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a new home

rufusA lot has happened in the past few days, although they have been in the making for quite some time.

Last weekend, we adopted a new little boy. His name is Rufus. We have officially entered the world of crazy cat people and we don’t care. As was the case with all our furbabies, we didn’t plan on adopting a new kitty, but when we saw him, he stole our hearts and we knew he belonged with our family.

We have been talking about a number three for years now, since back in SF when I kept begging for a tabby named Max. Max was adopted just after my kitty Sabine passed away unexpectedly. I had always thought of us as having three furbabies, but the hubs was a bit more realistic. He finally relented and said MAYBE we could get another one IF we bought a house – a bigger place for three fuzzies.

Well, we bought a house.new home

Like most things in life, this sort of came unexpectedly, even though we have been searching for almost two years (and over 36 houses later). Originally, we were dead set on finding a contemporary single family home, but those were either nonexistent, extremely tiny, extremely expensive, in an area where the schools weren’t so great, or needed a complete overhaul (with the price not reflecting that it needed to be totally regutted).

We had dinner one evening at a restaurant housed within an up-and-coming live/work/retail/eat type development in the burbs. The next day, out of curiosity, I searched for the new town homes that were being built in the development to see how much they were listed. They were well out of our price range, but I stumbled across one other contemporary town home neighborhood that pretty much had everything we wanted: great schools (if we have kids or if we resell), close to metro stations, close to shopping/food/a main street, surrounded by nature/spitting distance to hike/bike trail. Most importantly, the town homes were nearly 2x larger than most of the single family homes we had been touring. Not that having a huge home was our goal, but after living in 1000 sq’ houses/apartments our entire adult lives, we wanted something with a little more room.

All summer we monitored the homes in this area, missing out on a few because we didn’t move fast enough (the listing was typically removed same day). We started looking elsewhere and became obsessed with some other contemporary houses in a different neighborhood. Less expensive houses that would need a ton of work, but had a ton of potential.

new home

this looks like wallpaper, but is actually real newspaper clippings plastered onto the wall spanning the Kennedy assassination, first landing on the moon, Watergate, and the attempted assassination of Reagan. It’s fascinating, and we are torn on how to update this bathroom.

new home

During this time, a town home popped up in the original neighborhood we had been eyeing. We were lukewarm about the listing – it looked old and dated, and seemed like a lot of work for what they were asking. We made appointments to see other homes, but when a few were no longer available to view, we added the town home to our list last-minute.

Long story short, the moment we walked in the house we thought, “wow, this is it.” Lots of light. Lots of indoor/outdoor space. Extremely well-kept. And the dated retro things that I thought I would hate, I ended up loving (wood paneled rumpus room and cheesy wet bar in lower level for example). The place needed updates like paint and new carpet/flooring, but it didn’t need a complete structural change. And on top of that, the icing on the cake was that the house was a corner lot that backed into a park/greenbelt/hiking trail.

We put in an offer the same day, and we closed on Halloween. We’ll be moving in slowly over the next month and a half, and then officially when our lease is up mid-December.

new home new home

During our final walk-through, we found a bunch of old photographs stuffed into a garbage bag hidden underneath the kitchen sink. It was bittersweet to stumble across a lifetime of memories belonging to the previous (original) owner. The photos covered her childhood with her sister, school dances, starting out as a young couple with her husband and kids, her kids growing up, one serving in the military in the Bay Area, grandchildren… It was her entire life in photographs, and I felt sad to think that one story was now coming to an end in that house even though our storywas just beginning.new homenew homenew home

During our search for a home, the hubs and I had many heated arguments about what we both wanted. The hubs was more practical, liking many of the places we saw, and reminding me that no house was going to be perfect. But I wasn’t looking for perfect. Beyond our checklist of things like good schools and storage space, I was looking for a place where I could see us living and growing together.

Maybe a piece of me was also searching for bits and pieces of former homes: the wood paneled rumpus room and newspaper decorated bathroom that reminded me of my aunt’s house, the Japanese maple that reminded me of my dad, the crepe myrtle that reminded me of my mom’s garden, the eat-in kitchen that reminded me of my grandma’s old kitchen. Memories of people and places and love and laughter. I guess maybe that’s what I was looking for: a home, not just a house.

(Or maybe I was just looking for a place that reminded me of Sea Ranch, a place I have been obsessed with since my first year of Architecture school and is one of my most favorite places ever).

new homenew homenew homenew home

We have both moved a lot in the past 15 years. I haven’t lived in one house for longer than two years since I graduated high school, and for Sly, having been in the Navy, pretty much the same has been true. It’s crazy to both of us that this is our home now. That we have a fridge that makes ice. That automatically dispenses ice! That we don’t have to parallel park on the street anymore. That we have a mailbox from which you can also send mail. That we have a microwave that is over 50 watts that can actually pop popcorn. That we have more than one living space (what are we gonna do with all this space?)That we have a bathroom inside our bedroom. That we have a frickin’ walk in closet!

We are excited, happy, and over-the moon. A new member of the family and a new home – a real home – for all of us.

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  • jj
    November 2, 2012 at 4:30 am

    Is there any way to contact the owner’s family to see if they want them? Would seem to be such a shame. I remember on House Hunters or what not once, they incorporated a (small, I believe) collage of the former family’s old photos in the space somewhere. Kind of sad. πŸ™ What deli are those delish sandwiches from?

    Would be neat if it were possible to put sliding covers over all the newspaper…so you can open it to read :P.

  • veronika
    November 2, 2012 at 4:40 am

    Luckily we were able to return the photos to the family of the previous owner during closing. We still aren’t sure if they were meant to be thrown away, or if it was accidental. I’d hate to think we returned the photos to them only for them to be tossed again. I took photos of a few of my faves just in case it was the latter. I like knowing/having a little bit of a connection to the previous owners. I might print a tiny one and frame it so that it’s always a part of the house.

    The deli is bernie’s delicatessen. It’s dangerous that it’s so close.

    For the newspapers, I think if there’s a way to preserve them when we remove them, that would be ideal. Then we could just frame them and hang them. If that’s not possible, we might have to think of a plan B. It’s really amazing to have so much history in such a tiny room.

  • mom
    November 2, 2012 at 8:26 am

    I laminated all the newspaper articles about my school that I had found before the renovation of the entire school, the first HS in Houston, and created a history of Reagan HS glass showcase featuring many famous alumni. I had all the articles bound into a poster size book that later became a source for research for some. One of them wrote about the history of sports, starting w. baseball in Houston in the earlier days. He scanned for weeks all the pictures in the yearbook collection that I had completed too. (My name was mentioned in his book.) If the laminating wouldn’t stop the aging of the newspaper, at least it wouldn’t fall apart, and keep the brittle, already torn parts together. I thought of it bc I had a big laminating machine in my office. It lost the vintage look/feeling somehow though.

  • Kevin
    November 2, 2012 at 11:28 am

    If that’s your new yard, faaantastic! A little creek to read by and plenty of squirrels for the kids to bring you as tribute.

    Chandelier!

    I’m going to start looking for Mama Zuma’s. I don’t care what’s in the bag.

    I wish you mountains and valleys and seas of congratulations!!

    Keeping good thoughts…

  • veronika
    November 2, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    Ideally we’d like to remove the newspaper and either frame it or put it in the house somewhere, but we aren’t sure if we will be able to remove the newspaper without ruining it. I suppose we’ll try the traditional steaming methods and see how that goes. There’s a lot of less interesting wallpaper in the house that also needs to be removed.

  • veronika
    November 2, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    Thanks! It’s our backyard patio that leads to a hiking trail/park/greenbelt. We haven’t fully explored the trail, but it looks promising, and definitely appealed to our outdoorsy-ness. The area outside the fence is technically common space, but since our house is a corner unit, it’s pretty much ‘ours’.

    The chandelier is pretty corny, although its starting to grow on me in a weird 70s way (love the fake flickering candle lights).