That Home #1

I’m so glad I decided to do photo tours of our living spaces over the years because it is really wonderful to look back through old posts to see how my style has changed and relive some of the memories we made in those spaces. Our first apartment (full of broken image links right now, not sure if I’ll be able to fix that), our second apartment, and our third apartment. Graduating from business school and moving out west means we were able to start renting single family homes, something I have looked forward to for a long time. We move into our second rental home next month, but before I am consumed with unpacking and decorating I’ll show you how we decorated and furnished our East Palo Alto home.

You’ll see a marked improvement in the interior style of this home compared to what I came up with in the past, and for most of the rooms that credit goes to Kristin of Bien Living Designs (the rest of the credit goes to a hard-working husband and some wiggle room in our budget for decor and furniture). Kristin’s Long Distance Design service is exactly what I need, a low-cost way to work with an interior designer that gives me a jumping-off point and steers me in the right direction. When I thought about our bedroom as a blank slate I felt overwhelmed, but after she sent me a design board based on the inspiration photos I sent her I started to see how I could shop for things that would enhance what she had suggested for me. She suggested the pain colors used throughout the house, and sent me inspiration boards for the living room, master bedroom, and office. She is a close friend, but I paid for her services and highly recommend them to everyone else. Once we aren’t paying for childcare for two children I plan to hire her again.
When you walk in the front door the first thing you see is dining room, but I never did get around to taking a picture of that room because I didn’t like the decor and I ran out of money before I could figure out a way to fix it. I have some ideas for the next house that might work. Look to the right as you enter the house and you will see the front room, which is a room we didn’t really need and didn’t have much money set aside to decorate. I bought those chairs at the same consignment store where I purchased our dining room table, intending to use them in the living room. Our massive couch didn’t leave enough room, so we put them in the front room with a rug I found for $100 on CB2 and it turned into the train table room. The color in this room is Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter, though my editing has it looking a bit warmer/green than it does in person.
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Past the dining room is the living room, kitchen, and breakfast nook area. Kristin worked with us on the design of the living room, suggesting the curtains, rug, coffee table, lamps, and couch cushions. I love these open floor plans that allow us to put a TV within viewing distance of the kitchen because that means I can watch TV as I cook/clean. The paint color in this room is Benjamin Moore Wythe Blue. Curtains are from Ikea, rug is from Overstock, coffee table is from Amazon (it broke shortly after we bought it, not recommended), lamps are from CB2, clock was found at Aaron Brothers, orange pillows from World Market, green/blue leaf pillow from Etsy.
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Why We Are Moving Again In Less Than A Year

This week I’ll be packing up the last few boxes and getting on a plane for a 5-week stay with my parents. I don’t want to be moving again, but here we are and I’m trying not to focus on how long it took me to unpack and move in to our current place (it was four, long, pregnant months).

Moving across the country is hard, especially into an area like this one where houses are only listed a few weeks before they are available, open houses have multiple potential renters applying for the same place, and prices make everyone but a seasoned New York City (or Sydney or London or Hong Kong) resident want to weep. Our top priorities were finding a place with three bedrooms not too far from That Husband’s office that would work within our budget.  I quickly realized that Menlo Park and most of Palo Alto were out and emailed back and forth with a lot of different people to try to understand the different areas of the Peninsula. We were put in contact with a realtor who started emailing me about a place in East Palo Alto, but I had been told numerous times that East Palo Alto was not somewhere we wanted to be. She was persistent though, even created a video that gave us a tour of the house and showed the street we would be living on. The house had four bedrooms, was much nicer than anything I thought would be possible for our budget, located right next to a small park, and came with frequent reassurances from her that the area was gentrifying due to the rise of companies like Facebook and Google. We knew the school district was not one we wanted to send our children to public school in, but we figured we would be moving before that point anyway.

This is how we ended up in East Palo Alto. It was actually really difficult to get a house in this area, which we didn’t expect for an area that had the highest homicide rate in the country in 1992. We filled out all of our paperwork in one day, with TH scrambling to get everything done while living in Washington as I worked on my homework in the BYU library in Provo. We found out that we were competing against a husband-and-wife Stanford-doctor power-couple and upped the asking price for monthly rent in order to get the house. We had been looking for several months by this point, and were starting to feel a little worried that we wouldn’t find anything we liked.

I think if we were 10 years in the future, this would be a great area to live in, but it still needs some time. We live in a small grouping of beautiful homes, but the area around us is not as nice. The playground equipment is frequently covered in profane language and drawings. At night we have fireworks going off, cars driving by playing extremely loud and aggressive music, and screaming matches using every obscenity I’ve ever heard (and some I haven’t). The breaking point though, was the day we woke up and found the following spray-painted on the sidewalk right in front of our garage.

photo (2)If you dare, google that phrase and let Urban Dictionary teach you what it means (I don’t think they’re trying to ask either of us to a Sadie Hawkins dance)

We had been kicking around the idea of moving, but this graffiti sealed the deal for us. I created some alerts on Craigslist and Zillow and started attending open houses on the weekends, grateful that we were house hunting in-person this time. Demand for rentals is so high that landlords often don’t take the time to include pictures, or anything beyond the most basic information, and so going to see them is essential. We decided to look in the Fremont area because the housing prices are a little bit lower and also because we had learned over time that proximity to TH’s office isn’t as important to us with his Monday-Thursday travels.  The schools in the Fremont area are some of the best in Northern California and we were able to enroll T1 in a stellar preschool (of a quality that we could never afford in the Palo Alto area) with the option of putting him in a fantastic elementary school if we stay that long.

I was really drawn to the Ardenwood area and as soon as I walked in the door at one open house I knew that we wanted to live there. I was the second person to write down my information on the list of open house attendees, wrote him a check for both of our background checks, and went home with an application intending to fill it out that day. Within 5 hours we had emailed him TH’s application and asked him for a digital copy for me so I could fill one out as well. The open house was on Saturday and I got mine to him on Monday (I wasn’t as stressed about mine, with no income I’m not an appealing candidate), and we emailed multiple times offering up extra information that would prove us to be appealing candidates, even offering more money than he had asked for in his listing. When he wrote back a few days later telling us that he had given the house to someone else we were confused and frustrated, as we hoped he would offer us the chance to outbid the other person. We asked what we could have done differently in order to secure the house, and he told us that he went with the first qualifying person to hand in an application and that we weren’t that person.

The Ardenhood home fiasco taught us a lesson, and from then on we were much better prepared when an appealing house was listed. We would email the landlord before the open house asking for a digital copy of the renters application so we could fill it out ahead of time, made sure to take our checkbook to every showing, and did our best to be the first people that toured the property. The house we ended up getting is only ours because we showed up 10 minutes early and left him with a deposit and proof of TH’s income before we filled out an application. He had assured us that the house would be our as long as we passed the credit check, but we had been spooked by our last experience and sent him photos of our current home in an effort to show that we would be tenants who would take care of his place and invest in making it look nice. I felt a huge wave of relief as soon as I had a lease sitting in my inbox with his signature on it because it meant that everything was official, and won’t have to move again for at least another year.

We have to be out of our East Palo Alto place mid-June, and our Fremont place isn’t available until the beginning of July, which is why I’m headed up to live with my parents for 5 weeks. TH will bounce around a bit, something he can easily do with his travel schedule. When I get back the movers will have moved all of our boxes and belongings into a 4-bedroom (we were looking for 3, but I’m happy with 4!) single-story house with air-conditioning, hardwood floors throughout, and grass in the backyard with an outdoor sink for barbecues. The day after we fly back to California T1 will start at a new preschool that is everything we’ve been hoping to find for him. Moving is painful, but I have a feeling that this is going to be a place I want to stay in for a really long time.

I’m curious and would like to hear what other people have learned as they’ve moved around. How did your expectations change over time? What did you prioritize differently each time you looked for housing? I hope this post has been helpful for those looking to move to the Palo Alto area. Finding (and paying for) a place here is brutal, but you’ll love living in this area. If we’re lucky, we’ll never have to leave.


Comfort Works Ektorp Slipcover Review (and a Giveaway!)

Comfort Works contacted me back when we lived in Chicago and asked if I’d be interested in doing a review of one of their slipcovers for them. I was tempted to get something for the Ikea Beddinge sofa bed that was in our living room, but wrote back and asked if it would be okay to wait until we moved to San Francisco. They agreed, and once I started working on putting together our nursery/guest room I wrote and asked if we could start the process of choosing my cover. We ended up buying the Ektorp Sofa Bed from the As-Is section in Ikea (even though it’s a bit big for the room, having a sofa bed was really important to me so we can have people over and house them comfortably) and so  Comfort Works provided me a custom, machine washable Comfort Works Ektorp Sofa Bed slipcover and sofa protector. Having a cover that is machine washable was definitely the most important part for me since we will have young kids buzzing in and out of that room. Comfort Works made things extra appealing when they mentioned that they are offering a sofa protector to help protect the sofa from kids and pets (and let’s be honest, from messy adults like me who like to eat on the couch).

ektorp sofa cover comfort works giveaway

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A Place to Relax in T1’s Room

We moved from an apartment with two bedrooms (where the kitchen was tiny and the living/dining room were the same space) to a house with four bedrooms upstairs and more space than we need downstairs. Reusing items we already owned was essential if we wanted to afford decorating all of it!

One somewhat strange decision I made was to put the futon that we previously used as our couch into T1’s room. We knew we’d be moving him to a floor bed, and I thought this would fill the space nicely. I know that buying a queen frame is a popular option, but it wasn’t something I was quite ready to commit to financially.

Turns out that the futon in his room was a great idea! We have a place to sit while we read books, one of us can sleep in there if he’s having a hard time that night, and we can flip the futon down when we have guests over and have T1 come and sleep with us (something he would love to do every single night if we let him). Our next move will likely mean selling the futon and getting a twin or queen bed for T1, which would definitely be more comfortable for guests. For now though, I’m happy to have a place to lay down at night while T1 snuggled in his bed and we “talk about our day”*. It’s my favorite part of his nighttime routine. And over time we’ve started leaving the futon down all the time, letting T1 choose where he would like to sleep at night. The ability to choose has cut down on his requests to have me lay with him until he falls asleep or to come sleep in my bed with me.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, the shelves displaying the books are from Ikea. Another fun way to fill a lot of space for not a lot of money! Thank you Pinterest.  The Children’s Library in Palo Alto is a treasure trove of options, and we often have 30-40 books at a time stacked in the corner of his room as well.

*Talk about our day means I rehash every thing he did that day, with him repeating the last words of each phrase. TW: “First you woke up”, T1:” “Woke up”, TW: “Then you went downstairs and ate breakfast”, T1″Went downstairs, ate breakfast”. Etc,. It’s been a great way to expand his vocabulary! And I like testing him to see how his ability to recall details on his own and not just parrot information is coming along.

Washington and the Chickens

This is the story of my trip to Washington surprise my mom, and that one time I decided I really, really needed to get a chicken so I can have some baby chicks.

My mom tore her achilles up snowmobiling last month and has been sitting with her leg above her heart all day every day for almost 6 weeks now. Two weeks ago my dad called me, and asked if I’d be up for flying out to surprise my mom with T1. How fun! So I flew all day with T1, making sure I never sent out any tweets about packing or being in airports, arrived at my parent’s home at 4am Chicago time, woke up to T1’s cries 4.5 hours later, and walked into my mom’s room to wake her up with her only grandson in my arms.

She was shocked, and thrilled, as we knew she would be. It was a week that flew by, and though I was excited to return to Chicago and see That Husband again, I was sad to say goodbye. I didn’t take nearly enough picture (as usual) and I don’t think I have a single shot of my mom with T1! For shame. I’m going to do better next time.

We spent one day out at my grandparent’s dairy, where T1 wore a sweatshirt and pair of boots borrowed from my grandma that I probably wore as a kid. 🙂

The highlight of the trip for me was watching this chicken interact with her baby chicks. I have never seen anything like it before!

It’s heartwarming and magical to watch the chicks huddle in under their mom. I can’t believe they all fit!

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