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February 27, 2013

Now that I have my car I get to drive around.  Driving, too, is different!

First, stoplights.  In Virginia, the turn lanes normally go first, then straight traffic goes.  Here, straight traffic goes, and then turn lanes.  At least at the stops I've encountered.  It's funny how your body reacts when it expects something else to happen.  Wait, I'm supposed to go now!  Why did you forget me?  Oh.

Boulder also makes a lot more use of angled right turn lanes than I saw in Northern Virginia.  With the little triangular island and everything.

I was confused for a while.
Second, parking lots.  Some parking lots have this bizarre setup.  You can drive both ways down each aisle, but due to the parking line layout, you can only park on the right.  They're angled to prevent you from parking on the left.  A little frustrating til you remember how it works.  I've never seen that in Virginia, just a few parking lot where it's one way only, and both sides angled so you can't park the other way.

One parking lot I used had one entire side as compact cars only.  It was obvious who ignored it!

I was afraid I'd be much more concerned about bicyclists while driving, but so far I've only seen a few, and they've all had helmets.  I guess only the hard core bikers are out in this weather!  We'll see what happens in the summer.
February 24, 2013

Tiny bits of this mountain range has names.
Returning from looking at a house one afternoon, the realtor begins talking about the mountains in front of us. Then he begins pointing out certain peaks and naming them.

And here I was, thinking I would just need to learn new streets and communities!   This will be a problem.  I look at mountains and just see a rough and tumble skyline.  What, exactly, is a peak?  Where does it end?  Where does it begin?  The only peak I could ever identify in the mountains at home was Sugarloaf, and that one's kind of obvious.

Obviously I need some sort of peak identification guides.  So I poked around the internet.

Here's a breakdown.

There's five major mountain ranges that make up the Rocky Mountains, at least in the western US:  the Front Range, the  Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the Park Range, the Sawatch Range and the San Juan Mountains.

The easternmost range is Front Range, and runs from central Wyoming to lower Colorado.  Front Range is broken up into three sub-ranges: Northern , Central, and Southern Front Range, which are also broken up into even smaller sections, if you can consider ANYTHING about the Rocky Mountains 'small.'

Boulder, CO is located on the plain, butting up against the foothills and the Northern Front Range, so the peaks in this area are the ones you'll most likely be seeing when driving around Boulder. has a great summary of the breakdown of Front Range and what areas of interest can be found in each section.  I even found an awesome labeled image detailing specific peaks of the Indian Peaks Wilderness!  (scroll the image to the right to see more.)  I added some of the peaks on my Living in Boulder map (the green trees) for a visual aid in understanding where the mountain peaks are.

I don't know if any of this will make any sense until I try it.  I posted a picture up top, but I don't really know where I was when I took it, other than somewhere in Roosevelt National Forest, on our way to Eldora Ski resort.   The rest of my photos are probably of the foothills rather than the mountains, and I haven't found out yet if the peaks on the foothills have names.  Or if they're even considered peaks.

Fortunately I don't have to learn a LOT of new names.  The roads and towns reflect the names of the mountains and peaks!

February 20, 2013

Last August I found some code that would allow me to pull photos and captions from my Picasa album and post them on a simple page I created for the purpose.  Picasa's made so many changes and complications from what it used to be that I was finding it more and more difficult to navigate and share.  I finally got to playing with it again today and was pleased to finally make a page with exactly what I wanted.

Now I can create a simple page to display a new album in less than a minute.

Here's a sample!

And another:

I'd still like to see if I can figure out a way to get them all to display on one page.  I'll have to think about it.

February 18, 2013

I have to start this post with a caveat - I have not really house-hunted in Virginia.  I've been in lots of other people's houses, but never did any serious looking.

Given that, there's a few unexpected differences between what I expect in a house and what I've been seeing in our walks through random Boulder area houses.  I don't know if these are regional differences or decade design differences.  Possibly a little bit of both?

Can you see the texture?  Rather stucco-ish.
First - textured walls.  I actually like this look, but I was surprised to see it in EVERY house we went to.  We finally commented about it to a Realtor(tm) at an open house, and she seemed just as surprised that Virginia walls were all smooth drywall.  Many corners are rounded, too, which is nice for those of us lacking spatial awareness.

Our apartment has light switches that are actually sliders instead of switches.  I haven't seen it in any of the houses, but it still amuses me.

Colors.  Wow they can use bright colors out here!  Dark walls are not intimidating to them.  I was horrified at first, thinking they'd be tomb like, but these houses are also full of windows.  Big ones, little ones, stacked ones, corner ones.  So much brightness that a flat white wall would likely blind you.  Sometimes the colors clash, but so far we haven't seen anything too garish in the houses we've looked at. Except the one rental.  The finished basement had primary orange and blue walls and emerald green carpet.

Gas fireplaces in pretty much every home.  Boulder is very fire wary, so this is all that is allowed, with a few grandfathered exceptions.  Since I'm pretty fire wary myself, I am perfectly fine with this option.  Turn the fireplace on with a flick of a switch?  No cleaning?  No crackling bits falling out randomly?  OK!

Earth tones are also somewhat popular, or else that's just the trend with staging and rental decorators.  I am in love.  Greens and chocolate browns and creams and reds and turquoises, maybe a hint of gold or sky blue.  It's totally inspiring for me, and I may do some crazy things to furniture in the future.

Big wooden blinds.  Little white vinyl blinds are common in Virginia, if bothered with at all, but out here they're much more heavy duty, and much more needed.  That sun is BRIGHT.  (ok, these are vinyl in the picture, but most are bigger!)

Rock landscaping.  I could have lots of fun with this.  The less to mow, the better!  One house we saw, the entire (small) backyard was nothing but gravel.  If we'd taken the house I'd totally decorate it with plastic castles and make it look like a fish tank, because it was already halfway there.

Doorless master bathrooms.  WTH? is all I have to say.  Over and over and over.  It's like the 80's where they thought it was a good idea to put the tub in the bedroom.  WHY?
No. Bathroom. Door.
I WANT that barrier of a door when I'm taking a shower or brushing my teeth, if nothing else than to keep noise and humidity contained and insulated from a possibly sleeping spouse.  Or if you have guests sleeping over and they pop their head in to ask a question, oh look, there's hubby, soaping up right in there!  No.  At least the toilets are in their own little closet, but if you're claustrophobic it's not going to go well.  Besides, it's boring.  Nothing to look at but the back of a door, like a slightly upscale public stall.  Besides, I don't want to lay in bed in the evening, and look at my pretty bedspread and my elegant curtains and lovely furniture and then see all the cabinetry and chromeware and sinks and coldness of the bathroom.  I want a door to close off that sight!  It's just good feng shui, right?

Bathroom vents are frequently absent, too.  We expressed concern, but apparently all that's required is an opening window.  One agent pointed out the lack of humidity here as compared to Virginia, so we'll just have to adjust our mindsets.  (I'm already struggling with dry skin.  I'm going to turn into a crocodile this summer.  I'm so used to humidity!)

Basement windows.  They're HUGE.  Larger than average windows with deep wells, normally.  In VA they're little tiny things near the basement ceiling.  The agent today said you could have a basement bedroom so long as a suited up fireman could fit through the window.  We haven't seen a walkout basement yet so I'm not sure if the same requirements apply.

Three car garages.  Whoa!  It depends on the neighborhood, but the newer or more expensive ones all have them.  Boats are somewhat popular up here, although I have no idea where they take them.  Four by fours, too, and having a spare truck, motorcycle, or Jeep to get around in the winter.  They appeal to us for the workshop possibility.  I'd love to have a place to do some messy work, and both of us want to be able to build things ourselves.

See that pseudo-curb?  Weird, but also
a  little easier on your car when you
accidentally get too close.
Driveway aprons.  You know those angled areas to allow you to get into your driveway?  Some places have this.  Other places?  The curb is at a steep, about 45 degree angle rather than a rounded right angle, and doesn't change when you get to your driveway.  This is going to cause a problem for me trying to get my car into the driveway.  It already protests speed bumps.

Closets IN the master bathroom.  I'm pretty sure this is just a modern trend.  I dislike it.  I don't want the damp to get in my clothes.  I also don't want to wait for someone to finish in the bathroom to put clothes away or get some out for myself, although since there's also no longer a bathroom door, that problem is solved.   Plus, I am just not a fan of having to walk through one room to get to another.

This has been quite a learning in experience in more ways than one.  Apparently I'm a conservative traditionalist when it comes to how my home is shaped.  I want privacy and quiet, which means doors on the bathrooms and walls between rooms!  Fortunately we ARE finding suitable homes, but they are selling quickly.

P.S.  I also saw my first radar detector.  (They're illegal in Virginia.)

February 13, 2013

Food and shopping is easy enough to figure out between Yelp and Google map searches.  As I felt more confident in finding my way around, I began to be more curious about local issues.  What should I be expect when moving here?  I figured newspapers would be the way to go, but so far even that has proven difficult.  This is an awkward age for news delivery.  Print papers have gone out of style and online news varies by area.  I was spoiled to be living in such a high tech, high intensity place. The Patch was very popular in Northern Virginia, and plenty of news blogs popped up everywhere.  Plus, The Washington Post was still churning along.

Here, not so much.  The Patch is non-existent, a real disappointment for me.  I did find The Daily Camera online, but it seems half the news is for other places.  I grabbed two local papers when I left Subway the other day.  One is the Colorado Daily, the other the Boulder Weekly.  I found the Boulder Weekly to be much more useful to what I wanted, namely LOCAL news, events, and advertisements.

I still dream of coming across a news blog like the Restonian, where the news is intensely local, useful, and yet sarcastic.

I haven't really tried all that hard to find Boulder news, so I'll have to expand my search.

Update:  2/15/2013

Today I found Colorado Hometown Weekly while randomly looking up police reports for Erie.  (which are pretty funny.)  It's a little slow loading, but gives more of what I'm looking for.
February 10, 2013

It's been a whirlwind of crazy the past two weeks, with few signs of slowing down.

Brian's grandfather, Edward Leitner, died January 30, at 101 years old.  We had a few hours of anxiety before funeral arrangements were made for the following week and we realized we COULD squeeze in a trip to Connecticut for his funeral.

My car was picked up on Saturday.  Fun to watch, but they've been calling me every other day changing the date of delivery in Boulder.

My car, off on a cross
country road trip
without me!
Monday the packers showed up.  Three solemn, middle aged women who arrived and went to town immediately.  Unfortunately we just hadn't had enough time to organize ourselves properly and hadn't even packed ourselves for the week.  We knew there were things we wanted to take with us or have right away, and so we had to struggle to keep  ahead of these packing maniacs to get them in our 'do not pack' pile.  We missed a few things, like my gloves, scarves and hats, Brian's medicines, and the book Brian made me for our first anniversary that I really wanted to transport myself.  I scattered my favorite jewelry throughout my purse and big suitcase.

Our evening entertainment - sitting on the
steps, watching two guys with a mobile
workshop build custom crates for our more fragile pieces.
We haven't found a house yet, so our things were going into storage.  Since we had some antiques and unusual items, we requested they be crated for the move.  Never having done that before, I was amazed that they came over, took some measurements, and produced the crates right there!

We had to pack things to wear until then, plus a separate bag for the crazy week, which included a train trip to Connecticut.  It was hard to figure that all out, and I actually failed a bit as well.  No gloves!  I had one pair in my winter coat, but every time I put them on I developed a rash.  No idea why,  as I've warn these previous years with no problems.  (I have REALLY tiny hands, so gloves that fit properly are hard to find.)

Since one leg was broken/loose, they also
included a board directly under the top
so the weight would be taken off the legs,
and another across the lid to keep it from
Tuesday the movers showed up, and we saw them get situated and started, but we had to leave to catch the train for a 6 hour trip to Connecticut.  We were lucky to get an earlier train than the one we booked (we REALLY didn't want to be around when they moved the piano down the stairs)  but we missed the viewing and just made it in time to have dinner with family.  We both felt rather useless about the whole situation and arrangements, which included the discovery of a broken water pipe in the house which flooded out the furnace in Grandpa Leitner's house.  Plus there was a mega-snowstorm headed towards the area.  We were confident that we would get out in time, but couldn't help with cleanup or problem solving.  Then we checked into a creepy looking Days Inn motel.  It was ugly and beat up, but the water was hot, the door locked, the heat worked, and the bed was more comfortable than the hotel we'd stayed in Monday night.

Wednesday morning was the funeral and burial, which included full military honors.  Very moving.  It was a bright, sunny, cold day.  I wore thermal underwear and my long winter coat, tucking my hands into my sleeves to keep them warm, and managed not to freeze.

I do have to say that those were the most cheerful funeral directors I've ever encountered.  The ones in Herndon are so funereal (there's no other word for it) that it almost seems like overacting.  You could crack a joke at them and they'd respond, deadpan, straight face, monotone, 'that's very amusing.'  The Connecticut ones were quite cheery, but also organized and sympathetic.

Afterwards we had another 6 hour train ride back home, and didn't get back to the house til about 11 pm.  Sometime during the day Brian got a call from our credit card company, warning us that our information had been 'compromised' and that they would be mailing us new cards.  He explained we were moving and couldn't get new cards because we didn't yet have an address and didn't want to play the fowarding/catchup mailing game with credit cards, and please PLEASE don't cancel our cards right now.  They promised to keep it active and put a fraud watch alert on it.

Dad was generous and picked us up in Maryland so we wouldn't have to deal with DC and Union Station, and had a gift for me from Aunt Karen in the back seat.  I opened it later to discover all kinds of pretty warm weather gear and a beautiful handmade necklace.  My glove problem had been solved with a pair of fingerless gloves that had a mitten pouch that folded over the top.  I looked like I was wearing a sock puppet, but my hands were warm!

We got back to Centreville around 11 pm.  There we wandered through the empty house with increasing annoyance.  The 'do not move' box was still there, along with our luggage, as well as some things that we had intended for them to move but they somehow missed.  A new mop.  Three hand towels, hanging in plain sight.  Brian's squirt gun.  A pair of my shoes, still sitting neatly in the cubbyhole, but pushed a little farther back.  Metal parts to the stereo speakers.  Brian's book making board, which we had specifically discussed with the packers to pack.  Random trash and lots of cardboard boxes.  Later we discovered they had packed the pizza stone box but not the pizza stone, which I suppose I should have thought to pull out of the oven beforehand.  Hardly any of it was easily mailed, but in the end we managed everything but the mop and the pizza stone (I didn't discover that til Thursday night).  I noticed that the onions on top of the fridge had disappeared.  I'm hoping one of the movers/packers took them home, but I'm concerned I'm going to be opening some oniony boxes in a month or two.

Thursday Brian's car was picked up, and we rented a very large car at the local Enterprise.  We managed to pack up not one but THREE large boxes to mail to ourselves in Boulder, and hauled them to the post office.  We used a gift card to Famous Dave's for a rather late lunch, and went back to the hotel to try to breathe for a few minutes and arrange for mail forwarding.  Then we went back to the house one final time and pawned off all our leftovers and the grill and charcoal to our neighbor and friend Mark and his brother Patrick.  The decks were close enough together that we just passed everything over the rails, including the pizza stone and the two pounds of butter left in the freezer.  Then we went to Carrabba's for one last night in Centreville, and chatted with the bartender, who turned out to be from Denver, and his significant other, who told us about an awesome restaurant in Clifton that we'd love to try but will have to sneak over the next time we're back in the area.

Friday morning we rushed about like crazy collecting luggage, and arranged for a cab to meet us at the car rental place, who charged you $50 extra if you wanted to do a one-way from Centreville to the airport!  We arrived quickly and slowly trudged through the security line, but lucked out when we got to the front and only had to go through the X-ray machine.  Brian's very last can of Diet Caffeine Free Mountain Dew got confiscated.  The plane was slightly late owing to the mess in Boston and the crew disappearing, but we had an uneventful trip.  This was my first flight in first class.  (the tickets turned out to  be only slightly more than the regular seats, so we figured, 'why not?')    They kept trying to feed us, and feeding Brian is difficult.  I finished my crocodile stitch scarf about 2 hours in, impressed with my ability to finish this scarf almost completely on trains and planes.

We arrived in Denver, found all of our luggage (a plus!) and got another large rental car to accommodate our luggage.  We managed to hit rush hour traffic, and could see how backed up it was on certain roads, but it was still moving pretty well.  Fortunately it was all Denver traffic that we wouldn't have to deal with.

Eventually we arrived at our apartment, let ourselves in, and checked it out.  Not bad!  The furnace is old and rickety, and the bed rock hard, but we have room, it's warm, and it's convenient to a lot of places.

It was then that I discovered that I had a voice mail from a Boulder company that I had submitted my resume to on a whim.  I hadn't expected to hear from them for a while, if at all, so I was kind of shocked that they wanted me to interview on Monday.  I'm still trying to work that one out, as I still have no idea when my car will arrive, and I need to be present when they deliver it.  (Brian will be in training all week.)  Technically I have some work clothes with me, but not enough for an entire week.  I may have to do some shopping.

Afterwards we went to dinner at Oak's in the Pearl Street Mall, which was very noisy, but the food was good.  After THAT we decided to check out a local grocery store and found ourselves at Sprouts Farmer's Market.  It was like an oversized Trader Joe's, and carried pretty much everything I needed to feed Brian safely.  Then we went back to the apartment and crashed.

Saturday we drove around with the real estate agent, looking at rentals.  We found one promising one in Lafayette, but will have to wait for Monday morning to discuss some issues with the management company.  (like the lack of door to the master bathroom, carpeting under the washer and dryer, and the place could use a good scrubbing.  Otherwise cute, convenient, and meets our requirements.)

It's been a whirlwind February!  Five different beds!  I don't even want to think about the mileage! But we're here safely and things seem promising.  Time to do some exploring.

February 3, 2013

Enjoying a last quiet evening at home while watching the Superbowl and randomly getting up and doing/eating last minute things.

Here's a few photos of the house for posterity.  I am looking forward to actually having a new address in Boulder!

One of my college courses was a fun mix of IT and history.  We learned about computers and specific online tools that could be useful in presenting history in a more modern and visually interesting ways.  We could pick any historical topic with which to practice using these tools.  Having just moved to Centreville, I opted to kill two birds with one stone and learn the history of my new home AND earn a grade.  I did all this on Wordpress but took it down when I needed that account for another class.

Here is what I ended up writing and creating for the course!  (This was not a course for historical accuracy, but I tried to be as accurate as I could!  I may have misunderstood a few things or not found enough information to be truly correct in the time I had.  If you have more data, links, or corrections I will be happy to make changes.)


The town of Centreville was officially formed in 1792 by the former community of Newgate, which had been situated in the same location since approximately 1725.  The town got its name because of its central location at a crossroads.  Mountain Road, now called Braddock Road, is the blue line.  The red line is the Fauquier/Alexandria Turnpike, which is now Lee Highway, or Route 29.  It’s considered the halfway point for quite a few other towns, like Warrenton and Georgetown, Alexandria and Middleburg, Chantilly and Manassas, and Gainesville and Fairfax.

Many people passed through Centreville and stopped at one of its taverns, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.  The town remained small partly because it didn’t get railroad traffic when the rail lines (in grey) were built.

Click here to view an interactive Google Map detailing of some of the historic buildings in Centreville.  The yellow house markers are buildings, the green arrows are sites where buildings used to stand.  The brown square indicates the town boundaries as described in “Centreville Virginia, its History and Architecture,” by Eugenia B. Smith.  The blue line is where Braddock (or Mountain) Road used to run through the town.  Clicking on each marker will give you an image of the building, if available, and a link to web sites with a brief history.

An Ngram chart mapping out the use of the name Centreville between 1700 and 2000.  Use of the name spiked dramatically around the time of the Civil War.  Centreville became an important landmark in Civil War history due to three different battles that took place in its immediate vicinity:  The 1st and 2nd Battles of Manassas (or Bull Run) and the Battle of Chantilly.

Centreville was occupied by military forces three different times during the war.  Union General McDowell occupied it briefly before his defeat at the 1st Battle of Manassas in 1861.  A few months later, Confederate General Johnston securely fortified the town, and then left it in the Spring to follow Union forces to Yorktown.  The Union army eventually claimed it for their own and settled in for a while to try to deal with Mosby and his Raiders, and also participate in the 2nd Battle of Manassas in August of 1862, where they were again defeated but retained their position in the town.

This map outlines the approximate locations of the forts and earthworks surrounding the town.  Built by Confederate General Johnston and his men.  (Source: Centreville, Virginia: its History and Architecture by Eugenia B. Smith)

Because of the town’s strategic location at the crossroads, and its excellent vantage point on a ridge, Centreville was the ideal spot for defense.  Most of the defenses are gone now, although there are remnants of the earthworks still preserved off of Wharton Lane.  The site is marked by the top historic marker indicator.  Click here for an interactive map.

Johnston and 32,000 men settled in Centreville during the winter of 1861.  Besides the forts and earthworks, the soldiers built 1,500 log cabins.  Centreville had perhaps 3 dozen buildings in it, and an estimated population of about 250, and the sudden presence of so many soldiers was daunting.  Many of the residents fled for Alexandria, or sought refuge with distant relatives.

This is a wordle based on a narrative account of the 2nd battle of Manassas, or Bull Run, written by ‘Shotgun’ of  You can see the generals who participated, some of the towns, some military maneuvers, and a few concerns, like the railroad.  Incidentally, Lee took one look at Centreville’s fortifications and decided that attacking it was not a good idea, which is why the 2nd battle took place west of the town.

This chart illustrates the number of people in the Centreville area in late August of 1862.  Just try to imagine a tiny little town that’s self supporting, minding its own business, and all of a sudden it has 112,000 additional people, all trying to kill each other.  Fortunately the tide of war eventually took the soldiers elsewhere, and Centreville saw no more major action after the Battle of Chantilly in September of 1862.

The town was devastated by the war.  Most of the trees had been cut down, the creeks were polluted, the roads ruined, many buildings and both churches destroyed, and most of the livestock and food supplies had been taken.  Centreville had a lot to recover from, and many believed that the town was dead.

Fortunately, Centreville did NOT die out, and once again it was due to what created the town in the first place – the roads.  Today there are four major highways that run through or near the town:  Route 50, Route 28, Route 29, and Route 66.  Centreville has the additional benefit of being only a few miles away from Dulles International Airport and a mere 30 miles from Washington, DC.  The battles that nearly wiped them out actually helped help to save them as tourists began visiting the battlegrounds.  Today, over 71,000 people live in Centreville, and take pride in their heritage.

Sources for presentation:
Smith, Eugenia B.  “Centreville, Virginia: Its History And Architecture.” Fairfax County Office of Comprehensive Planning, in cooperation of the Fairfax County History Commission.  1973.
U.S. Census

Other resources of interest for Centreville History:

February 2, 2013

I'm not sure when my organization OCD began to develop, but I suspect it might have been while watching episodes of Mission: Organization.  I learned to sort.  I loved to sort.  I . . . got carried away with sorting.

Especially now.  Stuff is everywhere, but I keep trying to put it in neat, similar piles.  I emptied three shelves of books from the craft room and carted them upstairs with the rest of the books.  (I had a reason, I needed those shelves downstairs and there was an empty bookcase upstairs!)  I began shuffling kitchen related stuff back to the kitchen, even if it'd been put into the storage area (by me!) because we weren't using it. My miniatures got sorted and sorted and resorted and then carefully packed in random containers, then in bigger containers, taped up and then in boxes.  I made a pile of those 'dangerous' items we couldn't take with us.  I bought ziploc bags.  Soooo many sizes of ziploc bags.  Even teeny tiny ones to stick my jewelry in.  My main excitement about finally getting a smartphone was the ability to scan books and collect them in a database.  I was having a blast.

Brian eventually caught me making careful piles of picture frames (full and empty) in the craft room and told me it wasn't necessary because they'd pack things up by room.  "But this is more efficient!'  I exclaimed.  "They can just set up a picture frame packing station and zip right through . . ."  but by then he'd rolled his eyes and left the room.

The thought rather upset me.  I didn't want things packed up by room!  I didn't want to be forced to use the same decor in the same room in some future house!  In reality I kind of squeezed myself in here wherever I could claim space without overly upsetting Brian's order and ability to find things.  It hasn't always worked, and rearranging wasn't really an option or worth the effort of justification.   For example, while my adventure guest room theme was fun, I'd really like to try it out in the living room, where I can regularly see photos from our trips and the little elephant.

I'd really much prefer to have all the wall hangings brought to the new house and put in one place so I can see all of them and decide for myself which ones would best work in whatever rooms our future house has.  If none of them worked I'd have to cart them down to the basement anyway, so they might as well start there until I'm ready for them!

Of course, This is my first big move, and I could be totally wrong.  But it's not likely to stop me from sorting!
February 1, 2013

In anticipation of having to find a new place to live,  Brian and I began discussing what we wanted in a house.  It's hard to immediately say, "oh, I want a house like THIS" unless you've actually lived in it.  Lots of houses are pretty, but not necessarily easy to live in.

There's so many options for house styles and features!  I began looking at floor plan sites for ideas, and thinking about what I liked and disliked about our current townhouse.  I was surprised to realize that there were actually features about this house I liked!

One night, after a marathon internet search frenzy, I made a list.

Features I like:
- Kitchen being secluded/separated from the rest of the house
- not having to walk through kitchen to get to other rooms
- not having to walk through laundry room to get to garage or other places
- second bathroom being right outside the master bedroom, or a master bath big enough to separate into two little baths
- master closet not in the bathroom
- I really don't feel we need a living room AND family room, and a largish dining area in the kitchen is quite sufficient.
- covered front entrance, although a big outside covered patio area is nice
- basement!
- workshop area
- basement with walkout also nice.  could easily turn into workshop
- coat closet by the front entrance.  (You'd be surprised how many floor plans I've looked at that didn't have that.)
kitchen islands, but a long unbroken, well lit expanse of of counter space would do

Features I could do without:
cathedral/vaulted ceilings
walls that are mostly windows (reduces furniture placement options)
open floor plans
layouts that force you to walk through rooms to get to other rooms, or that land you in the kitchen first

I realize my list goes against the latest in housing design, but I have good reason for each.

First and foremost is the issue of noise.  When you've got a big open area  and you're cooking in the kitchen, with water running and things frying and pans clinking, and people are talking while the television is playing in the next 'area' and the washing machine is chunking away and all the noise is getting amplified by the high ceilings, you're going to go to bed with a headache.  That was one nice thing about the townhouse - there was enough of a separation between the kitchen and living room that noise was cut down.  (It didn't help at all for the washer and dryer, which was on a lower floor but the noise comes right up the open stairwell!)  I need quiet.  I want my house to be relaxing, and reducing the noise as much as possible means no open floor plan.

Secondly is the issue of layout.  I saw one floor plan where, from the front door, you walked through the formal living room, into a less formal living area, through the dining room which was open to the kitchen, and then into the family room before you could get to the bedrooms.  I feel it was meandering and clumsy, and adds unnecessary foot traffic and the potential for more of a mess in every room.

Other floor plans required you to walk through the kitchen to get to the master bedroom.  I don't want to come out of my bedroom every morning and look at the kitchen!  (I don't always get to the dishes.  Maybe this would actually help, but sometimes you just want to close the kitchen off til later.  Thus the 'secluded kitchen' wish.  I love that our current kitchen can be totally ignored/avoided until needed.)  A kitchen is a messy, noisy place, and I don't feel it should be a showcase.  I'm a messy cook, still learning, and though I try to clean as I go along, I don't want to be a performance act.

Many floor plans pop you from the garage directly into the kitchen and/or laundry room.  For us, the garage is our main entrance.  We rarely use the front door, so every time I come home, I have to look at the washer and dryer and the lint bunnies that always elude my broom.  Ideally, my dream house would have both the front door and the garage open up into the same area, so all the coats and boots and such could be removed and stored at the same location, and if you're making plans with visitors you can roughly leave the house from the same area.

My husband and I don't share a bathroom.  You may laugh, but in a house with four bathrooms and only two people who are a bit OCD about territory, we figured we don't have to.  Bathrooms need to be used or they develop problems anyway!  We both think it's weird that master baths are designed with double sinks.  Just how long do 'normal' people use a sink in the bathroom that they can't share?  It's really toilets that should be doubled, if anything.

We also dislike the feature of putting the master closet IN the master bath.  Won't the humidity hurt the clothes?  And if someone's in the bathroom and taking their sweet time, you're not going to be able to get to whatever you need. I realize that some people are perfectly OK with walking into the bathroom while someone else is using it, but this is not going to be happening for us.

Skylights are OK for the most part, but definitely not in the bedroom.  I am not a morning person, and blackout curtains are my best friend.  After having to get up at 6am on a Saturday in that hotel room with the skylight and the morning sun so disgustingly cheery, I hope I never encounter a skylight in a bedroom again.

After living in a basementless house and tripping regularly over random items we had to keep but not use, I hope to always have a storage area in future homes that isn't meant to be a regular room.  And Brian really, really wants a workshop, which I'm perfectly content to have.  I have two dollhouses that need messy work done!

What else?  Covered front entrance?  Always loved having a place to shake off the rain or stand and watch the thunderstorm without getting wet.  It's more welcoming to visitors for the same reason.

While I would prefer not having to continue hauling our laundry up and down two flights of stairs, it's something I can continue to do if I have to.  But if you can put those appliances near the closets, please do!

I haven't really thought much about the exterior of the house, or the decor features.  I figure if it meets the other criteria, it doesn't matter if it's Craftsman, Colonial or Modern.

It should be interesting to see how many of these features we can meet in our search for a house.