House Lust

Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Yesterday, in the comments section, someone told me they were from India - which led me to search through the followers list to see where the people who read this blog are from, and I was so excited to see how many people from different countries are reading. I looked through a few pages of the list but so far I see we have readers from India, Japan, and England. It's so exciting - and now when I'm being melodramatic about the blog I can say, "I have an international following." Are there any readers out there from other countries? I get excited about U.S. followers as well - I remember how excited I was when I had my first follower from a different state. I actually called up my sister and said, "I have a follower from Utah! I don't even know anybody who lives in Utah! Someone I don't even know is reading my blog." I'm dorky that way. I get excited every single time a new follower shows up. I wonder if I'm the only one who does that. Do other bloggers get excited about that, or am I just simple and really easily amused? I guess the point of my rambling paragraph (oops I guess I've already violated my promise from yesterday about not rambling) - is that I'm really grateful that you have chosen to take time out of your busy days to come here and read my rambling blog entries. So, thank you dear readers.

Today's book took a little bit longer to read than most of the books I've read so far - not because it was longer, but because I enjoyed it so much that I didn't want to read it quickly. I wanted to take my time and savor it.

Here's the description; "Despite the current downturn in the housing market, the country's mania for homes that exploded during the last half-decade is still alive and well, according to Newsweek writer McGinn. The fascination with homes—talking about, valuing, scheming over, envying, shopping for, refinancing, or just plain ogling homes—has continued even after the market has cooled . . . " - There was more to the description, but it kind of rambled on and on, and since I'm clearly unable to stick to my promise about not rambling - I'm attempting to make up for it by not letting the book description ramble.

Interesting (and not so interesting) house facts to impress people with at parties:

  • In 1950 the average house was 983 square feet - in 2005 the average newly built home was 2,434 square feet.
  • The first mudroom was in a mansion built in the 1920s by automobile heir Edsel Ford. (And when you're done regaling your fellow party goers with that piece of information, you can move on to topic number 2: How on earth could anyone look at their newborn baby and name them Edsel? The mind reels.)
  • It is estimated that between 1985 and 2001 the percentage of home improvement projects that were executed by a hired professional increased from 50 percent to 60 percent. (I wouldn't whip that fact out at a party unless you're trying to ditch the person you're talking to, because it's such a boring fact that the person you tell it to is liable to suddenly realize that they're almost out of punch and have a dry throat after you tell them that. "That's fascinating *cough*, but I have this horrible cold and I really need some punch *cough*. . . No, that's okay, don't come with me . . . oh, sorry, what I meant to say is, I can managed on my own.")

Favorite line of the book -

When discussing a 10,023 square foot home that was featured in a home show: "The overall aesthetic reminds me of the large, open homes used on reality shows. As I wander around, I keep waiting for the Bachelor to emerge and hand me a rose." - I love a good reference to reality TV. My mind instantly leaps to someone running across this book 30 years from now, probably in a second hand bookstore, and being really confused by that sentence. "The Bachelor. . . who is this Bachelor he speaks of, and why is he giving out a rose." I imagine a conversation to follow along the lines of the one in which my mother was telling me about the game show Queen For a Day (for those of you who weren't old enough to watch TV in the 60's, it was a game show where people competed to see who had the most tragic life, and the winner got a bunch of prizes). I am tempted to say how disturbing I find the idea of a game show like that, but then I remember that I watch The Bachelor, which is infinitely more disturbing.

The title of Chapter Two is: That New-House smell - which warms my sappy heart because it reminds me so much of my childhood. My Dad likes building new houses . . . my Mom loves it. One might say she's obsessed with it (although she would like it noted on the record that she has lived in her current house for 15 years). During my childhood she would get the shakes every time the new house smell would wear off - and to tell you the truth, so would I. The smell of a new house is the smell of home to me - it's the smell of comfort and safety and happiness (a psychologist would probably have a field day with that one - but hey, at least I don't drink). My brother, sister and I all talk about how we wish there was potpourri or candle or air freshener that smelled like new wood and paint - we would buy it by the case if there was. I got a new ceiling fan last year and every time I would turn it on the smell of new wood would waft through the air (I don't think the word waft is used nearly often enough, I'm going to start inserting it into conversations more) and I would be instantly transported back to childhood. The smell of new wood, lemon Pledge, chocolate cake, and fresh produce - and the sound of profanity - those are the things that bring my childhood back most vividly.

Later in the book the author mentions TV shows about homes, such as House Hunters. I really enjoy that show - and on a side note, it was the show that I used to talk my parents into joining this century and getting a DVR. My mother is obsessed with that show, but she could never remember what time it was on (or what channel) and so she always missed it. So for Christmas one year I decided to make home-made gifts (in addition to real gifts, because we're not in an episode of Little House on the Prairie after all), and I made her a several DVD's filled with episode of House Hunters that I had recorded (clearly the term home-made is being applied in the loosest possible sense here), and I told her, "This is what it would be like all the time if you had a DVR, you just show up at the TV and the DVR has taken care of everything, like a friend but better because you can order your DVR around and it never gets mad at you." So, to make a long story short (oops, well it might actually be too late for that), they got a DVR shortly afterward and they've never looked back (they've also never looked away from the TV screen, but that's a story for another day). The author relays a story about a couple - Annabelle and Jeff - who are watching an episode of House Hunters: "In this episode, a young San Francisco couple hopes to trade up from their cramped 700-square-foot house into something roomier. Annabelle and Jeff cringe as the camera pans the couple's current living room, which is awash in clutter. "What you need is to not have two giant dogs in your 700-square-foot house," Annabelle says to the screen." (For the record dear readers, I'm aware of the fact that I was supposed to use ' instead of " for the last quote, but I didn't like the way it looked, and well, it's my blog. It's my blog and I'll use " if I want to, " if I want to, "if I want to. You could use incorrect punctuation if it happened to you.) - I'm sorry about that last sentence, I've had a lot of sugar today and sugar affects me the way alcohol affects normal people. - That excerpt from the book made me laugh so much because it reminds me of my Mother. She practically goes into cardiac arrest when she sees the clutter in the houses on that show. For those of you who don't know her a quick back story: My Mother has the items in her pantry and cabinets in Tupperware containers with labels on them: Flour, Rice, Brown Sugar (On a side note: I'm fascinated to find out that Tupperware is actually a word that spellcheck recognizes. I didn't see that one coming). And thank goodness for that, otherwise I might reach for the brown sugar and accidentally grab the oatmeal and never realize my mistake. But, the label saves me - I look down and see the "Oatmeal" label and think to myself, "I was wondering why the brown sugar suddenly looked cream colored and lumpy." (Sorry for mocking you Mom, I promise that will be the last time . . . for at least the next 3 days). I am not nearly as horrified by the clutter - probably because I'm a recovering clutter-aholic myself - but I am constantly amazed by the people on that show that say, "We need a new house because our current house is only 2,800 square feet, and we'd like to start a family, and we just don't have room for a third person," and then I end up yelling at the screen, "What is wrong with you that you can't fit 3 people in a 2,800 square foot house, you spoiled yuppie. Maybe if you got rid of that ugly plaid couch and your antique lunchbox collection you'd have room for a baby."

So, just to bottom line it for you (sorry Alissa, I know you hate it when I say that): I really enjoyed today's book and could have written a much longer blog entry about it, but I didn't want to test the patience of all you dear readers, assuming I didn't already test your patience with the excessive amount of rambling I did throughout today's entry. I would definitely recommend this book (especially if you're the kind of person who yells at the TV while watching House Hunters).