iPhone photos from a really great day in Central Park.

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Bring on Spring and Summer! With 60 degree weather today, we had to get out of the house and decided to go to Central Park since we won’t get too many more opportunities to just go whenever we want. The boys love Heckscher playground and have dubbed it “the best playground” they’ve ever been to “besides Firestone Park!” ha! Firestone Park is the little park in our hometown, which obviously pales in comparison to Central Park but does go down in history as one of the best back home.

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One of the best things about Heckscher is the giant boulder that the playground is built into. The kids are encouraged to climb the rock and the views up top are gorgeous.

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After playing for a good long while, we stopped at an ice cream truck and then walked down the mall and into Bethesda Terrace where a woman was singing opera. This is what I love and will miss about New York. It was beautiful.

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Walking through Central Park on one of the first nice days of the year is electric. Everyone is out and everyone is happy. We saw wedding parties, performers, musicians and no less than 1,000 dogs. Ruby seemed to enjoy the city more today than she ever has and even ended up walking completely by herself (since she refused to be carried) nearly 40 blocks throughout the day. We went into Manhattan today with the idea that it may be our last visit before we move. We were not disappointed.

 

 

House update and a kitchen sneak peek.

Even though it seems like things are moving in slow motion (at least for us) with this house buying process, it actually hasn’t even been two weeks since we signed on the dotted line. The truth is, we’re making progress everyday. We’ve had the inspection done, ordered our homeowners insurance, ordered the appraisal, filled out and signed what seems like ten million forms and invested lots of money already. We’re at the point where we’ve accomplished everything we possibly can until the appraisal comes through.

Speaking of the appraisal. Since we’re going with a VA loan, the house has to be approved for purchase through an appraisal done by the VA. We’ve done a ton of research on what the approval entails and honestly, we’re a little nervous about it. You see, the house has a few small problems that we knew about prior to making an offer and that we’re prepared to repair ourselves. Our only concern is that these problems could cause our appraisal to fall through leaving us at the mercy of the sellers who would either fix the issues or back out of the contract. The good news is that the odds are in our favor and there isn’t anything we can do about it anyway, so rather than dwell on what I can’t control I’m going to embrace positivity and excitement and share some of the ideas that we have for our little cottage.

Refinishing the hardwood floors throughout the downstairs is the very first thing we’re going to do (before we even move in). They’re the original floors and just have normal wear and tear so we called around and got quotes from flooring companies but ultimately decided just to do it ourselves. We also have to raise the stair railing in the upstairs before we move in. The first time we looked at the house I noticed that it seemed dangerously low and that was confirmed by the inspection. Apparently railings and banisters should be 36 inches high and ours doesn’t meet that requirement so we’re going to attempt to raise it ourselves. The next big upgrade we’re planning is installing central air but that won’t be done immediately – just by June 😉 But all of this is the boring stuff that I wish we didn’t have to spend money on so let’s talk about the fun upgrades.

I keep teasing Josh about phase one and phase two. Phase one is what I plan to do immediately and phase two are upgrades I have planned for later. Having phase two is essential for me because I change my mind a lot (ha! poor Josh) and because we need the time to save up the money for each phase two project. Besides lots of painting throughout the house, the kitchen is the main area I plan to semi reno right away and I have ten million pins and idea books on Pinterest and Houzz as inspiration. Without further ado, here’s the kitchen now via our inspection photos.

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First thing’s first. We need to get that fridge and stove matching the dishwasher. I’m hoping to buy new appliances right away but it honestly just depends on our other expenses. If everything goes as planned we will be able to as soon as we move in but it really comes down to Josh’s apartment/house situation. We have to make sure he’s taken care of before we make a pretty refrigerator our priority. Besides those obvious upgrades, what you can’t see from this picture is that half of the wall, from the baseboard to about the bottom of the freezer, is actually painted tile. I don’t understand why you’d blend the tile into the wall but I plan to strip it while praying that it’s beautiful underneath. If it isn’t pretty, clean, white tile I’m going to paint it white (phase one) and the rest of the dreary gray a nice pale blue, like this,

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Also similar to this picture, Josh and I are going to take out all of the top cabinets. They’re just not practical for us,  in size or location, so we’re taking them down and installing floating, open shelves like this,

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Another thing you don’t see in the inspection photo are the light fixtures. Directly above the sink is an ugly old-fashioned jar light and in the center of the room is a ceiling fan. We plan to switch out the jar light for a pendant light  and upgrade the fan with fixtures kind of like these,

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 9.45.25 AMThe last part of phase one is updating the cabinets. They look decent in the photo but actually, they’re finished with some kind of high gloss paint that isn’t my favorite. Josh really likes gray cabinets and since we’ll be getting rid of all of the gray paint throughout the rest of the room, we may go with darkening up the cabinets a bit. We’re also changing out the hardware for brushed nickel bin pulls and knobs kind of like this,

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So obviously, we like a bright, clean, farmhouse style kitchen which brings me to phase two. Eventually, we plan to change out the countertops for either quartz or butcher block, upgrade the sink to big, beautiful, ceramic white farmhouse sink and, depending upon what we do with the tile on the wall, either do a subway tile backsplash or bead board. I can’t wait to get started!

Asking for good thoughts, positive energy, crossed fingers and prayers as we wait for this appraisal! Eeekkk!

All of the details.

I’m not really feeling this blog anymore and I don’t know how much I’ll be using it from this point on but I thought I’d write out a quick little explanation for the latest development in our lives.

We bought a house in our home town.

No one knew that we were even planning it (besides a couple of friends who helped us out with some things) and no one knew that we were making trips back to Ohio to look at properties or go through the purchasing process. Josh and I chose to keep it a secret because we wanted to work through the entire thing, just the two of us. We looked at several houses back home and decided on a very small and inexpensive 3 bedroom house in a great location. We based our decision on location, price, potential for renovations (we’re crazy about home improvement projects) and opportunity to become a rental – because, this move may not be permanent.

For the next 18 months, the kids and I will live full time in Ohio while Josh shares an apartment in NY with a coworker and makes weekend trips home. I know some family members are concerned with Josh driving back and forth but it goes without saying that his safety, as well as the safety of every person in our family, is above and beyond the most important aspect of our lives. Josh is a very experienced traveler (having driven our family across the entire country four times) and has made the drive from New York to Ohio over 20 times already, with no issue. We’ve done research on safe vehicles and plan to fly him home once a month so he gets a little break. Also, since he’ll have his own apartment (versus living in the barracks as we had planned last fall) the kids and I will come to him some weekends.

As of right now, our plan for our post Coast Guard life remains the same as before. Next summer Josh will begin to look for civilian jobs and then we’ll go from there. This move isn’t necessarily our “settling down” but it is a huge opportunity for us in many ways. We’re all very excited for what lies ahead.

Of course, moving home after living away for almost 7 years will have it’s challenges. Josh and I are very different people than we were when we left and, really, have never lived as a family back home. It will be an adjustment to be surrounded by friends and family (a welcomed adjustment) again as we’ve gotten used to living on our own and only visiting people, pretty much, by appointment. It will also be a huge adjustment living separately from each other for most of the week.

As for the house, we have so many plans and can’t wait to get started on all of them. One of the best things about Ohio is the crazy, insane low cost of living which will allow us not only to afford to live separately but also to be able to do a lot of upgrades on this little cottage. We purposefully kept our budget very low (our mortgage payment will barely be more than our van payment) so we never feel stretched and so hopefully, we end up having made a great investment.

Currently our timeline puts us moving in around the beginning to middle of April. When we asked to be released from Coast Guard housing, we requested a June 1 check out date so the boys wouldn’t start at a new school until the new school year. But due to the CG’s summertime transfer season we were told we’d need to be out by May 1 so that housing would have time for the turnover on our apartment. In turn, we asked for April 15 so the boys have more than 30 days at their new school (not much more but it’s the best we could do).

The kids (Ruby included) are beyond excited for this move. Our house is one street over from our town’s park and public pool and directly behind the Dairy Queen so the location screams kid friendly (the boys call the house the DQ house). We’ll also be just two blocks away from Josh’s favorite pizza shop so the location also screams salami and pepperoni 🙂 The kids are excited to be a part of the community, close to friends and family and to live in a house again versus an apartment.  Ruby knows that some of her favorite people live in Ohio so she keeps asking if she can get her boots on to go to “Hio and pay with Mia and Chelsea.” Josh and I are excited for babysitters 😉

Our inspection was this morning and we’ll receive the report tomorrow. As long as there are no serious issues, our appraisal will be done within the next few days and then it will be a 30 day closing from there. My fingers and toes are crossed!

Randoms

Family

The boys are on “mid winter break” for this entire week. I love waking up in the morning and not feeling like I have to get the ball rolling right away but it’s also stressful to keep them entertained. Theo wanted to spend our second day of winter break having a Harry Potter marathon so here we are on The Prisoner of Azkaban and I’m bored to death. I love me some H.P. but laying around watching movies all day just gets a little old after a while.

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Josh and I have a secret project in the works right now and I’m beginning to feel a little impatient with it. And that’s all I can say about it for now.

Tomorrow begins Ruby’s last month of being one and I feel it. There are hardly any signs of babyhood left (notwithstanding noonas and diapers. those seem likely to be around for a while still). She understands punishment (timeout), can follow instructions, plays on her own and is extremely independent. She also says things like, “Na – cho mama!” and “Hey big guy!” (when talking to Josh. Ha!) and chooses her own clothes almost everyday.

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Entertainment

If you haven’t yet seen the movie About Time, watch it now. We rented it a few weeks ago and I spent the last hour sobbing while Josh fell asleep. It’s a chick flick but not what you’re expecting it to be if you saw the previews for it. Loved loved loved it!

As for tv, True Detective on HBO is insanely good. Seriously one of the best television shows I have ever watched. And has anyone else noticed that Matthew McConaughey has apparently found his acting chops? President Obama even requested an advanced copy of the rest of the season’s episodes.

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I’m reading Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin and just can’t get into it. It’s very reminiscent of Eat, Pray, Love which I loathed. Self indulgent, made up issues, a “project” taken on with the pre conceived plan to write a book about it. I’m forcing myself through in hopes of keeping my book a month goal for this year.

Wants & Needs 

Have you heard of the air fryer? A little over a month ago I saw it advertised in my Williams Sonoma catalog and nearly choked I was so excited. Apparently, it uses little to no oil so the food is healthier, made without a mess and with no chance of dangerous spills. The price tag is a little hefty but I’m a kitchen gadget junkie and I can’t stop thinking about how much I’d love owning this.

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I’m over winter but not really excited about summer either. Summer in the city is a little dreadful with all of the tourists and awful smells. Think heat meets trash meets street meat vendors meets lots and lots of people. I guess this fits under the “wants & needs” category because I want & need a vacation somewhere south.

I’d settle for just a night out alone with Josh. You know that whole saying, “It takes a village…”, well that has never applied to us and I just recently realized that most people don’t spend 24/7/52/8 (24 hours 7 days a week 52 weeks a year for 8 years) with their children. I’d pick this. It’s right up our alley.

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Snow Day.

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We kicked off our mid winter break by taking the kids sled riding for the first time today. The boys have gone a couple of times on the small hill in our back yard but today we took them to a big hill down the street and it was a blast. I thought we’d make it twenty minutes top before Ruby was cold and crying but even she loved it. I took her down the hill once on Parker’s sled and even though we were flying, she cackled the entire way down. Theo is a pro sledder and loved every minute, even telling me that he was “training for the Olympics.” Parker asked if we could go back tomorrow.

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Sledding is terrifying. You never realize it when you’re a fearless kid but I went down the hill twice today and thought I was going to die both times.

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Our view is pretty amazing. Not everyone gets to sled beneath the Verrazano Bridge. One of the most beautiful bridges in New York, in my opinion. 

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A lot of times when the kids ask me to play outside with them I balk at the idea and try to come up with excuses as to why I can’t. I want to stop doing that.

 

 

 

 

Laundrygate.

Oh what a morning. It’s one of those where you just have to laugh because otherwise you’d go insane. Luckily I have this hysterical little boy called Theo to lighten the mood.

It all started when I told Parker to grab a uniform shirt from the dryer. Yep that’s right. A school uniform because, you know, Mayor DeBlasio thinks it’s imperative to issue a commuter warning (stay off of the roads) but not to cancel public school. Hmmmm…

Anyway, Parker went to grab a shirt from the dryer which was filled with a load of the kids’ laundry. He came back with a white undershirt covered in blue marks and said, “Mom, there are blue marks on everything in the dryer.” Both boys denied having put any markers in their pockets, which happens every so often, and I wasn’t really concerned with it because marker is easy to get out. I went on with my morning and continued packing lunches.

When Theo was done eating breakfast I told him to grab his black gym sweats from the dryer and start getting dressed because surely blue marker wouldn’t show on black pants. But even the pants had bright blue spots all over them. Josh unloaded the dryer and I quickly saw that every single thing was covered in blue. Including several of the boys’ expensive, embroidered school uniforms.

I was mad. We looked through everything but didn’t find any clues as to what or who caused the blue. Both boys vehemently denied leaving anything in their pocket but Theo fought back a smirk while telling us it wasn’t him and passing off the blame to his little sister. At this point, we figured that it had to be a blue crayon because the stains were showing up on everything and were a little waxy. Plus there were no remnants of anything so it must have melted. That just reinforced Theo’s theory. “Coloring with crayons is for babies so it had to have been Ruby.”

As I sat and sprayed Spray & Wash on all of the blue stains I checked the pockets of the clothes. Wouldn’t you know, there was one single pocket from one single pair of little jeans that turned up bright blue. 

But I wasn’t mad anymore. I mean how do you stay mad at a kid who says, “Well I think the blue makes the clothes look kind of fancy.”

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Green bean fries: a little story and a super quick and easy veggie recipe.

I want this blog to get back to being a little bit more about food. Not like it was when I started blogging, but more along the lines of sharing what we eat and incorporating the huge part of our lives that food is. Josh and I are major foodies who plan trips around what and where we’re going to eat, remember past homes by our favorite restaurants  and compliment each other in the kitchen by being 1/2 scientist (Josh) and 1/2 experimentalist (me). Because of this, New York City is both the best and the worst place for us live – we’ve both gained around 15 pounds since moving from Texas (I’m working on getting it under control). Even though we have every type of delicious pizza, pasta and pastry available at our disposal, we still try to keep it pretty healthy when we eat at home and try to make as much as possible from scratch.

Josh and I both love to try and recreate our favorite restaurant meals in our own kitchen, especially since a lot of our favorite restaurant meals are from places in Ohio, California, South Jersey and Texas. One of Theo’s favorite places to eat when we lived in Texas was a burger place (running theme of this blog apparently) called Smashburger. It’s just a chain restaurant and we actually found one here in Jersey but the one in Texas was THE best. One of the most incredible things on their menu were the veggie fries and I liked them so much that I actually asked the manager how they made them. It was just raw green beans and carrot sticks flash fried for about 30 seconds. No breading, no nothing.

Last week I realized that I had some green beans in the refrigerator that needed to be used and I immediately thought of the veggie fries. I heated some coconut oil, which we use for everything, and dropped the green beans in for about a minute. After frying them, I finished them off on a baking sheet, with a little salt, in the oven at 450 for about 5 minutes. OMG. They were incredible. The oil gave them a very slightly sweet taste combined with the saltiness and the roasty-ness (that’s definitely a word) from the high heated oven and made for the perfect flavor.

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They’re a great side dish.  Or even a great snack…

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