Monday, September 24, 2012

Bought and Sold (Rented) in 30 Days!

For those of you just joining, we are at the very beginning of a slow (like really slow) move to the burbs.  From Park Slope, Brooklyn to my childhood home in Jersey to be exact.  You can read more about our big move here.  Suffice to say a lot of things have to happen before then (like my mom moving out of said childhood home), but this post is about progress and I'm happy to report that we made some.  FINALLY!  In August we became the proud owners of this fabulous apartment in suburbia!

this is what apartment storage heaven looks like!
We started early on our search for the perfect next home for Little Debbie (my mom) and she fell in love with this place.  It had everything on her not inconsiderable "must list" including outdoor space (with a city view no less!).

how cute is this!

They pretty much had us at enclosed porch with city views, but the apartment also boasts, two bedrooms, an updated kitchen and a doorman (which was key for worriers like me). 

The apartment is pretty great as-is and with a few cosmetic updates it'll be fab. When we walked in, my mind was buzzing with all the DIY goodness we could get into but, alas, it's mama's soon-to-be place so we'll see what we she comes up with.  If I get my way though, there will be big things happening in this kitchen.

first to go: all old appliances!
The plan (in my mind at least) is to put some of this DIY research I've been collecting in blogland to work and at least paint the cabinets.  This cabinet painting how-to-to from Young House Love seems fairly idiot-proof, although confining mother and daughter to 30 square feet for hours could go in any number of directions.  Maybe we'll videotape it? :)

second to go: all boob light fixtures!
None of us is quite ready to house swap yet so we purchased the apartment early with the goal of renting it for a year.  Like as soon as possible. We closed on the apartment purchase a week after coming back from our honeymoon which was very sad for our wallets.  As it turned out, all it needed was a fresh coat of paint and less than 24 hours after listing, the real estate gods answered our prayers. We are now newly minted landlords breathing a HUGE sigh of relief. Huge.

bonus roof terrace!
With the apartment rented, we're now full steam ahead on the master plan.  Once the tenants are out, Little Debbie moves in and we're free to start the gut reno of her old place so we can (finally) move home.  Handsome Hubby and I have zero interest in living through a gut reno so we will remain dust free in Brooklyn (paying rent AND a mortgage) for as long as it takes.  We obviously want to minimize the rent and mortgage paying overlap so time is of the essence and we the contractors have to be ready to start building master bathrooms and dream kitchens by this time next year.  Gulp. 

In the meantime, I've got my work cut out for me.  For the next year we'll be muddling our way through the major renovation process - from soup to nuts.  At this point we have no idea what we're doing so I predict everything from high comedy to high drama will ensue.  Ever the over-achiever, I've already scheduled our first architect appointment.  Stay tuned..

Oh, and bring on the renovation tips, success stories, horror stories, whatever you've got.  We need all the help we can get!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Honeymoon Highlights: We HEART Rome

Since no one really wants to know everything about what we did on our honeymoon in Greece and Italy, I'm back with more of the highlights (in no particular order).  Next up:  Rome!

First of all, let me just say we hit the hotel jackpot. It's hard not to love the heck out of Rome when this is the view from your balcony!

That was us toasting the good folks at tripadvisor!  Somehow we wound up with a room in the dead center of the hotel with a balcony directly facing the Pantheon.  As you can see, there was quite a bit of happy dancing going on out there upon our arrival.

Albergo del Senato is an absolute gem of a hotel.  It's a bargain in Rome at under 200 EUR/night and spotless.  The location is ridiculously convenient and the guys at the front desk are fantastic.  I will say that the rooms were just ok.  Relatively updated, clean and to the point, but not the most "romantic" if you know what I mean.  I may have been slightly less enthused about this place without the balcony - but only slightly.  For the price and for the convenience, it was awesome.

stay here!
We only spent three nights in Rome before heading to the Amalfi Coast and opted not to spend our time running around like crazy people trying to see everything.  Instead, we dedicated one day each to the Vatican and Colosseum and spent the first day on a leisurely self-guided walking tour of the main sights in the historical center a la Mr. Rick Steve.   Obviously we started with the Pantheon.

Namesake of the Margherita Pizza!
I had every intention of taking the obligatory Trevi Fountain wish-making snap so we could make a wish on our honeymoon but we were repeatedly deterred by the throngs of people.  So not romantic. We made a silent wish as we walked on by (and saved our pennies for gelato!)
Trevi Fountain (aka Times Square)
Piazza Navona
Spanish Steps

As you may have surmised, Handsome Hubby (HH) and I aren't really art or religious history buffs so it was nice to not feel rushed or pressured to feign interest in too many details.  We loved getting lost in the old streets and enjoying the age and unexpected beauty of the city.

how cool is this!
And here's HH with my handsome reward at the end of day one.  Not bad right?

The first half of day two we spent on a guided tour of the Vatican museums and St. Peter's primarily so HH could see the Sistine Chapel.  After lunch, we went BACK to the Vatican for round two: the little-known but very amazing Scavi tour of the ancient tombs deep below St. Peter's that reportedly hold the relics of Saint Peter. When in Rome, take this tour!  Sadly, no pics allowed though.

St. Peter's, Vatican City
It was pouring by the end of our Scavi tour but we lucked out and started chatting up a young priest from Wisconsin during the tour who was studying at the Vatican.  He was nice enough to sneak us through a secret passage back into the basilica and then treated us to a private tour!  It was our second tour of the basilica that day but by far the best.  We were so honored to see the church and its history through his eyes and from his perspective.  Definitely one of the highlights of the trip. 

The Colosseum was another favorite.  Highly recommend the tour that includes a visit to the underground and top level of the Colosseum which were only re-opened to the public in the last year or so.

Maybe it's just us, but there's something about the place that just wants to make you flex your stuff! 

Very cool to be able to be able to get a sense of the sheer magnitude of the place from the perspective of the gladiors as they would have entered.  As if fighting man and beast for your life weren't scary enough!

I'm not going to lie, it was hot as HECK and I wanted to skip the included tour of the Roman Forum which I'd dubbed the "rusty dusty ruins".  HH was a trooper and politely ignored my grump.  In the end I'm glad we went.  Lots of cool stuff to see.  If nothing else, there were more cool painted doors!

the inspiration for St. Peter's! 

As much as we loved the - shall we say, "academic" offerings in Rome, we really LOVED the food.  We kept it casual and went with the hotel's restaurant recommendations almost every night and ate quite happily like pigs in you-know-what.  Great food, cheap wine and gelato(!) makes for very happy honeymooners!

At the insistence of HH, I'll leave you with his absolute favorite Roman highlight.  The quick and dirty backstory here is that I HATE birds.  Hate them.  This of course makes al fresco dining a bit of a challenge.  For me and for the birds.  Enjoy!