Tuesday, September 27, 2011

There's No Place Like Home

Finally, after two months apart, me in China, Andrew in New York, and then another two months apart while I was in California, Andrew still in New York, we were reunited on August 30th, a mere two days before our 5 year wedding anniversary. Finally, the two of us, and our cat, were together in the place we'll be calling home for the next 3+ years.

Finding a place in New York City is a nightmare. Andrew was busy with classes and job hunting, and didn't have a ton of time to apartment hunt. I, on the other hand, had loads of time, but was incapable of follow-through. This actually made us a pretty good team. I would search, mostly through Craigslist, for available rentals, and Andrew would either shoot it down for sensible reasons ("Do you know how far away Long Island is??"), or he would scurry on over for a look. About the last week of July, I stumbled upon a little gem. I saw an advertisement for a "garden apartment" in the Bronx, a mere 1/2 mile from Andrew's job. We jumped on it, and after much begging (I even sent an email to the owner offering to pay more money in rent; is that legal???), she agreed to let us have it instead of one of the million other people who wanted it.

Everyone kept telling me that it probably wasn't as nice as I thought it was going to be, and not to feel stuck, I could always move someplace else, etc. You know what? It's even better than I hoped. I'm in love with this place, and if it were more than 1 bedroom, I'd probably live here forever because it's so cute and perfect for us. Of course, there are some bad things, but I can live with them for a few years.

The Good:
  • It's within walking distance to Andrew's school.
  • It has a patio and garden attached that we can use for BBQs and parties, and which the cat can roam around.
  • The bathroom has excellent water pressure, a great supply of hot water, and a tub that actually stays plugged during baths.
  • All rooms have great lighting.
  • There's an open kitchen, and a dishwasher!
  • Our landlords live in the unit above us (it's actually a duplex) and are quiet, clean, considerate, and very helpful.
  • All of the windows are recessed, which means we have plenty of room for decorations in the window sills.
  • It's only two blocks from the train station, supermarkets, Target, Starbucks, the post office, the thrift store, the gym, and everything else we need.
  • Our neighborhood is really friendly and safe. Most days that I go out, people stop and say hello or offer to help carry my shopping cart up the steps.
  • Rent is only $1,000 a month, which is really, really rare in NYC.
The Bad:
  • There's no laundry on-site. However, the laundry mat is only 2 blocks away and is very good.
  • It's only a 1 bedroom. But, we have a very, very large storage room that we've turned into an office, and could possibly use as a nursery someday.
  • We had some problems with flooding during the hurricane, but the landlords have since repaired the problem.
  • There are frequent problems with the train this far north, and on weekends we sometimes have to transfer a few times in order to get home.
  • Our neighborhood is dirty. It feels run-down and shabby, but it still feels safe. I just hate the sight of all that trash.
  • We live at the top of a flight of steps followed by a steep hill. It's quite a workout, especially with a cart full of groceries or laundry.
Without further ado, feast your eyes on these photos.
Gate up to our door
Front door
Patio space; we plan to spruce it up more next summer
My lovely kitchen as you walk in the front door
I love the openness of the kitchen. We're going to get a little island
Living room; the table & chairs are used but come from IKEA
Living room with futon for guests
Pull-out couch (ignore the wall; it's being painted this weekend)
I LOVE my bed. It was also used, but in amazing condition and makes me feel grown-up
The walls were painted this way; we might change them later
I love the big walk-in closet in our bedroom
Office area; it needs paint and decoration
My beautiful teal bathroom!
Our long term goals for the place include painting the kitchen yellow, the office green, the bathroom teal, and the living room blue. I think we'll leave the paint job in the bedroom for now because it'd be hard to paint over those dark colors. I'm hoping to get a pantry for the kitchen instead of the wire rack we have in there now. We also need an end table for next to the couch, a TV for the wall above the futon, and decorations for the walls. We're going to be printing a bunch of our travel pictures and framing them around the house. I'm really enjoying sprucing the place up and making it homey. I'm trying to take things slowly so I don't get out of control in terms of our budget, but it's so hard. It's been so long since I've had a place that I could really consider home and not just a temporary residence.

What do you guys think?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Squiggly Summer

If you were to draw my summer, it would look like a bunch of squiggly lines. I spent the two months at home running around the country, living out of my suitcase, and watching entirely too much "Criminal Minds." Here's a brief re-cap of everything I did this summer before I got to New York.

June: I spent the first few weeks back in the U.S. commuting between Ontario and Santa Monica, shopping, sleeping in, and eating a lot of ice cream. Really, it was a lot. Andrew came out for his family's final 4th of July BBQ and so I got to spend a few days with him. I got to catch up with lots of friends, including Salwa, Jamie, Valerie, my cousin Amber, Grace and Aaron, Bryant and Shalimar, Maurice, Matt, and a whole bunch of others.

4th of July BBQ, with Grace & Aaron

Natural History Museum Potluck

July: Since Andrew's parents were moving (his dad is now a federal bankruptcy judge!), that meant that I had to gather up all of our things, pack them up, and cart them over to my grandmother's house for shipping. I spent most of July packing things with my grandmother, who really deserves a medal for her superior packing skills. The woman is amazing! We managed to get everything organized and really well-protected (or so we thought). I divided our things into books to be sent via Media Mail through the post office, and other stuff which was sent through Greyhound shipping. Neither method turned out to be great, despite the cheap price, as we found out toward the end of the summer.
All packed and ready to ship

I also spent a lot of July preparing for Nicole's bachelorette party. I worked with Nicole's maid of honor and bridesmaid to arrange for a limo to pick the bachelorettes up at a teahouse in Long Beach and drive us around town where Nicole had to perform lots of silly tasks, including asking random men for advice on lingerie. It was a lot of fun and something I was really proud to be a part of.
Yep, those are two Jack Sparrows

August: I drove up to San Jose and stayed with Nicole and Daniel, joining the assembly line of wedding helpers in preparing signs, flowers, and other matrimonial tasks. It was great to have a little bit of time with them before the wedding. Andrew arrived shortly after, spending his first night in California hosting Daniel's bachelor party (both Nicoles were a little pissed about this). Then came the difficult part, the actual wedding. I was asked to be the officiant, a task which made me feel really nervous the whole summer. I had been having trouble thinking of what to write until the night before the wedding, at which time inspiration struck and I managed to write a good introduction. The day of the actual wedding I was too busy to be nervous anymore. I love weddings where family and friends are responsible for most, if not all, of the details, but it's a lot of work! Thankfully, the wedding and reception went off without (many) hitches, and everyone had a great time.
Three BookWorlds Nicoles

After the festivities were over, Andrew and I spent the next few days visiting friends in the Bay Area. We had a big picnic where we got to see most of our friends, and then followed up with individual meetings with Sue, Sarah, and Andrew's brother James. It was wonderful to see everyone. We left Berkeley and stopped for the night in Hanford to visit Andrew's aunt et al., before driving all the way back down to L.A. We picked up our cat and drove to Ontario, only to leave the next afternoon for Missouri (with the cat).
Dinner with Sarah
Andrew and the pig, Hanford

Our cat did amazingly well on the flights to Missouri. He was pretty quiet, didn't pee everywhere, and solicited lots of comments about his size (someone asked if he was a wildcat). Our time in Missouri was a bit of a whirlwind. We left immediately for a four-day camping trip to the Huzzah River. We took my niece and nephew, my brother and his girlfriend, and the RV, and camped on the riverside for a few days. It was fun just cooking and hanging out in the river. One day we did a 12-mile canoe trip which was great, but really tiring. After that, Andrew flew to New York with the cat, and I stayed behind for another week to visit with my mom, and my grandmother, who flew out the same day Andrew left.
Kitty Flies North
Canoe trip
Riding Rosie

The last week in Missouri was spent visiting family members and hanging out with my mom at work. It was great having lunch with her everyday and cooking with Dana every night. We also got some time to do family pictures.
Me & Hailey