Things I Like

It’s supposed to be marginally warmer today, so I’m trying to think all the spring thoughts I can.

And that means dreaming about our new patio! I mentioned yesterday that the patio/yard is one of the best features of our new apartment, and Joey and I are both excited about the possibilities of barbecues, al fresco dinners, and not having to walk Bogey down four flights of stairs every time he needs to pee.

Naturally, we’ve both started thinking about what we would like to do with the space. Here are a few of our initial ideas.

Outdoor Styling


I’d love to turn half of the patio into a seating/dining area with storage benches and a table we can seat at least six around when company comes over. I’d also like to grow a few of our own herbs (a project I undertook a few years ago indoors with…questionable results)(bugs, they spawned bugs), possibly from hanging planters on the chain link fence.

Joey almost immediately started pricing small grills on Craigslist, a project I fully endorse since we have more than enough room and burgers are delicious.

Finally, I’d move our string lights (currently hanging from our curtain rod in the living room) outdoors whenever we wanted a little mood lighting.

The real question is what to do with the dirt patch side of the yard. Ideally, I’d like at least part of it to be grass for the Boges, but that leads to the question of maintenance — we’re not buying a lawn mower. So maybe…mulch? Rocks? I’d like a couple tomato plants on the other half of the dirt, and maybe some other easy-to-grow-and-hard-to-kill veggies. I’m open to suggestions!

Fraaaaands! First, I want to formally apologize for being such a Grumpy Gus the last few posts. Ugh, stress. But in a weirdly-unlike-me-because-things-rarely-just-work-out-for-me twist, I had two of my major stresses resolve last Friday. One had to do with work (blah blah blah) and the other had to do with our apartment situation.

WE FOUND A PLACE!

Even better, we found a place that, while I would be a dirty liar if I said it was actually perfect, is pretty great for a lot of reasons.

Reason #1: It has an extra room, SIX closets, and THREE additional storage areas (a boiler room, a closed off staircase, and an unfinished back room that will henceforth be known as the garage). It’s actually ridiculous how much storage space we have. The bedrooms are actually probably a tiny bit too small, but because we now only have to put a bed and a dresser in it, it really doesn’t matter that much.

Reason #2: It has a YARD. Not a big yard, but half of it is a cement patio (helloooo, summer shindigs) and the other half is dirt that we can do whatever we want with. I would love to make some of it grass for the Boges and the rest a couple tomato plants or something, but I’ll keep you posted.

Reason #3: It’s the basement of a house, but because the door opens in the back to the yard, we have our own private entrance. I am quite over buildings, y’all.

Reason #4: Our landlords are the sweetest little Italian couple you could possibly imagine. A few of the first things they said to us were, “You can stay as long as you want, we will never raise your rent” and “If you need anything, you call me and I run! You see how close I am? I run!” It’s like having our grandparents live a few houses away.

Reason #5: It’s only $25 a month more than what we were paying before, meaning we might actually be able to build up a respectable savings account over the next couple of years.

I’m going to be totally honest: It’s a little…er…cozy apartment. We’ll have to keep it neat to keep it from feeling cramped. But I’m thinking those NINE storage areas will probably help.

Anyway, I am very excited. AND I realized there’s one space I still need to plan — the patio! Stay tuned for updates.

This morning has been supremely irritating, so I’m using this blog post to deliberating only think about things that make me happy.

For example, something irritating: My apartment hasn’t had heat or hot water for over 12 hours (on top of the regularly spotty heat we normally enjoy). Now, I could pitch a fit, but I already did that in the email and phone call I had with our building owners.

MaGiCaL!!!

But instead of continuing to rant and rave, I’m redirecting this burst of fiery anger energy into something fun. Like thinking about how I’ll decorate our NEW (and hopefully properly regulated) apartment! Yay!

Now, we don’t have the exact place yet, so everything I’m saying here is subject to change based on layout, etc. But, in general, here’s what I’m thinking.

Our Bedroom
This last year was the first time I felt like I successfully decorated the bedroom, at least to a degree. It was never perfect, but I have been plans for the new apartment. I was extremely inspire by this mood board I found on Pinterest:

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It’s not wildly different from the color palette we have going on already — the main difference I would make would be to swap out the mint for a richer navy to match our current bedding. I’m hoping to sell our current bed (here on Craigslist if you’re in the Greater NYC area!) and purchase a bed frame with an upholstered headboard that I have my eye on from Joss & Main. Then I’d like to use this tutorial to create a nightstand/dresser for Joey. A few framed pictures and a navy lamp or two, and we’ll be in business.

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Our Living Room
Honestly, I really like how our living room ended up before we left, so I’ll probably leave this much as is.

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The only change I would make? Painting the walls a light gray, and updating our desk to something a bit sturdier, like this option from IKEA:

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Our Kitchen/Dining Area
A rental kitchen is always a bit of a crapshoot, so I really can’t make too many plans without seeing ours. One thing I know I would like to do if possible, though? Add a chalkboard wall.

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(source, source, source)

I feel like the dark walls even off-set those ugly oak cabinets everyone seems to install (for unknown reasons…I’m assuming you can get them somewhere for free or something). Depending on the current kitchen and how much we are paying, I would also consider installing some sort of temporary backsplash. Home Depot sells a peel-and-stick version that is apparently easy to remove later, and if it makes me happier to be in my kitchen every day, that could be worth the cost to me.

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(source, source, source)

As for the dining area, this will only work if I can find a way to combine it with the living room (or if the kitchen is magically huge). But if that works out, I’d like some kind of rustic wooden table with our existing white chairs on all but one side where I would but a wooden (preferable storage) bench.

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(source, source, source)

So that’s what I’ve got rolling around in my brain these days. Obviously this doesn’t cover every room, but I feel better having a good handle on the spaces where we spend most of our lives.

Here’s hoping for a smooth move (preferably to an apartment with heat and hot water).

I tell you what: There’s something about seeing how the other half lives.

This week, I’m working in my company’s San Francisco office. Instead of shelling out a zillion dollars on a hotel, I took a friend’s suggestion and opted for a much more affordable airbnb. I had never done airbnb before, but so far, I’m a fan. (As is my company’s finance department, I’m sure.)

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Let me tell you a little bit about the apartment. It’s a one-bedroom in San Fran’s South of Market neighborhood. The entire south wall is windows. The living room is HUGE and opens up to the kitchen and a dining area, plus a desk nook. It has two gigantic closets. (The bedroom closet is a walk-in.) There’s a washer and dryer in the unit. It has a dishwasher and a sink disposal. The bathroom has the world’s largest tub.

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Basically, I’m never leaving.

Because I dare to dream, last night I decided to look up the building to see if it was even in the realm of possibility that I could live there some day.

Spoiler alert: It’s not.

A 1-bedroom runs at least $3,700. And the most devastating part? This isn’t even the owner’s primary home.

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They actually live in Palo Alto, but the wife works a couple of days a month in the city designing stores for Anthropologie, and traffic is such a bother. So they bought a little pied-à-terre that they can let their kids use or stay in when they want to go to a restaurant in the city and not worry about driving home.

Life is hard, right?

So, bad news, I will never live here. Good news: I DO FOR NOW.

How often do you cook at home each week?

When the hubs and I first got hitched, I cooked often. Joey hadn’t get discovered his love of the culinary, which meant it was either eggs every night or I take on most of the cooking duties. But while I enjoy cooking, I found myself often making pretty much the same thing every night. (This was a weekly staple.)

Fast-forward almost four (!) years later, and the roles have almost entirely reversed. And while I love (LOVE) how often and well Joey cooks, sometimes I miss it. But, to be totally honest, cooking had started to bore me. My veggie-loaded pastas were good, but not that exciting. And while I was pinning new recipes all the time, I rarely had the motivation to seek out new ingredients and learn new techniques.

I guess Joey must have been feeling stuck in a rut too, because a few weeks ago, we started using Blue Apron.

Blue Apron ingredients come prepackaged and proportioned and even labeled -- so you really can't mess this up.

Blue Apron ingredients come prepackaged and proportioned and even labeled — so you really can’t mess this up.

 

If you’re not familiar, Blue Apron is a service you can sign up for that will send you perfectly portioned ingredients and recipes so you can cook at home. We signed up to get three meals a week, and personally, I immediately loved the process. Every Wednesday night, we receive a shipment of super fresh produce, spices, and seafood (we didn’t want chicken, so that eliminated other meats from our plan as well), along with the recipes cards — complete with step-by-step photos — we need to create the meal. Of course, there have been a couple of recipes we weren’t as crazy about, but for the most part we’ve been pretty pleased with everything.

The best part for me? I’m cooking again — AND I’m learning new things all the time. I’ve cooked Thai food, Vietnamese food, and pot pies, I’ve experimented with new kinds of seafood (I’m making catfish this week!), and I’ve learned so much more about working with fresh spices. I’ve pickled my own raisins. I’ve grated my own horseradish. I’ve become an expert chopper. And I’ve kept all the recipes we loved, so I can create them again any time I want. It’s also surprisingly affordable — we’re not spending any more on groceries than we were before.

I didn’t really realize how much of an effect Blue Apron had had on my cooking until this past weekend. We took a trip to Vermont with a few friends, and I offered to cook dinner and lunch two of the days. My plan was to make venison chili with cornbread quiche for dinner and venison cutlets the next day for lunch. I had never cooked venison before, and I’m always nervous about cooking meat after the Meatloaf Disaster of 2011. But after reading over a couple of possible recipes, I realized that the skills I had picked up over the last two weeks would translate pretty easily.

And you know what? That venison turned out pretty darn good.

So, I’m curious: How do all of y’all learn new recipes? Do you tend to cook the same things over and over? Have you tried Blue Apron? What did you think?

(I feel obligated to clarify that this isn’t a sponsored post — I just wanted to share my opinion about a new service we’ve been trying!)

Hi hi hi hi HI!

Have you missed me? I’ve missed you all.

You probably already noticed, but I took a bit of a break from the interwebs over the last two weeks. (Except what I needed to do for work.) Instead, I really threw myself into organizing our apartment and updating a few decor things.

We decided last year that this would be our final year in our current place, meaning we’ll be ready to move come April. Before then, though, I wanted to get rid of as much as I could to make packing and moving less of a headache.

Meaning it was time to tackle the really messy areas of our apartment.

Here were my main goals:

1. Organize the linen closet.
2. Organize the file cabinet.
3. Rearrange the desk area.
4. Replace our (seriously beat UP) living room rug.
5. Sell and replace our green upholstered chair in the living room.
6. Organize the kitchen cabinets and pantry.
7. Rearrange our picture frames.
8. Organize under the bathroom sink.

I had also hoped to get some organizing done in the bedroom, but that’s a task for another day. It’s mostly Joey’s stuff that needs a more efficient storage system. (Sorry, babe. I promise, you’ll like it better when everything has a place!)

Here are a few before-and-afters…because who doesn’t love a makeover story?

Let’s start in the kitchen. Here is the pantry before:

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And here is the pantry after:

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I don’t know about you, but those sweetly labeled food containers just warm my heart.

Up next, the linen closet before:

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And now the linen closet currently:

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Yup, more chalkboard label goodness.

Next up, I rearranged some furniture around our desk. Here’s what it looked like before:

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And here’s what we’re looking at now:

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For the living room itself, here’s where we started:

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And here’s the updated version:

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A little lighter, brighter, and a lot more colorful, non?

I also did organize the kitchen cabinets, under the bathroom sink, our file cabinet, and I even threw in the tupperware and baking sheet cabinets for kicks. (It was a very busy couple of weeks.) I’m still waiting for our new upholstered chair to arrive, but then I’ll be sure to post an update.

So there you have it! How did everyone else spend their break?