mess Zone" office. No, it isn't pretty yet, but it is tidy. Also, the 2 storage tubs on the left will soon be replaced by a filing cabinet.

Figure 2. This is the rest of the house (shown here, the eventual baby room - do you like our new wall color?).

No Mess Zone

From 7 to 11pm last night, we attempted steps 3-6 of home baby preparation. The result? We now have an office (close to) up and running in our bedroom, and the beautifully-painted baby room is now a temporary storage unit for everything we don't know what to do with.

This process feels a lot like moving into to a new house. We like to use the "No Mess Zone" strategy for projects like this. Pick a small area in the house. Take anything that doesn't belong in that area get it out of the way - not put away, just out of the way. Arrange any big furniture pieces in that area and start filling in with the essentials. Think in terms of high priority items and needs for accessibility.

Once that's done, the area becomes a "No Mess Zone". You aren't allowed to put boxes, junk, or stuff you don't know what to do with in that area. If you have something you know you want to put there, then you have to give it a place.

Piece by piece, the whole house becomes a No Mess Zone. In the meantime, when I feel stressed out by moving, I can retreat with a piece of chocolate into a No Mess Zone to regroup. I've found that, depending on how well the organizing goes, No Mess Zones actually have a shelf-life of about 6-18 months. After that, it's usually time to do a little de-junking. And sometimes life circumstances (e.g. new human being in the household) can require major No Mess Zone renovations.

Now, from the safety of my office No Mess Zone, I can finally post the remaining photos of our trip to Italy back in April/May. These photos are all from Venice. By the time we got to Venice, we'd been traveling with the whole family for 2 weeks. Everyone was tired. The pace was slow. And we didn't talk much or really do much other than walk around the streets and canals.

So a few thoughts on Venice, and then I'll let the pictures tell the story.

Venice is now a beautiful and sinking tourist town. Abe's mom described it as "Consumerism built on Decadence built on Decay." Abe described it as, "If you went to an extravagant, Venice-themed amusement park, it would feel a lot like Venice." The buildings were beautiful, but falling apart. We heard more English spoken here than anywhere else. The shop keepers were often Chinese, selling Venetian masks and glass made in China.

Still, there was a surreal and ghostly quality to the city that made it an unforgettable experience.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

would you like to take a survey?

I've spent the last few days trying to create a survey to assess outcomes for an educational program at work. I have a set of 5 anticipated outcomes and interviews of program participants that show how people have started to talk about ways those outcomes have happened in their lives. The next step is to map out a set of standard statements that people can respond to in a survey, that are good evidence or approximations of whether an outcome has occurred.

For example, if one of the anticipated outcomes of the program was that people who participated would become advocates of Mint Cookies & Cream ice cream, then I may give people a statement like: "After the program, I talked to my friends about what I had learned about Mint Cookies & Cream ice cream". The behavior of talking to friends is a proxy for people becoming MC&C advocates.

It's an interesting process. And it gets tricky because the statement needs to be descriptive and short, and interpreted more or less the same by every person who reads it.

As I agonize over crafting a useful and accurate survey, it helps to look at other surveys in the field. Today, I took a survey about my recent experience registering at Babies R Us.

I just wasn't sure how to respond to this question they gave me:

("On a scale from 1 to 10, to what degree do you feel you created THE BEST baby registry")

What do you say, as a couple who went to the store about 45 minutes before closing, had a list of about 10 things we thought we'd probably want (we were told to register for 100+), and aren't really into shopping and consumer purchases to begin with?

I think I gave us a 3 out of 10.

I'm interested in what they want this question to proxy. Probably satisfaction with the registry process. But I was satisfied just because it was done. I wasn't satisfied because the customer service desk took 15 minutes at the beginning to explain how we could, essentially, create THE BEST registry possible.

This makes me feel two ways. First, it makes me feel like I have a chance at creating a decent survey because, hey, look at what those guys did that was passable. Second, it makes me feel like people could very well be blogging about my bad survey questions.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

if i have to nest, i'm doing it my way (i.e. this post contains a list)

I would have posted my last Italy installment (Venice: Coming Soon!) but our desktop, including its hard drive with all our photos on it, is unplugged in the middle of our office. Along with all the other office furniture. Add in the unscrewed light switch panels, masking tape borders, and 3 drop cloths and it can only mean one thing:

Good bye second bedroom/office space, hello nursery!

We're painting the walls a warm Tuscan Yellow (okay, the actual paint chip is called Corn Muffin, which I find completely uninspiring - see post on Tuscany for our intended effect). Furniture will be Indian Summer (orange-red) or white. Cloths (bedding, curtains, rocking chair cover) will be Sage Green with some of the yellows and oranges patterned in.

Several weeks ago, we put Plan: Baby Readiness into action when we went yard sale shopping for baby things. We scored a glider rocking chair, baby Bjorn carrier, playard/travel crib, and Peg Perego stroller for $115. On an impulse, I also bought a bike. For myself.

Then the ripple effect began.

1. Clean out garage to make room for the bike.
2. Move office stuff into middle of baby room and then paint.
3. Put baby stuff in baby room.
4. Move office stuff into magical holding place while clearing out junk in the bedroom nook to make room for office stuff.
5. Organize junk and put into various logical places in the kitchen, baby room, bedroom and garage to maximize easy access and minimize space.
6. Get office stuff out of magical holding place and put into bedroom nook that is now the office.
7. Beautify the baby room with coordinating colors so baby grows up in a nurturing and stimulating environment.
8. Clean out garage again because there probably is no longer room for my new bike.

My back and my brain both hurt.