We've moved from Baltimore, Maryland USA to Venice, Italy in pursuit of living our dream!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Living the dream- Shipping our household goods over-- finally!

We've been here a year- hard to believe!!! The rented, furnished apartment has worked out beautifully, in fact, we love it. We've been managing with whatever we brought over in our 4 suitcases well, but, to be honest, from time we found ourselves wishing for some of our clothes, or something or other from around our home back in the States. When the house sold we would have to empty it, so the plan had always been to ship just a few select items over to Italy when it came time. That time came, finally. We had a contract on the house. I returned to the US to handle getting us all moved out of it and deal with settlement.

We had to think long and hard about which items we really needed or wanted to have with us now. We made lists, then crossed ALOT of things off the list, as we were trying to be judicious about this. For one thing, we now lived in a much smaller place which was already furnished, so we didn't require alot of furnishings. And== it being smaller, we had precious few spaces to store anything. Not quite like our Baltimore home which had a huge basement, attic and garage for us to fill up! Finally we had the short list of things we wanted to bring back with us.

Timing actually worked out perfectly, as we are allowed one shipment of household goods sent VAT/duty free. For me, this one time shipment had to be done within 12 months of my receiving my dual Italian citizenship. My citizenship was finalized on October 30.

We did some research about international shipments. We knew it would take 6-8 weeks, maybe longer for our stuff to arrive here. We also knew it would be fairly expensive, and since we were footing the bill for this ourselves, we were very conscious about keeping costs down. Cost is based on volume, not weight. Once I returned to the US, I contacted several international movers and began collecting estimates.

I had to provide the companies with a detailed list of the items I wanted shipped, and they gave me a volume estimate. In addition, they also came to the house to see the items first hand, so they would know what needed special packing, etc. Then the volume estimates got revised, based on reality, not just my list. What I discovered is that the final volume estimate turned out to be 3 times larger than the initial paper list estimate. Yikes!

We then had to discuss packing, packing materials, insurance, storage in port on arrival, port fees, and also the land delivery charges once the ship arrived in Italy. In the end, I chose to hire the first company I spoke with, even though they were unable to actually make an in-person visit to the house. I had the in-person information from two other companies, their estimates were very close, and I was able to give these details to the woman at the company we were hiring. Their bid came in about $1500 less than the other two. We handled the contract via email and fax, the deposit was made, and the pickup/moving date was scheduled.

On the moving date, the movers arrived with a huge truck. They spent several hours wrapping up glassware, taking apart a few pieces of furniture, and carefully documenting every thing that was to be put on the truck. Our sleep number bed was probably the biggest and trickiest of the items to be shipped. The guys helped me deal with taking the bed apart carefully, and packing it all up so I would know exactly how to unpack it and reconstruct it properly. What an ordeal. The truck rolled out of sight around 2pm and I knew this was only the end of the first phase. Heaven only knew what would happen in 6-8 weeks time!

Somewhere along the line in all this, we remembered to have a discussion with the movers at their NYC headquarters who were handling the US side of the shipment regarding delivery once the stuff arrived in Italy. The woman we dealt with was Italian, and was aware our stuff was being shipped to Venice. But when we asked her about how our stuff would be delivered to our door, it was clear there was some disconnect. You can't drive a truck up to the house in Venice. You must get everywhere by boat. A truckload of stuff can come into Venice, but then it has to be unloaded from the truck, and loaded on to a boat. This wasn't patently clear to the woman at the movers at first, finally we got that crystal clear. This necessitated an additional $600 charge for the boat transportation portion of the move. We understood that, as we are constantly paying boat delivery charges for everything over here. No surprise.

I received a phone call about a week after I arrived back in Venice telling me our household goods would be leaving the warehouse in Bayonne, NJ on a ship the beginning of the following week. In about 2 weeks time, the ship was scheduled to arrive in Rotterdam, Holland. Holland? My stuff is supposed to be coming to Italy!!! What happened?? The man on the other end of the phone almost laughed at me. No, he explained, it was coming to Italy, just arriving first in Rotterdam. He explained that they can get a cheaper deal at certain ports, and in Italy, it's always iffy about whether there will be strikes at the ports, they prefer to arrive elsewhere if they can. I was ok with all that, as long as there was a plan for our stuff to get to us in Venice. Yes, no problem. It will be transported from Rotterdam to Venice by truck, and no additional charges except a possible port charge, which would be nominal. I was relieved. So our stuff would be on a boat shortly, making it's way here.

Two days after that call, I get an email from a guy in Rotterdam from the movers on this side of the Atlantic. He requested a stack of documentation from me. Copies of my passport, my citizenship, my residence papers, copies of our lease, copies of the inventory of stuff shipped, and filled in customs forms for the Dutch customs people. Because this was to be duty free, we needed to be sure the proper documentation was submitted and approved. We did a few days back and forth on the documentation, and then we waited. On the day our stuff was supposed to arrive in Rotterdam, we got a phone call from this guy, telling us our stuff had arrived and what the next steps would be.

Our household goods would be off loaded from the ship, loaded onto a truck, and 4 days later would arrive in Venice. We had a few email exchanges to clarify where the doors in the house were, how many flights of stairs there were, and if there was balcony access to the house. We were told they would be bringing a special elevator to move the boxes etc. from the ground level up to our apartment level, no extra charge for the elevator. We didn't think they needed the elevator, as we live on the first floor, but they were going to bring it and use it anyway. Here in Italy, the first floor is what we in the US would normally call the 2nd floor.
On the day our shipment was supposed to arrive in Venice, we got a phone call about 9:30 am. The truck was here, they were loading onto a boat, and they would be here in about 15 minutes time. We were ready!

I flung open the living room windows so I could catch a glimpse of our stuff floating down the canal in front of our house. I actually couldn't believe our belongings had actually made it out of the US, and here they were, just as the movers said they would be, on a boat in front of our place. I snapped a photo for posterity!!!
Two guys came all the way from Rotterdam on the truck,and here they were on the boat, to complete the move into our apartment. There was also a boat driver, and his dog. Now, this is where things get alittle funnier.. this SAME boat driver, and his dog, were the ones who delivered our patio table and chairs to us when we bought them on the mainland! I know there are a zillion transportation boats here, what are the odds it would be the same guy???? And to make things a bit funnier, his dog is riding down the canal, sitting on one of our leather chairs, which is on the deck of the boat!!!
The boat driver helped get things moved from the boat to the street, then he, the dog and the boat took off. Probably to go have a glass of wine!! The two movers made quick work of getting everything into the apartment, without the help of that portable elevator I had been told about. It turns out they couldn't fit the elevator on the boat! The only tricky item was our large china cabinet. They just couldn't fit it around the corner and up the stairs. It sat down in the foyer, and every once in a while the guys would go back down and ponder what to do. Finally, after a measuring tape and lots of head scratching, they shifted the china cabinet somehow and up it came.
The whole move was unbelievably easy. There were one or two little things cracked or broken, but a saucer broken in the grand scheme of things is nothing. One piece, the base to Mike's large easel, was not included in the stuff that came off the boat. They double checked the boat, the warehouse in Rotterdam, the warehouse in the US, it just has not appeared. Fortunately, we had insurance - and Mike was actually able to find a company in Italy that could send him the replacemnt part, so all is well.
What an experience, is all I can say. I know people do this all the time, but this was a first for us. We still can hardly believe the Weber grill has made it from Baltimore to Venice! Thanks, Echo World Transport for making this a very smooth transition.

Living the dream- The sleep number bed fiasco

One of the things we've had to adjust to living in Europe is the difference in electricity. Having traveled here many times before, we thought we were ready for this. In previous years we've vacationed here, so we were used to bringing converters for our laptops and other electrical appliances that traveled with us.

When we packed our suitcases for the move over to Venice, we made sure we had the converters with us. Upon arrival, we soon discovered we needed more of them. We looked around locally for converters similar to the ones we had, but found none. We ended up ordering them online from the same company we used before. Unfortunately, they don't ship to Europe, so our solution was to have a friend receive them for us, then ship them over. That worked- until we sent the big household goods shipment over from Baltimore to Venice.

When we sold our belongings, we sold most of the electrical stuff as well, knowing that they just wouldn't work over here. I wasn't happy giving up my Kitchen Aid mixer, or leaving behind several of my favorite lamps, but it just wasn't feasible. We did, however, decide to bring over a few things which would require the use of electric converters. We thought we were covered, we had enough of those.

Then the household goods arrived. After the movers left, Mike and I tackled the job of putting our sleep number bed together. This monster had made it's way safely over on the boat, and we were so excited to have it with us again. We had it all constructed (no small feat as it's like a jigsaw puzzle with many pieces to fit together properly). We plugged the airpump into the electric converter, then plugged that into the wall outlet. POP. That was not a good sound. Yup, we had fried the pump motor. Upon further examination it turns out that the converter box we had used already had a problem, but we had forgotten to throw the dead thing away. Well, wouldn't you know that's what we would do!!! With this motor defunct, there was no way the sleep number bed could be blown up- it requires air in it's chambers.

The bed day was a very funny day. We had made arrangements with our landlord to remove the bed in our bedroom for us, to make room for the sleep number bed arrival. That morning, Mike and I took the existing bed apart, with plans to take it downstairs for the landlord later in the day, after we constructed our bed. So, with the sleep number bed non functional, the only option we had for sleeping that nite was to deconstruct the sleep number bed, and reconstruct the landlord's bed. Once again, we packed all the parts of the sleep number bed up into boxes, and set the other bed back up. I almost hated to inform the landlord that we did not get the bed downstairs for him, as he was so intent on that all being done according to his specific instructions. So here we have our sleep number bed, completely non-functional.

We decided we'd just order a new airpump, and construct the bed when it arrived. No problem. Well, slight problems. Where to store the sleep number bed while we wait for a new pump to arrive was now an issue. There are few enough places to store anything here as it is, and we'd just shipped over boxes of stuff that were going to take up the few spots to stow things we did have. Hmmm. We ended up putting the box spring part up on it's side against a wall in one of the spare bedrooms, and the boxes of other parts got jammed in a closet. This couldn't work as permanent storage, but since we figured we only had to wait until the new pump arrived, we could tolerate this arrangement.

The airpump has been ordered. Wouldn't you know it the company will not ship to Europe. So, again, we have our backup system of shipping to Mike's secretary in the US,and she will send it on to us here. That little electrical disaster was a pricey one- the new airpump costs about $ 500, not counting shipping or VAT.

In the meantime, Mike navigated the Italian internet websites (we're starting to get pretty good at this), and found some more powerful converters. Those were ordered, received, and tested. We're now awaiting the arrival of the replacement pump.

Oh, I don't want to end this blog without this one last little detail. A few days after the bed fiasco, Mike wanted to watch one of our US movies on DVD. I had sent over our DVD player in one of the boxes in our shipment, along with our favorite DVDs. Yup, he fried the DVD player too. Upon further inspection of the insides of the DVD player, he determined he had blown a fuse, but it looks almost impossible to replace without a soldering iron. That's way too complex here, we'll pass on that home repair. Now we'll be on the lookout for a DVD player that has multi-region capabilities.

Maybe Electric Fiascos would have been a better title for this blog. Oh well, you get the idea.

Living the dream- small cravings

People ask me every day if there are any things I miss about the US. My usual answer is "very little". That is true. We've acclimated well, I'd say. And the few things that we sometimes wish we did have, we have managed to find substitutes for. For example- I like Tootsie Rolls. But-- there are so many other lovely desserts and sweets here, I have no problem giving those up.

Seeing as I was recently in the US for a few weeks, I had the opportunity to indulge a bit,and get my fill of a few things while there. Here's my list, in no particular order:

1) Thai food at Thai Aroma!!
2) Indian food at Indian Delight
Note. these are two of my favorite little restaurants in town

3) eat Pork Roll sandwiches -- this is probably a New Jersey thing (also known as Taylor Ham).

4) eat Maryland Blue Crab

5) Watch American TV-- Suvivor, Food Network, a few HGTV shows

6) Go to a movie in English

7) Use the clothes dryer!!!!

See-- that's a short list!!!!

However, in the last few days we've been struggling over a few recipe items that we just can't seem to find - brown sugar,and oh, yes, there's that jar of Cole Slaw dressing I love, or even some Wish Bone Zesty Italian dressing!!!! These are on my "Gee, wouldn't these be nice to have! " list now. But -again, in the grand scheme of things, I really don't miss anything terribly. I've even gotten used to not having a clothes dryer. Hmm... the clothes dryer. I do have a love-hate thing going on with clothes pins over here. Yes, ok, I must admit, I would love a clothes dryer.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Living the dream - Springtime in the garden on Rio Cazziola

The weather has been gorgeous lately, so we've been taking advantage of it to work in the garden. All the flower beds needed a good weeding already, and trees needed some pruning. Just about everything is done now, we can sit back and enjoy the rest of the summer with just some maintenance to the flower beds here and there. I need to go scout around in the next few days to find geraniums for the flower pots in the back yard and on the terrace.

After alot of garden work the last few days, we were able to spend a quiet afternoon of sunshine yesterday. I took the opportunity to snap a few photos.

We were lucky enough to find these steamer chairs on the internet, being sold by a lovely woman in the UK. The price was a steal, compared to what I was seeing them being sold for here in Italy, and she even included the cushions! She agreed to ship them to us here, and we've been enjoying them ever since! What a great addition to our outdoor living space.

My backdoor gargoyle Louis just recently arrived in Venice along with our shipment of household goods. He now has a lovely new home. I love seeing him again, just brings a smile to my face everytime I walk by him!

The irises have just popped out and we are delighted to see them. We've been pleasantly surprised to see things come into bloom- there were daffodils, and hyathis, forsythia, lily of the valley, a few bright red tulips, and now the iris.

This the brick walkway that runs all the way from one side of the garden to the other, and ends at the water door to the canal. There is a grape arbor along the walk, and wisteria growing over the brick wall.
These Venetian lanterns can be seen all over the city, hanging at outdoor restaurants. They are outrageously expensive to buy, but these are from the US!! I found them a few years ago at Home Goods, bought all that they had that day, and have used them in our Baltimore backyard. I couldn't bear the thought of parting with them, so they were part of the household goods shipment. Looks like they belonged here for ages, I think!

I tried to catch a photo of a lizard who was sunning himself on this mossy brick, but he was just too darn quick for me. Maybe next time!!! I love the old pieces of marble columns that are scattered around the garden. It just reminds me of the Roman Forum and I like to think we have our own little piece of ancient Venetian history right here in our midst.

More of those lovely deep blue iris. I wish there were huge beds of them.

The wisteria is just coming into bloom. The smells are delightful. How did we get so blessed to have some of our very own ?

The garden has two palm trees, this one and one a bit smaller. Now all I need is a parrot and a monkey!

Leaping Lizards!!! -- well, almost leaping

A few years ago we spent a few days in a small fishing village near Sorrento, Marina del Cantone. I remember it being very sunny, and as we walked down to the waterfront every day we'd see tons of lizards just lounging in the sun. I loved seeing them, often bright blue or green with a streak of yellow or orange on them. I'm not a huge fan of snakes, but I can handle lizards, and there is something I just can't describe about lizards. These Italian ones would just be soaking up sun, then dart away quickly if they caught sight of you.

I'd forgotten about them, until recently when they've been discovered in our garden here in Venice. They certainly aren't as easy to spot as those ones in Southern Italy, they are in between rocks in the garden, or darting across the grassy lawn. One little baby one somehow made it up the wall of the house and found his little 2 inch self in our kitchen one day! He was gingerly scooted back out the door with the broom, back to Momma Lizard! I've tried sneaking a photo of one, but they are gone before I can get a good shot. One of these days I hope I'm successful, in the meantime, I'm having fun with Lizard sightings!

April 25 in Venice-- a day of Celebrations

Yesterday was April 25. All over Italy, this day commemorates Italy's liberation day following WWII. In Venice, there are additional reasons to celebrate--one, it's ST. Mark's festival, the holiday of the patron saint of Venice. And two, it's the Festival of the Blooming Rose. On the occassion of the Fest of the Patron Saint in Venice, men give the gift of the bocolo- the red rose bloom- to their beloved.

All over the city, you will see women carrying one single rose blossom, given to them by some man who loves them. What a great tradition! Men give them also to their mothers, not only to their inamorata.

There are several versions of how this tradition started, but the one I like most goes something like this:

There was a rose bed growing along side the grave of St. Mark the Evangelist. This rose bush was gifted to one of the two Venetian sailors, Basilio, who "stole" the remains of St. Mark and brought them from Turkey to the city of Venice. The rose bush was planted in Basilio's garden on Giudecca Island. On Basilio's death, his property was divided between his two sons,and the rose bush fell on the borderline of the two divisions. These two factions of the family became rivals, and it is said the rose bush stopped blooming as a result of the bad blood between the two brothers.

Many years later, on April 25, a love sparked between a girl on one side of the family with a boy on the other side. It's said that the two fell in love watching each other through the leaves of the rose bush on the edge of the properties. This love caused the rose bush to blossom again, and the young man gave a rose blossom to the young woman. This love brought the two sides of the family back together again.

In memory of this love story, Venetian men give a rose blossom- the bocolo- to their beloved on April 25 every year. I love this story!!!! Ok, I'm a sucker for a romance, what can I say?

It's very interesting also to me that Hallmark cards don't exist here, but the florists do a huge business.

A trip to the US- Week 4.. the end in sight!

This week is the estate sale, and closing on the house. Two weeks ago big signs went up on our front yard announcing the upcoming Estate Sale. That felt weird to me, and got weirder, as neighbors would stop when they saw me, saying things like " Geez, we thought someone had died, but here you are.". No, we hadn't died, but doing the estate sale does make you sort of feel a bit like you had. Here you are, getting rid of 90% of your belongings, just like what happens after you die. I had moments when I thought I was helping my kids out, by getting this task done for them before I actually passed on!

On Estate sale day, I was running on fumes. I had been up almost all night, tucking things away that I did not want mistakenly sold into closets, then marking the closets "Off limits". The Estate sale agent and her helpers arrived, and I just tried to stay out of their way. Buyers arrived about an hour early to preview things, again, I tried to not pay attention to what was going on. I just had to keep reminding myself that the house had to be empty by settlement day, and I had to be out of there lock, stock and barrel.

When the sale began, people were milling in every room of the house. The sale was conducted room by room, with the room sold as a whole lot when possible. As they all moved into a room, I moved out, as far away as possible. I did not want to know what was happening, and didn't want to get any last minute second thoughts about what items would be sold. Everything had to go. And by 2pm that day, just about everything was gone. Our belongings were flying out of the house. I could not believe how quickly things were leaving. It made my head spin. Finally around 4pm, the house full of people were gone, and my rooms were empty. I was sleeping on an inflatable mattress that night, and had no chairs left to sit on. I still had 3 days left in the house - the whole thing was almost surreal. The last step was to get miscellaneous stuff that did not sell in the sale removed. I had to hire a guy to take away stuff from the garage and basement. This took a couple of days, then the house was broom swept, totally empty.

Bottom line, we didn't make much money selling our possessions- again, we have the downturned economy to thank for that. One woman from our neighborhood who bought something at the sale told me that purchase was the first thing she had bought in 6 months, and she had used a bit of money she had tucked away. I think she spent 30 dollars! I was happy that our belongings were now going on to people who would use them well. I would do this again in a heart beat though. It was the perfect way to liquidate.

The last item of business for me was to sign settlement papers. Debbie, our agent, had arranged with the title company for Mike to sign papers that had been fed-exed to him,and for me to go to their office to sign mine We would not even be present for settlement, which was good for me. I actually was able to leave Baltimore 2 days before settlement. I packed my remaining stuff up into 3 suitcases, which I left with friends to hold for me for a few days. None of that would fit in my Miata! I left Baltimore with a carry on suitcase, on my way to visit with family for a couple of days.

I drove to Delaware, dropped my Miata off with a sports-car consignment guy at the beach who was going to handle selling it for me, and I picked up a rental car. I spent 2 days with my sister in Lewes, another 2 days with my mother in New Jersey, then I returned to Baltimore for one last nite in a hotel at the airport before leaving to return to Italy.

This month in the US has been an incredible challenge for me. Looking back now, it was one more chapter in the adventure Mike and I have been on this last year. We're definitely traveling through life much lighter from now on! And I can't wait to get back home.

A trip to the US- week 3

Yahoo.. the beginning of week 3 I did get my car back from the dealer, all fixed, but not without much agony and heartache through the 14 days leading up to it's return. I'd been getting daily updates from the service manager assigned to my car all this time, so much so that she had by now become a dear friend it seemed. And, when I arrived at the dealership to pick my car up finally, the technicians all came out to meet me. There were hugs and well wishes all around! I almost hated to leave them.... almost!

My spirits were improving, I had my car back, and could get around now to do all the numerous errands I needed to complete. First on that list was to take a box of 200 nearly new CD's to a record and tape shop to sell. Of the 200, they bought 40. Yikes. Again, the economy was not helping my cause here. Next, books to sell. Same story. Used booksellers were just not buying books. I did manage to sell off about 7 boxes of books, for 80 dollars. Did I mention that I had 2 rooms lined with books??? This was depressing.

The day of the international movers arrival was also nerve wracking. I just hoped and prayed that they actually would arrive to begin with. I had done my research, and ended up negotiating a contract with a company based in NYC. I had never done an international move, and had read some horror stories. Heck, I had my own horror stories from local moves I'd done in the past. This move had me scared to death, to be honest. Fortunately, the moving truck arrived as scheduled, and the two young men packed my stuff up and hauled it all to the truck. I have to say these guys were incredible. They packed boxes of my favorite very breakable wine glasses and dishes, gingerly handled my china cabinet which is loaded with glass and mirrors, helped take apart my sleep number bed (no small feat!), and even went to the yard to pack up Mike's Weber grill. Everything was organized, they were meticulous in their work, and left me with a good feeling. So, although I was nervous watching my belongings drive away in their truck, I had a comfort level that this would somehow all work out.

We only had a handful of furniture pieces being shipped to Italy. Nonetheless, the house now, for the first time, looked empty to me. Sadness hit me like a brick that evening. This now was very real to me. We had sold the house, we would not be returning, in two more short weeks someone else would be living in this place I loved so much. Ok.. I couldn't allow myself alot of wallowing. I, afterall, had made the decision to take a huge leap over to Europe, there was no time to look back. Get back to work, Karen! and thank god for Skype and the internet. I was able to stay connected to Mike every day. He was my lifeline, always on the other end with the right words of support and encouragement when I needed it.

In the midst of all my sorting and heaving, packing and hauling, I also had to deal many miscellaneous tasks related to the real estate contract- the home inspection, the appraisal guy, a structural engineer, the termite inspector. Just more stress. Fortunately, we got through each of these. I also got to meet our Real Estate agent for the first time, who , up until now, we had been dealing with via emails, phone and fax. She had worked hard and managed the whole transaction impeccibly. We couldn't have asked for more. Right before we got the contract I started lighting candles here in every church I walked into, praying for a house sale soon. I discovered Debbie had gone to our front yard and buryed an upside down statue of St. Joseph by the For Sale sign around the same time. I am convinced those combined actions turned the tide.

Once again, dear friends and former work colleagues made sure I was eating and had some company. Here at the end of week 3 I was doing more turning down of invitations than keeping them,as time was running out on me quickly. I had only a few more days until the estate sale would take place, then the house settlement, then I'd be on a plane back to Italy.

A trip to the US - more ....

My blogging has been WAYYYY off.. so many things to get back to dealing with once I returned from the US. BUT-- I can't let the story remain unfinished. So, I have to get back to it, and get current on stuff going on here every day.

The first few days back in Baltimore were excruciating, but slowly I managed to get through the first week. During that time there was NO good news about the status of my car from the Maza dealer. I can look back on it now and laugh, however at the time I just felt like the black cloud was surrounding me, and each day's info from Mazda just got worse and worse. First they thought it was the immobilizer chip in the key fob. They even sent a technician to the house to pick up the spare key so they could replace the chip in both. That didn't resolve the problem. Next they thought it was the ECM or PCM or something like that.. the main computer chip in the car, so they replaced that. Problem still not resolved. Six days after arriving at the dealer, the technicians were still scratching their heads, making calls to some other main Miata specialists. To make things even more comical, Mazda was willing to give me a loaner car, but I didn't have a US drivers license on me. Getting a replacement license for the one that was stolen in Florence along with my wallet was one of the first things I needed to do in the US. Since my car died on day 1, I hadn't been able to get to the Maryland MVA to get a replacement. So.. no loaner car either.

I also had three antique dealers come to the house to look at an assortment of items I needed to sell. All of them told me that the market is so bad, they aren't buying big ticket items, or very much of anything for that matter. I had pieces I'd purchased from dealers in Ellicottt City that now I couldn't even sell back! I knew the market was bad. In fact, from the moment I got back into the US I was hearing stories of people being laid off from nearly everyone I bumped into.

Signing a contract with an Estate sale dealer and the international shipper didn't get completed until nearly the end of week 2, later than I had wanted. And, the estate sale woman originally planned to be very aggressive and schedule the sale for the following week, then changed the date to the next weekend as she felt more time to advertise would be best. I had time, but I was pushing to get everything done and go back to Italy sooner, if possible. This change in schedule wasn't going to allow for that.

It turns out that I needed all the time I had. There was so much stuff to go through. Bags and bags and bags of stuff went out to Salvation army. My sister Denise came up from Delaware with a truck to take away yard furniture and garden tools. Unfortunately the weather was ghastly, there was horrible ice storm and my driveway and yard were covered with inches of solid ice. We couldn't get the truck up the driveway even, so we slid everything down it to the street! Thank god we could maintain a sense of humor in all this, and get a bit creative. We used one of the backyard chaise lounges for a sled, loaded it up with stuff and pushed it down the driveway. Well, more like slid it down, and held on for dear life trying to "steer it". By the end of the day we had created a new Olympic winter sport.. the two man chaise lounge slide, and the Rumanian judge was giving us 9.5's. Denise's weekend visit boosted my spirits, I hated to see Sunday come and watch her drive away.

By the end of week 2 I still had no car, but had made huge progress. Both of my children had arrived for a brief visit to collect some family stuff they wanted, each one taking a car load with them. My oldest Shannon also took with her a large stack of my husband's paintings to store for him, which we were not going to be able to store in Italy at this time. Dear friends and work colleagues kept me in good company for dinners, which I sorely needed at the end of some very long days of cleaning out closets, shelves and drawers. I was working myself through the house room by room sorting, donating, or designating to be sold.

Big plans for week 3 included getting my car back (hopefully) and the international movers coming to pack and move stuff out. Such exciting stuff!