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August 09, 2007

Don't Buy The House Next To Your Mother-in-Law.

Don't Buy The House Next To Your Mother-in-Law

By Nancy

We went house-hunting on Saturday. Not for us, but for our daughter. She's 26, gainfully employed and dutifully stowing money in her retirement account, plus her savings is . . . more than mine. Besides, mortgage rates will drop (my husband, the banker, promises) and it'll soon be a buyer's market.

We synchronized our watches and slipped like commandos in and out of open houses. (We've done a lot of house-hunting over the years, can you tell?) We snapped up fact sheets from kitchen tables before fanning out to check the furnace, the roof and the bathrooms. Back porch for entertaining? Check! A fenced yard for a pet? A view? High speed internet or dial-up?  Whoa--Is that a goat in the neighbor's back yard? And--oh, God--twelve corgis?! Or the real deal-killer:  Two dozen Fisher Price toys parked behind a tall fence somebody thought might hide a daycare center.

I love house-hunting.  It's a chance to imagine how I could live in different circumstances. A new life.

And I must admit I also like taking glimpses into the lives of other people. I can't help looking at the books on the shelves. Mind you, I don't peek into the medicine chest or the kitchen cupboards, but my fingers itch to do so. (I won't tell you what my daughter accidentally found behind the sofa cushions of the perfectly sweet family she once babysat for.  But it was totally icky, and she never went back.) Years of Presbyterian Sunday school stop me from outright snooping. But the books, though, are on public display. I soften toward people who keep Jane Austen, even if their kitchen has avocado appliances and the litter box isn't emptied.

Funny what can trigger a home purchase. My neighbor says she bought her house because the previous owner kept a Bible by the bed. My husband and I did not feel the same Guiding Hand, however, when we bought our current house.  It was the massive number of built-in bookcases that convinced us. (Previous owner, a federal judge, kept his law library here.) Also, because I loved the door knocker--a bare-breasted lady who looks every visitor square in the eye.

But my husband gave thumbs down to one house because he didn't want to imagine the arrogant and hugely fat previous owner smoking his cigar while wallowing naked in the dazzling red, but oddly shallow bathtub that was smack in the middle of the master bedroom.

Another hilltop house didn't suit us at all--major water damage caused a mold that crept up the basement wall while we stood there watching--but there was a desperately lonely pony in the paddock that chased us down the driveway, whinnying pitieously. We were tempted to buy the house just to rescue that poor pony.  He had plenty to eat and drink, but he was so alone!

The weirdest house we toured in Virginia had six bedrooms, each with a Jacuzzi. And the garage had been converted to a disco with mirrors on the walls and a glittering ball in the ceiling. The owner's office displayed Donald Trump's portrait. Months later, I spied a newspaper article that confirmed my suspicion.---It was a rural brothel.

A closed-mouthed realtor showed us a house that looked as if the family had fled home invaders. A shirt was still in the sewing machine, with the needle stuck in a button hole. The iron was plugged into the wall and sitting on the ironing board along with a pair of wrinkled pants. An open prescription bottle sat on the kitchen counter--with a label that read six years out of date. A kid's college diploma--also six years old--had been abandoned on the dining room table with some textbooks and an uncashed check for $3000. What did it all mean? Why did they leave so abruptly? The realtor wasn't talking, which made us even more curious.

Zen gardens. Garage tool benches painstakingly maintained and decorated with WWII memorabilia. Collections of salt and pepper shakers from national parks. Pantries stocked with enough tomato paste for Armageddon catered with Italian food. Those details represent personalities of perfectly normal people.  But plastic spiders glued to the window sills? Stacks of German porn in the bathroom? A basement that had a forest of 2x4 posts holding up the floor above? The office with twenty-two locked file cabinets decorated with Disney stickers? What kinds of people lived in those houses?  What were their stories?  I was totally convinced the guy with Mein Kampf and all the broken weight-lifting equipment was the Unabomber.

Now those home and garden channel shows teach us how to "stage" our homes for sale. Paint everything beige, send anything remotely personal to a storage facility, rent some beige furniture and--voila! Instant sale. But where's the sport in beige?

I liked peeking into the bathroom of a single man and noticing the bottles of fragrant body gels in his shower. In the next room he kept two complete sets of Robert Jordan paperbacks---one set had been well-thumbed. The second set was pristine.

Good writing is in the details, so I find myself always looking for material. Spending a Sunday afternoon snooping through various open houses is golden.

Our daughter wanted to look at the house that was for sale next door to the home of her boyfriend's parents. It's a small, split-level with a Florida room and a cozy, paneled den with lots of bookshelves. She doesn't see a problem living there.  And she isn't going to listen to her parents on this matter. Perhaps I could ask the TLC regulars to share words of wisdom on this subject? The first three rules of real estate--location, location, location--never seemed so apt.

Do you have any other suggestions for first time home buyers? And do you think kitchens really sell houses? Because we're about to replace ours, and just in case, we want it to be an asset, not a sales mistake.  Must we invest in granite countertops, or can we go with Corian?

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Comments

Nancy -
Why not suggest to your daughter that she watch a few episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond?
- Gina

Do Not Move In Next Door To Your In-Laws!

My in-laws are perfectly nice, well-read, well-cultured, sweet, and helpful folks. They've redecorated about half of our house for us, probably to the tune of over $50,000. They help look after the children in a pinch, etc., etc. For 17 years, they lived between 400 (Cleveland) and 1,100 (Pensacola) miles from here, until last year they had enough of multiple hurricane evacuations, other people's homes in their yard, and my f-i-l's health made them think of moving up here.

First idea, quickly nixed by the son-in-law: convert the garage, a former carriage house, into an apartment. But where would we put all our junk?

Second idea, more quickly nixed by the son-in-law: build an addition onto the house that they could move into. But they might not live long enough to see it be done (they are 87 and 82)? And our yard isn't that big? And how would we handle utilities? And wouldn't it cost a couple of hundred thousand dollars? Many, many more objections to this one.

Third idea, suggested by son-in-law: they buy a condo in the high-rise that is over on Pennsylvania Avenue, 1/2 a block away. They nixed that because they didn't want to sink the $200,000 into it. At their age, renting seems more prudent than buying.

Fourth idea, generally in the wind: some managed care community. M-i-l nixed that one, since "people only go there to die," and they are still vibrant, active people.

Fifth idea, and the one that took: rent a nice apartment a couple of miles away in a new building overlooking a revitalizing part of the city. They can visit, and we can visit, but they aren't living in the back yard, like Deborah Walley and Jerry Fogel (and I don't have to be Kaye Ballard or Eve Arden), they aren't living in something attached to us, or down the street, and I can sleep well at night.

Don't do it. I lived in the apartment above my mother-in-law for the first couple years of my first marriage (notice the "first" in front of marriage). Of course, in my case, my ex-husband John was (is) an only child whose father died when John was six. So it was just him and her until I came along.

I remember one time, at the sound of "JOHN!!!" coming up the stairs for the hundred zillionth time, putting my foot through the wall. She also would come into our apartment when we weren't there, and at one point, was listening in on our telephone calls.

Even if they're paragons, you need your privacy. They don't need to know every time you set foot out your door, and God forbid you're arguing and the windows are open.

Nope. Would never do it again.

Don't do it! Our society has changed and now we value privacy and aren't willing to compromise the way past generations were to live together. Expectations and the pecking order aren't as clearly defined and it leads to a relationship mess.

But on a funnier note... my husband and I went to an open house with what appeared to be 1000+ Catholic statues, pictures, medals, and school awards. It was like walking through a shrine and everyone touring the home clung to each other all the way through the house. I don't think anyone saw anything except those thousands of little faces of Jesus, Mary, and countless saints. Very spooky.

And then there was the house with the antique chamber pot displayed proudly on the dining room table. We assumed they didn't know it's purpose.

Great post! Who doesn't love looking at real estate? I watch all those househunting shows on HGTY.

Living near the in-laws is a terrible idea, but it sounds like your daughter's been seeing some weird houses, Nancy. Maybe if you had a better real estate broker, the house near the in-laws would have some better competition? My advice, find her a house she falls head over heels for in a different neighborhood.

On kitchens, oh boy, do they sell houses. I say that as a seller (as a buyer I never met a kitchen I didn't want to change!) My apartment in New York sold based on the kitchen. Corian can definitely work if the whole package looks fresh and beautiful, but everybody wants top-of-the line appliances. I'd say go for a neutral look anybody would love, nothing too personal or unusual.

Great post. I loved looking for my house. I loved seeing how real people live and decorate - or not decorate.

No house by the boyfriends parents!! ESPECIALLY when they are not even married yet! "Raymond" is on TBS most evenings - Tape it tonight!

I think new kitchen counters of any sort are a plus. And it is the most important room - I think it has to be efficient and workable, and esthetically pleasing on some level, because you spend so much time there. I didn't really appreciate that until I saw all the ones with no counterspace, or no storage, old appliances, etc.

Yell to your daughter as loudly as you can. Tell her to put down the earnest check and step away from the in-laws. Make her keep her hands where you can see them (She may be palming a contract).

HGTV is a staple in our home, and it causes a little bit of grief for me at times. Since I come from a family of contractors, whenever my wife sees a particularly cool project on TV I know it's time for me to pull out the hammer and saw. I've done everything - knocked out walls, installed new walls and doorways, remodeled baths and kitchens, installed tile, re-wiring, re-plumbing, landscaping...you name it, I've done it.

Nancy, if you're going to replace the countertops anyway, go with granite. No question. When buyers see you've added Corian as an upgrade they'll start looking for other ways you cut corners. This is especially true if other homes in your area have granite.

Yeah, Lee's right. I take it back about the Corian. Go with the granite or other natural stone. My kitchen that sold the apartment had dark green marble countertops. They were FINE; miss them!

Advice for first time home buyers:

Aside from the "no house next to the in-laws," which I second or third or fifth or whatever, here are a few things I've learned after 4 houses in 4 states.

1) it doesn't matter what the house costs if you can't afford the property tax. (Our current house needed a lot of work, but our current taxes are $6k a year and the same house one town over is...wait for it...$18,000.)

2) Check the corners of every room at the ceiling level, especially if the house looks as if it has been freshly painted. The corners are where settlement cracks occur.

3) Rest your hand at the edges of the windows. Do you feel air coming through? You want to consider what your utility bills will look like.

4) How old is the plumbing? (I'd been in my first house less than a year when the pipe between the floor of the second floor bathroom and the ceiling of the living room sprung a leak.)

5) Ignore the decor. You can get some good deals if you can imagine the space redone to your own taste since most people can't see beyond the ghastly curtains and hideous rugs.

6) Ask yourself, realistically, how much you are willing to do to a house. If you're up to some wallpaper stripping, that's one thing. If you're willing to gut the bathroom, it's another.

7) Location, location, location. Don't buy the nicest house on the street. Ever. Don't buy a house on a main drag.

And, Nancy? Corian is fine. What you want to do is maximize the counter and storage space without cluttering the kitchen. If you are really looking at it for resale, go for as much light as you can.

You guys are terrific! I'm keeping score on the Corian vs. granite. (Green marble?! Michele, were you a pastry chef??)

Lee, will you marry me? Just imagining a family of contractors is making me swoon.

I have to echo the sentiments of the others. Unless your inlaws are the coolest ever, and I've heard that can happen - it'd be the worst mistake of her life. Especially if she and the boyfriend don't last.

I have to admit, my husband and I are in the process of house hunting. Huge amounts of bookshelves and cabinets are a MONSTER plus for me.

I mentioned the Corian/granite thing from experience. We've moved quite a bit during the past few years and in that time we've "flipped" a few houses. Personally, I like the look of Corian, but granite (and new stainless steel appliances) in the kitchen is thing that sold most of them. In our last house I tried something new that went over really well. I made all new countertops and covered them with Italian porelain tile. I did the walls behind in slate. It turned out really well and the response from buyers was fantastic.

Hey Nancy, I do 99% of the cooking, too, and our kitchen in Boston has a little over 50 feet of granite countertop. I like to spread out.

My voice of experience says that the next time I buy a house, I am having individual service providers inspect their area of expertise (i.e. plumber, electrician, hvac, roofer...), rather than a professional inspector. I have found that the inspectors often have a vested interest in selling the place and too many times have missed the big items. I'd rather have the professional that will need to fix and/or replace the system tell me what it will really cost. It may cost more, since I will pay the hourly rate of each person, but it will be money well spent.

I am also suffering a huge case of "real estate bulemia". I bought too much and I would like to toss it back. I was able to get "so much" compared to the east coast. So, consider buying less, if you can live that way. In hind sight, I would prefer that the cash that is going to furnishing, utilities, insurance and taxes, go to vacations, etc.

When my husband and I were looking for our house, we nixed houses that were close to my parents. I love my mom and stepfather and being in the same town, but I'd never want to live next to them or even on the same street. Distance is a good thing, in my opinion.

As for the kitchen, it can make a difference for many home buyers, my brother and sister-in-law bought their house because they fell in love with the kitchen before they even saw the rest of the house.

Don't do it !

My husband and I have been married for three years and we just purchased our first home two months ago. There is no way in hell I could live next to my mother in law.

When you're dating, the boyfriends mother can be so sweet and fun but once you marry "her boy" something definitely changes. I can't stand my mother in law now. She was sweet as can be when he and I were dating but now that we're married and we have a child too, she has become unbearable. The passive agressive behavior never ceases to amaze me. And the guilt that she tries to heap upon us because we are busy working parents who don't have time to be at her beck and call (she's a widow, a very spry widow mind you with three other children she could easily harass, but I married her baby boy). I don't quite know what I would do if she lived next door. The house may seem like a gem but please tell your daughter don't do it.

Dang, Nancy! I was going to ask Lee to marry me! Do you think he'd notice if we passed him around? Do you think his wife would notice?

I recall watching Dr. Phil a while ago and he had a couple on with a mother-next-door problem. Seems to me that they even changed the locks on their doors, but she still managed to walk in on them in the shower. Claimed she had to keep an eye on them in case something terrible happened to the children. It was appalling - the woman wouldn't leave them alone. Dr. Phil's advise (and you'd have to be a fool not to take it, right?) was that people need their privacy and if she didn't leave her daughter and son-in-law alone, they should move. So, the morale of the story; Don't live next door to your parent(s).

Gosh Nancy - I may have to arm wrestle you for Lee!

I have marble TILE countertops in my kitchen. NEVER NEVER again. It's the second kitchen that has had tile-topped counters. The grout is AWFUL to keep clean. Seems like everything sticks to the grout.

Isn't granite porous? Don't that effect it's durability?

In-Laws - Next door? Not enough $$ in the world. MY parent live about 10 miles away and at times, that can be too close!

And house snooping...I spent 7 months helping out in an real estate appraisal office. I LOVED going to the houses, doing all the measuring, drawing the layout, etc. It was great to snoop around, because, of course I had to open the closet doors (to check the depth - that's my excuse...leave me alone). And is that a medicine cabinet? Must open door and check it out. I got to go into million $$ homes that I could NEVER afford...and probably never invited to! LOL

House looking - one of my favorite pasttimes.

Marble is a totally bad choice for kitchen countertops. Things like juice and blueberries can easily stain it. It also scratches easily. I'd stick to bathrooms for marble.

Tile countertops require a bit of upkeep, but the process is quite easy. There is a grout sealer you can purchase that only needs to be applied every six months or so. It's a spray-on product that doesn't even require wiping up the excess spray after its applied. The overspray evaporates in seconds. Two minutes and you're done until the next time. It really works well.

If you don't maintain the sealing process, the grout will begin to fade and absorb spills.

Oh, replacing tired, old grout isn't so difficult, either. That's the next lesson.

Hey, Lee -- does that grout sealer work on floors, too? And don't granite countertops require oiling or something?

When we remodeled the bathroom, I got Staron (Saron? something like that) -- it's some kind of composite that looks a lot like granite, is way cheaper, and is more environmentally-friendly than Corian. I'm loving it and plan on getting it in the kitchen if that ever gets remodeled.

I don't think I'd ever go back to tile countertops, even with good grout sealers. Stuff still gets suck in the little nooks and crannies, and the tiles themselves can crack and chip more easily, it seemed, than other kinds of countertops. I must say, though, that I love my tile backsplashes.

We're in our own house-selling hell right now -- trying to get rid of my parents' house in the D.C. area. Mom passed just in time for us to list the house about a month before the market tanked. We finally got a ratified contract last week (1.5 years later, mind you), but are on pins and needles -- the buyers canceled the home inspection Monday and we have no idea why. The suspense is close to killing us! So please think *positive* thoughts for us . . .

Oh, gawd, Lee, you've got this foreplay thing down perfectly, don't you? Tell us about your favorite recipes, and we'll all be jelly in your hands!

Nancy, I thought I'd chime in on the granite question but you've gotten so many practical tips and suggestions, I'll just say, speaking as impluse buyer with no knowledge of design or aesthetics, I just go for that expensive look. Go granite.

Speaking as a daughter who has lived next door to her parents for close to 26 years, I can see both the pro's and con's of the situation. Your daughter will be better off making her own decision.

In my case what was supposed to be a temporary house has become permanent. Once my daughter was born almost 23 years ago it was a great help to have may parents next door. My husband was out of town (church directory photographer, etc) 3-6 days each week for the first 18 years of our marriage. Having may parents close by helped me tremendously. After changing jobs almost 9 years ago he was able to stay home every week, but we were set in our ways. Now my parents are 75 and 69 (since I am the only child close by) I find I am helping them more and more.

Most people don't understand our situation, but for the most part the benefits have outweighed the bad. My husband has always gotten along with my parents so I'm sure he would weigh in on the positive side also.

I know my daughter is extremely close to her grandparents and not having known any other way of life considers it the norm.

Forget marriage - Lee, can I just *rent* you for a couple of weeks ? When we bought our house seventeen years ago, we fell in love with the land and the seclusion. The fact that the farmhouse was over 100 years old seemed 'quaint', the architectural anomalies - quirky and unique. Ah, what fools we were.
I've had three roofing contracters here this week, and they all said the same thing. Cha-ching ! I swear, one guy sounded like he was humming "We're In The Money" while he measured for his estimate.
By the way, Lee - you can't possibly do 99% of the cooking. According to Attila-the-Husband, if men spend too much time in the kitchen, their weiners will drop off. Is that true ?

Fascinating, Nancy. Househunting will bring out your inner voyeur. We almost bought a condo with a view and a wine cellar, until we got outside to the parking lot. Our real estate agent accidently parked in an owner's spot and he came out screaming bloody murder. We decided we didn't want to live in a place where the residents got so upset over such a small crime.

Grout sealer does work on floor tiles, too.

Recipes... Hmmm, I didn't say my cooking was good.

Yes, granite should be sealed, too.

I believe all the cook's utensils are in their proper places, and they are all working just fine. To make sure nothing happens to any of my tools (any of them) I maintain a proper balance of hammering, nailing, working out, excercise, and cooking.

Another voice of experience, visit the property on some random evenings. It is a good way to see the evening personality of the neighborhood, which can be quite different than afternoon. This gem was learned after our quiet rental in grad school was kiddy-corner to a low level drug-thug house. They weren't very high ranking, since they had day jobs, but the night time fist fights were a rude awakening. Our next home in a "changing" neighborhood was validated by the old man walking 2 westies at 10 p.m. on a Saturday. How bad could it be?

Regarding counter tops- I put granite in my last house, but I am leaning towards quartz for this house. I like the looks and it's even more indestructable. Pretty big range in prices for the different brands, which I have been told is like Kleenex versus Puffs, so shop around.

The marble we had in our old kitchen was Vermont Verde and it was great. Never chipped, scratched or stained and didn't need oiling. Now we have soapstone -- beautiful but way too much work. You have to oil it regularly or it gets all mottled and dried-out looking. Next time I'd do a matte black granite instead, for a similar look with a lot less maintenance.

Another voice of experience, visit the property on some random evenings. It is a good way to see the evening personality of the neighborhood, which can be quite different than afternoon. This gem was learned after our quiet rental in grad school was kiddy-corner to a low level drug-thug house. They weren't very high ranking, since they had day jobs, but the night time fist fights were a rude awakening. Our next home in a "changing" neighborhood was validated by the old man walking 2 westies at 10 p.m. on a Saturday. How bad could it be?

Regarding counter tops- I put granite in my last house, but I am leaning towards quartz for this house. I like the looks and it's even more indestructable. Pretty big range in prices for the different brands, which I have been told is like Kleenex versus Puffs, so shop around.

I don't know why the post repeated, honest, I'm not trying to make that firm of a point.

And, tee hee, Lee said tool.

DON'T DO IT!!!!!

Nancy, you may have to handcuff her to keep her from signing anything, but if you can convince her, try! It is never good to be too close to in/out laws. Dear Hubby & I have lived in our house 28 1/2 years now (yes, the mortgage will be paid off in just 18 short months, wahhhhhoooo!!!) and both sets of parents live in the same town. Both mothers would "drop in" during the first two years of our marriage and his would just walk in. That was when we learned to keep the doors locked at all times. She got quite a lesson one day and tried to make me the 'ho in the story. Needless to say, we haven't gotten along in 30 years.

DON'T DO IT!!!!!

I guess I should have expanded a bit about marble in a kitchen. If it's a good quality it does just fine. I actually prefer it to a lot of materials.

Quartz is a great product. I've never installed it, but considered doing so in our last house.

Michele, that black granite you mentioned is super nice. It really looks elegant.

One company is actually making countertops from old (out of circulation), shredded paper money.

Late to the party but...there are several houses for sale in my area. She can move here! With me!!!! The commute would suck, but I would do anything. Even her laundry.

I mean that. You know I do.

P.S. Lee, FYI, Borders called to tell me your book won't be available until Aug. 31. What's that about?

Gee, I don't know what to say about the book. It's out in some places. I know this because Barnes and Noble in Portland had them on hand at the conference in Portland last weekend.

I guess Writers Digest Books just couldn't get the millions of copies to the many warehouses in time. They're probably pushing all the Potter books aside to make room for mine as we speak.

Uh-huh, Lee, I thought I saw a news item that J.K. was grousing over some new book stealing her shelf space...

You know, with all the law enforcement types hanging around here, I'm surprised no one has come up with a book about a cop who is a wizard. Or a vampire. Or both.

You just might see a book that's sort of like that, soon...

Has she lost her mind?! I like my mother-in-law a lot but I would still rather eat dirt than live right beside her. I mean, I would never have to (would hurt her feelings if I did) cook again but if the house was ever the least bit messy she'd start cleaning it herself and tutting the whole time. These are people who are great to visit with but it would be simply awful to live practically with them and believe me, it would be like that.

The kitchen totally sold me on my house, which is an L-shaped ranch set back on half an acre at the end of a cul de sac. The kitchen is in the far L part, huge, eat-in, with lots of cabinets. My dad is a contractor, and he did a lot of work on it. It's my favorite room. We don't have granite or Corian (we had just gotten a mortgage) but a lovely serviceable countertop in a deep blue to offset the pale yellow walls and white cabinets.

Sounds gorgeous, Karen!

Karen, I'll bet the fact that your Dad did a lot of the work on your house is really special to you. How nice that you'll have that memory forever.

Could it be my imagination? Or does it seem Nancy has a thing for guys wearing aprons in the kitchen?

Chefs.

Stone masons.

Cabinetmakers.

Rough and trim carpenters.

Hmmmmmmm.

Maybe not. Could just be Lee.

There's a movie called Vampire Cop, Lee, although it is only available for rent. Not that I've ever seen it. I think it's the kind of flick you rent from the little back room.

You forgot bartenders, Tom. They wear aprons, too.

Nancy, I want one of those bare-breasted door knockers.

How could I forget bartenders, Ramona? Even though I try pretty hard . . .

And not to hijack the thread, but . . . TWO HOURS AND FIFTEEN MINUTES TO WOLLIE in Los Angeles!!!

Do you have an apron, Tom?

Next door to in-laws? Did that and never again -- we moved several states away. However, Mom may be moving in with us (health issues) so we're in basement finishing mode... It's also my home office area -- going to my happy place now....

Michele's 1st time home buyers lists of check is great. We looked at houses for almost 2 years before we bought. We saw tons of house but hardly any with room for books or book cases. We even looked at some McMansions (do you realize those places have no walls for bookcases -- they got lots of space but very little liveable space. And kitchen was 2nd on our list -- it had to be a liveable kitchen so we ended up with a house we can live happily in but will need lots of TLC over what we've done all ready.

I vote for Corian or one of the other easier care. I care that the kitchen is workable, very easy to clean and hard to stain. I love to cook but I'm messy.

Nancy?!? You ask me about aprons? In public? What kind of machinist and freemason do you think I am?
(Heh-heh, heh-heh. Step on over here, little lady, and I'll show you my regalia.)

Honestly, not a thread hijack -

DEAD EX has been launched, in the presence of a substantial, warm-hearted and appreciative pack of readers and writers. All three of Harley's titles were flying out the door. The crowd size was such that one hoped the fire marshall was elsewhere engaged.

(Mary Lynn, channeling Nora Blackbird) The author looked smart and summery in a flirty georgette skirt in pink and orange with a sheer, tucked blouse evocative of the 1930s, with tiny bits of lace trim at the neckline. (/Mary Lynn, Channeling Nora Blackbird)

Itinerant scribes, note well; across the street from The Mystery Bookstore is a pleasant little auberge, Le Pain Quotidienne. You'll find breads and a pesto/tapenade combination that make your entire trip worthwhile! We loved it - get Mary O'B as your waiter!

Next door to MIL? No! dont even do it with your parents if you are married. A year ago my parents offered us the chance to get a beautiful house with them living in a "apartment" on property. They would share some of the things in the house, but not all. Well after 8 weeks under the same roof while the apartment was being built things finally hit a head and we decided that the apartment had to have everything so we could have privacy in our home. the problem was my parents paid so much for the home, they took it as an afront that they could not share in some of the amenities of it. Arguments, cash and now over $275,000 into the home, we have all called itquites for the sake of our relationship. Now my parents live in a home too big for them with an empty apartment being finished on site and us back 20 miles away. We will sell it in a year or two. How I wish we had never said yes. So much money and so much damage to a relationship.

As the Christmas shopping has continued, I’ ve racked up a number of the Discover Card 20 gift cards. The last time I picked up my cards, I chatted briefly with the Discover Card representative. I asked him how popular the promotion had been, and he said it had been quite successful. One comment led to another and soon he was telling me how they’ ve changed their program over the years. Continue Reading»

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