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Archive for March, 2009

A Tour of Our Future Home

We have a contract!  After two couples did some back-and-forth bidding, we ended up with a full price offer (!!!) on Thursday (our 7th day on the market) and a closing date of — deep breath — April 16!  I am so, so, so excited!! 

Obviously, I suddenly became highly motivated to find a suitable rental for us.  My mom and I found a really fabulous larger one that I almost took, but in the end, J and I both inexplicably liked the one I blogged about the other day the best.  What can I say?  It spoke to us.  It was charming and bright and, well, it just feltright.  Sure, it will be a challenge, but I’m in the mood for one!  We’re ready for a change, and this duplex fits our vision for that change.  Plus, it’s really kicked my creativity into high gear.  Ideas for making the most of the space run through my head constantly.  I snagged a few pictures off the HAR listing to show you the place — all 940 square feet of it. 

Here’s the front of the fourplex:

Cute, isn’t it?  The street is very quiet and full of nice homes.  It’s a great part of Montrose, and I’ll be able to ride my bike to the museums, Whole Foods, the farmers’ market, my professor’s house, my friend Cyndi’s house, and the gym.  Swoon.  The landlord takes great care of the property too, as you can see. 

Now, join me as we climb the stairs to our second-story unit:

This is technically the living room, though the current tenants made it their bedroom:

It’s a very large room and, as the picture shows, ultra bright and cheerful.  Aren’t the windows and the wood floors fab? 

Okay, here’s the part of the unit I’m still in denial over:

Gulp.  No dishwasher and almost no counter space.  I have decided, though, that a walk-in closet across the hall will be my pantry, and I’m pretty sure that it can hide a rolling kitchen cart.  I plan to buy one with flip-up wings to give me the most cutting board space possible.  Some carts even have knife blocks and towel holders.  Plus, they boast storage below the cutting surface too, where I can keep kitchen cloths and towels and other odds and ends.  Sweet!

The dining room sits across from the kitchen:

Hmmm…It’s a bit on the small side too, so I’ll need to find a new (to me) dining table.  What I want is something like this, a table with storage and folding wings from Pottery Barn:

Shayne Kitchen Table

Dream on.

Anywho, back to the grand tour.  You can see down the hall to the bathroom, bedroom, and study here:

Those doors on the right are giant closets. 

The bathroom with its itty bitty sink:

You can’t tell from the picture, but that sink is so short and so tiny.  How my 6’5″ husband will shave over it, I have no idea.  I’ve contemplated simply buying a taller one myself and asking the landlord to have it installed.  He could improve his property at almost no cost to him.  I don’t know if he’ll bite or not.

And here, dear friends, is a photo of the bedroom with the study behind it (the tenants made the bedroom their living room):

And a view of the bedroom from the study:

I measured it to make sure it would fit our California king bed, and — fingers crossed — it should.  Hope, hope, hope.

Now the study/sunroom:

It’s super cheerful and bright during the day.  I adore this room.  I think it’s my favorite in the whole place. 

Covered parking with extra storage:

Now, before we move on, could you please agree with me that a little Vespa or other such scooter would look exceedingly perfect here?  Ever since my bout of scooter envy last summer, I’ve been plotting, and I think this might be the time to pounce.

Finally, a view of the small backyard:

Best feature?  We don’t have to mow it.  Hallelujah!

Have I ever mentioned how over-rated home ownership is?  Yes?  Well, it’s still true.

So that’s it — our new home.  I can’t wait to move in and start painting and decorating.  I’ve pulled out all my magazines and clippings to organize them and get inspired.  I love new projects!  I am a little scared about cutting our living space in half, but I’m also thrilled over the prospect of less house to keep.  Overall, I think we’ll love our new life.

Hope you enjoyed the tour.  SomedayI’ll get back to food and health blogging, I promise.

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HOPE

Our house hit the market Friday morning.  We had 6 showings over the weekend and 2 each day since.  Crazy!  It’s hard to stay away from home for so much of the day.  We’re obviously excited by the traffic, but it’s stressful too.  That’s why I’m hiding out at my parents’ house across town.  J flew to his field in Wyoming for the week, and this way I don’t get lonely or mess up my house from cooking and using my bathroom.  Oh, and we have two offers!  We’re not up to our list price yet, but I think we’ll get really close (within 1 or 2%).  I can’t believe how fast it’s happening.  SO exciting!

My mom and I went to look at rentals in the city today (Montrose and Rice Village areas, for those of you who know Houston).  It was a ton of fun.  I completely fell in love with the first — a one bedroom duplex unit with glorious windows, wood floors, and oodles of charm.  It had this great sunroom attached to the bedroom that would make a perfect reading room/office.  Unfortunately, this dream pad didn’t sport a dishwasher.  I’m trying to decide whether I can live with that.  If there was more counter space, I think it would be doable, but this place was very short on that amenity too.  Oy.  Maybe it’s not meant to be, but I’ll keep an eye on it, especially since the price is right.  I liked the landlord too, and he liked me, so that’s a big plus for the place.  He said I could paint it and bring my own fridge.  Awesome.  We’ll check out some more tomorrow.  I’m loving these old homes and historic neighborhoods!  They’re ever so much better than the apartments we visited a few weeks ago.  Sure, the latter boast modern conveniences, but no charm, no character.  They can be urban and cool and snazzy, but they don’t feel like home.  Plus, we get more square footage for the price if we go with duplex units, and that’s important to us right now.  If, for some reason, J doesn’t go to grad school out of state in two years, then we might be staying put for a while, and it would be great if we didn’t have to move again.  And we want a place that could handle a family addition.

(Wait, that totally sounded like an announcement, but it wasn’t.  I’m just saying that we’re thinking ahead.)

DESPAIR

In other news, I paid good money for the world’s worst highlight job on Saturday. 

Woe. 

Is. 

Me. 

Unfortunately, I can’t entirely blame the girl who did it.  I don’t think I communicated very clearly.  I told her I wanted to add some red to my hair.  What I meant was reddish.  What she did was RED.  Streaks of RED.  Cherry RED.  Interspersed with streaks of BLONDE.  Not blonde but BLONDE.  It’s terrifying to look in the mirror.  I miss my hair. 

alison-cropped

This was me at Thanksgiving.  I thought my hair was boring.  Maybe it was, but I’ll take boring any day over this freak show.  I thought about fixing it myself with a box of hair color, but I wimped out, afraid I’d make it worse.  I’m going in tomorrow for a re-color.  It will have to be an all-over job to wipe away a crime of this magnitude.  And that means it will be a long, long time before I see my own hair again.  Sniffle.

And yes, it does occur to me that it’s at least a wee bit hypocritical to avoid fluoride in my toothpaste, use a shower filter, and check for parabens in all my skincare items, then scamper off to get my hair colored.  I’m experiencing a bit of cognitive dissonance over it, really.  But what’s a girl to do?  I wanted a change. 

And now I want it unchanged.  Right now.  Like, before I pass a mirror again and shrink in horror.

Ah, life.

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beef-compressed

I admit that we spend a lot on groceries.  While eating healthfully doesn’t necessarily equal a high food bill, when you toss in the stipulation that grains and most legumes must be avoided too, well, you can only go so low.  Fortunately, I still find ways to cut costs.  I buy quality meats through a co-op, make the most of my Costco membership, comparison-shop like mad, cook from scratch almost exclusively (i.e., no convenience items), buy my eggs from a farmer who doesn’t know his real worth (I wrestle weekly with wanting to tell him that he really should be charging more and yet wanting to keep getting a steal of deal), and try to focus on low-cost cuts of meat and cheap vegetables and fruits. 

Lately, I’ve also been trying to build an arsenal of frugal, grain-free, legume-free recipes.  Most of them aren’t fancy, but as long as they taste good and don’t kill our budget, we’re happy.  The best meals for us are those that work great with the addition of rice or quinoa for my hubby, who needs the carbs.  Poor Man’s Rosemary Beef and Vegetables is just such a dish.  A few weeks ago, I found myself in a real pinch without a menu plan and a dwindling supply of ingredients in my fridge and pantry.  Panicky, I threw a few items together and came up with what turned out to be a new favorite.  It’s not elegant, and it’s not pretty, but, boy, is it tasty!  We liked it so much that we’ve made it a couple of times since, and I have it on the menu for tonight too. 

Made with ground beef (can it get any cheaper?) and the most frugal of vegetables, this recipe is my contribution to The Nourishing Gourmet’s Nourishing Frugal Recipes Carnival.  It stretches a pound of meat a long, long way, especially if you eat it with the rice.  To spread the meat even thinner, try adding diced potatoes to the mix. 

 

Poor Man’s Rosemary Beef and Vegetables

1 pound ground beef
6 to 8 garlic cloves, crushed
1 medium onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
3 medium stalks celery, diced
1/2 small-medium head of cabbage (red or green), thinly sliced
28 ounces petite diced canned tomatoes
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary (or 2 teaspoons dried)
1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
sea salt
black pepper

Brown the beef with the garlic and onions.  Drain.

Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 or 20 minutes.  Adjust seasonings.

Serve alone or over cooked brown rice.

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Today was such a great day!  A run-down of all the coolness:

  • First, I attended a reading by Andrew Porter at my alma mater.  My favorite professor talked about this event for months prior to my graduation, so it had been on my calendar for, well, months.  At the last minute, I almost skipped it because of all the details I need to wrap up before the house goes on the market on Friday.  But I did go, and I am so, so glad.  Porter, a recent winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for his book, The Theory of Light and Matter, was, in short, brilliant.  Not only was his prose moving, but he both read well and spoke engagingly.  He answered questions thoroughly and, in my mind, generously.  He was very humble too.  It was quite inspiring!  If you like short stories, definitely check out his book.  Even better, if he’s speaking near you on his present book tour, GO.  I can’t wait to dig into my newly-signed copy!
  • Second, this gave me an opportunity to reconnect with a couple of my professors.  One even recommended some local creative writing classes.  I have the writing itch, and I think it’s time to explore it.
  • Finally — this is the best part — my favorite professor introduced me to Porter as the school’s Distinguished English Major of the year.  Whoah.   What?!  My shock must have been obvious.  The classic, “Oh, you hadn’t heard?  Maybe you’re not supposed to know.  Don’t tell anyone I said anything”  followed.  Later today, though, another professor called to confirm the award.  <squeal!>  Even though I graduated in December, I’m supposed to return to the April Honors Convocation for recognition.  Apparently, a cash prize is involved too, though I don’t know how much. 

As great as all of this was, it raises a pesky problem.  My professors are urging me to apply for Ph.D. programs, and, gosh darn it, I’m having a hard time resisting.  If, by some miracle, I got into Rice’s program, for example, I’d be done in only 5 years and with zero loans.  Yup, if you make it into Rice (and some other schools), they pay your way.  <swoon>  The English department chair at my school got her doctorate from Rice, and she’s promising me a glowing letter of recommendation.

What’s a girl to do?!  Why does it all feel so much more complicated as a woman?  Most days, I want to have children.  But do I really want to wait until I’m 30 and my husband’s 35 to start trying for a family?  I think not.  Yet, it’s hard to walk away from exciting opportunities.  And it’s almost excruciating when people you admire tell you it would be a waste if you didn’t do such-and-such.  I do have other important women in my life telling me it’s okay to wait on the career — that I can get my Ph.D. later and teach literature after I’ve raised my children.  So maybe I’ll just take a deep breath, support my husband in his graduate school ambitions, and see how I can explore other opportunities in the meantime.

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