Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Working Weekend in the Duke City

August 22 - 24, 2014
Albuquerque, NM

After a pretty hassle-free 15 months, our tenants at the house on Quail Run decided to move back to LA and it was once again time to do the usual inspections and maintenance on the house in preparation for new tenants.  Even though we weren't feeling quite ready to let it go, we considered putting it up for sale this time and Scott even spoke with a well-known, local Realtor while I was in Michigan last month.  While we were not unhappy with the agent's recommended list price of $265K, he believed that the value is only likely to rise further this year. And so we decided to list it on the rental market again, despite the stress and inconvenience of being absentee landlords.  

Our house on Quail Run

After some research on Craigslist, Scott listed the house, increasing the rent for the first time since becoming landlords in 2011.  It was all a bit whirlwind for me, having learned of the impending move-out just as I was departing for Michigan and then flying to Albuquerque just four days after returning from Detroit, but overall, the timing was pretty good, as our tenants had just moved out the day before our planned arrival in Albuquerque.

Friends Christopher and Margaret kindly offered up their guest room to us and organized a late welcome dinner at Amore Neapolitan-style Pizza with mutual friends Petra and Joe upon our arrival on Friday.  But we were there to work and sadly we had neither the time nor the energy to organize any social engagements with additional friends this time.  We look forward to returning one day for an extended trip to New Mexico to see all of our friends and also to do a driving trip though the state to visit some old favorites and also hit some spots we missed during our residence in New Mexico.

At Amore Neapolitan-style Pizza with our awesome Albuquerque welcoming committee
Relaxing at Christopher & Margaret's after dinner
Following a late breakfast (delicious as ever!) at Weck's on our first morning in town, we arrived at the house to find a complete pigsty.  On the bright side nothing was badly damaged or obviously broken but it appeared that Kelly and Michael (I will not protect the identities of the guilty) had not cleaned the house in at least six months and possibly not ever since they moved in!  In addition to the general dirt on all surfaces throughout the house, there were massive cobwebs in the window frames.  

Dust much? (Clearly the answer is no...)
 And the toilets!!  Both toilets had black mold growing in the bowls and desperately needed to be wiped down in their entirety.  These toilets would most definitely give many public toilets a run for their money.  

As my favorite Jimmy Fallon character would say, "Ewww!"
I quickly discovered that the grime was largely superficial which was both comforting from a cleaning perspective but also positively infuriating that these film industry folks didn't even bother to wipe anything down (or hire someone to clean up after them) before hitting the road back to California.

Saturday was spent cleaning up the house a bit, just enough so it wouldn't be a total turn-off for the prospective tenants who were coming to see it over the weekend.  Always on the ball, Scott had listed the house for rent on Craigslist the previous Saturday and had arranged three showings for the Saturday we were in town.  Despite the filth, the house was well-received and we rented it for our full asking price of $1,600/mo. before the third party even had a chance to see it.  Tyler and Alison, a fresh-faced, thirty-something, Midwestern couple with a 3-month-old son, had just returned to the States from overseas - Tyler is a dentist for the military - upon being transferred to Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque.  After four years in Japan, they really liked the spaciousness, tall counters, skylights and modern features of the house such as our newer dishwasher, washer/dryer and central heating and cooling, in addition to the stunning mountain views, of course.  They agreed to a September 1st lease date and will be moving in by mid-month when their belongings arrive on the boat from Japan.  

After an exhausting day of cleaning and showing the house, we needed a break, and preferably one including wine!  On the way back to Christopher & Margaret's, we stopped at our favorite wine shop, Jubilations, and picked up a lovely French rosé  for us and a French white as a thank you for our hosts. 

Enjoying our host's beautiful backyard after a day of hot, dirty laboring.  The bottle of rosé we picked up was a gooood call...
Sadly, Margaret and Christopher were otherwise engaged, but we had a fun Saturday night out with Joe & Petra, first at Nob Hill Bar & Grill for dinner on their patio and followed by after-dinner drinks on the patio at Scalo's.  Clearly, summer in Albuquerque simply begs feeding our patio-dining obsession!

Saturday night out with Joe & Petra
Sunday began with a short bike ride on a perfect, warm-but-not-hot New Mexico summer day to the trendy Bike-In Coffee at Old Town Farm near Christopher and Margaret's house and organized by Christopher.  

At Bike-In Coffee
Where Bike-In Coffee gets its name...
The refreshingly no-frills set up at Bike-In Coffee
Scott & Christopher enjoy coffee and a light bite overlooking the fields of Old Town Farm 
After sitting and chatting over coffee in the idyllic late August sunshine, we returned to Quail Run where we continued our cleaning efforts and Scott did the annual waterproofing on the exterior wood on the most exposed areas of the house.  We also met with our property manager, Roger, for a walk-through to detail everything we needed him to take care of after we left to go back to Oakland later that day.  During the walk-through, I approached the sliding glass door to the covered patio off the dining room and glanced out. To my great surprise, I spied an obviously dead rabbit that appeared to have bled out from a head injury right on our patio! Scott, my knight in shining armor, scooped up the rabbit with a shovel, disposed of it and scrubbed the concrete floor until there was barely a trace of what had transpired there overnight.

Our best guess is that this poor little guy was either poisoned (with mouse poison) or hit by a car in front of the house before stumbling onto our patio to die 

Although it would have been nice to have time to see more friends and to have returned to a somewhat cleaner house, at least there were no major issues to address and we felt reasonably confident leaving the remaining work in Roger's hands.  Furthermore, it was more than we had hoped for to leave knowing we had secured a high-quality new tenant for the coming 12-month period.  And besides, there was just enough time before our flight for an afternoon patio-sit at O'Niell's to enjoy some final stellar Albuquerque weather!  This was definitely the easiest time we've had to date in turning the house over and we boarded the plane back to Oakland with a feeling of satisfaction and success.

With our wonderful hosts, Margaret & Christopher - love you guys!
Enjoying a quick meal and a couple of margaritas on the patio at O'Niell's

Friday, August 15, 2014

Caroline's 24-Hour Selfie-tastic RomCom Movie Montage Trip to Grand Haven

August 12 - 13, 2014
Grand Haven, MI

During my almost two-week (mostly solo) trip to the Detroit area to visit family this summer, I decided to give my mom and stepdad a break from my frequently larger-than-life presence in their house.  So in the middle of my visit, I embarked upon an overnight adventure to my hometown of Grand Haven, located on the picturesque shores of Lake Michigan, to enjoy the local state park/beach and various other old haunts from my youth.  

Although the weather was a bit chilly, feeling more like late September than mid-August, I enjoyed my 24 hours in Grand Haven as much as I anticipated and loved being able to confirm that my hometown is just as magical now as it always was!

At my favorite section of the beach at the south end of Harbor Drive just before it ends
As I was alone, I had ample opportunity to practice my (poor-but-improving) selfie skills and had a great time doing it!  After the fact, I also came to the realization that my brief visit resembled a 1980s romantic comedy movie montage where we see the main characters having carefree fun on romantic dates (and presumably falling in love), set to (cheesy) music.  Only I was alone. Taking selfies of my date with myself.  Judge me if you must. 

First stop: Pronto Pup stand!
Need a read?
I love, love, love that my beloved hometown has installed at a least a couple of these take-a-book-leave-a-book boxes around town.  This one is located near the marina/Chinook Pier.

Grand Haven South Pier

What would a visit to Grand Haven be without a walk on the pier?!
View of the Grand Haven State Park shoreline from the pier

It was chilly enough that I didn't quite feel inspired to take off my shoes and walk in the sand, but it was still as pretty as ever.
Grand Haven Boardwalk, along the Channel

Of course I walked on the boardwalk on my self-date!!  Unfortunately, my selfie really didn't turn out. :-(
At Kirby Bar & Grill downtown
I was feeling a little sad over a missed connection with an old friend.  

Warning: objects in a selfie appear much larger than they actually are.
So i figured I'd have a drink at the bar. At least they had sauvignon blanc (two to choose from !), my favorite summertime white.  This is more than I can say for most bars and restaurants in Michigan.  Sorry Michigan, but it seems that sixteen years in California has turned me into a wine snob!

The lights of the pier at dusk
After I finished my wine in a most solitary fashion, I strolled down the sidewalk fronting the beach and watched the tail-end of the sunset.  I was on a romantic date with myself, after all!

You can never be too safe!
Back in my room at the Beacon Inn Best Western, which has been the Beacon Inn for as long as I can remember, I found my TV remote control thoughtfully encased in a fresh hygiene cover.  It seemed appropriately fitting, as I was alone...well, except that I'm not a guy...

Breakfast at Morning Start Cafe
Just one last stop before hitting the road for the trip back to Detroit.  The flavor-of-the day coffee was Michigan Cherry, which I enjoyed.  

Local sugar at Morning Star Cafe
Who knew that Michigan makes sugar? 

The Beamont at Morning Star
While I will forever mourn the fact that they took my favorite crab Benedict off the menu (many years ago, now), the Beaumont Benedict, made with thick-cut turkey, avocado and bacon was a satisfying (albeit difficult to eat) substitute.

One last selfie for the road!  Until next time Grand Haven.  I may reside happily in a distant state, but you'll always be home!

I have but one regret of my fast but fun trip to Grand Haven; I failed to get a selfie with my giant (single scoop!) Mackinac Island Fudge ice cream cone in front of the musical fountain.  It would have been, without a doubt, the pinnacle of my movie montage selfie date!  Next time!!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Mini Family Reunion in Michigan!

August 8, 2014
Royal Oak, MI

Following a two-year absence from our home state, Scott and I decided we really needed to make a visit back east.  Almost immediately upon our return from Prague and Budapest, where we had spent 8 glorious days in July, we booked a couple of plane tickets to Detroit.  Unfortunately, as it is planning season at Nestle, Scott was able to get away only for a long weekend but I booked my trip for 11 full days (not including travel days).  I timed my arrival so that I was just able to cross paths with my Aunt Nancy as she began her trip back east to Virginia from Grand Haven, where two generations of our family grew up and Nancy visits every August.  

My mom and stepdad graciously hosted a lovely and delicious bbq dinner of beef brisket, scallops and avocado salad, corn on the cob, panzanella salad, fruit salad and donuts for dessert (Christopher's favorite) at their new home in Royal Oak for the occasion.  It was so wonderful to reconnect with everyone, including my aunt, and I look forward to visiting her in her upcoming retirement in Sarasota, FL and Grand Haven in future years!

The family!

The twins and their aunt

Dinner prep, Midwestern-style
My 7-year-old nephew Christopher was instrumental in helping his Grandpa Bill  to shuck the corn for the party and 3-year-old Kate was in good spirits as well.  Upon my mom's urging, Nancy brought her two Boston Terriers over with her, but it was a giant cardboard box and the dog crate that got all the attention from the kids.  Go figure!

Kate has some box time with her Grandpa B.
The twins enjoy bar-in-a-box while Christopher does one of his famous cat poses
Kate, lounging in the crate
Kate started to cry when Christopher wouldn't let her back int he crate.  I'm getting an idea for next Christmas...

And the box was no more... The sign of a good party!