Maybe Matilda

Monday, March 30, 2015

March 2015 Books

Well, certainly not my most prolific month of reading here. Between getting our house ready to sell, listing it, and being constantly in and out for showings, I’m honestly a little surprised to see that I managed to read, period. And I’ve definitely missed it. I’ve got my fingers crossed for a much less dramatic April with lots more down time.

short and sweet book reviews from maybematilda.com 

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen – Last year, I read and loved Garden Spells by this same author (and included it in my Favorite Books of 2014). I was really excited to get my hands on its sequel and see if the magic of the first could last into the second. And I think it was good . . . but I didn’t love it the way I loved Garden Spells. Some of the magical elements felt a little forced, and many of the characters didn’t feel as vibrant as I remember them in the first book. I don’t think it’s as strong as Garden Spells, but with that being said, it was still a fun, light read—I raced through it in about 2 days, and I’m glad I read it.

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes – You can certainly count on Jojo for a read that’s quick and hard to put down. This historical fiction that bounces between a family in France during WWII and the modern day owner of their treasured (and controversial) painting certainly feels heavier than her other books, and tackled some pretty depressing topics. Like many books that travel back and forth between a modern and a historical storyline, I found myself wishing less time was spent with the modern characters, and more questions answered in the historical storyline instead. Definitely worth reading, though, with a warning that it does include some difficult topics.

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen – When you name your daughter Darcy, you feel a certain obligation to work your way through the handful of remaining Austen novels you’ve neglected in the past. And this is a task I am totally okay with. I have definitely started Sense and Sensibility before, but I’m not sure if I finished it. I downloaded the audiobook and listened to it this month, and I’m glad I can check it off my list. I don’t think it’s my favorite Jane Austen of all time, but of course it’s excellent anyway. And I even convinced Jeff to watch the movie with me (the one with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet), during which he predictably spent the whole time complaining and asking stupid questions like, “Which one is Pride and which one is Prejudice?”

What have you read recently?

Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Lists: 5 Tempting Lemon Recipes for Spring

Quick note: in my reader survey, someone suggested adding a weekly ‘favorites’ post, similar to the Pretty Life Girls and their Five Things Friday series. I thought it was a fun idea, so I’m going to start doing a weekly Friday List with a different theme every week, from recipes to products to movies to, I dunno, cutest baby animals? So this is the first round, and we’ll see if it sticks. List theme ideas will be welcomed enthusiastically!

I’ve been craving lemon in a serious way lately (and for those prepared to read too much into things: no, not pregnant).

I was browsing through my recent pins on Pinterest and realized that about 90% of the desserts I’ve pinned recently have involved lemon. You know a craving means business when it completely overtakes your Pinterest boards. For today’s Friday List, 5 lemon recipes that I am very eager to try.

5 yummy lemon recipes for spring

1. Lemonade Chex MixPut basically anything into a snack mix and I’m game. This chex mix from Somewhat Simple with white chocolate and lemon zest looks downright addictive.

2. Creamy Lemon Ice CreamI am totally regretting packing away my ice cream maker to clear up kitchen space for our home showings.  This ice cream from Give Recipe looks so smooth and refreshing.

3. Lemon Sugar CookiesFor most of my life, I wanted nothing to do with homemade sugar cookies (the store bought Lofthouse kind were another story, of course). But in college, a roommate’s perfectly soft and chewy homemade sugar cookies completely changed my tune, and now I can’t get enough. This version from Cooking Classy with lemon in both the cookies and frosting looks delicious.

4. Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake BarsIf Jeff ever requests a dessert, it’s cheesecake. These cheesecake bars from Creative Savings Blog look divine, with a homemade graham cracker crust and berry-citrus filling.

5. Glazed Lemon Sticky BunsI fell hard for the perfect cinnamon rolls from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe months ago, so I’m fully prepared to trust her when it comes to any sweet roll. With lemon filling and lemon cream cheese frosting, these look like the perfect recipe for a spring weekend breakfast.

Do you have a favorite lemon recipe? I’d love to hear it.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Blergh (or, House Sale Fail)

The good news: you guys are all sorts of sweet and nice, with your kind congratulations on the super quick offer we got on our house!

The bad news: within a few hours of writing that post announcing our crazy fast sale, our buyer withdrew his offer (boo, hiss!).

Maybe we’re being paranoid, but we have developed an elaborate and sinister theory about the whole ordeal, as one does. (And our realtor agrees with our theory, which is moderately comforting.)

The buyer was an investor looking for properties to buy and use as rentals. He wasn’t working with a realtor, but was just calling up listing agents on properties he wanted to see. He made a few weird comments about our place to our realtor, but then made a pretty fantastic offer (the sort that you don’t bother to counter, you just eagerly accept). Then 4 days later, with no warning and before we’ve even reached the point of inspections and due diligence and all that fun, he cancels his offer out of the blue.

Our sinister theory: we think he went around, making fantastic offers on every property that he thought might be a good fit for him (all without using an agent, because a realtor would never let him get away with this nonsense), effectively tying them up so that they were under contract and couldn’t be acted on by other potential buyers.

Then he took the weekend to sit around, deliberate over them, scratch his butt and be a basic jacka$$, and make a final decision on which one he liked best . . . then withdrew his offers on all the houses that didn’t make the cut. And all this, of course, before meeting the deadline for handing over his earnest money, so we are just left high and dry. Our house was under contract—and missing out on showings!—during quite a few critical early days on the market while he basically ‘reserved’ anything he thought looked interesting, then backed out of.

Maybe we’re totally wrong and being overly paranoid about it. But whatever happened on his end, it was super frustrating for us, I’m totally ticked about it, and Liz Lemon expresses my annoyance perfectly (<—go ahead and watch that video, and picture me over here saying eeeeverything from seconds 26-34 in particular).

liz lemon


So we’re back to showings, and in case you did not know, selling totally blows.

But in other house-related news, Forrest has presented his list of demands reasonable requests for our next place.

In no particular order, His Highness humbly requests that our next home be:

- Green. (“On the outside?” “Yes. Green on the outside. AND on the inside. Green all over. Green in every place. It needs to ALL be green.”)

- Has a splash pad . . . inside.

- Has a swing and slide . . . inside.

- Comes fully stocked with amazing toys.

- Especially Legos.

- Especially Lego Friends.

- Grandma lives there.

- I can live there, but preferably not. Just Forrest and Grandma would be ideal.

 

So I think we shouldn’t have any trouble finding a perfect fit.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Selling Our House: Getting it Ready + Our Current Status

Thank you so much for your support on my post about selling our first home! We’ve put so much work and love (plus a fair amount of sweating and swearing) into this house, and it is so encouraging to hear positive comments on it.

I thought I’d write out the work we put into getting it ready to sell—not all the changes we’ve made over the past 3 years, but our ‘sell this house’ to-do list from the past few months—plus an update on the current selling status.

A giant house selling to do list

The ‘Sell This House’ To Do List

1) Declutter. Kind of a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how much junk accumulates in a house. We spent a weekend going through everything and deciding what to donate, what to throw out, and what to pack and store. And the house looks so much bigger now.

2) Caulk. Such a little task that makes a huge difference. We caulked along the top of all the trim, between kitchen cabinets, etc. It really makes the house look more tidy and finished.

3) Transition pieces. One of the downsides of installing your own flooring, we discovered, is that you get tired of the process and decide you’re done before the job is really 100% finished. We had left a few areas on the floor without transition pieces because we were just tired of it, so we finally went back in and added them. Wish we’d done it earlier.

4) Clean up trim. I had no idea, until I got right down on my hands and knees next to it, how dingy and dirty our baseboards were. I scrubbed all the trim in the house, then repainted it so it looks crisp and fresh. Fresh, bright trim is a smallish detail that makes a huge difference in how clean and bright the house looks.

5) Corral the toys. Somehow, the kids ended up keeping toys in basically every room. I figured the house would be so much easier to keep tidy for showings if we a) got rid of some of their toys, and b) stored them all in one spot. I went on a ruthless toy purge and threw away anything that was broken or missing pieces, tossed anything that was cheap junk, or that they’ve outgrown or haven’t played with in ages. Some toys were donated, and a lot went straight into the trash.

Then I moved all the toys down to the basement into a cubby and baskets, and I make sure the kids put things away before they get out a new toy to play with. It’s a bit of a pain to force them to clean up as they play—it means keeping a near-constant eye on the toy count and what they’re playing with or abandoning—but it makes it so much easier to straighten things up quickly. Our little toy storage area is pictured below—all of their toys are in those baskets, and hopefully we can get the kids into the habit of tidying up as they play.

basement toy storage

6) Putty over wall anchors. Previous owners/tenants in this house sure loved plastic wall anchors—nearly every wall in the house had empty wall anchors poking out, and I’ve never bothered doing anything about them until now. We hammered them in, puttied  over them, and repainted those areas.

7) Clean blinds. The most unpleasant cleaning task, if you ask me. Blinds are such a pain to clean, but a good scrubbing left them looking much improved.

8) Scrape and stain the deck. The little deck leading into our backyard has been an eyesore the entire time we’ve lived here. Initially, we thought we’d knock it down and build something bigger . . . but we dropped that plan in a jiffy when we realized how much it would cost.

We hired a handyman last month to take care of the deck—he used a power sprayer to knock off all the old, chipped paint, then gave it a fresh coat of dark stain. It looks worlds better now, like a place you might actually want to spend some time.

dark stained deck

9) Basement work. Our little basement dungeon needed the most help (and was the most expensive project to finish). We had new carpet installed on the stairs, hired a painter (I could have painted it on my own, but once we realized what it would cost to hire this job out, it felt worth every penny not to have to deal with painting myself), and had the handyman replace the broken basement window and build out a window sill, as well as repairing a section of the ceiling that needed new drywall. It kills me—we never used that basement for anything other than storage, but it is now a fantastic exercise and play room, and I wish we had fixed it up years ago.

10) Clean everything. This was the easiest but most obnoxious task. You don’t realize until you really inspect it that every surface within the kids’ reach is just nasty. Areas that got a much-needed scrubbing include: every wall, from about chest-height down (so, as high as Forrest can reach); all the doors and doorknobs; light switches and covers; outlet covers; windows; the stair rail and banisters. All clean and shiny.

11) Spring-ify the yard. An inexpensive and easy job—we added fresh mulch to the flowerbeds, tidied up the bushes, and added fresh flowers to our planters.

Okay, I’m cheating—this picture is over a year old. We have since replaced the outdoor lights, and of course there is now fresh mulch and different flowers in the planters. But I’m too lazy to go out and take a new picture, and this one gets the point across just fine.

yard for spring

We hired a handyman for some of the tasks—mainly the ones that required any skill at all. All the stuff that was within our realm (like cleaning and organizing) we did ourselves, and it was a pain. It’s so hard to get anything done with kids in the house. We plowed through as much as we could each weekend for a few weeks in a row, and I fit in whatever cleaning/organizing I could every day.

The Current Status

Our first day on the market was completely insane—we had showings all day long, and after leaving the house with the kids in the morning, we couldn’t come back home until after 8 PM. The final tally for that first day was 10 showings (although our realtor admitted she lost count, and it may have been higher).

We had 5 showings the following day, spaced out just enough to be terribly inconvenient and leave us stranded out of the house all day again. We were running on two straight days of fast food for every meal, crappy naps (if any!), and overly late bedtimes for the kids. We were all getting pretty cranky after a mere 2 days.

By day 3, I was hitting my limit (already! it only took 3 days to break me!). A number of showings were scheduled for the day, and I was getting frustrated. It felt like we couldn’t live in our own house anymore—we hadn’t been home in 3 days except to sleep, and I had no time to cook or do laundry or get anything done between showings. None of us had eaten a decent meal for 3 days straight, and we were running out of places to go to pass the time. During one interminable mall visit, Forrest asked, “Is our house selled-ed yet? I just want to go home.” Me too, kid.

maybematilda.com

Extra depressing was hearing feedback from some of the people who had seen the house. Our realtor talked to 3 people who had come through, and none of them liked it. It felt like a huge blow—after all the work we’ve poured into this house in the past 3 years, no one had a single nice thing to say.

None of their complaints were anything I should have taken personally, but of course I felt crushed anyway. Someone didn’t like the floors, someone else thought the bedrooms were too small, etc. We honestly believed this was a great house for the price range, and it was a big letdown to hear 3 negative comments in a row without getting any positive feedback.

I was all sorts of depressed about how chaotic and stressful selling was turning out to be, and was actually near tears as I complained about it to my mom, right when the realtor called with some awesome news. Two offers had just come in.

One was a pretty lousy offer—way below asking price, requiring us to cover closing costs, and with some crappy contingencies. It was kind of insulting, to be honest.

But the other offer was solid. It was below our asking price, but the buyer was covering closing costs, and our realtor is representing him as well as us, which reduces her commission. When we factor in the money we’ll save on the realtor’s reduced commission as well as not having to cover the closing costs, it comes close to being a full price offer.

Update 3/24: Well, never mind. The buyer cancelled his offer before we even had a chance to move forward. So disappointing!

We took it. We are currently under contract, and if you’re the praying type, would you send a prayer or happy thoughts or good vibes or whatever you happen to believe in that everything goes smoothly from this point on? We don’t expect anything big to come up on the inspection, but of course I’m in a panic over it anyway (that’s just what I do, and I’m so very good at stressing that it would be a shame not to). If all goes well, we’ll close at the end of April.
house exterior

The question now, of course, is where we’ll be heading? Frankly, we don’t know. We’ve gone out with our realtor a few times, and I am just not loving anything yet. There are lots of houses that feel okay to me, but nothing that I’m really crazy about so far. And I don’t want to rush into buying something I don’t love, just because we’re in a hurry and feel like we absolutely have to make a decision RIGHT NOW.

At this point, we’re leaning towards building, which means we’ll probably rent while we figure out if and where we’d like to build, and get that process started. Everything feels very hectic and overwhelming right now, but we’re trying to keep a level head and make decisions based on what we really want long-term, and not just what seems like a quick solution in a stressful time.

In the meantime, cross your fingers that the next few weeks pass really quickly . . . and without any unpleasant surprises.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Our First House: Let’s Sell This Place (Full Tour!)

I initially titled this post “Full House Tour,” which felt more succinct until I realized people might think it was a tour of the Full House set, and that would really disappoint any Full House fans who are reading.

We’ve spent 3 years here in our first house. We have loved it so much, and have put a lot of work into making it feel fresh and up to date and ‘us.’ But we’ve been feeling lately like it’s time for us to make a change, so we spent the last few weeks finishing up unfinished projects so we could put our house on the market.

It went up for sale on Tuesday, and we’re excited to see what happens. We’re planning to stay in the area (we are currently in Lehi, Utah, and don’t plan to go far!), but we’re ready for something different. We’ll be said to leave this house and neighborhood behind, though . . . we have loved transforming this house, and we have great neighbors and friends here.

House Tour

The house has been listed since late Tuesday night . . . and we had 10 showings on its very first day. I’ve never sold a house before so I guess I can’t say anything definitive, but to me, this seems like a lot. I can’t even tell you how weird it was to come home after an entire day away from home and know that strangers had been passing through our home all day long. It felt bizarre, and of course it is such a hassle to try and entertain kids out of the house all the livelong day, so I really really hope that it goes quickly.

I thought today I’d give a full tour of this house. A lot of work and love went into it—it was very ‘cookie cutter’ when we bought it, and had been a bit neglected by renters for a few years before we took over. And I’m really proud of what we’ve done here . . . I think we added so much personality and charm to what started out as a very basic, boring house.

If you’re interested, you can see all the ‘before’ pictures in THIS post.

We’ll start right at the front door. Here’s the view when you walk in.

House Tour

I remember the first time we looked at this house—the thing that I noticed right away was how bright it was. And that is still my absolute favorite thing about the place. There are lots of windows, and it gets tons of gorgeous natural light during the day.

Here’s the same view when we bought the house:

entry before

The main changes here were tearing out the carpet and old laminate, and replacing it with a new, dark wood laminate. We also switched out the light fixtures in the kitchen with new ones from Barn Light Electric, and painted everything.

To the left is the living room, where we spend a lot of our time. There is no overhead lighting in this room, so we had an electrician add these sconces (which are actually outdoor barn lights from Lowe’s).

living room with barn light sconces

maybe matilda house tour

The incredibly high ceilings in the living room and kitchen are another awesome feature in this house.

Straight ahead is the kitchen—I’ve always liked that the dining area is visible from the front door, but the kitchen isn’t. Slightly lower pressure for me when visitors arrive unannounced—if the kitchen isn’t spotless, no worries, they can’t see it from the door anyway.

Modern Farmhouse kitchen

I love those light fixtures from Barn Light Electric (I won them in a giveaway shortly after we moved in, and they provided a perfect jumping off point for how I wanted to style the rest of the space), and I’ll be so sorry to leave them behind. I think they add so much charm and character to the house.

This kitchen looked rather bland and boring when we moved in, but I think it turned out to be one of the best makeovers in the house. It looks so fresh and inviting now.

White modern farmhouse kitchen 

Below is the kitchen when we moved in. Obviously, lots of changes here! We painted the cabinets white and added hardware, replaced the light fixture, replaced the sink and countertops (the new countertops are a laminate from Lowe’s), installed a mosaic tile backsplash, and added a pop of color on the pantry door.

kitchen before

To the right of the kitchen are the stairs heading up and down. The biggest change here was to knock out a wall that blocked the family room from the upstairs, plus we installed new carpet upstairs and painted the banister for a two-tone look.

DSC_0075

Down a few stairs is the family room. I’m kicking myself that we didn’t work on this room sooner. It wasn’t until my mom suggested painting the fireplace a few months ago that we spent any time or effort on this space . . . and now it’s the cutest room in the house.

family room tour

stone fireplace painted white

This room is rather long and skinny—on this end is the fireplace and TV, and on the other end we have our (very old and out of tune) piano. I wish I could tell you I’m an accomplished pianist . . . but most of its playing these days comes from the kids pounding on it.

family room tour

Here’s what the family room looked like when we bought the place:

family room before

We continued with the dark wood laminate down here, painted the fireplace, repainted the walls a pretty, soft blue, and replaced the big clunky fan with a schoolhouse light from Barn Light Electric (I’m telling you, winning their giveaway was the best thing that ever happened to this house!).

I’m sorry to report that the green basement from Tuesday’s post did not stay for long. I maintain that it is a fun color . . . but we worried that it might scare buyers since it really is so bold. We repainted the basement and hallway in this pretty taupe (it is called Perfect Taupe by Behr, and I had them tone it down by 25%).

basement hallway

There are two unfinished spaces to the left of the stairs that we use for laundry and storage (and they aren’t worth showing you), but to the right is a large open room. We basically never used it in our 3 years here (*kicks self SO HARD*), but the plan was always to turn it into a combination craft/exercise/play room. We finally did it, just in time to sell the dang place.

basement room

We had to replace that window, which someone in the house’s past installed backwards, so it couldn’t be opened . . . but someone at some point gave it a good effort anyway, and the frame was completely bent and useless. Geniuses.

A new window and a fresh coat of paint, and it was like a whole new room. We put our exercise equipment on one end of the room, and toy storage on the other end. I went on a ruthless toy purge recently, and all the toys in the house are now in those boxes. Literally, that is everything. I cannot tell you how awesome it is to not have toys in every room of the house now.

All of my craft/crochet supplies are hidden behind that little door. This room actually has two closets, which is awesome. Storage for the win.

basement toy area

Here’s the basement when we bought the place. We didn’t do a ton to this area—just painted, replaced the window and added a small windowsill, and cleaned things up:

basement before 

Let’s head back upstairs.

upstairs hallway

The first bedroom upstairs is Darcy’s. It’s not a very large room (and the photos make it look positively tiny!), but it’s a great size for her right now.

colorful baby girl room

This next photo would lead you to believe that I can’t even open her dresser drawers. I’m not sure why it looks that way—there is actually a fair amount of space between the dresser and crib. I must have the wrong camera lens for taking interior shots.

colorful baby girl nursery

Another feature I’ve loved in this house is that the closets are really spacious. Lots of great storage room for clothes, toys, out of season items, laundry baskets, etc.

colorful girl bedroom 

The bedrooms in this house didn’t require tons of work—just the same new carpet we installed throughout the upstairs, and a fresh coat of paint. Darcy’s room also got a new light fixture—her old one was very dingy-looking, plus made a ton of noise when the fan was turned on, which made it basically unusable. I don’t have a before picture of her room.

Then we’ve got Forrest’s bedroom. Probably the room in the house I spent the least amount of time and planning on. It didn’t ever really make much of a transition from baby room to kid room, so I’m not terribly proud of the layout/design in here, but I’ve got some good ideas for his big boy bedroom when we find a new place.

Once again, I love that big window. We had blackout shades over his window until we listed the house, when we swapped them out for these sheer drapes which really show off all that light. Surprisingly, the lack of blackout shade doesn’t seem to bother his sleep at all. I’ve still caught him occasionally napping in here in the afternoons (he doesn’t nap often anymore, but sometimes the stars align!), and the brightness is roughly equal to that of the surface of the sun.

little boy bedroom

boys bedroom

Like I said, not the cutest bedroom design you’ve ever seen. In my defense, it looked a lot cuter with the old curtains and when the crib was in here.

Here’s his bedroom before:

forrests room before

Then we’ve got the kids’ bathroom. To prepare to list the house, we replaced the floors and toilet in here. I always planned to paint or stain the vanity, but never got around to it. Maybe the next owner will be a little more motivated than me!

kids bathroom

And once again, a Barn Light Electric fixture totally makes the space.

barn light in bathroom

Then we’ve got the master bedroom. This is my favorite paint color in the entire house. Sort of a light celery green. I think it’s soft enough to read more or less as a neutral, but it has some personality (which is especially helpful since all our furniture and linens in here are shades of brown).

farmhouse master bedroom

And from the other direction. I maaaay have overdone that gallery wall. Looks a little wild.

master bedroom 

In the bedroom, our only change was paint, plus swapping out the old bulky fan for a newer one. Here’s the bedroom before:

master bedroom before

The master bath isn’t anything breathtaking, but it has the benefits of being clean and very bright, which hopefully counts for something. In here, our only change was to update the light fixture (which previously was one of those bare-bulb strip light fixtures—not my favorite look).

master bath

I’ve always loved our backyard. Plenty of room for Forrest to run and play, and I love that it is fully fenced, so I don’t feel like I necessarily have to watch him like a hawk while he plays.

back yard

As well as a  nice big front yard, too.

DSC_0111

Outside, we put a lot of effort into taming the landscaping (which had gotten pretty wild before we bought the house), and adding a little curb appeal by installing shutters, painting the front door a crisp black, and installing new outdoor light fixtures.

house exterior black shutters and door

Here’s hoping this place that we have put so much love into sells quickly to a family who will love it just as much!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...