No More Dreams of Demolition Day

You know how on HGTV the couple gets to take the first swing at the wall they don’t like? They get to put on some safety goggles, and swing a big hammer at the walls or bust down some old cabinets. Maybe the husband will be sweet and let his wife take the first blow – or he’ll be so excited he’ll just go for it.  They’re so full of joy, it’s the first step toward the house of their dreams. They’ve spent years saving up for this, dreaming about it, and it’s finally here!

It’s what dreams are made of.

Well, it’s what MY dreams were made of. Unfortunately… as I’ve said many times (so many times) since we bought our house: HGTV is not real life. It’s #fakenews.

Our contractor didn’t let us anywhere near the demolition site. We had to be home in case something terrible happened, but we had to spend the day in a separated room. On the other side of the opaque plastic sheeting. Talk about torture! What was going on in there?

A lot, apparently. 

People keep asking Kyle and I if we could have done this ourselves to save money – because, HGTV tells them it could. The short answer is, yes but only a few hundred dollars (according to itemized contractor proposals). That said, everything was torn out from this wall and cleaned up in less than 10 hours. The next day he came back and did the other wall of cabinets. We were able to start on the actual progress of a renovation immediately, where had we done this part ourselves it would have taken a week and some used vacation days.  So thinking about it that way, no it would not have been cheaper to DIY.  

But, I still had wanted to.

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Viva Las Jingle Bells

It’s only polite to ask your coworkers what they’re doing for Christmas. The expected response is, “going home to visit with my family” or “staying in town and having a quiet holiday,” and then a response of, “Oh that’s so nice!”

This year, I had a different response at the water cooler, “We’re going to Vegas,” which was responded with either a, “THAT’S AWESOME” (coworkers who have kids and assume we’re taking full advantage of the DINK life) or a, “Oh, that’s different,” (coworkers who think I must be the ultimate sinner).

Sometimes I left it at that (let them think what they wish), however the reason behind our visit to Sin City for Christmas was, we were visiting Kyle’s mom, who lives a couple hours away.  Outside of it being the most convenient place to meet up,  it was easiest on the wallets and just sounded like a good time.

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I’ve had a few things on my want-to-see list that just don’t work into the trips to Vegas with my college girlfriends. To say I was thrilled to offer (insist) to do the first draft of our itinerary would have been an understatement.

First stop: The Neon Museum: This place has been on my bucket list since my first trip to Vegas in 2010. The museum is really a graveyard of neon signs from casinos and hot-spots around Vegas, most of which no longer exist.

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Next Hot-Spot: The Hoover Dam:  If I’m being completely honest, I’ve never actually ever wanted to go here. It just seemed like a full day of travel into the desert to see a whole lot of wall holding back water. Terrifying. But, when you’re married to an engineer I guess you should expect to be tricked into this activity at some point in your life.

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Upon arrival, I immediately changed my tune about the tourist destination. It was cool, but so scary I refused to let us get too close (you know, leaks happen).  While at the end of the day I don’t regret the road trip I definitely wouldn’t go back or recommend it to someone in Vegas for Vegas. I mean, it’s just too overwhelming …

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Bucket List Item: Cirque du Soleil Beatles LOVE Show  …Love, Love, Love…. and I left really wondering how I didn’t end up as a circus performer. Untitled

Vegas Rock Climbing: Thinking back on my last 30 years, this has to be one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. The photos I’m sharing do not do the Valley of Fire State Park any favors because the place is absolutely unreal. For two people who consider themselves outdoorsy because they like eating on patios, we took to the desert wilderness pretty quickly. We spent hours hiking around and climbing the rocks, and I really wish we could have spent another day out there with some proper shoes and jackets. #IWILLBEBACK

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Although I’ve been to Vegas now 5 or 6 times, each time gives me unique memories. The city is nothing but fun and adventure – as long as you go into it with the best attitude and a willingness to go with the flow. Whether you’re with your best friends, your fiancé or mother in law, you’re going to have as much fun as you can handle, and that’s what I love about this place.

Small Updates While I Wait Patiently

2016 has been pretty slow when it comes to home improvements. We’re in super-saving mode in preparing for a new kitchen and bathroom which is why we aren’t going to Europe this year (…boohoo, I know). This also means, no other décor changes should happen until we at least have our plans in place.

These are times when I wish I had a patient bone in my body. Is just one too much to ask for?

One thing that couldn’t wait though, was a change to the area just inside the front door. Every single day this was a disaster. We used the coat tree I bought at Ikea when I first moved to DC, combined with a side table we didn’t know where else to put, in an attempt to organize the area that should be a closet.

As you can see, even if it was at its cleanest, it would have been a mess. Coat trees, while cute in theory are just an eyesore. Kyle was out of town for a weekend this spring, giving me the opportunity to at least start changing things up – since he wouldn’t be around to tell me no…

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The wood carving is from my grandparent’s house, and until I started playing around didn’t know where to put it. The two images are small pieces of art Grandma and Grandpa had picked up in Paris on one of their travels. Putting them right where I’ll see them each day, reminds me of my grandparents and our shared love to travel.

New Perspective

You know when you see something and know immediately you’d never be able to un-see it? It’s just going to be burned into your brain forever, even if it fades a little or gets built up or changes in your memory over the years.

I knew the moment I saw the first giant redwood tree that this was something I could never un-see. I’ll always remember these trees, how they smelled and how they made me feel. It was unreal.

This June we traveled out to San Francisco to visit Nate, one of my oldest and most dear friends. Our first day out there, Nate had to work so we rented a car and drove out early to Muir Woods to check out the famous redwoods.

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I was the driver this day, (she who holds the Zipcar membership, holds the power) and this was very hard to drive over for the first time! So much excitement and terror all at once.

To get to Muir Woods, you must do a lot of mountain-climbing. We spent a good bit of time taking winding roads up a mountain. It felt like our honeymoon when we were lost taking a shortcut off the highway to get to our apartment. Thankfully, at the top there is a nice pull-off to catch the view from the top.

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Anyhoo, by suggestion of every single source about visiting Muir Woods, we arrived close to 7:30 AM., scored one of the (very few, maybe 40 total) parking spots near the entrance to the park and spent the first hour with just a handful of other people near us. OH and if you arrive that early, there is nobody at the entrance to charge you for going in (#earlybirdsgetthetrees)

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We had quite the hike, and hope to get back at some point with appropriate hiking shoes and clothes for some more of this magical place.

Imagine this peaceful scene, just about 45 minutes later, packed with tourists. I can’t and glad I didn’t have to witness it – as we were leaving (~10:00 AM) busses were pulling up. Time to scram.

Magical Tivoli Gardens

Have you been to the Tivoli Gardens? I’m going to go out on a limb and assume you haven’t, but I”m sure you’ve imagined or dreamed about it.

Think about Disney World (or Land if you’re a West Coaster) and take away everything commercial, remove all the characters and marketing pieces. Also take out all of the gift shops and expensive food spots. Take away the heat as well.

Replace it with things only a child could dream up on their own. Include rides with names like “The Dragon,” “Star Flyer,” and “The Panda.” Add in shops and little restaurants. And a beer garden, of course.

Then, I think you’d have an idea about Tivoli Gardens.

After Jana’s wedding festivities concluded, we still had a final day left of vacation to spend in Copenhagen. We were pretty tired, spent nearly all of our vacation money, and just wanted some time for the two of us after a very involved few days with the wedding party.

We hadn’t even planned on this (look at us being spontaneous!) but after a brief half-hearted discussion that went something like:

“What are we going to do in an amusement park?”
“I don’t know, walk around and see it?”
“I don’t like rides”
“I’d rather wander aimlessly in here than in the city”
“Fine, we’ll go in.”

We went. And love it. There’s not much more to say, you just have to see it to believe how adorable it was.

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Okay, honestly, I did’t take many photos while in Tivoli. We spent the entire day eating ice cream (that’s a toppings bar, you can literally just stand there re-sprinkling your cone as you eat it #heaven) and then did lunch in a beer garden. Did you expect anything different?

Unfortunately, we have no plans to be in Copenhagen in 2016. But 2017 is getting pretty close…

Another Year, Another Stop in Copenhagen

So, let’s start from where we left off in 2015: Leaving Paris, heading for sunny Copenhagen…

My oldest, most exotic, smartest and most favorite friend was getting married. No adjectives are enough to describe this lady! And, the man she was marrying is, most definitely, the coolest (he’s a creative musical genius AND a librarian), so if I was happier for her I likely could have exploded.

We stayed in an AirBNB near KØDBYEN – which was a perfect location, and a beautiful apartment for our five-day trip. The apartment was just a quick walk from the central station as well as many bus stops. You can’t tell from the photo below, but this place was the epitome of Danish design style; very natural, minimal and modern, and cosy.

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Oh, and it was close to the one and only thing Kyle wanted to do: visit Warpigs Brewpub, a new collaboration brewpub from 3Floyds and Mikkeller that had just opened right before we arrived. It was right around the corner from the Mikkeller bar.  #TOTALLYROCKINGUNTAPPED

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Upon arrival to our Copenhagen apartment, I had approximately 1 hour to settle in, freshen up and get myself to Jana’s bachelorette party. That I planned (with loads of help, thank God). Jana is very creative so we had kicked it off with a glass blowing class – we all sipped bubbly while Jana worked on a matching set of glasses.

Due to plenty of help from the other ladies, we had our own party room at a taco bar. Thank goodness we had our own room since things got a little crazy (piñata crazy)! I can only share a final shot of the bride in her Carmen San Diego hat – a hint into the party theme.

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1st Year on 1st 

It’s been ONE YEAR since we signed away the next 30 years of our life to living on First St. Which, at the time we weren’t even thirty (*I still haven’t crossed that milestone, thankyouverymuch) – so what the heck do we know about 30 years?  I’ll tell you what, we know a lot about a lot after just one year of home ownership that we didn’t know last year. So, I guess 1 year down, 29 to go?

Here are only a few of our major “learnings” from Year 1:  

  1. We don’t need modern kitchen conveniences – we just REALLY want them.016_4900_1st_St_NW_85442

Our kitchen is not only old (1936 cabinets), it’s small (2 feet of counter space), hot (evening sun and no ventilation), and there’s not enough storage. We’ve learned to live without a microwave; after a few months you kind of forget that you don’t have one and get used to heating things up on the stove or in the oven.

We have NOT learned to live without a dishwasher. When you have to hand-wash every dish and utensil you start to factor in dishes needed when picking recipes. We eat lots of salads and sandwiches now.

I miss our recipes, every day.

  1. The weather is everything.

Is there such thing as being a hypochondriac but for your house? If so, that’s exactly what I am. I’ve never felt so emotionally connected to and stressed by weather as I am now that I’m a homeowner. Every major rainstorm I’m fearful we’ll spring a leak, at home we do a scan with flashlights and moisture detectors, but when at work all I can think is, “probably pouring into the windows by now,” as I do an Angie’s List search for plaster repair deals…

  1. Confidence means nothing. 

I was so cocky when we bought our house. “Solid as a rock” I said, “updated where it matters” we thought, “dry as a bone!” we boasted. Every house has its problems, and just because it didn’t show them during the home inspection or in the first couple months (thank God) doesn’t mean ours didn’t have them. We’ve had leaks (which is a new one), discoveries (new electrical boxes does not equal new electric behind the walls) and cracks (um, was that there last week?).

Even our friends who bought *fully updated* homes found “quirks” as they started to live there. Nobody is safe, we just have to be ready for the next thing to happen.

  1. HGTV is all LIES

When talking to non-homeowners I often feel a tang of jealousy when they talk about something cool they saw on HGTV they wish they had a house so they could do it themselves. I miss being naiive. I miss the Property Brothers (<3). Homeowner me hates most of HGTV and I find myself yelling at the TV when it’s on.  For the record: it does NOT take a couple hours to paint a room – it takes a weekend if you’re fast and prepared. It does NOT cost $10k to renovate a kitchen and furniture is VERY expensive as well, normal people can’t redecorate an entire room (much less a house) in a couple days and with regular budgets.

  1. When someone offers to help – you take them up on it.

We don’t live near family, we have no dads or sisters or uncles that can come over on a Saturday and help with a project or give their opinion when something breaks. We don’t have family trusted plumbers or a guy who fixes all the whatevers in the neighborhood. We have to find someone and pay them for nearly everything we can’t figure out how to do ourselves using YouTube and the webernets. Thankfully, we have some very good and awesome friends in DC who offer to help us sometimes; in the past, I would either just take care of it myself or try to minimize the need on my friend, however now I say, “thank you” and use them for all I can get out the offer. Untitled

My parents have been incredibly helpful when they come to town. They grumble a bit that they’re visiting to work, but Kyle and I couldn’t be more grateful for their help – even if it’s just a reassurance this is a marathon, not a sprint!

 

Fingers crossed and cheers to our 2nd year!