yard sale & farewell party

So things are happening fast around here.  We spent the summer noses-to-the-grindstone, anticipating Alan’s dissertation defense.  That was the big deadline, the big finish line.  Then, all of a sudden, it was over.  We went to Utah, we came back, I was sick.  And now it’s one week before Alan starts work!  When did that happen?!

We had been planning on hosting a yard sale Saturday the 17th.  I was going to spend last week preparing: sorting through stuff in the storage areas of the house (porch, garage, loft, basement), pricing items, setting up.  Instead, I rested and tried to recover from being sick.  It seemed like the yard sale was going to have to wait.

Thursday morning I woke up feeling better.  I hadn’t felt good in nearly two weeks, and the energy was stimulating.  I decided, in bed before I even got up, to do the yard sale.  I’d have two days to sort and prepare, but I could do it!  My mom came over Thursday to help, and Alan didn’t go in to work on Friday.  (He finished the changes necessary to his dissertation Thursday, so he’s kind of done.  He will clean out his office, and he wants to spend some time training group-mates on some laser stuff before he leaves.)

Saturday we woke up early (5ish), and set up the yard sale.  It was quite a success!  Let me tell you what we did, what worked, and what didn’t.


1. I read The Joy of Less a while ago, and had a great mentality when sorting our possessions.  Instead of asking myself “am I willing to part with this?”, I asked “is this ‘treasure’?”  I didn’t decide what to sell, I decided to sell everything, and then had to choose what to keep.

2. I priced things low.  I advertised the sale as a “nothing over $10” sale.  Some people got really good deals on the items with the highest value.  I ran out of $0.25 and $0.50 stickers first, because I priced things so low.  I wanted things to be gone, I didn’t want to get the most money for each item.  I didn’t want anyone to want something, pick it up, and think it was too expensive.

3. We sold home improvement supplies.  This was Alan’s idea, and it worked great.  We sold the faucet we bought and never used, and the left-over chain link from installing the gate across our driveway (40 feet for $10).  We sold PVC pipe ($0.25 to $1.00 per piece) and green-board ($0.50 for partial boards) and cement-board ($0.25 for partial boards).  We sold partial cans of spray paint ($0.25) and wood stain ($0.25).  It was a good portion of the sale, and it attracted more buyers, including people just driving by the house who stopped.

4. We advertised on craigslist and gsalr.com.  In fact, I put up the gsalr.com ad first, and it had an option to cross-post on craigslist.  I still had to make the craigslist listing, but I could cut-and-paste some nifty html from gsalr.  It made the craigslist ad look nice: it had a map and a nice font.  It was easy and free.

5. I advertised for no early birds.  I don’t know if this made a huge difference, but it helped me not get stressed out when setting up.  In the ad I mentioned that prices were tripled before 8am.  That kept people away!

6. I made really legible signs.  I read some advice to simply make signs that say “yard sale” with an arrow.  I used some foam-board we had, and a huge magic marker.  I made the letters six inches high, and the arrow was seven inches high and 15 inches across.  We put out five signs.  Two were double-sided, so they could be read by traffic going either direction.  They went on the main roads leading to our house.  There was a single sign that pointed to our house if you came via a side street.  And there were two signs right in our front yard: one on the left and one on the right, for traffic going both directions.

7. We had a cooler of bottled water and ice.  We sold the bottles for $0.25.  It wasn’t a huge draw, but we did sell some bottles of water to people who didn’t buy anything else!

8. We had lots of change (probably too much).  We withdrew $150 from the bank: 5x $10, 10x $5, 30x $1, and two rolls of quarters.  In retrospect we probably needed 5x $10, 5x $5, 15x $1, and one roll of quarters.  I had priced so many things at $0.25 and $0.50, that I felt the need for nearly a hundred quarters.  But I didn’t think about the fact that most people would buy more than one thing.  Plus, I’d often round down, to make people feel they were getting a really good deal.

9. I kept the change in a carpenter’s apron.  It kept the money on my person, and it was easy to pull out change.  It was also easy to switch the apron between me and Alan during the sale.  I handled most transactions, but I also left the sale several times to pick up more stickers (see #2), and to pick up some lunch.

10. We set out everything for free after the sale was over.  I put a curb alert on craigslist, and we told the neighborhood kids everything left was free.  They were so excited.  Their parents probably weren’t thrilled that they brought home so much junk, but it was fun to watch.  I did pick out a few high priced items that didn’t sell: a clarisonic mia face washer, a pair of unworn dansko shoes, and a nice coat Alan’s never worn.  We’ll bring those to Goodwill, along with anything that was left.  I think we’ll have just one box worth of stuff for Goodwill.


We made over $300 at the sale, which sort of surprised me.  (I say “sort of”, because I kept an inventory list as I priced the items, and I entered it into Excel.  I knew that the sum of what I had priced was over $300, and that surprised me.)  I said to Alan several times before the sale that I was most excited to get rid of so much stuff.  Making money was secondary.  Yard sales are such a win-win!


We held the sale from 8am to 4pm.  At 6pm we had some friends over for a farewell/congratulations Alan party.  I knew I’d be tired, so I planned a super low-key party.  I cut up a watermelon and a pineapple into wedges (finger food!), and set out the leftover bottles of water (#7 above).  I asked people to bring soda, beer, or chips/dip.  We ordered six pizzas, and an hour-and-a-half into the party I went out to buy a box of ice cream sandwiches.  We ate in the back yard, sitting on wooden arm chairs Alan brought from the house (we sold almost all our outdoor chairs that morning!).  It was the best party I’ve thrown in a while.

Our friends from church came (as well as my parents), and it was really great to sit and chat.  Most of the people had been in the first Small Group I joined, five years ago when I returned from China.  That’s where I met Alan.  That group has since dissolved: people got married, and had babies, and moved on from just being “young adults.”  It was so, so nice to be together again.  We talked and laughed until it got too dark to see anymore.

The reality that we’re moving has only just sunk in.  Alan’s first day of work is a week from tomorrow.  A week later the cats and I will join him.  There’s still lots to do, but it’s all very exciting!



P.S. Today is our anniversary–four years!



back from vacation

picnic area in Mill Creek Canyon

picnic area in Mill Creek Canyon

Alan and I are back from a long weekend in Salt Lake City, where we visited Alan’s parents.


Our trip was limited by my health, unfortunately.  My Achilles tendon injury prevented us from hiking.  And my general malaise put a damper on my weekend.


I’ve been fighting an infection for about a week.  I’m on my second (stronger) round of antibiotics, and I still feel miserable.  It’s likely that I’m just experiencing the side effects of the antibiotic: nausea, dizziness, light-headedness.  This antibiotic (cipro) also carries the risk of rupturing tendons.  So I’ve been extra careful with my Achilles tendon.


I also have an inner ear disorder that can make travel quite uncomfortable.  It tends to flare up when I’m sick or stressed out.  And in addition to making me feel dizzy, it makes me very likely to get motion sick.  I was miserable for most of the flights and threw up in the bathroom on both long flights (although it wasn’t as bad as throwing up in a bus bathroom–yuck!).


We’ve been home for about six hours.  I took a nap in my own bed, and am eating a snack.  The snack seems to be helping with the wooziness and nausea.


Back to Utah: we were able to do some fun activities despite my limitations.  On Saturday we went to the Great Salt Lake and went swimming.  I adored being able to swim and move without any pressure on my heel.  Sunday we went to church and then had a nice picnic in Mill Creek Canyon, part of the Wasatch range.  Yesterday we saw Man of Steel, did some shopping (work clothes for Alan!), and went to a super-fancy restaurant to celebrate Alan’s successful dissertation defense.


Have you taken any trips this summer?  What was the best part?  And is there any better feeling than sleeping in your own bed after a long trip?



getting the house ready to sell

I redid the kitchen last fall.

I just remodeled the bathroom.

The living parts of the house are fairly tidy (empty).  The storage areas (porch, basement, loft, garage) are not.  They have lots of stuff, and they aren’t very well organized.

We’re having a yard sale next Saturday (the 17th), which will go a long way towards clearing those parts out.  My goal is to either sell or pack everything that’s currently in storage by next Saturday.

There’s a small list of other things to do around the house: paint both stairways (the walls, not the stairs), hang two cabinet doors in the kitchen, install crown molding in the bathroom, take down photos, fill holes & touch-up paint.

I had a realtor come over today to look at the house.  I gave him our list of things to do, and we walked through the house.  He asked me if this was going to be a “spring sale.”

“Next spring?!” I asked, incredulous.


“Um, we’re moving in a month.  I want to get the house on the market ASAP so we can put an offer on the house I love in East Hartford.”

“Well,” he said, “this is a long list…”


So that was sort of a bummer.  It’s possible that he was thinking that Alan and I both work full time, and would only have evenings and weekends in which to work.  Alan’s dissertation defense is tomorrow (!!!), and hopefully he’ll be home more after that. [I know I said that when he turned in his dissertation, and he was home more.  But he still worked 60-ish hours a week, which doesn’t leave tons of time for projects.  After defending tomorrow, he has to make the changes his committee suggests, and he wants to write another paper for publication.]

If we’re both home during the day, and working on the house, I don’t see why we can’t get it done in a couple of weeks.  There will be heavy lifting clearing the storage areas, sorting our stuff, lots of painting, lots of cleaning… But we can do it, right?

I’m kind of bewildered right now.  Every day we don’t list our house is another day that someone else will make an offer on the East Hartford house.  I’m making progress, but my injury has slowed me down significantly.  I had hoped that we could list the house, and then keep working on it.


For the next 24 hours, I will focus on Alan’s dissertation defense.  Then we’ll revisit home improvement and listing the house.  It’ll be okay. :)




Week Wrap-Up // Link Round-Up // July 12-18

cherry tree in our backyard; too bad the cherries are mushy and tasteless

cherry tree in our backyard; too bad the cherries are mushy and tasteless

It has been so hot here.  I heard on the radio yesterday that the heat wave has coincided with record humidity here in Western New York, and oh, has it been hot.  Sorry for the absence of posts this week: the heat slowed me way down, which gave me nothing to blog about, and no energy with which to blog!

I’ve been trying to finish up the bathroom so we can get our house on the market.  I got some done Monday and Tuesday, but by Wednesday I just couldn’t be in that tiny room anymore.  I’ll start (and hopefully finish!) again tomorrow, when it cools off.

Alan submitted another paper to be published this week (it would be his fourth), and is working on yet another.  All those evenings we were going to spend together?  Yeah, right.  But at least he’s not working overnights any more.  And we did find time to start watching Orange is the New Black.

My brother, sister-in-law, and niece are going to be nearby next week, so I’m going to try to visit with them some–in-between working on the house.

Links after the jump! Continue reading

Week Wrap-Up // Link Round-Up // Jun 28 – Jul 5

looking at the sky through the leaves of an oak tree

Alan turned in his dissertation one week ago, and wow, what a lovely week this has been.  We had the greatest dinner & a movie at home date ever last Friday night.  Alan was home both Saturday and Sunday, and he didn’t do any school work either day!!  He went for a few long runs, worked on his long-neglected novel, and took lots of naps.

Monday we hosted a casual dinner party for our Small Group.  I made Albanian qofte (meatballs), which was a hit. I also took advantage of my Amazon prime membership to order the workbooks for our next study and ship them for free to everyone in the group!

We had another picnic of Korean food in the cemetery on Wednesday.  After we ate, we laid on the blanket and looked at the leaves, and I took the picture seen above.

We celebrated the Fourth of July with lots of dogs and babies.

I also have tentatively started walking again.  I stretch my heel out for a few minutes before I leave, and several minutes after I get back.  I’m limiting my walks to between 10 and 15 minutes.  It’s not much, but I’ll take it!

links to interesting internet stuff after the jump Continue reading


Alan turned in his dissertation yesterday morning.  He got four copies (180 pages each) printed and bound: one at Staples, three at the university print shop.  He stuck around school most of the day to field any potential phone call regarding paperwork.

At 3:30pm I picked him up.  We hung out at home for a few hours.  We were going to go out, but Alan seemed pretty bushed.  He wanted hamburgers and milkshakes for dinner.  I wanted to go to a movie.  I swung by Wegmans and got supplies for milkshakes and burgers, along with some cheese, rice crackers, and raspberries for an appetizer, and a six-pack of beer.  I also got a movie from Redbox.

Alan snacked while I cooked up a couple of hamburgers.  For Alan, I pressed some jarred jalapenos into the patties, and topped the cooked burgers with pepper-jack cheese and arugula.  I pressed my patties thin and cooked them until they were really brown on the outside.  I melted some cheddar cheese over the top and ate them with a fork and knife (no bun).  Alan wanted a vanilla-caramel-bourbon milkshake like he had at a restaurant recently.  I think I did a pretty good job of replicating it.

We watched the movie, and went to bed early, chatting for quite a while before nodding off.  Copper came up and snuggled between Alan’s knees and mine.  Ptoley looked out the bedroom window for a while, and then went downstairs to sleep, as is his custom.

It was such a regular, mundane evening (dinner, movie, bed), but we haven’t had it in so long.  It felt like the best, most romantic date ever.

I got back to tiling the bathroom today (I’m off to mix up another batch of mortar after this), Alan read some wikipedia articles (a hobby of his), and mowed the lawn.  We’re headed out to a restaurant tonight to celebrate a friend’s birthday.  It’s nice to be back to a rhythm: work, rest, friends, chatting, down-time, entertainment, cats, food.  I’m very happy :)



Did you find a typo in the post? Let me know here.


So Alan’s still working, but he’s almost done!  He’ll submit his paperwork and dissertation this Friday (June 28th), and defend his dissertation the week of August 5-9 (the day isn’t certain yet).

I am at that particular moment where the work to be done seems overwhelming.  There was a point every semester of school when I’d look at the syllabus to see what remained–assignments, papers, tests–and decide that it was impossible to get all that done in three weeks (or however long was left in the semester).  Of course it would always get done.  And the best way to ensure that it will get done is to start working.  But I would always panic and despair.

I was in the basement today cleaning the cats’ litter box, looking at the pile of old kitchen cabinets, some old bath towels that I’ve wanted to donate to a shelter, the old refrigerator we moved to the basement when we bought a new one three years ago that mostly has old bottles of ketchup in it, disorganized home improvement tools, cleaning supplies, cans of paint.  We need to replace our furnace before we put the house on the market, and I’d like to get the basement cleaned out before we do that, and oh, there’s just so much to do.

I’m an aspiring minimalist, which is hilarious if you know how much I like stuff.  It’s not that I like having stuff just to have stuff.  I like having the right stuff; the right tool for the job.  The reality is that I often buy the wrong tool, then buy something else to supplement it or partially replace it, and then maybe finally buy the right tool.  The problem is then I have four tools, when I only want one.

Minimalism is more of a philosophy than an aesthetic.  It’s often coincident with a spartan aesthetic.  Alan likes the spartan look.  He’d be content with very little furniture and white walls.  I like a house to feel cozy and inviting, which is often coincident with clutter, but not necessarily.

Alan’s been pushing for us to get a Japanese futon for our next bed.  Our current bed (frame and mattress) is one that we got for free from a friend, who got it for free from her parents.  It’s ancient, and probably full of all sorts of dust and allergens, but we’re poor graduate students, so we use it.  Rather than buying a new bed, new box-spring, and new mattress, we could buy a Japanese futon mattress that goes on the floor.

I’m trying to imagine a house that’s minimalist, partially Japanese-inspired, and cozy.  It’s doable, right?  Floor pillows are both Japanese and cozy.  We could still have a couch.  I already don’t want to dedicate a whole room to dining; Alan and I could eat at the coffee table, and we could pull out a folding table and chairs for company.

But here’s the thing: it’s fun to imagine a new house with a new aesthetic.  But in order to get there, we need to seriously thin out our current possessions (yard sale coming up!), sell our house, buy a new house, and then buy stuff for that house.  The whole idea is just a lot to take in today.  Tomorrow I’ll sort through a few boxes and it’ll all seem better.  But today… oof!



Did you find a typo in the post? Let me know here.

“I always think that”

[conversation takes place on the phone]

Eliza: I wanted to let you know that I started to dig through the papers on the desk.  The house might be in the it-gets-worse-before-it-gets-better phase when I go to bed.  So if you get home and the house is a mess, that’s why.

Alan: I always think that if I come home to a messy house

Eliza: Thanks!  Oh, Copper just knocked the pizza box onto the floor.

Alan: I always think that the cats knocked the pizza on the floor.  I never think it was you.

Eliza: Thanks…



The first time the cats knocked pizza on the floor overnight we were mystified–why?  how?  Turns out they like to lick the pepperoni.


Did you find a typo in the post? Let me know here.


As I’ve alluded in the past few weeks, Alan is finishing up his dissertation.  He accepted a job in Hartford four and a half weeks ago, and immediately went into gotta-finish-the-dissertation mode.

For reference, let me back up to early November 2012.  Alan had just interviewed with a company in DC, and they tentatively offered him a job, which he tentatively said he was interested in.  He started to work hard to finish up: working occasional overnights, working six or seven days a week.  He’s always been a hard worker.  I’d say he’s worked at least 60 hours a week his entire graduate career.  After the DC job offer he bumped that up to at least 80 hours a week.  I didn’t like it, but it seemed temporary–for a while he was hoping to finish before the beginning of 2013.

So at the end of May when he accepted this other job offer (the DC offer was materially changed as a result of the Sequester/Fiscal Cliff budget cut, so when Alan was recruited by this Hartford company, he pursued the opportunity), I was incredulous that he could work any more than he already was.  He had been working 80-100 hours a week for five months!

But he did: he started working harder and longer hours.  Alan’s a night person.  He gets a second wind around 10pm, and does his best work of the day after that.  Additionally, his entire “group” at the university uses the same lasers, so it’s worth it to run a bunch of experiments once they are set up.  And working over-night is good because the rest of his group is generally not there, so the laser is free.

Alan has worked every night for the last four weeks.  He works overnight, comes home somewhere between 2am and 6am, and sleeps until about noon.  Then he goes back to school, and works the entire afternoon, evening, and overnight again.  A couple of times a week we eat lunch together before he goes back in.  And a couple of times a week he comes home at 8pm for dinner, and goes back in at 9 or 10pm.

I am excited because it’s almost over!

The absolute drop-dead date is June 28th–less than two weeks.  That’s the deadline for turning in his dissertation if he wants to defend this summer, and he does want to defend this summer!  He’s aiming to turn it in a week early, so that if there are any issues he can resolve them before the 28th.  So as early as this Friday he could be done with the intense, 125 hour weeks!  We are both so, so excited about that!

People have asked me if I’m excited about moving and selling our house, and I’ve said that I simply cannot think about that yet.  Alan’s crazy schedule affects me: I pick him up and drop him off if he’s too tired to run to work.  I bring groceries by a couple of times a week.  I sleep fitfully until he comes home, and don’t start working on projects (like the bathroom) until after he wakes up at noon.  If I start thinking about the new house and such, I’ll want to talk to Alan about it.  And he simply doesn’t have the spare emotional energy!

So in a week or so our lives (and by extension this blog) will be much more exciting.  I’ll finish up the bathroom renovation, and start on other projects around the house.  We will be researching real estate agents and looking at houses in Hartford (I visited one when Alan interviewed that I looooooooooove, but who knows if it will still be for sale when we sell our house).  I will focus more energy on getting a job in Hartford.  And we’ll have time to do fun things again, like go on bike dates and visit my grandma’s cottage in the Finger Lakes.

We’re close!

tired Alan  |  we went to the Lilac Festival for a delightful day-date before he went into work one day a few weeks ago

Do you have any stories about graduate school?  Did you or someone you love write a dissertation?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!


Did you find a typo in the post? Let me know here.