Monday, March 7, 2011

Let's talk about the cat pee

Everyone knows the house we bought as the one formerly with all the cats. Each time we've been in there, the air gets clearer and clearer. BUT there is a distinct cat pee odor. We assume that sanding the floors will take care of it -- and painting AND a good scrubbing -- but worry that every now and then we might still catch a whiff. Which will seriously gross me out. Anyone know if there's anything we should do NOW, before they begin sanding etc.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Where we stand...

Considering we just closed on Thursday, we've made great progress. On Friday we had contractors in and out (along with the junk-hauling guys) to give us estimates. Our priorities before move-in are paint, floors, replacement of a lead water main and demolition of a wall in the kitchen. And cleaning!

Because we had to source so many ideas from other sites, here's a breakdown to hopefully make someone's renovation in Queens a little easier. One of my biggest pet peeves of all those sites is that they tell you XYZ is good or great but they never tell you how much they spent. I know houses, sizes and scope of work vary greatly but it's the thing I still want to know most.

Water main
-- The inspector found lead content of 15 parts per million - just on the cusp of acceptable. Well, it wasn't acceptable to us so we are replacing the water main. Two companies in NYC that came highly recommended were Harris Plumbing and Balkan. We're going with Balkan for $2,600.

Painting -- We got three estimates ranging from $3,000 to $5,000 to sand the walls, paint them and do all the trims. We're going with a guy named John from Forest Hills who is exclusively a painting contractor and seems to know what he's doing. He started this morning!

Floors -- This is a case where we are not going with the cheapest but the guy in the middle. Estimates to sand and rip up carpets from the floors of a 1900-square foot home ranged from $2,200 to $5,000. We went with Jan Zejia, who did our floors in the coop we just sold. He's charging $2,500.

Demo - Haven't found anyone yet. Here's hoping. Stay tuned. And am still obsessed with finding a matching wooden cabinet for the metal Lyons (thanks, Pam, for identifying)...

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Metal vintage kitchen cabinets

We had planned on a gut renovation but a walk-through with our architect and Nitin's good eye made us look at these orange metal cabinets from the 1950s with fresh perspective. We're now trying to figure out whether we can integrate the metal with our very old antique Indian furniture and perhaps some newer cabinetry/countertop to bridge these two worlds. If anyone has ideas, holler. I've been looking through the web site that seems the Bible on this stuff -- run by Pam Kueber -- but am not seeing a blend of the metal "mod" look with the heavy wooden antique style that Indian furniture almost forces.

A new set of insecurities

In keeping with this blog's original and not-yet-ready-to die theme, we're back in our quest to create a home. This time, we're getting a bit more specific: a 1920s Tudor-style rowhouse in Jackson Heights historic landmark district. We are only the third owners of the house, and the seller lived there for 52 years so we have our work cut out for us.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


Mommy: Do you know what a journalist does? Naya: Ummm... they work really hard.

And then...
Naya: You don't know how to dance. See, I am Hindi. WE know how to dance.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Naya on sleep and politics

Mommy: Children need to sleep earlier. I am not a child.
Naya: You are a child. Your mom's child.

Mommy: I don't know which job I should take. Brand X or Brand Y.
Naya: You should just work for John McCain.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Patriotic Naya-ism

Naya: I want to be Assamese president of New York. No, wait, the Hindi one of Orissa.

And then today, a heartbreaking Naya-ism

Naya: Mommy, I want to travel again.
Mommy: Where do you want to go?
Naya: To Kashmir.
Mommy: There's a lot of fighting there now.
Naya: Then let's go when it's over.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Swimming lesson/School issues again

Naya has been taking swimming lessons at the Niti Bag country club. But the other day, she said this:

Are we going to the Lychee Bug Club?

As an aside, I meant to tell you about trying to get our driver's daughters into a government school. If we thought our nursery saga was nightmarish, we got our eyes opened by seeing how much harder it is for lower classes. First he asked me to get a letter from the ministry of human resource development for his daughter. I said that would be a conflict of interest given what I do but that I was happy to go with him to the school and see if I could help in some way. So on a Monday morning, we set out and put ourselves in a live of people at the principal's office. The reality is that the school actually looked clean and impressive (it is a central government school known as a Navodaya, instead of the Municipal Corp of Delhi school his daughter attends now) and the people in line looked well dressed and working class. I could see how this would be a school he and his family aspired to.

When the principal saw me and I said I was there to get the little girl beside me into school, she said: "This must be your maid's daughter."
"Driver's," I responded with a fake smile.
"Does he live in Pushp Vihar," she asked referring to the colony.
He lied and said he did. (Actually it's his uncle.)
She asked why he didn't send his daughter for the admission test held the week previous.
"I didn't know about it," he said.
After about 15 more minutes and my begging, she said there was nothing to do but said the child could appear for another test in a week's time.
Back in the car, I let the driver have it for a bunch of reasons: not taking her for the test, waiting until class 3 to get her schooling together, not considering private school even as his kids qualified to attend for free. "But ma'am, if she does well by class 8, they will give her a scholarship of Rs5,000."
"If she attends private school and does well and then goes to college, she can make that every day," I responded.
Next we drove to the offices of the Delhi BJP rep for that area. Another line and everyone seemed to be there to get a letter for school admissions.
A week later, Shruti appeared for the test.
She failed.
And her father is still being boneheaded and won't even let me pay for private school. If I can get her in on a scholarship somewhere, I think he'd agree... So that's my next course of action. Even though I think there is something to the saying that you value something if you are forced to pay for it...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Two Nayaisms

Naya: H is for horse.
Mommy: So what sound does H make?
Naya: Neigh.


Naya: Barack Obama is better than John McCain.
Mommy: How do you know?
Naya: Bhupen Hazarika's friends told me so.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

NRI Sojourn

I am back. One day soon, I will post a recap of the day-by-day, play-by play of my time in Guwahati. Until then, just take my word that it was one of the most powerful experiences of my life--between witnessing someone die and being with all of my family under one roof (which finally happened to be OUR roof). Unlike when I went to the village in my childhood, this time I appreciated the rarity of the togetherness and tried to revel in it (in between enlarging photos, hunting for the right brand of mustard oil for use in puja, sitting on the river bank at 6 a.m. for yet another offering to the gods and grandmothers, publishing memorial books, buying more and more disposable cups and plates for all the visitors--all on a diet of boiled rice and potato once a day, the food mandated by someone long ago for the bereaved.)

Because my father couldn't come for his mother's shradh on the 13th day, nor could my mother come for her brother's, I flew to them and we made up our own US version. Shockingly, it was the first formal prayer I could remember my parents having in our house, Naya's annaprasanna not counting. The picture above is courtesy of dear Stony, a friend of my grandmother too, whom he lovingly called Jumbo Jet. Ironically, the gangly white guy at the ceremony of 70 people was the one, who besides we seven Kalitas or Mukuls, had spent the most time with her.

Anyway, once I hit my 20s, I stopped crying uncontrollably when I left India/Assam because the frequency of visits made that seem silly. When I left Assam last week, I felt like I was 12 years old again only I didn't have that angry question I always posed to my parents on the LOOOONG plane ride (usually the awful Romanian Airlines, remember) back: Why did you leave? I don't understand. Why wouldn't we want to live with our grandparents?

Nope, last week, as my uncles (and I) cried more over my departure than when Aita died, I knew the answer, thanks to living here for the last 20 months in an India better off than the one my parents left. As an aside but totally related, the number of people who want me to find government jobs for them in Assam is up to four... My maternal uncle's wife's brother ... does anyone know anyone in public works and engineering in Assam?

The US was more of a blur, although I am glad I went and felt my place for the shradh was more with my nuclear family than the extended. Nitin's show sold out, my brothers took a day off and we went to the beach to relax, etc etc.

On the flight home, a packed Continental nonstop worthy of a ballad, the plane was defined by NRI kids and their weary mothers, all going back for the summer. The one seated in my row was miserable, her mother told me: She has her friends now and doesn't want to spend six weeks in Lucknow. The two boys before me in the customs line were practically bouncing off the walls, they were so excited to see their cousins. And the kids behind me, upon hearing I moved to India, promptly asked their mom: "Why don't we live in India?"

I miss that innocence, miss having a grandmother to go to, even miss fighting with my brothers on the flight.

Naya-isms to round out your life:

(She remains in the US with Nitin, his parents and mine, busy with museum visits, swimming lessons, story hour at library, dance camp and her new best friend Antonio down the street, whose mother MY mother has been having coffee and play dates with. Like I said to my parents, if you had done all this for me, I would have been the most well-adjusted, all-American gal there ever was... No wonder she doesn't want to come back.)

She knows my brothers will let her dress any way she wants so as she wore a yellow-and-blue Fab India kurta with a pink and purple skirt, she did a curtsy before me and said, "In these clothes, I look like a stepmother!"

"Ata (grandpa) eats with his hands so he belongs in India, but I eat with a fork so I will stay in America."

Her pronunciation of binoculars is the definitive Indian accent - BINO-coolers...

And she also has taken to imitating my parents now on the phone. The other day, she sat behind the couch on her play cell phone and said, in Assamese: "Yes we are all fine. Only my mother died."

On that note, I am outta here...