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.
Thanks to Yelp for hosting this event along with Pinot’s Palette. Certain photos are courtesy of Yelp/Pinot’s Palette.
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)
- Off-street covered parking
- Historic Home
- Close to the city
- Close to work
- Outdoor space for the dog
- Near a park
- Workspaces for each of us (craft space for me, woodshop for him, office for both)
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.
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.
I finally made it to my first Food Truck Friday here at Tower Grove Park in St. Louis. I’ve had this on my STL Bucket List forever but in my past life it would have taken me so long to drive here that all the food would have sold out. Luckily, the wait was worth it. This month Sauce Magazine had 25 total trucks, up from the years before so no one should go hungry.
There are so many food options from so many city neighborhoods. You have pasta, pizza and sandwiches from The Hill, healthy eats from Cherokee Street, Pie from Maplewood, vegan and Filipino from Grand, even the county is represented. There are beer trucks, smoothie and coffee trucks, dessert trucks, and of course food trucks.
Here’s some good tips if you’re going to your first Food Truck Friday
- Get there early. The lines get long and it’s totally worth it to sneak out early and get ahead of the crowds, especially if you want Seoul Taco or Gorilla Street Food. Consider splitting up with your group and sending someone to each line to grab food or break into smaller groups. You can all share dishes and have a regular food supply.
- Have cash on hand. Most places accept credit or square and some even have an ATM on board but always come prepared.
- Bring some gear with you. There were times I wish I had some extra napkins or plasticware to make splitting a dish easier. And while there was plenty of beer and soda to be had, I’m glad I brought some water bottles. If I had a picnic blanket and some wine I bet I would have had an even better time.
- Dress for the weather. It had just finished raining and I get that everyone wanted to look cute but you don’t want to wear heels in the mud and this is STL, not Coachella.
- Be smart with your car. Look at the map and avoid the thought that you can park right next to a truck. Ain’t gonna happen and you’ll spend more time in your car watching people eat than actually eating. There’s plenty of room along Magnola and Arsenal. If you’re local, why not walk? I usually walk 4 or so miles on Friday and I’m more than willing to do that for food. (And hey, if the organizers could arrange for more bike racks I’d love that too!)
Steak Louie had this amazing Philly Cheesesteak with strip steak and cheese and peppers. It was a great choice and worth the wait. I hesitated on the fries but decided to limit my stops tonight by grabbing more food at the first stop. The east coast seasoning and cheese sauce were amazing.
And then there’s the cupcakes.
I of course had to try the red velvet and it was pretty good. But the night’s surprise winner was the 4 Hands Chocolate Milkshake cupcake. It’s made with 4 Hands Chocolate Milk Stout and has the taste of malted milk balls.
There’s just something wonderful about seeing people come together. My husband remarked that it all reminded him of our rural church picnic and I realized he was right; with people, food, pets, strollers, young and old, it felt like a community.
It’s already May so here’s a recap of what I was up to in April.
- April was a great month for me. I made and stuck to a meal plan for every day of the month. Even the eat out days were planned and scheduled on a google calendar. Here are some pictures of breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- Best recipe of the month – Skinnytaste’s Naked Salmon Burgers. I wasn’t sure I’d like them (or if the husband would) but we both loved them!
- Broadway Oyster Bar is my featured restaurant of the month. Where else can you eat gator tacos and lobster po’ boys this good in STL?
- We’ve been trying to enjoy our neighborhood more. On Saturdays we often find ourselves taking long walks, grabbing lunch at the neighborhood hot dog stand, and dinner along South Grand (featuring more countries than Epcot!) and maybe even ice cream or gelato.
- I went to see Susanna Kearsley at a book signing. She was such an engaging speaker and she planted some Easter eggs for those of us who hadn’t read the book yet but didn’t want to be spoiled.
- Hockey for St. Louis was a bust yet again so I’ve fully moved on to baseball. I still haven’t seen home run fireworks from my deck because I keep forgetting to take my eyes off the game!
- We got some plants on the decks. I even won a plant at work for Earth Day so that’s in the ground too.
- We’ve been trying to keep everything out of the house whether it is rain (no leaks yet!) or squirrels. I really wish other people had been so dedicated to the cause.
- We’ve ordered a desk! It won’t be here for quite a while since it is being handcrafted but it promises to be fabulous.
On the Web
- I loved following along with Ana White’s Paver Planters. I have to build some of my own!
- The Bloggess has a fantastic take on being proud and happy and how often we’re far too self-depricating. Promise yourself not to tear yourself down.
- Spending money on experiences and not things is pretty much my mantra. This year with a new home and a diminished savings account it’s hard to take the time to do this.
- I was taken aback at how my current job celebrates its employees. We had a staff appreciation week and at times it was so overwhelming that I actually cried. Some days I feel like my current job is a bit of a disappointment because I’m not “making the world a better place” but I’m starting to see that I am making a difference in the lives of those I’m around and that’s enough for now.
- I have some lovely friends and I don’t get to see them all often enough. Happily April included a girls night out once again!
- It is really easy to allow bad habits and influences into our lives. I’m beyond guilty of hate-reading blogs or keeping a “trainwreck” as a facebook friend just to gossip. I can’t keep that up. I unfriended people who I have nothing in common with anymore and pulled some blogs off my ereader. I hope you will do the same for me if you feel the need to keep abreast of my life for gossip and not sharing in my life.
I mentioned before that I was looking for a way to turn my little dining area into some sort of drink bar. In February I was expecting some friends over for Galentine’s Day Brunch so it was a perfect time to set up the drink area.
I bought an older model Keurig for the area and stocked up on a few K-cups. In winter I’m definitely more of a hot coffee and cocoa drinker so I wanted to have some warm options.
I bought some cute mini spoons and a creamer from World Market, something to hold sweeteners from Target, a sugar dispenser from even before my time, a mason jar leftover from a batch of salsa, a sweets jar from Pier 1 and corralled it all on a tray from Ikea.
In the cabinets up above I keep some of the good stuff. You can see my Anthropologie mugs (gold available around Christmas), my every day mugs, some travel mugs, and a much nicer tea set for company. I have a few more sets still packed up. I also keep some tea and cocoa up here (and more cocoa in the cookie jar).
Kcups go in the drawer now that I have some handles on them. It makes it so much easier to open!
I also wanted to share a bit of my themed party for Galentine’s Day that I had. Galentine’s is a beloved day in the world of Parks & Rec and I wanted to honor it and some of my closest friends. The girls drove all the way across the river to come see my new house, drink some of that coffee/tea/cocoa or one of the endless mimosa combinations, and eat some skillet potatoes, a pancake bar, mini quiches, and croissants.
I wanted to spend as much time with them as I could so I only took some photos before and none during. Sometimes you just have to put the camera down and enjoy the moment! (And the mimosas)
I’m hoping that these posts can fill in the gap on what keeps me busy when I’m not blogging. There’s so many months of gaps to fill and such little time so here’s a way I can try to live in real time.
- This month I had some great meals at Scottish Arms (amazing fish & chips) and Rooster. Highly recommend both.
- Best recipe of the month- chicken shawarma. I can’t deny my love of this dish.
- My freezer is still empty from the move. I’ve finally been able to catch up on meats but I’m still behind on all the other things a good freezer has. What are your favorite freezer meals? I feel like now is the time to try something new.
- Anyone else love Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt? I find myself quoting it with my husband all the time now. “It’s a miracle!” “I love you, don’t get lice!” It’s great for 30 Rock fans or people who love bright colors and humor.
- I mentioned a while back how obsessed I was with Serial. Now I’m catching up on The Wire only a decade or so late. (Free for Amazon Prime members)
- I made it to Kinky Boots at the Fox Theatre and found it charming and entertaining.
- It took me a month but I finally got a rug I ordered back in February from Ballard Designs.
- The kitchen cabinets on all levels have their pulls. I should have a post on that soon. If you don’t have hardware on your cabinets yet, get on that!
- Ikea doesn’t open in St. Louis till later in the year so I had to buy some things online. Yesterday I bought some supplies at Home Depot so I can fill some rooms with organization.
On the Web
- My husband showed me these beer cap maps and now I’m convinced I have to get one.
- I’m in a love/hate relationship with the Gawker network but I love Millihelen. There’s talk of fashion and beauty but in relationship to feminism, what we decide femininity is, and cultural differences. Be sure to check out the mall makeovers from around the world.
- Need to bring a dessert for Easter? Mix it up with these spring floral cupcakes. Or just bring me a carrot cake. I’m flexible.
- I have a job in the midst of the St. Louis innovation community. Sometimes it is a bit of a man’s world. I can sometimes go almost a week without seeing another woman in my workspace. Even when you think we’re making progress sometimes the truth is right in front of our eyes.
- I’ve been taking walks around the neighborhood. Can I just say how crazy it is that I’ve never really lived anywhere with sidewalks before? I’m obsessed. I’m also trying to walk more because somehow I’ve gotten plantar fasciitis from the aforementioned workplace. Only me!
- My brother’s girlfriend was in town so we all visited the St. Louis Zoo earlier this month. It had been years since I’d been and it couldn’t have been a nicer day.
I’ve been trying to do a good job keeping up on the date nights that I did last year. Not every month gets a meal + activity and some months get a good helping of both. This month the husband and I went to the St. Louis Art Museum. They were having an event called “Art in Bloom” but I also wanted to see an exhibit due to close that weekend. I’m so glad we went since the evening turned out to be really fun.
There were all kinds of floral arrangements based on works of art and to see the inspiration next to another piece of art was a nice way to gain perspective on the original piece and the floral design. Like here, I was able to capture most of the inspiration piece with the original art.
Some inspiration was more abstract than others
While others were more traditional
The other part I was there to see was the Nick Cave exhibit. Cave is a Missouri native and his pieces really felt anchored in sculpture and fashion. Each piece felt like it had so much movement and so many levels to it.
It’s so nice to live closer to the St. Louis Art Museum and make time to see these kinds of events. Here’s a list of their current exhibits and this Friday don’t forget it is time for another SLAM Underground.
Onto the final floor of the new house. (First floor, second floor) This space is where we go to escape everything in the world each evening.
When the husband and I first toured open houses we found this one house with a bonus space on the third floor. While that wasn’t the one for us, we both fell in love with the concept. Thankfully we found a space of our own.
I can’t decide what I like best about this space.
That I have another bathroom. (Can you believe I lived for 7+ years with just 1 bathroom in my last house?)
That I have this wide open space to fill
That I have this crazy kitchenette (that the old owners left all their beer in)
Or maybe that this staircase goes to a rooftop deck that has an amazing view.
A view that you’ll have to wait and see!
When we last left off, I’d shown you the first floor of the house. Now up the old staircase to the second floor. A quick note- this used to be a 2-family home. I have just scratched the surface into hunting down my house’s history but this wall you see here would have been fully closed off and this staircase would lead to the second story/second family property while the entire first floor belonged to another family. Kind of crazy to think about.
Once again, here’s a layout to help you orient yourself in the house.
We’re combining that front bedroom/sitting room into an office for the time being. We’ve got some crazy plans for a desk that we still need to work on and some major built ins we hope to include but we have hopes that it’ll end up really nice.
The majority of the walls involve doors, windows, or fireplaces so as you can see it can be hard to fit in furniture. Hence all the planning we’re doing so far.
We’ve got a guest bedroom that we’re just using for storage right now. Hopefully the guests stay a way a bit while we figure out some things around here. When we do pretty it up we have a really nice brick wall and pocket door to work with.
There’s also a nice guest bathroom up here
As well as laundry and linen closets
Then we come to the master suite. Let me tell you right now that this area has been a pain since we moved in thanks to the lack of weatherproofing on doors and windows, a squirrel getting into the bathroom vent, and yet I still love it.
This door here goes out to a deck. We’ve got it sealed off for winter right now but we hope to get out there and get planting soon. I’ll make sure you can see it when I show some exterior pictures.
There’s still some things to improve upon on this floor but it already feels like home. I hope to be back soon with some pictures of the third floor.
Every year I try to feature the best books I read in a year (See 2012 and 2013’s choices). In 2013 my goal for #30before30 was to read 50 books one last time. I didn’t want to read that many in 2014 so I set a goal of 12. It might seem strange to cut back on reading but sometimes I find a book to be a good excuse not to do something else. Same with my laptop. It’s easy to get sucked away and look up hours later and realize I didn’t fold the towels or swap out the cabinets like I planned. Books are safe and easy and that’s why I love them and need to protect myself from them.
That being said, I still read 33 books last year. Oops. To be fair, I blame lunch breaks at my new job. There’s a ton of construction and no other workers who eat in my lunch space so it’s usually just me, a bowl of soup, and a book for an hour a day. I think that’s a safe way to do it. Read at lunch, read before bed, and take one devoted block of time a week to read. If I can stick to that routine I can read however many pages I can comprehend. Now, onto my favorites from 2014.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
My favorite book of the year was Wild. I knew the movie was due out and I loved Bill Bryson’s take on the Appalachian Trail so why not try a read of the Pacific Crest Trail? I figured the book would be a spoiled rich girl getting her ass handed to her by nature and I’m glad to report it was so much more than that. I think a book about grief, loss, coming to terms with bad shit, failures and successes, and bad choices not defining a person as a whole are all lessons worth reading. I read this book at a time where I really did just want to run away from it all and it both encouraged and discouraged me in ways I needed.
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
I hesitate to define this book in any way. It reaches out to young adults but reads more like adult fiction. It’s contemporary and set in the past, literary and choppy, spiritual and in search of justice. The book covers a horrible event for the main character’s family and how the events around it begin to define himself as he comes of age. Throw in issues like tribal history, an unfamiliar belief system, justice in a world biased against your people, and how we define friendship and family and this book is far more reaching than an after-school special.
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
This book had some holes and some flaws at times but I can’t overlook how captivated I was in my reading of this. I really don’t know how I ate or slept as I read this. Picking it up sucked me in and putting it down just left my brain to dwell on murder and mystery. I haven’t found a lot of books like this one, when considering plot or drama factor. The book covers a girl attempting to solve her own attempted murder and she discovers the impossible is possible.
In Death/Eve Dallas Series by J.D. Robb/Nora Roberts
Worthy of an honorable mention are the In Death books written by Nora Roberts under a pen name. The books follow Lieutenant Eve Dallas as she fights crime in the future. It’s not so far into the future that the technology is unbelievable and the characters she works with are a fun group of personalities. The book series is a good twist on the usual Law & Order style while still sticking to a formula. If you need some fluff books or palette cleansers between your next read, these insert perfectly. I’ve read about a dozen over the last year and enjoyed myself while doing so.