Kicking Off The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

How it is mid-December already, I will never know. This year, in the new house, Mr. S and I kicked off the holiday season with a rite of passage: hosting Thanksgiving.

Because of our sheer number, hosting a family event is no easy feat and every year there seems to be a hot potato situation of who the major holidays will fall to. (Major holidays include but are not limited to Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and Manny Pacquiao fights.) Before we even moved into our new home, my mother nominated Mr. S and I to host Thanksgiving 2015, and the rest of my aunts and uncles unsurprisingly ran with it.

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Home Renovations: Plumbing Perils

Up until this point, the home renovations I’ve shared on this blog have been overall successes and relatively pain free – leveling the floors, gutting and upgrading the kitchen, painting every vertical surface of our house, etc. Sure there was a lot of time, money, and effort put into those fixes, but they were on our agenda and had been budgeted for accordingly. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t share the trauma of our plumbing catastrophe, lest you think our home renovation process has been all sunshine and rainbows. And to tell that story, we have to go back in time to the couple of months leading up to our official move.

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The Summer So Far – A Blogpost Brain Dump

Every Friday I say to myself, “I’m going to write a blog post tonight,” because what else is there to do on a Friday night when you’ve already exhausted all your Netflix / DVR marathon options?  But I’ve come to learn that with our new home comes a never ending list of shit to do.  Laundry, vacuum, pick up Chunk’s toys, pick up all the other random crap lying around the living room, load/unload the dishwasher, weed the yard, shop for groceries, etc.  You might be saying, “Aside from the yard, didn’t you have to do all those things in NYC anyway, you gross slob??”  Well, yeah sort of, but not really.  We paid per pound to have our laundry done and folded by the laundromat down the street, cleaning up knick-knacks around our 400 square foot studio took all of ten minutes, and we rarely had to do dishes since we were almost always eating out of take-out containers.

I’m not complaining about the chores (OK, maybe I am a little). It’s just taking time to acclimate to our new home and our routine here.  We’d probably have an easier go of it if we did a little bit at a time throughout the week, but housework is about the last thing either one of us want to do after a long day and commute, so we leave everything to the weekend. It’s not that I’m a slave to my house (OK, maybe I am a little).  Life has been full of changes, large and small – I just haven’t had the time or motivation to put some cohesive thoughts together on them.  But a life not worth blogging about is a life not worth living, or something like that right?  (Just kidding, Instagram is what gives life meaning, not the blog, and I blow that ish up on the regular.)

So here we go, a brain dump of what’s been going on in Casa URB so far this summer (in no particular order because that would just be too much thinking right now):

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Vacating Apartment 1B

MIA again.  Dammit.  I was really on a roll there for a while.

There’s been a lot going on in my non-virtual life, the most notable of which is that we have finally, officially, there’s-no-going-back-now, moved to New Jersey.  Months ago we marked the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend as our move date, so we had plenty of time to sketch out our plan of attack.  The big ticket items were easy – we borrowed a friend’s Suburban and slowly but surely used our weekends to ferry our couch, media console, dressers, and other large knick knacks to New Jersey.  With our apartment pretty much empty in the week leading up to our move date (save for the essentials: our bed, folding chairs, folding tables, and TV), I was feeling pretty accomplished.  Just the small stuff remained and how long could it take to pack all that up?  The answer: THREE FRIGGIN’ DAYS.  I’d like to say I handled packing with grace and patience, but that would be a lie.  It got done of course, but not without a fair amount of whining on my part and occasional dramatic displays of throwing of myself onto our bed and yelling “THIS SUUUUUUUCCKS!”

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Three days worth of packing is way more impressive than this photo lets your believe. Also, if you were ever hoping for an apartment tour, this is it. Standing at our entry, the kitchen leads to the living room which leads to the bedroom. Craigslist calls it a “junior 1 bedroom.”

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Home Renovations: The Dining Room

The very first piece of furniture we put into our new house in the suburbs was my parents’ wedding gift to us – a seven piece dining room set.  For most people, a dining table and matching chairs are foregone conclusions, but living in NYC, a dining set is my symbol of adulthood.  Most people I know in the city who have a proper dining table (and I mean one that is out all the time and not folded away when not in use) also have children.  Mr. S and I have spent the last four years eating off of TV trays from our sofa and finally having somewhere to put place settings and serve family style dinners will be a marked change when we move into our new home.  I really hope we make good use of the wedding gift and don’t fall back into our old bad habits of eating in front of the TV.

Unlike the majority of our new house, prior to our renovations, the dining room was perfectly fine as is.  I liked the character of the arched opening to the living room, the room got plenty of light from two windows, it could comfortably accommodate a dining set and china cabinet, and I had no qualms about keeping the brass candelabra chandelier.

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Home Renovations: The Kitchen

By now I’ve told you all about how we leveled the floors, tore down a dividing wall, and painted every square inch of vertical space in our new house.  And while those were all major projects, by far the winner of Most Improved Room (and where we sunk a good chunk of our renovation funds) was the kitchen.  Rightly so, because when we bought the house the kitchen was the worst offender in terms of outdated décor and awkward layout.  Let’s revisit the yellow and orange vinyl, shall we?

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The cabinets wasted quite a bit of storage space by not fully extending to the ceiling and the gigantic refrigerator ate up a large footprint in the middle of the kitchen.  Additionally, the kitchen was completely closed off from the rest of the house, making it feel smaller and darker.

Initially, we toyed with the idea of waiting to renovate the kitchen.  There were so many other projects on our wish list (sunroom repairs, new windows, bathroom tile, etc.) and doing the kitchen meant all the other stuff had to wait.  Perhaps we could live with just re-painting the cabinets and slapping some neutral vinyl tile over the orange and yellow flooring.  But once we tore the wall down, it became obvious that the kitchen is the first thing someone sees when entering through the front door and it would always have been an awkward eyesore without some heavy duty fixes.  Resale value has been at the forefront of our minds throughout this renovation process, so we decided that it would be worth it to invest in the kitchen sooner rather than later, while we weren’t living there and the place was basically a construction zone anyway.  My sunroom art studio will just have to wait.  #wah.

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Home Renovations: A New Floor Plan, Floors, and Color Palette

Our intention for our new house was always to break down the wall dividing the living room, kitchen, and dining room.  Because leveling the floors in our new house caused some cracking in that particular wall, we decided to go ahead and take the entire thing down rather than repair it.  Our contractor also suggested squaring off the walls in the kitchen to make for a better layout (there was previously a curved wall which wasted quite a bit of space).

If you recall, this was the floor plan when we purchased the house (not to scale).

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And this is the new floor plan after removing the wall (also not to scale).  The dotted line is a kitchen island. Now that I’m looking at it, it’s actually more of a peninsula, isn’t it?

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The space instantly felt bigger and brighter and it was amazing that one wall could make such a huge difference.  For a while we thought we might need to add a post for structural support next to the kitchen peninsula, but in the end it was deemed unnecessary.  #yay

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Before…

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After! (Gory details on the kitchen renovation in a future post…)

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Home Renovations: Tile, Toilets, and Sinks – Oh My!

Disclaimer: My intention is not for this blog to be all about home renovations, but that’s where my head has been in the recent months, so that’s what manifests in my posts. Also, the house is the most exciting thing going on in my life right now and if not for all the renovations, I’d probabaly be blogging about my meaningless opinion of The Voice contestants and Chunk’s daily bowel movements. Consider yourselves spared of the gory yet riveting details…for now… 

The bathroom in our New Jersey home was a sight for sore eyes, but we knew that the bulk of our funds would be invested in the kitchen renovation (as it was a sight for sorer eyes), so any major overhaul of the bathroom would have to wait.  And by overhaul, I mean ripping out all that orchid and yellow tile and replacing it with something less Easter-psychedelic.

However, there were a few small changes that we could do now to make the bathroom more visually bearable.

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Home Renovations: Leveling the Floors

Last I left you, I was talking about how the first major renovation project we undertook at our new house was leveling the floors.  Our house was built in 1969 by the former and original owners, Mr. and Mrs. STK.  It’s common for older homes to settle over time thereby creating a slight slant in the floors.  To fix this pitch is a complex and expensive renovation so most homeowners choose to live with the home’s quirk and chalk it up to old house character.  Unfortunately for us, the slant in our floors was extremely obvious – so much so that Mr. S and I would joke that we had to go “climb the hill” to get to the bathroom.

According to the experts, usually when houses settle into the ground, there are tell-tale signs: cracking along the walls and ceilings especially where there are windows and doorways, cracking in the foundation, uneven gaps in the doorjambs, etc.  To the confusion of the contractors we met with, our house exhibited none of these symptoms.  One contractor had the theory that our house didn’t sink, but that it was actually built crooked.  Because the basement in our house is unfinished, he was able to show us exactly the root of the problem.

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We Bought a House, Part 2

So now that I’ve disclosed that we bought a house in our New Jersey hometown directly across the street from my mom and dad, it’s time for a bit of a house tour don’t you think?

My dad has always seen the potential in the ranch house across the street, but my mom on the other hand was aghast. “IT’S SO UGLY INSIDE!”  It’s true, the house was sorely dated having been built by Mr. and Mrs. STK in the 1960s and, as far as we could tell, not updated since then.  I have vague memories as a young child visiting Mr. and Mrs. STK on Easter Sunday to deliver some cookies or cake and even then thinking to myself, “This house smells funny.  It smells old.  I’d like to leave now.”  I remembered it was dark with wood paneling and heavy window treatments, but I’ve watched enough HGTV to know that type of stuff is easily changed and a fresh coat of paint and some new furniture can do wonders for a space.  So I didn’t let my recollections deter me from considering the house.

This is the house as we purchased it.

Curb appeal. This is the view from my parents’ front lawn. Directly. Across. The street. The aluminum awning and the grated storm door were a few of the first things to go once our purchase was official. Someday I’d like to remove the gigantic tree, not only for aesthetics, but also for practical purposes. There have been a few fallen trees/tree branches during recent heavy storms and this one is precariously close to our roof.

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