Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Mike’s Chicago Apartment

During our vacation/scouting trip to Chicago, we viewed 4 apartments from our short list of the dozens that we found online.  Like I mentioned we had decided on one as soon as we saw it; a small studio condo in Streeterville.  We drove out last week and officially moved Mike in on July 18th.

As promised, I’m here to show you the apartment; mostly to share our new adventure, but also since this is my digital diary of sorts, I want to remember this part of our lives.

Since it’s a studio, we’ll start in the main room. These are from the listing, and everything but the stuff on the shelves stayed.

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The room has a full size couch from West Elm, a coffee table that converts to a dining table (with the help of extra leaves), a storage unit with a TV and a built-in desk on the platform area.

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Looking from the other direction you can see the kitchen on the left, the front door straight ahead, and the walk-in closet is behind that bump out with the picture on the right.

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The kitchen is compact, but as Mike’s visited other apartments in the city, he feels lucky to have even this much space!

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The bathroom is to the left of the front door, behind the kitchen and was recently renovated.

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Since these photos were taken a mirror and glass shower doors were installed.

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Across the hall is the walk-in closet and is honestly bigger than our closet at home, and Mike doesn’t even have to share!

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You might be wondering where the bed is since I’ve basically showed the entire space at this point.  Well, behold the adult trundle bed!

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A full size mattress pulls out of the platform steps and it’s actually pretty genius, since the space is so tiny.  The condo owner, whom Mike is renting from, actually designed and had this system installed. 

Mike grabbed lunch and drinks with him last weekend and he’s our age and was living in the condo on his own before meeting his now fiancĂ©e and moving in with her not too far from this place.  After staying a few days in town before heading home, I can see how this place would be (and will be) perfect for one person.  It’ll be fine for weekends when I visit, but it’s a small space and more appropriate for just Mike. 2016-05-23 22.03.51
What really sold us was the outdoor space.  Not a lot of 3rd floor downtown apartments come with its own patio, complete with sectional, storage, grill, and that view!

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Here’s a shot I took while I was there one evening.

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The patio actually opens to a rooftop terrace with shared space with grills, seating and gardens.

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And it’s 1 of 2 rooftop terraces for the building (technically 3 since the building has two separate apartment complexes with a shared lobby, but I’m not sure if our keys work over there).  The second floor rooftop is above the lobby, has a giant fountain and looks out towards the lake and what is known as Ogden Slip (a little slip of water created to increase water frontage back in the 1800’s) that runs parallel to the river and out towards Navy Pier.  All this to say, that the second story rooftop is the perfect location to watch the Navy Pier fireworks which are every Wednesday and Saturday throughout the summer!

Mike’s been there a full week now, and he’s really happy with the apartment we found.  With all the custom features, and dual purpose pieces (that coffee/dining table gif gets me every time) it feels a lot bigger than its 500 sqft.  We were worried about storage when we were planning, but the built-ins, as well as a pretty good sized linen closet next to the bath provided a lot of storage and Mike didn’t even begin to fill it all!

I stayed there for 4 days when we drove up to move him in, and I’m not going to lie I was more than a little jealous Mike got to stay and live it up in the city!  I’ve already booked my next trip out there next month and can’t wait for more grilled dinners on the patio and catching fireworks on the rooftop!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Porch Refresh | Sources & Cost Breakdown

I shared our front porch refresh earlier this week, and wanted to follow up with a cost breakdown and source list for those looking for a similar look as well as my own resource for when I need to replace something, or just remember where I got it and how much it cost!

Porch Couch Detail
Porch Details
Porch Close-Up
Let’s start with the products I bought.  Unfortunately, the furniture set from Bed, Bath and Beyond is no longer available, but I found something comparable and not a thousand dollars.  The rest are all exact products, but some are on clearance, so they eventually may sell out as well.
Danks & Honey Front Porch Product Board

COST BREAKDOWN

Mirror
$39.99
Pouf
$64.99
Outdoor Rug (5’x7’)
$53.99
4-Piece Conversation Set
$249.99
Gold Planter
$24.95
Black Planter
$39.99
Blue Pillow ($26.99x2)
$53.98
Black Striped Pillow
$33.00
Watercolor Palm Leaves Pillow ($33.00x2)
$66.00
Large Black Lantern
$13.98
Small Black Lantern
$6.98
Concrete Citronella Candle
$8.49
Citron 3 Wick Candle
$13.59
Large Silver Lantern
$31.99
Small Silver Lantern
$23.99
Gold Drum Table
$20.98
Plants (approximate)
$80.00

TOTAL

$840.86

This cost isn’t exactly what I spent.  Some of the items I got a discount on like using a 20% off coupon for the furniture from BBB, and others I already had like the black lanterns which were gifts.  But, it’s a good representation of what it would cost to buy all of these items to recreate this look.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with the cost and extremely happy with the results!

Porch Reveal 1
We continue to love this space and I’m happy I’ve finally gotten it right after almost 4 1/2 years!
If there are any other questions about specific items, or something you see that I didn’t mention, just let me know!  For see all these items, as well as some that I didn’t end up using or things that I might buy in the future, check out my Front Porch board on Pinterest.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Front Porch | Refresh

I mentioned back in May that I was revisiting my earlier plans to decorate the porch.  I had bought new furniture and a new rug, but needed to add some layers and to pull everything together.  Well I finished, and finally took photos!

Porch Close-Up

Just because Mike’s leaving for a few months doesn’t mean I’ll stop decorating!  I may even do it more since he won’t be around to call me crazy.  (Just kidding Sweetie, I won’t change a single thing while you’re gone, HA!)

The furniture and rug were nice, but it needed a lot of accessories to make it awesome.

Before:

New Porch Furniture

and After:

Porch After

To connect the chairs I added a gold drum table I scored on clearance from Target. 

Porch Chair Details

I wanted a pouf for additional seating and to kick my feet up on (I usually sit in the chairs, while Mike lounges on the couch) and after trying this one from Target, I settled on this gray knit pouf from World Market.  Both were comfy, but the knit one is firmer, and I didn’t like the giant stitching on the other.

Porch Reveal

I was stumped for a long time on how to fill that area between the windows.  I saw this wicker mirror from Target on sale and grabbed it wondering if I was crazy to put a mirror on the porch.  A couple days later I saw Julia from Cuckoo4Design use a couple mirrors in outdoor settings and knew my idea would work!  

I tried using the heavy duty/waterproof command strips, but the hook wouldn’t lay flat against the siding and didn’t have enough connection to stay up.  Mike suggested some vinyl siding hooks and I found a pack of hooks small enough on Amazon to work.  These clips fit right into the siding seam and can hold up to 5 pounds.  The only problem was that I was limited by the seam of the siding on the height.  I had the mirror a little lower, but had to move it up for the clip.  It doesn’t bother me at the moment, but I may use some fishing wire to hang it a little lower.

Porch Reveal 1

I had a heck of a time finding outdoor pillows I liked, but finally found several from Society6.  I also came across these Zuma Stripe Indoor/Outdoor Pillows from Pottery Barn and grabbed 2 of those, then picked a couple coordinating ones from Society6 from my short-list.

Porch Couch Pillows

I went with two Beverly II Throw Pillow by THE AESTATE and one TX01 Throw Pillow by Georgiana Paraschiv.  I bought the inserts from Society6 as well, but I wasn’t that impressed with them.  Next time I’ll buy them separately.

Porch Pillow Details

They don’t necessarily look like they match, but the coordinate well together.  And they make me happy!

Porch Pillows

The porch itself has a lot of neutral colors with the tan siding and carpeting, and white trim.  I tried to stick to a simple palette of natural wood, blues, greens, metallics, and black. 

Porch Couch

The plants bring in a lot of the green, while the pots and small accessories, like these lanterns I was gifted with at my wedding shower years ago, add the black elements.

Porch Couch Detail

Porch Fern

I also picked up these Threshold lanterns (in small and large) from Target.  I bought the giant plant pot and saucer from Ikea before I found this massive fern at the grocery store.  I’ve already under-watered it from the brown leaves I see, but I’m determined for another grocery store success story like my Japanese maple.  I also added the metal “M” that’s the match to the one in our basement family room.  My sister gave it back to me after using it in her apartment for a few years and I honestly didn’t know what to do with it!

Porch Reveal Side

The only thing I had in my plans that didn’t get included was a overhead fan.  I have dreams of a giant fan keeping the mosquitos at bay while we sip margaritas out here, but 1 - outdoor fans are expensive (!) and 2 - the ceiling isn’t that tall, and a fan with a light would be just above 6 feet.  Meaning any adult could hit the blades if they raised their hands.

I was still gung-ho, but Mike suggested that before we spend the money and time let’s see if adding a box fan would increase the amount of time spent out here.  So far, we have spent a lot more time out here enjoying the summer evenings, but I’m not sure it’s enough to warrant a ceiling fan just yet!

I’ve only showed the one angle, but the front door is on the other side, and there’s really no space for anything else.

Front Porch with Red Door

I tried to add in some red to go with the door, but I just wasn’t happy with it.  Maybe the red coordinates with the orange tone of the furniture and mirror?  I think that’s a stretch but I’m sticking with that reasoning.

I still love that red door, even though I don’t use red a lot.  With the tan siding and black shutters, it really needs a red door to make it stand out, especially under the covered porch.

House Front Porch

The porch furniture doesn’t show very much over the railing, but you can tell it’s finally got it’s sh*t together even from the street.  And, all the boxwoods made it through the trauma of temporarily being moved to the side yard!  It was touch and go there for a minute, but we’ve even got new growth happening!  What didn’t make it though is that center hosta, which is weird because I was under the impression that hostas could not be killed, which is why I love them so much.  These were all taken from the side yard either completely or split, so I’ll get another to put in the center later.

Overall I love the new front porch space and it’s literally my favorite “room” this summer!

Porch Details

Later this week I’ll share a budget breakdown of all the items, since it’s basically all just bought items that created this space.  Until then, you can most likely find me lounging out here with Mike and Benelli and some adult beverages.

Porch After 2

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Weekend in Chicago + An Announcement

Two weeks ago we spent 3 days in Chicago and it was awesome!


Early this year The Lumineers announced their US tour dates, and being one of Mike’s favorite bands I thought I’d surprise him with tickets.  The closest they got to NE Ohio (at the time) was Indianapolis and Chicago.  We love visiting the “Windy City”, so I bought tickets at the iconic Chicago Theater.  I had to get creative because the tickets were being delivered, but I surprised him on Valentine’s Day with the “tickets”, a fake CD (since it wasn’t out yet), and the news that we would be traveling to Chi-Town for a long weekend.

Lumineers Cleopatra Tickets
We’ve been to Chicago together before, and I’ve been a couple times with family and a girls weekend so we hadn’t planned on spending time at the more touristy spots, like The Bean, Willis Tower, or Navy Pier since we’ve done all that before.  More checking out cool bars and interesting spots to eat.

That was until we got the news about a month ago that Mike will be heading up a project on a federal building in downtown Chicago for the next 8-9 months.
Mike’s moving to Chicago
I’ve tried writing this post a couple times, but it’s weird to put into words all the emotions we’re feeling.  Mike is generally our in-house pessimist, where I see the good first and then become the cheerleader to keep everyone happy.  But even I’ve had my moments of depression. 

Mike and I basically starting living together 2 weeks into our relationship.  I had my own apartment (albeit a tiny, tiny apartment) and he lived with his parents.  It was convenient, then we realized we liked living together, and have been inseparable ever since!  We’ve never before had to travel for work, and we’ve never taken more than a long weekend vacation away from each other.  So, to say that this will be the biggest change in our marriage/relationship isn’t exaggerating.

We’ve gone through the roller coaster of emotions, and now we’re both into the excitement-of-the-future phase.  We’re still waiting to hear when he’ll need to report for his first day on-site, (this is a federal job after all, so everything has to go through a dozen committees before a decision can be made), but he’s got all his clearance and badges, a TSA PreCheck number, and an apartment.  From the conference meetings he’s been a part of, it looks like we’ll be moving him in in 2 weeks or so. 

As you can imagine this very quickly changed our purely recreational trip to the city, into a apartment/neighborhood scouting trip, as well as a crash course in living in a big city, but we did get to visit some cool places that I thought I’d share.
 

DAY 1

It’s a 6 hour drive (+ $30 tolls ouch!), so we left on Friday morning and arrived just in time for Mike to get his badges and credentials he’ll need.  We then checked into our hotel.  We stayed at the Hyatt Regency in the Loop, right on the river.  I had waited awhile to book anything after getting the news and literally just found the cheapest/best location on Hotwire.  It was clean, and close enough to walk to a lot of places, or at least grab a bus so it worked! 
QUICK TIP: We parked here and it was less than 10 minutes from our hotel.  It was also one of the cheaper rates, at $35/day.
That night we hit up Wicker Park, (North-west neighborhood known for “local hipster culture, art community, nightlife, and food scene” according to Wikipedia – which is pretty accurate).  We started at Big Star for tacos and margaritas. 
QUICK TIP: We were told it would be hours for a table, and quickly found seats at the bar.  We waited about 2 hours, but kept busy with drinks and nachos and could have ordered tacos, but thought it was a limited menu.  It was not!  I was drunk by the time we got our table and ate one small taco and we were finished within 20 minutes!  ORDER TACOS AT THE BAR IF POSSIBLE!
The patio is pretty awesome though, so even through my margarita haze it was still worth it.

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Across the street is The Violet Hour, a speakeasy cocktail lounge which is only noticeable by the changing mural.  There was a line of a handful of couples by the time we finished our tacos around 9pm, so it wasn’t that hard to find, plus the current mural has a door painted into it.


It’s a little fancy, so we dressed accordingly.  Also, there’s no cell phone policy, so I didn’t take photos. 
QUICK TIP: If you like fancy cocktails and a little mystery, you’ll love it here.  Kind of pricey, but worth grabbing a drink or two.
The couple behind us started up a conversation with us and we ended up sitting with them inside as well.  They were from Texas and in town for a weekend away from their kids.  It would have been just fine sitting with just Mike, but it was even more fun meeting new people as well!

We next walked a couple blocks to Saved by the Max a pop-up restaurant modeled after The Max from Saved by the Bell.  When I first heard about it it was only scheduled for the month of June, so I was excited that our trip would coincide, but now it’s been extended until the end of the year!

We waited about an hour to get in, and it was around 11pm, so it was their late night offerings, which was just drinks and 2 sandwich choices, (and after all my margaritas and the cocktail at Violet Hour I wasn’t really feeling another drink).  It was super kitschy and our server greeted us with “What’s up preppy?”.  Any kid of the 90’s who was a fan of the show will love the nostalgia.  Drinks and food weren't amazing or anything, but it was worth it to hang out!

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QUICK TIP: They allowed those who only wanted to stand at the bar for a drink to go ahead of the line.  If we knew they had a limited menu at time, we would have probably just done this and saved us an hour standing in line.  You’re really only their for the photos, lets be honest!
We started a conversation with the couple in front of us (hey, it worked out last time!), and they were locals who invited us to sit with them when they were finally sat.  It was too loud to really converse inside, but it was nice to chat in line to pass the time.

Saved by the Max
It was around 2am so we took the L train back to our hotel and crashed.


DAY 2

We woke up and had a couple apartment showings first thing in the morning (which was a little rough due to our late night before), and saw one in South Loop which was quiet, but a little too close to the central business district which we knew from staying in the Loop, closes down pretty early (like ghost town after 9pm).  Also, the apartment was a little pricey for what it was.

We then had a showing at a small studio in Streeterville, which spoiler alert we ended up signing a lease with, near Navy Pier.  The touristy proximity wasn’t ideal, but it was on a little pocket street, so it didn’t seem to busy, and it came with a patio, which what sold Mike.  I’ll share a little more detail once he moves in, but the space saving custom details are really nice for such as small footprint.

We grabbed our car from parking and headed out to supposedly the “best hotdog in Chicago” at Gene & Jude’s.  It was about 30 minutes outside the city, but when we rolled up, there was a line almost out the door, so we knew it was worth it.

They only serve a couple items: hot dogs, fries, and tamales, and the fries are served on the hotdog.  Toppings are mustard, onions, peppers, and sweet relish.
QUICK TIP: Don’t even bother asking for ketchup, they don’t have any!
Gene & Judes Hotdog
I’m not a huge hotdog fan, so I wasn’t that impressed, but Mike liked it!  Also, there’s not seating so we opened the back of my SUV and sat in the trunk.  A lot of people did the same, or sat on the curb, so we didn’t look weird.

We tried going to the beach, but we had trouble parking since we still had the car, and it was about 90 degrees so everyone else in the city had the same idea.  Instead we headed over to Half Acre Beer Company for some beers and a small bite (meat and cheese tray followed by some blueberry french toast Black Dog Gelato – whatever flavor they have get it!)

We went back to the hotel and got ready for our night out.  Before we left I bought tickets to The Comedy Bar’s The Big Sexy show, a vaudeville (variety show) with comedy, burlesque, musicians, and other acts.  I have to say it was really good!  I had bought it more for just something to do, but it was really well done and a nice date night with Mike!

We then walked over to Three Dots and a Dash, another speakeasy - this one a tiki bar.  Rum being my favorite liquor of choice, this was probably my favorite all weekend.  It was super kitschy and the bartenders were so fun and ridiculous.
QUICK TIP: Make reservations (we waited an hour to get in and I got lucky getting seats at the bar because it was pretty packed).  If you don't make reservations, sit at the bar – the drinks are elaborate and half the fun (next to actually drinking them) was watching them make it!
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We both started with Banana Daiquiri complete with cinnamon-stick-smoking banana dolphins.  We were loving it even before the bartender gave us another drink (an Aloha Felicia) for free because he accidentally made an extra.  I thought both were amazing (Mike said they were too sweet for him) and would recommend both, but I think the Aloha Felicia would be my first choice next time.
We walked back to the hotel and crashed around 3 am!


Day 3

We started Sunday morning with some more apartment showings (why did we schedule them so early!) this time over in the Old Town/Gold Coast neighborhoods.  We really liked the neighborhoods.  They were a little less downtown, with a more residential feel, but the prices for the amount of space just weren’t worth it.  We’re talking 1 window for a small studio or 1 bedroom space and with Mike coming from a house in the suburbs, I knew a little more access to the outside would make the transition easier.

We met up with our friend from my high school in Lakeview where he lives (even better area, but higher price tag) at one of his favorite coffee shops, Bow Truss.  We caught up and chatted about the city and then headed to what he described as the best pizza in town (everyone has their favorite, but even our Uber driver said this place was the best too), Pequod’s Pizza.
QUICK TIP: Order the pan pizza (deep dish) and ask for extra sauce – you’ll thank me! 
We parted ways and went back to the hotel to relax before the concert.  We were only a 10 minute walk from the hotel, but opted for an Uber because I was dressed nicely and wore heals.  Like I said, the concert was at the Chicago Theater and even through our excitement we appreciated the gorgeousness of the theater.


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The concert actually was at the same time as the NBA Finals and two rows back was another couple from NE Ohio, so our little section was keeping each other updated on the game between sets.  We were live streaming before The Lumineers came out, and updating the score during the first couple songs.
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We’re not even that big of basketball fans, but have obviously always rooted for NE Ohio sports (even through years of losses), so it was pretty exciting to win!  We’re also glad that the game didn’t go into overtime, because the concert was honestly one of the best I’ve ever been to!


 




I splurged and got tickets in the front row of the balcony, and they were the best!  We could see everything, and had extra space in front of us. 


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Day 4

The next morning we took our time and slept in, had brunch at Bongo Room (get the hotcakes!), and drove by Mike’s future job site one last time as we headed home.  It was a weekend that turned into having a lot more significance than I had originally thought when I bought the tickets, but it was invaluable in getting a chance to see and walk around the areas where Mike will be living and it was an awesome sneak peak into this crazy adventure we’re about to start!

As for the blog, I’ll keep posting!  Luckily we’ve completed all the large renovations and now it’s just finalizing rooms (or sometimes redecorating them completely!).  I’ve got some rooms that I’ve never found the time to photograph (basement family room) and some that I’d like to switch up (guest room) so keep checking back for updates.  And, after a couple more trips to the city I’m definitely going to have more places to check out in Chicago!