Thursday, May 19, 2005

Chris left for South Africa the day after we returned from our house hunting blitz to America. I don’t know how he can take two long haul flights back to back like that. It would kill me!

Tara and Pam arrived on Wednesday full of piss and vinegar! I had a great time with them. It was like Desperate Housewives Come to Munich when these gals were off the leash! In the strangest coincidence, my old friend Don Howard came to town for two days as well so we all hooked up on Wednesday night with Richard, and later Lise, for a night of utter mayhem at the Wirtshaus in der Au. I didn’t crawl into bed until 3:30. Needless to say the next morning was a horror.

On Thursday I sent them on a bike tour and had a nice dinner with Don, during which we really had a great chat. It was fun remembering a bunch of crazy stuff we’d experienced together years and years ago. I was doubled over laughing at some of it. Don was in great form and it was an absolute pleasure to see him here.

Friday, we hooked up with Richard and Jen and Paul at some little Bavarian place. We sat outside until it started to rain and then went indoors where more mayhem ensued. Although, I absolutely enjoyed seeing both Tara and Pam, I was happy to put them on the train to Venice on Saturday morning!

Tomorrow we leave for our much anticipated trip to Provence, where we are renting Will’s place near Avignon. We are going with Jen and Paul, Lise and Richard and Bev and Gary. We’ve got a bunch of interesting things to do including a lot of wine tasting in Chateauneuf du Pape. Everyone is psyched up for this vacation! So back in about ten days with all the gory details!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

We took an insanely quick trip back to New Jersey this weekend. It was to be a house hunting mission which coincided with a big family party on Saturday, which all of my friends would be attending. Since Chris’ company was footing the bill it seemed like a no brainer. We flew in on Thursday night and went straight to my family’s home. My mom didn’t know I was coming and I think she was fairly shocked, and very happy. I know I was! The kids have shot up like weeds and the girls are sprouting breasts, which I find very worrying. They’re just kids! We had a nice reunion over some pasta and wine and then we went over to Joanna’s place where we were staying. Tom came by and so did Lynne and Julia and it was fantastic to see them. Lots of laughs and general merriment as is always the case when we are together.

On Friday morning, I trudged to Starbucks at 6 a.m. and got a wonderful welcome. I have missed that gang so much since I had coffee with them most mornings for at least seven or eight years. They were all fired up about the local election which amused me. The big issue in Haddonfield revolves around whether dogs ought to be able to run off leash in a park called Crows Woods. Can you beat that? I can’t! I also saw my good pal Andy Johnson, who was hiding in the other room so as to stay away from all the election hyperbole. Allison came in with her gorgeous daughter who is the spitting image of Marcus. That was a treat. Hugs all around and genuine fondness. It felt great to be with them.

We met our realtor, the wonderful Mary Margaret Master, and sat down with her to discuss our desires in a home. She took us around to seven or eight places, most of which we rejected out of hand as not having enough character or having some other flaw. My spirits were beginning to flag when we pulled up to one of the places she’s lined up. I looked across the street and there was the perfect “For Sale By Owner” home. I wasn’t sure how Mary Margaret would react because she doesn’t make money on homes that are not officially listed, but I blurted out “That’s my dream home!” Gracious woman that she is, she got out and charmed the owner into showing the home to us then and there which was no easy task. We walked in the front door and fell in love with it immediately. After a tour of it and with Mary Margaret’s astute assistance, we put in a bid, which they accepted! Easy peasey! She and my former boss and very dear friend, Tom Bullock, worked up the contracts and it was a done deal.

The house is simply beautiful and full of character. It’s a seventy or eighty year old expanded bungalow in the Arts and Crafts tradition with many interesting features including an inlaid hardwood floor. Its integrity is completely intact, a very rare thing these days. People do all sorts of terrible things to homes in the name of improvement. It has a lovely front porch as well as a really nice screened in porch in back. It has a separate studio attached to the garage. The current owner is a toy designer and very creative and everything in the home illustrates this. The studio is charming and overlooks the yard which is wooded and filled with beautiful perennials. The downstairs living area of the home is perfect and has a great flow. The living room, with a beautiful brick fireplace, opens onto a spacious dining room which is adjoined to an amazing kitchen with the most gorgeous cabinetry I have ever seen! We love the place head to toe! It is in a very lovely neighborhood of older homes. The street is tree lined and our front yard has a spectacular dogwood tree as well as a Japanese maple! Our move in date is at the end of July. I cannot wait. I have been mentally hanging our paintings on the walls since we looked at it.
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Having found the house on our first day of hunting, we were free to enjoy the rest of our time. I went to see Marilyn, who has ALS, and aside from a bit of emotion from both of us, it was a great visit and full of laughter. Marilyn and Diane are troupers. It’s hard to watch Marilyn try to convey her feelings. She can hardly speak anymore. Diane just does whatever she has to, and lovingly. Paul and Stephanie Donnelly were also there as were Mar and Di’s neighbor Lindsey, who was delivering dinner to them. It was good to be there. Not easy, but good.

Saturday was a plain hoot. My nephew Jack made his communion and there was a huge party in the yard of my family’s house. Beer and wine were flowing and there was tons of food. It was great to see everyone – especially Peggy and John, John and Steve, Tom and John and my aunts. I wore my new red dirndl which was the talk of the party. We stayed late and really had fun!

Sunday morning, Joanna called Catherine and Ralph and Lynne and we all had bagels and lox and coffee while reading the papers and dishing the dirt. Great fun! We made a quick trip to visit the family and then hopped on the plane back here. Fantastic weekend. We did what we set out to do and we had a lot of fun. We’re exhausted but it was worth it!