Monday, October 1, 2012

October Photo Challenge!

As you may have noticed, I've been a bit MIA.  It was a crazy busy summer and I'm so excited to be back on the blogging horse! Our Wired Lives is running their annual photo challenge and I think it's the perfect way to get my booty in gear and back into the blog.

Here are the details. All I've gotta do is take one picture each day that fills the categories below, then put it up in the blog when I'm all done and tag all my photos with #octphotochallenge so that everyone else can follow along. I'm going to start today and post them daily to Twitter (@KayMeiGee), but I'll probably only do a weekly post that covers all the photos to date.

If you want to sign up, head over to the original post and get clickin'!  There are no hard feelings if you missed a day, just catch up and upload them later.  I can't wait to see what everyone else comes up with!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Lofty Let Downs

A week after our offer was accepted, we got news. Bad news. The apartment that I had already started virtually furnishing was going to be really hard to finance. Apparently, the condo association that covers the building of our condo and the building next door hd not one, not two, not three but FOUR lawsuits pending against it. I mean, really?!?

So this was a surprise, but not really... When I first googled the property, one of the top results was this lawsuit from two years ago, but I had assumed that it had been settled in the last two years. Just to double check, our realtor called the management company, the listing agent and everyone she could think of before even showing us the place and no one returned her call. So our realtor showed it to us and we went back a second time with her and the listing agent, and we asked her point blank about the lawsuits and the listing agent told us it was no big deal and that she didn't know anything about it. Really, lady? UGH.

Then we fell in love, made an offer, signed a contract and a week later, we got news that our broker (and the broker that our realtor usually works with) are struggling to find us a loan because of these freaking lawsuits! We crossed our fingers and waited... and finally got a definitive answer: unless we could double our down payment, we were out of luck.

Bye Bye, Loft of my Dreams

After all that effort and over month of house hunting wasted, we are going to have to start all over again. No one told me that this would be so emotionally draining!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Making an Offer They Couldn't Refuse

We narrowed it down to the short sale townhouse and the gorgeous loft in the Nabisco factory that evening and immediately scheduled a follow up at both places for the middle of the week.

I think that in an attempt to sway the tables toward the loft, I had imagined the townhouse much worse than it was. The floors needed to be refinished and the paint was still bad, but the kitchen was workable, at least for now. We did have to weigh that there was no association to be responsible if the roof collapsed after a storm or to shovel in the winter and that we had to pay for all utilities ourselves. But man, it still was an (inconvenient) steal!

Looking at the loft again, we met with the listing agent and she told us pretty mug exactly how much each and every upgrade cost like "this is a $50k kitchen!" and "the professional paint job was $5k alone!" Is it terrible that a part of me wanted to be like "that's nice, I assume that's why it's so expensive??" but I held my tongue and fell in love with the loft even more. Sure, the association fees were nuts, and the master bedroom didn't actually have a window, but I wanted to live there so badly I could taste it!

We spent the night looking at our pros and cons lists and trying to devil's advocate our way out of the loft, but in the end, we made an appointment the very next afternoon to make an offer on the loft! Since we needed them to cover closing costs, we went in about 11% under asking with 3% back to cover closing costs and after three rounds of negotiations, settled on 8% under asking with $6k back for closing costs.

OMGeeeeeeeeeeeee!! We were under contract on a condo!! After one of the most exciting voicemails of my life, we set out to find lawyers and an inspector to get this show on the road.

Dear adulthood, here we come, ready or not!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Second Try

With eight properties under our belt, we waited a couple weeks and headed out for our second adventure into real estate. We had earmarked a few more non-traditional units and even a couple that were further from our ideal neighborhood just to mix it up a bit.

First up was a 2 bedroom and 1 bath duplex loft in Bucktown. We really wanted a two bath, but this place had not one, but two outdoor spaces including a yard! It wasn't as spacious as the loft we'd seen previously, but the unit was well below our budget by 15% and it included parking, so we needed to keep it on the list. The yard and open floor plan we're obvious pluses, but the small bedrooms, access to the yard via the second bedroom and the single bathroom kept it from being a shoe-in. We were definitely going to keep it in mind, though!

Living Room/Dining Room/Kitchen on the top floor of the Duplex

Master Bedroom on the bottom floor (No door, though)
The AMAZING Backyard
The One and Only Bathroom
Next on the list was another Three Flat style place that I was convinced we'd love. The location in Wicker Park couldn't be beat and the finishes were really great... But we couldn't love it. Maybe if it was prices lower or maybe if the place was bigger or different or any number of things. For some reason the granite counter tops and beautiful stainless steel appliances weren't making our hearts go pitter patter.

We ended up being stood up at the next unit, so we took a quick coffee break at Bleeding Heart Bakery, a local bakery known for it's alternative baked goods like vegan cupcakes and gluten-free pastries. Baconator was even able to get chocolate covered bacon! Let me tell you, a little fuel goes a long way.

After we were well caffeinated, we were off to what was sure to be the gem of this outing. From the photos it was modern and immaculate and all the things dreams are made of. But we got there and there was no key in the lockbox because some other realtor was overstaying their appointment. So we waited. And waited. And waited. Then we left.

Our next appointment was over in River West and it was nice. It was a corner unit, but the second bedroom didn't have windows, despite sharing a wall with the outside. The kitchen was gorgeous, but I could sit and eat my morning cereal while listening to the sounds of cars honking during rush hour on the Kennedy. That's how close it was to the highway. Don't get me wrong, the view was phenomenal and every finish had been upgraded, but you know what they say: you can change everything but the location. So with some words to the listing agent about the place being priced too high, we were off again.

Love this Kitchen and Living Room space
Gorgeous Master Bath
How can you not love this deck and view of the city?
Next up was a property that our realtor filed under "Outside the Box" in our MLS search: a short sale townhouse in Ukrainian Village. We walked in and were immediately taken aback by the amount of space our budget could buy. The place was four stories, had an attached garage 3 bedrooms, a den and 2.5 baths plus tons of outdoor space! So walking through the unit we kept talking about how great the opportunity was; sure the floors needed to be refinished, every room needed to be repainted, that bathrooms were tiny and we'd certainly need to gut the kitchen, but man, we could own a townhouse... (even if it is a bit far from everything)! So with a place that fit our 10 year plan under our belt we were off to the next batch of places.

The living room... just imagine it empty and dark and worn
The master bedroom is pretty big, but this GIANT bed makes it seem cramped
The roof deck!
Once we got to West Loop we headed right into a building that was once a Nabisco Biscuit factory that had been renovated to become lofts about 15 years ago. I legit think you could hear our intake of breath when we walked in. The place had 18 foot ceilings, a true chef's kitchen with a dreamboat refrigerator, a gorgeous master bath with brand new everything, TWO closets in the master bedroom including one walk in, exposed brick along the entire right side of the apartment, floor to ceiling windows, a private patio and a space for the Baconator to call his own with its own bathroom. I think I might have thrown out the word love as we walked around. The biggest drawback? The places was at the top of our budget and had assessments of $523 a MONTH! That's a lot of money to be paid to the condo board and not our hypothetical mortgage.

Love this kitchen. Straight up Love.
Beautiful Master Bathroom
This place had a living room that went on for dayyyyyyssssssss
Fab Patio!
Last, but not least, we headed back to the unit that we couldn't see earlier since another realtor was holding the key hostage. This two bedroom, two bath was pretty much phenomenal, well, except for the fact that it was on the fourth floor of a walk up. Seriously, I would have moved into that place in a heartbeat if we weren't planning on having a child or two while living there. I can't imagine carrying a child and stroller and groceries up those steps after a long day at work. My thighs burn just thinking about that. Oh, but that apartment was amazing...

Amazing Living Room
I dream about this kitchen
Jumbo Master Bedroom
 So we had lots to think about. The front runners were the duplex 2 bedroom and 1 bath, the townhouse and that loft with the dreamboat kitchen. This house hunt is getting pretty real!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Our First Time

To prep for our first trip out to see places, the Baconator created a very thorough survey and rating scale to assess a home's qualities like the size of the master bedroom, the amazingness of the kitchen, the "hot tub readiness" of the outdoor space and more. At 9:30 one Sunday morning we were picked up in Alley's Volvo and were off to start this new adventure.

The first couple places we saw were in a pretty standard Chicago style. I'm not sure if three flat is the right term, but they were set up such that there are 3-4 units a building with each unit taking up an entire floor. The set up results in a long apartment with the living room at the front flowing into an open concept dining area and kitchen. Directly behind the kitchen is the 1st bedroom, then the first bathroom, then the master suite and a rear deck. We saw four different versions of this style in three different neighborhoods and while we're were wooed by the granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and the gleaming wood floors of each place, none of the really spoke to us. They were too... bland.

This is what I'm calling a Three Flat - You can find them all over Chicago
Sample Layout of a Three Flat
A gorgeous kitchen in a Three Flat
Pretty typical Three Flat Living Room and Dining Room Set up
Next on our list were five untraditional units that we were checking since they semed spacious and interesting online. We saw three duplexes and two of them had to be vetoed right off the bat because the rooms were just odd. One had a little yard which was awesome, but the rooms were all triangular. No thanks. The other had a hot tub on the roof deck, but the master bedroom was at the top of the stairs with a mini wall and no door! Despite the Baconator's excitement at the hot tub, it went into the no pile for it's bonus room styles master and all the heating/cooling appliances would need to be replaced soon.

The final duplex was more promising; it was located in our ideal neighborhood, Wicker Park, was a hop skip and a jump from both the grocery store and the train and the rooms were big! Sure the kitchen had a weird set up and the two bedrooms shared a bathroom on the second floor, but the price and location were really tantalizing. Finally, we had a keeper!
Weird layout... but so CHEAP!
Next on the list was a loft a bit further north in Bucktown that had a great layout and a walk-in closet that I literally danced in and a master bedroom that dreams are made of. The kitchen still had 1999 counters and cabinets, but it was really big with tons of counter space and overlooked the side by side dining and living rooms.  I was a really big fan of it, but the Baconator was cranky about the amount of private outdoor space. Nonetheless, we has a second apartment on our consideration list!
So wide, so open!
A master bedroom so large we could do cartwheels!
Last on our list was a great apartment in a quite, but somewhat industrial part of town that had a deck the size of many studio apartments in New York City. Apparently, the designer of the building was also a realtor, so she took into consideration all the things that people look for when buying an apartment. The kitchen was spacious, the master bedroom had so much light and the entire place had every finish we were looking for without feeling cookie cutter. We had another one for for our list!
Marble kitchen with stainless steel appliances!
Legitimately light flooded master bedroom

With 3 units on our list, we sat back and checked out more MLS listings to see the following week. We were finally well on our way to finding our first place!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The House Hunt Begins

I'm one of those people that says "If this job falls through, maybe I'll become a Realtor" because I love looking at places. Really, I'm that friend that goes on apartment showings when you have to move in the dead of winter and I'm the friend that holds your hand as we cross the threshold into the first of many potential first homes. So when the Baconator and I first started talking about moving over four months ago, I was super stoked. Initially it was a discussion about renting a schmancy and updated two bedroom downtown in the Loop. It was only January, but I set out looking at apartments for our April move. That's how excited I was.

Since we have lived in our current one bedroom since I was entry level and he was a barista, we have a super low rent to pay, but we are missing a lot of things that married couples have... Like a dishwasher... And a legit closet. This also meant that moving to walking distance from our offices into a two bedroom with all the modern amenities would result in a rent DOUBLE our current place. Gulp. That's a big deal.

So one Sunday while watching an HGTV marathon, I turned to him and brought up the logistics of buying out own place. I think it went something like this:
Me: Nowadays, do we really need 20% down to buy a place?
Baconator: I don't think it's a requirement, but he more you put down, the smaller your payments.
Me: So we could theoretically buy a place now?
Baconator: We'd need to run the numbers, but we could.
Me: Then I think we should buy a place instead of using all that money to pay someone else's mortgage.
Baconator: WHAT?!?

The poor guy was caught totally off guard. I've been flirting with the idea of moving abroad as long as I can remember so he had shelved the idea of buying a place for the next few years. I don't really know what made me look seriously at the prospect of being homeowners but something tells me that getting a dog was a big factor.

No, I'm not some crazy person that was over come by the urge to get a dog so badly that I succumbed and through all caution to the wind. It's quite the opposite, actually. We have put lots of things on hold in case we get the chance to move abroad from little things like our registry to big things like adopting a dog, but it was the dog adoption that really made me realize how many things that we were putting aside for the "just in case."

So with the conversation started, I jumped head first into the online world of home buying. Suddenly I had accounts on Trulia, Zillow, Red Fin and a handful of other listing sites. By the time we actually met with a prospective realtor, we'd already been to four open houses, had a list of favorites a mile long and had talked ourselves out of the 3 bedroom dream into a 2 bedroom reality. Meanwhile, the Baconator was busy working numbers in Excel to calculate our max budget, how assessments & taxes might impact our lifestyle and that wiley mortgage insurance that is required for loans without 20% down.

I emailed 3-4 different realtors who had been recommended to us and we ended up having sit downs with two of them before deciding that Alley's straight forward personality and easy going, non-salesy style was what we needed. We met with a mortgage broker to get pre-approved then we were set up for MLS searches. Now I get a daily email from the system begging me to stop working and peruse through potential homes... And sometimes those emails win.

Our Very First Wordless Wednesday

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sweet Sixteen

It's hard to believe that we've already had Leia for two whole weeks! I swear that she's already gained at least 5 pounds and must be a foot taller than when we first brought her home. The last couple of weeks have been pretty awesome - really, truly, awesome.

via Instagram
via Instagram
Leia is a puppy who likes to play at 3 minute intervals every hour or so and spends pretty much all other times asleep.  She doesn't fetch; she doesn't get excited by a Kong stuffed with treats; she could take or leave a rawhide;  she doesn't gnaw on her nylabones (in fact, she doesn't chew on anything that she isn't supposed to); and she's not so fond of walks.  She's one strange little puppy.

via Instagram
via Instragram
These past two weeks have had their fair share of "OMG, dog poop in the bathroom!" and "Ugh, she peed as I was putting the leash on her," but after nearly half a bottle of Nature's Miracle, our potty training is doing pretty well. It's been hard finding a balance of the right number of walks, when to put her to bed, when to set my alarm for her first walk of the day, but we're getting there slowly but surely. Not gonna lie, there has been a lot of espresso in my life lately to combat my newfound early mornings.

Thankfully, the cats aren't reacting terribly to their new sister and after a night of shunning us completely are back to sleeping with us at night and are slowly getting to be more comfortable with Leia. Of course, we aren't at snuggling besties yet, but it's only been two weeks. For now, there's lots of hissing from under the bed, swats from the bench in the kitchen and bouts of growling from the bed, but Leia takes it all in stride and only has a couple scratches to show for it. Just watching her with the cats you can tell that she came from a home with cats; they only hold her attention for a few minutes at a time, and she has never snapped back at them. Mostly, she reacts to their attitude with extra excitement, a couple of barks, and that trademark pitbull frog leg stretch.

via Instagram
via Instagram
Sixteen snuggly days later, we could not be more happy to have brought our little pittie princess home. She is just about perfect for us and we can't wait to see what hijinks she comes up with as she gets bigger.

via Instagram
Star Wars Collar via FauxPaws on Etsy / Felt flower so that folks don't think she's a boy via me

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Puppy Posies

I've been reading Two Pitties in the City since we ran into them and their foster, Levi, during our wedding last September. Since then I've been inspired to go out and become involved in a local shelter, fell in love with the pit bull breed, adopted our own pittie and have pined for a delightful flower for her collar, just like their foster, Bessie, sported throughout the winter.

Moments after adopting Leia, I was online checking out some of the great flower options available on Etsy:

From Little Blue Feather
From Doodle Pup Designs
From Bow Wow Couture
From Pecan Pie Puppies

From BonChien

But you know what I realized? I'm pretty darn crafty and spending $10-$15 per flower, so if I want to swap them out, I could spend a small fortune on flowers.  Instead, I scoured the internet and found a bevy of tutorials! 

I'm pretty proud of the way these turned out - what do you think?

Tutorial: I Am Mommy
Tutorial: Keeping Life Creative

Tutorial: See Vanessa Craft

Tutorial: Craft Snob

Tutorial: Creations by Kara
She looks pretty lovely, right?  (And not like a boy dog!!)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

In a Galaxy Far, Far Away

After spending the evening with dear, sweet, goofy, snorting Jonas, we drove down to Matteson, IL the next day to meet our last few candidates for our new puppy. We took the day off for the excursion and started our day  with cinnamon rolls at Ann Sather's (a Chicago tradition) then were off to Wicker Park for a wander around. After spending a couple hours enjoying the beautiful weather in our future neighborhood, we settled into the car and were off for the 'burbs.

The Baconator's mom had come up with a kennel, a jumbo dog pillow, a food and water bowl and (of course!) lots of doggy treats and I'd ordered a whole host of things from Amazon, so by the time we got to the Petsmart where we were meeting the pups, we only had a short list of things left to get. We were about 20 minutes early, so we filled our cart with a leash, a collar, a harness, more chewables, more treats, some grooming accouterments, and a couple bags of food. A few minutes before 7:30, we saw a couple of pittie puppies that looked awfully familiar and they were from It's a Pittie and they were there for us!

We met a brother and sister who were being fostered together. The brother was really adorable, but he was due to the doctor because of a lump on his head (and in all honesty, if we decided on a boy, my heart had already been handed off to Mr. Jonas). Instead, we turned our attention to his beautiful white snouted sister. She had the most amazing wrinkles across her face and that mug of hers was so stinkin' cute I couldn't handle it. The thing was, she didn't seem that interested in us; in fact, she was more interested in everything but us - her brother, the floor, the aisles of food and goodies, her foster parents, the other dogs in the store, the other customers in the store. But she still had this sweetness about her that I couldn't ignore and I was really looking for a girl dog.

So we chatted and we waited until her sister (who had been fostered with another family) bounded into the store. Suddenly, this sweet pup that we had been considering for a good ten minutes was a snarling, snapping, barking ball of fur.

Um, What?!?!

We tried let them work it out for a little while puppy-style, but she just wasn't settling down. She took a walk around the store and we got to know the new puppy a little bit. This new pup, Stella, couldn't keep her paws and kisses off us; she was loving and interested in us and not aggressive to any other dog in the store. From a few minutes talking with her foster parents, we learned that they have two adult pitbulls, two cats, and an 18 month old baby; she was already crate trained, was getting to know basic commands like "Sit" and "Come;" and she was great with every animal she came into contact with. Suddenly, this girl was lookin' pretty good - Stella had even settled down a bit in the store and was hanging out with the baby.

We, the Baconator, his mom and I, took a quick chat and knew that the brother and sister combo were out. It was really down to Stella and Jonas, those other two couldn't hold a candle to the goofy pup that came by first and the sweet pup that came in last. We needed to know more about Stella before we could choose Jonas, so we found out more about how she'd been trained - was she food motivated or socially motivates? and found out more about her routine - is she good on a leash? Does she do her business right away or is she a dawdler? In the meantime, Stella was doing her own sales job which was comprised mostly of kisses and belly rubs.

By the end of it, the Baconator looked at me and said, "Well, honey, what do you think?" I looked down at the fawn, white pawed puppy in front of us, and I pulled out my photo of Jonas on my phone, and I said with some trepidation, "I think that we've gotta get Stella." Then that was it, with some paperwork behind us and solemn promises to love her like you'd never believe, not to crop her ears or tail and to get her spayed in the next two weeks (at the rescue's vet), she was ours.

We have a puppy!!! Her momma is a pitbull and her pappa is Darth Vader... oh wait, probably not. But either way, her new name is Leia and the Star Wars puns might never end.

And now for some gratuitous Instagram photos of Leia...