Saturday, October 26, 2013

I Love My Pit Bull (and why you should, too)

I just learned that today is National Pit Bull Awareness Day and that October is National Pit Bull Awareness month. I am so glad that these under appreciated and totally misunderstood pups are getting some national coverage for being fantastic family dogs!!

Bowie and Alice
A number of years back, my best friend had a pit bull named Bowie and this dog was the exact opposite of what I'd heard about pit bulls. I mean, c'mon, I literally spooned with this dog when the Baconator and I visited Harlem. 3 people and a dog in a full-sized bed made for tight quarters, but this dog was the best. It was during this one little weekend that pit bulls started sneaking up the potential breed list for me.

Before we had fully decided to adopt a dog, I was volunteering at a no-kill shelter here in Chicago, PAWS.  It was there, that I became fully sold on adopting a pit. I fell in love with not one, not two but 4 different pit bulls there that, while very energetic, were extremely loving and eager to please. PAWS has a dedicated program for pit bulls that fully vets potential owners and dedicates an entire course to educate new owners on how to be responsible with their new pit bulls. (In Chicago, there is still quite a bit of illegal dogfighting, so shelters need to be extra cautious when vetting owners for pits to make sure the dogs are going to good homes.) When the time finally came time to adopt, we actually chose to go with one of the smaller pit bull specific non-profits in Chicago to ensure that we would get a puppy and since the smaller ones need more help. (You can read all about adopting Leia here and here.)

Leia's first day with us!
We adopted Leia last April and she has turned our lives upside down, in the best possible way. She is on the small side for a pit (47 lbs), but full of wiggles, doggy kisses and the occasional snore. Everyone that comes to our house has been converted into a pit bull lover, and that includes a number of folks who were afraid of all dongs before meeting her. She loves people and practically throws her whole body into you because all she wants to do is be near you and get some puppy pats. In fact, I've never seen a dog that is so patient - all winter long she is dressed in sweaters (and sometimes booties), and she has a costume every Halloween! Leia loves to play with other dogs, our cats and will do anything for a good scratch behind the ears... well, maybe not fetch... that classic dog game seems to have alluded her...

Trying on Costumes at Petco
She is nothing like the growling, snarling, angry, biting, terrible and terrifying dog that is on the news, and let's be real, most real life pit bulls aren't.  Take for example, Miss M and Mr. B in the amazing blog, Two Pitties in the City - they are stand up citizens here in Chicago that are just fabulous dogs, I'd even put them in the column of "rolepups" for Leia. They are well mannered, sweet, obedient PIT BULLS that are happy to wear doggy goggles and trek around town meeting people. Of course, much of their great training comes from their really wonderful owners, but the owners aren't master trainers with their own video series. Nope, they are regular people that love their dogs and decided to tell their story online. I'd highly suggest checking out their blog if you are a pit lover or a pit skeptic.

I love the infograph that Huffington Post shared earlier this month. I think it really encapsulates what we've been trying to tell the world: Pit bulls are great dogs and they deserve the opportunity to become family dogs.
Source: The Huffington Post
So this month, tell someone about the pit bull breed, and remind them that breed specific legislation is unfair, unjust and kills thousands of dogs every year, just for being born.

Here are some other great links on why pit bulls really just are great dogs:

Huff Post: 17 Pit Bulls That Prove Breed Specific Legislation Doesn't Know What It's Talking About
Petfinder: 10 Reasons Why Pit Bulls Rule
Dogster: 10 Common Misconceptions About Pit Bulls
Buzzfeed: The 20 Most Adorable Pit Bull Puppy Pictures Ever
Buzzfeed: 37 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith In Pit Bulls

Just enjoying the sunshine
Love and Bacon,
Kelsey (and Leia)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bad Customer = Bad Service?

I saw this Huff Post article shared on Facebook this morning that I just had to comment on, because the writer is SPOT ON. Essentially, the writer goes through this bizarre interchange she saw at a burger joint by another customer and has written an op-ed, and here's the part that had me yelling "Amen" from the rooftops:
And that brings us to the possible answer to that query you posed in the midst of your ketchup rant. You asked: "Why can't I ever f*cking get good customer service?" Well, ma'am, that might have something to do with you being a vulgar, miserable, malicious person. Maybe you get bad customer service because you're a bad customer. Did you ever consider that possibility?
It's SO true! As a gal that has worked at two major restaurant chains in her early twenties, I can tell you without question, that the customer is NOT always right.

Just working for those tips!
Like when I worked at Hard Rock and had to walk back to the kitchen with half eaten BBQ chicken that the customer suddenly decided wasn't good so that it could be replaced. Or when I'd spend over an hour laughing and schmoozing with a table of Ladies Who Lunch at the Cheesecake Factory only to be left a paltry 10% tip while they drive off in their Bentleys (which I could always see them retrieving from the valet stand right outside). I've dealt with some iffy folks, but I've only ever been yelled at once, and realistically it wasn't that bad... I wasn't even yelled at when I dropped a caesar salad on a teenager.

And here's one of the hubs, doing that barista thing
But I've been a customer plenty of times and I've seen people like the woman in the article: the ones that think they can yell at the staff because they are the customer; the ones that yell at the Starbucks barista because their drink is too hot or there isn't milk at the condiment stand; the ones that try to use social media to shame an establishment using pictures of their screaming children as bait; the ones that hold up an entire line because there is ketchup on a burger rather than being a grown up and scraping it off like the rest of us. Oh yes, I've seen plenty of those people. The author is totally right, as a server/barista/cashier/postal worker you can see those people a mile away and you know that no matter what you do they are going to throw a stink, so they get the service they deserve - you know, the same way that the nice people get fantastic service.

So go forth and order whatever you'd like, as long as it's not the people behind the counter.

Love and Bacon,

Friday, August 9, 2013

Once, Always

I don't talk about it much, but I am a sorority girl. I have letters and a secret handshake and colors and a flower and cheers and memories full of frat parties, sisterhood outings, big/little nights, semis and formals, late nights in the sorority house and lots of other things I shouldn't share with the Internet.  Being a Phi Sig shaped who I am, starting my first month of college, but I (like many ladies in the PanHellenic system) kind of forgot about how important it was once I graduated from college. That is, until Wednesday morning.

On Wednesday, I was off getting coffee with some coworkers and while we waited in the crowded Starbucks for our liquid energy, one of our newer team members looked at me and said, "love your outfit! Those are my sorority colors: king blue and gold." I literally threw my hands up and was all, "um, what sorority!?!????!!!" When she said Phi Sigma Sigma, I nearly shouted in excitement (and all this before my morning joe). I graduated from GW in 2007, so it's been a really long time since I've met a new Sister. Suddenly I was so filled with pride and excitement that all I wanted to do was chat with her about sorority stuff, thankfully she was equally excited.

As a more senior person at our agency, I don't friend the newer people on FB since I don't want them to feel obligated to add me, but within minutes of getting to my desk I was adding Maura and posting about my excitement. So here I am, 3 days later brimming with pride for the sisterhood that helped me become the woman I am and rocking a Phi Sig themed mani to boot.

Are any of you Greek and found a sister (or brother) in an unexpected place?

Love and Bacon (LITP!),

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Pinned It & Did It! Parmesan Kale Salad

On my way back from Singapore in February, I had a nice long layover in SoCal which meant I could join my cousin and her hubs for a quick dinner before heading back to Chicago - along with surprise guest, my dad! The 4 of us went down to Tender Greens and I had this totally killer Kale Salad as one of my sides. I came back to Chicago try to convince the Baconator that we had to try to make this ourselves and he pretty much laughed at me.  "Raw kale is bitter, that would taste terrible," he said, brushing the suggestion aside, but I still couldn't get this simple salad out of my head. The menu simply stated: kale, parmesan, roasted garlic vinaigrette. Really? That's it? How in the world was I supposed to replicate? Clearly I couldn't, so I gave up.

I was at the farmers market last week and saw some gorgeous kale on sale and I started thinking back to that salad, so... (To the tune of Mighty Mouse) Here comes Pinterest to save the day! I searched all the pins and found this awesome recipe from The Slender Student.

Pin it!
Here's the recipe from The Slender Student
Ingredients:1 bunch of kale
3 T chopped onion
2 T minced garlic
1 T olive oil
juice of one lemon
2 T shredded parmesan cheese

Directions:1. Thoroughly rinse and dry your kale. Chop into bite size pieces and place in a large bowl.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together your onion, minced garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and parmesan cheese.
3. Pour the dressing over the kale and massage with your hands for a minute or two until the leaves are slightly wilted.
4. Refrigerate for at least an hour before eating to allow the kale to absorb the flavor.

The ingredients were simple as was the prep, so off I went to clean, tear and massage my kale into a delicious splendor. The recipe called for a bunch of kale, which I assumed didn't mean the GIANT bunch I got from the market, so I added some extra garlic and onion, but otherwise followed the instructions to a T - don't do that folks, it gives you crazy bad garlic breath!  I am also a sucker for shredded parm so I added a bit more of that goodness... and good it was :)
Yum! Did it!
I'll definitely make this bad boy again, but next time I'm going to try and roast the garlic in my oven before making the dressing since the current version is hot with the raw garlic flavor.  Do you have a favorite Kale salad recipe that is your go to?

Love and Bacon,

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

One of Those People

Do you ever meet people and think, "now where has this person been my whole life?" because you hit it off instantly? Folks that you see and it doesn't matter how much times passes because it's like nothing has changed?

Tonight I had dinner with one of those people in my life. We met 3 years ago, after a mutual friend thought that she was a good fit for my wedding; 2 years ago, we were making a shot list for the upcoming nuptials; a year ago we were eating burgers at DMK for hours talking about married life and her new full-time photography gig; tonight we had a 2.5 hour long sushi extravaganza and discussed all the things that have changed - her new city, her engagement (hoooooooray!), my new condo, our plans for the future and all that goodness in between.  Jordan is my former wedding photographer/friendor/long lost gal pal/soul sister that I see once in a a blue moon... and every single time, it's the best time ever.

I think that Hollywood forgets to tell us that these kinds of friendships exist - the ones that start in your mid-twenties that don't involve getting blackout drunk or seeing each other everyday or frenemy drama.  Maybe these stories are harder to tell?  Either way, I thought I'd share with the world that friendships like this do exist - the ones that start as business then turn into play and can span state lines and don't require constant texting and chatting on the phone and always make you happy.

Love and Bacon,

PS - I just realized that we don't have a picture together... I'll make sure to fix that the next time we get together... whether that is next month or next year :)

Monday, July 15, 2013

The 15 Percent

Back in June, General Mills premiered a new heart health Cheerios ad, just in time for Father's Day. The ad features this adorbs little girl that wants to know if Cheerios are good for your heart and later pours them all of her dad because she loves him so much and wants him to have a healthy heart.

Killer, right? Makes everybody want to go out and buy some Cheerios right away. Wrong. Apparently folks were all up in arms because the dad is black, the mom is white and the little girl is brown. Honestly, I was upset that people were upset, but to bring all that up now is about 6 weeks too late. There were a bunch of really great responses to the outrage from the somewhat explicit, but totally on point, Jezebel post that came out right after the video was released to the heart warming reaction of kids that came out today, but the one that really makes me proud to be biracial is the tumblr site, We Are The 15 Percent.

This site is a collection of lovely photos that are updated numerous times a day of biracial and multiracial families that have all been submitted by users. They are actively pulling together photos of families from across the US (and sometimes Canada) that showcase the love, beauty and 100% normalcy that is mixed race couples and families. It's the kind of site that makes you want to tell everyone about it because it's all about good.  Why the 15%? According to the a 2010 Pew study, 15% of new marriages are interracial - yes, FIFTEEN percent! The way I see it, that is awesome and it's only going up from there. We live in a world that is so accessible, where cultures are crossing borders and salsa outsells ketchup - pretty soon the site will need to be updated to the 16, 17 and 18%.

But you've probably already heard about all of these things because of Facebook and BuzzFeed and all kinds of things. Why do I care and why am I telling you again? Simply, I am the result of an interracial marriage from way before it was cool (oh hey, 1979, how's it hangin'?) and I am an active participant in an interracial marriage, helping to drive up that percentage rate.
My parents - trend setting since '79... white tux and all

Our wedding day - incorporating my Chinese heritage
As a gal that has lived in the US, Asia and Europe, in big cities and small towns, I noticed that while I relate to my Asian heritage all the time, the only place that I really fit in is the US. We are a nation full of folks like me - hodgepodges and mixies - I mean, even our president isn't just one ethnicity!  So for me, this ad was a big deal. When we have kids, I don't want them to ever wonder if they are less because they aren't all white or all yellow or all purple, I want them to grow up seeing themselves reflected in the media. When I was growing up, I don't remember a single show that had interracial couples, maybe interfaith, but never interracial; In drugstores, I wouldn't be able to find the right foundation because none of the shades matched up; to this day, I still have friends who were adopted from foreign countries by amazing families who had fantastic childhoods but never really felt like they fit in.

So starting now, with that Cheerios ad and that tumblr site, I hope things change. I hope that shows like Modern Family and the New Normal and Glee won't have to preach acceptance because people already get it. I'm part of the generation that grew up with a token black friend (or Asian or Hispanic), and now marries who we want despite cultural expectations, and will have kids in kindergarten classes with classmates more colorful than the rainbow. I am proud to be one of the 15%... and growing.

Love and Bacon,

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Hello Kitty Wins

So I swung by Sephora the other day, like you do, and could not resist these super cute Hello Kitty nail stickers!  With all the painting done, the appliances installed and the juice cleanse over with (more on that later), I thought it was time for some mani action.

Julep Color: Teri
I seriously can't stop looking at my nails! What do you think?

Love and Bacon,

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Pinned It & Did It! Patriotic Nails

That title is pretty self explanatory, right?  I searched Pinterest for "patriotic nails" and found some real jems (along with some duds), but here are some of my faves:

This one would take so much time, but I like the nautical theme (source)
Love this Simple Red, White & Blue Mani (source)

I'm a sucker for some chevron action! (source)

Love these patterns (source)
Super Patriotic (source)
This is one of  my faves - delicate patterns (source)
So with a ton of pinspiration under my belt, I was ready to get down to business with my nail polishes.  But let's be honest here, I am not that talented; so I needed something patriotic but easy but classy but nice but so many things... then I stumbled on this baby:

Here's the Inspiration (source)
With my Julep Jackie (Red) as the primary polish and a couple Avon shades, here's what I came up with:
Here's Mine!

Did I totally nail it? Nope... but the inspiration photo was done by a professional, not by a gal on her couch watching Master Chef for hours.  Are you going to do anything special with your mani to celebrate Independence Day?  Share pics below!

Love and Bacon,

Thursday, April 11, 2013

One of Our Firsts

For this Throwback Thursday, I thought I'd share the very first photo of the Baconator and me from just over SEVEN years ago.  We were out celebrating my best friend's 21st birthday (thus the weird flower/vase situation), and it was a pretty big moment. This is the first time that he was meeting her and as my best friend, her approval was incredibly important. So without further ado, here's the photo:

Clearly we all hit it off, since here we are again, 3 months later, happy as clams!

And of course... Lainey was maid of honor at our wedding!

Happy Throwback Thursday, folks!

Love and Bacon,

Thursday, April 4, 2013

It's True at 28, Too!

Guys, I LOVE Taylor Swift's song "22." Like, if I could start every morning of my life with this song, my life would be so much better. In fact, it's scientifically proven based on the last week of wonderfulness.

But you know what I've come to love almost as much? The parody that Fuse came out with this week - it's the BOMB. 

I know, I know. You can't stop playing them both over and over... like a magical round. No? That's just me? Moving on...

OMG - My day started this way, too! "It feels like one of days... when I'll just go to work. It feels like one of those days... I'll start a diet - maybe Weight Watchers. I've heard. Good things." 

And this was us tonight - Beef Broccoli and Chinese Lo Mein included... "I'm not going out, I've got this Chinese food! Then I'll just go to bed because it's 8 o'clock and I am 32!"

Do you more than relate to any of these new lyrics?

Love and Bacon,

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Easter Candy = Kryptonite

Folks, I don't really have anything to write about tonight, so I thought I'd just admit for the world that I've been totally derailed by Easter candy. This is what happens when I am given some unsupervised time in CVS while waiting for a bus and all the Easter stuff is 50% off. Eggs are Paleo; Dark Chocolate is Paleo(ish); Dark Chocolate Marshmallow Peeps are not Paleo.

Good news is that the weekend is coming and BACON is totally Paleo friendly!

Love and Bacon,

PS. I totally warned you that there were boring bits ahead.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Building My Bucket List

We were watching Parks and Rec tonight (shocking) and the crew mentioned bucket lists.  Andy had some awesome things on his list like going to the Grand Canyon and being an action star and making the best grilled cheese in the world. Watching all that, I realized that I have never really written down my bucket list items.
Here's what I've gotten so far
Visit Antarctica
Run a Marathon
Swim with Whales
Drink French Wine in France
Spoon a Baby Tiger
Go to Lollapalooza
Cliff Jump (May or may not get vetoed by the Baconator)
Swim Under a Waterfall
Become Fluent in Two Languages
Ride a Motorcycle Solo
Take a Private Jet Ride
Spend a Summer Getting Really Tan
Throw a Dart at a Map and Travel Wherever it Lands
Make a Perfect Souffle
Climb Machu Picchu
Go Fishing in Alaska
Have a beautiful and happy family

What's on your bucket list?

Love and Bacon,

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

Firstly, Happy Easter!! We didn't do church or anything, but we did have friends over and do a ham and the whole thing. We've been trying to do paleo for the last couple weeks, so we made sure that everything we were eating today fit the bill.  Since we needed sides, I clearly went directly to Pinterest to figure it out and found pastel deviled eggs - perfect for Easter!

The recipe is pretty straight forward, and to be honest, I didn't follow the filling at all as I've been making my mom's version since college.

So firstly, I boiled eggs. Once they had cooled, I halved them and put the yolks in a gallon bag.

After spending more time than I'd like to admit deciding which colors I wanted, I put the halves in a cup of cold water with a few drops of food coloring and a capful of white vinegar and let them sit for 45 minutes. 
While these bad boys marinated in the dye, I set out making the filling.  It's pretty easy actually, especially now that I've been using the zip top bag method. Take all the yolks and put them in the bag, add about 1/2 cup mayo (we used homemade paleo mayo), add 1/4 cup finely chopped onion, add 1/8 cup finely chopped pickles (about 1-2 pickle spears), 2-3 tablespoons yellow mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. Then seal the bag and mash the heck out of it!! Once the filling is sufficiently mashed and you've seasoned to your liking, snip off the corner and BOOM - instant pastry bag perfect for filling the little yolks! (Thank you Pinterest for that tip! No pun intended...)

Once they got to the color I wanted, I set them out on some paper towels to dry off a bit 
Ta Da! Easter Deviled Eggs!
What did you do for Easter? Any Pinspirational Projects?

Love and Bacon,

Saturday, March 30, 2013

I Love Amy Poehler

I don't like The Office. I love Amy Poehler.

It was a toss up on whether or not we'd like Parks and Rec, so we just assumed we wouldn't.  What a terrible idea!!  We started watching it last week and legit cannot turn it off. We are almost done with the third season - yes, THIRD season! If you've never seen it, you absolutely need to go to Netflix right MEOW.  

Yes, it's a comedic mockumentary, but it's so funny!! It's a bit awkward, but you just want to cheer and cheer and cheer for Amy's character, Leslie. Rashida Jones is hilarious and uplifting; and I have a newfound appreciation for Aziz's special brand of humour. 

So really, go forth and watch this goodness. 

Love and Bacon,

Friday, March 29, 2013

Advances in Bacon Goodness

Guys, prepare to have your mind blown. You know me, I've got a membership to the bacon of the month club and I pretty much stand by the statement of "if there's no bacon, it's not breakfast." So what is this advancement?

Drum roll please...

Bacon Scope! Ok, it might be a joke, or some kind of a viral marketing stunt, but c'mon guys, BACON mouthwash?!? I'm not sure if I love it or hate it. Kinda like those bacon mints I got in my Christmas stocking... Verdict is still out in those.

So what do you think - if it is a real product, would you try it? Or better yet, if you could take one everyday item and make it into bacon, what would it be? I'll share my answer tonight :)

Love and Bacon,

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Warning: Boring Bits Ahead

So I say this all the time, but this time I mean it: I am going to try and write more. To get better about opening up my Blogger account and staying up to date, I will be sharing info about me. Yes, I know a blog is supposed to be about me and my life and tips and what not, but I find myself waiting for the "right" topic to write about. So, for the next while, I am going to write a post a day about whatever comes to mind... and it may be boring.


Folks, I make no promises on the interesting-ness of the stories I tell, but hopefully, this blogger-cise will help me get back into the groove and I'll find an interesting voice.

Do you have any tips to help you stick to blogging regularly?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Bikram? Yes, Ma'am!

It's been about 11 months since the last time I went to Bikram, not because I didn't like it but because I didn't want to get up at 5 am to do it... so laziness. I've tried some Hot Yoga places, but I really missed Bikram - I'm a hot yoga snob that can only really be satisfied by the sweaty awesomeness of Bikram Hot Yoga.   
What is Bikram?  It's a technique that was developed by Rajashree Choudhury in the late 70s centered around exactly 26 poses in 90 minutes in a room that is heated to 105°F degrees with 40% humidity. Pretty much, you go into the yoga studio wearing the least amount of clothing you can stand, start sweating immediately, work through 2 reps of each position, and leave covered in sweat and feeling better and more accomplished than you'd believe. 

So anyway, I saw a Gilt deal for a new studio on the west side of town and couldn't resist a $40 for 20 deal. It had been so long, and I kept reminding myself of last year's resolution to "Recommit to my Bikram yoga practice by going at least 3 times a week." Clearly I let that 2012 resolution fall by the wayside last April, so with a good deal in my sight, I thought it was time to go back.  

 I definitely had forgotten how hard the classes are. I sauntered in there all "Oh yeah, no problemo, it's just been a few months since my last class," then I kept finding myself sitting on my mat with my head spinning thinking "WHEN WILL THIS END?!?!?!"  By the time the class ended, I had to accept that I'm way out of shape, that I have no right to be caught in stretchy shorts, and that I will absolutely be coming back as soon as I can. 

Have you tried tried Bikram? What did you think of it?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

This is Our Final Offer!

Ok, that blog title is a bit misleading, but you get the idea.

After being crushed not once, but twice on places that we loved, the Baconator and I were not going to let the Humboldt Park Duplex slip through our fingers.  As soon as we decided to walk from the house, we made an appointment for a second viewing of the duplex to take it in with the critical eye needed to draft up a proper punch list.

Not to be all "gut feelings" and what not, but once we got in the front door, the condo really felt right. It was like we'd been through all these hoops with the loft then the house so that we could truly appreciate  how great the duplex was. The finishes of the duplex were really nice, especially when compared to the house; just little things like the quality of the tile in the bathrooms and the continuity of finishes throughout do a lot to pull the place together.  So with that said, we were eager to put our offer on the table!

Our Offer:
Price: 92% Offer and $5K for Closing Costs
Punch List:

  1. Build out Closets in (3) Bedrooms
  2. Build Wall and Door to close off basement bedroom
  3. Back up Battery on Sump Pump
  4. Fix Chip in Kitchen Sile Stone
  5. Hood has 2 dents - fix dents
  6. Finish Carport with Solid Garage Door
  7. Installation of Wine Fridge in Kitchen Nook
  8. Install Sile Stone in Kitchen Nook
There are a bunch of things that we asked for at the House that aren't on this list because the developer of the Duplex already took care of it during the building process (Alarm, Mirrors, Washer/Dryer, Back Fences, Pulls for Drawers, Tile Backsplash, 1 Year Developer Warranty, etc). 

Within 24 hours, we were happy to get a response from the developer!  Great news on that front:
Seller's Counter Offer:
Price: 99% asking price and No Credit for Closing Cost
Punch List: 

OMG!? They said yes to EVERYTHING on the list? Seriously? No wonder our realtor was so confused when the other developer kept turning us down!! After some quick math, we went in with our best and final offer with guns blazing and fingers crossed:

Our Best and Final Offer:
Price: 95% asking price and $5K for Closing Costs
Punch List: Everything already agreed to

The only thing we had left to do was wait and hope they came back with something that we could agree to... and they DID!

By noon the next day, we had agreed to the seller's counter offer of:
Price: 97% asking price and $5K for Closing Costs
Punch List: Everything already agreed to

After 3 long months and more viewings than I can count, we were finally on our way to having house!  We closed just over a month later with no bumps along the road - here are our keys as proof :)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Making an Offer... Again

So we were down to the Humboldt Park Duplex and the Logan Square house with a pretty exhaustive list of pros and cons in hand. The duplex was gorgeous but at the end of the day, the dream has always been to own a HOUSE in the city, so we went in and put in an offer on the house!

Based on comparables in the area, the house was over priced, so we knew we would be offering lower than asking and since we were negotiating with a developer, we asked for some work to be done to bring it up to the value that we offered:

Our Offer:
Price: 93% of Asking Price plus $6K for Closing Costs
Work to Be Done aka Punch List (my comments in italics weren't in the offer...): 

  1. Pulls for kitchen, bath, closets (because it's WEIRD that all the drawers and doors were naked)
  2. Built out closets (not asking for California closets, just a bar that we could hang hangers on)
  3. Battery back up on sump pump (So important for a place with a basement)
  4. Tile backsplash with a cap at $8 per sqft (Not a dealbreaker, but worth asking for)
  5. 1 year developer warranty which includes all appliances, mechanicals, roof, windows (Pretty standard when buying from a developer)
  6. Credit for bathroom mirrors (Why would you sell a house with 3.5 bathrooms and no mirrors?)
  7. Side by side front load washer dryer - or credit at closing (Not a deal breaker, but worth asking for since developers could get them cheaper)
  8. Build out a overhead front door awning (Without an awning, rain/snow water could get in under the door and warp the floors by the front door)
  9. Home security system installed or credit (In a "transitioning" neighborhood, with a brand new place, you really need a security system!)
  10. 6' Privacy fence on North to match South side (There was only chain link on the North side of the yard)
  11. New Garage Windows as stated by seller at second showing (Window had a crack)
  12. New Microwave door - current is dented (I mean, c'mon, the whole place is brand new, but the microwave is already dented?)
  13. Stair risers to be finished (Just needed to be painted since they were naked)
  14. Upgraded stove and refrigerator (The Baconator dreams of Viking and Wolf ranges every night)

Once that was submitted, we just had to wait and wait and wait...

After 36 hours of nail biting, they got back to us with:
Seller's Counter Offer:
Price: 98.8% of Asking Price and $3K credit for Closing Costs
Work to Be Done aka Punch List: 
     1.  Pulls for kitchen, bath, closets
     2.  Built out closets
     4.  Tile backsplash (cap at $8 per sqft)

     5.  1 year developer warranty which includes all appliances, mechanicals, roof, windows.
   11.  New Garage Windows as stated by seller at second showing
   13.  Stair risers to be finished

Hmm, at least they countered, right?  So we got on the horn with our realtor and had some #realtalk about what we were willing to do to get this house.  In the end we settled on:

Our Best and Final Offer:

Price: 99% of Asking Price and $6K credit for Closing Costs
Work to Be Done: 
Everything on the original Punch list, but instead of a new stove and fridge, we'd pay the difference for a nicer stove and fridge on top of the value for the base models already in the house.

Then it was radio silence. TWO whole days of silence before our realtor got this email in response:

"Talking to the partners, they need to net 97% asking, including any modifications.  That would mean the punch list items would be treated as extras with a corresponding adjustment to the price.  I know this is a ways off from what you had proposed below, but that is realistically over $20,000 off the listing price when you add up all the work requested.  I see no other homes with this level of new construction for under $(109% asking), and some of the items like the fence and washer/dryer were not included so that we could price it at the point we did." - The Developer

YIKES! It was time to sit down and be realistic. We didn't have an extra $20K just sitting around waiting to be spent on the work items we wanted, even at our Best Offer, we were already $35K over our budget and the house is located in a place that pretty much demands that we get a car, too. There was just no way that we could swing it and the house really needed things like an alarm system, and we would need mirrors and a washer/dryer as soon as we moved in.  

So what did we do? We walked... and offered on the Humboldt Park Duplex instead!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Weighing Our Options

After a thorough pro and con list between the Humboldt Park Duplex and the more expensive Logan Square House, we finally came to an agreement on what we would do.What was nice is that both places were new gut rehabs, so we were working with developers that could help us make tweaks like install closet organizers or fix fences which wouldn't have been a possibility with owners trying to move out. I'd be lying if I said it was easy - both places had a lot of virtues and draw backs.

Humboldt Park Duplex:
No idea why the sides are black....

Priced in our budget
It's Huge: 2200sq ft
Gorgeous new kitchen that was exactly our style
A modern feel with a look and feel that continued throughout
Really great light that spilled in on all four sides
A walk-in closet in the master bedroom
Close to trendy neighborhoods like Ukrainian Village and Wicker Park, with lots of new development moving in to bring up property values
Security System already installed
Brand new fencing in the back yard to keep Leia safe

Transitioning neighborhood with some gang activity 10 blocks over
No real space for a dining room
One bedroom is in the basement
We'd have to take a bus to the train every morning
We would eventually have upstairs neighbors and have to create a condo board
Single parking spot in a shared carport
On a moderately busy street

Logan Square House:

It's a HOUSE - no direct neighbors, no one to tell us we're too loud, no one to give us rules in a condo association - the kind of thing that we never thought we'd be able to afford in the city. Ever.
Tons of space (2400 sq ft) and a dining room
Enclosed two car garage
On a quiet, tree lined street
Train-only commute - no messing with transfers
Beautiful full kitchen with more cabinet space than we'd know what to do with
All 3 bedrooms on the same floor (for when we have those future kiddos)

Well over our budget! (Like $30-$35K over!)
Transitioning neighborhood with some gang activity 5 blocks over
Finishes aren't as premium as the duplex - finishes don't have the same feel throughout the house
No security system
Backyard fencing was the neighbor's, not ours - one side was old, 7 foot wood and the other was 4 foot chainlink - ew
On the northside of Logan Square, so it will take longer for the neighborhood to benefit from the gentrification of neighborhoods like Bucktown and Wicker Park

After exhausting all the things we could possibly chart and running budget scenarios, we finally chose the place we wanted to live and couldn't wait to hear back from the developer! Can you guess which one we offered on?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

We Found Love in a Hopeless Place

**Sorry for not posting this in the summer, we didn't want to jinx our house search. The Baconator even quit Facebook for most of the summer!**

After the swearing died down and our heartbeats regulated, we met up with our realtor again and started seeing places. On our first time out for the second time, we decided to check out more unusual listings but this time they were at the bottom of our budget like a couple of duplexes in Noble Square, a small loft and a house that had been gutted and redone - the idea is that maybe we could get a steal!

None of these "Bottom Budget Abodes" really struck a cord with us, they were all small or awkwardly shaped or dingy or in a weird neighborhood or some combination if those issues. While the Baconator was smitten with the house, I just couldn't do it. Sure, it was gorgeous, but the neighborhood was dodgy despite all the hipsters that had moved in. It was bigger than anything we had looked at, every single part of it was brand spanking new, the yard was totally swoon worthy, but it was right across the street from a Streets and Sanitation complex and when I looked up the crime reports, the symbols on the surrounding streets were XXX, syringes and guns. No thank you. So after that showing, we cooled off for a couple weeks, and at the beginning of June, we were back on the prowl.

We had a promising selection of places: a brand new gut rehab duplex in Humboldt Park, a walk up in Ukranian Village, a penthouse loft in West Bucktown, another gutted house in Logan Square, a loft in Ravenswood, and a pair of rehabs in Andersonville and Uptown. Notice anything unusual about this selection? Maybe the fact that we have given up on a single neighborhood and have opened up our search to the entire Northside of Chicago?

So "off we went like a band of turtles" as our realtor liked to say. First up was the duplex in Humboldt Park. To call it nice is an understatement; this baby was in a building that a developer flipped over the winter and the whole inside was shiny and new. We were actually able to see every unit in the 3-flat, but it was the main floor duplex down that caught our eye. It was priced at the top of our budget vs the other units in the building... But it had 3 bedrooms and a separate family room aka man cave. This is what dreams are made of.

View of the living room from the kitchen - I swear it's bigger than it looks from this angle!
Love this stainless steel and silestone kitchen - wish we had a photo of the 23rd century microwave, too!
Man Cave? Pretty sure the Baconator is already picking out the perfect shade of red...
Victory! A walk-in closet!!
The drawbacks? Well, it's in a western neighborhood that is still "in transition," so there are still gangs in parts of it and what not, but more jarring is that we'd have to take a bus to a train to get to work. That was definitely on our Don't List. So it was nice but we needed to move on.

The next place was right off Chicago Ave and next door to a large mechanic shop - Scratch that - Overlooked a large mechanic shop. So it was out in under a minute. I didn't even bother to take photos since it was not even a contender.

The penthouse loft in West Bucktown was nice... But not as nice as the first place we saw, so after petting the two cats that were lounging around, we took our leave.

Next was another gutted house in Logan Square. Guys, we could have a totally gutted, brand spanking new, still smells like paint, detached house with a backyard, a basement and a two car garage in the CITY. OMG WHAT?! The only problem was the finishes and color palette, they just felt a bit older than we are. Like a couple in their early forties were moving in, not a couple in their twenties.

The porch, the roof, it all feels so very Torklesons to me

Beautiful kitchen... but just a bit old feeling...

View from the back door looking into the dining room and living room

Yep, this master walks out onto its very own patio!
Fabulous master bath in the same palette
A huge basement Man Cave for the Baconator
So we milled around and gaped at the kitchen a bit... Then the realtor mentioned that their development company had another gutted house that was going in the market the next day. Whoa, buddy! You almost let us leave this place without that juicy tidbit?? We had about 30 minutes to spare between appointments, so we convinced him to show us the unlisted house.

It was only three blocks from the first place and still in Logan Square. The development company bought a foreclosed two flat and revamped it as a single family home with a huge backyard and two car garage, complete with 3 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, a basement and an attic. Finishes were much more modern, the color palette was more out style and, hellooooooo, a house!!!

The front of the house - you can see how it is a converted 2 flat.
View from the living room  - You can see the dining room around the corner
The totally gorgeous kitchen... Swoooooooooon
Do I smell another Man Cave option?
The light filled front bedroom
Somewhat awkwardly windowed Master Bedroom
Of course this second house was the top of our budget... actually, about $30-35K above our max budget. And the location was just inconvenient enough that we'd have to buy a car within the first 6 months, but oh man, I was so in love!

We had a lot to think about.  The two front runners of West Town were the duplex down in Humboldt Park and the modern house in Logan Square - both total guts that were sparkly and new inside; both had parking and a back yard; both had gorgeous kitchens; both were in slightly dodgy, somewhat not great, "in transition" neighborhoods. After a quick cup of coffee, we headed off to the northside to check out more places in the afternoon.

I was going to write a whole additional post on the northside places, but the reality is that we compare all 3 of them to the places we'd seen in the morning and none of them held a candle to the west side units.  We traveled all over the place, talked ourselves out of even visiting the unit in Andersonville and even saw one at the end of the street where we'd lived for three years.  The Baconator and I had a lot of thinking to do, but it wasn't "Where are we going next" but instead "How much do you want to offer?" Off to the part we dread the most: Making an offer.