28 Jul
2015
Posted in: Household
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The Desk

Any day now I’m expecting some office chairs and shelf brackets to arrive and it reminds me that I’ve never shown off my new beautiful desk.

Back in September of last year I had a chance to see some tables and desks made by a local company called Rustic Grain. The company uses reclaimed wood from barns in the St. Louis metro area. You can see the desks, bars, tables, and even lights at local places like Juniper, CIC, or Death in the Afternoon. I didn’t even have a contract on a house and I knew I’d be using Rustic Grain to build me something. My husband was on board and back in March we finally settled on the idea of a desk big enough for the both of us.

Jimmy from Rustic Grain met with us in their workshop. He showed us how the wood was being used, the skills of his employees, and what they were capable of. We discussed things like size first but he gave us lots of options for finishes and even wood. We were able to get bids from him for just plain milled wood, sanded barnwood, or rough barnwood that would have an epoxy layered over it. It was the last option that sold us and got us to sign on the dotted line.

One of the neat things was that they would post teaser photos on social media of my desk being made. I love knowing the steps made to create the piece. (All photos below courtesy of Rustic Grain)

Desk frame

Desk wood

Wood in desk

Epoxy 2

Epoxy 1

Isn’t that gorgeous? The desk was ready for delivery right around Independence Day and thankfully they took care of getting it up my stairs and into place.

Desk in office

Desk wood final

Desk against brick

Doesn’t that just look fantastic against the brick? Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve got some black chairs on their way and some iron brackets to go above the desk for some open shelving. I’m still having trouble with a rug (has anyone tried a jute rug with office chairs?) and a new light but soon this little nook will be complete.

Rustic Grain is a fantastic place to work with and they make a quality custom product. They’ve in no way compensated me for this review but I really loved working with them so I wanted to give them a shoutout. It’s important to me to support local businesses and this company is a great one to work with and made me a beautiful desk. It’s been 6+ years since I’ve had a desk to sit at in my home and this one is a dream.

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23 Jul
2015
Posted in: Life
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The Time I Jumped Out of a Plane

My most adventurous 30before30 goal was to go skydiving. The backstory on this is that I planned to go skydiving when I graduated high school. Except oops, I was only 17 when I graduated and they don’t tend to let minors jump. Then I thought I’d do it when I graduated college but oops, I graduated in December and had just had surgery and was the bride in an upcoming wedding I wanted to be sure to attend. Time slips away but I wasn’t going to miss my jump. So I took the plunge.

skydiving 1

I decided to go with Gateway Skydiving Center in Illinois for my jump. They were super helpful on the phone when I booked my appointment. They let me know that you arrive, take a short little ride to the hangar, watch a video on safety, have some quick lessons, fly up in the air and jump out. That seemed easy enough.

skydiving 5

skydiving 13

My husband was more interested in watching me jump so he decided to come along for moral support while I did my thing. Sadly, the day of the big jump ended up being pretty cloudy so we had to wait a couple of hours to do the jump. It wasn’t so bad since it gave me a chance to chat with Jaco who would be my tandem jumper.

skydiving 2

The part most people don’t realize about skydiving is how small the plane is. The pilot is in there and 4 other people can cram in very tightly. We were squished.

skydiving 3

skydiving 4

You are in the plane quite a while as you circle up and up. They opened the door right around 8500 feet in the air and then the other jumper went out. Suddenly I was up in the doorway and it was my turn to go. It’s so windy up there that I couldn’t even get my second foot on the platform. Luckily my tandem jumper helped me. The jump itself isn’t a jump so much as a lean. And then you’re free-falling for the next 45 seconds.

skydiving 6

skydiving 8

skydiving 9

Freefalling is weirdly fun. There’s air flying everywhere, you can feel your skin moving around and jiggling (you can even see it in the photos above). You’re also moving faster than you probably ever have. Then they pull the parachute. It was quite the jerk for me and kind of cut off some circulation at first. I told my tandem jumper and he had me put my arms above my head and steer the parachute so I’d get the blood flowing again. It was so calm up in the air with the parachute open. Jaco helped me circle around so I could see the view of the lake and dive through a cloud. How cool is that?

skydiving 11

skydiving 10

For the landing, you just lift up your legs and the tandem jumper takes care of the rest.

For me the hardest thing to comprehend was that I was back on the ground. It was so strange to know I jumped out of a plane only a few minutes earlier. I felt so fast in the plane at 110 mph, freefalling for 4000 ft, and then I slowed down when the parachute opened but standing in place on the ground everything just felt so still. I couldn’t believe it was over.

skydiving 12

The most common question I get is ‘Was I afraid?’ I was aware of the risks but I was more excited than nervous. I was afraid I wouldn’t get to jump when the clouds rolled in but the crew kept me posted all afternoon. When the airplane door opened I suddenly realized I was jumping and that caught me a little off guard since I wasn’t sure it was really time but then I was out the door. I never thought about backing down. Then again, once I was on the road driving back home, I suddenly became alarmed that I had just jumped out of a plane and kept insisting that it was dangerous and also I really needed to eat some meat. Your experience may vary.

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21 Jul
2015
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House Tour: The Outside

One of the reasons I fell in love with this house is the huge amount of outdoor space. All three stories of my new home have an outdoor sitting area. My last house always had outdoor space on the to do list but it never got done (though I hear my buyer is having fun with a fire pit).

Outdoors - back yard

On the first floor, just off the kitchen we have a small deck with stairs down to our yard. We’ve already added some outdoor lighting and some small decorations but we’ve always got bigger plans. I want to redo the path out here, conceal the AC, attach both rain barrels and eventually upgrade the deck furniture here.

Yard

We have an interesting kind of garage called a California carport. It means we have off-street parking with a garage door off the alley but no walls. We can add walls later if we want but right now this is working for us. It’s very common in this part of the city and it makes our tiny yard feel bigger.

Deck

The old blue chairs and DIY pillows made the trip with us. We’ve just added a new friend for them.

deck 1

The grill is a new addition thanks to Amazon’s Prime Deals Day. I’m not sure if this was part of the sale but I’d been stalking it for about 4 months and when I saw the markdown of $30 I jumped on it. I also was glad that it was delivered to our house rather than hauling this beast in my car and up stairs. We debated which deck to put the grill on but the 1st floor won due to kitchen convenience, the lack of desire to haul it up to the third floor, and wanting to protect it from the elements.

We have another deck on the 2nd floor, just outside the master suite. On nice days you can sit out here and just relax.

balcony

Potting bench

I put the potting bench up here because I’m envisioning lots of flowers everywhere. I saw all these beautiful balconies in France just full of flowers cascading and that’s my long-term goal. I’ll buy a couple of planters a year and by the time I’m an old lady my vision will be complete. The chair set is from Target, pillows and potting bench from World Market, and the rug is from Overstock.

Our third story deck is one of the biggest selling points the home had and it also has the fewest photos. I haven’t made any progress on it except to sunbathe with a book and a drink. The photos I have are from December when I bought the house.

3rd floor

new buyers

It’s hard to see on the camera shot above but you can see the downtown St. Louis skyline including the Arch from up here. We were more focused on showing off our themed shirts for our new neighborhood than capturing the view but here’s a more recent shot.

The minute I saw this view I was sold. Thankfully all the other details eventually came together. The house is really gorgeous outside but we still have a lot to do before we have our first rooftop party. My big plan is to stalk the end-of-season sales happening now to help fill in the rest of the gaps outdoors. Be sure to let me know if you want in on the guest list.

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15 Jul
2015
Posted in: Food
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Life of the Paella Party

I set my 30before30 goal of making paella because I’d recently been to Spain and enjoyed paella the best of all. I had my paella in Barcelona so it was more seafood heavy than some of the Valencian paellas that are known for their use of rabbit. Paella was the very first meal I ate in Spain so to me paella has a special place in my heart.

paella2

For my paella, I wanted to make a paella mixta. I remembered my paella having seafood and chicken in it with rice and a deep rich taste. The recipe I used was from Chow and it came out perfectly. You’ll want to consider buying a paella pan that can be grilled, used on the stovetop, or in the oven so your rice can cook evenly. I was able to find a deal on a paella pan at World Market. I also grabbed some Spanish chorizo while I was there. Make sure it is Spanish and not Mexican for the right flavorings. I bought all my seafood at Whole Foods since I wanted clams and mussels and you can’t always guarantee that will be available at my local grocers. For me, the biggest surprise was how hard it was to find the rice. You need a special short-grained rice known bomba rice and despite checking nearly every grocer in St. Louis, I had to go online. It goes by a couple different names but this is the one I bought.

paella1

The paella itself was fantastic. It makes a complete meal and then some. If you are eating it solo you can eat on it for a few days and if you plan to serve it to a crowd consider making some tapas to start with so there’s enough to go around. I chose a Spanish red wine, a Campo Viejo Rioja Reserva, with ours but with a paella mixtas you can go red, white, or even rosé/rosado.

paella3

Paella Mixta

Ingredients

  • 2 medium, ripe tomatoes (about 12 ounces)
  • 16 large shrimp (about 12 ounces), peeled and deveined
  • 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 ounces Spanish chorizo, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, as needed
  • 1 medium yellow onion, small dice
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 large pinch saffron threads
  • 2 cups paella rice (about 1 pound), sometimes labeled bomba or Valencia
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning the shrimp and chicken
  • 4 cups (1 quart) low-sodium chicken broth
  • 16 mussels, Manila clams, or a combination, scrubbed
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 2 medium lemons, cut into 8 wedges each, for serving

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
  2. Core and halve the tomatoes. Grate the flesh side of each half on the large holes of a box grater set over a medium bowl, stopping when you get to the skin. Discard the skins. You should have about 3/4 cup of tomato pulp and juice; set aside.
  3. Place the shrimp in a medium bowl, add 1/4 teaspoon of the paprika, and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and refrigerate.
  4. Place the chicken in a medium bowl and season generously with salt and pepper; set aside.
  5. Place a 15-inch paella pan across two burners and heat over medium-high heat until hot, about 2 minutes. Add the chorizo to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until it has started to brown and the fat has rendered, about 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a large bowl; set aside.
  6. There should be a thin layer of rendered fat in the pan. If there’s not enough, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the seasoned chicken to the pan in a single layer and sear, stirring occasionally, until both sides are golden brown, about 6 minutes total. (You will need to rotate the pan occasionally over the burners to evenly distribute the heat.) Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to the bowl with the chorizo; set aside.
  7. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, remaining 3/4 teaspoon paprika, and saffron, stir to combine, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  8. Add the reserved tomato pulp and juice and cook until the mixture has slightly darkened in color, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and measured salt and stir to coat in the tomato mixture.
  9. Increase the heat to medium high. Add the broth and stir to combine. Arrange the rice mixture in an even layer. Distribute the reserved chorizo and chicken over the rice, adding any accumulated juices from the bowl. (Do not stir the rice from this point on.)
  10. Bring to a lively simmer and continue to simmer, adjusting the heat as necessary and rotating the pan 90 degrees every few minutes, until the rice grains have swelled, most of the liquid has been absorbed, and the rice starts to make a crackling sound, about 12 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
  11. Arrange the reserved shrimp and the shellfish (hinge-side down) in the rice, nestling them slightly. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the shellfish have opened, the shrimp are just cooked through, and the rice is tender but still al dente, about 10 to 12 minutes.
  12. Remove the pan from the oven and place on a wire rack. Cover with foil and let stand for 5 minutes. Before serving the paella, discard any unopened shellfish and sprinkle the dish with the parsley. Serve with the lemon wedges.
http://www.thehyperhouse.com/2015/07/life-of-the-paella-party/

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1 Jul
2015
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June: Three Things

This year is already halfway over, how great is that? Here’s what I’ve been up to this month off the blog.

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Food

  • My dad requested we eat at Pastaria for Father’s Day. What’s not to like about pizza, pasta, and gelato?
  • Vanilla is not a boring flavor at Clementine’s Creamery. I had a chance to sample some a a picnic and it was a new view on plain vanilla. The shop is located just off Lafayette Square Park in the city.
  • My favorite recipe from this month comes once again from Gina at Skinnytaste. The zucchini she suggests you add to turkey burgers really takes the flavor up a notch and my husband loved the Greek burgers almost as much as I did.

Entertainment

  • I won a year’s membership to the St. Louis Art Museum and got to attend the members’ picnic this past weekend. We had picnic foods, avoided the rain, saw the new Senufo exhibit and sculpture garden, and enjoyed some of that Clementine’s ice cream I mentioned above.
  • I have nothing but great things to say about Netflix this month. Another good season of Orange is the New Black and if you haven’t yet watched Daredevil then you need to! This is better than the movie version with Bennifer v2 in it a decade ago.
  •  I’ve also been enjoying my Amazon Prime access to TV shows. Catastrophe is a hilarious take on love and other things. With just 6 short episodes you could binge watch in one sitting but I suggest you savor it.

 House

  • Our desk has arrived! Now I need to build shelves, settle on a rug and office chairs, and keep a lookout for a new light.
  • We cleared out a decent part of the basement and installed our first set of shelves. We celebrated by sitting in the basement during a tornado watch on Sunday night.
  • My in-laws drove into the city to join us in some architectural salvage hunting. We did a circle of the town stopping at Cherokee Street to visit Riverside Antiques, Junque over in the Lemp Brewery, Architectural Artifacts off Lafayette, and Refab. Then we went back to Cherokee Street for Mexican at Neveria La Vallesana.

On the Web

Personal

  • Ikea has announced they are opening the St. Louis store on September 30. I work just a block away so this will be quite dangerous.
  • I celebrated 1 year with my new employer in June. Not everything about this job is perfect but it’s starting to feel like home. I miss my close friends at my last job and the good I felt I was doing in the world but beyond that I have no regrets about moving on. Ask a Manager was one of the best sites to help me make the decision to leave and helped me form a plan to do it.
  • Last year was a hard year for me when it came to food and working out with the job change and house hunt. I’ve managed to lose all the weight I gained in 2014 and then some. I’ve also stuck to my goal of only eating out once a week at lunch for all of 2015. Next week I am joining a gym in my new neighborhood so I stay on the right track.
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17 Jun
2015
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A Better Basement

I have had it with my basement. I haven’t unpacked all the tools because I don’t have a workbench yet at this house. I don’t have a workbench since I don’t know where all the tools are. The cycle seems a little silly when I have bookshelves, tote shelves, potting benches, and more in the queue to be built and yet it is all dependent on getting my basement organized. I know making a craft room for the blog would be pretty and finished off the office would be nice but none of it can happen until I can build. So, enough is enough- the basement is the priority now.

Are you ready for the horror that awaits?

Basement Before 1

Basement Before 2

This is one big project ahead of us. (That’s right husband, us!) We have some issues: our last house had no space so everything lived in the basement and the old owners left a bunch of stuff in the basement. For issue 1 we will need to unpack some things but as a temporary solution all the totes and seasonal items will live on some wooden shelves we’ll be building. For issue 2 the plan is to store some things in a better way (i.e. on shelves) or throw some things away. Living in the city means bulk trash pickup each month so we have a couple weeks to make some decisions.

The basement has several roles to fill.

  1. Hold seasonal items– think Christmas ornaments but also the lawn mower. It also needs to keep us safe in tornado season and hold our emergency gear.
  2. Hold hobby items- We like to spend time outdoors but need a place indoors to store gear
  3. Hold household items- from extra toilet paper to paint cans, everything needs a home
  4. Be our construction center- We need workbenches, tool storage, and space to build

There’s several long-range plans we are going to have to do, like add more lighting and run a water line so we have a faucet in our backyard, but this is the “Clean the Basement” phase so here’s the plan.

Basement before and after

Doesn’t that look nice and organized? It’s a multi-step process and while I’m sure I’m missing a few steps, here’s the current plan:

  1. Buy metal shelves for paint cans and other tools
  2. Clear out the back half of the basement to allow us to build a workbench
  3. Build saw cart
  4. Put all the tools where they belong
  5. Build tote shelves along the front half of the basement and relocated all totes
  6. Buy rug, pair with table and chairs for tornado shelter storm seating. Add emergency kits.
  7. Organize outdoor gear like shovels and lawn mower with some wall storage
  8. Buy a locker for all hiking/camping gear
  9. Buy/build potting bench for all outdoor gardening supplies
  10. Drywall staircase wall and build shelves for overstock groceries

Once phases 4 and 5 are finished I can see us splitting our time between the basement and projects on the second floor so hopefully this list will keep me on track. Organizing the basement might not be the most glamorous thing but it will definitely make my life easier.

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3 Jun
2015
Posted in: Food
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Splendid Ice Cream

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams has finally come to St. Louis! Wednesday night I was part of a preview event thanks to an invite from Yelp. The night before the big launch we got to sample some free ice cream.

jenis-storefront

My love for Jeni’s started when some friends in Ohio wouldn’t stop posting about it. Then one day at the mall I spied the cookbook and it was fate. I made salted caramel ice cream and milkiest chocolate ice cream and I was hooked. When Aaron, our lovely Yelp community manager, sent out a call for people to attend the big launch I had to jump.

jenis flavors

The store is located right in the Central West End and per Jeni is one of their biggest storefronts. It’s so clean and open and soon it will be filled with people experiencing some of the best ice cream ever.

jenis store

Jeni was on hand for the preview tonight and she is just as amazing in person. I was trying so hard not to fangirl too much but I got to hear some of her plans to bring St. Louis locally sourced ingredients to the ice cream. She is so warm and passionate about her food and she can just name off her chocolate supplier from memory because every product comes from a person, not just some corporate no name.

jeni and aaron

Speaking of, the flavors are amazing. There’s ice cream, frozen yogurt, sorbet, and so many toppings too. You can even have a sundae or a float. The staff there were so welcoming. If they even saw you eye a flavor they’d have a sample ready to go. When I tried the mango lassi and liked it they immediately told me I had to try the lemon frozen yogurt. The flavor tasted just like when you are a kid and at an amusement park in the summer and eating that fair food but in a wholesome way. Fantastic.

jenis-flavors

I picked up a lemon frozen yogurt + red raspberry sorbet for my husband. For myself, I went with a pistachio and honey + brown butter almond brittle with the salty caramel sauce. It was probably the best thing ever. St. Louis gets hot this summer and I will need a lot of Jeni’s to survive it.

both flavors

Thursday night from 7 – 11 PM Jeni will be hosting the grand opening. Ice cream is free for those four hours. Get down there early and enjoy!

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1 Jun
2015
Posted in: Life
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May: Three Things

I can’t believe it is already June. Maybe that has to do with the fact that I had to sleep with an extra blanket on the bed last night and I’m in long sleeves today. Either way, here’s some of what I was up to off-the-blog last month:

Low Country Boil

Food

  • Imagine my surprise when my brother told me that we were making my mom crab legs for Mother’s Day. My brother is not always so prepared so I was taken aback. I decided to run with the theme and make a low country boil for mom.
  • When I moved to the new neighborhood, I had no idea I lived near a martini bar. Do you know how nice it is to be able to walk home after a couple drinks?
  • The husband and I went to the South Grand Dine Around. You get passes to enjoy an appetizer, a main course, a drink, a dessert, and another small taste from restaurants representing all sorts of nationalities.

South Grand Dine Around

Entertainment

  • This was a month for finales. The Mad Men finale wasn’t quite what I expected but the final few episodes really wrapped up the show. I also finally watched The Wire finale. Talk about a heartbreaking show. Both shows had some of the best episodes of TV that I have ever seen.
  • I rented a movie in person for the first time in over 10 years. Can you believe it? I was a Netflix subscriber years ago when they still sent you discs for that low rate and since then I have always waited for movies to just make their way to cable. I finally decided to try Redbox and now I’m wondering why I waited so long.
  • I’m so disappointed I can’t make the Postmodern Jukebox show this week at The Pageant, especially after seeing this video of their cover of Bad Romance. Oh, the tap dancing!

House

  • I finally got some furniture on the 2nd story balcony. It’s not much yet but at least I can go outside. My big plans involve rugs, all the flowers it can fit, and a potting bench.
  • The third story deck is now becoming urgent. I only have a few chairs left from the last owners and no place to put all the people I’d like.
  • The biggest reason work isn’t done? The basement! We left our workbench behind at the last house, our current basement is full of our stuff and leftovers from the old owners and it needs an intervention. We’re drawing up plans for shelves and workbenches this week so maybe we can finally start building.

Deck2

On the Web

Personal

  • I joined a community garden this month. I’m the youngest by about 20-30 years with the exception of my husband. Our first mission: rebuild some damaged rain barrel bases.
  • I became a Yelp Elite member and just attended my first event. My next big event is this week and I can’t wait to share it with you.
  • My workplace is having this healthy living program this summer. Last month’s big goal was to increase our steps. This month’s big goal is to eat more veggies. Next month’s big goal is to get more sleep. Naturally I’ve injured my feet and just had my first podiatrist appointment. The good news is that I can still keep walking but the bad news is I need to wear ugly shoes. Such is life.
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29 May
2015
Posted in: DIY Projects, Life
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Painting Something Other Than Walls

When I set my 30before30 goal of taking a class, I really thought I’d end up in a cooking class or maybe as a stretch I’d be in a stained glass class on Main Street St. Charles. Imagine my surprise when I ended up in a painting class. I haven’t painted anything since I was 10. But there’s no better time than the present.

Pinot's Palette

I ended up joining my local Yelp Elite team at Pinot’s Palette. It’s one of those drink and eat while you paint kind of things. More than that, I went solo to an event where I had never met anyone. It was a little intimidating but nothing a little alcohol and music couldn’t fix.
 beer at painting
Painting Class
Julie Painting
I was surprised at how much fun it was to paint and I’m even more surprised that I want to do it again. Maybe even sit at home in a to-be-completed craft room and make something original myself. That was the point of setting this goal: I wanted to encourage myself to learn something new and to push my boundaries. I definitely managed to do that and even came home with a nice souvenir.
Finished work
Thanks to Yelp for hosting this event along with Pinot’s Palette. Certain photos are courtesy of Yelp/Pinot’s Palette.
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19 May
2015
Posted in: Household, Life
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To All the Homes I’ve Loved Before

When I moved in with my husband, I knew our first house wasn’t a forever home. When he’d bought it a few years earlier and before we attacked it with sledgehammers, we thought 3-5 years was the magic number on how long we’d be living there. By the time I moved out it had been over 7 years. In 2013 we started talking about how we should do some home improvements based on selling the home and no longer what we wanted to live in the home. We made a few changes with paint colors, adding trim in key places, the kinds of stuff that don’t make for fun and exciting blog posts. In early 2014 I actually started going through basement totes and making the save/trash decision. I’d been living in a house full of totes that had never been opened. It was depressing. It also helped me make a wish list for my next big house. Then came a job change and the momentum was on.

My goal was originally to have the house ready for market by spring 2015 and instead I was home shopping a year earlier than planned. We toured our first home on March 30 and moved in December 16. Here’s how our home buying journey went.

My husband and I started by making wish lists. We had several differences but here’s the things we agreed on:

  • More than 1 bathroom (yes, we lived with 1 bathroom for over 7 years)
  • Multi-story
  • Off-street covered parking
  • Historic Home
  • Close to the city
  • Close to work
  • Outdoor space for the dog
  • Sidewalks
  • Near a park
  • Workspaces for each of us (craft space for me, woodshop for him, office for both)

CityNeighborhoods

It sounded so easy. I pulled up a map, located Targets, grocery stores, parks, and our workplaces and plotted out some ideal neighborhoods. Most people don’t realize that “Saint Louis” can refer to St. Louis City or St. Louis County. Locals will tell you they are beyond different while out-of-towners hear it and think that the entire metro area is a place they’ll be murdered in. Even our family and friends have been confused. We did look at the county in places like Clayton, University City, Maplewood but none of them felt right. People had unrealistic expectations of selling prices in these areas so we moved on.

We kept attending 5-10 Open Houses a weekend. After some more searches and missteps we narrowed our home search to 7 neighborhoods – Skinker DeBaliviere, Central West End, Shaw, Tower Grove South, Tower Grove East, Compton Heights, or Lafayette Park. Each neighborhood bordered either Forest Park, Tower Grove Park, or Lafayette Park, offered historic homes, had crime rates we were comfortable with, and had good access to highways or roads that would get us to work with minimal traffic. By Mother’s Day, it was time to call in an agent. Luckily it was as easy as a phone call to my dad.

My dad didn’t play. He set us up with listing after listing, getting a feel for what we were looking for beyond location. Did we want beautiful woodwork and a nice patio if it put one of us without a garage and on the very edge of our neighborhood? We couldn’t afford houses on a rich tree-lined parkway next to Missouri Botanical Gardens but what if we fixed up a foreclosure below our price point? What if only part of the house was finished and we couldn’t live in the whole house for months until we rehabbed it? Houses got nicknames “The Dolphin Tub House”, “Yellow Highlighter House”, “First Flad”, “Second Flad”, “Love Pad Flad”. You start to see it all. These were hard choices. The stress was killer. Week after week we looked, week after week I commuted 2-3 hours a day.

Not our home

We finally decided on a home to put an offer on at the end of July. And then it disappeared from the market. My dad did the agent thing and got the listing agent to put it back on telling the buyers not to give up hope of a sell. “The ‘V’ House” we called it. By August 3 we submitted an offer. Naturally it wasn’t meant to be; the sellers didn’t want to go any lower and we were convinced it wasn’t worth any higher. They pulled it again, we walked away. We flirted with 2 other homes pretty seriously but the agents were clear there wasn’t room to negotiate. We’d seen the market analysis and didn’t play the game with them. We found another home we loved and before we got in the door it sold. We were able to walk through it and that made it even tougher. It was a second loss. Mid-October we finally made an offer on another house, “The ‘B’ House”, and again we couldn’t meet in the middle. We were nearing the end of the selling season. For 2 weeks we didn’t see any homes enter the market. The stress of my commute and house hunting was making me ill. I felt like I was trapped in limbo and doomed by my own unwillingness to pay more than a house was worth.

And then “The ‘V’ House” came back on the market. At a lower price. And “The ‘B’ House’s seller suddenly wanted to play ball again. We went all in and made one more very final but very competitive offer on “The ‘V’ House” and they accepted. It was the first week of November. Closing was set for 10 days before Christmas. I think of it as a Christmas miracle. At some point I’ll cover some logistics of moving with you and some lessons I learned there as well as a profile of our new neighborhood – Tower Grove East.

The lesson I learned in the home buying search is not to let your desperation make a decision you aren’t okay with. We seriously considered 5 homes and we believed 4 of those were drastically overpriced. We had been through over 100 homes in St. Louis (not an exaggeration) and felt confident we knew what added and subtracted value. Those homes we didn’t buy? All 3 of them ended up selling within $2000 of what we’d offered or discussed offering with the agent. In the moment I was actually willing to lower my standards and open my wallet more and now I know I was right to stay the course. It’s hard to be patient and it’s hard to keep going but it can be worth it. I love what we waited so long for.

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