Friday, January 30, 2015

House: Before

Exciting news, which no doubt all of my readers already know: Sam and I finally closed on our house! It's the first home purchase for both of us, and we're both very excited/overwhelmed. I know at least one reader has been eagerly asking for pictures, so I wanted to post a few. I'm considering these mostly "before" pictures because we have a lot of minor renovations we want to make. Ideally some of them can happen before we move in at the end of February. Truth be told, I think these projects will be the main subject of this blog for the next few months. So far, all we've done is change the locks, but we have many DIY journeys ahead of us.

The outside
 This picture was taken the afternoon of the closing. Right when we got the keys, I had to run to an eye appointment, so it was late in the day by the time we finally made it there. I only got this one picture out front because these little girls on bicycles came by asking if we were the new neighbors. The previous owners had a young daughter, so hopefully they won't be too disappointed to find out we don't.

The living room
Above is the main room of the house. The blinds are closed on the back window, but it looks out on the backyard (that will have to be its own post later because it's been dark every time we've made it over there). We plan to paint this room for sure. Still trying to think of a color concept, but right now either a taupe or a warm beige to brighten things up a bit. We're also going to reface the fireplace at some point, but that's a little farther off.

Dining room from living room
This is taken from the living room looking into the dining room (with Sam for scale). You can't really tell, but it's a green which will also be going. Maybe replaced with a peachy color or yellow?

Kitchen looking into the breakfast nook (which faces the front of the house)
The kitchen is where most of our work will be focused. Luckily (in terms of renovations, at least), it's really small, so at least there's less to do. Plan is to replace the countertops with a dark/black granite or quartz, paint the cabinets white and add hardware, and put up a subway tile backsplash. We're also planning to update the florescent lighting fixture, not that you can really see it here. Trust me, it's ugly. The aforementioned green from the dining room will be gone. We'd hoped to move the fridge and extend the cabinets on that side, but alas we forgot that it's hooked up through water lines (automatic ice maker). We have some other ideas to increase counter/storage space though.

The master bedroom!
 This one doesn't look like much now. I didn't photograph the other bedrooms because they look pretty similar, just smaller. We're going to repaint in here as well--something in a serene blue/grey, probably. The bathroom (which I forgot to photograph) has this bright blue tile in it, so I think a more toned down blue in the bedroom will tie into that. We're also replacing the tile in all three bedrooms with carpet.

First house selfie!
Our realtor gave us a gift basket at closing that included some prosecco and champagne glasses, so we had a little toast in the new place. Certainly made changing the locks a little more fun. 

Anyway, thanks for all the well wishes. Stay tuned for more updates and hopefully (some day) a few after shots...

Monday, January 19, 2015

Earning our daily breakfast taco

Every so often it really feels like winter here. The last couple of weeks, it's been consistently cold, damp, and overall dreary. However, this weekend the Sun broke through and was yet another reminder that winter is more of a suggestion than an actual season here. We celebrated by going for a hike Saturday and generally spending as much time outdoors as possible. On Sunday, we decided to check out this obstacle course place that we'd seen the weekend before (it's across from McKinney Falls State Park). It's a 75-acre hilly area with wooden pillars and walls and other obstacles for you to run, climb, and balance on. Or essentially, a playground for adults.

I'd been wanting to try it because some of the obstacles looked like the ones on American Ninja Warrior. For those not familiar with the show, it's basically watching people take on a really difficult obstacle course. Some of the obstacles involve balance, most involve a ton of upper body and grip strength, and a few just involve a willingness to throw yourself at something and potentially end up getting hurt (these would the ones I would be worst at). I'm not sure why I find it entertaining to watch, but I do.
I made the mistake of climbing the rope that didn't have a bell to ring at the top. What's the fun in that? 
Anyway, as regards this obstacle course, during the week they have classes, but on the weekends (when there isn't some office team building) it's open to the public. On this particular weekend, we were the only people on the course, which was kind of fun. There were some people taking some sort of Spartan Race certification class, but they were away from the course, listening to a lecture, and taking notes. They could see us some of the time though, and I can't help but think they thought we were rubes because we were taking pictures instead of being super hardcore.

I like that it looks like Sam is tearing the wall in two in this photo. 
Overall, most of the stuff was doable. We weren't able to climb over the taller walls, or do the inclining monkey bars, and I stopped pretty quickly into an obstacle that involved jumping from narrow pillar to narrow pillar because that seemed like a dumbass way to break an ankle. Still, I was happy with the obstacles we were able to make it through. And overall, it was a pretty good workout, although probably mostly because we did a few hill sprints and ran around a lot. Either way, afterward we felt entitled to a trip to Donut Taco Palace 1 (the poorly named, but delicious, taco/donut place by our apartment).
I didn't make it much farther than this. 
I don't think I'll be making to the next season of American Ninja Warrior anytime soon, or even doing an actual obstacle race, but it definitely wasn't a bad way to spend a beautiful Sunday morning. Nor was eating a bunch of breakfast tacos and donuts afterward.

View from the top of the hill. Well not so much a the "view" as some birds Sam took a shine to. 

Monday, January 12, 2015


This weekend I celebrated my birthday for the first time in Austin. I invited friends old and new out to a bar and was pleased at how many people were able to come despite the bitter cold and crazy flu/cold/plague epidemics going around. It was a little bittersweet because I missed some of the dear friends who have celebrated with me in pervious years, but it was still a lot of fun. We went to a cocktail bar to have expensive drinks and expertly paired them with food from trucks across the street.

Equally exciting, my parents came for a visit on Saturday. They were the first people (and possibly the last) to stay in our new(ish) place. It's definitely set up a bit better for guests than our Astoria apartment, as we have a proper guest bedroom now. (Well, guest bedroom/office). Unfortunately, the weather while they were in town was both cold and dreary. Such are often the woes of having a January birthday. Thus, their visit was mostly spent inside our apartment chatting with occasional breaks to go to restaurants and eat delicious foods. On Saturday night, we went to a place in South Austin called Lenoir. It's absolutely tiny on the inside and operates on a prix fixe menu exclusively. They do a lot of cool fusion foods with some Indian and French influences, but all with local Texas ingredients. Because there were four of us, each getting three courses, and because it was a rather small menu, we were able to try basically the entire menu. Would definitely recommend!
The only picture I got of the three of us this weekend. Or rather that Sam got. 

We made edelskivers on Sunday morning because my sister gave me an edelskiver pan!
On Sunday, after a final brunch, my parents returned to Houston, and Sam I were left feeling a bit sluggish. Due to being sick last weekend and then pretty terrible weather all week, we hadn't really left the house much in quite some time. Even though the Sun was still no where to be seen, it was at least a bit warmer on Sunday, so we decided to go for a walk in McKinney Falls State Park. Turns out they charge $6 a person to get in. Since we drove all the way over there, we decided to pay it anyway, and then made our walk more of a multi-mile hike to justify the expense. Was nice to get some fresh air after being pent up inside for so long.

I instructed Sam to throw his head back as if sunning himself on the rock. This is what I got. 

All in all, it was a lovely birthday week. Here's hoping 29 is as wonderful as 28!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Christmas in New Jersey

Inexplicably, it's 2015 now. I feel like I should probably make some sort of "year in review" post waxing nostalgic about 2014, but frankly finding the photos for that sounds rather exhausting. Likewise does writing a post about all the exciting things to come in 2015. Granted there are less pictures to source for that as the number of photos taken in 2015 thus far (including photos of Dinah) currently rests of zero, but I've yet to actually get my head around all of the things I want to do this year.  

At any rate, before I can even comprehend addressing this new year business, I want to post a few photos from our Christmas in New Jersey. We flew up on Christmas itself for a short trip. At first I thought flying on Christmas was a negative thing, but it turns out the airports and roads are delightfully empty and the movies on Jet Blue that they normally charge for are free. (Although, truth be told, I'm still not sure if that was out of Christmas spirit or electronic malfunction. Either way, don't waste your time on The Maze Runner, it makes little sense). Regardless, thanks to an early start time, we arrived in plenty of time to relax, open presents, and eat much roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. The one Christmas tradition I didn't get to experience was banana fritters, but I'm contemplating making up for that in this post-Christmas season. 

Here's a few photos from our celebrations:

The weather was warm, so we got in the traditional attempt at playing touch football, which probably would have gone better if I hadn't had inadequate footwear and a general lack of enthusiasm. 

Christmas enthusiasts! 
Excited for the present opening!

I realize, per the usual, Sam is in none of these photos, which is my fault for forgetting to take any on my own phone. 

I spent a couple of days in the city staying with a  friend, and we passed this restaurant which struck me as both photogenic and Christmasy, so I figured why not include it?
I might return with more rumination on the new year on Monday, once I figure out what my thoughts are. In the meantime, will say 2014 was definitely a big year for us as we started a business and moved our lives many states away. Not looking forward to figuring all that out for the 2014 tax season, that's for sure. But in terms of life experiences, it's been exciting. Here's hoping for similar excitement and new challenges in the year to come!