The Giant To-Do List

The post of this title does not even begin to cover the giant list of projects that we want to do to make this house our home. A few weeks ago, Josh and I set down one night and mapped out our room-by-room to do list. Before I start sharing completed and continuing projects with you, I wanted to share our giant to-do list so that you can get a sense of where we are coming from. 

This is our current brain dump of everything that we currently want to do, but as with all things, this list is in no way set in concrete. We've already changed our minds on a number of things, a number of times, and are taking projects one step at a time. And so, with the warning that this is very long, here is our new house giant to-do list!

- The Basement (0% Complete) - 

To Do:
  • Organize/create laundry nook
  • Complete storage set-up
  • Organize storage set-up
  • Replace curtain above dryer

- The Den (0% Complete) - 

To Do:
  • Clear away clutter
  • Remove lace curtains
  • Set up couch
  • Set up entertainment space
  • Tear down wood paneling
  • Sheetrock and plaster walls
  • Sheetrock and plaster ceilings
  • Paint stairs
  • Runner down stairs
  • Create mudroom entry area
  • Fix/Replace door to the garage
  • Paint/Replace door to backyard

- The Garage (0% Complete) - 

To Do:
  • Organize shelves
  • Organize paint
  • Sell hutch
  • Fix walls
  • Paint walls
  • Clean/Paint? floor

- The Kitchen (0% Complete) -

To Do:
  • Paint walls
  • Hang art
  • Make and hang curtain above sink
  • Create storage space (possible peninsula?)
  • Remove door to downstairs
  • Change hardware on cabinets
  • Paint trim
  • Install a built-in microwave over the stove to create more counter space

(Phase 2: Down the road, we're hoping to change the countertops and add cabinet and counter space, replace the tile, close the door to the deck, and switch out and upgrade appliances, as well as knock down the wall between the dining room and the kitchen.)

- The Dining Room (0% Complete) - 

To Do:
  • Rip up carpet
  • Buy and hang new blinds
  • Buy/make and hang curtains
  • Create (find/buy) sideboard storage
  • Sell dining room set left by previous owners
  • Buy new dining room set
  • Replace chandelier
  • Hang art
  • Paint walls

(Phase 2: Down the road, we're hoping to replace the window with slider doors out to the deck.)

- The Living Room (1% Complete) - 

To Do: 
  • Rip up carpet
  • Take down paneling
  • Buy new couch
  • Buy rug
  • Buy coffee table
  • Add built-ins around the fireplace
  • Fill and organize/decorate built-ins
  • Buy new tv
  • Wall mount new tv
  • Create and hang gallery wall
  • Create entry zone
  • Buy entry rug
  • Buy small entry table or bench for next to closet
  • Organize coat closet
  • Hang new blinds
  • Buy/make and hang curtains
  • Paint trim
  • Paint walls

- The Hallway (0% Complete) -

To Do:
  • Rip up carpet
  • Paint walls
  • Paint trim
  • Hang art
  • Change doorknobs

- The Bathroom (0% Complete) -

To Do:
  • Paint walls
  • Paint trim and doors
  • Paint vanity
  • Replace mirror
  • Replace lights
  • Replace shower head
  • Replace blinds
  • Buy/make and hang curtain 

- The Master Bedroom (0% Complete) -

To Do:
  • Paint walls
  • Paint trim
  • Install closet doors
  • Hang art
  • Bring mirror into room
  • Buy nightstand for Josh
  • Buy nightstand for Sara
  • Buy hamper
  • Add light to closet
  • Buy rug
  • Replace hardware on Hemnes
  • Replace blinds
  • Buy/make curtains

- The Spare Room (0% Complete) - 

To Do:
  • Office set-up
  • Closet organization
  • Bring loveseat into room
  • Paint walls
  • Paint trim
  • Hang art
  • Replace blinds
  • Buy/make curtains

- The Guest Room (0% Complete) - 

To Do:
  • Set up bed
  • Paint walls
  • Paint trim
  • Set up dresser and bedside table
  • Buy rug
  • Hang art
  • Replace blinds
  • Buy/make curtains

- Backyard (0% Complete) -

To Do:
  • Plant flowers in pots
  • Plant herbs on shed
  • Grow grass
  • Wash deck
  • Stain deck
  • Buy patio set

(Spring 2016: Garden!)

- Front Yard (0% Complete) -

To Do:
  • Change front light
  • Replace numbers
  • Replace door knocker
  • Replace door
  • Hang hose
  • Replace broken spigot handle
  • Replace shrubs and front plants

And that's the list! Some things have already been done throughout the house - all carpet was ripped up and the floors were all refinished, but I left the floor refinishing off of the list because there are no pictures of it happening. The list isn't 100% complete, but as the house is a work in progress, so is this list and nothing is set in stone. There's no real order to anything above, but we're hoping to just tackle things bit by bit as we set up our home!

New House Tour

It's been 2 months and 19 days since we officially signed the papers and became homeowners! Hurray! We have long been dreaming of owning our own home - having a place to make our own and a home and yard to call our own. These photos were taken the day we moved in - some of them after the carpet demo had already started - but otherwise these pictures are as "original move-in condition" as we have outside of the listing pictures. The pictures of the living room are complete with some demo-sneak peeks!

It's a 3-bedroom, 1-bath tri-level split with an unfinished basement and a garage. It has a deck and fenced-in yard, and is the perfect home for us. This post is very photo-heavy, and we hope you love the space as much as we do! 

View of the Front 

Inside View from the Front Door

View of the Dining Room

View of Downstairs from the Fireplace

View of the Kitchen

View Up the Stairs/Hallway

View of the Master Bedroom (Left From Hall View)

View of Corner Bedroom (Straight Ahead from Hall View)

Guest Bedroom (Right from Hall View)

View from End of Hallway

Bathroom (Right from End of Hallway View Above)

View of the Den

View of the Basement

View of the Backyard (From Bathroom Window)

Wow! Like I said, so many photos! We love this house so much and are slowly, but surely, turning it into our home. On Friday, I'm going to do a list - Young House Love style - of all of the wonderful things we are doing / want to do to our home. There will definitely not be a dull moment as we work our way through projects!

Spring and Summer Book Report

So, it seems to be book week here as I get back into the swing of things on the blog. As the summer comes to a close, and I get ever closer to reaching my reading goal for the year - only 4 months left! - I wanted to update on all the books I've read since February. (I finally re-capped those for you here.) After February (the month of snow days), reading slowed down for me a bit, but it has picked back up this summer and now I am more than on track to meet my reading goal of 75 books for the year - only 20 books left to go!

Since February, I have read a number of wonderful (and some not as wonderful) books...

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins / This was my first ever book on Audible and I enjoyed it! I didn't absolutely fall head over heels for this one, but I did think it was interesting. I figured out the ending before it happened though, so that ruined it for me a bit. 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel / I absolutely loved the story here, and I would recommend it to pretty much anyone, but I was left wanting more. I felt like the story was a bit too unfinished and I would have liked more from the author. This bummed me out a bit because I did love the concept behind the plot.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell / I read this lightning fast at the end of March and didn't love it. My favorite parts were sub-plot things that Rowell didn't focus on as much as I would have liked. I'm reading Fangirl now, so the jury is still out, but so far, Eleanor & Park is really her only book I've loved.

Bringing up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman / This was, to me, the French version of Tiger Mom. Some interesting insights for sure and definitely interesting to see what motherhood looks like in France. (Spoiler: It is way different than motherhood in America.)

Yes Please by Amy Poehler / My second Audible! And I absolutely loved it! It was more focused on motherhood and self-reflection than I thought it would be going into it, but I liked Poehler's positive, yet realistic and introspective, outlook on life She is definitely more vulgar than I thought she'd be, but it worked with who she is and I liked it. I do need to add that I think that this may be a better book to listen to than to read. I have 2 friends who read it, and neither of them loved it. The Audible version, read by Amy, has guest readers and she ad libs a bit. I laughed out loud a number of times listening to her read.

Love Life by Rob Lowe / This is Rob Lowe's second book, and follow-up to Stories I Only Tell My Friends. I listened to this on Audible too and Rob Lowe's voice is soothing and wonderful to listen to. I really liked this one and appreciated Lowe's stories and advice for loving life and living it to the fullest.

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult / Not my favorite Picoult, but the story was engaging and - BONUS! - not at all predictable. I did really enjoy it and was pleasantly surprised by it since the subject matter wasn't one I thought I would be interested in.

Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty / Another one by an author I've binge read (i.e. Picoult and Rowell), and also not my favorite. It was a fun read, but it took me a little while to get into it. This one was a little too out there for me.

The Orphans of Race Point by Patry Francis / My absolute favorite so far this year, hands down. This was a beautiful and incredible story about love and friendship. The author brought the characters to life with such clarity and realism that I cried with them and for them, and laughed with them as they did. Beautifully written, well-crafted, and refreshing to read an author that stays so true to her characters. 

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith / I had this book on my Kindle for about 2 years, but didn't get around to reading it until May and then I couldn't put it down. It was a murder mystery that was well-crafted and cagely (yes, I made that word up) written. I have the 2nd one on my Audible shelf and am looking forward to reading the 3rd one - out this fall - as well.

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira / I read this as the QHS Book Club May book. It was breathtaking, tear inducing and freshly written. The story was about how a young girl recovers from a major tragedy and then navigates through the beginning of high school. The story shocked me, and grabbed me, and I cried through the end - and then some.

The Summer Series by Jenny Han / This series was good and super addicting, but I liked To All the Boys I've Loved Before much better. This series seemed to skim over too much and I wanted more detail than I got. The 3rd book had an info-filled epilogue though that I really appreciated.

PS I Still Love You by Jenny Han / The sequel to To All the Boys I've Loved Before. A good follow-up to the first book and one I enjoyed. I thought this one was a bit cheesier than the first, but I think that may be because I was a little over reading Han at that point (4 of her books in less than a week was a lot).

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng / I thought that this was good, and the writing was strong, but I just don't think that it was worth all the crazy hype. It was an interesting story, but it felt too choppy at certain points.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra / Definitely in my top 5 of 2015. This novel was beautiful, intense and captivating. It is really a must-read for every single person ever. I cannot say enough good things about this moving story and I wished that it did not have to come to an end.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See / I liked this, and appreciated all of the Chinese history woven into it, but I just didn't get hooked on it and didn't love it. 

Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham / This was a cute and fun read. I like Graham a lot and it was fun to read her first novel. 

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica / Another Audible book! I really, really liked this. It was Kubica's first novel - which I didn't find out until after I finished it - and it was a thriller that I could not stop listening to. Suspenseful and full of twists, this one kept me constantly guessing. I highly recommend this one if you like thrillers.

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari / I listened to Aziz read this on Audible. It was good, but not great. Aziz provides a humorous and well-researched view of modern romance, and I appreciated that, but I wish he had written more of a memoir. 

The Martian by Andy Weir / I liked this one, despite the crazy amounts of scientific jargon, but I was let down by the ending. 

Taft by Ann Patchett / Another author I love to binge read! This is an earlier book for Patchett, and as in her other earlier novels, you can definitely see how she was honing her craft a bit in this one. But, the characters were engaging and I did read the entire book in one sitting since I couldn't put it down.

Me, Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews / I had low expectations for this one, but it was an easy read and enjoyable enough that I read it in one sitting. It was kind of lackluster and just didn't grab my attention.

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan / This one surprised me and I really liked it. It was less memoir and more investigative journaling, but it was presented well and the story was definitely fascinating. I definitely recommend this one. As a side note, if you read this, you'll read a lot about something called a teratoma. DO NOT GOOGLE IT unless you have a seriously strong stomach. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian / This was definitely the summer of reading leftover books by authors whom I had binge read, but never finished all of their works. This story was intriguing - focused on the aftermath of a nuclear plant accident - and as always, Bohjalian's writing kept the reader engaged.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh / This was a well-woven story, and I cried, but I didn't love it as much as I think others have. It certainly made me think more about flowers though!

Perfect Little Ladies by Abby Drake / Given to me by my mom to as a breezy read. It was certainly breezy, but a little over the top for me.

The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg / Recommended to me by a teacher friend of mine and this one did not disappoint! Interesting story with a lot of history about the WASPs in World War 2 throughout it.
The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon / This one was enjoyable, and a super fast read, but I was a little disappointed because I thought it was going to be more of a thriller than it was.

Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain / This was okay, but Kitchen Confidential was much better. If you like cooking and are interested in the world of a chef, than you'll like this one.

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey / I picked this one up in Rhinebeck at Oblong Books (yay independent bookstores!!) on a staff recommendation. This story follows Maud, an elderly woman with alzheimers, as she searches for her missing friend Elizabeth. Maud is also remembering a long forgotten part of her life when her sister went missing when Maud was younger, and the two mysteries are woven together. It was confusing at parts - although I think that was, at times, the point - but a bit too confusing for me to really love it. 

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee / It was wonderful to end my summer reading on such a high note with TKAM. I had read this when I was 15, and really couldn't remember any of it. I am interested in reading Go Set a Watchman, and so decided that this deserved a re-read. And wow, am I glad I did. I listened to it as I worked around our house painting this last week of summer and really felt as though I was spending my summer with Jem and Scout. Lee's writing is truly beautiful and this is, without question, a classic. If it's been 15 years since you last read it, then you should re-read it too - I cannot recommend it enough.

Radio Silence {Playing Catch-Up}

As usual, things got busy last year. Eventually I am hoping that I will figure out the trick to teaching and blogging regularly, but I certainly hadn't quite done so last year. After the never-ending Boston blizzards, we finally returned to school but only to be consumed by lots and lots of busy days. 

In March, we went to Toronto for my cousin's wedding and then began house-hunting! 

In April, I headed to DC with some of my awesome students (and we got a tour of the Capitol Building!) and we put in our third offer on a house!

After 6 weeks, about 20 or so houses, and 2 unaccepted offers, we finally put in an offer on a house - and it got accepted! After a great inspection, we signed and P&S and started preparing to move. Then, in June, about 7 weeks later, we did! We passed papers on June 19th and then moved in a week later - but not before ripping up carpet and getting our hands a little dirty!

School ended very late this year (June 29th!) and Josh and I have spent the summer settling into the new house - unpacking, painting, and turning it into our home. I spent some time in Virginia with my mom and took a trip to Fire Island with Nash to spend a week with my Dad and Stepmom. Nash has been very loved all summer and enjoying lots of time at the park, and the beach, and hanging out with me during the lazy summer days.

I finally got a new computer a few weeks ago and so I could finally upload pictures (my old computer was slowly but surely dying) and now I can share them with you! Life has slowed down enough to get back to blogging - before the year gets crazy again of course! 

I'm hoping to get into a good Monday/Wednesday/Friday, blogging groove this fall - and I'm looking forward to sharing our house with all of you! Big things are certainly on the horizon for us - from house projects to big birthdays (we both turn 30 this fall!) to teaching a new class at school (seniors! eek!) - I am excited to live each moment and share so many of them here!

All of these pictures are from my Instagram account - @foreverandarecipe - where you can follow along with my life beyond the blog! Let's be insta-friends!

A Long Overdue Book Report

At the beginning of February, I posted the books that I hoped to read in February, but when school finally picked up again after the snow, I never got around to posting a book report. I thought it was finally time to get around to writing it! 

The original February Book List picture. I gave up on The Presidents Club, and didn't get to I Am Malala or The Paying Guests until later, and then read quite a few more in February, but they're all reviewed below!
The House Girl by Tara Conklin / I really enjoyed this one! The story follows a lawyer in Manhattan in the 2000s and a slave in Virginia in the mid-1800s. The back and forth story did not disappoint and I could not put this one down. Engaging and well-written, I was very happy to finally read this one that I had had on my Kindle for quite a long time.

In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick / This non-fiction narrative about the tragedy of the whaleship Essex that inspired Moby Dick was interesting, but not my favorite. It was a powerful and momentous account of the story, certainly, but some of it was a bit dry for my taste. I am looking forward to seeing the movie this winter though.

The Tao of Martha by Jen Lancaster / After being a Goodreads Best Humor of 2013 nominee, this had been on my TBR list for well over a year and it was nice to finally get around to it. It was okay - laugh out loud funny in some parts and very sad in others - and generally well put together. I like Lancaster a lot, but now that she's looking for things to write about, her writing seems a bit forced. Bitter is the New Black was much better.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie / I read this because it was my high school book club's book of the month. I did not have high hopes for it and while I didn't hate it, the end seemed a bit too fantastical for my tastes. 

The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg / I like Berg's writing and so when I found this on my daily Kindle deals, I decided to pick it up. It follows a widowed woman who moves to a small town in the midwest to start over. I sobbed through the first 40 pages while the woman's loss of her husband was explained in detail. It wasn't bad, but very depressing - despite the title.

To All the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han / ALL. THE. FEELS. I stayed up all night to finish this book and absolutely LOVED it. It is the story of a high school girl who writes 5 love letters but doesn't send them - until somehow they get mailed out. It was everything that high school is, and should be, and that we hope it would be - with just the right amount of cheesy romance thrown in. My favorite YA book in awhile!

Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson / Another book I loved! And, I don't say this lightly, but I think it was better than Gone Girl. It is a psychological thriller and, I think, even creepier than GG. It kept me turning page after page to find out what happens and it was wonderfully well-written. Seriously frightening and one I am not soon pushing out of my head.

Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 by Stephen Puleo / I had this one on my Kindle for a long time before this, but just couldn't get into it. My friend Meg kept telling me how much she loved it though, and so I dove in on a long plane ride. I ended up liking it and loved that it wasn't only about the molasses flood (which is fascinating), but also about the political and social climate in Boston and around the world from 1914 to 1925, and how the disaster played a role in all of it.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell / I loved Eleanor and Park, and I've been trying to fall in love with another Rowell novel ever since. This one came the closest yet, but still fell short of truly loving - I think because it was a bit predictable for me. Engaging, but just not my favorite.

Flash Boys by Michael Lewis / Normally, this type of book would not be something I'd add to my TBR list. But on recommendation from a friend, I picked it up. I loved the Big Short and hoped that this would be similar. Unfortunately, it wasn't and this book ended up being a huge miss for me. It was a bit confusing, a bit boring, and I realized that I really don't care at all (sorry Lewis) about high frequency trading. 

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead / This one was enjoyable, but I was expecting a bit more from the description on Amazon that made it seem much more like a thriller (which it is not). It was, however, a well-written novel about a family who's past, and present, is consume by ballet, and we see how they navigate through life around it.

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai / I ended up listening to this on Audible and thought it was amazing! It was a bit slow to start, but the history Pakistan and the Taliban in the Swat Valley and surrounding areas was portrayed with clean attention to detail and provided a vivid picture of life for Malala and her family. Even knowing some details of her story, this book showed that there is so much more than what I knew, and made me weep for this that have had their lives torn apart by the Taliban. Archie Punjabi narrated this on Audible and her narration was wonderful. (Read in July.)

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters / This book was not what I thought it was going to be, but I really enjoyed it. I loved Waters' writing and I am excited to read more of her novels. Once I got into this one, I couldn't put it down, and read it all in one sitting. Historical fiction at its best! (Read in May.)

I started to read The Presidents Club but it didn't hook me and so I put it down. I have saved it for another time! 
Have you read any of these books? Which ones were your favorites? I'd love to hear about them!
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