The Week That Was: December 12, 2014

It’s been a while. I’ve been a tad busy. Before the flurry of Thanksgiving and house guests, we found out that we’re moving to Austin, Texas in January. The move is something that KP and I pursued, so of course we’re excited, but that gives us a lot to do in a little time. Like sell our house. And keep our house in tip-top shape so that whenever someone decides they want to see it, it’s looking its best. Not at all a challenge with an almost 19-month old running around…

Point being, the blog has once again taken a backseat. But since the stress of moving, Christmas and other random things (potty training) has me wide awake at 4:30 a.m. these days, I’m finding some time to write. So enjoy these goodies from around the web for this week.

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In defense of the Brits, I’m not sure how well I’d do at labeling a map of the United Kingdom. And I look forward to driving through “Texas Hat” on our move to Texas.

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What a positive outlook on flying coach.

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We hosted our annual Christmas party last weekend and KP whipped up this most delicious tomato bacon jam. Everyone was asking for the recipe, so here you go.

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Looking for Christmas card photo inspiration?

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I’m looking for some wintry drinks for our Thursday cocktail nights. Thinking of trying one of these hot chocolate concoctions. (PS: the sparkling champagne cider I tried last time was quite tasty.)

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The newness of January always makes me want to change up things in our house. Luckily, we’ll be in a new home — well, a temporary one — this coming January, but there are some quick, easy ways to mix up home decor.

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A lot of the items I see on “top travel gifts” lists are kind of hokey, but books are always good.

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Have a nice weekend.

Home Sweet Home… for Baby

The folks at Urban Compass asked me to participate in their Starter Stories series, which is all about people’s first homes or the roof over their head that gave them a fresh start. My story below is about the first home KP and I found and made our own for the beginning of our family.

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My husband and I are kind of like nomads. We’ve both lived in a handful of different cities and just six months into dating, we moved together from Boston to Chicago. As such, we’ve both lived in our fair share of places from Washington D.C., to Houston, to London and many places in between. All of these places have stories of their own, like his place in Allston, Massachusetts that had the flimsiest floor that you could see into the basement from his bedroom. Or my first apartment in Hoboken, New Jersey that had a door that seemed to be made out of particle board with the equivalent of a paper clip lock. No wonder my dad thought that place was so “sketchy” (his word).

When we moved to Chicago over five years ago, we rented a modern, cookie-cutter condo in the South Loop. After a few years, marriage and a dog, we moved to Lincoln Park and rented a townhouse. And then we got pregnant and knew we didn’t want to be renters anymore. We wanted to own our own home that we could do whatever we wanted to. We wanted to make someplace truly our own for our budding family. And so the search for a house started.

At first, we focused on the Chicago suburbs. We looked at homes in Evanston, Wilmette and Oak Park. Deep down, we both knew we weren’t ready for suburban life, but we also knew we couldn’t afford a single family home in any of the Chicago neighborhoods that we liked. When our realtor took us to this townhouse just around the corner from the place we had been renting, we knew we had found our new home.

Townhouses in Chicago's Lincoln Park
Townhouses in Chicago’s Lincoln Park

There was plenty to like about this townhouse, like the amazing light that shines in through the skylight in the staircase, to the patio with space for a barbecue grill and a table and chairs (hot commodity!). Best of all, moving into this house would limit the amount of change for us. We were already anxious about the addition to our family, so being able to remain in our same neighborhood and limit the newness was a relief. The Lincoln Park neighborhood has so much to offer, and this location was especially perfect for us with the park at the end of the block. Bonus: we quickly discovered yet another perk to the location — our soon-to-become new favorite neighborhood restaurant, Monkey’s Paw.

Neither my husband nor I are DIYers, unless changing a lightbulb qualifies as a DIY project. So we were lucky that our new home was already updated for the most part. Still, we wanted to put our stamp on it with new paint colors, and the master bedroom was begging for a makeover. It has a bonus loft space that I couldn’t possibly imagine utilizing as it was; we had to walk up a rickety bunk bed-style ladder to get into the loft area which was less than ideal for me at the time, being quite pregnant. Oh, and there was also navy shag carpet…

Master bedroom bla
Master bedroom bla

We moved in in February and our daughter was due May 21, so we had to prioritize which projects we were going to tackle first. And by that, I mean we had to prioritize which projects we would find contractors to tackle first. Our “must do before baby” list included painting the entire main floor, the powder room, the master bedroom and the nursery; re-staining the hardwood floors on the main floor; ripping out the shag carpet in the master bedroom and loft and laying hardwood floors in its place; getting a new ceiling fan in the master bedroom; ditching the ladder to the loft in the master bedroom and adding a staircase with storage; and installing crown moulding throughout the main floor and in the nursery. Babies like crown moulding, right?

My brother-in-law graciously agreed to come help my husband paint a few of the rooms to help save us a little money. He could probably moonlight as a painter given how much painting he’s done over the years (he and my sister are equally nomadic). They tackled the master bedroom (a feat in itself with its cathedral ceilings), powder room and the nursery; to me, there was something sweet about our daughter’s dad and uncle painting her first bedroom.

Painting crew at work in the nursery
Painting crew at work in the nursery

We enlisted the big dogs (a.k.a., professionals) for the bigger projects like the staircase and floors in the master bedroom and the crown moulding. Ditching the navy carpet and replacing it with dark-stained wood to match those on the main floor made such a difference.

Good-bye, shag carpet!
Good-bye, shag carpet!

I didn’t just want to replace the ladder to the loft area with another ladder; I wanted an actual staircase. But the challenge was figuring out how to build a staircase without encroaching on the room itself. It needed to be as streamlined as possible. After poking around online a bit, I found what I wanted — a staircase flesh with the wall with storage underneath (thank you, Pinterest). The loft was so much more accessible with the staircase, and we netted two shelves and four more drawers to boot.

Updated master bedroom
Updated master bedroom

Being preggers, I did my best to be a good supervisor, but luckily I had a very loyal assistant to keep everyone in line.

Trusty foreman
Trusty foreman

We didn’t make a lot of changes to our new home, but we did enough to make it feel like ours. Walls were painted and floors were laid and we were ready to welcome our daughter into her first home.

Ready for baby
Ready for baby

While we made some cosmetic changes to this house to make it our home, it really wasn’t any of these things that made it our home — it was us, the people who live inside it, and all of the sweet — and even the not-so-sweet — sounds that come from our daughter’s bedroom (at all hours of the day and night).

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Urban Compass is an apartment search portal for sales and rentals in New York City, complete with Neighborhood Guides.