sale pending!

Well, well.
entry mumsGetting things together, even to the point of potting mums for the front step, seems to have paid off. We’ve accepted an offer to buy our house.

downsize (25)

After watching friends wait long stretches -sometimes years- to sell houses, we’re amazed at this blessing. We negotiated and signed everything just a few days after listing the house, and now that we’re hammering out inspection details, everything should be all set to hand over the keys in December. We’re feeling very grateful, very humbled, and very excited (sometimes overwhelmed…) about the hunt for a new house. Instead of focusing on the bittersweet feelings of leaving this place, I’m trying to make the most of the next seven weeks here. I think these evenings will have lots of bonfires.
bonfireIs this really happening!?

From “home” back to “house”

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.”  — Proverbs 14:1 

We spent the first nine months of our marriage in a tiny apartment saving up  –we slept on the floor on a bunch of blankets to avoid spending money on a bed– and dreaming about a house. I think the most “homey” touch we added to that apartment were a few pictures on the walls, but we never really settled.  New to the area, we drove around and inspected different corners of the community, visiting new friends for the chance to snoop on houses in their neighborhoods as much as the fellowship. We spent those months eagerly waiting for our home.
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There are fond memories from our time in “The Apt,” like warm evenings when Aaron fished in the pond stocked with baby blue gills and an energetic Weimaraner from the neighborhood ran out of his yard to join me on country runs. (With country dirt roads, a gym at the complex, and few friends to distract us, we exercised a lot despite the eau de piglette near the farms.) We connected with our next-door neighbor and a few other residents we’re still friends with today, and I swiped the pumpkin from the main office door on Halloween when it was inappropriately defaced. (We still laugh about it today – not suitable for blogging content though!) I certainly wouldn’t miss paying for laundry, living on the third floor, buzzing guests in and out, neighbors who smoke out of their sliding glass door, or paying rent into a financial abyss, but the boring box apartment was a rite-of-passage and I stress-cried a lot the week we moved out.
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Buying a new house meant adding in Lowes as a line-item on our budget; painting and repainting (I was young, it was our first time picking colors, and this was in the days before Pinterest, people!); searching for just the right accessories at Goodwill; sewing curtains; and spending every spare moment dreaming about or working on projects to improve our charming -though dated- mid-century bungalow. I poured a lot of grief into these projects through the years and most of our family visits involved more demolition than relaxation. Sometimes the enormity of the project felt overwhelming, but it has been a very rewarding endeavor.

stage 14

And now that we’ve agreed to sell it soon, there is a funny paradox of completion – other than the absence of a crib in the back room, all the dreams have been realized! It’s as beautiful as I knew it could be. And yet, we have to think of this season as stewardship in a new way. It’s not really my home anymore. I’m a steward of this place for a new buyer, and I completed so many nit-picky  projects of care to present the best vision of the home to complete strangers who traipsed through to judge it in hopes that they would make a high offer to purchase from us.

stage 8

I think selling the first house is a rite-of-passage on it’s own, especially when I know the turnaround on another house will likely be faster and not as dramatic. It is good to know these efforts in building up my home have been the fruit of wisdom, and that God will give us the strength we need to build up the next place (though, likely, with less remodeling) while eagerly awaiting the final home He is building up that is not temporal or changing.

In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” -John 14:2-3

stage 13

reading round-up (10.11.13)

It’s been a very busy week for us, with listing our house for sale and taking a weekend trip — more updates on those things will certainly come! For now, a few reads from this week…

My Bible study group is going through Matthew’s Gospel this year, and I was struck by the passage about worry and food in relation to the articles I posted about the GMO crop debate last week. I appreciated a post about people who can’t afford “organic food,” with the caveat that I don’t even think the idea of organic is as admirable as the author. Plenty of things considered “organic” fertilizer/herbicide can be harmful for our bodies, too, and frankly, after living in a 3rd-world country as a child, obsession with this just seems like affluent narcissism. My motto? Eat delicious food that comes out of the ground before you eat food that comes out of a box when possible, and in the words of Jesus…

Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food?….Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”  – Matthew 6:25-27


In preparation for listing the house, the past few weeks have included significant clutter purges and more deep-cleaning than I have done in the entire first four years we lived in the house. My favorite blog for encouragement on this topic is Small Notebook, and I owe a significant debt to whoever figured out Pledge furniture polish works better on Stainless Steel appliances and sinks than specialty cleaners. It really works, and I’m a fan. Most surfaces in our house are wood or stainless steel, so I’m like the dad from My Big Fat Greek Wedding who loves Windex, only with a spray bottle of lemon-scented oily wonder.
windex(This is probably the first and only time anyone will get cleaning tips from me.)

for sale!

 

 

I have no intention of being cryptic here, folks. This summer and fall have brought a weird mix of delight and valley-of-the-shadow-of-death to my life, but I have good news! With the exception of messy flower beds that I meant to tackle this summer before traveling, morning sickness, another miscarriage, etc., got in the way… the little house on the hill has become everything I envisioned when we first bought it. The never-ending kitchen project is completed, the bathroom is perfect, and this yard is, in the words of my friend’s daughter, “just like playing in Narnia!”

I mean… I even put some mums by the front door. We have really got it together over here.

downsizeALL JUST IN TIME FOR THIS, I suppose. (Also, we sold the chickens and miss them already!)

 

The Bathing Suite

I’ve been dreaming about a bathroom remodel for a while. For a little over four years, to be honest. I describe the original bathroom as an example of everything that was wrong with bathrooms in the 1950’s on a jumbo scale. We wanted to get this done last winter, but quickly discovered it was impossible to think about projects while I was teaching six academic classes and thirty-three piano lessons every week.  So it sat all alone and ugly for a while longer than we wanted, and spring break turned into a bathroom disaster when our one working shower’s tile walls started coming off in sheets. This conveniently occurred just before hosting six adults and a toddler for a weekend in our two-bed one-bath home. A sheet of orange plastic protected the bare plaster in the stall from getting entirely soaked when we showered.

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The plastic sheet stayed there for three-and-a-half months. Shameful.

My birthday weekend included some help from my dad with our new tub/shower combo tiling situation.
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Then eventually, piano recitals came, and classes ended, and it was summer. And it was time to buckle down on this debacle. (Yes, this doesn’t look any better, but it’s always darkest just before dawn.) DSC05381

After a difficult season that included blood, sweat, tears, Aaron declaring he doesn’t know if he can remodel anything again ever, and another visit from my parents (we are terrible slave drivers), we no longer have a plain old bathroom. No, we have a Bathing Suite.

Suite 1

The bathtub is now also a shower with tiled walls, with no further awkward questions about the efficacy of bathing in a dark, slimy stall.suite 4

 

The brown fake tile from the walls was ripped off, and because I was not ambitious enough to get the plaster underneath smooth enough to paint, I hung beadboard-imitation-paintable-wallpaper on the bottom half of the wall. In retrospect, I’m not convinced this was the best course of action. I bought it before we made some other final decisions that might have pushed me towards actual bead-board paneling, but it’s done and it’s fine.

Suite 5

We have a spacious and effective linen closet in place of that old shower, a slim vanity, and amazing flooring. I love this floor so much I would sleep on it. (I suppose that’s not something I should actually say, because I usually sleep in the bathroom if I’m really sick and I don’t want that to happen.)
Suite 3

We saved most of the original towel bars, and I’m really happy with how they fit in with everything else.

Suite 2Clearly, we are bathing in absolute luxury now! I still can’t believe it’s done after years of hoping…

 

livestock update

The chickens are still well. We have settled our coop down with two black Barred Rocks, two Rhode Island Reds, and two California white hybrids. We aren’t too far away from collecting eggs. They should be laying in a month or so!

Aaron wanted to give the new birds names that silly kids would give them, so he chose Snowflake and Sugar. I suggested the spelling “Snoflak” since that would make it even more authentic, but Aaron says that’s overthinking it. Oh well. He picked these names on behalf of all the children in all the world. Since he is a man of such generous heart, I imagine he willl probably go to Dunkin Donuts and eat some donuts on their behalf soon, too.

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We also had a little visitor in a window well a few weeks ago. Neighbors on both sides of us have dogs, so the bunny situation gets out of hand sometimes. This year we had a little baby running around in a window well, and Aaron got him out. His mommy was waiting for him, but I still wanted to try domesticating the little thing.
baby bunnyHe could have been a good addition to the coop, but we decided against adding more animals right now. Well. Aaron smirked at me and set the bunny down to hop over to his mama. Hopefully he doesn’t return and try to eat out of the garden!

{cute graphic via Karen Watson}

{cute graphic via Karen Watson}

2013: The year of “MAKING IT HAPPEN”

Our holiday memories this year center around traveling. We visited our families for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, which made for lots of fun and lots of driving. (My little Honda passed the 100,000 mile marker somewhere around Kalamazoo, MI!) Aaron reinjured his knee playing ice hockey and now receives consistent encouragement to visit a doctor, and we’re both enjoying the benefits of our Christmas loot: eating lots of air-popped popcorn, drinking homemade lattes, and keeping warm in wool socks. We really lucked out in the loot department this holiday season.

And now, without much time to really refresh over break, we’re heading full-force into a new year of grace and growth. After Aaron’s four-and-a-half years of PhD slaving, we’re close to the end of this grad school thing, though without a solid graduation date yet. It could be this year. Or it could be later. We don’t really know. It’s hard to even think about “resolutions” or “goals” for the new year because so much is unknown about the future. I suppose this is always true, but it seems very apparent that everything about our life – employment, family, church, house, income/finances, location – could drastically change in the next twelve months. Or it could all stay the same!

During our possible-moving-scare last spring, we had a walk-through with a Realtor to discuss exactly what this house needs before advertising it for sale, and since we have a list to work on, our plan for this year is “make it happen” at home by finishing one house project each month. We slacked off on projects of all sizes this fall while Aaron was hunting and I was drowning in work. I may still be drowning this spring, but we’ll be able to get stuff done together. First up? Finishing the kitchen. Shocker, I know. And luckily (for me!!), our bathroom plans were heartily approved for resale interest, so we’ll start working on that when it gets a little warmer.

But for now, we’ve been working on all the little finishing details for the kitchen project and we’re hoping to wrap them up by the end of January! It’s really embarrassing and disheartening to know we started this all two years ago. Next time we redo a kitchen, we’re hiring out some of the stuff and  we’ll take time off work for our labor instead of squeezing all the magic into weekends.

So this is what the year has looked like for us so far. I’d say it’s pretty exciting!

head lamp; fashionably spray-painted vent.

Aaron is wearing his head lamp while installing our fashionably spray-painted vent cover.

Happy New Year!

Shady Business

Almost four years ago, we fell in love with a little house nestled up into a hill with trees all around. I think it reminded us a little more of our native Michigan than most other real estate we had inspected, and Aaron likes yard work more than inside work, so we bought it. We haven’t regretted this decision, but oh boy! These trees have taken a little more tending than we expected.

A Tale of Two Trees

Last summer our city decided to take down a tree in our neighbors’ yard, which we thought was great, since it hung over our house and made us nervous during windy storms. And taking it out would mean our newly seeded grass in the back yard could get more sunlight.  Well. Surprise! Even though the tree is in the other yard, the removal crew felt it was acceptable to climb up  our hill of newly sprouted grass on their way to taking down the tree and leaving the branches on the other place in the yard that has new growth.

It’s kind of hard for the newly sprouted grass to grow after being trampled or covered with branches. All the fresh grass was afflicted in some way.  This brought Aaron much grief, so he made some calls and the city sent someone over to reseed the area after we got our yard cleared out from the branches from our neighbor’s tree that was cut down by the city.  (We were responsible for moving the branches even though it wasn’t our tree.)

The person who came to put down new seed in our yard accidentally roto-tilled a bunch of wires by our shed, which took down land lines and internet all over the neighborhood. Then the person who came to fix our internet somehow didn’t get our connection reset so we were offline for two days.

The worst part? They only took the parts of the tree that were in the way of the wires. This is what we see in the backyard now. 
Luckily, our latest tree adventure wasn’t quite so challenging. After some procrastinating, we decided to fell the huge tree in front of our front door, the one that took two people’s arms to span the circumference, that was touching the house and making horrid creaking sounds against the roof every time the wind blew. It pains me to say this, because I think I have DIY in my DNA, but  it was so huge and foreboding, being over the house and right by the door, that we saved up and paid someone else to do this. We drove away from Iowa last week to spend Thanksgiving with family and left our forestry project for the real professionals.

When we came home, we just had a stump and some sawdust.
I finished teaching some piano lessons Monday evening and came out to find Aaron laboriously assaulting the stump with this axe, so I asked, “Are you making this into a planter or did you have a bad day at the lab?” (It will be a planter, we hope. But Aaron will have to be in charge of the plants since I always kill them.)

The Great Hall Collage (Home Tour)

A small house is a great blessing, and we have been surprised by much joy coming from the limited size of our home. I’m not the only one to think a diminutive space is good, too! The popular blog Apartment Therapy regularly features “Small, Cool Places” that make our little cabin a mansion, comparatively, and even Leonardo Da Vinci said “Small rooms or dwellings discipline the mind.” I’ve thought of his quote frequently since living here, and that mental discipline has stretched and improved me many times over during these three years.

In this smallish dwelling, we have just one hallway that twists around from the kitchen, up a few stairs, and leads to the bedroom, linen closet, bathroom and office. This cozy passageway is one of the dearest spots in my home because of the photo project built up on the walls. Inspiration came from a few different sources, but I didn’t really know how to start so I just got some pictures and started nailing them up on the wall.

Collage wall from Pottery Barn, via my pinterest board. I love the different textures on the wall, but I think the clash of black and brown frames is distracting.

source unknown, via my pinterest boards. I love the black frames against white walls with lots of natural wood in the house, just like ours.

When I don’t know how to start something, I either panic and procrastinate forever or jump right in and hope it works out. This hall collage came about because I responded in the second way. Now after three years we have one giant collage that is about 90% done. There are a few empty frames and some empty spots that need frames and artwork. When I look at this, I think I meant to have photos on just one wall, but I had a general idea instead of a specific vision for the project so it ballooned from there. I’m certainly not disappointed with how it turned out.

I left the light buttons on this picture because they are so cool. We turn the lights on and off by pressing round buttons, not flipping switches! This little house has serious quirks, and I love it.

A beautiful thank-you note; The cover of a cult book on prayer; Pictures from Aaron’s homecoming; Take-out cookie fortune: “Your path is arduous but will be amply rewarding”; 1st verse of For the Beauty of the Earth.

artsy cabbage; lots of Van Gogh; pictures from the beach; friends; family; virtus tentamine gaudet; embroidery from my friend J; Mattise goldfish poster; anniversary card; baby ducks; letterpress christmas cards;  honeymoon photography; psalm 51:8; Psalm 91; flowers from the Hillsdale campus.

Wedding pictures; grapes on a card from my friend A; quaking aspens; easter hymn; CS Lewis quote from “The Four Loves” on vulnerability; heartbeat; fake leaf above the door to our bedroom; antique postcards my friend E sent from Paris; college diplomas.

I have learned much about pictures and decorating and arranging in the last few years, so I am really inspired about where this could go in the future. We have a nice mix of art, pictures, quotes and other memorabilia here, and I’m daydreaming about doing this timeline style in another house someday, so the quotes and other art would somehow correspond with what was going on in our life at the same point of the pictures we’re in. I think it would be a really neat testament to God’s faithfulness in our lives, and a tangible illustration that our lives really are God’s artwork always in process.

PS: I will also admit that this post bugs me because it doesn’t feel “real.” I’ve done a fair amount of tweaking since taking these pictures, so I’ll update sometime when it’s “100% done.” Just in time to list the house for sale and remove them all for Realtor staging, you know.

PPS: Did you notice how many photos and cards we have from friends and family here? Those are some of my favorite pieces in our hall, so if you send us something neat it might become a special part of our collage. I’m not begging or anything, just throwing the idea out there for your consideration.

Bathroom (Home Tour)

After getting a look at the decor heights of our lovely bedroom, I thought I’d show you the disaster that is our bathroom. I will admit…. we chose that blue. I was 22 and inexperienced, and I have learned a lot since then. But anyway, some natural aging on the house means I get to make over  our awkward first paint and decor choices! There are tiles peeling off over the tub, so an overhaul on this bathroom is on the must-do list. I’m quite sure it will be easier and much cheaper than the never-ending kitchen project!

Walking in from the hall.

The grodiest shower in the developed world. I can’t even show you a picture of the inside. More grout comes out every time I scrub the tiles, so I’m never sure how hard I should work to get it clean. 

Someone brilliantly put wood trim around the shower door, so we have to be very careful about wiping it off after showers.

The sink is… very special. Also, the vanity is humongous and takes up half the bathroom. They had to make a cut-out so the door would swing open. 

This bathtub is also special. The shower extension doesn’t go high enough for a shower. And those fake brown tiles are peeling off!

I don’t really know when this will happen, but plans for the bathroom include: retiling the bathtub surround and putting in a shower head; turning the yucky shower stall into a linen closet; replacing the toilet; replacing the vanity with something skinnier; and repainting the walls gray.

I think deep-down, I would be more adventurous with color for the rest of the house, but Aaron likes to keep things very neutral since we will need to sell the house in a few years. I’ve heard that restrictions on creativity can actually be a freeing thing, and I think it’s true for how we’re putting the house together. By working to find things we both like, I think our house has a pretty clearly defined aesthetic that neither one of us would have found on our own. (Aaron actually cares about this quite a bit, which surprised me, but I bet if he was on his own it wouldn’t be a high priority.) This co-decorating sense makes it a little easier to pull together new projects, like our bathroom.  I like this first inspiration bathroom better because it feels a little more “grounded” with those black shelves. But no matter how it works out, I keep coming back to the gray-with-rustic-wood combo whenever I look for ideas, so I’m pretty sure we’re going for something like this!

My favorite inspiration bathroom! From Focal Point on my Pinterest boards.

More natural wood with gray! From a YHL Reader Re-design, on my Pinterest boards.