Living in Construction

Back when V and I first embarked on our house hunt, we talked about the idea of buying a true fixer-upper. As is the case with most couples, we were watching a lot of HGTV and our heads were filled with images of farmhouse-chic mudrooms, exposed beams, and on-suites. During our nightly (and daily) joint searches of the new listings in our area we would rationalize all sorts of pitfalls in listings and grossly over exaggerate how far the money we saved would take us. I remember V saying to me, “you have to be okay with living in construction” and I confidently assured him that I would be.

The very first house we put in an offer on needed a tremendous amount of work; it was a small, traditional cape and the previous owner had been using the main floor as a yoga studio and the upstairs as her apartment. The kitchen needed to be relocated to the main floor – and that was just the tip of the iceberg – but it was reasonably priced and located in a very desirable neighborhood walking distance from the train, so we were sold.

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Tiny Cape, big problems

My parents came over to see the house and after a quick (and mostly silent) walk-through my Dad famously told V, ‘this house is a tear-down. You need to start at the street and work your way back. You two don’t have time to blow your nose and wipe it – when are you going to do all of these renovations?’

He was right, between work, family, and friends, we just didn’t have the time to dedicate to a complete gut renovation.

Those blunt words from one of our biggest supporters helped to keep us grounded (and make us laugh, sorry, Dad) throughout our search, which went on for over a year. We saw everything from total gut-jobs and tear-downs to newly flipped remodels and we slowly realized that we wanted something in between, which is exactly what we wound up with.

That being said, we have been living in construction now for over a month and, true to my word, I am indeed fine with it. In fact, I’m more than fine with it because this is our house! I’m learning so much. Between painting and refinishing the floors I’ve kept myself quite busy. So far I’ve left the power tools to V and my father-in-law, but I’m confident that a tool belt is in my future.

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Our bed, temporarily housed in our living room, while we refinished the wood floors in all three bedrooms

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Down to the studs

Also, decorating is hard, you guys. It all seems like fun and games until you have to make a financial commitment to a light fixture you’ve never event met. So, clearly there is lots more to come on this front and I can’t wait to share it with you. Remember, sharing goes both ways, so feel free to leave tips and tales of your own house hunt and renovation struggles (or triumphs, hooray for triumphs!) in the comments.

It’s a beautiful life, let’s make it well-lived.

Forever Home, Found

Right now I am sitting in our new kitchen. The kitchen we dreamt about while falling all over each other in the miserable (and, regardless of how frequently or thoroughly I cleaned it, icky) kitchen of our little one bedroom apartment, the kitchen in the forever home we thought we would never find.

Everything in this kitchen makes me happy. Right now it’s raining and the sound of the rain on the skylights is seriously soothing (the glass of Sauvignon Blanc I’m enjoying doesn’t hurt either). When I wake up in the morning and have my orange juice in here, it is the perfect start to my day. And each night when V and I have dinner at our oversized island, that is the perfect end to it.

Full disclosure, the other reason I love the kitchen is because we are currently living in construction and this is one of the only rooms we haven’t had to touch. We started off saying, “we’re not going to do much,” but – as all of our homeowner friends have told us – everyone starts off saying that. So here we are with our bed in the living room and the polyurethane curing on the floors in the bedrooms and about 1/4 of our belongings moved in, but, even still, I am loving it. Do I get frustrated? Sure. But the bottom line is, we have a house, and every time I come through our door or walk into a room I feel from the bottom of my soul that it is the exact house we were supposed to find.

Tonight at dinner I asked V if he would be alright with me sharing our journey as new homeowners here on the blog and, of course, he said yes. So, dear readers, it looks like we are about to embark upon a new adventure together. I hope you enjoy home renovation and interior design as much as you enjoy personal style, heaven knows I do.  And, since I have been given the green light, here is your first peek at our new forever home.

Made with the Prisma app using the realtor’s photo… I don’t want to give too much away up front!

 

The House Hunting Chronicles: New Year, New Listings

House hunting is hard, so let’s pretend we live here, yeah?

The start of 2017 marks 6 months that V and I have been searching for our forever home. The first week of the new year brought a promising number of new listings – we saw eight houses the first weekend of the new year – but that quickly died down. This weekend it was back to a trickle and the one house we did see, while charming, wasn’t a real contender. 


And so we wait… and while we do I look at old images of dreamy showrooms (like the image of the Ochre showroom at the start of this post), I pin paint colors and decorating ideas, and I think about a time a few weeks from now when history tells us the listings will pick up again. 

The House Hunting Chronicles: Retro Wallpaper

As I have mentioned, V and I are on the house hunt. Listings have really picked up in the new year and this weekend we saw eight houses. That might not seem like a lot, but – since we started our search when the market was cooling down for the year – it’s actually more than we have ever seen in a week, let alone a weekend.

V and I love a house with character and one of the things that I have noticed is that people who are bold in their interior decorating choices often go with wallpaper. Being in the industry, I completely understand the appeal (this is what I do all week!) and I couldn’t help but snap some pics along the way. Below you’ll find everything from faux brick to foil flowers. I think my favorite is the blue velvet damask (it’s hard to read the texture from the photo, but it was so fab in person – just try to ignore the mismatched seams). Which wallcovering could you see making a comeback?


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Stilettos and Sweatpants

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V has the best taste, don’t you think?

I’ve been trying something new around the apartment. It started on Christmas morning when V gave me the most beautiful shoes – a pair of Valentino Garavani Rockstud Noir pumps, that I had never seen before, to be exact. While I used to spend all of my time pinning pairs of sexy shoes and studded attire, the majority of my boards these days are focused on interior decorating, career tips, and – when it comes to attire – work clothes and relaxed weekend wear. Leave it to V to discover them and deliver them under our Christmas tree when I least expect it.

The minute I opened the box I put them on. Since we had just woken up, I was relaxing in sweatpants. I wanted to share the shoes with my friend Steph, who I knew would appreciate my new footwear finery, and V helped me set the stage complete with “Naughty” box. I wore them around the apartment until it was time to leave for V’s parents’ house.

A few days later – after a week off from work spent mostly in sweats, jeans, and slouchy sweaters and tees – I was going through my clothes for my seasonal trip to the consignment shop when I came across the box for my Alexander McQueen booties. I slipped off my slipper socks and slipped on my stilettos and proceeded to wear them around the apartment for the rest of the morning – and it felt good. I stood straighter and there was a pep in my step (much to the chagrin of our downstairs neighbor, I’m sure). I walked out of the bedroom and V smiled and said, “so this is your new thing, stilettos and sweatpants?” And so I decided, yes, this will be my new thing.

Because getting dressed doesn’t have to about who is going to see you, it’s an outward reflection of how you want to feel. And I’ve got a closet full of shoes that are begging to make me feel fabulous. Cue the Kinky Boots soundtrack…

#stilettosandsweatpants

 

The Kindness of Crossing Guards

So this morning a crossing guard said to me, “well don’t you look fancy?” and I was just so appreciative that I had to blog about it. Allow me to explain…

I live in a very quaint town in Nassau County on the South Shore of Long Island. There’s a nice little downtown area with shops and restaurants and the church even has carollers waiting to greet you at the train station at Christmas. The houses are expensive and the taxes are high, but it’s basically like living in a Thomas Kincaid painting or one of those villages your mom puts out at Christmas. 

In addition to the aforementioned charming characteristics, we also have really lovely crossing guards. Each day on my way to the train I see three of them and, for the most part (we all have our days), they greet you with a smile and help you on your way. 

A couple of weeks ago I was feeling burnt out. I was physically rundown and just kind of drained from a job that I love, but is also exhausting. As I ran towards the train station – because I’m always running late – the walk sign was counting down the seconds until it was no longer safe to pass when I heard one of my patron saint crossing guards say, “you got this.”
Now, I realize that she meant that I would be able to cross the street before the light changed, but – in all honesty – I carried her message with me throughout the entire day: you got this. 

So I just wanted to give a shoutout to the lovely ladies who make a small, sweet difference in my day. You probably have no idea how much your presence is appreciated. 

House Hunting

The current housing market on Long Island is brutal. Imagine the opening of the Hunger Games when they all have to run to the cornucopia and grab whatever supplies they can to survive day one, only instead of an assortment of supplies and weapons, it’s a bunch of Cape Cod style homes, splits, and the rare ranch here and there.

Allow me to provide some background… After living in a garden apartment in Rockville Centre for the past few years, V and I began the house hunt. In June we celebrated our one year anniversary. We were done with casually stopping by open houses on Saturdays and decided it was time to work with an agent. Enter Jeff. Jeff and I went to the same high school and he and I have know each other for years. He has helped numerous friends and acquaintances find their homes and has a stellar reputation.

At first the house hunt was fun; our options were open so we had the luxury of thinking we could be picky (okay, maybe that was more me than V). I made my wishlist: I wanted to be walking distance to the train, I wanted a garage and a beautiful kitchen for V and a dressing room for me, I wanted central air and a finished basement, and builtins made of real wood that added tons of character. V was even calling me Goldilocks because this one was too big and that one was too small – you get the gist.

Now we’re both sick to our stomachs because we’ve found three houses in the past six weeks that were juuuuuust (about) right and it’s been one bidding war after the next. The last two houses we have put in offers on have had multiple offers, so each time we’ve heard those dreaded words that no buyer wants to hear, “highest and best.” Welcome to Nassau County, we’ll take your paycheck and your kidney, please. Promise of a 1st born and a letter to the homeowner might help too, but we can’t make any guarantees.

You think, oh, it only has one bathroom (without a tub) and three small bedrooms, that will be a deterrent. Nope!

Or you think, well, the foundation for the garage is cracked and there are aging trees all over the property that need to be taken down, surely people will be freaked out by that. Nope! Lost that one too.

Most recently we found a craftsman style ranch. We should have known that the curb appeal alone would set our fellow hunters drooling, but we allowed the fact that it was a two bedroom house with only one bath on the main floor lull us into a false sense of security. And then, bam! Gone.

To say that it’s a sellers market seems like a gross understatement.

So let’s say that – due to the fact that our search is restricted by certain things we are unwilling to waver on (certain school districts, being in a flood zone, commuting more than an hour each way for work) – we get to the point where we are willing to pay way over asking for a house, now there’s the issue of the appraisal. If the bank does not think that the house is worth what the buyer is willing to pay, that apparently brings up a whole new set of issues related to equity which effects your down payment. I quite honestly still do not understand it no matter how many times our agent and V explain it to me.

So that’s where we’re at; we’re putting in offers that are more than fair with solid down payments and time after time we’re being outbid. It’s fucking brutal. We are so tired. Like a dog up for adoption, we just want to find our “forever home.” A concept which is lovely in theory, but far more difficult in the reality in which we are living. We do find some solace in the idea that, if we wait for the one, that at least we wont have to put ourselves through this again in another couple of years, but some days even that’s not enough. Where it used to feel like we had options, now it feels like we may never find anything.

Parker Sample Sale

Getting the skinny on New York City sample sales is not nearly as difficult as it used to be, which can pose a problem for someone who loves a deal as much as I do. This past week Parker, Reiss, Zadig & Voltaire, and many more brands worth blowing your budget for were having sales, but a girl has got to be selective. I decided to just hit Parker, a brand that is “for the city girl in all of us.” They have long been a favorite of mine for their flirty dresses and date-night tops (which, in my day were referred to as “going out tops” and were purchased on a weekly basis at F21 so you could toss them without guilt if someone puked on you at The Green Turtle – where are my Maryland people at?) and they added “Parker Black,” an evening line label, back in 2014. With two weddings (one of which is in three weeks!) and a cruise with my in-laws coming up, this was my sale.

The selection was huge – tops, rompers, shorts, skirts, dress – each category offering items with various amounts of beading, from none at all to Vanna White. My inner magpie was in her glory, it was really hard to remind myself that I’ve been trying to pare down my wardrobe lately (dammit, KonMari!). Halfway through the sale I assured myself that I had found exactly what I needed and went into the “dressing room.” If your idea of sharing a dressing room means telling your bestie that she can come in with you, then a sale like this may very well traumatize you. Dressing rooms tend to be fences of rolling racks draped with fabric; inside women have varying comfort levels when it comes to getting changed, so be prepared to see a lot of brightly colored pairs of Hanky Pankies (they truly are one-size-fits-most).

Sometimes these dressing room situations can lead to try-on buddies (can you zip this for me? do my arms look good in this? would you wear this to a beach wedding down the Shore?), but that was not the case at this sale and so I only had myself to celebrate with when I tried on the below items:

Oh, Going-Out-Top, how I have missed you. It is so much easier to spend $90 on you when I know that I will most likely be wearing you to dinner instead of a smoky bar (I went to college in Maryland in the early 2000’s when you could still smoke in bars – a dry-clean-only tag was a non-starter). This top can be dressed down with jeans or dressed up with fabulous white pants for summer nights in the Hamptons.

Retail price: $275

I paid: $90

This dress makes me feel like a beautiful figure skater from the 1920s (I’m sure they dressed differently than this, don’t ruin my fantasy). It’s fancy and fun, but also light and comfortable. I cannot wait to wear it.

Retail price: $528

I paid: $100

And now for the pièce de résistance – the ball gown. Next month we have a black tie wedding for a dear friend who has the most discerning taste of anyone I know. Needless to say, finding the right dress has been daunting. I had just decided to borrow a gown from my sister when I found this. It fits like a glove (minus the hem, but at 5’1″, that is to be expected on any full length item) and I feel like a work of art.

When I got home I immediately tried it on for V. Before walking out I said, “I want your genuine honest opinion, but I really love it.” No pressure, right? Thankfully he loves it too.

Retail price: Unknown, but their gowns generally go for upwards of $300

I paid: $150

Now I just need to decide on accessories, hair, and make-up. I would love to hear your suggestions in the comments!

 

Not #girlboss, #justboss Outfit

Sarah Michelle Gellar recently took to Twitter to ask, “Why does it have to be ? Why not Gender is not relevant to work ethic or success.” While I had taken a liking to the whole #girlboss thing, I’ve been an SMG fan since the Swans Crossing days and I decided to take the time to ruminate on it.

All of my life I have looked young for my age. For almost a decade I worked in a male-dominated industry and I was often underestimated because my gender and my general appearance. I have taken great joy in showing the doubters, and the nay-sayers, and the – dare I say it – haters, just who’s boss. In retrospect, the sweetest victories were always the ones where my adversary acknowledged that I was damn good at my job, no qualifiers necessary.

Recently, I’ve experience some real growth at work. I’m feeling truly confident and empowered. After a year and a half, I’m realizing just how strong the bonds I have developed in that short time truly are. To put it succinctly, I’m feeling like a boss. #Justboss

On a lighter, but still related note; I wore this outfit the other day and felt like a total boss. In the wise words of Stacy London, “Seeing, feeling, thinking, believing – these are the stages of how we change our style on the outside and our self-image on the inside.”

 

Side note – You’re seeing the commuter version here (I didn’t rock my black Underarmour trainers all day), but I still feel like it totally works. During the 9-5 I sported these shiny loafers from Zara instead:

 

Eat Here: Ink

Food is an amazing thing. It can bring back powerful memories, it can make friends out of total strangers, it can make you happy (or sad – like when I burn popcorn), and those are just a few of the everyday things that food can do (I’m not going to get into the larger socio-economic implications, this isn’t that kind of blog). The bottom line is that there is really no limit to the power of food.

As a lover of food, an aspiring foodie of sorts, the type of person who will not let herself say that she does not like a food or a flavor or a texture if she has not tried it, I realized that it was completely erroneous that I was not including my dining experiences on the blog. Now, since I can get pretty passionate about these things (I can go on for hours about my love of Trader Joe’s creamy toscano syrah-soaked cheese), I’m going to do my best to just give you the skinny on these places. Since I’m still me, I’m also going to tell you about the dress code. Let me know in the comments if there’s anything you’d like to hear more about or any details you’d like me to add to these posts.

Restaurant: ink

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Chef: Michael Voltaggio (he’s also the owner and the winner of season six of Top Chef)

Cuisine: New American (emphasis on the New, very cool stuff going on here)

What I Wore: Patterned Amanda Uprichard dress, black GAP moto jacket, black tights, black Rosegold booties, See by Chloe cross-body bag, Personalized pendant necklace, Ross Simons open triangle stud earrings.

Was I Dressed Appropriately: Yes. Since ink has a very cool vibe you can definitely go with a more casual look than I did, but you need to put some effort in. Another couple arrived at the same time as us and the woman was wearing light jeans, a white shirt, and a pale pink Louis Vuitton Louise bag. So I’d say the attire can run anywhere from date-night to off-duty model.

What We Ate: V and I agreed that this meal was one of the top three of our all-time favorites. Our waitress recommended ordering anywhere from 5-7 small plates to share and so we went with the following six:

  1. japanese scallop, soy-cured papaya, fermented chili, basil
  2. smoked hamachi, cherry peppers, px vinegar, crispy onions
  3. beef tartare, hearts of palm, sea bean chimichurri, horseradish, rye
  4. egg yolk gnocchi, mushroom brown butter, hen of the woods
  5. pasta paella, truffle coulis
  6. pork shoulder, mustard tofu, beets, toasted garlic

The ‘Oh My Word’ Order: The idea of the ‘Oh My Word’ Order is probably pretty obvious, but in case it’s only clear in my strange mind, I’ll clarify – this is going to be the one item that had my eyes rolling back in my head. Keep in mind that in this instance, every single item we ordered was worthy of that distinction, but I’m going to pick the egg yolk gnocchi. Mushrooms can be a real deterrent for me – if white button or crimini are involved in a dish you can most definitely count me out – but Hen of the Wood is fancy and delicious and I seriously contemplated licking the bowl before they took it away (that’s a compliment in some cultures, right?). The flavors and textures of this dish were just so completely on point that my mouth is literally watering thinking about it. Oh. My. Word.

What We Drank: V had one of the house cocktails with gin falernum, thyme, honey, lemon. I went with a new standard of mine, an Aviation, which was delicious.

Check, please: So the final verdict, as I mentioned earlier, was that this was one of the best meals of our lives. Not only was it delicious, but every single member of the staff was awesome, the plates were perfectly timed, the dishes perfectly seasoned, the space was cool and energetic, but still dimly lit enough for it to feel intimate and romantic. If you live in the LA area or plan to travel there any time soon, I would 100% recommend this place.

*Going forward I will do my best to take pictures, but V and I were so busy enjoying this meal that neither of us took any. That alone should speak volumes.