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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Too Much HGTV

 Because I am married to a creative, big picture kind of guy, he talked me into selling our current house in Mission Lakes and buying a different one, half a mile down the road, sight unseen. He colluded with my cousin, who also lives nearby, to find a place that was affordable which would provide us with more space for full-time living. I was totally against such a plan until he showed me this property. I hated him for showing it to me because I liked it a lot which initiated the ridiculous and crazy plan to make an offer, have sellers accept the offer, put our Warwick home on the market, sell it for asking price four days later and enter a flurry of Escrow paper work! Did I mention we were selling my dad's place at the same time?
So when we arrived to Mission Lakes (The country club area where our house is in Desert Hot Springs, CA), we were literally coming home for the very first time! My cousin had to hide the key under a rock in the backyard!
After only seeing photos on the internet, we were pretty excited to see what we were dealing with. I liked the exterior view a lot. And we knew that the house needed renovations and we had planned for that. But admittedly, after a very long journey and overall exhaustion from the move, walking into an empty house that does indeed need a lot of work was pretty overwhelming!
What you see when you walk in the front door.
High ceilings, fireplace,
doors to the patio, all plusses!
I was missing our charming yet little house down the street and wondering how in the world we were going to get it together here.
Looking towards the kitchen from near the front door.
Fortunately, my cousin and some friends pulled together to get the other house moved here and set up the bed we still had from my parent's house. (We sold the other house furnished as that stuff fit that space very well). My friend who had packed the stuff in the house, labeled the boxes with great care so I could find sheets and towels!
The first walk through was kind of crazy...it's old...and ugly! The kitchen, which we knew would be a total re-do, was a little worse than we thought.
The kitchen has great potential...after we rip everything out!
The appliances work but are dated.
Kitchen: Old Cabinetry, bad counter tops and backsplash
And the cabinets are really old so where we once thought we might be able to re-furbish, we realize now that we need to replace.
Facing the kitchen from the great room.
We'll be opening all of that up.
But that's just the decoration. The house itself is actually very cool and so much bigger and nicer than the other place.
Facing the front door from the main living space.
 It was just difficult to see a house that needs a lot of work instead of coming back to a move in ready place. But again...after some time and a night of rest, the possibilities became exciting and now I'm thrilled. Doug's HGTV bone is up and running and he is super excited!
The bathrooms are functional but terribly ugly with old style brass fittings and paint color that makes you want to puke. It'll all come out and we'll have a great time putting in what we love!
You can't really appreciate the pukey color of this paint.
UGLY counter top and more brass fittings!
Dated, brassy, bad color scheme
The carpet and tile will be removed and transformed into wood flooring. Walls will come down to get to the ever popular open concept and we look forward to having new appliances and cabinets.
Archway from kitchen to dining area. It's going to disappear.
There was no refrigerator so I drove down to K-Mart and purchased this mini-one. It will do the job until the good stuff is installed! Doug said just think of it as camping for the first month. Yippie! Just what I wanted...to camp after moving overseas from a palatial downtown Stockholm luxury apartment!
Master Bedroom
Master Bedroom's bath door
Doug does make me nervous sometimes because his mind is an ever busy machine of possibilities and things to do. But admittedly, he's good and he's assured me that he has this thing under control! He does watch HGTV a lot and I enjoy it too...I just wish the Property Brothers were nearby to give us some insight! Home Depot is about to become our best friend!
So today our friend Adrian is coming over to start pulling out the kitchen. We've semi-moved into the extra bedroom and the garage. We are using our lawn furniture as living room furniture and of course, true to form in 2015, we have TV, landlines, and internet hooked up!
It'll be an exciting journey from fixer-upper to fixed up! Follow it all here on Back Across the Pond!

Arrival

Well, here we are. Desert Hot Springs, CA. The trip was fairly smooth so we were thankful for that. KLM is my new rockstar airline. The Crew was absolutely awesome about keeping us informed and the service was wonderful. 4 paws up for KLM!
Tanner ended up being in his travel crate from 4.00 a.m. Stockholm time until 1.00 p.m. California time which was 10.00 p.m. on his little body. That is a long time to be in a box. Poor guy. Whined and howled and cried a little once we picked him up in customs. Was banging around on the crate doors so much we had to both hold him so he wouldn't tip over! Customs was very easy and not stressful at all. Thankful for that. We got him outside and finally opened up that crate door! He looked road weary, droopy eyes, disoriented, nervous. Poor guy. He was extremely dehydrated so we made sure to give him some water right away. LAX is such a zoo. More traffic and noise than he is used to so luckily we made it to the car rental place in fairly good time. Then we was able to ride stretched out in full in the backseat. We stopped after about an hour to get some drinks and he was very, very nervous that we were going to leave him in the car. Doug got him out and took him to do his business, which he did in a very big way. He held all bodily functions for that entire trip. Crazy. He again downed a big glass of water with ease and was still panting pretty good. We were all going to be glad to get home.
We did finally arrive to Desert Hot Springs at 4.30p.m. PST. The sights, the smells, the landscape...all new to this nordic dog. He was pretty tired and disoriented for the rest of that day. But we had his little bed with us and didn't have to go anywhere. He liked the backyard and followed us around with vigilance. He finally ate some food and just kept drinking and drinking water. We're happy that all systems are working and he seems to be finding his footing. We got him a new ball and a new bone yesterday and while he barked at the cable guy when he arrived, he settled down and let him do his work!


So, we made it...to our new house. New house you say? Yes, new house. That post follows. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Last Post From This Side of the Pond

It is 10.00 p.m. Swedish time. Our taxi comes at 4.00. Our first flight to Amsterdam leaves at 6.25. Our flight to LAX departs at 9.50 and arrives in LA at 12.00 noon. Flying west means the day never ends! Tanner's crate is ready to go, even if he isn't! Now all that is left is to hope for smooth travel.
Today's been a crazier day than expected with too many last minute things. Why does that always happen?! I guess it's the nature of the beast. We've said our good-byes, turned in our church keys and phones, cleaned the house, packed the last of the stuff, and are ready to walk out of Tegnergatan 4 for the last time. While I'm ready for the journey to begin and end, of course, there is nostalgia. Our house looks much like it did when we walked in the door 16.5 years ago...a bit of furniture, no decorations, an empty shell ready to be filled. Little did we know that this apartment would become a home and allow us to host so many different and wonderful folks through these years. I think of the meals shared around this table and the incredible conversations we've had. I think of the laughter that has filled these rooms. I feel so deeply the love that has shaped our relationships. Now the bookcases await another set of books. They have housed ours well. It would be silly to think that I won't miss it.
And yet, I am ready for the new adventure, for the mystery that awaits us, for the warmth and the sunshine, to be closer to family and friends that we've been separated from for a long time. I long for my mom and dad...I feel such disappointment and sadness that they aren't there to share in this time and yet, I'm also so thankful that they are not struggling. I am confident that God goes before us and is already busy preparing...he just hasn't let us in on his plans yet!
This morning I put these put these words on Facebook. They are from the musical Les Miz and they are so well-suited for us.
"One day more! Another day, another destiny.
Tomorrow we'll discover What our God in Heaven has in store!
One more dawn, One more day, One day more!"
Thanks for following my journey across the pond for all these years. I plan to continue to write about what's it like to be Back Across the Pond! And so this is my final post from this side...I write with tears in my eyes and gratitude in my heart.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Next Steps

There have been many big days in the past month, but today was a truly BIG one! The packers arrived at 8.30 a.m. and quickly began to assemble boxes and assess our stuff. Stuff. Yikes. When you move you realize how much of it you have! Both guys were just great and were really good to have around. One was a bit allergic to dogs and we could see that Tanner might quickly become a nuisance and well, packing isn't Tanner's favorite thing, so we opted to simply put him in his crate, which he wasn't initially happy about but eventually accepted the arrangement. That worked well until they needed to pack the bedroom! So Doug took Tanner on a long walk and then he spent the afternoon into the evening in the kitchen. I must say, he was a remarkably well-behaved dog today with very little whining. Needless to say, he is a little mixed about what's going on.
So 90 plus boxes and 9 hours later, Stefan and Pelle drove away with our earthly goods stuffed or wrapped in cardboard. It was actually a huge relief as preparing to pack is a lot of work. It felt good to get rid of a lot of stuff but it's staggering that there are still 90 boxes filled to the brim! The rocking chair was one of the hardest pieces to pack and in the end, Stefan labeled it a rocket chair. Awesome. Can't wait to launch!


Truth be told, today wasn't too hard. It was actually a relief. We've been living with this reality for many weeks now and eventually you just have to live into it. So now that most of our stuff is on its way, it feels like a huge head clearing can take place and we only have a suitcase full of stuff to manage. Because our apartment was filled with a lot of church furniture and some kitchen stuff, we can stay here until we leave. We moved the beds from the extra bedroom into the master and are ready for the next 2.5 nights of sleep. Why 2.5 you ask? Well, Thursday morning, January 29, at 4.00 a.m. a mini-van taxi will arrive to transport us to the airport. Our flight goes at 6.25 and we need plenty of time to make sure we get the dog properly settled. Tanner will fly in his crate in the hold. Without problems, it'll be about 15 hours airport to airport and that should be OK for him. We'll fly on KLM via Amsterdam because it's only an hour and forty minute layover in Amsterdam and then we go directly to LAX.  Then we'll pick up a rental car and drive to Palm Springs. We land at noon CA time and anticipate being home in Palm Springs before dark. Can you say whirlwind?
So the next couple of days are filled with taking care of final details regarding banking and other matters related to moving overseas, turning in our phones and keys to church and closing our Immanuel email accounts. This is truly happening.
Overall we're excited. We've had some very tender moments with folks over the past couple of weeks and while we'll miss our loved ones so much on this side of the pond, it's time to set our sights on the future. We are confident that God, who began a good work in us, will bring it to His completion through his Son Jesus Christ. A good promise that we're holding onto as we continue this transition.
Thanks to so many of you who are praying for us, commenting on Facebook, or wondering how Tanner is weathering this season! We're all doing well but will be glad when the next BIG thing, the actual trip, is behind us. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

West to Essaouira

Tuesday morning we headed to the coast. We decided to skip the hassle of a bus ride and splurge on a private taxi ride from Marrakech to Essaouira. Truth be told, it wasn't that much money when you consider what a cab ride from the airport to our house in Stockholm costs! It was a very comfortable trip, complete with a pit stop for some mint tea. The strangest site we've ever seen was spotted on the highway. Goats in trees! Apparently they are able to climb up into these argan trees and munch on the fruit. It was truly so weird and I would not have believed it if I had not seen it with my own eyes!
Essaouira is a beautiful, calmer seaside town almost directly west from Marrakech. We were thrilled to find our spa hotel directly on the water front with beautiful furnishings. The pool is just lovely and we were delighted to discover that the hotel provides private beach access for their guests as well. The beds that they provide for lounging are simply luxurious. We quickly changed into swim wear and headed out to soak in the gorgeous sunshine. The beach is beautiful and stretches for miles. The Atlantic Ocean is still freezing cold even on this side. As I gazed out into the water, it was a strange feeling to think that straight west was New York City. Sometimes the world feels very small.
Later in the afternoon we ventured by foot into the Medina. It's so nice to be in a smaller, less chaotic place than Marrakech but still filled with color and culture. Fishing is obviously a big industry here and we ventured near the fish market just as the day was ending for the fishermen. They were busy! Fish were being cleaned and carried off to be sold. Boats were being secured. Seagulls were everywhere hoping to get in on some fish guts. It was pretty neat to see this local industry in action. We stopped for a quick bite and then wound our way through the Medina. Still many beautiful things to look at but not nearly the crush we experienced in Marrakech. It will be much easier to buy things here, I think! 
We realized that the sunsets are going to be spectacular here and the first evening did not disappoint. I could not take my eyes off the changing horizon. It's been a long time since I've seen the sun set over the ocean. Morning proved to be just a lovely as I awoke just as the sun was rising. I'm happy for these beach days in a smaller yet still charming Moroccan city. No matter where in the world I am, I am always happy when I'm near the ocean!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Marrakech Express

Yes, I have been humming this Crosby, Stills and Nash song since we arrived in Marrakech last Saturday evening. True, we flew in rather than arriving by train but the sentiment of the song remains...Marrakech is filled with sights, sounds, and smells unlike most cities I've been in. We smartly hired a guide for our first day there and we were so happy we did. Abdul did a fantastic job of taking us on a hidden treasures of Marrakech tour. He found alley ways and passages that we would never have found on our own and he opened up doors to a private bakery where we sampled fresh from the wood burning oven bread that was so delicious we bought more the next day! We found our way to a man whose job it is to heat the hammam, the Moroccan spa. Notice the pots behind the man. In addition to fueling the spa, people can bring in clay pots filled with meat and spices. They are thrown on the fire and cook all day, kind of like a crockpot, Moroccan style! He also played some music for us and invited us to some mint tea. It was a delightful stop in a completely unsuspecting environment. We saw the beautiful old university building of Ben Youssef Madrasa which sported some of the most beautiful and amazing architecture we've seen. And he gave us a tip on where to get lunch...a local joint that served up basic fare at a cheap price. It was truly a delightful way to get used to the Medina and visit the various souks which make up the incredible web of market stalls. So much color and culture! Loved the entire vibe. While the vendors were chatty, I didn't find them harassing at all. Maybe it was because Abdul was with us, but all in all it was a delight to wander through this warren of commerce. The main square, Jemaa al Fnaa, was not as crazy as we expected it to be, perhaps because it was daylight and also a holiday. We knew we would return at dusk the following day so made our way back to our hotel before dark.
Knowing that we weren't going to go into the city until evening, we decided to visit the hammam at the hotel. We've been to a hammam before, in Turkey, and it was quite the experience. They roast and scrub you until you aren't sure you have any skin left so I was a little dubious. But then I thought, well, it'll be good for me one way or another! I am glad we did it! The treatment was nice...more oriented for the tender tourist and was mostly just a really pleasant experience. We were then treated to mint tea and biscotti and told to languish by the pool for as long as wanted to. It was a gorgeous morning and we thoroughly enjoyed the quiet, warm sunshine on our freshly scrubbed bodies! We made our way to the square at about 5.30, just as the sun was beginning to set. It was clearly a totally different scene than the previous afternoon had been. Mobs of people were swarming around. The food tents had gone up and there was tons of noise and activity. We grabbed a glass of, what else, mint tea!, and made our way up to one of the balconies overlooking the square. It was a great vantage point to take it all in. It was such a great mixture of local and tourist traffic. Clearly the place to be if you want to interact with society. I was mesmerized and a little terrified of the snake charmers...to see these huge snakes just lounging on the carpets all around you was a little weird. When they began to slither in our direction, I felt it was time to go. What a weird thing. I did not like the monkeys on chains. Very cruel to treat them like that, but it sells so they do it. We wandered the stalls, said no to every food vendor on the square, bought some fresh squeezed orange juice, and took it all in. It was quite the spectacle! We managed to find our way through the souks once again, admiring the goods and thinking about what we might try to barter for. You really have to be in the right frame of mind if you want to buy something and even looking will gain you a windy sales pitch. Overall however I found the people incredibly friendly and good-natured however.



Marrakech is every bit as exotic as you think it might be. People work very hard and the mixture of ancient and modern sitting right beside one another never ceases to amaze me. Donkeys pulling carts, horses pulling carriages, scooters zipping through the town, cars and busses creating traffic...it's all there. And of course, mobile phone use is everywhere...no culture can escape the lure of being connected! I definitely enjoyed riding the Marrakech express for the last couple of days!