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Monday, February 11, 2013

The 'Getting Ready' Fun Never Stops

I'm sure a few readers have thought, well, she hasn't written a blog post in months, so the Ecuador thing is out the window....nope. Still on! Am I too lazy to write? Maybe. But I think I've been just so freaking busy...still renovating (whoo hoo) and I am down to my last BIG project, and still have a few small projects to finish up.

The next big, and I mean BIG project is the kitchen, and after several deliveries, broken pieces (that happens) missing pieces and now.....ta dum dum dum.... the last two cabinet doors that were delivered are the wrong doors. They are just a few inches too big for the cabinet frame. Renovation is fun!

Hub's rental house is on the market. We've had our estate sale, which was a success. We are living lean, we have all the basic furniture pieces plus just a few decorative items, but most were sold, and guess what? Other than missing my casserole dishes and nicer wine glasses, we are good. Less is just fine with us. On that same note, I have been looking at ways to reduce our cost of living since I quit my job to do the renovation work and looking for alternative products that we won't be able to get in Ecuador.

My shampoo and conditioner alone cost $26 each! My moisturizer cost almost $40 for a really small container! Yikes!! In addition to downsizing, cutting back, etc, I also want to eat healthier and buy smarter - many high end beauty products that we are so accustomed to using may not be available in Ecuador. Cleaning products are more expensive, comparatively speaking, than the US. Many expats (and wanna-be expats) express a frustration about not being able to get certain items, and I do not want to fall into the whiny category just because my favorite perfume or lipstick...or peanut butter isn't available.

This search for alternative products has lead me to exploring all natural solutions. Not the 'natural' we are used to seeing on packaging....the labeling in this country is a joke and nothing about 'all natural' is really all that natural! I mean readily available products that do NOT contain carcinogens, harmful chemicals......

The shampoo and conditioner...did I ever buy more? No....I am using....drumroll please.....baking soda and water mixture. Don't faint. And for cider vinegar, diluted with a small amount of water. Did you faint? Yes, my hair is clean. And it looks fantastic! Guess what? Are you sitting down? I am using homemade hairspray as well. Three ingredients: lemon, water and rubbing alcohol. I live in the South, and it works! No more chemicals on my head..... So at least my hair is ready for Ecuador, LOL (Note: baking soda is sold in very small quantities in Ecuador so I will be bringing several very large boxes in my luggage)

My next blog post will be safe and effective alternatives to all the nasty chemicals....unless I am too busy gnashing teeth and cursing with the kitchen renovation....wish me luck.

Hasta luego, cheers and all that,

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Determined to Finish

The past few months have been a little nutty. My previous post was about chaos and dust, and grandkids visiting before the big estate sale...and thank goodness all of that is over. I have survived the grandkids - sofa was again adorned with plenty of drool from the teething 11 month old cutie pie, the house has some marks and bruises, but repairs are easy. Sort of. At the time I didn't chuckle, but now I can....the older kiddo was upset and he took his truck and banged it into the wood:

Since the wildly successful estate sale craziness ended July 21st, I have been tirelessly working on home repairs and renovations - finishing up all those little projects that were 'not quite done' - why are there so many??? What I thought would take only a few months has stretched into a much longer timeframe. We have a decent size house (about 2800sf), and I am determined to finish these projects!

The upstairs bedroom that at one time was my older son's/turned into a guest bedroom: ceiling was popcorn, I had started to scrape it. and then somewhere along the way that project got sidetracked. I think it was between the time my kiddo went to college and when Ken moved in his bedroom set when we got married. Well, that room is now done--all walls painted. Before it was taupe and black now the walls are crisp grey, clean white ceiling and white trim. The other upstairs bedroom is freshly painted and ready to go as well.

Every room in this house needs a touch up paint job - not the whole wall type thing, but definitely the baseboards and trim need some sprucing up. It is so much easier when there is no furniture to move!

My closets are empty except for the clothes we are taking to Ecuador; my cabinets are empty, except for must-have items like a few (seriously only a few!) glasses, plates and bowls, one (yes, ONE) serving dish, and my pots and pans and favorite utensils. Only the things we are taking to Ecuador made the cut, except for the glasses and plates. My older son is awaiting those gifts.

Outdoors - finished stucco-ing the large 6' + concrete block wall in my backyard....once it cures (takes 30 days) I can paint it. That project is set to start Sept 29th. Hopefully done that weekend! Otherwise the landscaping is done, just regular maintenance.

Kitchen and Master Bath - the only two rooms that have not been renovated yet, due to cost. Still pondering whether or not to renovate or sell the house as-is. Do I have a rich relative somewhere that has left me with a large inheritance maybe? Don't think so.

We are on the tail-end of the home renovation goal is to have this house in perfect shape by October sometime, and then it will hit the market. With any/lots of luck, it will sell fast. I have plenty of wine, I can get through this!

Hasta luego, cheers and all that good stuff,


Friday, June 15, 2012

Chaos, Craziness and Dust

Last post was all about selling 'stuff.' The blog I created to help with the selling process worked fairly well. Lots of calls and texts, and emails. Lots. Asking me to "send me another picture", "what are the measurements-again", "is it really gold gold, or more of a yellow gold, or does it have green in it?"  Seriously? To some of the responses (mainly text, after the 3rd one usually) I would type "just come by and see it please."

It was exhausting. My living room was filled with tables of stuff, and invariably when someone would come over to look, they would ask "what else do you have?" - and I would tell them that I could only get so much ready at a time because I had to clean the item, take pictures, post it etc.....and some people would ask to go through my house!! What?

So I posted earlier this week about contracting with an estate sale company. I'm still very happy about the decision to contract with them.

They will arrive July 9th and work for 10 days straight to get everything staged and ready for the sale. My estate sale will be held July 19 (my 49th birthday OMG) thru July 21. So that means any and every item I do not want sold must be put away, hidden. Since we are not selling my master bedroom furniture, we decided to keep that room off limits. Unfortunately, the sitting room part of the master bedroom WAS my staging area for items I was getting ready to sell, so it is full of stuff that I need to move OUT of the bedroom. Augh. This is embarrassing, but I am posting a picture of what it looks like this morning, even though yesterday I removed many many boxes of stuff:

As soon as they leave on Monday I start emptying out the sitting room. Oh crap, I have to clean out the drawers of the antique dresser that's in there, and sort through ALL the craft items I put in there, and..... the Lane chest filled with blankets and quilts. Chaos.

Tuesday thru Thursday I spend removing photos from frames. Dusting off the frames. Getting sick from all the dust. Cough cough. Going through old photos and removing the ones I want to keep and giving the rest to the children's father. Most of the photos are copies, and the rest are in 30+ photo albums, many which are 'scrapbook style'. Yikes! More craziness. I decide to bargain with my ex - he scans the photos for me, he gets to keep the albums. He accepts the offer. Albums are stacked up and ready for him to take. So is the gigantic box of photos, negatives and other stuff. More dust, some of these albums haven't been looked at since I moved in the house 8 years ago. Cough.

Dozens of board games are stacked in one corner of the man cave/bonus room. I stirred up the dust on that project, as many of the games have been sitting for a long time, some of them are little kid games and my kids are 18 and 24 now. That's lots of sitting and collecting dust!

What the heck are we going to do with all those CDs? Covered in dust too.... cough.

Kid's rooms - my older son's stuff that he still has at my house. Guess what? His father can take that! He doesn't know it yet, but it will be waiting for him when he gets the albums.  Since Alec is going off to college in a few months, he won't have room to store things, so maybe I can get his stuff over to his dad's as well.

All this has to be done before June 23rd - this is where the craziness part comes in: Ken's daughter and her two boys, ages 4 and 11 months, are coming to visit for 5 days. YIKES! My house is not, and has never been childproof. Now it is a complete hazard, a serious danger zone. I pray the children don't get hurt. They may need hard hats. I will need more than wine to calm my nerves, at least I have plenty of vodka.

For those of you who have decades of 'stuff' just collecting dust, get rid of it NOW. Do it years before you move. If you think it will only take a month, triple that.

Today I am heading out to get medium weight drop cloths to put over the white living room sofa which we are not selling right away. Then I can stack stuff on top, move the rest of the items out of the sitting room, and the suitcases that are blocking half the master bath can take their rightful place on the floor, to be filled with Ecuador bound items. The Space Bags are at the ready, waiting to be filled.

It's really happening. Cough cough. Soon, the dust will settle, the craziness will turn to calm, and all the chaos will have been worth it.

Hasta luego, chao chao, and all the good stuff,


Monday, June 11, 2012

Estate Sale is ON!

Alrighty, yet another twist in my endeavor to sell all our stuff.....just this morning I contracted with an Estate Sale company to take over. I was not woman enough for the job. Drove me nuts sorting, pricing, taking pictures, answering STUPID questions from buyers about all the stuff, etc. It was just too much and I surrendered!

So 'Loose Ends by MJ', a group of ladies that come in and do it all for you, are coming in and doing it all for me! They are charging a $600 (not to exceed) set-up fee and for expenses, spending 10 days pricing and sorting and setting up the house, and then taking 25% of the sales price as commission. I think it is pretty darned fair! Most companies charge from 30-35% and their set-up fee/expense charges are a lot higher.

A contract is signed and all we have to do is remove anything we do not want sold. I have 1 month to get those items packed and put in the bedroom. The bedroom will be our safe haven! First though, I have to remove all the 'stuff' I want sold FROM the bedroom.

Everything we are not taking with us to Ecuador will be sold, except for the basic sofa, bed, dining table stuff needed to stage the house. Ken and I are both feeling a bit liberated already....that is, until we walk into our living room and see tables FILLED with 'stuff' and then we wish it was already July 19th. Or better yet, July 25th, when I get the check from the sale!

Interesting note: when the ladies came in this morning, the first thing they told me was another couple from Huntsville is also moving to Ecuador! They did their 'estate sale' last weekend. And everything was sold. Wow, great news! Hope our sale goes as well as theirs!

Hasta luego, chao chao, and all the good stuff,


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Selling 'Stuff'

This past week has been a whirlwind of activity. Today it has been one week since I resigned from my crazy stressful job. The resignation was immediate, and since then I have put in some serious hard work! Every day my goal is to clean out at least a couple of drawers or a closet, throw away or donate 'stuff' and post items to Craigslist. This is a LOT of work!!

I have started another blog called 'BuyMyStuffSoWeCanMove' ---the link is here:

Posting items on Craigslist is a pain when you have a lot of things to sell. It was getting old, having to repost and re-write listings, finding the pictures, etc. There are so many new listings every day, and once your listing has been up for a week, it gets lost in the mix. Too many items to look at! So, I thought, why not create a blog, with descriptions and pictures of my items. I will post my blog link on a Craigslist ad, and put up a new 'ad' each week so it stays fresh. Putting up one new ad is easier than reposting dozens upon dozens of pictures!

Once the item sells, I remove the picture from the blog. Each day I will add more items, and I am really hoping each day I remove pictures = cash in my pocket.

Having a garage sale is in the works, but I do not want to put my nice crystal out on the lawn! Not to mention my silk drapes...the birds would have a field day, lol.

And as always, I will be donating a TON of items....already have boxes upon boxes filled to the brim with nice brand-name summer clothing....will be adding more each week to the donate pile!

Hope this helps my fellow wanna-be expats - I always want ideas to help me get rid of 'stuff' - if you have any please comment and share your tips.

Hasta luego, chao chao, and all the good stuff,


Thursday, May 31, 2012

Guayaquil Adventures First Day

We landed in Guayaquil late on a Friday evening. Easily caught a taxi, negotiated the fare to $3 (I feel like a pro) and got to our hostel (Hostel Murali) ready for a good night's sleep.

Don and staff greeted us with smiles as we dragged our weary bodies inside - they quickly grabbed my heavy suitcase with a motion of 'I got this, let me help you.'

Side note: I love being a woman in Ecuador, all the men seem so eager to help with heavy items, opening doors, pointing out possible dangers while stepping off a curb, etc. How nice! Too bad the guys here in the States sometimes run into 'crazy women' when they try to be a gentleman. I'll take chivalry any day!

Back on track: we are registered, paid, and with a cold water bottle given to each of us, shown our room. We have a large room facing the street. The room is quite clean, the large bath is rather old, but clean and the best part? No electric/death shower head! (Yesss.....score!)

The air conditioner is already running, the room is nice and cool on this muggy evening. The sounds of the neighborhood are fun sounds, nothing too loud or crazy. Music is playing, people are talking, the normal sounds of a Friday night, and the air conditioner hum covers most of the street noise. We are so tired, we quickly fall asleep.

"MARLENA! MARLENA! Mi ESPOSA!"  I open my eyes and yes, the sound I hear is real, not from a dream. "MARLENA! MARLENA! Mi ESPOSA!"  Over and over. And over. get the point. Up and down the streets this poor guy is shouting at the top of his lungs. Did he screw up and have to shout out his love for all in the barrio to hear? Or was he looking for his wife? Was SHE the party girl? Hmmm.... and all this around 5am. Couldn't really read my phone clock, at least not at THAT hour....(yawn).

We get up, get our 'stuff' together and I go downstairs for breakfast. Ken is upstairs still getting ready, and I end up chatting with some expats, chatting (sorta kinda) with the staff, and enjoying my very strong, very black, very yummy coffee. The staff was acting surprised I didn't want leche or azucar. The gal who brought me breakfast gave me this HUGE smile when I took a sip of black coffee and liked it. I guess many Americans like their coffee with lots of sugar and cream. After a few cups of coffee, I was ready to tackle the adventures of the day....

One of the guys tried to fix my luggage handle that LAN broke. Yep, went the entire week without rolling luggage, poor Ken, he ended up dealing with that and many times his bag, too. Glad I married a hunky strong guy! When he heard we needed a taxi to the bus terminal, he literally took our bags, and put them in his car. We were at the station in minutes, and he charged us $2. So far, so good.

Terminal Terrestre - Crazy! Busy, that is. While I waited for Dan and his girlfriend Priscilla, Ken went scouting for the Reina ticket window and bus departure times to Manta. The terminal has many stores, it looks like a mall when you enter, and it is HUGE. When Dan and Priscilla arrived, we headed to the Claro store to get a phone since Ken's phone took a mini-sim card and the store didn't have one. We needed to buy a phone. Oh well, now we have an Ecuadorian phone and number, and it's registered.

Now on to get our bus tickets. Priscilla is awesome, she is making sure the tickets we buy are for the air conditioned executive bus to Manta. She repeats in Spanish several times and makes the woman at the ticket counter confirm the right bus. Once we get the tickets, we literally run, across the terminal, up the escalator, and down the hall to the correct 'gate.' Poor Dan is carrying luggage, running (yes, running!) UP the escalator. What a friend :)  The bus is supposed to leave and Priscilla says they usually leave on time. That seems like quite a contradiction because nothing leaves on time in Ecuador, right?

We give our 2 bags to the guy who puts a tag on them and gives us a matching tag, and the lady at the door (bus assistant) looks in my carry-on bag, and pats Ken down, even though they do not take away our knives. The knives were not hidden, but they were not loose either - they were in the pockets of our 'day packs.'  I notice one guy getting on the bus, and the assistant hops onto the bus after him and makes him get off and pats him down - a real pat down - and all the while lots of chattering and bickering and the guy isn't happy, but she got her way!

And we're off to Manta.....

No time to see the sights in Guayaquil today, but on our return we will be meeting up with Dan and Graciela.....

Hasta Luego, Chao Chao, and all the good stuff,


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Manta Street (and Beach) Scenes

It is so easy to walk all over little (and big) towns in Ecuador. Be mindful of your steps though - sidewalks can have (doggie) bombs, and plenty of holes, as well as rebar/wires sticking up and hanging down! So with the standard warning, let's have a tour:

Playa Murceilago Hotel - nice hotel, walking distance to the beach, in a very nice area. Close to restaurants, shopping and main streets. This is where we stayed in Manta:

We had so much fun walking, walking everywhere from the Supermaxi, to the beach, walking down side streets to see the vendors out early in the morning with large crowds eating ceviche....for breakfast. I opted for a warm cinnamon roll without icing and Ken had a huge croissant, along with our cold beverages, to start our big hike through the city. After stopping for breakfast, we headed towards the beach:

Delicious lunch at Mediterraneo, on Flavio Reyes, just a few blocks from our hotel:

We walked down lots and lots of stairs to get to the beach. What you see here is barely scratching the surface! There was another set up higher, and one to the left. Whew. 

After the long long walk on the beach, we are starting up another set of stairs, this time closer to the Malecon (Murceilago) where there are plenty of vendors, and restaurants.... 

We explored many streets hoping we were headed in the direction of our hotel (we were); we even stopped by the Fybecca to grab a couple of cold drinks. It was hot outside, but not unbearable. Living in the South, we are used to it. Now I see a reason for me tolerating the outrageous humidity in Alabama! Yes, it was/is to prepare me for the move to Ecuador!

Ken posing in front of what we called the Gringolandofshopping:

Manta was a fun city to explore by foot. We walked quite a bit, and we better get used to it if we are going to live in Ecaudor!

Hasta luego, chao chao, and all the good stuff,