Thursday, June 10, 2010


After years of rubbing elbows in apartments, the amount of space we have now seems grossly unnecessary.

Which is odd.

Looking for apartments, we saw two- and three-flats that had 5, 6, 7—one even with 10 bedrooms—and we daydreamed about how each room could house a different passion. Music room. Meditation room. Sewing room. Legos (?) room. We have so many hobbies, we could easily find reasons to fill each room. When I first saw Hathaway House, I had a minor panic attack. Too small! Only three bedrooms??

And then we moved in, and I still felt it was too small. Then came the day to clean, and I realized it was maybe too big for my level of laziness.

Already, I keep a pile of things at the bottom (and top) of the stairs so I can consolidate trips upstairs to the bedroom/office/library.

An exciting discovery! Tim and Mo punched a hole in the 2nd floor ceiling to get into the attic, and they found the attic is enormous! I am currently daydreaming about a reading nook, exercise space, general hiding place. This is year down the road, but we'd really like to fix up the attic. Both Tim and I love secret spaces. Plus, how much does it add to the resale value if we can say, "three stories"!?

Things are coming together. My parents have brought up three of the six chairs they found at an antique mart in Kansas and have refinished. An oak dresser we are using as our Reginald (our word for a foyer dresser). Today I set up a small dresser with mirror that we found in my mother-in-law's basement for our bedroom, and am regretting the dark purple Tim has approved for that room. With a dried sprig of milo in a rustic brown vase, this dresser sets the stage for Country Antique, and makes me long for a soft, light room like my mother would design.

My parents are here this week, and are MACHINES. This weekend was planting time. My parents brought a redbud twig and an oak stem, along with an herb garden, and multiple pots of zinnias, marigolds, and tomatoes and peppers. The trees have been planted and are wilting a bit, but still alive. The zinnias sprout hopefully in the front yard. The crazy storms this weekend seem to not have dampened the spirit of my green garden.

Already, my mother has taken a toothbrush and Simple Green to the kitchen tile to reveal that the black grout is actually burnt orange! My dad hauled a truckload of muddy dirt from the suburbs to our backyard. (I helped marginally.) The rest of the week promises updated electrics, new ceiling fans, and an organized pantry.

At least once a day, if not more, Tim and I look at each other, and say, "I can't believe this is ours!" We're curious to see how long it takes before the sheen wears off, and we're no longer in absolute awe of our house.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Home vs. House

Owning a Home is great! Owning a House can really suck sometimes. The challenge these days is to spend enough quality Home time that all the House time and money feels worth it. Both Ellie and I get close to being overwhelmed when we forget this.

Our Home is the place where the our cats sit in the open windows and watch the birds while we take our time waking up and getting out of bed. It's the place where we take an hour to mow the lawn because we're talking with neighbors and drinking a beer. It's the place where the grill going strong and there is a table full of friends enjoying the beautiful day. It's the place where the breeze is gentle and the sunlight is warm. It's the place where all of our cherished odds-and-ends are finally finding their own special place, like our whole life is exhaling and laying back on the purple-velvet couch.

Our House is the place where we can't get internet because the wires are problematic. It's the place where the light-fixture doesn't work. Where the ceiling in the basement needs to come out. Where we discover a new problem every time we fix another. Where we still have unpacked boxes everywhere because the wiring has to be fixed before the walls are painted before the shelves are up before the books have a place to go.

I wish I could take a week or two off of work (still, somehow getting paid, of course) and just get it all done. But as it stands I am doing 8 shows a week (9 next week) down at the Pier, and a reading, and getting ready to leave town for a few months of work in Wisconsin. ...*sigh*...

Still, it is a good lesson in prioritizing and keeping a flexible budget. And there is something inescapably wonderful about working on your own house; it might be stressful and difficult at the time but you know you're transforming it into a home.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Amid the Stress

There are also some quiet, beautiful moments about having the house, hereafter known as the Hathaway House.

It's cottoning season in west Logan Square. There is at least one cottonwood tree in the neighborhood, which has started snowing. The air is thick with swirling white "flakes." Drifts form at the edges of yards, against the spiderwebs of fences and gates. Hathaway is missing several window screens, so the cotton floats in and has gathered in billowing clouds in the corners of each room. In researching the phenomenon online, I read people's complaints, how the cotton smothers other plants, and prevents moisture from reaching them, or likewise traps it, but I can only remember growing up in Kansas, and marvel at a little bit of the Flint Hills filling my new house.

Monday, our new mower arrived, and Tim muscled it through the dense grass- and dandelion-choked backyard, then moved on to the front yard. The front has a small patch of grass, but is mostly dirt waiting for flowers and plants. I sat on the front porch, eating pasta salad out of a mug, on the antique arm chair some past tenant left. The chair is a former beauty queen who has spent too many summers in the sun, and now waits simply for the long-haired black cat who will only curl up when she thinks we're not home. She doesn't know it yet, but she will love us.

I sat on the front porch, eating my pasta salad, and watching Tim do yard work, and neighbors across and down the street leave, come home, laugh, and call out to each other, and I felt belonging settle into my bones.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Turning on the Gas (Putting the "As-Is" in the As-Is Clause, Part 1)

As a renter, I never knew what entailed the gas turn-on. I would just call to have it set up, and when I moved in, I started cooking.

Things are different when you have a rehabbed house where you never really know the full extent of how badly the last owners cut corners. The People's Gas guy, Bob, came over yesterday afternoon. He helped me connect the kitchen stove, then lit the pilot light. Then we went downstairs so he could turn on the water heater. He showed me how the exhaust pipes weren't properly drawing the fumes away, and explained what we needed to do to help with that. We covered up an empty flue hole with tinfoil.

This week, our friend Mo started working on the electrical stuff. If Tim wasn't around, he would explain to me what he was doing and the problems he was encountering. About 5 seconds into his long explanations, my eyes would glaze over. I can't follow most of what is said about electrics. Gas and plumbing, this is a different story. It makes sense. Bob lit a match and held it by a flue to find out if it was drawing air or pumping it out. We unscrewed a pipe and could feel, hear, and smell the gas, and instantly knew what direction it was flowing.

Bob, an older guy who had been working for People's Gas for years, complained a lot about how these days, people cut too many corners in the work they do, and pointed out places where we needed to replace flexible pipe with hard pipe, and where to trim flues to prevent the chimney exhaust from getting clogged. It was stressful to listen to him. I'm all about doing the work well, but our bank account can't always facilitate our desires.

Bob set up the pipe so we could install the gas dryer Tim was getting on Craigslist, and got ready to wrap things up. "Is it normal after you turn on the gas, and we've been testing it, to smell gas like this?" I asked, as we were in the future laundry area. He stopped packing up his tools, took a deep smell, and started unpacking. "No," he said. "That smells like a leak."

We poked around the basement some more, and under the stairwell, found a flexible pipe connected to hard pipe that led outside. Outside? When we went outside, we saw the hard pipe was affixed to the outer wall for about 10-15 feet, then went back into the house. It appeared to insert at the pipe junction for the laundry area. Now why in the world it went outside . . . ?? God only knows. Under the stairwell, there was a valve that was in "shut-off" position. When turned on, we could hear the gas whooshing through the pipes, but couldn't tell exactly where it was going. Two rooms over, in the laundry area, the gas smell was stronger, and we could hear a subsequent whoosh behind the drywall. We took a hammer and knocked down a few square feet of drywall, trying to locate the open pipe.

I think this was outside of Bob's job description, but he was quite a sport, and wielded the hammer well.

We never did locate the open pipe, but it was getting on two hours, and the end of Bob's day. He said repeatedly that he wouldn't be able to turn on the gas for us, and we'd have to call a plumber, and I began to despair. Eventually, we settled on him capping the flow at the valve under the stairs, which cut off supply to the mysterious exit in the wall.

About half an hour later, I was able to do the dishes in warm water. I'm trying not to worry about the mysterious pipes in the wall.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


We've spent the last week prepping the house for work that needs to be done, and the move. Most of the plants are over there, and I am slowly moving the kitchen in. I started painting this weekend, with the help of a good friend. The library is now Deep Blue Sea:

(which looks much more deeply, lusciously navy on the walls) The trim is going to be Silver Leaf (like most of the house)

And I want to put an oatmeal-colored duvet on the futon, with light blue accent pillows and curtain for the closet. This room will have a few low-light lamps, and will be all spa-like and cozy.

The office has an Autumn Fest ceiling:

And Red Pepper walls:

It is Tim's purely New Mexico room. The colors definitely make the already-small room look smaller, but it absolutely glows. I love it!

These are the rooms I have completed thus far. Three coats of blue, and two coats each in the office. Painting is surprisingly exhausting.

The bedroom will be Plum.

Tim was advocating for a tangerine ceiling. He is channeling a New Mexican sunset from this gorgeous watercolor we have from Los Alamos, but the effect, once I painted on a few sample swatches, looks more like:

And, wow. Not the color scheme I want for my bedroom. I'd prefer something softer to go with the Plum: any of the following shades of yellow:

The living room is going to be a green similar to the current color, though with a hint more olive: Grape Leaves. About 7 feet up on the wall, there is a line of white trim, then 2-3 feet more of wall before the ceiling. That top bit of wall will be Corn Husk Green.

Haven't decided on a dining room color yet. Something a little darker golden brown. I wanted it to be my Kansas room, and channel Kansas summers, but I haven't found the perfect thing yet. We have that pretty alcove on one wall. Our painter said we should do that a darker shade for something interesting, and I'm all for it.

The kitchen will be Opulent!

The cabinets are really bright golden-brown wood, and sunshine just pours in, so it will look so gorgeously warm and inviting. I'm going to eventually put some metallic gold and white stencil accents on the wall. Our deep pantry, I want to paint all gold for a little surprise when you peek in there, but Tim is anti-painting the pantry. (I may have to save up for the paint myself and sneak it in when he's gone this summer!)

I've started filling the pantry with canned goods, and the fridge with beer, hummus, and cheese and crackers, so we can spend all day working, and be able to stop for snacks. The coffee pot is over there, too. This afternoon, I brought over the boxes labeled "drawer next to the fridge," "second drawer from the fridge," and "battery drawer," and put them into the new kitchen.

It's incredibly stressful, but more so when I return to the apartment. It's hard to predict the amount of work needed to fully clean and pack it out, and is it really going to be done by May 10? (Official move day, though technically, we don't have to be out of the place until May 12). It still looks like a tornado hit it, and each box I fill doesn't seem to reduce that considerably. I think I worked for3 hours on Saturday night, and I filled 2 boxes. Disheartening. I wish we could afford not just movers, but also packers.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Walk Thru

I took an 8-minute walk-thru video of the property. Since it's too large to upload on the site, here's a link to it on YouTube:

Friday, April 23, 2010

Closing Day

I can't believe this day has finally arrived.

We met Annie and Esmerlda, the seller's realtor, at the house at 10:15 for the walk-thru. We had the car packed with a few things we were going to leave at the house in the afternoon: plants, a lamp with a timer to set in the living room, and cleaning supplies.

Esmerlda showed up first, as we were walking through the backyard and peeking into windows. She let us in. The house was cold, much colder than the sunny, mild day outside. I told Tim to leave the front door open as we looked through it, to let some of the warmth in. Esmerlda quickly said, "No! Not in this neighborhood!"

I managed to wait until she went into another room before bursting into tears. We're buying a house in a neighborhood so sketchy, we're not even safe to leave the door open for a few, brief minutes?

It was shabbier than I remember. And smaller. And the tenants had nailed miles of cable cords into the trim instead of the walls, so there will be much damage to the half-way decent trim when we pull all that crap out.

I cried for a little while. It was so overwhelming. I thought, "This is what I'm staking my future on?"

Finally, Tim told me to get it together, and we finished the walk-thru, and drove out near O'Hare for the closing at 11.

That took about an hour and a half. I'd give more details on it, but frankly, it was so freaking boring I almost fell asleep in the middle of it. (I am not even exaggerating.) We wrote our signatures fifty million times, and waited around for a long time while the closer tried to track Emma's wire transfer. Once that was located, they also found out that someone at Emma's office had listed a unit number on the Predatory Lending Certificate, so it appeared that we were buying a condo instead of a house. Since everything else was done, we were free to go, and Annie would give us the keys once the certificate was accurate. We shook hands all around, and accepted congratulations on being new home owners, though, really, it wouldn't be official until the certificate cleared and we had the keys in our hands.

Our original plan was to go to the house next and celebrate by walking down to the Brown Sack, picking up lunch, and eating it in the new place. But since we had some time to kill, and didn't superofficial own the house yet, we decided to go to Hot Doug's. That took up a good 2 hours or so, and helped us not look at the clock every 5 minutes, wondering what the hell was taking so long(!?!) After, we drove to the house, parked in front, and just stood outside, looking at it.

I started crying again.

This time it was about awe.

Once I calmed down, we walked down the block to a corner store to get some Topo Chico (my latest obsession). It was mid-afternoon, and Mozart Elementary school (across the street from the corner store) had just let out. Kids were running around the playground, crowding in the store, and parents were picking them up. It just felt so goddamn neighborhoody, I almost started crying again. We got the call while inside, and Annie came over and gave us the keys.

And then, in a very anti-climactic way, it was official. We were home owners.

We moved the few things in, and banged around the house a bit. I did a video tour of the place for my mom. Tim brought some fancy whiskey, and we toasted and blessed the house. I wondered why I had the melt-down earlier, because this time, I thought about how perfect it was for us. I pulled out some nails, added missing light bulbs, and ran screaming from the bathroom when I saw how grody the toilet seat was.

To Do List: Buy a new toilet seat.

Towards the end, when I ran out of nails that would yield to my fingers, but didn't quite have the steam to tackle more cleaning, I took my Topo Chico and a homemade cigarette out to the back stoop. I sat there for a few minutes, smoking and looking over the dandelion-filled backyard, the other, neighboring yards I could see into, the corner store, and even a bit of Mozart above the trees. It was quieter than I am used to, living as we do on a busy boulevard, though the traffic could be heard a little from a distance. It was raining a bit, and the wet weather raised the scent of spring earth.

I thought, "This is my piece of earth."

This is mine.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Barreling down

We're barreling down on Closing Day right now: April 23. We got word last week that we could close earlier if we wanted, but I had already arranged time off from work. More importantly, April 23 is an auspicious day. It's Shakespeare's birthday. Seeing how we're buying a house on Shakespeare street, (not to mention the obvious Tim is a Shakespearean actor) that we would close on his birthday seems positively serendipitous. The universe clearly has plans for us.

So we're waiting another--holeeeee crap--only two weeks! and then we'll close. Shortly thereafter, we'll get in friends who paint and do electrical work, and hire the roofers, and madly pack up our current apartment. We've planned moving day for May 10.

Every day the conversations become more real. This weekend, we wrote up a Needs and Wants list. Needs: washer and dryer; butcher block for the kitchen; dining room table and chairs; a dresser for Tim; grill; outdoor furniture. Wants: TV stand; liquor cabinet; Capiz shell hanging pendant lamp for the dining room. Really, those lists are nowhere near complete.

My parents went out to Oggie's antique mart this weekend to look for a table for us. The pictures make me want to visit--it looks like it's crammed top to bottom with interesting antique and junk to sift through.

I like this farm table on the bottom (not the one with the white legs). I like how rough-hewn it is, but mostly, I like the idea that we'd have a table that came from Kansas. Tim doesn't like it much at all, but will allow it, if it means a lot to me. I don't know if I want to be owing him a massive decorating favor, though.

There are piles and piles of chairs, and these are my favorites (the warmer, reddish ones).

And my favorite chair item of all time! The wooden rocker! This one is mine for sure, and Tim knows better than to contest it.

Speaking of my desire for a Capiz shell lamp, the lamp hanging above that rustic old farm table will look like this:

My design sensibilities are based on no school of thought, no art school training, just a solid love of pretty things. I might be crazy, but I think this lamp will be perfect in the dining room, an interesting tropical contrast to to a rough farm table.

We went to the Container Store yesterday to look around and talk about what we wanted. It was one of the less stressful, more enjoyable visits I've ever had there, for we only windowshopped, and fantasized about what we wanted. We didn't go there to actually buy anything, which usually is a blood-pressure-raising experience when you look at their prices.

With each day, each conversation, each decision made, this all becomes more real. I couldn't sleep last night after we decided on Moving Day.

And if you'll excuse me, now I'm off to daydream about what my garden will be like.

Monday, March 29, 2010

We got the call

We got the call today. We got the call!

Tim asked me to call him this afternoon, and greeted me with: "Hello, Mrs. Homeowner!"

The short sale has been approved!! This has to have been the shortest short sale in the history of the world! I heard horror stories of people waiting five to six months to even hear back from the seller's bank, and now we're done with that, no haggling, and it's approved! Today, in fact, marks the date we set down in the bid contract as the day we wanted to close. Emma laughed, and we knew it wouldn't happen, but still. We put it down. The fact that the short sale was approved six months to the date of submitting our bid is a very, very good thing!

Annie says prepare to close in the next few weeks. What needs to be done next is our bank approval/appraisal, and submission of the last few bits and pieces of paperwork for the loan. (For instance, they are requesting an official transcript for me, since I have only been at my current job for 1.5 years. I thought a copy of my diploma would suffice--it is, after all, an official document stating I actually studied social work, the field in which I am now working--but no. So we paid the $5 and now are waiting an interminable amount of time to receive the notarized transcript.)

We can't imagine our bank taking issue with the appraisal, though, since the seller's bank seemed to think everything was fine with our offer and the home's worth. But still. We're waiting on that.

Suddenly it all feels so much more real. We can say, "We are BUYING A HOUSE," instead of what we've been saying so far: "We're trying to buy a house." We'll likely close in mid-April, and then take the rest of the month and most of May to paint, fix up the electrics, move around some plumbing, and pack this hoarder's haven of a rental property.

And then, when grey Chicago starts spreading the green, and the weather makes you want to fling open the windows and sing to your neighbors, we'll be moving into our house!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How I Wait

I've been putting off writing another post because I don't like to talk about things that are out of my control while I'm waiting for them to be resolved. I'm an actor, I'm used to that situation. I don't talk about auditions or offers until they are settled. I don't like to have the extra pressure of other people's expectations on top of my own (which I am trying very hard to quell). But I figured that I always could write about my response to the unknown waiting so that's what you're gonna get.

Right now everything with the house is moving along at a reassuring pace. What that means is that there have yet to be any impediments or untimely delays. It doesn't mean that we are good to go or that the end is in sight, but it does mean that there is nothing else we can do at the moment. We've submitted all our paperwork to Emma, I've set up a separate checking account for down-payment assistance from family (important to keep that separate and the money-trail clear) and now we are waiting on the seller's bank to do their own appraisal and then approve (or not) the offer.

So. I admit I am starting to arrange the space in my mind. I am trying to figure out how to fit a drum-kit, a keyboard, an upright bass, a bevy of amplifiers and assorted electric instruments into a small basement room. I'm trying to figure out where I want to put my pull-up bar. I'm also perusing the Container Store and IKEA and Craigslist looking for the right organizational accoutrement for what I have in mind.

I'm also trying to feel out what the unexpected expenses will be.

To say that I am conservative economically is an understatement. I'm the budgeting equivalent of the Idaho-militia guy who is pre-occupied with stocking up his mountain redoubt. I don't feel right ordering a drink with dinner if I don't know where all the money for every possible bill we could get isn't accounted for. I budget for parking tickets. That's how bad it is. So the thought of all the new expenses that home ownership will bring is enough to keep my mind racing.

The other thing I think about a lot is that my work takes me out of town for a large portion of each summer and I want to be in the house for awhile before it's time for me to go this year. I want to settle in and barbecue in the back-yard. I want to plant a garden and put in my rain barrels. I want to feel at home before I leave it for several months.

Yeah. So for now, I keep looking at the MLS listings. I downplay the "we're under contract" side of things and highlight the "short-sales are tricksy" side of it all. I keep an eye on the market and try to figure out when the best time to cash out our mutual fund is. I start getting names of roofers and start pricing gutters. But most of all I treat just like an audition: I assume I don't have it until I know I do.

Still, it can't hurt to keep your fingers crossed.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Loan

On our way. Today, Tim met with Emma to do the loan application package, and he brought it home for my signature(s and initials everywhere). It consists of:
  • 5-page Uniform Residential Loan Application
  • 3-pg Initial Good Faith Estimate (of loan related costs)
  • 1-pg Truth-in-Lending Disclosure (??)
  • 1-pg Certification and Authorization Disclosure
  • 2-pg 4506-T (??)
  • 2-pg Service Provider List
  • 15-pg Multi-Disclosure Document

I'm kinda bored and stressed just looking at the list. Thank goodness Tim and I know our strengths, and the money stuff is his.

Mine is daydreaming. So, yeah. I'm already furniture shopping at Threads, Etc, a resale/consignment store in Logan Square, and found a few things I want. The money guy says we have to wait to see how much our monthly costs go up once we're owners instead of renters. But I do think we need a buffet to hide our liquor. (After all, doesn't owning a home mean you're a grown up, and thus the Cuervo bottle is no longer is the focal piece in your living room?) And this one is just right.

Also, this one, for considerably less, reminded me that we can make do with just about anything.

I did fall in love with this funky green-gold chair, though. Look how it shines through from the middle of a bunch of nondescript pieces!

I've been looking at other house buying/renovation blogs, and feeling 1. relieved, that we don't have to do a gut rehab, and 2. kinda left out that we won't be doing much to make this house (if we get it) our own. And a secret 3. Totally Insecure about my sense of design and what we can do on our practically nonexistent budget. I think I'll always feel like a college freshman trying to spruce of a cinder-block dorm room, and never like a real grown up when it comes to decorating my home.

But I forget, the true thing that's important to me—making my home this warm and cozy:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Inspection day!

Today was inspection day, and Shakespeare passed with . . . I'm not sure flying colors is the exact right phrase. More like gliding pastels.

I want Tim to describe what an inspection is like, because I didn't participate in this piece of stress, but I want to share some of the sparse pictures he took. Tim says the family currently residing in the home appeared somewhat stressed to have inspection invaders in the house for 2.5 hours (and really, can you blame them, poor renters? They're about to be displaced from a very lovely home.), so he wanted to respect them by not taking many pictures. Here are a few he managed to snap at my request under pain of death.

But first: An example of the inspection. One small bit of the 34-page document. The blue is of no concern. The red are current/potential issues. If you can read the first red issue: Shakes needs a new roof! And a lot of messing with the electrics.

View to the east, of the neighbors, from the kitchen window. The picture appears hazy because there is condensation in between the window panes. This window really needs to be replaced.

This is a straight-back view of the yard. I wonder how much of a sense of space you can get in this picture? And with the snow everywhere, too.

Here's a satellite image from Google Maps to give you a birds-eye view. This block, unlike typical Chicago blocks with lot lengths of 125', has lots of 150'. This picture also shows off the fantastic sun the backyard gets in good weather. Go urban gardening!

Ok, on to the bathroom. Exciting for me, because this one--I know it appears small in the photos--is TWICE the size of our current bathroom!

Ok, now on to the kitchen. Not quite as great as our current kitchen. I know, I know, why would we buy a place that has a worse kitchen than our rental? Oh well. It's called sunlight and a PANTRY. And there's a window in the pantry! (Also needs replacement.) I want to put a beaded curtain in that open doorway. The door to the left is the backdoor.

Space for a small table. I'd like to put a low butcher block with shelving there instead, under the window, and maybe a narrow, tall bookshelf to fit between that and the open door, for spices, teas, and cookbooks.

Moving counter-clockwise from there is the fridge and stove. Whoa! Look at that light!

The tiles are a blah tan, but nothing offensive enough to replace quickly. The cabinets aren't in perfect condition, but there is a nice warmth to their color. Will go well with my idea of pumpkin orange walls with metallic gold stencils.

Now, master bedroom. Front of the house, tons of light. Views going clockwise from entrance.

This here is the closet entrance. The closet stretches the full length of that wall. All the bedrooms (3) have great closets.

So, that's it for now. It's exciting to see photos. Right now, the next step is to wait for the seller's bank to go out and appraise it. We're staying optimistic about the time frame. The seller is super motivated to unload the house, so hopefully he and his realtor will stay on the bank to hurry up and get this done. In our fantasy (and contract), we want March 29 to be our closing date!

Friday, February 12, 2010

An Excitable Boy

So I am an excitable boy. Not in the Warren Zevon sense, but more in the very passionate, never-looks-before-he-leaps sense. I'm a spaz and proud of it. I have no desire to be moderately intrigued by events or people or places. I want to fall in love with them and run around in circles and walk home 4 miles instead of taking the train because I just like how good walking feels when there's a little pep in my step and the sun is shining. I want to have something to play my harmonica about. To obsessively think about. To daydream about.

I say all this to put it into perspective for you. So when I say "I am damn excited about this house", you know that I am DAMN EXCITED about THIS house. Yeah, I've already walked all over today. I've played my harmonica, I've daydreamed . . . sheee-it, I might just bust a little bass here in a minute. This house is awesome! Let me tell you why:

1) It's exactly the right size for us. We've looked at a lot of places that have been much bigger and we've fantasized about the clean, sparse, open feel that we would cultivate in such places. However, as much as we like a clean, sparse, and open aesthetic, that is fundamentally NOT who we are. We are burrowers. Creatures of cozy contentment who ultimately prefer the reassuring embrace of snugness to the graceful openness of sparse. We are also hoarders. I have fought it for years, I always wanted to be associated with a powerful, sleek, dangerous animal like a panther or a puma, but when you get down to it, I am a squirrel. It's true. I like to climb. I like to jump. I like to scamper. And I like to hoard. I also like nuts and acorns. This house allows to both burrow and hoard. I love it.

2) The yard is HUGE! Extra-long lot, my friends. Plenty of room for vegetables, trees, lilacs, and barbecues. Oh yes, and wiffle-ball.

3) It's on Shakespeare. I just like that. And I can walk to Rosa's, one of the finest blues bars in the city of Chicago and hence, the universe. I can walk to Jon and Kirsten's place. I can walk to the Brown Sack. I can walk to the YMCA. Oh yeah.

I will post more about my earlier housing heartbreaks and the rigors of the search. I might even weigh in with a more subdued and balanced look at this possible house. But for now, I am only interested in wiffle-ball-worthy backyards and a place to finally put all 12 volumes of the OED up on the shelf in the cozy room next to the upright bass. Oh yeah.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Third time's a charm?

We put in a bid this morning on a new place. It was accepted, and we are now under contract. (Ish.) There was one point of clarification on the part of the seller, so we're resending our approval of the contract tomorrow morning. On Tuesday is the inspection, and then we wait.

And wait.

This house is a short sale, so Annie said to plan on at least 6-8 weeks (at the bare minimum) before hearing so much as a whisper from the seller's bank about it. We did put in a clause that we are allowed to back out if a month passes without word from the bank and we'd like to move on.

But hopefully that won't happen, and we can close happily on this one: a three-bedroom with gorgeous hardwood floors, a beautiful staircase, sunny kitchen, and monstrously long backyard. Superficially, it appears to be in fantastic condition. We would only want to paint before moving in, and buy a washer and dryer. Nothing else really needs to be done.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Soldiering On

I suppose the reason why you should only buy exactly the right house is because ideally, you would then never venture again through this deep trench of hell called a house hunt.

We didn't get that darling house (I'm going to call it Porches from now on). The owners accepted a bid before ours came through. It was a heart breaker for me. Even though Annie says, "don't move in until you MOVE IN," how can I help it? If I like a house enough to bid my future on it, then I want to be excited about it. And also, Tim and I are the type who do get excited about possibility, and I think to try to change that, to become more aloof to protect our hearts, well, that would be like trying to change who we are at our core.

So in the meantime, I, at least, am nursing a broken heart, but am looking on to other possibilities. Going to see two other places tomorrow; Annie already has contracts drawn up for each, in case I like them as much as Tim did yesterday.

It seems pretty odd to make a decision so quickly on a house that will affect the rest of our lives. (Or, at least the next 10 or so years.) I still have Porches on the brain, and nothing will really compare to it. (At least not for the next week or so.) So seeing others and trying to get excited about their own, individual possibility seems unrealistic, and unfair.

After losing out on several, though, I feel like we are narrowing down our Want List, which I suppose makes the search more streamlined. The first house (we call Shakespeare) sold us on specifics about backyards, and decks. The second (the Holy Kitchen), basements. Porches, well: porches. Also, the desire to punch holes in the ceiling and install windy staircases.

Immediately upon hearing the news of the Porches loss, I started this post. Wasn't much in a place to hear what people inevitably say, "Oh, that just means an even better one is right around the corner for you!" Or, even worse, "It just takes time. You'll find one." I don't really want to hear that. I want mostly some affirmation: "That sucks. A lot."

But now, a day later, I'm in a new mindset, preparing to see several new houses tomorrow, and putting in bids. Thinking about how cozy a smaller house would be, instead of how cramped. See? Soldiering on.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

First attempt

We put in a bid Thursday. This is not the first house we've loved, but the first where we were able to reach the bidding stage. Now we wait on pins and needles to hear back from the seller. No word yet, which is agonizing. How long does it usually take to hear if your bid garners interest or is soundly rejected? Annie, our intrepid realtor, thinks perhaps the seller's realtor had a family emergency or is out of the country, or something else completely unrelated to us, so we're trying to be patient.

We love it. It is so darling and perfect for us. Keep your fingers crossed, send good vibes, prayers, whatever it is you do, our way!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Some random day in October, 2009--no, not a random day; October 7, the day after Tim came home from APT and decided the best way to ease into life together again was to have a big State of the Union discussion about our future. This is the day that our lives changed.

No, not really. They only started to change. We decided we wanted to own a home someday.

This is not something we had ever thought possible, but as it turns out, the stars (and family, and the economic climate) aligned, and we figured out, just maybe, we could do it.

And thus, the search begins.

In some ways, we are quite ill-suited to finding a home together. Mostly, I have a love for the round softness of even numbers, and Tim prefers the angular sharpness of odd numbers, so we disagree on which side of the street we'd like to live; but in other ways, our interests happily collide. Sunny rooms, high porches, space for a garden, and space for lots of musical instruments. Hidden staircases, and reading nooks. A good kitchen. Deep, rich colors, and quirky design.

So far, it has been quite disheartening. We've loved and lost interesting homes, can't afford the area of the neighborhood we really like, nor much past "needs work" and "needs a lot of work." The latter isn't too bad, actually. Since I grew up in various stages of home construction, it seems pretty normal to me, and I'd kinda like to create my own home.

But we'll get to that.



So far it's just been pretty stressful trying to get to the point of putting in a bid. Not sure what will happen after that, if it's been so stressful already.