We got a house!

I’m so excited to say that we bought a house! Here she is.

Given the crazy market, it feels like some kind of miracle that we were able to put in an offer on this house and it was accepted. We think it probably helped that they only had one open house and gave 4 days for people to put in offers. They wanted a quick sale and we needed a quick sale. It was also rainy that week, which might have kept people away. And the house, while in excellent shape, is a little bit … frumpy?

It was formerly occupied by a retired lady, and so many things haven’t been updated. But that’s part of the charm for us — projects!

Starting with the godawful awnings out front. They must go! Look at what they are doing to the view.

The kitchen cabinets are actually kind of cool and in great shape. I’m thinking all they need is a paint job. The microwave, on the other hand, is as old as me.

There is ugly brown carpet throughout the house, but we’re told it’s all wood floors underneath. The floor in our room gives a sneak peek. I love the inlaid pattern.

The bathrooms both need updating. We may not be able to do it right away, but hopefully soon.

There are many, many more potential projects I’ll tell you about later. First things first we have to address some problems with the electrical system. And unfortunately we have to spend $5,000 to update the sewer line. But generally the inspection revealed that this house, built in 1949, is a real gem. Good foundation, good plumbing, no earthquake retrofits needed. Whew!

(Did I mention that the home inspector had a waxed mustache and arrived on a bike with a ladder strapped to the side? He was awesome.)

Other things we love about this house:
• It has a master suite that my mom can use.
• It has a separate workshop out back that I can use for my business.
• It’s on a nice big lot with a deck and plenty of room for Harper to play, the dogs to roam, and us to use for gardening or storage (perhaps Airstream parking?)
• It’s about 2 minutes from where we currently live. We love the neighborhood and don’t have to learn a new one.
• The schools are in El Cerrito and much better than some of the other options we would have had to consider.
• Though the decor is dated, the layout is perfect and has so much potential.
• It’s on a nice flat street. So many houses in the area are on precarious hills.

Downsides are that it was at the absolute max of our budget, so we don’t have much left over for improvements, and it’s a little on the small side. We came really close to going for a house in Richmond that was closer to 2,000 square feet. It was a 1920s house with lots of built-ins, and a ton of retro charm. But it needed like $100,000 of work. In the end we went for the safer option and I’m glad we did.

If all goes well, we’ll close on April 29 and probably move in slowly throughout the month of May. That gives us time to redo the floors and fix whatever needs fixing. Then my mom will join us in August.

I can’t quite wrap my mind around just how big this is for our family. I have wanted to be able to buy a house since Mike and I first moved in together 8 (!) years ago. It felt like such a daunting task to try to buy one here. I felt so discouraged at times. But for all our hard work pounding pavement and scouring ads, I think we honestly got the best house out of all the ones we saw.

House hunting

As I said the other day, our time at our little house is up. Our landlord’s kids are off to college, so they’ve decided to move out of their big house and into this smaller one. We knew it was coming, but it’s still kind of a shock. Both the buying and rental markets have gotten so hot lately that we decided we better try to buy a house before we get priced out of the market completely. Renting costs just as much, so we might as well try to get more house for the money.

Our only knowledge base for home buying is the midwestern market, which is waaaay different than the one out here, so we’ve had a pretty big shock to the system. Shock #1 is that we pretty much can’t afford a house in our own neighborhood. When we first moved 3 1/2 years ago, our neighborhood seemed kind of transitional to me. Nothing special really. But it has really improved as people got pushed out of the city and then out of Oakland into more distant suburbs. Now there are lots of young families vying for the few houses coming up on the market.

So that brought us to shock #2 — the price is almost never the price. People intentionally price their houses low, get a bunch of offers (sometimes a dozen or more), and then end up getting 10-20 percent more than the list price. Example: One house we looked at was priced at $430,000 and ended up selling for $510,000. It’s crazy! I mean CRAY-ZEE. There aren’t enough letters to describe the crizaziness.

Then there are other houses that need so much work they will end up selling for less. So it’s hard to know what houses to even look at.

There’s also kind of a routine where people have an open house on a Sunday, then another the following Sunday, then have an offer date like the Tuesday after that. I had it in my mind that if we saw a house we wanted we would just make an offer. But it doesn’t really work like that.

So anyway, we have looked at tons and tons of houses all over the east bay. We have some possibilities, but you kind of always have to keep looking just in case something doesn’t work out. It’s such a roller coaster of emotions. First you love a house, then you’re not sure about it. Then you love another house. Then you love them both. Then you hate them both. Or more likely, you can’t afford either. I still believe we can get a house in our short timeframe. I just want it to be the right one.

Did I mention my mom will be moving in with us? We finally convinced her to relocate from Kansas. I am beyond excited about that!

Date night: Gather

When Mike’s parents were in town recently, we got to have a date night. I wore my new Madewell dress (snagged on mega sale, woo hoo!) and we went to this restaurant I’ve been eyeing for a while, Gather. It’s one of those trendy looking farm-to-table places and they specialize in crackly crust pizzas with unique toppings. I just noticed that their web site says the New York Times called it a “Michael Pollan book come to life.” My kind of place!

I was a little worried we were veering into snooty territory here, but they were actually really nice. Even though we had no reservation at 7 p.m. on a Friday night, they found us a seat right away. We had yummy cocktails — the list is long and fascinating — and a kale and sweet potato appetizer. 

Our pizza had shaved asparagus, goat cheese, and an egg. It couldn’t have felt more springlike. I thought it was all great, and reasonably priced. I loved that from our seat at the bar I could watch the cooks (between several jars of pickled veg) as they tossed pizza and carefully assembled plates. 

After dinner, we were so tired and it was getting late so we did what two nerds in love do — we went to 1/2 Price Books and spent $87. I was joking to Mike that he is the only person I know who could go to a cheap used book store and find a $35 book to buy. Gotta love us. 

Coming up for air

Whew, this month has been brutal, but it’s finally starting to feel normal again. Harper slept through the night the last two nights. THE WHOLE NIGHT. Without any sleep training. I think I had gotten so adjusted to living on less sleep I didn’t know what to do with myself the last two mornings. Parenting is not getting any easier, we’re just getting better at it. That must be how you manage more kids, because otherwise the thought is overwhelming. 

We had a tiny bit of rain last night. Not enough to make a dent in our rain deficit, but it was nice. This tree in our back yard thinks it’s spring. I love those blossoms. 

My mom was here for 10 days. It felt like 5 minutes. I had this super long project list for while she was here, but I only crossed off one item. I had time to make orders and hold a baby. That’s it. I finally cleaned the house on day 10. 

I have a zillion ideas for my shop. I wish I could just stop everything and work on them, but such is life. It makes me feel good to know that I still have such excitement for what I do after several years of hard work. It feels like the right thing, so I keep going and keep pushing. Same as with a baby — it’s hard but so, so good.

A little love for Vik’s

For some reason I was on a kick a few months ago where I wanted to eat at Vik’s Chaat Corner in Berkeley every week. Vik’s serves some of the best south Indian food I’ve ever had, and it’s quick, cheap, and baby friendly. You always see tons of families with kids there, probably because it’s noisy enough to drown out fussiness and there’s plenty of seating.

Harper loooves chickpeas, and Indian food pretty closely resembles baby purees anyway, so she likes it too. We usually get a masala dosa, which comes with soup and coconut sauce for dipping.

We’ve been loving the cholle bhature, both because it looks so cool when it comes out and because we love dipping pieces of the fluffy bread in chickpeas and tamarind sauce. If you go, don’t forget to lift up the bread and find the condiments underneath!

The lamb samosas and chicken kathi kabob sandwich are also favorites, but you can only get them on weekends.

If you’re in the east bay, I can’t recommend Vik’s enough for a fast casual dinner.

Hot, hot, hot

It’s always been weird to live in a place where the weather is so different from everywhere else (also, awesome), but this year has been super strange. While everyone else is experiencing the polar vortex, we have been having some of the warmest, driest months on record. We basically just didn’t have winter.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s glorious to have sunny 70-degree days in January, but the lack of rain is starting to becoming worrisome. Not only does the weather leave a smoggy mass sitting over the bay area, it is also causing big problems for farmers without water. We have a spare-the-air day pretty much daily. 

My plants are all confused. They think it’s spring. I can’t believe how many flowers are on my succulents out front.

We are planning a picnic birthday party for Harper. Because we might as well — we know it won’t rain!

One sweet show

I know it’s been a while, but I just felt like I had to say what a great time I had at the Temescal Alley holiday fair. 

It was an especially chilly day for the bay area, so I had cozy items that could appeal to both shoppers and sellers. At one point I looked around and at least 3 people in view were wearing my things. That was a pretty awesome feeling.

I also bought some goodies from vendors around me. This adorable upcycled dress for Harper came from Berit’s Lilla

And I had to get one of Jen Hewett’s screenprinted bags, which I gifted to a friend.

It always feels good to have a successful show, but I also loved being part of the spirit of the indie shops that line the alleys. It kind of reminded me of friends who opened shops in Des Moines’ East Village. Fun people, doing what they love, making an old neighborhood new again. In this case, tiny shops came out of old horse stables and carriage houses. 

My photos don’t do it justice, but it really is a cool place to shop. Maybe one of these days I’ll get to Doughnut Dolly before they sell out. 🙂

Bonus: Now I have a few rope baskets at Walrus, a cute shop full of upcycled household items. 

Sunday’s show

I’ve been hearing a lot about the cool indie shops in Temescal Alley, so I was excited when I found out I could be part of their holiday artisan fair this weekend.

I’ll have all the usual knit goodies. And I might even have (at long last) a sample pouf made with my felted cord. I just shipped my first order for one, and it turned out exactly as I’d hoped. The process needs some work, but I’m getting there.

If you get a chance, come check out the fair and the cute little shops nearby.

Harper’s first pumpkin patch + trip to Google

Two Fridays ago it was a beautiful day and Mike was off work, so we decided to take Harper to a pumpkin patch in the south bay.

There were pre-picked pumpkins as far as the eye could see. Most of them were in good shape, so it was kind of hard to decide which ones to get.

We ended up with two orange pumpkins and one white one. If it were up to me I probably would have taken home two giant wagonloads. I just love pumpkins. 🙂

Harper got to sit on the big tractor, just like Mike did as a kid.

And we had to sit her on a giant pumpkin just because.

In addition to carving pumpkins, they had all kinds of squashes, gourds, and even popcorn.

We took home one hubbard to cook. When she’s a little older I think Harper will enjoy some of the other stuff they had, like a hay bale pyramid and wagon rides. There’s also a whole park with farm animals there.

Since we were so far from home already and we had some time to kill before dinner, we decided to drive around Silicon Valley. I had never been to Stanford or seen any of the social media headquarters, so it was fun to check them out.

The Google campus is huge, and full of surprises like these sculptures.

I didn’t realize employees could borrow these multi-colored bikes to ride around anytime.

I couldn’t believe how many people were actually using them!

Mike showed me the parking lot dedicated to electric vehicles.

I love how someone has carefully swept around the sign on the ground.

Tesla spotted in the wild!

After that we spent some time in downtown Palo Alto, which has a really nice shopping area. They even have the only Plan Toys retail store, which was fun to check out.

I loved our day of exploration, but man is it expensive down there! We were pretty happy to go back to our little bubble (with one new toy, of course).

Angel Island and Tiburon

Though the night before Labor Day was a rough one in the Corey household (Miss Harper is teething), we decided, post-nap, to make the most of the rest of our holiday weekend. We drove to Tiburon in Marin County to catch the ferry to Angel Island.

Harper’s first boat ride!

Though I can’t say it was high on my California to-do list, exploring Angel Island did seem like the perfect affordable day trip for a family with a baby. The Bay Bridge closure made traffic out there worse, but by Monday it was similar to a normal weekend day.

We ended up loving the island and wondering why no one had suggested it before. The views are incredible! And now that I know you can camp there, I definitely want to come back with friends and family (Brianne – adventure club reunion?)

Historically, the island was used to quarantine Asian immigrants and for military purposes several decades ago. So there are some museums and lots of old buildings and housing to check out.

It struck me as the kind of place where haunted souls reside. Kind of fascinating and creepy at the same time.

It is a little sad that the state is so broke it can’t afford to maintain those old buildings. Some of them seem really cool and worth saving. They could certainly use them for tourism.

But there are a lot of nice hiking and biking trails throughout the island. We did a good job of getting lost but eventually found our way.

And man, the payoff is huge. The views are the best I’ve seen anywhere. From one part of the island you get this whole panoramic view of San Francisco and the bridges.

That’s Alcatraz in the middle.

You can just make out the new Bay Bridge in front of the old (ugly) span.

And, the Golden Gate.

I can’t imagine how pretty it is to watch the sun go down while you camp there. I guess that’s why they also do sunset cruises.

I didn’t want to leave, but we caught the last ferry back.

She does this thing now that looks like a wave.

When we got back to Tiburon we got some gelato and admired the views, which are pretty darn good there, too.

Most of our Marin exploration has been of the state park variety, but I’m thinking we need to spend some time in the towns, too. The quirky houseboats in Sausalito are so much fun to check out. So I think we have more adventures ahead.

*And speaking of islands, you should definitely check out my post on Goodsmiths about shopping at the Treasure Island Flea Market. It was amazing and we found so many cool things.