I’ve told you I’ve moved but I never did a farewell post to my first house. This house means a lot to me, even though it also drove me crazy at times. My husband bought this house when he was still my boyfriend, I was in college and had just finished chemotherapy. He bought it in 2006, I moved in during the fall of 2007 the day after our wedding, and we moved out just before Christmas in 2014. I lived in this house when there was no kitchen, when we had no bathroom doors and had to cross those delicate boundaries, through cars that drove into the yard and into trees (but thankfully never the house), through getting our first dog, through a break in, and through our learning curve as DIYers.
This house was built in the early 1940s by my husband’s great aunt and uncle. My husband bought it from his great aunt before she died, and now another family member has bought it from us. Because it stayed in the family, we were able to have a simple transaction and the family member was very flexible while we had our infinite house hunting process. Additionally, the relative assured us he wanted to change things like paint colors so he didn’t require us to touch up before we moved. Nice guy, huh? So while I’m not proud of how every room looks here, I can tell you that there’s now a Blues shrine in the space we used as the office and that room seems to get a lot of love. Here’s a shot of the room before we moved in and when we moved out.
And again with the dining room
Here’s a glance at the living room:
The bathroom ended up changing places in the house, hence the major redesign. Here’s what we started with:
And here’s what we ended with:
We had a can of paint ready to go for this room and thankfully the new homeowner has already painted it in a color of his choice. This room was our test room for yellow and we ended up finding the perfect color and putting it in the kitchen. This picture is the last trace of our failed experiments.
That kitchen was really my favorite part of the house. It came out looking so good and while I love my new one, there’s a sense of pride that comes from planning and designing a space of your own.
I’m leaving out the bedrooms and some older exterior shots on this tour to protect our privacy and the new homeowner’s as well. I always thought this house had so much potential and while we found some of it, I know that the new owner will find even more.
I have been interested in genealogy practically my entire life. I remember looking at family history books and annuals and trying to figure out how I intersected all these lives. For my #30before30 list I wanted to make a family tree. I looked at a lot of different styles of family trees. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be more literal and include a tree or if I had it in me to go more modern. Etsy offered all kinds of options.
The “Traditional” Tree-Shaped Family Tree
A More Modern Tree-Shaped Family Tree
The Traditional Bracket Family Tree
An Abstract Circle Chart Family Tree
Modern Geometric Family Tree
Artistic Family Trees
My Family Tree
- Research through free documents first. Ancestry, Findagrave, Family Search, state websites, and even your attic may have hints and clues along the way
- Sometimes it pays to pay. Ancestry does have paid content but they are fantastic for building a tree and organizing your research.
- Document all your finds. You won’t remember how you knew Grandma Betsy came over on a ship or even which ship unless you save it. Find a standard to save documents and live by it.
- Just because you find a leaf on Ancestry doesn’t mean that leaf is about your tree. I bet you there were millions of Johns born to John and Mary Lastname so check your dates, locations, and then double check.
- Just because it is written doesn’t mean it is true. Just because Grandma has down in the family Bible that she was baptized in 1920 doesn’t mean it’s true. My own grandpa spells his name so many different ways over the years.
- Talk to the older generations and find out what they know. My grandma knew nothing about her grandma till she found a letter from a relative who had passed. You won’t always get clues from the grave.
- You might find some things others will wish to stay buried. I live by the mantra that there is no bad data but sometimes kissing cousins aren’t the worst you’ll find.
- Go to your local library. The librarians there are so helpful and want to help too.
Just before my birthday I convinced my husband, my brother, and my brother’s girlfriend to come with me to the St. Louis City Museum. In case you don’t know, the City Museum is not some boring old museum. It’s a place where everyone can be a kid in a reclaimed metal jungle with slides, tunnels, and even some museum exhibits.
Since visiting here was a 30before30 goal, I knew I had to pay extra to visit the roof and see it all. The roof is only open in warm weather without rain so plan accordingly. You do get a discount on admission to the museum if you go on Friday or Saturday after 5 PM and the later you go, the more adults (and fewer kids) there will be. The museum serves alcohol and food so you can make a whole night of it.
If you’re a control freak like me, you’ll have to let go of that. There are no maps here and the museum is like a giant maze. Even if you get it figured out, the museum is “always growing” so there’s a new path or direction to take. There are tunnels you crawl through and more often than not I was having an 8 year old explain the path to a slide I wanted to take. Also, sliding is more difficult than I remembered. My husband turned out to be a champion slider while I wondered how I could make it down a 10-story slide. We opted to go up instead of down and try out the big Ferris wheel on top of the museum.
One thing I learned at the City Museum is how old I really am. When people say “Bring kneepads!” it is not a joke. My knees and shins were bruised the whole next week from all my adventures. Still, we had a blast and I’m glad I had more time to spend with these awesome people.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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
- Heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
- 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.
- 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.
- Place the chicken in a medium bowl and season generously with salt and pepper; set aside.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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’ve been having a bit of a time getting into the Christmas spirit for reasons that will soon be clear. I did make a few attempts to get in the mood though.
One of my 30before30 goals was to adopt a family for Christmas. I had no idea how hard this would be. I work for a satellite location of my main employer so I couldn’t easily join their program, my church wouldn’t be doing theirs until far too late for me to be prepared, and when I called the country social services program they were all out before the middle of November. That’s an amazing thing for all those families but I knew there still had to be a market. I managed to find one via my last employer’s giving tree, getting a mom and her daughter. I made sure to get them everything on their list and threw in a few extra holiday treats and gift cards so they can do some extra shopping too. It was an easy project but one that did make a difference.
The other way I got into the holiday spirit was by going on my last date night of the year. Another of my 30before30 goals was to go on a monthly date night for all of 2014. Date night had to be a meal + an activity. Can I just say I chose the absolute worst year for such a goal? (Don’t even get me started on the goal for Peru…) I had my job go from decent to destructive, I got a new job, had to start a new satellite office for my employer, my husband’s job took up a lot of his time, I stopped working out, my commute doubled/tripled, someone hit my car, a beloved high school teacher of mine passed away from cancer which sent me on a minor freakout, I decided to buy a house in January and spent all year looking, and decided to sell my own home. I don’t mean to say that my year was a bad one but it was unnecessarily stressful and I really just want to move on to 2015 and all its potential. Date nights for this year were hard due to scheduling, snow, stress, and at times being a little unhappy with where things stood in life. That’s probably why I wanted the date nights more than ever but there were moments when trying to grab a meal and a movie seemed like the most painful experience in the world.
Thankfully our December date night was a much better ending to the series. All those issues from before were over. My husband and I decided to take some time off work so this past weekend didn’t have work looming over us. We took my parents out to the Lafayette Square Holiday Parlor Tour in St. Louis. Lafayette Square is an old historic neighborhood in one part of the city. It was hit by a tornado years ago and parts of the neighborhood fell into decay while others aged and needed improvement. Starting in the 1980s the neighborhood improvement picked up the pace and they started renovating what could be fixed and doing matching infill to keep up the historic charm of the neighborhood. Now upscale bars, small businesses, art galleries, and brunch spots have moved in. When you see bad things about St. Louis on the news, know that the city and county are huge places and there are so many great things here.
A few times a year homes open their doors for tours. It’s a great chance to see how people have improved their homes, their antique decor, or just their fun touches on the houses.
After making it to most of the homes we jumped to the county for a meal at Pastaria. Pastaria is run by one of the top chefs in STL and the country, Gerard Craft. Pastaria isn’t one of those snooty kinds of places though. You can get pizza, pasta, and gelato and go home happy. The gelato is always a fun experience. Last time I went I got a salted caramel. This time I ended up with a blackened carrot while my parents ended up with a parsnip one. You just never know what you’ll get except you’ll be stuffed when you leave.
Date nights ended on a good note. I hope in 2015 we can keep making our best attempts to go on date nights and they can be a bit more spontaneous and convenient.
On May 23, 2014, I put in my notice at my last job. The good news is, I didn’t just join the unemployment lines. I had a job offer waiting for me that’s a little outside of my usual expertise but encompasses a lot of the finer points of my background. I don’t know where this job will lead me but I definitely reached that “next stage of my career” distinction that I required for my 30before30 list. Honestly, without setting that goal I don’t know if I would have had the courage to even apply for the job let alone take it. Don’t be afraid to dream big.
I know that taking this job means I may have to sacrifice other priorities on my list, like a bigger trip or some of my activities that involve free time. It also put my family in a better position and sometimes you have to make sacrifices. Maybe I won’t achieve those dreams before I’m 30 but hopefully I’ll have the courage to keep going for them.
At the end of the day, I may have burned some bridges at my last job. In some ways I’m sorry because so many of the people meant so much to me. On the other hand, people there had stopped believing they deserved to be rewarded for hard work and I think some of the discomfort they felt was seeing the status quo challenged. It hurts my heart that so many people feel trapped for so many reasons and not everyone had the freedom to turn their back on the kind of job that just a few years earlier I had dreamed of. I had to leave so I didn’t feel trapped in my own way. We all have choices and we can all learn from the ones we do (or don’t) make.
Despite what people think of me, I took a big step forward.
Tina Fey had it right all along. I finally finished a cross stitch pattern the same week I left my job. Thanks to plasticlittlecovers for making a design that encompasses my life.
My summer started off completely different than I ever expected and that new job gave way to a decision to move from the country to the city. That’s another very long story though and one that isn’t quite over. I may have to come back to it.
Not only am I overdue in writing a post, I’m overdue in writing this post. Heck, I’m even overdue in completing this project. Let’s back up a bit.
I married my husband, Daniel, back in 2007. Since I know some people like origination stories, I’ll say that I met my husband while I was on the job. At Wal-Mart. Hey, it could be worse – my parents met while shoveling horse poop. After years of dating, we got married and this month we celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary. I’ve posted about our 6th anniversary and this year we did the whole copper exchange where we gifted ourselves some nice moscow mule mugs, salt and pepper shakers, and spent a nice date getting pizza and gelato.
One thing I did get accomplished this year was making my wedding shadow box. I had an entire container in my basement holding all those leftover wedding invites, some accessories, and a few other fun objects (including the table numbers featured above).
I had a nice shadow box I’d bought from Home Goods forever ago so I loaded up my hot glue gun and got to work. I started with a gold fabric that had been used on the head table. My dress was a gold/champagne shade and all my jewelry had been gold so I used it as a base. The ribbon on the bottom is a strap from one of the bridesmaid dresses. I did a quick measure and then hot glued it once I’d ironed the fabric out some.
Then I started doing some test placements of my invitations, the program, and my bouquet. I preserved my wedding bouquet in a slightly unusual way – with a rosary. Keepsake Rosaries turned the red roses from my wedding bouquet into a beautiful heirloom rosary.
Another decorative twist I included was a fun way of using the flower petals from our tabletops and the little note that was attached to our jams and honeys we gave out as favors. I just glued until it felt right.
Now getting a picture of the final product has been a bit tricky since our home is in a permanent state of reno. Here’s a picture before I placed it all into the frame.
I wanted to find a way to feature some of the wedding music and verses we had chosen and also some photos from the big day. My other favorite feature is that I was able to include the seal we’d used on our invites, just below the photo of me.
Once I got the frame fitted, I wanted to add some additional three-dimensional elements. In came the tiara from earlier and some more rose petals to add a fuller effect.
That will cross another item off my 30before30 list. Don’t worry, it’s not the only one. I did accomplish one of the biggest items on the list even before I was ready to. More on that later of course.