So shiny and new!

posted by harlie in home, shopping

We have a new fridge! Whoooo!

Isn’t it gorgeous?

We always knew that we’d have to replace the fridge that came with the house. In fact, I’m shocked it lasted this long! Sure, it keeps things cold. In fact, I’ve discovered things with ice on them on the fridge side. The Mr tried hooking up the water so we could use the water dispenser and ice maker, but wound up flooding the kitchen. Best of all, some of the interior pieces are held together with duct tape. And not just any duct tape, FLAMING duct tape! Very edgy.

Also, it smelled like sour milk and rotted veggies when we first moved in. After a good cleaning and a box of baking soda, that wasn’t a problem anymore, but….ew.

It was such a comedown from the fridge we had at our last rental home: a 48″, counter-depth, side-by-side, built-in, gourmet Thermador fridge. That beauty was HEAVEN! The water dispenser flowed with filtered water! The ice dispenser crushed ice! I could store EVERYTHING in there and still not loose anything in the back of the shelves. Some day, when I have a gazillion dollars, I want one two of my very own.

Until then, I’m just really stoked to have a new fridge. I’ve never owned a new fridge before and, even after looking at every configuration, endless models, reading reviews, and pricing out different brands, I have to admit I was kind of hesitant about pulling the trigger. It’s a lot of money to put down for something that should last you 10+ years. What if the layout of the fridge annoyed us? What if the freezer wasn’t big enough? What if the computerized ice/water dispenser (they’re all computerish these days) went haywire and caused me to cuss when Lil’Man was sneaking up behind me? I told the Mr of my worries while we were in the truck, driving to Home Depot to make the big purchase. He looked at me a bit incredulously and, after a moment, asked me a question:

“Do you hate the fridge we have with every drop of your being? With, as you say, the flaming fire of a thousand burning suns?” (I may sometimes get loudly emotional about my appliances. And my hyperbole may tend toward the redundant.)

I told him that THAT hate was reserved for our washer, but the fridge was a close second. He assured me that whatever fridge we got, it wouldn’t be any worse than the one we have now. I smiled at him and sighed, but it did make me feel better.

We chose a French door model from Samsung. We picked the 3-door model with a water/ice dispenser, though we considered getting a 4-door model. The fourth door (a drawer, really) seemed especially convenient for storing the kids’ snacks and school lunch items, but I was concerned it was just a gimmick. Then, Lil’Man squished his fingers between the sliding drawers and it basically sealed the deal on NOT getting the fourth door. That kid will eventually slam his fingers into every door in the house, so I figure I’d save us at least one crying jag.

My favorite feature so far: the new fridge also has a door-in-door feature. It might also be considered gimmicky, but a small access hatch on the door of our old fridge was the one thing about it I liked — easy access to sodas, creamer for my coffee or even meds for the kids that require refrigeration. I was thrilled to find an improved, larger version of the little access door in new models. Plus, this fridge has an LED read-out telling us the temperature in the freezer and fridge.

So far, I’m loving it. The Mr and Lil’Man find the lack of magnetic-ness on the front a problem, but the sides are still magnetic and I like the reduction in clutter. The real trick with this new fridge will be keeping Lil’Man from constantly opening the freezer. Especially once he figures out how to get to the ice cream and popsicles.

Mmmmmm…ice cream…

Now, I’ve been so excited about the new fridge, that I almost forgot the crazy part of this whole shebang. The window behind the fridge. Yes, we have a window 99% obscured by the fridge. When we first saw the house, I couldn’t believe it was intentional. And then we got to see the kitchen remodeling plans where they have the fridge placed squarely in front of the window. That’s right: they remodeled the kitchen. And they chose to place the fridge in front of a window.

I’m still flabbergasted. Granted, in the plans, the architect called out for that window to be filled in on the interior and remain on the exterior (for visual balance), so it wasn’t completely bonkers. But somewhere along the way, they just simply left the window untouched. Now, I’m all for saving money and all, but I just don’t get that decision. This is a southwest facing window, so you have the sun beating down on the back of your refrigerator almost half the day. It’s not the most efficient fridge to begin with (I’m pretty sure it’s from the 80s or so) and making it work that much harder is just ridiculous.

We plan on doing a fairly complete kitchen remodel down the road and that’s definitely something we’ll change. Until then, we’re tucking some rigid insulation into the window frame. It’s not a perfect fix, but it should just about eliminate the extra thermal load on our new fridge. Our nice, shiny, new fridge! Excuse me while I go open the doors to admire it’s shiny, white, LED-lit cleanliness for a bit before we inevitably spill chili or ketchup or something in it.

† Oh my god, that THING! It’s actually #2 on my list of most hated. #1 is our stove, but that baby is a Wolf and should be fixed under our homebuyer’s insurance agreement. Actually, #1 on my sh** list is our insurance company that seems to be trying to get out of fixing the stove, but that’s a WHOOOOLE other problem. Anyhow, I think the washer hates me as much as I hate it. If you don’t push down on one back corner of the lid juuust right, it will fill up with water and just SIT there, pretending to have finished the wash, when, in reality, you’ve been soaking that laundry ALL NIGHT and can’t move it over to the dryer when you wake up. MWAHAHAHAHA! And the dryer? Also sucks…sometimes. It’s usually fine, but, on occasion, chooses not to dry things. That baby is #4 on my list. The dishwasher is #5, which I think is last since it does a decent job most of the time. We haven’t settled on their replacements yet, but soon. Well…soonish.

‡ They put a “pantry” where the fridge used to be, though they could have added as much or even more storage if they’d kept the fridge where it was and added cabinets under all the windows. Instead, they put in two open “desk” areas with almost no storage. It’s like they were trying to minimize their storage space AND their natural light.


House hunting: Why and how it went down

posted by harlie in home, shopping

As you know, we bought a house (holy crap!). We had been looking for a house for the last few months. And, for those who don’t know: house hunting is hard. Those of you who know how true this is are sagely nodding your heads or are thinking, “No shit, Sherlock.”

We long ago narrowed it down to a few neighborhoods. The many of the schools in California are in dire straits, so we had a pretty good idea of the handful of communities we wanted to move into. That is, the ones with strong school districts. We’ve been living in Oakland which is, sadly, NOT one of those communities. Not by a long shot. This was disappointing because whatever you may have heard about Oakland in the news, it’s not a terrible place to live. Yes, it has terrible areas, but it also has some really wonderful neighborhoods that are pretty much free of violence. Neighborhoods where you can walk to the store with your kids or stroll down to the corner sidewalk cafe and enjoy lunch or just an ice cream cone before heading to see a movie at the local theater.

This is the kind of area where we’ve been living and we love it. Our walk score is 97. Seriously. It doesn’t get much better than that. It’s awesome. When I was on maternity leave, I never had to worry about anything being too far to get to. Grocery stores, restaurants, clothing stores, gyms, salons, hardware stores, day spas, craft and fabric stores, a theater…all within a few blocks of our house. But it’s still the city and it’s still Oakland; we have people digging through our recycling, pickpockets, car break-ins, muggings, addicts in the street, and the very occasional shooting. Whoa. That sounds really bad, but it’s not. I promise. Our personal track record: one stolen purse (my mom’s), one pick-pocketed wallet (the Mr’s) and one broken-in car (mine). But all of that is something you can recover from if you act quickly. Just…don’t walk down dark street after sundown and don’t be hanging out on the street at 2am and you’ll pretty much avoid the rest. And if you’re like us, you don’t really want to be doing any of that anyhow because Lil’Man’s bedtime is before sundown (during the summer, anyhow) and once he’s asleep, you want to get as much prepped for the next day before diving into bed yourself. Especially when he has started waking up at 1AM wanting milk and/or hugs.

Anyhow, I promise it’s a nice place to live and it’s especially a great place for a street-wise adult. We are going to miss the convenience of all the shops and restaurants being nearby. Forgot eggs or ran out of milk? No problem, the store is 5 minutes away if I walk. Craving some artisan gelato? It’s right down the street. Broke a needle on your sewing machine? That shop is open late on Saturday. Craving French burgers Vietnamese Ethiopian tapas just about anything? I’ll go grab some takeout. We have gotten so spoiled here, it’s not funny. But it’s not the kind of place where a kid can roam and explore and it’s just not where we want to raise our son.

Both the Mr and I grew up in semi-rural areas (him more rural, me more suburban) and we want that experience for our kids. We want a place where he can walk out the front door and play basketball in the driveway. A place where he can bike around the neighborhood without most motorists speeding down the street and where there aren’t cars lining both sides of every street and possible on-coming traffic just around the bend. We want him to have his choice of trees to climb and dirt to dig in. We want an area that encourages being outdoors with parks and hiking trails. And as parents, we also want an area with great schools.

Sometimes it seems like an impossible list to fit in our budget.

We interviewed a few realtors and all of them warned us: we could fall in love and buy the first house we saw or it might take a year or two to find just the right one. They warned us that the market is crazy, even now. I had a co-worker who made offers on twenty-six homes before his offer was accepted. Yikes! And because the market had stabilized some, more and more people started looking for homes just as sellers (particularly banks) started to hold onto homes a bit longer because they saw prices rising again. Buyers with deep pockets who had been waiting for the market to bottom out were entering the market with all-cash offers. So, yes: still crazy and quickly becoming a seller’s market.

Well, we didn’t fall in love with the first house we saw. Or the second. Or the dozens after that. But after looking at what felt like a couple hundred houses, we put in an offer for a house that we felt needed a lot of updating, but also had a lot of potential. Sadly, we didn’t get the place (as I posted before), so we kept looking.

A few weeks later, we visited another house. It had been on the market for over a month and I’d bookmarked it in my browser weeks before. I hadn’t pressed our realtor to go see it because 1) it was at the very,very tippy top of our price range, 2) it was a two story, when we had been focusing on ranch homes because: stairs, 3) the backyard photos showed a lot of slope with not a lot of useful space, and 4) the “remodeled” kitchen had the fridge sitting in front of a window. A SOUTH FACING WINDOW! It’s right there in the listing photos. Just completely blocking a window and exposing the condensing coils to a plethora of thermal load. I mean, who pays out big bucks to remodel and doesn’t properly account for the fridge and what other impractical weirdness have they inflicted on their home? I ask you. Seriously…who does that? If nothing else, I had to see the horrid craziness of this house.

But, fridge weirdness aside, it turned out to be a great house! The yard is sloped, but it’s not as steep as the photos made it appear. And while we had been leaning toward getting a ranch home, this home was laid out in such a way that we wouldn’t need to be trekking up and down stairs all the time. So, we made an offer. Since the home obviously needed some work *coughthekitchencough* and it had been on the market for over a month (highly unusual and a possible red flag since homes around here often sell with multiple offers within the first week or two) we sent in a lower-than-asking bid to the selling couple and waited.

Apparently, the wife looked at our offer and balked. She didn’t even want to dignify it with a counter-offer. Fortunately, her husband is a realtor and wasn’t too surprised. We counter and counter-countered for a while. After a bit of back and forth, we were close. We verbally asked the sellers if they would reduce the price 1% more (that sounds small, but house prices are insane out here and it still comes out to a good chunk of money) and have a done deal. But then another potential buyer came into the picture. His realtor was out of town, so he requested 24 hours from the sellers if they got another counter from us. Having researched the trends in our area, we knew that most bidding wars ended with the sales price either being higher than asking or with an all-cash offer. We weren’t able to do either. The last counter to us was higher than we wanted to pay, but they had offered to complete a good chunk of the work that an inspector had designated as needing to be done ASAP. That was going to save us money, but also time that would need to be spent dealing with the contractors. If we accepted their offer, we’d be paying more than we’d hoped. We were ok to get a slightly larger loan and could afford the increase in payments with some budget tweaking. If we let another bid come in, we could potentially lose the house. We weren’t ok with that. We swallowed hard and signed their last offer.

We were finally under contract for a house. Yikes!


Holy crap! We bought a house!

posted by harlie in home, shopping

We still can’t quite believe it’s a done deal. We’re very excited, but still have tons to do before we move in. Lots of pictures coming, I promise!


Spring Flings

posted by harlie in home, shopping

So, it’s the first day of spring! I know that many people are still facing freezing temperatures and icy conditions, but here in the Bay Area, it’s starting to warm up (and, honestly, it never gets that cold) and we’re preparing for the usual rainy season. In fact, after a few sunny afternoons in the past few days, the rain and dreariness has started creeping in today. Definitely time to grab a few items to brighten the day and prepare for the incoming April Showers.

  1. Venetian Glass Pendants. I have always loved the look of these and now, World Market has a few affordable pendants. It’s like the made them just for me. One of each, please.

  2. Peonies. I’m usually a gerbera daisy kinda girl, but I also love peonies and they are quintessentially spring. I’m planning on getting a few for my Easter centerpiece.
  3. Wrap watch. I have lusted after Red Monkey Design’s wrap watch for a long while, but couldn’t bring myself to spend so much on a watch. Then, I found this very similar watch at Target. They normally sell for $40, but I found mine for half price.
  4. Spring Grass Umbrella. I love Tray 6 umbrellas. They have great designs in fun colors and are really well constructed. I have three and rotate them out because I love them all. I think everyone should have a brightly colored umbrella to not just keep them dry, but also combat any rainy day dreariness.
  5. Nigella Seeds. Also known as charnushka and kalageera, I had a hard time tracking these down at first. My mother-in-law suggested I try Penzey’s Spices for all my hard-to-find needs. And she was right. I got my shipment in just today. Now I can actually make this recipe without substituting mustard seeds (which tasted great, but it’s nice to try a recipe as it’s meant to be).
  6. Dream Pants. I love these pants from Title Nine and would live in them if I didn’t like wearing skirts so much. They are my ultimate comfortable (but not slouchy-looking) pants and I wear them for working out, lounging, napping and play dates with Lil’Man. I have even worn them to work, but my office dress code is pretty relaxed, so I wouldn’t suggest that for everyone.


Havin’ a hoot

posted by harlie in home, shopping

While I was shopping at West Elm for our new dining room rug (which we’re loving so far, by the way), I spied these lovely little guys:

I’d see them online and drooled over the little owl speaker. Isn’t he adorable? But at $50, I thought he was a bit pricey. After all, I didn’t NEED him, but I thought he’d make a cute option for an iPhone amp (I currently put it on speaker mode but that gets a little blownout or staticy)

But lo! He and and his friends are on sale for 50% off! I tried to resist him, but had to go back. Why yes, Mr Owl, I think I’ll take you home for $25, thank you.

He is currently getting cozy in my kitchen. Doesn’t he look right at home with the other owls? They’re salt & pepper shakers, if you’re wondering why I already have owls in my kitchen.

I’m pretty happy with him and the amount of sound he produces. I should mention that the salesman at the store suggested I get one of the black or red speakers (which are on the shelf below the white ceramic animals). He said that they weren’t as cute, but the sound they produced was louder and of better quality. If that matters to you, it’s well worth knowing. I’m not an audiophile and don’t need an overwhelming level of music, so I went with visual aesthetics over aural. Plus, I think that this little guy might come in handy in Lil’Man’s room at times and cute animals go over big with the toddler crowd. When he saw the owl he started running around the kitchen hopping and hooting. It was hilarious. I think I made the right decision.

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