Category Archives: Updates

Taking Stock: Our First Year of Homeownership

So. It’s been an intense first year of homeownership!

I learned a lot about myself and my style. I learned I am terrible at moving in. It’s been a year and I have almost no art on the walls, and I still need many key pieces of furniture for both sitting on and storing things in.

What else? We overspent. A lot. We made far too many trips to Home Depot and its ilk and seemed to forget that our savings was draining faster than we could add to it. We suck at budgeting, basically, so we need to redouble our efforts in that area going forward.

Moving from my beloved neighborhood in Oak Park to the suburban landscape of Wheaton was a particularly painful adjustment for me, personally. Everything is a mile away by foot and I’m just now starting to get into the rhythm of that. I got a library card this week. I started walking to the train for the days I have to go into the office instead of driving.

I was in the car constantly when we first moved here and I hated it. I hate driving. I hate traffic. I realized that to be happier it would be better to walk the mile-plus to the train each day to recover some of the peaceful and enjoyable elements of living in Oak Park. However, I wish all of our neighbors would edge their lawns. Oak Park made me a lawn snob (that said? I’m a black thumb and our yard looks like hell so I’m totally hypocritical on that point).

We said we’d start a house blog and maintain it and we’ve sort of sucked at that, too. I mean, this blog looks like crap still. And we haven’t posted half the stuff we’ve done!

So, I thought I’d take a few minutes and take stock of our first year as homeowners to kick off Year Two! It’s been fun and exhausting and intense and an occasional misery, to be totally honesty. But it’s looking up and we’re making real progress. And sometimes it’s a lot of fun. Maybe someday we’ll actually decorate.

Here’s what we did as well as some pivotal decisions we made in the 12 months we’ve live in our house:

  1. Pulled up carpets throughout the living area (minus the kitchen and family room, which were an addition in the 1970s and still have carpeting—why do people carpet kitchens? I think it’s disgusting).
  2. Completed stripping and refinishing of hardwood floors with Dale’s friend Mike.
  3. Completed family room gut renovation (minus floor), including new insulation; new drywall; patched speaker holes in ceiling; new ceiling fan; new pendant lights that I’m mediocre on but serve their purpose; all new window, door and floor trim; and painted wood of sliding glass door frames (FOUR TIMES—primer, white paint, then KIllz because it was still yellow and then white paint again!).
  4. Rebuilt entryway from family room into kitchen—it had a wood door frame that didn’t match the rest of the house. Dale took it out and made it match the open framing of other two kitchen entrances.

    Look at my new TV. LOOK AT IT.

    Look at my new TV. LOOK AT IT.

  5. We got a new TV. It was the highlight of my year. It’s 3-D and the Blu Ray player is divine. Like you gotta watch Avatar on it. Come on over, I’ll show you and you’ll see.
  6. For Dale, the highlight was likely when his dad and brother arrived with a huge load of tools for him to keep and use.
  7. We hate our kitchen. It just doesn’t work for us. Decided on gut renovation instead of re-facing. So far all we’ve done is paint one wall (the wall that got the new entryway from the family room). In the pic above you can see the wood-framed doorway. that’s gone now.

    A sneak peak at our living/dining room color scheme.

  8. We finally picked out paint colors for the living/dining/hallway. We’ll probably get on that soon.
  9. Office—shelving out office closet, removing closet doors, painting, new trim, new curtains, new furniture (desk, chair, credenza) and accessories.
  10. Redoing electrical in office to make the ceiling light use the light switch.
  11. Tidied up crawlspace, adding carpet remnant to make it comfy when crawling around in it!
  12. Scrubbed basement floors and put a coat of wax finish on them.
  13. Painted the front door.
  14. GARAGE MAHAL: gutted to studs; rebuilt studs to make more of them; replaced rotted wood pieces along the back wall; worked with engineer to get structural plans to replace beam at front of garage (the beam that also holds up our bedrooms); shored up the house; replaced the beam (which cracked walls in the bedrooms above); sealed all rim joists with foam and foam board; taped and insulated HVAC runs that were exposed in garage; put in all new insulation, including in the ceiling of the garage where it never existed before (which are also the floors of the bedrooms); put up 31 sheets of drywall, primed and painted the new walls; painted the cement half of the walls a nice gray; shelved out one area with plans to do more shelving and eventually build cabinets; purchased new lighting for the garage that will go up eventually; put in new external garage lighting in soffits that point down so as not to add to light pollution in atmosphere. Pics to come of Garage Mahal–it’s still in a hellish state!
  15. New electrical: We went from aluminum to copper wiring from the meter to the electrical panel. Due to existing electrical panel being at its capacity, we had a new panel put in, and added a subpanel in the garage for future use.
  16. We had a new roof put on house! I’ll post pics soon!
  17. Meanwhile, outside, we bonzai’d our overgrown trees and bushes. I need to post detailed pics of those because they really do look kind of weird and hilarious but we’ve gotten neighbors saying they look pretty neat. Dale dug trenches in the backyard because we had a minor water leaking issue in the garage at the beginning of the spring so he dug in order to divert the unusually heavy rainfall from the back of the house. This also resulted in us deciding to create a new water drainage system that we will likely implement next year. Dale also put up a super complicated system of wood stakes and string to map out the slope of the yard (our backyard is on a serious slope) in order to come up with the best plan for a retaining wall and a patio design for later.
  18. We completely cleared out the growth on one side of the house but it came back because I’m terrible at planting crap and worse at maintaining it. But I’m learning!
  19. I also learned how not to kill succulent plants and grew an herb garden on the porch in a planter Dale made out of cedar.
  20. Do you really need 20 things? Um, okay. I picked out a color for the laundry room and that will be painted eventually. We will also add a ceiling in the laundry room because it doesn’t have one.

Plans for the future?

  1. Painting the living/dining room. Perhaps acquire furniture? LOL.
  2. Painting the bedroom. Making a headboard. Learning upholstery and recovering some cute chairs.
  3. Picking out a new color and painting the guest bedroom. Acquire a guest bed. That’s a big one!
  4. GUT renovation of the kitchen. Eeek.
  5. New floor in the family room (a matter of heated debate).
  6. Several new craft project how-tos that I’m looking to tackle.

Graduation & The Rest of Our Lives

I’ve got some pics I have to put up of my grad school commencement ceremony. And I’m relaunching my personal/professional website: www.rebeccakilbreath.com. It’s very much still under construction but already looking better than ever before (if I do say so myself).

I haven’t given it a professional proofread yet. But I hope to do so soon!

Big things are underway: turned 40, finished grad school, looking for a house TO BUY (finally), started volunteering at the local public library, started thinking about new goals and aspirations. Meeting my personal trainer tomorrow! Dale got me archery lessons for a graduation present. I’m feeling pretty excited and optimistic about the future.

Just don’t ask me about my student loans. Ever.

Looking back and looking forward

First, my Christmas letter equivalent:

Frankly, all we did was work in 2011. It was a tough year in that respect but we were grateful to have all the opportunities. Dale had a photography studio and building it kept him ridiculously busy.

I started my own freelance business and was buried up to my neck from about June on.

We went to Minnesota’s North Shore for vacation and it was quite cute. We didn’t go on any camping trips but we did make a quick trip to Saugatuck for our anniversary. That was nice! We really needed to get away.

I made a quick trip to Grand Rapids to meet up with my dear friends Rebecca & Heather and had a great time. Sadly, my camera broke on that trip and I was without one until this weekend–Dale got me a new one for Christmas! Yay!

We were lucky to have a few guests this year and we enjoyed each visit immensely. Love to have company.

I bought an American Girl doll named Molly when Betsy, Bryan and their kids came to visit. We had tea at American Girl. It was the most fun tea party I ever had! Am now obsessed with buying outfits for Molly. I’ll have to post her Christmas present unwrapping photo shoot that Dale did. He had more fun with it than I did, I think. Ha!

We threw a party on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and it was a lot of fun.

Bela and Monty continued to be cute and cuddly and all kinds of adorable pets.

Christmas was a whirlwind weekend trip to Flint and back–nice but very fast and we didn’t get to catch up  with as many people as we would have liked.

As for 2012? We plan to have a little more fun. We hope to enjoy camping, and Dale is looking forward to playing with his new telescope then (he’s been making accessories for it and researching astronomy during every spare second).

I have fantasies of being more athletic. And maybe taking an archery class! And hiking more. And continuing to grow my freelance business.

We might buy a house this year (we’re just starting to look). I will get my master’s degree in the spring and turn 40 (eek). And our 10th anniversary will happen in October (we’re already planning a trip). So I also hope to get it together and back to having little adventures and blogging about them. For posterity, if nothing else.

February Updatey-ness

February was pretty quiet…

Monty was bored.

So was Dale…so I got him an ice cream maker. It has gotten quite the work out since then!

To relieve the boredom we took a quick trip to the Museum of Science and Industry to see a crazy replica of the White House. They wouldn’t let us take photos of that so I snapped photos of this crazy dress instead:

It was lit up and it the lights would run and shift like a wacky string of Christmas lights!