Tag: home

The House Hunting Chronicles

Guys, this month has been tough. Have you noticed I’ve been pretty silent since I posted that we’re moving? (Side note: I just read through all your amazingly supportive comments on my last post and I want you to know how much they meant to me. I’m so sorry it took me so long to respond but you guys rock!)

Anyway, house hunting in a seller’s market feels like a full time job. Especially when Mike and I both had to travel for work this month. I spent a week in New Orleans for a trade show (being there for work isn’t NEARLY as fun as vacation) and Mike has been to Chicago and other satellite offices numerous times. I promise, this isn’t a “poor me” post. We’re extremely blessed to be in the position where our house sold quickly (again: seller’s market) and we’re able to shop for a home with more space in our ideal location, but this whole house hunting process has been way harder than I ever expected. By the time this is all over I’ll be so ready to kiss 2017 goodbye and look forward to starting the new year getting settled into our new home. I know there are great things to come, but getting there has been a HUGE learning experience.

Let’s get into the nitty gritty, shall we?

I’m the kind of person who stalks real estate listings ALL DAY EVERY DAY. Okay, maybe not ALL DAY. But definitely for a few minutes before bed each night. Mike jokes about how I’ve been looking for our next house since a few days after we moved into this one. I don’t know why, but I love looking at listings and imagining the potential of each place. So when the master bathroom in our townhouse was finished (our last big project) and a gorgeous listing in a great neighborhood hit the market we decided it was time to finally put our house up for sale so we could bid on it.

LESSON 1 // HOUSE 1

We went to see the house. Totally loved it. And like the conservative beginners we were, we asked for a second showing. Ha! You don’t have time to do a second showing in a seller’s market! If the property has been newly listed you better make an offer quickly or else, I’m sorry my friend, but you’re going to lose out. When our realtor asked for a second showing he was told the house that we put our house on the market for was already under contract. Cue the heart break. Cue the second guessing. Cue the panic of WHAT DO WE DO NOW?! But oh, that was just the beginning.

LESSON 2 // HOUSE 2

We had already fallen for the house we lost. We imagined the ways we would fix it up to make it ours and all the fun entertaining we could do there. But it was gone so we had to move on. We got back to scouring listings, scheduled some showings and stumbled upon a gorgeous colonial with an awesome layout and an incredible flow. The part of me that loves the character that older homes instantly fell for the dental crown molding in the foyer, the gorgeous hardwood stairs with a pretty paisley carpet runner and the big family room that opened onto a magical backyard full of flower beds and mature trees. This house wasn’t in our target location (mainly because of the school district) but the town had an exciting up-and-coming vibe with new micro breweries, coffee shops, boutiques and restaurants on the main street less than 5  minutes from the house, so we were hooked. Everyone we talked to instantly said, “Ohh, I love that town!” We felt better about the location with each person we talked to and started falling head over heels for this house. We made an offer, negotiated and came to an agreement. Everything was on track. Contracts were signed. We thought this was it.

Cut to: Mike chatting with a friend who used to live in the same town and had since moved away. Mike asked for his opinion about the town and he said, “Oh, it’s a great little town. They’re really revitalizing it. But there is that landfill that always concerned me.”

WHAT?!

We instantly turned to the internet to find out more and the search results were so, so scary. This house was located less than a third of a mile away from not just a landfill, but a toxic waste dump that was once the EPA’s #1 Superfund Site in the entire country back in the 80s. Apparently the owner of the landfill allowed several companies to dump their chemicals, heavy metals and other contaminants over a period of 20 years from the 1950s through 1972 when it was finally closed. The EPA lead a massive clean up effort through the 1980s and early 90s in the site and surrounding area, but we just couldn’t get over the fact that there could still be heavy metals in the soil and toxic gases in the air. My stepdad happens to work for an environmental remediation company and he warned us of the potential danger. The final nail in this house’s coffin was that even if everything had been remediated and we were never exposed to the pollution the dump was a huge negative factor in resale value. I didn’t want to be stuck with one of the more expensive houses in the neighborhood and have potential buyers scared away by the same research we did.

Even though it broke our hearts and the thought of having to start back at square one was overwhelming, we ultimately made the decision to walk away from the deal. Luckily we were able to get out of the contract without losing our deposit, so it was on to the next. The big lesson we learned was to really do your homework about all aspects of the neighborhood you’re buying in. The EPA’s superfund site list is public information so make sure you check it. If our friend hadn’t mentioned something we may have been stuck in a crappy situation so we’re super thankful to him for his honesty.

LESSON 3 // HOUSE 3

At this point we were feeling demotivated, but we chalked everything up to the fact that the first two houses just weren’t meant to be and kept on looking. Shortly after we walked away from the second house we were leaving for New Orleans so we lost an entire week (which is a lifetime during the house hunting process). We stalked listings and made plans while we were away, and Mike came across a newly listed house in one of our target neighborhoods that looked like it was completely renovated. It was on the smaller side but we decided to take a look at it since we both liked it and we were running out of time. You guys know I love a project so I was kind of bummed at the “move in ready” status of this house. Plus it had been over improved and was a much more traditional style than my taste, so I knew any changes we made would be a waste of money. The owner of this home went above and beyond with upgrades — granite EVERYWHERE, gorgeous hardwood floors that looked brand new, a massive EP Henry paver patio, HUGE fully grown arborvitaes, the works. The house was so nice and I was getting used to the idea of having a place we could move right into, especially since we were supposed to be closing the week before Thanksgiving. I figured I could focus on furnishing and decorating and knew there were some small, inexpensive tweaks I could make to give the house a more modern aesthetic.

The funny thing is I had to go see the house on my own because Mike flew right from New Orleans to Chicago for work, so I scheduled a showing for the night after I got home. He told me if I liked it we’d just make an offer because he knew he’d love it based on the photos and location. Having already lost a newly listed home because we were slow to react we made a strong offer the night of the showing and hoped for the best. We were thrilled when the seller responded right away and we had a contract signed with 24 hours, but our excitement faded when we learned she was still moving forward with an open house that coming Sunday. We signed the contract on a Friday which meant our 3-day attorney review period didn’t start until Monday so she knew if she got a better offer at the open house she’d have a few days to back out of our contract and go with the highest bidder. It’s definitely an unethical thing to do but totally legal. Our hearts were guarded and we were hopeful everything would work out.

We still went to the open house and lingered there for a while to try and figure out if we had any competition, which we totally did. Remember, this is the first time Mike had even seen the property. And our friends Joe and Laura were nice enough to come to the open house with us to give their opinion. As an engineer Joe is well versed in all the inter workings of homes that Mike and I aren’t as familiar with, so we always try to get his feedback. He actually caught a water problem in the basement which was pretty serious and would have to be dealt with, and he told us he thought the house wasn’t graded properly so water would continue pouring into the cinder block walls of the basement and causing mold unless a professional reconfigured the water drainage system. It was good to know but not a reason to walk away, so we waited to see what happened.

The next day our realtor broke the bad news that an all-cash buyer made a full price offer and the seller was cancelling our contract. We lost yet another house. This one was probably the easiest for me to get over since I wasn’t as gaga for it as Mike was, but I felt for him because this was his dream house and he was really crushed. But we quickly rallied and found a few more properties of interest so we had showings scheduled by Monday night. We were getting used to having to trudge on and do the next thing. Lesson learned: don’t count your eggs before they hatch.

HOUSE 4 // LESSON 4

One of the first houses we looked at after the third house fell through was in our absolute dream location and school district. We had driven through the neighborhood a few times during our house hunt and even looked at another house in the same development but it was too small and had way too many major projects. We knew the house was a foreclosure and it had, until then, been slated for auction in November. But all the sudden it was an active listing and IT WAS IN OUR PRICE RANGE! Most of the houses in this neighborhood go for much higher than we were looking to spend. We looked at the house and it was in great shape for a foreclosure. There were some projects to be done but we could move in and live in it comfortably right away.

We were cautiously optimistic that maybe this was finally the one. Maybe this was the reason all the other houses fell through. It probably sounds silly but throughout our house hunt I’ve been looking for the number 7. Mike and I were both born on the 7th and it’s always been our mutual lucky number. He was actually born on the same date as my great grandmother — March 7. Our current town home is on Lot 7 in our development and when a house had a 7 it sort of checked a tiny box I had in my head. Well, this house’s address was just plain old, straight up 7 — and I totally took it as a sign. We made an offer the same day as our showing and waited to hear something back.

…and waited…

…and waited some more. Two days passed and we heard nothing. At this point we’re completely running out of time since we’re closing on our current home on November 29, so the pressure is starting to mount to figure out a solution and get it locked down. Short sales are notorious for being a long, drawn out process but foreclosures are already approved by the bank that owns the property, so everything should be straight forward. Key word: should. We got antsy so we decided to keep looking. I REALLY didn’t want to keep looking, but we couldn’t just leave it up to fate with the chance of ending up homeless, so the search went on.

HOUSE 5 // LESSON 5

Cut to a rare Sunday where we had nothing planned and decided to check out a local open house. The place was a flip so it was completely done and move in ready — but here’s the miraculous twist. It was actually finished to my taste. There was nothing I would change. I loved the tile, paint color, hardwood floor stain, carpet. Everything. The place had two negatives — it was in a good town but it wasn’t necessarily our dream location, and it had a pool. It was also a bit on the small side but big closets and a finished basement and two car garage made it seem like plenty of space for living and storage. It was also one of the lowest priced homes we’ve looked at which was a plus. The open house garnered a ton of attention so we knew we had to move fast to make something happen and we decided to make an offer. Our realtor actually negotiated back and forth with the seller that same night. We made a really strong offer and were hopeful, but knew anything could happen at this point.

The lesson here is to keep thinking with your head, not your heart, at all times. Remember, this is the FIFTH house we’ve bid on at this point. We’re exhausted with looking at listings and getting our hopes up just to be disappointed. Our moving date is looming and this would be a quick and easy sale since the seller is an investor. Key word there is investor. The seller was trying to get every last penny out of his investment and we just weren’t willing to overpay for the house. We actually offered $5,000 over asking right off the bat to try and lock down a deal but he wanted even more and the neighborhood comps just didn’t justify the price, so we had to pass. Yet another house came and went — all within a matter of 12 hours. What a whirlwind.

HOUSE 6 // LESSON 6

We’re still in negotiations on house 4, but the bank isn’t budging much and we’re not convinced they’ll meet us in the middle, so we knew we had to keep looking. On yet another Monday night we went out for more showings in this new town we hadn’t considered before. I would still say it’s our ideal location and in a great school district. It’s closer to our best friends and to my family (who live across the bridge in PA). And it’s really convenient for us to both get to work, so it checked all the major boxes. At this point we weren’t messing around so we lined up five showings and got to work.

We quickly nixed four of the houses off the list, but one of them stuck out from every other house we’ve looked at so far. Mike and I both equally loved the style and layout. It was another foreclosure so it was similar to house 4 where that made it affordable in a really great neighborhood that we may be priced out of otherwise. The house had all the major features we were looking for — plenty of space to grow, a two car garage and a basement, a fenced in backyard, and open kitchen/family/dining area, and more. We were shocked by the quality of the home since it was a foreclosure. The bank had spent the money to replace all the carpeting and put a fresh coat of neutral gray paint throughout most of the house so it felt like new. And truthfully this was the newest house we had looked at — it was built in 2008.

Here’s the really funny part, guys. We looked at the house at night in the dark. There’s no electricity on the property since the utilities are turned off so we used the flashlight feature on our iPhones as we toured through each room. But we could tell this house was something special so we made an offer for $10,000 less than the asking price and hoped to hear back more quickly than we did with house 4. They countered back the next day at $2,000 above our offer and we accepted. Now we’re waiting on the contracts to come through and trying to get all our ducks in a row to close on both properties by the end of November!

At this point everything could all fall apart with House 6 and we could be back at square one yet again, but we find ourselves being cautiously optimistic that things will work out while still having a plan in place just in case it doesn’t. If you guys could send any prayers or good vibes our way it’d be greatly appreciated. Hopefully we’ll have some good news to share next week, and you better believe I’ll keep you posted.

What have you done to keep the faith through trying times? How have you helped support your spouse or partner while keeping yourself sane? It’s times like this I feel so blessed to have a strong marriage and a partner in life who helps pick me up when the going gets rough. I’m grateful for how this process has brought us even closer together and for all the friends and family who have supported us through these trying times. We are very, very blessed and I know whatever happens is meant to be.

Living Room Refresh

The “house tour” section of my blog is woefully out of date. It’s so funny to scroll through those photos and realize how far my house has come in the last few years. Old photos help me appreciate all the time and energy I’ve spent turning my house into a home since we moved here in March 2013 (shortly after we married). We were lucky enough to score a short sale at a bargain price and scrape enough money together for a very small down payment. And my favorite DIY project to date began as we started transforming the house room by room.

Here’s the living room soon after we moved in.

Not the worst room I’ve ever seen, but looking back at that photo makes me cringe so hard.

Fast forward through four years, three couches, two area rugs and countless gallery wall attempts and the living room reflects my personal style now more than ever. It’s as close to feeling finished as ever. Part bohemian and part elegant with a dash of cozy and a hint of quirky is the best way to describe my style. I’m instantly drawn to anything with a tribal print like kilim or ikat — especially if it features an array of saturated hues. I’m a sucker for color, but a steady foundation of greige (a neutral shade of trendy gray mixed with *gasp* traditional beige) is the common thread keeping it all feel grounded.

Here’s a view from a similar angle of what the room looks like today.

So. Much. Better. Psst… see my little pup hiding behind the coffee table? His fur matches my color palette, but I swear that was a happy accident. 🙂

Here’s a more straight on view. This is what you see at the back of the house when you walk in through the front door, so it’s the first impression visitors get when they walk in.

Loloi’s gorgeous new Javari rug in Berry/Sunrise is the foundation of this room. It was certainly a splurge but I’m at a place where I’m ready to start investing in key pieces and this rug was love at first sight. I’m so happy I pulled the trigger and I’m thrilled with the quality and softness of this rug. Two thumbs WAY up!

The light gray fabric of the Paidge sofa (fabric: performance velvet; color: stone) and rich brown of the Henry power recliner (fabric: top-grain leather; color: tobacco) are similar tones to the rug and I love the way they all came together. Both are from West Elm and, like the rug, were investment pieces — so I went with neutral, durable fabrics that will have longevity. Did I mention this is my third couch in four years? It needs to stick around for a while.

Rounding out the seating area are two modern slipper chairs. The size and scale allow them to float in a high traffic area without making it feel too crowded. These are from Target’s budget-friendly Threshold line and at $129 each they helped balance the cost of the pricier pieces without sacrificing style. The color is called pepper and they throw a navy hue (not black) in person which adds a nice hint of color without competing with the rug.

Three cheers for finally seeing this room come together. It’s such a good feeling! What home-related projects have you tackled lately that make you take a deep, soothing breath when you look at them? What rooms are next on your to do list?

 

Goodbye Office, Hello Craft Room

Mike and I recently decided to move our office downstairs into the living room for two reasons. One, the living room spans the width of our house and at 21×14 the far end felt empty and lost. Two, we rarely set up shop in the office upstairs because neither of us wanted to feel locked away up there by ourselves. I swear a post is in the works detailing the move and unveiling our awesome little corner-turned-office downstairs, but this isn’t that post.

Moving the Mac, extra monitor and scads of technology down onto the main floor left the office ripe for the picking, and boy did I take advantage of the newly-vacant space. I was so excited to get my crafting/DIY/gift wrapping stuff out of the chaos pantry (though it’s newly organized for the second time) and up into its own space.

Craft & Reading Room

This mix-and-match feel of this room is truly the epitome of me. Every. Single. Piece. is collected/thrifted/salvaged from somewhere. I didn’t purchase any of the furniture specifically for this room. It’s a little disjointed, but I love it.

Craft & Sitting Room

Notice the two nearly identical wingback chairs? One is navy, the other is hunter green, and I successfully made them work — staring right into each others’ nailhead trim…

You may recognize the green chair from our living room downstairs. It sat proudly across from our old charcoal grey sofa. A little too proudly, in fact. It was so tall someone sitting at the newly positioned desk couldn’t see the TV, and that just wasn’t going to work. Another fun fact about our pair of wingbacks is each one came from our grandparents. The navy was given to us from Mike’s grandparents, and the green came straight from my grandparents’ office. The style of both chairs is nearly identical which is why they both work here even though they’re different colors. Another neat feature of these chairs is that each relaxes into a comfortable reclining position, so my goal is to use this as a sitting/reading/writing room when I’m looking for some solitude.

Navy Nailhead Wingback Chair

The Sicilia print is an old linen piece from Mike’s grandmother, too. It used to live in the bathroom of our old apartment, and I think it looks great on the wall in the office. That small chest next to the chair was a second-hand find from my grandmother’s neighbor. She was giving it away and I decided to spray paint it black and cart if off to college with me. It’s been tagging along ever since. When I made this room the craft room, I gave it the new job of housing my plethora of gift bags and displaying my Keyboard Cat and Andy Warhol print — both treasured gifts. A noble task, indeed.

Hiding Gift Bags

Moving to the right of the navy chair, I placed my DIY’d crafting table/cabinet/shelf-like thing-a-ma-bob. This is a TOTALLY makeshift piece. The two white cabinets used to house canned goods and glassware in the kitchen of our old apartment. With an entire room devoted to storage in our new townhouse, I decided to repurpose these into storage space for my crafting supplies. The wooden top is made up of two solid-wood Ikea shelves that I screwed together with brackets to make them extra sturdy. It’s floating on top of the white shelves so it’s easy to disassemble and move if need be. I do want to paint the top white to help it blend in, though.

Craft & Sitting Room

Kate Spade & Craft Paper

Tray & Metal Hooks

Crafting Supply Storage

The black shelf next to it is a hold out from the old office. It was laying on its side housing some office supplies, novelties and the printer. It wasn’t very useful in the office, so I decided to sit it right side up and get some extra baskets/containers to house my crafting and party supplies. I tilted it on an angle a bit to break up all the straight lines in the room, and I took a small globe-shaped light out of storage with a teeny tiny bulb that stays on pretty much all the time to act as a night light in the upstairs hallway since we always leave the door to this room open.

Crafty Shelf Styling

See that graphic black and white pillow up there? It kept catching my eye on Pinterest and in several blog posts so I snapped it up. It’s not the most practical pillow in this space since I already have two other throw pillows in here that work well together and the graphic pattern is a little too much next to the curtains, so I plopped it in a basket above the shelf for visual impact and as an option for future floor sitting. Looking at it makes me happy, so it stays. And those curtains? They dressed the window in our bedroom at the old apartment and I was thrilled to be able to reuse them here. They’re a perfect match with the wall color I chose. What a happy accident.

Gift Wrap

Onto one of my most practical sections of the room – my gift wrap storage. I started keeping all those rolls of gift wrap in that gold bin in the pantry when we first moved into the house and I’ve loved it ever since. It’s so easy to grab what I need in a rush to wrap a stylish gift in no time. And that even more stylish gold bin is a hand-me-down from my Mommom. I know, right? Score!

And finally, to keep it real. This is the office-turning-craft-room transition that I started with. Yeah, a lot of work when into getting this room organized. The closet is even spic and span now. What a relief.

Craft Room Before

Second Craft Room Before

And to go back even further, this is the office I started with.

Office

Book Shelf

Do you guys have a dedicated space for crafting or gift wrapping? Even just a dedicated closet, perhaps? I’m pretty lucky to have a third bedroom at my beck-and-call, that’s for sure. And I’m basking in the glow of extra useable space for now.

I’m Thankful for a Warm Home

It’s been very chilly around here this week. And I’m not just talking about the 30 degree temperatures outside. I’m talking about getting home early on Tuesday night (which if you know anything about my daily commute, you know that’s a miracle) and finding out that our gas had been turned off. Night = ruined. No bueno.

Let me back up. As I explained in my post yesterday, Mike and I bought our house as a short sale back in March. Short sales are a great investment, but they’re also a lot of work. After we made an offer we had to RUSH to get our inspections done quickly. But there was one huge hurdle in our way – the utilities were turned off. Yes, we toured the cold, dark house with no electricity or gas.

This was taken during our first walk through. The only light in the room was from my phone's flash.
This was taken during our first walk through. The only light in the room was from my phone’s flash.

In order to protect our investment and ensure we weren’t buying a total money pit the utilities had to be reinstated for a proper inspection. I must be addicted to being crazy busy all the time, because we had a vacation to Florida planned for the exact same week we were doing inspections and finalizing the contract. I totally remember calling the utility companies from the airport making arrangements to get them turned back on. Talk about hectic.

Fast forward to Tuesday night. When I walked up to my door and saw the note from South Jersey Gas stuffed in it, my heart dropped. I immediately knew I had made a huge mistake. In that moment I realized we never received a gas bill – since March. Mike takes care of most of our bills, so I had always assumed he had it on auto pay like all the others. He thought I was taking care of it. Panic ensued, and it was cold in my house. The temperature had already dropped to 60. Crap.

I immediately dialed the number on the letter to right the situation. I figured I could just call, explain the mistake, and they could flip a switch and the gas would be flowing again. Oh, the naiveness of a new homeowner.

The gas company didn’t answer the phone. Yes, you read that right. No answer. Even more panic ensued. How could they not answer? How could their automated customer service line just hang up? I kept calling back and each time a robot woman said, “We apologize but we’re experiencing higher than average call volumes. Press 1 if you’d like us to call you back. Otherwise, try again later. Goodbye.”

I called back, pressed 1, and robot woman said, “To schedule a call back this evening, press 1.”

I pressed 1.

Robot woman said, “A call back this evening isn’t an option. To schedule a call back on Friday, November 15, press 1.”

FRIDAY?! It was Tuesday. “I can’t go without heat or hot water until FRIDAY,” I thought.

I kept calling.

You can image the level of panic in my house at this point. If you know my husband, you know he’s got a flair for the dramatic in a tense situation. The guy who has the air conditioning on when it’s 75 degrees was suddenly shivering in our 60 degree house. I was digging out my Uggs from the back of the closet and furiously robo-dialing the gas company. Chopping onions to make my veggie quiche all the while with my bluetooth in my ear. I wasn’t going to let my dinner get screwed up, too.

I finally got through to a customer service representative who told me it’d be two days until we got our gas back on. I didn’t believe her. The Taurus in me started coming out. I’m usually pretty good with these customer service reps. My PR job helps me be firm yet nice on the road to getting my way. I worked as a telemarketer in college so I always feel bad for people in customer service. It’s not their fault. But after making 10 calls and waiting on hold for more than 20 minutes before getting a live person on the phone, my patience was wearing very thin.

“It looks like someone else’s name is linked to your property’s account and they’ve been getting your bills,” she said. “You need to fax us your settlement sheet and photo ID. Then we can set you up with a new account and you can pay your past due balance in cash. And then we can turn your service back on.”

Fine. I was ready and willing to pay the balance and get this over with. But I knew it’d be a chilly night because it was already 7:30 and their customer service department closed at 8, and I don’t have a fax machine. Double crap.

Wednesday morning I rushed to FedEx Kinkos before work and faxed the proof of residence. The woman assured me if I faxed the documents first thing I’d be able to get my service restored in the same day, I just had to call back and let them know I had sent the fax. Easy as pie.

I knew I shouldn’t have trusted her. 12 calls. I’m not exaggerating here. 12 calls and a 20 minute wait later and I finally had someone live to tell them about my fax. She had this bitchy, “It’s not my fault you’re the idiot that didn’t realize you weren’t getting a gas bill” attitude that made me feel 2 inches tall. I knew it was going to be a shitty day. If only I could just get the gas back on, it’d be worth it. I left the house with the dog wearing his winter coat. It was 58 when I left. Poor Cody.

We went through the usual rigamarole and I held on five more times before she told me I’d have to go to one of their payment centers in person by 2 PM to pay the past due balance in cash for any chance of having my service restored that day. I felt like I was a part of some sort of extortion ring. Thank god Mike’s office is only 10 minutes away from the nearest payment center. We could comply to their crazy demands – 30+ calls later.

So many calls.
So many calls.

The paperwork was faxed. The bill was paid. Heat had to be just around the corner, right? We were thinking of ‘Plan B’ just in case. Mike would shower at the gym and I would go old school and heat up water on the stove to pour in my bath tub to take a bath. Yeah, great ideas. But I was still holding out hope that we’d get the heat back on. Time to make another round of calls to the gas company. I finally got through, and got the news I was hoping not to hear. No one would be coming out to turn on the gas until Thursday. Nooooo…

At this point I was so down trodden that I just accepted it. Plan B it was. “How many pots of hot water would I need to fill the tub,” I thought. I shuddered just thinking about it. But Mike wasn’t taking no for an answer. He took to the company’s Facebook with a lengthy complaint about his shivering pup Cody and his worry that our pipes were going to freeze if we had to go another night without heat (I told you – flair for the dramatic). I was sure a company that couldn’t get their automated answering service right would ignore a complaint on Facebook, but it worked! Within a few minutes Mike got a call saying our house was put on the list to have service restored today. HUZZAH! He did it! I couldn’t believe it. I wouldn’t have to make a pit stop for space heaters on the way home.

9 o’clock rolled around and there was no sign of the gas company worker. We thought we had been punked. That it was all a big joke and the gas company was going to call us and say, “SIKE, SUCKAS! NO HEAT FOR YOU!” I decided to make one last call to the gas company to check in. It was after hours so I assumed no one would answer, but someone did – and he said, “Actually, I think our guy is outside right now.” It couldn’t be! There he was in our driveway. VICTORY! Within a few minutes our gas was back on and the heat was flowing. What a sweet sound – the unusually-loud buzzing from our old heater coming from the utility closet. WE MADE IT THROUGH.

...and that doggy in the window
…and that doggy in the window

Needless to say, we’re having our 20+ year old heater serviced to make sure it will get us through the winter. In the end, I think this was a very important lesson for us both to learn. Both for our marriage and our life in general. We learned how much better life is when we work as a team, and we learned how easy it is to take something as simple as heat for granted. Mike and I live a pretty blessed life, and it’s important for us to remember that always. This year when we’re sitting at the Thanksgiving table I know we’ll both be thanking our lucky stars for this beautiful life we’ve built together. I’m thankful that we have a home to heat, and I’m thankful that I have a husband who cares for our household so well that I assumed he was taking care of the bill without being asked. Sometimes life throws us these curveballs to say, “Hey, WAKE UP and appreciate what you have!” I’m listening, life, and I hear you loud and clear.

House Tour Part One

My husband Mike and I purchased our first home in March 2013, and we’ve been making it our own ever since. The house was a short sale and it definitely needed some TLC. We’ve painted nearly every square inch of wall, ceiling, trim and door in the place in addition to replacing the carpeting upstairs and ripping out dingy carpeting in the downstairs living room in favor of more dog-friendly laminate. We also took down a glitter-tastic popcorn ceiling that spanned the entire downstairs. I’m very proud of the updates we’ve made to our abode and I plan to blog from time to time about home decor (it’s a passion of mine) so I figured I’d give you a lay of the land. The first phase of our virtual home tour covers the downstairs floor of our two-story townhouse. Here we go!

Welcome to Casa Genovese (fondly known by many of our friends as ‘The G-Spot’ thanks to my husband’s wicked sense of humor). Here’s the view as soon as you walk in the front door. The kitchen is at the front of the house (to the left) with a door to a half bath and another to our pantry/garage to the right. You can see straight through to the living room from here.

EntryThis is our kitchen. It’s the most colorful room in the house. I chose to paint it a vibrant red/coral color that plays really well with the cabinets. The bright color works in here because of the floor length windows that bathe the room in sunlight. Eventually we’d like to install a backsplash to kick it up a notch, but this kitchen has come a long way from what it looked like when we bought it. Two words: wallpaper border. Ugh! Thank goodness it’s gone.

Bay Windows

Fridge

Cabinets

SinkA downstairs half bath is one of three bathrooms in our house. I chose to amp up the small space with a fun striped wall. We installed the new vanity a few months ago, and I handled the plumbing!

New Vanity

Hall Bath

Striped Wall

 

Just past the kitchen and bathroom is the dining room. One of our most impactful updates in the dining room was replacing the old ‘boob light’ fixture with this new chandelier. The dining set is very special to us, too. The table was Mike’s grandmom’s that was used for years and years to make big batches of gnocchi for family holidays, and the chairs were handed down to me from my Nana (who has a flair for decorating).

Dining Room

View to Living Room

Our living room is a wide room that spans the entire width of the house. We replaced old carpeting with this new laminate to match the existing hardwood in the dining room and entry. Eventually, we’d like to give the windows a more custom, high-end look by installing built-in bookcases and a window seat. How awesome would that be?!

CouchEntertainment Unit

Finally, our living room opens onto a patio in our back yard. The back yard is one of the reasons we loved this townhouse because it gives our dog Cody a place run free. We haven’t done much out here other than purchasing a grill (which we use ALL the time) and a chimnea to give the patio a little ambience. We’re hoping to purchase some new patio furniture and build out a deck over the old, cracked concrete patio in the spring. The fence will be getting a fresh coat of paint, too!

Patio

 

I can’t wait to show you the second story in a post next week, and I’ll be sure to share any DIY projects as we continue to update our place. Are you working on any renovations right now? What DIY projects got your home looking like new?

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Christmas Stockings

I’m still having trouble grasping that the holiday season is upon us again. Christmas is one of Mike and my favorite holidays – and we’re even more excited to celebrate this year since it will be our first Christmas in the new house. We’ve been searching for, pinning and discussing our holiday decorating strategy for weeks now (I know, we’re nerdy like that) and it has us excited to break out the decorations while the Thanksgiving leftovers are still warm. That is, if we had any holiday decorations…

Christmas Stocking Roundup

When we were in our old apartment we had one bookshelf and a coffee table to decorate. I’m not kidding. That was about all the ‘open space’ we could free up in our little one bedroom place to both decorate and later store holiday decor. We’d get a real tree each year (because we like the fragrance, and also because we could recycle it at the end of the season – no storage required). And yes, we fit a 6′ live tree in Mike’s Scion xD each year. Here’s proof. Needless to say, it’s time to invest in some beautiful, quality, grown-up holiday decorations this year. And I’m excited to shop for them!

One of the things I’m most excited to get this year is a pair of Christmas stockings for us that I’m hoping to hang from our banister (since we don’t have a mantel). I’m totally torn though on what style I like, so I decided to show you guys a round up of the my favorites. Also, it’s a crime that I’ve spent so much time searching for these stockings, so I figured I’d share the love with you in case you’re in the market for some too. As you can probably tell from my top picks, I’m feeling a rustic and vintage vibe with a hint of glam – if that makes any sense at all. We’ll see where I end up when it’s all said and done. Here goes…

Natural Quilted Stocking, Mark & Graham - $34
Natural Quilted Stocking, Mark & Graham – $34

 

Felt Snowflake Stocking, West Elm - $24
Felt Snowflake Stocking, West Elm – $24
Knit Nordic Pom-Pom Stocking (in Cream), Macy's - $20
Knit Nordic Pom-Pom Stocking (in Cream), Macy’s – $20
Purl Soho Felt Stocking, West Elm - $19
Purl Soho Felt Stocking, West Elm – $19

What do you guys think? Let me know your favorite pick in a comment below! What holiday decorations are you most excited about? Do you have an overall holiday decor theme this year?