Thankfully, I Don’t Have to Live in a Shoe

We bought a house this past weekend. Well, one of us did. The partner in this relationship who earns twice as much as the other party. And has been saving his money since the day he started working.  And works very hard in a very stressful job and gets very nice bonuses.

Meanwhile, I have a very nice shoe collection (including several expensive pairs purchased by the ever-generous and more prosperous partner I spoke of in the first paragraph).

shoe house

To be fair, we frequently run into this issue – the issue of our huge income disparity. One of us is the 99% and the other is not. I kid, but we are definitely not equal partners, which used to frustrate me to no end.

Once upon a time, I used to insist that we only purchase items or go on vacations that I could afford. That lasted for a fairly short time. My luxury prince/boyfriend XFE and I both agreed that staying in hostels and riding on buses with livestock was not something we wanted to explore (or, in my case, revisit).

The same issue came up as well when purchasing a house. We’re not equal partners. There’s simply no way we could have gone halfsies. And I don’t expect a free ride on XFE’s smart financial prowess and discipline. I’m very proud of him for being able to do it on his own.

Teresa says
Remember on the first season when Teresa said living in a pre-owned house was gross and that’s why she had to have a new construction? I totally agree, Teresa.

But for those who are worried about me (and judging by Facebook, there are a few), there will be some sort of legal-y, document-y type thing outlining my (non)substantial contributions to this latest life-project.

I’ll probably do a future blog post on how to buy a house while continuing to live in sin.

At the end of the day, XFE bought us a lovely house.

By the way, we bought our lovely house in a week. That’s seven days from the time that we first met our wonderful, amazing realtor, and the time that XFE had an offer accepted. That’s slightly shorter than the typical Kardashian courtship.

Kim K multitasker
Hold on: I’m buying a house I just saw on the way to this appointment. And breaking up with someone.

If I didn’t know us, I would think we must not have been a very picky couple to have chosen a place so quickly. The house we settled on was the fourth of a total 10 houses we looked at.

But I do know us. We have very particular tastes (needs to have that Old Town character, but also needs to be completely renovated and under $1 million, please. And be decorated by Jeff Lewis).

Jeff Lewis warning
Listen, Poe. I’m not telling you again. You cannot afford me. Now quit following me.

So when we found something that ticked off almost everything on our list, we jumped on it. Plus, my bathroom has a sparkly crushed glass sink surround and a skylight. Which wasn’t even on my list, but should have been. I don’t know how I’ve lived without a skylight for so long. It’s shameful.

Our friends are a bit….er, overly excited for us. We’ve already had two friends/coworkers say that they’ve creeped by the new place and looked in the large front window. One was XFE’s co-worker who’s child is enrolled at the Catholic school/day care across the street. The other person is my friend and current neighbor Katie, who’s on maternity leave right now and obviously in need of something to do.

Maybe I’ll put her on a certain project called “find us some non-creeper window treatments.” (Just kidding, Katie.)

Real estate
This is our new house. Only, much, much larger.
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Two Things that Will Make Your Mouth Pucker: Thai Chicken & Property Brothers

My personal-chef-for-life XFE has abandoned me once again for a work trip. But unlike last time when he left me to starve (ie: feed myself like an adult), this time, he anticipated my inability to feed myself, and made this incredibly yummy Thai grilled chicken with hot-sour-salty-sweet sauce.

Seriously, if I were left to my own devices, I would have eaten this wondrous food every single meal.

It’s from a recipe in the May 2012 issue of Food & Wine, which was their travel issue. We make a lot of chicken on the grill, one of our favorites being beer can chicken, but sometimes, it gets a bit boring.

That’s why this recipe is so great. It’s a new spin on a staple. It uses cilantro, fish sauce, Thai chiles and tamarind concentrate, which, for some inexplicable reason, we happened to have on hand.

And, it’s pretty simple. Especially if you just sit at the kitchen counter, having a glass of wine and flipping through the latest issue of US magazine like I do. Then, it seems like the whole dish just magically puts itself together.

See? It’s just cooking itself.

In my defense, I was exhausted from looking at housing options with XFE all day. We looked at about 4 houses on Friday and another 6 or so on Monday. Let me tell you, there are some ugly houses out there. Selling for a hell of a lot of money.

XFE has, of course, been doing all the work in this endeavor. I come in on the eeewww-not eeewww part. My research has been quite extensive and is composed primarily of watching hours and hours of HGTV.

It’s been pretty frustrating, to be honest. My research, I mean. Primarily because on HGTV they show these total idiots who have ridiculously small budgets looking at incredibly affordable houses. Like, houses that cost less than Real Housewives of Orange County’s Gretchen’s makeup budget. (Gurl wears some spackle).

I can say these $200,000 houses are affordable because we live just outside of Washington DC, which is the capital of house-icide. Oh, you don’t know about house-icide? House-icide is the total bending over you get trying to find an affordable place to live in a market that has barely been knicked by the struggling economy and tanking housing market. Sorry to get graphic on you.

In the DC area, this ‘house’ would go for about $600,000. To be fair, it is on a beach, which is much nicer than a DC neighborhood.

Plus, to be fair, XFE and I are a couple of really picky bitches. We did find one house we liked enough for XFE to put an offer on, so fingers, toes, legs and everything else crossed.

But back to HGTV. One of my absolute new favorite shows is this show “Property Brothers.”

There’s, obviously, two brothers, one of whom is a real estate agent, the other is a contractor. They start the show with some brand-spanking new first-time homebuyers, much like ourselves. The real estate brother asks what they’re looking for in a house. They, of course, peel off this long list of absolute musts, including their budget, which is usually right around $19.95. Then, the two brothers take our hapless home buyers to a house that meets every single requirement the couple listed.

After a tour of the mansion, the real estate brother asks the couple what they think the house is selling for. The couple always names a price right around what their budget is. NAH. Wrong. It’s usually about six times the amount. Womp-womp-womp. That look on the couples’ faces is priceless. I’d actually pay $19.95 just for a video reel of that moment alone. It’s a mixture of “oh shit,” and “so….we’re not getting this place?”

Then the very nice realtor brother explains that they’re going to now lower their expectations a bit and look at some houses that are actually in their price range (ie: disgusting pit holes) and the very nice contractor brother promises to make these disgusting pit holes very nice and even put in some of the finishes and other aspects they liked in the Barbie Dream House. That’s about where I lose interest and change the channel.

I’m telling you, the first 5 minutes are awesome. Especially if you’re eating Thai chicken with hot-sour-salty-sweet sauce.

Kids I’d Like to Hang With. No, Seriously.

I’m not into children. They’re not my jam. Unless they’re boiled and made into jam. On biscuits, I bet they’d be quite nice.

It’s kinda funny because we’re looking at houses right now (aka: The Saga, and yes, it continues. It hasn’t been so bad, but we haven’t actually put in any offers yet, and gotten rejected). Anyway, so many second rooms are made (staged) into children’s rooms or nurseries, as if that would be a selling point. It most assuredly is not.

But while I do not enjoy children, there are a couple of celebrity kids that truly crack me up when I see them in the magazines each week.

First up, Archie, ginger son of Amy Poehler and Will Arnett. For someone with comedians as parents, this kid has no sense of humor. He’s not amused by anything. His serious bitch face cracks me up. Even at the grocery store, where I’m sure he bullied his mom into some Captain Crunch.

ImagePlus, he’s a beast. He’s large and in charge. I would not try to wrestle a Nilla cookie wafer off this kid. Or any other cookie. He would jack you up.

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I think he might eat his smaller, younger brother, if left alone with him. And the binoculars too. Nothing would be left after this little Cannibal Lecture got done with business.

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He stole those Nikes off a basketball player whose ass he kicked.

My other favorite is Louis Bullock, adopted non-ginger son of Sandra Bullock.

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He’s obviously a linebacker. I think he even tried out for the Blind Side.

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He’s like a little Mr. T. He definitely pities the fool. Especially pirate fools.

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I’d love, love, love to see a playground fight between these two. I have no idea who’d win. I guess since I’m technically a red head, I’d have to put my money on the ginger. But that Louis kid scares me. Seriously.

Funny video I saw on late night television in Australia. Only a ginger can call another ginger ginger.

No Golden Fetuses Were Used in the Making of this Non-Travel Post

Fun fact: my favorite travel buddy and I were supposed to be leaving for a long weekend in Singapore.

Singapore
I’m sure it’s not as nice as the pictures make it out to be.

My travel agent/boyfriend had found a great deal on tickets to Singapore a couple of months ago. He, of course, jumped on it. We were supposed to leave Thursday night and fly back on Tuesday. Just a short little weekend jaunt halfway around the world.

But eventually we came to the decision that it wasn’t a good time or a great idea (especially since I’m still paying for my greatly reduced, but still substantial portion of the Australian-Thailand extravaganza), so we swallowed the cancellation fee and cancelled the tickets.

Koala and Poe

It turns out that it was a very good decision, for several reasons. For one thing, we’re ramping up the whole house-hunting thing. And by ramping up, I mean going from zero to intense. XFE does not fool around when he makes a decision. His absolute decisiveness is one of the things I really love about him and stands in stark contrast to my decision paralysis. (Paper or plastic? Can I have both? Red or white wine? What about a rose? Chicken or steak? Ummmm, which do you recommend? — Except for ranch dressing. Then the answer is always, always yes.)

Good thing we’re not house hunting in Singapore. From Bloomberg Businessweek:

Singapore should curb the increasing trend of so-called shoebox apartments because they are “almost inhuman,” CapitaLand Ltd. (CAPL) Chief Executive Officer Liew Mun Leong said.

Shoebox apartments? I love shoes, but I would not want to live in something referred to as a shoebox.

The government last week said it’s concerned that shoebox apartments are mushrooming in the city-state as private home sales surged to a three-year high with record purchases of units that are smaller than 50 square meters (538 square feet).

shoebox dollhouse

538 square feet??? That sounds like the efficiency I lived in when I was in college. I wouldn’t call it luxurious, but it’s hardly inhumane.

The island-state’s population growth, scarce land and surging property values have prompted developers to shrink apartment space. Home prices surged to a record at the end of 2011 in a city that’s about half the size of Los Angeles.

So, uh, how much are we talking here?

Developers sold 1,764 shoebox units in the first quarter, or 27 percent of all home sales, the most since the Urban Redevelopment Authority began collating the data in 2007. Apartments that cost less than S$750,000 ($587,000) made up 42 percent of new home sales in the first quarter, up from 25 percent in the previous three months, the data showed.

What the What?? $587,000 American?? Dang! That price is a crime against humanity. We need to get Amnesty International in on this.

The trend of shoebox units may not be unique to the city- state, said Pratik Burman Ray, an analyst at HSBC Holdings Plc in Singapore. Philippine developers have built homes smaller than 20 square meters, while those in Thailand and Indonesia are less than 35 square meters, he said. In Hong Kong, apartments smaller than 500 square feet house two or three people, he said.

Makes house-hunting in Alexandria seem like a freaking bargain.

The cancelled trip to Singapore made me a bit nostalgic about our recent vacations. Especially when I saw this item in the Wall Street Journal:

Australia is living up to its nickname of “the lucky country,” with a new survey marking it as the happiest industrialized nation in the world based on criteria such as jobs, income and health.

Yep, I would definitely agree with that. Just getting to go to Australia made me luckier than catching a drunk leprechaun holding a four leaf clover sitting on a pot of gold.

Having sidestepped the economic malaise gripping much of Europe and with near-full employment owing to a once-in-a-century resources boom, Australia has come out on top ahead of Norway and the U.S. in the annual Better Life Index compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Speaking of lucky, Lady Gaga is in Thailand as part of her world tour and she’s staying at perhaps the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed at, the St. Regis Bangkok. According to fans on Twitter, she’s staying in the Royal Suite. I seriously can’t imagine it being much nicer than the Caroline Astor suite we stayed in when we were there. But whatever, if she feels like slumming it, that’s her deal.

Gaga via fan instagram
I wore the exact same thing when we checked in to the St. Regis.

Gaga will be in Singapore June 3, so we would have just missed her. And you know how I love to hang out with my pop singers.

Perhaps the Royal Suite at the St. Regis is decorated with golden fetuses. From Huffington Post:

British citizen Chow Hok Kuen, 28, was arrested in Thailand on Friday after police found six fetal corpses in his luggage, according to the IndependentThe bodies, which belonged to fetuses between two and seven months old, had been roasted, and some were covered in gold leaf.

OK, what?? You roast cauliflower. You roast potatoes. Some places even roast chestnuts. You roast a lot of things, but you DO NOT roast fetuses. I don’t care how lucky that might be.

gold statues
Me, with gold buddhas, in sepia. No golden fetuses though.

Thai police made the discovery after receiving a tip that a black magic services website was offering fetuses for sale, according to the New York Daily News. Roasting fetuses and covering them in gold is part of a black magic ritual called Kuman thong, which means “golden child” in Thai. The preserved bodies are thought to bring good fortune to the owner, according to the International Business Times.

Authorities believe that Chow was planning to smuggle the fetuses to his native Taiwan, where one corpse could sell for up to $200,000 Thai baht, or $6,376, WCVB reports.

Chow faces up to a year in prison on charges of hiding and covering dead bodies, according to CNN.

Investigators say it’s unclear where the fetuses came from, though forensic tests are currently being conducted on the bodies.

I mean, honestly. That’s some really, really weird crap, pardon my Italian.

Which brings me to my last travel update. This came in the mail today:

Milan ticket

Milan ticket 2

Here’s the story: We went to Milan as part of a 14-day trip to Northern Italy and Switzerland in March 2011. Milan was our first stop and was also where we got a horrible case of food poisoning from some salami. We were sick (seriously, seriously, disgustingly sick) for 10 days. That’s no exaggeration. 10. Days. Wave after wave of disgusting symptom and discomfort for 10. Whole. Days.

So not only was Milan terribly expensive. Not only did Milan try to poison and kill us. Now Milan wants us to pay a traffic ticket that we think comes out to around $133 dollars.

Look for us on the Interpol Most Wanted list because we are not paying that nonsense.

Milan, I am currently giving you the Italian backhanded brush under the chin.

Italian style

How to Know if You’re a Pretentious Foodie

I’m at a three day work event where I’m sitting right next to my boss, elbow to elbow, in a basically subterranean bunker with practically no cell phone service. So no personal Twitter, no Web surfing for weird blog fodder, not even texting with XFE. This must be what solitary confinement is like. Oh, plus inspirational speaker after motivational speaker.

solitary-confinement23

And, I did not write anything for the blog this past weekend because I was busy not preparing for XFE coming home on Saturday evening. He specifically told me to pick something up for dinner. But I was so paralyzed by my potential to pick the wrong thing that I fell back into my default position: wait until XFE tells me what we should eat. This ineffective dining strategy earned me a well-deserved scolding. However, I did not really detect any element of surprise.

But, I did buy the ingredients for a feast on Sunday night. XFE made homemade pasta with tomatoes, basil, garlic and lobster shrimp, which are, SHOCKINGLY, shrimp that taste just like lobster. I know, right? Crazy! Let’s hear it for science and genetically engineered seafood. There are no pictures because, well, I slurped it down way too fast.

Pasta
We’ve made this pasta dish before, but it had been a while.

We had actually built up quite the appetite on Sunday….we went and looked at our first house. XFE has decided to dip a toe – potentially – into the housing market. This is, of course, fraught with anxiety and trepidation on my part. I’m pretty lazy and hesitant to change. But, we’re a team and I trust XFE. If he says it’s time to look into buying a house, then it’s time.

We were influenced by this handsome devil. He has a website all about the DC housing industry called the Cribline. He’s become our real estate guru. In return, we buy him dinner once in a while.

Wolf Hammer

We had a dinner guest on Sunday (not our real estate guru, unfortunately). The topic turned to whether XFE and I consider ourselves “foodies.” Now, foodie is one of those terms I don’t think you can really self-proclaim. It seems a bit pretentious to say, “Why yes, Sir Grey Poupon, I am interested in the fine masterpieces of the culinary arts.” So we went through a checklist of endeavors that might indicate that one is a foodie.

Townhouse menu
  • And, if you got genuinely upset when you discovered that said young chefs had left that restaurant before you’d had a chance to eat there again, you might be a foodie.
  • If you own a Big Green Egg and consider it one of your most prized possessions, you might be a foodie.
  • If you’ve roasted a 25-pound suckling pig on your brick patio, you might be a foodie.
Roasting a pig
  • If your boyfriend owns a beginner molecular gastronomy kit, you might be a foodie.
  • If you’ve spent an entire day (6.5 hours to be exact) making Rick Bayless’ mole (Project Mole 2009), which required about 26 ingredients gathered from eight different stores and four pages of instructions, you might be a foodie.
  • If you won’t buy pasta and only eat homemade pasta, you might be a foodie (and a real snob on top of it.)
  • Ditto on barbecue sauce. Actually, anything at all related to barbecue. Double points if you’re best friends with your butcher and ask him not only for fine meat products, but also vacation tips.
Texas style BBQ Ribs
Can you hear the angels singing?
  • If you, while in the throws of a 10-day bout of food poisoning during a vacation in Northern Italy, insist on honoring your lunch reservation at a three Michelin star restaurant for the 12-course tasting menu, even though the price of said lunch is about the same as a hand woven Turkish rug and you go to the bathroom and throw up after every other course, but still insist on tasting everything, you might be a foodie. And, it goes without saying, you might be insane.
Lunch at Le Calandre, Italy
“If I throw up the 3-Michelin star, 12 course luncheon, we don’t have to pay the bill, right?”
  • If the majority of your souvenirs from overseas trips are food-related (ie: ceviz walnuts and sahlep from Turkey; Thai curry and dried lime basil from Bangkok; mustard from Paris; smoked paprika from Spain; wine from Australia. And Italy), you might be a foodie.
  • If you sweat each time you go near Customs because you’re genuinely concerned not that you will get caught with the food items and have to pay the fine, but instead it will get confiscated and you’ll never get to enjoy the item, you might be a foodie.
  • If a chef’s kitchen and a place to store your Big Green Egg and gigantic grill and wine fridge are considered non-negotiable criteria in your house-hunting efforts, you might be a foodie. Or, at least a kitchen with the potential to be turned into XFE’s Stadium Kitchen Headquarters.

So, are we foodies? I don’t know. But we’re definitely crazy. And it tastes so, so good.