Apr 28, 2008

The many adventures of Sarah and her friends at Disneyland


(Sara, Me, Emily & Kim)

My bachelorette party took place at Disneyland this past weekend. All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you to Kim, Emily and Sara for making the weekend a HUGE success and absolutely fabulous! To say we had a blast is on the understatment side of things.

(Me, Emily and Kim on Mr. Toad's Car outside of his Wild Ride)

Everytime I go there, a different ride becomes my favorite. This trip, it became Buzz Lightyear's Astroblasters. This is because it's interactive - as you go through the ride you have an astroblaster gun that you point and shoot via laser beam at specified targets to defeat the evil Zorg or whaever his name is from Toy Story 2.

Sara arrived mid-day Friday, so for the first round, Emily sat by herself. As the picture shows, I don't think she felt lonely at all!

(Maybe just a little powerful!)

Friday we spent the entire day in Disneyland and by the end of the day our feet hurt. We called it a night at about 10 PM even though the park didn't close until Midnight. That was fine with us. We cracked open the champagne and soaked our feet in a bubble bath.

(Love the ghetto-fab plastic cup?!)

Firt thing Saturday we finished up with Disneyland, except for the evening shows and headed over to California Adventure. As luck would have it the Wine & Food Festival was taking place. We started this park off with some wine tasting. That set the pace for most of the day.

(My International Sparkling Wine Tasting selection)

We didn't do as much or hit the pavement as hard as we did the first day. We started to wrap up our time at Calfornia Adventure with a delicious dinner at the Vineyard Room, which used to be sponsored by the Mondavi Vineyard. You'll find the best meal of any of the two parks eateries here.

(Even the portions are just right)

From there we waited for the Electrical Parade. As we exited dinner, we discovered we could pay a little money and get priority seating for the parade up on the veranda of what I call "Wine Tasting Land." We quickly bought tickets, and headed for the veranda again. There the waiter let us pick our table, which was based on what he said was the best seat in the area. He couldn't quite seat us at that very moment, so we enjoyed another glass of wine and/or champage until our table was ready.

(The cost to sit in priority seating included another glass of wine
and this amazing dessert platter.)

We were so full from dinner and other tastings that we barely finished the drinks and had to leave behind some dessert. After the parade we ran back to Disneyland for last minute shopping and the night show Fantasmic!. From there we did some incredible speed walking to fit in 5 rides in the hour we had left before closing.

Cameron had a somewhat calmer time back home, though he spent a little time on Saturday skydiving, before giving my parents a tour of the new house and neighborhood. They have now spent more time in our new home than I have, and Cameron has probably quadruple the amount of time. Oh well, we'll be living there soon enough and I'm going to try and stop in on my travels north this coming weekend. For now, I'm in Las Vegas attending a large conference for work, then its on to packing when I get home Wednesday night!

Love always,

Apr 24, 2008

House Hunting: Round 2 – Sold!

We bought a house last night! Hard to believe, huh?

My faith in Cameron being able to see a house and know I would love it paid off. And since I haven’t left for Disneyland yet, I have been able to see our new house, give Cameron the OK and we’ve already signed most of the paperwork.

Yesterday, Cameron met with Kim to go look at some new developments in Elk Grove that have standing inventory. The first place they went to, the standing inventory was actually two houses about to be built, but wouldn’t be completed until November and January – this timeframe would just not work for us, so they walked out without another word.

The next place only had one house left. Luckily, it’s the house for us! Cameron loved it and was pretty sure I would too. So he called me at 4:30 yesterday evening, told me to get the checkbook and get my butt to Elk Grove.

Here’s the front of the house.

The place is huge, though it only has 3 bedrooms. That’s because the master bedroom is actually a suite, with the 4th bedroom turned into a sitting room.

There is also a large laundry room upstairs – large enough to house the cats at night.

There are 3 fireplaces throughout the house. One in the master suite, one in the living room and one in the backyard….

We are already predicting that Melody will claim this little outdoor oasis as her dog house, whether we like it or not.

We’re definitely excited and can’t wait to move in, which may be sooner than expected. The builder wants to close on this as soon as possible, because as soon as it closes the company can begin selling lots in phase two of the development. If Escrow approves the short time period (7-14 days) we could be moving in as soon as Mother’s day! Well, gotta go. Since I was in Elk Grove last night buying the house with Cameron, I wasn’t able to pack for Disneyland. I have a lot of packing in my future!

Love always,

Apr 23, 2008

House Hunting: House 4 of Round 1

As we started for the last house, our idea of moving into a nice, relatively new home had moved far from our minds. At this point we were wondering how long it would take before our new home would be in a livable condition. Luckily, the last house of the day gave promise and hope. It was relatively clean, just a few pet stains on the carpet that could be steamed cleaned out and some insulation on the floor that has fallen from where the surround sound speakers had been.

It was also nicely painted and had some great upgrades. The kitchen had cherry wood cabinets and black granite counters, plus the master closet was almost the size of a small bedroom. The house also had a three-car tandem garage. This is where it appears to be a two-car garage on the outside but one side allows for one car to be parked in front of another inside the garage.

The only drawbacks to this place were that it only had 3 bedrooms (we’d prefer 4) and a smallish backyard that isn’t landscaped. Other than that, we liked it and it was priced right. We planned to make an offer, so we asked Kim to call the other realtor to insure it was a good buy. Come to find out Sunday that there were 10 other offers on the house – the house was only just listed last week!

So now began a bidding war – every one was allowed to put in 1 offer blindly. Whoever put in a bid closest to the house’s appraisal price, which can be upwards of 20% above the asking price, got the house, unless someone with a higher bid could pay in full, in cash. We’d decided it didn’t hurt to put in a bid, but we put in a bid we thought the house was worth – not above what we know we could get a larger house for at the same price. We put the bid in Monday. We found out yesterday that someone offered at a higher price, cash in full, so we’re still on the house hunt and now know we are competing with the 9 others looking for the same things we are. So, we’ve also expanded our search parameters. Because we need to find a place sooner rather than later and because our weekends are pretty booked for the next month, Cameron is continuing the house hunt without me when he can, including today during work and this weekend while I’m in Disneyland for my Bachelorette party.

I know he has good judgment and he knows my main needs (specifically, a large tub that I can take comfortable, leisurely bubble baths in) and if he puts in an offer without my input, we’ll make the extra effort to go back and look at it if the offer is being considered or accepted. We’ll have a few days grace period to rescind our offer if I absolutely hate the place, but that likelihood is miniscule.

Keep you fingers crossed for us though!

Love always,

House Hunting: House 3 of Round 1

The third house Kim took us was in even worse shape than the second house. As soon as you walked in, the strong smell of smoke met your nostrils and made my eyes tear. The carpet was in even worse shape. The last residents seemed to have Velcroed area rugs to the main carpet. I guess this prevents slippage, but carpet on carpet really doesn’t slip and the Velcro ruins the carpet. The last residents had actually left at least one side of the Velcro on the carpet – some places both sides were still there, meaning they had ripped the rug right off of the Velcro!

The walls in this place also needed a fresh coat of paint, but that wasn’t as bad as the title in the kitchen or the appliances. Many titles were chipped that you would have to at least re-do sections of the counter tops. New owners would have no choice but to replace the appliances – it was so disgusting in there both Kim and I were tempted to use hand sanitizer when we left even though we didn’t touch any of them. The backyard was a nice size, but there was no landscaping, and there was no cemented path to the backyard, just weeds to blaze through. The other interesting things about this house were its severely slanted driveway – you would always want to set the parking break on this one - and how narrow it was. The dining room felt more like an extra wide hallway than an actual room.

One of the bedrooms showcased the creative crayon works of the past owners’ children on the walls and the master bath still had a lipstick love note scrawled across it. We also found mice dropping in the corner of the master bedroom.

Apr 21, 2008

House Hunting: Houses 1 & 2 of Round 1

Our excitement about moving to Elk Grove and buying a home were somewhat dashed after our first round of house hunting this weekend. To say we are getting a crash course in Real Estate 101 is an understatement.

Saturday started off early. We were supposed to meet our realtor, Kim, in Elk Grove at 10 AM, so we needed to leave the house around 8. We didn’t actually leave until 8:45. Luckily, Kim was running behind too and throughout the drive this time changed to 11:30. The extra time allowed us time to drive around the area and get to know our new town. This is how we got to know Fremont when we first moved here. Elk Grove may be over 100 years old, but it definitely has the feel of a new town – every store and shopping center is recently opened or in the process of being built. And, as we drove into Elk Grove on back roads from the south, we discovered that Lewis and Clark are buried in a small, historic graveyard in the 1-block town of Franklin.

Once the house hunting began, the excitement dissolved into fear. You have to understand this: most homes on the market in Elk Grove are either short sales, which is the step before foreclosure or they have already been foreclosed on and are bank owned. When its bank owned, the house comes as is, you can’t negotiate new paint or major fixes into the terms of the sale. You can barely get your 3% closing costs covered. If the previous residents left anything behind, you inherit it.

We’d been warned that short sales are tough and can actually take a long time to go through as you are often dealing with the previous owner’s lender or in most instances, lenders, so an offer first has to be accepted by lender #1 to cover to previous owner’s mortgage #1 and once that goes through deal with lender #2 accepting an offer to cover the previous owner’s mortgage #2, which often served as the previous owner’s down payment.

House 1

Kim selected only bank-owned homes to show us and on this day, there were only 4 that were in the area we wanted and at the price we want. The first home, the code didn’t work so we couldn’t even get in, but most of the yard was in the front, and having little to no backyard will not work for us or Melody.

House 2:

The second home looked promising from the outside. It had some nice bushes, including roses in the front, along with a nice front patio. There were some half hanging Christmas lights up, but that could easily be fixed. Once we got inside, the true story unfolded. The place was disgusting, filthy! It wasn’t like this was dust settling over time, disgruntled evictee filth either. This was “Do people really live in these condition?” filthy. Obviously, these people didn’t know what a vacuum was. All in all, the house needed a good $20,000 to make it livable. The carpets have to be replaced, some new stucco on walls is necessary as well as a new coat of paint just to make the place livable. There was industrial glue spilt on the carpet in the master bedroom. Then you get to the backyard where there had obviously been some sort of structure, but the previous owners had taken it and left behind the cemented in bases. The backyard also had an interesting fence, one that allowed you to look out past it and passersby on the road across the little stream to view in. It was the type of fence you’d expect in the front yard of a mansion. The backyard looked first to this little stream, which was quaint and inviting and then at the local high school – not my idea of a nice view or relaxing.

I was so shocked at the condition of this home I forgot I had brought my camera to take pictures! Be glad I didn’t take pictures of this or the next house.

Love always,

Apr 18, 2008

The Powder Room Beauty Bar

My last post mentioned my Wedding Day make-up consultation at The Powder Room Beauty Bar. I wanted to go into more detail at the time about this gem of a store, but knowing how long my last post was becoming, thought I would save it for my next.

The lady I met with for the consultation is named Ashley. She is also the owner of the store. What I love is that she’s in-tune with what my generation wants and needs from make-up, but can meet the needs of other generations as well - her store is one of my mom’s favorites as well. It does help that she’s my age – turns out she graduated from high school the same year as I did, just up the road from Chico in Paradise. She’s had the store in its current downtown Chico location for about a year and half now and any chance I get I try to go in to see what new line or product she has in. She carries such lines as Bare Essentials, Cargo and Urban Decay and there always seems to be something new. Plus, the shop is decorated super cute. I forgot my camera this time around but I’ll be sure to get a picture of it in the future.

It’s always nice to go in and visit as Ashley and her staff are always super friendly, allowing you to browse as you wish and there to answer any questions you have when you have them. It’s stores like The Powder Room that keep Chico charming and give it that small-town feel and why I love my hometown. It also makes me feel better about spending my hard-earned money on such indulgences when I can, because I know Ashley and her staff are just as hard-working and with how hard they work, deserve my money versus some standard department store make-up counter.

Ashley also does an amazing job when giving you a make over – she’s not pushy in any way and really listens to what you want. I told her for my wedding day I was as natural a look as I can get that will still stand-out for great pictures. To say she met this request perfectly is an understatement – she went above and beyond and I love it! We even went so far as to try out false eyelashes on me! I wish my eyelashes looked that full every day and the even better part is you have to really look to know they’re fake. Ashley uses individual lashes versus the traditional lashes on a strip. They glue on and are much more difficult to put on (another reason she’s doing my wedding day make-up) but it’s so worth it when it’s not overly noticeable and adds just the right pizzazz.

For any one with some time to spend when visiting for the wedding, I highly suggest checking out this cute little boutique, not to mention the rest of the unique shops downtown Chico has to offer. Check out this website out for more info about Downtown Chico.

Love always,

Apr 16, 2008

Weekend Adventures

To say this weekend was busy is an understatement – and to know the full details would take the rest of the week. I’ll try to limit it today, and go into further details where I want in the future.

Originally, it didn’t seem so bad. I had a hair appointment on Saturday, while Cameron had skydiving plans. Sunday we would meet up with Grandma Betty to go to our reception venue, Peach Tree Golf & Country Club, for a tasting to determine the main dishes for our reception. Not bad, right? Pretty low key by our standards. Enter in the Elk Grove news and some last minute additions to the schedule and you understand why I had issues remembering all the little changes that were made elsewhere along the way.

Work on Friday was low key. Knowing I needed to drive to Sac to switch cars with Cameron, I e-mailed our friend Lynde to see if she wanted to have a glass of champagne to celebrate the good news and the weekend’s arrival when I got there. I figured she was planning a Champagne Friday any how – we send pics of our drinks via text message on Fridays often, cheersing the end of the week to each other. Instead I picked Lynde up and went out on the town in Chico, since her other half and mine would be consumed by computer games for the evening, and what we assumed would be the early morning hours of Saturday. Somewhere along the drive up we forgot the plans we made with boys for Saturday and made new ones for ourselves.

Saturday started out as originally planned. I headed to the hair salon for a trim and highlight while Lynde slept in. Afterward, I picked her up and we headed for Starbucks, then The Powder Room Beauty Bar, where I had a Wedding Day make-up consultation with Ashley. She did a fantastic job – so much so, I have to have her do my make-up the day of the wedding. It was after this appointment, which had been scheduled somewhat last minute before the weekend, when we strayed from the original plan. Here, we were supposed to run 2 quick errands and then drive back to Davis to drop Lynde off at the drop zone and pick Cameron up so we could try and squeeze some open house viewings. We were due in Davis around 2.

For some reason Lynde and I thought we were just supposed to drop by and say hello. With this in mind, we decided we had time to have lunch at Jasco’s, a favorite eatery of ours from our Chico State days. Then we did the last two errands before we started back from Sac. I think we started back to Sac at 1:30. We determined going to Davis to say hello was just silly – besides we could better spend the time planning bridal shower games for her sister Elaine’s bridal shower coming up this weekend.

During the drive, Cameron set us straight. Not that it mattered too much – skydiving was taking much longer than anticipated that day and there would be no house hunting for us that day. But I still had to go there and pick Cameron up. Then we had to drive to Matt & Lynde’s to switch cars again, and drop Lynde off so she could get ready for a party she forgot she was attending that night! From there, Cameron and I headed back up to Chico for an evening with my parents and so Cameron could get some school work completed.

Both of us were exhausted so we slept in Sunday before going in for the tasting. While everything was delicious and the decision tough, we were able decide on two main dishes, two side dishes, red and white wine, and beer for the reception. We want to try the champagne before we confirm that order.

But the tasting lasted longer than expected as well. Due to the changes to Saturday’s plans we had made new ones for Sunday. We were supposed to go pick up Matt & Lynde after the tasting, get Cameron fitted for a tux for our friends’ Jonny & Anna’s wedding in May, go see the house Matt & Lynde are building and get in a few open houses in Elk Grove.

We picked up Matt & Lynde and made it to Elk Gove, but only minutes before open houses ended – we never made it to their house or the Tuxedo store. We were, however, successful in determining what area of Elk Grove we want to look at buying a home in.

The day ended with Cameron and I driving Matt & Lynde back to their place, getting in separate cars, him driving home and me back to Chico. I worked from my parents home Monday while squeezing in a dental cleaning.

We’re already looking forward to this weekend, as we have decided on a realtor and will be house hunting with her on Saturday. Then we might actually get a day to spend at home. We'll try to remember the camera so we can show you pictures of houses we like or a house we plan to make an offer on!

Love always,

Apr 10, 2008

All your questions answered

Good news travels fast! Minutes after my first post the congratulations came rushing in into our inboxes and over our phones. And of course you all immediately had questions. I know I was a little vague on details in my first post, but that’s because we didn’t have many. To be honest we didn’t have any – not until after 4 PM that day. I figure the best subject for my second post is to answer all your burning questions.

Here are the top questions asked Monday and their corresponding answers:

When are you moving?
We’re not sure yet. We don’t want to move to a rental property when we know we can afford to buy, so we’re on the hunt for a home (Yippy! – You don’t know how long Cameron and I have been cursing Bay Area home pricing.) We’ve both started the hunt online and Cameron even had some time yesterday after a project in Fairfield to drive the area we’re looking to move and determine where the good and bad areas are. This brings me to burning question number 2….

What part of Sac are you looking to move to?
We were originally thinking about the Natomas area, before we got the details of Cameron’s new position’s territory and a territory that might be opening up. Currently, Cameron’s job is what we’re calling a bench position. He’ll be supporting other people who have designated territories in the northern Central Valley region. Once a territory opens up (i.e. someone with a territory decides they want to do something different), Cameron will have the opportunity to take control of that territory. For those of you unfamiliar with the Sac region, Natomas is in the North Western part, which would have placed us closer to Marysville and Chico. We have since found out Cameron’s supportive territory would be more south, covering other metro areas other than Sacramento (if you can call them metros) such as Stockton, Lodi and Modesto. And that’s the same area a territory may become available for Cameron to take over soon. So the decided city is Elk Grove, which in the Sac region would be considered South West. We’ll look to get as south as we can. This location is actually better from me when I need to commute to the Bay Area for my job…..

What about your job, Sarah?
I’m going to be able to keep my job. My boss is going to allow me to work remotely with me commuting down to Sunnyvale one day a week and one week of each month. There’s a hotel next door to my building, so for that one week I would get up early Monday and stay at the hotel through Thursday night, driving home Friday after work. Technically, this should not be an issue as I am a contractor and so my “office” is my home, but her boss seems to think if he can’t see you, you’re not working, so ever since I started at my job, I’ve worked in my little cubicle. All of this in a nutshell means we’re keeping the move on the DL when it comes to my job - no one but my boss knows about the move and we hope that when we do get “found out,” it will have been long enough to prove its working and why mess with something that works?

The last question that has been on your minds is if the move is going to affect the Wedding?
Absolutely not! We’re already well into the details and planning of the wedding to let it affect it. You may think we’re crazy with all we have on our plate now, but we’re looking forward to our wedding and wouldn’t postpone it for the world. I’m just going to be busy with all the projects I have already started for the wedding and the new projects I am now planning because of the move. We don’t have a move date yet, so I’m not too stressed, just looking forward to it.

That’s about it for the burning questions you all seemed to have. Keep an eye out for more updates about the move, the wedding, my projects and our adventures!

Love always,

Apr 8, 2008

Sacramento here we come!

After 4 years of trying, we have finally gotten the call that Sacramento wants us! While out to lunch with me today, Cameron got the offer from Xerox to take a position in the Sacramento area with their commercial division. His official start date is May 1. We were both so excited at lunch we couldn't finish our meals and suffice it to say our heads are spinning with all the things we need to do. Cameron is now looking at starting a new job within a relatively new job, finishing up his masters, planning a wedding, buying a home and moving. Our lives are going to be a little busy over the next couple of months, so we've started this blog to keep all our loved ones up to date on our crazy life! I'll try to write at least once a week with updates and photos. Stay tuned!

Love always,