Dec 29, 2014

christmas in the city

Riley and I spent a lot of time this Christmas season reminiscing about where we were at this time last year, comparing what it felt like to be living in the city instead of on a boat in Marathon, Florida, and rating this year's tiniest Christmas tree against last year's decorated boat mast.  All things considered, I think it was a little easier to get into the Christmas spirit on land.

We've been pretty preoccupied with house renovations lately, but we managed to maximize our efficiency by picking up a lonely Charlie Brown tree during one of our many Lowe's trips.  While not the most romantic of tree selecting scenarios, it actually turned out to be the perfect tree for us.  We also managed to take a night off of house work to walk down to the Dicken's of a Christmas celebration downtown and the tree lighting ceremony.  Those are just the sort of things that my city living dreams were made of.  And then of course we had our four family Christmases, and no one gave us too hard of a time about skipping out on everything last year. A pretty good Christmas all around, I'd say.

The city streets all dressed up for the season.

The star of the city tree lighting ceremony.

I love the way this local boutique decorated their windows for Christmas, complete with a dress made out of marshmallows.  Yes, marshmallows.

I hope that you had a wonderful Christmas as well!  What are some of your favorite memories from this year's celebrations?

Dec 23, 2014

the renovation: demo days

I can't believe how quickly Riley, with some help that wasn't me, completed the demo work on the house (and fortunately, before his tools were stolen). Besides running errands, delivering food, taking pictures, and wearing a mask inside at all times, I was otherwise useless at this point in the game. So for the record, you can pretty much assume that all of the manual labor was done by Riley and I was standing on the sidelines cheering him on.

This is the view from the kitchen straight on through the bathroom.  We decided to bump the bathroom wall a few inches into the kitchen to make enough room for the vanity and a bathroom door that opens properly.

A lot of people suggested removing the archway into the kitchen because it closed off the space. While they're probably right, that arch was the first thing I saw when I walked into this house for the first time, and I fell in love with it. I can't help it, I just like it. So to compromise, Riley built a new arch and raised it significantly. In the very first photo above, you can see that the framing for the original arch came all the way to the window.  It was a good move, I think.

Several of the floor joists were rotted, so they had to be replaced.  Riley cut up the flooring that was underneath of the kitchen cabinets to allow him access since the crawlspace is so low.

The view of the bathroom from the kitchen.  Several layers of vinyl flooring had to be removed, as well as a ridiculously thick layer of concrete.  Then the crawlspace had to be dug out in order to replace plumbing and sanitation lines and run both for a future additional bathroom.  There were floor joists to replace in this room as well.

Now, we're not necessarily proponents of knocking down walls in older houses. An open floor plan wouldn't suit this house and it wouldn't be feasible anyway. However, I'm losing my breakfast nook in the kitchen (the wall with the two windows) to create room for a fridge and a few more cabinets. In order to have a little bit of seating accessible to the kitchen, we decided to enlarge the doorway into the dining room and add a short bar (not framed in yet).

This is the view of the dining room from the kitchen. After opening up part of one wall, and removing the wallpaper and faux wood paneling, we decided that it would make more sense to gut the walls and put up new dry wall rather than try to repair all the damage to the plaster. And look, a hidden doorway!

After all of his demo work, Riley is pretty sure that the kitchen and bathroom area was an addition made to the original 1910 structure. It was so well executed though, that you'd never notice unless you were looking at the bare bones of the house.  How cool is that?

Bonus!  Fun things you find while demoing an old house:

I really wished I had checked the expiration date on that, just to see how long it's been hanging around.  I'm thinking awhile.

I'm not sure who Tracey Welborn is, but he has a very nice robe.

Up next on the agenda… putting our design ideas into action!

Dec 19, 2014

the renovation: the plan of attack

If we were to make a list of everything that needed to be done in the house that we just bought, we'd need a piece of paper a mile long. Fortunately, it was pretty easy to identify our top priorities. By the grace of God, the timing has worked out so that we were able to buy the house before the lease on our apartment was up. So, we have (had, really) three months to get some work done before we need to move in.

Three months isn't a lot of time, so we decided to focus our attention on the kitchen and the bathroom since they were both in pretty bad shape and would be the hardest to renovate once we move in. Aside from the dining room, which needs a little more attention, the rest of the rooms on the main floor can get by with a good clean out, a fresh coat of paint, and refinished hardwood floors. The other two priorities before we can move in will be new plumbing and new electric in the entire house, which needs to happen before too much can be done to the kitchen and bathroom.

Our long term goals for the house include the mudroom/laundry room, the exterior, and the entire second floor. The mudroom will need some better lighting, flooring, a coat of paint and some storage solutions. Hopefully, it's issues are mainly cosmetic.

At some point, the original wood siding on the house was covered up with aluminum siding to keep maintenance down. In the best case scenario, we'd pull off the aluminum to find that the wood siding was in great shape and only needed a fresh coat of paint and a few boards replaced here and there.  Worst case scenario, we would replace all of the siding. The front porch decking and roof both need some work, and we'll most likely add a railing as well. Also, the roof and windows will eventually need to be replaced. We have a lot of landscaping ideas, too.

After thinking long and hard about the upstairs, we've come to the conclusion that it would probably be best to gut the whole thing and start over. The ceilings are low, and the three small bedrooms have small closets that aren't easily accessible. By gutting the ceiling and walls, we're hoping to add quite a bit more height and floor space, and we'd also like to convert one of the bedroom spaces into a walk in closet and bathroom.

All of that is going to be a tremendous amount of work! Fortunately, because of Riley's trade (electrician), he is capable of doing most of the work himself, which means it will get done faster and we will save an incredible amount of money on labor. He also already has plenty of connections for those jobs that we will decide to hire out. With his skill and connections, not to mention his sheer determination and motivation, our fixer upper is in the best of hands.

So far, the work has been going smoothly, with only one major setback.  The house was broken into the other night, and most of Riley's tools were stolen.  Not only does it feel like a punch in the gut, but it's also going to be one of those unexpected expenses that usually comes with fixer upper territory.  Fortunately, Riley should be able to borrow what he needs in order to keep progress moving while we work on replacing the tools and having the glass in our (beautiful, original!) doors repaired.  He's not the kind of guy to let something like this slow him down!

As of right now, the bathroom and kitchen have been completely demoed and gutted, so I have lots to share about that next!

Dec 17, 2014

autumn in the city

I realize that it's awfully close to Christmas to still be talking about autumn, but since it's not technically winter for a few more days, I figured there was still time.  But most importantly, life is changing so quickly these days that if I don't take a moment to look back on this season, I might just forget about some of these moments altogether.  The past several months have been a special time for us, and even though I felt like I hibernated through half of it, what with keeping life changing secrets and trying to wrap my head around it all, there are several memories from our autumn in the city that I want to keep forever.  Some of my favorites:

finally taking the plunge and getting a pixie after admiring it on so many others
baking the first pie of the season
picnics and scenic parkway drives
enjoying the last of the porch sitting days with some fall flowers
cozy, rainy nights in with a view
deciding that our apartment was "done" and sharing it on the blog
watching the foliage around us change colors
finding out house and baby news and getting to share it with family at thanksgiving 

I thought that this year I'd be more sorry to see the arrival of winter, but I have a feeling it's just going to fly by.  Fall was really good to us, but winter is when the exciting stuff is starting to really happen!  This is very likely the first time I have ever said this, but I'm welcoming winter with open arms.

What were some of your favorite memories from this fall?  Is there anything about winter that you're looking forward to?

Dec 12, 2014

fourteen weeks

Okay, so… this whole idea of taking a profile shot where the main focus is a belly that is supposed to be protruding is a concept that is just going to take some getting used to. Actually, the whole pregnancy thing is taking some getting used to.  The entire first trimester felt a little surreal, and I'm still not entirely convinced that this is actually happening...

How far along: 14 weeks

Size of baby: a lemon

Maternity clothes: Nope. So far everything still fits, but I am reaching for my looser clothing for the most part.

Gender:  We won't find out for another month or so. If you twisted my arm and made me guess, I'd guess boy, but I would have said the same thing a few years ago, so I'm not really sure how much weight that carries. But there's at least a 50% chance it's right.

Movement: None.

Sleep: I'm already accustomed to the multiple bathroom breaks in the middle of the night, but I am having a difficult time training myself to sleep on my side. 

What I miss: Nothing really. Although now and then I could really go for a nice hot cup of regular coffee.

Food cravings: Saltine crackers have become my constant companion, and cheddar cheese and red meat always sounds good. It's funny, one of the first things Riley said to me after we found out was, "I hope your cravings are for Five Guys' burgers."  I wouldn't say I'm craving Five Guys necessarily, but a nice steak would be good.

Food aversions: I hadn't been craving sweets at all, which is pretty unusual for me. I think the holidays are helping to remedy that little hiccup, though. ;)  And I definitely don't want any eggs. Any other aversions come and go randomly.

Symptoms: Some nausea and acid reflux.  Nothing too terrible, though.

What I'm looking forward to:  Now that the first 12 weeks are behind us, I worry a little less, but I still look forward to the next doctor's appointment, just to hear that everything is okay. And I'm definitely looking forward to the anatomy scan and hopefully finding out if we're going to have a boy or a girl!

Dec 9, 2014

the renovation: the "before" pictures

When Riley and I started our house hunt, there were a few very important items on our list of requirements. At the top of Riley's list was a nice parcel of land in a convenient location. At the top of my list was an older home, preferably Craftsman style, with lots of character. We knew that a fixer upper was going to be our best bet both in terms of budget and opportunity to customize it to our exact wants and needs. As soon as we walked into this house for the first time, we both knew it was the one.   In fact, it was the first, and one of only three, that we even looked at. It had land for Riley, and all sorts of character for me. Mostly, it just felt like a home. Some of you may think we're crazy when you see these before pictures, but all we see is potential.

The house was built in 1910, was probably last updated in the 1960's and has sat vacant for nearly two years. It needs some major TLC. But any "improvements" that the previous owner made to the home, they made with respect to the home's integrity, and elements like the trim work and hardwood floors are mostly in excellent condition.

Without further ado, the grand "before" tour of our fixer upper:

The foyer, with it's view of the double sided staircase, is one of my favorite parts of the house.

We see this as a potential office space or spare room.

The dining room.

A small but charming kitchen.

The breakfast nook.

A mudroom and laundry space off of the kitchen that showcases the original wood siding (which we hope is in good condition underneath the current aluminum siding…).

Hallway off of the kitchen, and oddly enough, another favorite space of mine (I think it's the door).

The one and only bathroom.

This space is still up in the air.  An eventual den, perhaps?

The living room.

The staircase, another favorite.

And lastly, three small upstairs bedrooms.

As you can see, we definitely have our work cut out for us.  But it's a project that we are very excited about and it's going to be such a labor of love.  We're just a week into the renovations, and it is already looking dramatically different, so I'll be posting about some of our progress soon!

Dec 3, 2014

currently… christmas spirit overload

making: Pinterest boards.  Now that the house is officially ours, I can finally "un-secret" all of my house renovation boards!  I'm also looking forward to decorating the new house for Christmas (which won't actually happen until next year…), so I'm gathering ideas for that, too.

listening: I did have the new Taylor Swift cd on repeat, but I'm thinking it's probably about time to start introducing some Christmas music into the mix (The fact that Riley can now whistle along to all of her songs kind of tipped me off that it was time). 

wrapping: Nothing yet!  I do have a nice little pile of presents ready and waiting, but I haven't picked out my paper scheme for the year yet.  So many decisions when it comes to wrapping paper and ribbons!

watching: All of the Christmas movies.  I have our Netflix queue loaded and ready to go with all of the Christmas movies available to instant stream (which is quite a few!), and I'm keeping a close eye on the program listings for Lifetime and Abc Family.  I'm taking full advantage of actually having cable this year!

anticipating: So much, I don't know where to begin.  Between the Christmas season, the house renovations, and the baby, my heart is overflowing.  I just want to soak it all in and appreciate the excitement of this time of year to the fullest.

Have you gotten into the Christmas spirit yet?  What are some of your favorite ways to celebrate the season?

linking up with Jenna and Anne today.

Dec 2, 2014

big news and even bigger news!

Do you remember in my last post (so, so long ago!) how I said that the week of October 19th was really significant in my life?  Well, that was no joke.  In fact, after I hit "publish" on that post it got even more monumental.

On October 20th we put an offer in on a fixer upper that we had been dreaming about since we first saw it back in July.  The very next day, October 21st, we heard back that our offer was accepted!  We were thrilled, but the closing date wasn't going to be for awhile yet, so all we could do was wait patiently and hope that everything would still work out in the end.

However, that wasn't the only news that we received on October 21st.  We also discovered… we're expecting a baby!  Of course, it was still pretty early in the game at that point, so all we could do was keep quiet, wait patiently, and hope and pray that everything would still work out in the end.

Finally, just yesterday, we both closed on the house and had an encouraging 12 week appointment (it's funny how these two life changing events have been so closely linked!), so everything suddenly feels official enough to share!  We will be starting renovations on our house right away and our baby is due around June 11th!  We have so very much to be thankful for.

We will be starting demo and renovations right away in order to get the kitchen and bathroom done before we move in, so stay tuned for a "before" house tour, coming soon!

Oct 20, 2014

'tis the season for major life changes

Have you seen that F. Scott Fitzgerald quote floating about? That one that says, "life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall." I've been finding it to ring quite true lately. This particular week in October, in fact, is becoming quite a significant week in my life in terms of "life starting all over again." On October 19, 2007 after a thoughtfully planned day-long date ending in a picnic, Riley proposed. Saying yes was one of the absolute best decisions of my life and certainly steered my "life after college" plans in a new direction.

On October 20, 2013, Riley and I (and Gidget) set sail on our five month long live-aboard sailing adventure. At the time, we had no idea what was in store for us either during or after this trip, but we knew that whatever it was, it was certainly going to be life-changing.

On October 20 of this year, Riley and I officially made an offer on a house. Of course, I probably shouldn't even bring this up because these things don't always work out, but it feels too significant not to. Anyway, we are so far gone on this house that we are going to need the aid of a support system if it doesn't work out. I'm talking… the entire renovation has already been planned out, room by room. There was just no stopping us.

Fall just feels like the right time for fresh starts, doesn't it?  It can't just be a coincidence that we seem to make these kind of major life decisions at this time of year, can it?  Does this happen to you too?  Do you find yourself craving fresh starts in the fall?

Oct 17, 2014

the grand tour of our downtown apartment

Finally, as promised, a tour of our downtown apartment! Two weeks of nearly non-stop gray skies and torrential downpours delayed things a bit because I needed as much natural light as I could get to try to photograph our little space. Tight corners and awkward lighting situations made it difficult enough already!

So this apartment really is a dream come true. I always had this idea in the back of my mind of how much fun it would be to live in a downtown apartment full of charm and within walking distance to the hustle and bustle of some city center. However, I married a country boy and was pretty certain that exact scenario wasn't in my future. Flash forward six years, and after living in the country and then on a boat, a downtown apartment happened to be the perfect temporary living situation while we figure out our next step. My dream checklist included things like a brick wall, spiral staircase, a rooftop patio, and great views. Check, check, check and check. Fortunately, I've never craved a large living space (if you couldn't tell from our previous living situation), because that wouldn't have made the budget cut anyway. Since this living situation is temporary, we didn't invest anything in terms of redecorating (aside from a few plants and pillows), and instead used the furniture and accessories that we already owned. Sometimes that worked out surprising well, and other times it made for a bit of a tight squeeze. But all in all, I'm pretty pleased with how we were able to make our old stuff feel new again in this space.  

So, without further ado, the grand tour:

The apartment enters to the kitchen, a small but functional u-shaped space. My favorite feature is the concrete counter top. My least favorite, the track lighting. The bar area is another plus since we don't have the floorspace for a proper table.

As soon as I walked into the living room for the first time, I couldn't wait to throw my cowhide rug down on that beautiful floor in front of the brick wall. I have a long list of favorites in this room, including that pine wall that conceals a door to a half bath, a window with a view of downtown, and Riley's clever custom built solution to our bulky tv stand/bike storage problem. Oh, and that spiral staircase, too, of course.  

I really feel like we hit the jackpot in this loft space. Four large windows with an excellent view of downtown with a perfect desk nook, a master bath, a small closet for a washer and dryer, and most importantly, access to our very own patio.

I feel so very grateful to have been able to experience life in a downtown apartment. Not only has it been a dream come true, but instead of mourning the ending of our sailing trip, we were able to see it as an entirely new adventure. I've tried my best to soak up every minute of it and will continue to do so in these last few months!

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