Moving Abroad: Six Months

Salut!

Well, in the blink of an eye, we have lived in Paris for six months. We are at the halfway mark of our year abroad and those 183 days went by in a flash. 183 days is a significant number for our family because that happens to be the number of days Antz company has allowed him to work remotely. We discovered this just two weeks before our departure date last February. This added to our stress and anxiety but since we put in so much hard work to get approved for our visas, set up a home exchange, took Olivia out of her French school in LA, and we set everything up to be in Paris for an entire year, we just left not knowing what would happen with Antz job.

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Let me explain what the 183 day rule is. There is a treaty with France and the US so that either country can collect income tax from residents living there past 183 days. So in our case, if Antz were to continue working past six months, he would have to start paying into France’s tax system (paying for social services, income tax, etc.) while also still paying income taxes in the US because he is employed by an American company. This article explains it better than I can. To me it sounds like double taxation but there is an exclusion up to the first $100,000 of income in the US. Which for us means he would pay 45% of his income in taxes in France but only 28% past $100,000 in the US. So basically 63% of his income would have gone to taxes for our 2019 tax return. This was not the best case scenario for us financially. Also, his company was not able to set him up as an international transfer employee on a work visa due to the high expenses to add him to European payroll. We even requested to have him work freelance as an independent consultant but that didn’t work either. So his company gave him two choices, return to the US in 183 days or separate from the company. He did both. It was the hardest choice to make, Antz has worked for this incredible company for over 18 years. He was at the top of his career as a Senior Art Director. His company had premium benefits, generous salary and bonus, 401k, profit sharing, traveling to industry events and parties, summer Fridays meant he had every other Friday off, and he worked with some amazing people. I can’t tell you how difficult the decision was. I mean, France is rad but it’s not perfect. We are renting here which feels unstable, but in LA we owned our house and we put so much work into making our house lovely. Every month I worry about the currency conversion which varies so much that sometimes we pay $150 – $200 more depending on the day I pay our rent. We are in the process of getting a French bank account but it is honestly a nightmare. There is also a language barrier that makes simple tasks challenging. Liv is a wonderful translator but even she can’t help with adult things like setting up our cell phone service or making an appointment to have the heat turned on in our apartment. There is crime here like any large city, and if I walk through certain parts of town alone, I feel vulnerable. I had a car in LA so I never had a guy follow me making lewd comments like here. Once I had to call Antz to meet me on our street because a guy wouldn’t leave me alone. There is terrorism here so when we walk in crowded spaces, I can’t help but feel tense or worry about large trucks driving by. There are more grumpy, rude people in customer service than I ever dealt with in LA. I recently tried to make an appointment over the phone but six out of ten people hung up on me when I asked if they spoke English. That is on me, I need to step my French up. I hate the constant smoking, I get I am in a foreign country but blowing smoke directly in my face is infuriating. I also have to deal with renewing our visas every six months which is a headache. However the benefits still outweigh the cons for us. Liv attends a wonderful French school that is only a ten minute walk away for FREE! This is our number one reason for being here. She is attending such a great school here, her French is impeccable and I love that she gets a hot lunch everyday in a cafeteria and after school activities are included in her daily curriculum. She gets a half day on Wednesdays so she can go to ballet, which frees up our weekends for travel. That is our other major reason to stay. Traveling here is so easy and affordable I can’t see going back to LA only to wait all year for Antz to get a few weeks off of work so we have to cram a vacation in a short time and spend half of our travel budget on a long flight from LA. We have traveled more in the last six months than we have in six years. My main goal is to visit 20 countries and they are all just a train ride or a short flight away. I also am looking forward to having actual weather!

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Living in sunny Los Angeles for 40 years was nice, but we rarely had thunderstorms or more than a few days of cold enough weather to bundle up. I have never been in Europe during the fall so I am excited to wear coats and scarves. I am also excited for the lovely Christmas markets coming soon! Well, it’s not like I need to sell living in Paris, my point is moving here comes with huge sacrifice. The first was leaving his job but finding a new job here in Paris won’t be so easy. Everyone I know keeps telling us that French jobs do not pay well. So we had to have a back up plan to keep us going financially. We used most of our savings to move here in March and even though we are saving a lot by not paying tuition or a car payment, it’s still expensive living in Paris. In the end, we realized we weren’t happy in LA and that is most important to us. The bottom line is he made great money in LA but he was working long, stressful days and we only had weekends to spend time together. Most of his salary went towards our bills and tuition so even if he made less here in France, our expenses are less. We also spent all our time in our cars which caused our lifestyle to be toxic and unhealthy. Since moving here, we spend so much more quality time as a family (I am sure it’s mostly because we don’t have a TV!) and walking everywhere is pretty awesome. So, we agreed we would stay in Paris as long as possible!

So a month ago we decided to sell our house. It was heartbreaking to do but really I couldn’t think of any other options. Our tenant was only renting during the summer and she was paying $1,000 less than we listed it for because she was able to pay cash in advance. We couldn’t live here and not have a stable long-term renter in our house. There are also so many expenses of being a landlord which would have been difficult to handle from abroad. Since our house has increased in value recently, I met with our real estate agent who happened to be in Paris on vacation with her family to discuss the idea of selling. She was so positive about it we put together a plan just to see how things would work out. Antz was going to fly back to LA at the end of August due to the 183 days deadline being Sept 1st so we decided that if the house sold in a month, we would stay. If the house didn’t sell (my worst case scenario), I would pack up our apartment in Paris and return to LA with Liv. Thirty days is an insane timeline but our agent was confident we could do it. This meant that Antz had to begin the process of getting our cat Lola legally documented to travel to Europe. He had to take her to an USDA accredited vet for an exam and she needed an official microchip implanted. Then she needed a rabies shot and there was a 21 day mandatory waiting period. We had to keep the house furnished so it would be staged for the open houses. We had four dates scheduled and a deadline of Sept 17th to accept offers. I was super nervous because after two open houses we only received one offer for an insultingly low amount. In order for my crazy plan to work we had to get a magic number and I was sweating when the final day arrived. The offers slowly began to come in that afternoon. All of the offers were over our asking price but nothing was close to our magic number. The good news was since there were multiple offers we could counter everyone and ask for over our magic number. We only got one person to agree to our counter offer but we got a little over our magic number!! I had to go to the US Embassy to sign the escrow paperwork with an American notary. The visit was intense, many French guards were quite mean at the entrance. I had to go through several security check points and they took my phone and held it during my visit. I managed these shots before they confiscated my phone.

My poor husband had the daunting task of selling all the things we no longer needed, (we felt like we gave away most of our furniture for next to nothing but this was our cleansing period) cleaning out the house (he must have donated and thrown away one hundred bags) and garage of twelve years of overwhelming stuff in two freaking weeks! Then he had to pack up the house, move our stuff into storage at my Mom’s house and ship our remaining items to France in a storage cube.

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Our entire lives worth of stuff had to fit in this 7 foot storage box. It will be shipped to France via boat and won’t arrive until January! I will lose my mind if my breakable stuff gets damaged.

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I can’t tell you how stressful this was for Antz, all while he was still going to work everyday and dealing with Lola’s stuff. The sad part was we were apart for a month which seems short, but he missed Liv’s first day of school.

To add to our agony we discovered that Antz cell phone wouldn’t make calls in LA so we could only communicate by FaceTime calling on wifi and texts for thirty days. This guy wins at life. We both had our moments of doubt, frustration and sheer panic but he rose to the occasion physically and mentally in a way I never could. He was running on two hours of sleep by the end of the month. He also had to contend with flying back to Paris with our not so friendly cat Lola. I took two wise precautions for her flight. The first was ordering her these claw nibs (her pink fake nails) so she wouldn’t be able to scratch Antz or the carrier. The second was booking Antz in a premium economy seat on his flight with Air France. It was double their normal fare, but he had more room for Lola and fewer people around to disturb.

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Anyone interested in flying a pet from the US to France? This is a long, tedious process and we didn’t have a day to spare to get everything done. The first step is taking your pet to an accredited USDA veterinarian. Our regular vet wasn’t accredited but there was one nearby that they recommended.

Los Feliz Small Animal Hospital
3166 Los Feliz Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90039
(323) 664-3309

I made our appointment online before Antz flew back to LA. The first day he returned he picked up Lola from my best friend Aimee (who was happy to say bye to our cranky feline) and he got her an official microchip inserted. Even if your pet has a microchip in case they get lost, this is a special chip that is registered with the US to track pets abroad. Then she had to wait a mandatory 21 days before getting a rabies shot. It’s important to know that even if your pet has been vaccinated for rabies (like Lola has) they must get another rabies shot 21 days after the microchip has been implanted. We were happy to find out Lola lost weight since her last appointment so she was just under the 8kg restriction. So this put our timeline right on schedule. I made an appointment with APHIS which has an office in Los Angeles to get Lola’s health certificate endorsed. You must make an appointment, no walk-ins.

Los Angeles Animal Import Center
222 Kansas Street
El Segundo, CA 90245

No pet can travel abroad on a commercial airline without this document (this doesn’t apply to service animals). If you have a dog, it is also mandatory to show a test for tapeworms and flea medication. There is the choice of flying with your pet in the cabin or the cargo. Air France said they only allowed pets up to 8 kg on board. Well 8 kg means 17.6 lbs and our chunky Lola was 18 lbs at her last vet visit! I am a member of a Expats in France group and I read many horror stories about pets in the cargo of airplanes so I was very worried about Lola’s flight. I was confused when it came to finding an airline approved carrier. If she was going in the cargo of the plane, she had to be in a hardshell crate with very specific measurements. However if she was flying in the cabin, she could travel in a soft-carrier but the measurements varied by airline. I ended up ordering this backpack carrier from Amazon. I knew with all the luggage Antz was bringing and having to carry Lola’s paperwork and his passport, it would be easier for him to be hands-free. I was so worried she wouldn’t fit comfortably in it but a week before his flight, the carrier arrived and he sent me this.

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She fit snug as a bug and I also ordered these pet pads in case she had an accident. Antz was smarty pants to use a large safety pin to keep the pad in place when the carrier was upright.

I ordered a harness in case Lola tried to escape at anytime. Antz had to take her out of her carrier when going through security and he held her while they did a thorough check. Luckily, our vet gave him calming medicine to give her on the day of the flight. Antz had a couple of hiccups the week before his flight. He had an appointment with the APHIS to endorse Lola’s health certificate at 8:30 am. Because it was near LAX, he had to leave the house before 6 am to be on time. He was the first person there and when he went to pay the $38 dollar fee, they told him that the vet filled out the wrong form! Antz was livid. I never seen him so angry. Turns out the vet gave Antz the form for pets traveling in the cargo hold but Lola was going to be inside the cabin. At least they were sympathetic and allowed him to return the next day with the correct paperwork, or else we would have needed to make another appointment a month later. So this meant that Antz had to drive to the vet’s office, pick up the correct health certificate and drive out to El Segundo the next morning. This all took place during his last week he was working in his office so you can imagine his level of stress. Once he had the endorsed health certificate you have exactly ten days to leave the country. This is important that you already have your flight set up prior to getting all the forms completed. I booked his return flight only two weeks before his departure since we were waiting to make sure our house sold and he would be able to sign all the escrow paperwork before returning to France. Luckily, there were a few premium economy seats still available. I had to call the airline and let them know we were bringing a pet on-board and they charged us $150 fee at check-in at the airport. Most airlines only allow a few pets on-board so it’s a good idea to let them know in advance. The day of Antz flight home was crazy, remember, his phone didn’t work unless he was connected to wifi, so I was only able to hear from him if he was on Starbucks wifi. Terribly frustrating! Lola decided it would be fun to run outside on the morning of Antz flight. He had to ask our neighbors to come help look for her all morning while he was still packing and needed to take a shower before his ride to the airport showed up. We were down to a few hours before he found her under our neighbors house. He had to crawl under there to get her, merde!

My Mom flew to Paris a few days before Antz so I was hosting her all while he was going through the worst of the drama. It was wonderful to have her here as a distraction from all the stress. She has been amazingly supportive of our decision to stay abroad even though that means she will see us less.

Antz somehow managed to pack up and clean the house with the help of his sister and nephew (Merci Clinnie & Justin!). We sold as many pieces of furniture that didn’t fit in our shipping cube. We gifted special items (our plants, and items I couldn’t bear to sell) to our friends and family.

It’s a hard choice to leave the comforts of our home and move to a different country for such an uncertain future but we can always return. We left Antz Honda Element at my Mom’s house and we are renewing our visas in January. I hope this helps anyone thinking of making the move abroad. The past six months was a great test to see if we could make a life in France viable. It’s challenging, frustrating (more so because we don’t speak French yet) but rewarding beyond all expectations.

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I am happy to answer any questions in the comments below.

 

Bisous.

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Our House Tour on Apartment Therapy

Hi There,

During the last few years we have done quite a lot of work to our house. I tried to photograph how beautiful everything turned out but I couldn’t capture it the way a professional could. I visited my friend Samantha’s lovely house and she told me her friend Marisa Vitale was a photographer and I should reach out to her. I was hoping to hire Marisa to photograph our house (since we are leaving it for a year) when she said she wanted to shoot it for Apartment Therapy!! I have been a fan of AT for years but I never thought our house was sophisticated enough to be featured. We had to fill out a questionnaire and one of the questions was “How do you describe your design style?” This was the hardest for me to answer because all that came to mind is “This is the home of a thirteen year old girl after she saw Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette!” I somehow managed to come up with a more adult answer but I cannot grasp how far we have come with this little house of ours. I went through phases of loving our house, completely hating it (mostly due to horrible neighbors across the street and bad water pressure) and then falling head over heels in love again. The bright and colorful way Marisa captured our home makes me so happy. I wish I could share all 206 photos with you because they are all my favorites but I will narrow them down best I can. Thank you Sam for connecting me with Marisa! Thank you Marisa for being so kind, talented and fun to hang with. Thank you Apartment Therapy for showcasing all our hard work and sacrifice to the world. I am honored to have our home among many other interiors I admire. Yay, here is our 1923 California bungalow home…

These are some of the outtakes of our family photos. How am I wearing heels and Antz is still taller than me? This one is my fave of the bunch.

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Apartment Therapy used this one, which has my signature look at the sky weird thing I do and Liv almost has her eyes closed. It definitely represents us best.

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In the living room there was much debate over which slipcover to put on the couch. We both agreed the blue slipcover was too much color and the white would make the pillows and our throw pop.

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Our lovely Rifle & Paper Co Marie Antoinette portrait never gets shown because I rarely photograph that part of the room.

Physiognomy by Mark Seliger was one of the first “grown up” books I ever purchased about 12 years ago. I finally have cool coffee table books displayed on my coffee table!

I’m super stoked about our new lady llama! Antz first saw her at Dotter on York Ave and I knew she would be perfect for an empty space on our wall. Everything came together perfectly.

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We had the prints made from Artifact Uprising.

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Don’t you think llamas are the new elephants?

It’s hard to show a good shelfie because the couch is in the way but at least you can see our new plant from Folia Collective. We were in Pasadena one night getting ice cream when we found this cute, tiny plant shop. I almost didn’t go in because it look terribly expensive but I was surprised. The most expensive plant in the store was $38! We got called out in the comments of our house tour for the sad looking fiddle fig on our porch but little do they know how long we lived with zero plants in our house.

I wish I took photos inside but the shop is super tiny and there were so many customers.

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We bought seven new plants for the house and guess what guys? They are still green and alive months later!!

Now let’s talk about that gorgeous bouquet! I knew I wanted something extra special for that vase. It’s very wide so I knew it had to be substantial. I have always admired IrisBarryBlooms on Instagram so this was the perfect occasion to have something customized for our home. My only request was very colorful and fun, and Michelle is the sweetest. She exceeded my expectations and really nailed our color palette. Thank you so much for creating this showstopper! Check out her website here.

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That’s right, we have a dining room, library, music room and office all in this one space! #smallhousesolutions Olivia’s piano teacher (our awesome next door neighbor Lisa) uses cute stickers to help Liv remember her finger placement.

And just to the right, we have our bar. Our old bar was a clunky DIY. I’m telling you, house design is mostly trial and error. We lived with the same furniture for so long, we had no idea we could find something functional, affordable and pretty.

c. our living room

This is the same space full of Earthy tones back in 2009! Why were sticks in a vase a trend?

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Now into the kitchen. I love that after five years it still looks modern and fresh. We haven’t changed much in there except a new set of pots and pans I got on sale for Christmas. In the future, I may change out the white subway tile backsplash into something more colorful.

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If I could have one dream item, I would love a La Chanche range in Rose Quartz. They are French and so fancy I would be embarrassed to cook my Top Ramen noodles on it. Sadly, they cost as much as a small car.

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New plant and macramé holder alert!

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I don’t think I have shown our hallway/art gallery on my blog before. I have no idea how to photograph such a narrow and dark space but Marisa used her tripod and got it all.

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I am super sad we aren’t taking any of his artwork to Paris with us. However, they are too big to pack and I wouldn’t want to risk them getting damaged in our luggage. I already loaned the giant portrait of Olivia to my Mom to keep at her house (I hope I get it back!)

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Did I mention we had our bedroom painted during the October break? Antz and I were going to paint it ourselves but laziness and procrastination set in so we hired FIVE dudes to paint this little room! Really, we hired one handyman but he showed up with all these guys. Oh! Next time a dude at the paint store tries to sell you the fancy “one coat” premium paint, don’t fall for it. We were told one gallon would cover the green and the trim in this room but ended having to buy 4 gallons (which meant 3 more trips to the hardware store and $200 more dollars). As fun and colorful as the old bedroom looked, I think it made the space feel cluttered and I wanted to create a more streamlined look for the small space.

It took me awhile to adjust to the all-white room. I love white, it’s my favorite color to wear but it felt so cold and sterile before we added the artwork and accessories. I wish we had the budget for a new ceiling fan but we couldn’t find anything we liked and we didn’t want to pay an electrician.

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I have never connected with an artist (other than Antz) that gets me like Carissa Potter Carlson. I have been super stressed about our move to Paris that this Things Will Work Out print has been my daily mantra.

Those striped brogues have been in my closet for months because they are so pretty I don’t dare wear them outside. Well, last week I finally gave in and wore them to our visa appointment for good luck. I’ll let you know how it went in my next post!

 

Liv’s room was the only room we only needed to straightening up. Once a month I attempt to get rid of stuff she has outgrown or no longer plays with (she’s currently in a Nintendo Switch and iPad phase) however, she swears she still plays with everything so I haven’t made much progress. Next week she is going to a sleepover and most of her toys are going into storage to make room for whoever ends up in our house.

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I don’t think I’ll ever take down her baby mobile her Dad made before she was born.

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I am grateful that I have these photos to remember her little girl room before her next tween remodel. I’m curious to what color she’ll choose next. I’m kinda over the pink.

Lastly our newly renovated bathroom. The least loved room in the house is now the most loved. I can’t stop staring at this stunning artwork Antz painted for me while we were visiting my Mom. I am the luckiest girl in the world to be married to this talented guy!

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I bought that basket from Anthropologie to use as a hamper for our wet towels but Antz said it would make a nice planter for our new guy. He fit in perfectly.

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I love her so much!!

So that’s our house tour. I am kicking myself because we spent all day with lovely Marisa and the only photo I took of her was while she was working. Marisa, thank you so much! I owe you a big hug and all our gratitude.

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Au revoir!

Our Bathroom Remodel

We have lived with an embarrassingly ugly bathroom for eleven years so it was overdue for a remodel. I disliked our old dusty rose shower tile and matching cast iron tub so much that I didn’t take many photos of it. However, I did post our bathroom when we re-tiled the floor in 2011. Liv gets a week off from school in October for “ski week” so we skied off to my Mom’s house while poor Antz was stuck at home without a bathroom for seven days. Luckily, he survived with the help of friends and family. After going through thousands of photos I somehow found one shot of our pink tub in action.

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Our kid loves bubble baths. We both laugh at how hideous our taste was when we first bought our house back in 2006. Orange and lime walls looks so juvenile but I thought I was rad with my Jonathan Adler Seven Sins bathroom set. I still have that shower curtain for some strange reason.

We attempted on our first DIY home remodel project when Liv was just under a year old, installing tile on the bathroom floor and painting the room grey. It only took about four days (two for work and two for drying) and I thought we did a pretty good job however, the pink tub and shower wall constantly annoyed me.

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Tiling Bathroom Floor (6)

Before and After

The new tile floor was an improvement, but the pink tile shower wall and tub stayed hidden by our shower curtain of shame. I originally planned to remodel our bathroom last October when we remodeled the living room but an unexpected new air conditioner system caused us to go over budget which meant we had to postpone it. By the time we were ready to start the bathroom job my friend Rene was no longer available. He’s so busy with other jobs I would have to wait until next year and I couldn’t wait any longer. It took awhile but I found a replacement contractor. The guy we found was reasonable and nice but he doesn’t compare to Rene. It was extremely stressful because I was away for a majority of the project and Antz was at work most of the day. The workers didn’t speak English and drove us crazy making little, sloppy mistakes. So unlike me but, I forgot to take a before picture the morning they started working but you see how it looked above.

After demo, we discovered that most of the wood in the walls was rotten and needed replacing. The demo took no time at all but one of the workers checked the floor and… surprise!

Wheee! Look at those lovely black holes. Turns out we aren’t the greatest contractors we thought we were. The shower was leaking water under the tile floor for years and the subfloor was rotten. As every house project, our unexpected expense showed up right on time. I was just looking at buying a glass door for the shower but new floors were priority. I was preparing myself for a huge estimate because my guy wouldn’t give me a price but after two days of holding my breath, it turned out to be much less than I thought. Whew! Antz bought affordable floor tile and the project added two more days for the floors to dry. The workers installed new floor joists, every 4 inches and now you can breakdance on the floor without falling through.

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I was so happy the walls were open so I could finally build a much needed shelf to hold our shampoo and stuff! It’s huge, I can fit my giant size bottles and no more falling bottles from the bathtub ledge.

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Buh Bye pink tub!!

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Hello new, straight floor! Shout out to Antz for choosing a classic style of tile that fits our 1923 house so well. One of my favorite elements of our bathroom is changing the paper in our medicine cabinet. This is a cute way to add color for less than ten bucks. I used this lovely wrapping paper from my friend Samantha Santana rad wallpaper shop. Her amazing home was just featured on Design Sponge.

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Those Jonathan Adler orange lacquer tumblers are still hanging around along with Antz CK One cologne. We decided to squeeze a new sink/vanity into our budget after seeing how beat up our old sink looked. Ikea had this Hemnes two drawer sink that fit in our small space and provided us more storage. I found these cute rabbit knobs on sale at Anthropologie.

We chose black for our walls to contrast all the white tile and trim. I am so happy to finally have a wall-mounted mirror to use in the shower. We previously had a mirror with suction cups from Target and it would fall in the middle of the night and scare the heck out of us! I stayed up until 1 am when I came home, putting everything away and editing our toiletries. It’s insane how much junk you amass in ten years! I threw away half full bottles of shampoo and only added the essentials.

I love our new shower tile so much it took me three days to put up the shower curtain. We took down the old toys on the shelf and added these quirky planters from Anthro. I need to go plant shopping soon. I also bought a new pretty toilet paper holder. I’m happy to have such a grown up bathroom to display my Unicorn poop spray!

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I ordered this flush mount light at the last minute when I saw how awful or our old light looked. It was $50 from Lowes and similar to the fancy ones over at Schoolhouse Electric. All these house projects has taught me how to make quick decisions and work with a limited budget. The finishing touch is a piece of artwork. I love art of Emily Winfield Martin but Antz is concerned about the print holding up to the moisture in the bathroom. So we are waiting to find something waterproof.

That first shower I took was pure heaven. We finally have a showerhead that we fit our tall asses under. I love our new bronze fixtures and the clean, white tub.

Here’s the finished Salle de Bain, everything including labor was a little over $4,000!

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I’ll add more photos when we get the art, or maybe a vintage shelf? Hmmm, see how great I am at making up my mind?!

À bientôt.

It’s Beautiful Here Part Two

As I said in my last remodel post, our ten year old furniture was showing its age. Timing was on my side since we began the remodel in October, it was close to Black Friday sale time. I am the self proclaimed queen of shopping on a budget. Our biggest purchase was a new sectional sofa but I couldn’t find one that came with a washable slipcover. I finally ended up buying a custom couch from the same place I bought our first couch ten years ago, Sofa U Love. Olivia was happy to test all the couches out for us and was completely satisfied with our selection.

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We ordered this comfy, custom, L-shaped sectional with a washable slipcover in aqua blue and white linen denim. I love that we now have a backup slipcover so our couch doesn’t end up with as much wear and tear as our last one. It was going to take six weeks for the couch to be built which was perfect since we were knee-deep in construction. Since we replaced our old black and white striped throw blanket three times, I found the perfect throw in navy from Anthropologie. It may have cost more than the Ikea blanket but it’s such higher quality that it shouldn’t get ruined in the laundry like the old one always did. We mixed our old pillows with few cute ones I bought from Target.

Next on my furniture list was replacing our Ikea coffee table and our old, clunky bar. I came this close to buying a vintage steamer trunk from Rejuvenation but it was pricey and wasn’t the best storage solution to hold all of our scrapbooks and photo boxes. I gotta say, I didn’t have a huge budget to work with at this point (thanks to our new HVAC!) Isn’t World Market is the most underrated store? I find their furniture to be better quality than Ikea and totally affordable. I not only got all of my pieces on sale, but because of Black Friday sales, they practically gave it away! I bought our coffee table, bar and hanging light fixture all under budget. So you know what that means…?

Splurge time! I had to splurge on an early Christmas present for our family. I spent weeks putting together this gorgeous photo book from our trip to Iceland and ordered museum quality photo prints from Artifact Uprising. I have wanted a photo book from them for years but I knew they were expensive. I gotta say, the quality is so worth it. That book is one of my most prized possessions. Their customer service is excellent. I plan on making a photo book from their site for every trip we take from now on.

We bought a new rug for the dining room and an eucalyptus wreath for our front door from West Elm on sale. We found a comfy armchair in the as-is department at Ikea for 60% off that fit the space perfectly. There was absolutely nothing wrong with it, just a floor model. I had a mini shopaholic spree buying a new rad doormat, and a beautiful vintage French flag from Etsy. I wanted to splurge on a new doorknob set too but our furniture and accessories budget were already stretched. I just polished our old doorknob and it looked awesome against the bright yellow.

I was so happy to finally have shelves to display my knickknacks and books I’ve had in storage over the years. At first, I put my nice things away because we had a wild toddler on the loose but over time, we didn’t have the space to display them. It was like Christmas unwrapping our toys and books.

Speaking of Christmas, by the time our house was finished it was mid December which is why some of these photos have Christmas decoration in them.

As we made progress putting together our living room, Antz wanted to leave the walls stark white and clutter-free but I had a strong opinion about that…

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As much as I agree with him the walls needed some dressing up. I guess I am forever a thirteen year old girl at heart because I’m a sucker for all thing cute and colorful. The last element for decorating our space was hanging artwork and family photos. We chose a mix of classic white frames, an elaborate vintage frame Antz found at a thrift store and some gold frames I bought from Anthropologie. I am hunting for an enormous frame for a poster I want to hang. I am also saving for a piece of art I have my eye on.

Here’s the room as a blank space. You can see the before and after of our refinished floors!

And here’s our newly remodeled house. Ta-dah!

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We are so happy with the new paint color! What a relief we didn’t stick with that ridiculous Smurf blue. The paint is Behr Premium. Since we had to mix our original color choice it’s a hybrid of Tidal and Dark Denim.

The door color is English Daisy. I bought the ceramic bonjour plate months before the remodel from…you guessed it, Anthro. Our rocking chairs are from Lowes.

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Let’s look inside.

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We got rid of the old blue desk and moved a small desk we had in the bedroom in the corner. We had to find a new space for my sewing machine and our crafts. It’s tricky working with a small house (remember it’s under 900 square feet) but the white walls and higher ceiling makes the space feel more open.

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I love our new workspace. It’s compact and efficient and best part, clutter-free! We used to keep our printer across the room from our desk which was always inconvenient. I somehow purged all of our files and office supplies to fit into this West Elm file cabinet. After having no luck in finding an affordable frame for my vintage Björk poster, Antz took it to Aaron Bros to be vacuum-formed to a piece of foam board. Then he made this frame with leftover wood. He is so resourceful! The total cost of this project was $51 bucks. I love finally being able to display this rad poster after it was in a tube for 15 years.

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The bonus on top of the remodel was we finally upgraded from a queen size bed to a king! I spent a lot of money on our W Hotel mattress but after buying cheap spring mattresses over the years, but I think it is worth the investment. Antz spent eight frustrated hours building our last storage bed frame so this time we paid our workers to build the new king frame. It only took two of them five hours but our bedroom is almost the same size as our new bed. The king bed takes up so much space that we had to remove our old bedside tables because they didn’t fit. I found a new one that matched the walnut frame and just fit by an inch. By upgrading to a larger storage bed frame all of our bedding fit under the bed. Let me tell you, having the mattress shipped from New York was expensive and full of drama (that I do not want to relive) but every night when we roll around on our huge bed we are super happy. I sleep like a baby now. Liv can sleep with us (she does most weekends) and we don’t feel cramped. It was a bummer to have to get rid of all our old bedding and start from scratch but I saved $300 using coupons from Bed, Bath & Beyond.

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We are pinching ourselves that we were able to create a space with so much of our personality reflected. We stayed positive during the stress of a remodel, the dumb election, Antz moving into a new office at work and constantly making compromises due to our budget. Thanks for checking it out, let me know what you think!

Our House Remodel Part One

We bought our house ten years ago. I have told this story many times about how we put thirteen offers on twelve different houses and each time we were outbid. After searching online, going to open houses every weekend and having my heart broken for an entire year, it was a miracle when we bought our house. I remember going to the open house on a rainy day in January to see a small cute house with a large backyard. I was already skeptical walking in but the good news was due to the rain there wasn’t as many people there as it would be on a sunny day. The bad news was the house had one bathroom, old plumbing and was a few blocks from Eagle Rock, the neighborhood I wanted to live in. Despite the issues and feeling numb to the house hunting process, we put in our bid, wrote our standard letter to the owners explaining why we could only afford to offer full price, we didn’t expect any response. However, I was already falling in love with the backyard and  making plans for the kitchen by that evening. Turns out there was two offers submitted and believe it or not our letter must have worked. Our offer was accepted. HOORAY!!

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We went through weeks of torment getting the bank appraisal, the inspections telling us we would spend close to $35,000 in foundation repairs and my neurotic doubts that we would actually be able to buy a house in Los Angeles. We had already fell out of escrow before so every step was nerve-racking. Our amazing realtor was able to negotiate $15k in repairs taken off the price so that covered all of our closing costs. My Mom has always told me “Things happen for a reason.” and I couldn’t see back in 2006 that Highland Park would develop into the family friendly, most desired neighborhood it is today. That York Blvd would be dubbed the Abbot Kinney of Northeast LA or that our house would become the home we would raise our daughter in. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with this house over the years but the same can be true about most of my life’s relationships. You have to learn to appreciate something. It takes time, nurturing and patience to create a bond. I am grateful that we didn’t buy those twelve other houses that had major structural issues, were located in questionable areas and were well over our budget. This house was meant for us.

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Antz and I have been talking about getting the foundation repaired for years but tuition, travel and our lifestyle have been priorities that have made it hard for us to start the work. We were able to tolerate the cracks in the walls and doors that stick when it rains but we both knew we needed to get the work done before something terrible would happen. (Like our house fall down the hill it sits on!) Our good fortune was buying in an up and coming area. Highland Park has become a hot neighborhood, so our equity skyrocketed and we were able to refinance. Lucky for me I had my friend, neighbor and talented contractor, Rene. Rene and his crew were awesome and I’ll enthusiastically recommend him to anyone looking for a contractor.

We had an moderately long list of things to repair but he worked with our limited budget.

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Just an example of one of my weekly to-do lists. Rene and his crew ended up doing all this work:

Repair foundation
Repair loose bricks on the porch
Patch/Paint the exterior of the house
Paint front door
Repair front door threshold
Repair roof leak
Remove iron bars on windows
Repair and straighten exterior wall
Remove popcorn ceiling/crown molding
Install new drywall
Repair and stain wood beams
Patch/Paint living room
Install built-in shelves
Paint back door
Repair back door threshold
Repair fireplace hearth tile
Build our new bed frame (I finally upgraded to a King size mattress because I couldn’t pass up their Black Friday sale and Antz and I are giants so sleeping on a queen was miserable)

**Electrical wiring/Repair and replace living room electric outlets/Install ceiling fan/light fixture

We hired a different electrician because our first guy was being shady and we weren’t happy with his work.

The entire project took about eight weeks but only because we had a minor delay which I’ll get to later. During the construction we lived in our small bedroom which we will never do again! Serious cabin fever set in due to the over crowding from having to shove all of our furniture and belongings into the kitchen, the hallway and Liv’s bedroom. In hindsight, I should have budgeted for a rental but I really wanted to stay on budget and that would have left me with zero money for new furniture. More than once during the remodel, I found myself quoting Lucy Ricardo complaining to Antz (Ricky) about how awful our furniture looked! Hint, hint.

Our living/dining room before the remodel

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I liked our fun, colorful living room but it still felt cramped and dark. I longed for white walls and a popcorn-free ceiling. I love our original fireplace but the hearth was damaged and the tile was cracking due to the foundation moving. I was in denial that we owned too much stuff but as we were packing things to clear out the room, it was obvious, I needed to let go of half of our stuff. I donated books, knick-knacks and the clunky old bar we never used. We had boring beige colored walls, honey-orange, scratched hardwood floors and inherited two Tiffany-style antique ceiling fans which I think were purchased in the 1990s. They swung precariously on the high setting and the glass sconces were broken so the only thing holding them on was the light bulbs. I was afraid to even clean them because the tiny screws holding them up were warped and any pressure would have caused them to crack. It was time for an update. Out of all the work we planned, choosing light fixtures proved to be most stressful for me. I loved the 1920’s style ceiling fans from Rejuvenation but they weren’t quite right for the price. Then I headed over to one of my favorite stores, Schoolhouse Electric. I was surprised to find they don’t carry ceiling fans. So my final and best option was West Elm. I wanted a fan that had a dimmable light setting, in bronze to coordinate with our new ceiling. The only issue was the ceiling fan I chose was a special order and would take four weeks to be delivered. This held us up for some time but luckily, it only took two weeks to arrive. I even got 30% off thanks to Black Friday sales!

Day one!!

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My painters were amazing, it was terribly hot but they worked non stop and serenaded me to 80’s tunes. They sanded every inch of the 93 year old wood.

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Things were happening inside too.

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For some odd reason, there were speakers hidden in the attic. After careful inspection we didn’t find a bag full of money or a treasure map so out they went. We also found disgusting insulation that I’m positive was unhealthy to breathe. After a few hours with a hammer, our ceiling was gone and these stunning attic beams were uncovered.

There was no way we could cover up these gorgeous wood beams with boring drywall. We told Rene that instead of our plan to install a new ceiling, we would rather expose the attic ceiling to give the space a dramatic feel. This meant adding more drywall to the walls and reinforcing the beams. We decided to keep four of the beams after a debate about keeping all of them. We also found random wires that didn’t appear to work so we needed to hire an electrician to rewire and reroute them. Timing is everything and by removing the ceiling we were able to see the beams moved from their original position which could have caused the ceiling to cave in. We were shocked and relived! The front wall of the living room moved four inches forward away from the house. We knew our house had many issues but this was very dangerous. Rene was able to move the front wall back in place.

Yikes, wasps nests in the attic! Our old HVAC ducts had to be rerouted since we no longer had a ceiling.

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The most nerve-racking day of the project happened to coincide with Halloween! We weren’t even home when they moved the wall because Liv had a party at her school. By the way, we were Oktoberfest themed this year since Liv wanted to wear a costume we bought from her ballet school. Antz was not so keen on wearing lederhosen.

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I found our costumes on Amazon. Liv is in heaven when she wears a corset and tulle!

Not being home was actually a good thing because I couldn’t stop envisioning our front wall falling down and all our beautiful windows shattering. I must have texted Rene fifty times that afternoon. By the time we got home our wall was straight again and only one small window pane cracked. Bravo Rene and crew!

The crew added new wood beams to support the roof. I learned that the older wood beams are actually stronger than the new wood but it was wise to increase the reinforcement because the old construction wasn’t measured with today’s codes. So we were on the fast track to finishing the drywall and prep for painting the interior when we got held up by the elephant in the room.

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That eyesore you see was our 41 year old furnace. Yep, our central air and heat system was older than I am! I asked Rene if he could push it back into the attic so it wouldn’t stick out but that was easier said than done. Here is the major setback we faced.

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This guy totally looks like an elephant’s trunk. Rene informed me the unit was hooked up to a gas line which would have to be rerouted, something he wasn’t capable of doing. Then there was an issue with the weight of the unit and moving it back would then push it directly on top of the ceiling of Olivia’s bedroom. There was no way I wanted a old piece of machinery sitting over where she sleeps so moving the unit was not an option. This meant we had two choices, leave it were it was and drywall around it or purchase a new unit. I didn’t plan to replace the HVAC but this is the joy of a remodel, you always have an unexpected expense. I received three quotes and chose the most environmentally friendly company and the second most expensive system.

The central air and heat work extended our timeline an additional three days. When the workers removed of our old unit we discovered the system was faulty, not up to code and hard wired which is a major fire hazard. The poor guy removing it said the unit began to spark and smoke when they took it apart. So, it was a miracle we decided to expose the attic or we would have just covered the ceiling and continued using our old system. The old unit was noisy and barely blew air through the ducts so we had to run it for longer periods which would make our electrical bill higher. So don’t cheap out folks, it may just kill you!

We chose a more efficient unit that was lighter yet sturdier, pleasantly quieter and new metal ducts that wouldn’t blow dust like our old plastic ones did. Hello, I am happy I no longer sneeze all day! We got an incredible deal, the new unit cost $7,600 with a ten year warranty. My favorite part besides the lower electricity bill and the peace of mind of our properly installed system, is we can program the thermostat from our phones. Hooray laziness! Our old unit would stay on all night because once we fell asleep we would be too tired to get up and turn it off. Now I can set it by temperature or timer from my phone or computer.

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Our plaster walls were a hot mess. I can’t help but compare the work we got done to our house to a 93 year old woman getting plastic surgery. Thank goodness Rene is our skilled surgeon. He was so resourceful and he has the most talented crew I’ve ever worked with.

So while all this was happening indoors, our house was being patched and painted outside. Antz and I were so confident with our house paint color when we picked it at the store, we had no doubt about it when we painted a swatch. However, when the painters sprayed it on the wall of our house, my heart sank. It was the exact shade of blue as a Smurf. I cried, called Antz to come home and see the shockingly bright blue and we unanimously agreed to change the color. The color change was a slight hiccup because Rene had already purchased $600 worth of bright blue paint and we had to pay for the day of work lost to our two painters. It was an expensive mistake but there was no way we would be happy coming home to this Lego blue house!

So after my unnecessary meltdown, we went to the store, talked to the manager and he assured us he would darken our paint. We even walked around our neighborhood comparing the dark blue and grey houses trying to make up our minds. I originally voted to paint our house matte black like sf girl by bay but I was vetoed. Black works for Victoria’s house but ours has too much red brick and we are colorful folks. Antz worked his artistic magic and found the perfect shade of navy for our house.

Before, during and after. Isn’t that an insane improvement?! Please remember to test your paint swatches at different times of day! We tested ours in the front of the house which meant it was in the shade. Seeing the same shade of blue in the direct sunlight made a vast difference. I am in love with the cheery shade of yellow we chose!

We removed one of our two bougainvillea bushes to open the space next to the backdoor. I asked our gardener to stop trimming the tops before the summer and after six months flowers finally began to bloom. We recently had our glass windows replaced for free through a city program sponsored by Los Angeles department of water and power. They offer home energy audits to help homeowners make their houses more energy efficient and lower your monthly bill.

Due to our house’s bad foundation, our porch had loose bricks that everyone would trip over. Antz has repaired them many times over the years but Rene actually found the source of the problem and pulled up the entire section of the porch. He discovered that the bricks weren’t anchored into the ground and just floating over a broken foundation. I was so worried about replacing the original bricks but the guy who removed them didn’t break a single brick during the work!

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This saw cut through the concrete like butter. They did all this work in like an hour!

I was so impressed with their work and was kicking myself for asking Antz to keep patching the loose bricks for all these years. The work only cost us $750 to repair the porch for the long term. This experience has taught me to stop just putting a Band-aid on a problem and just go ahead and get it fixed by a professional. I was so overwhelmed by how expensive I thought it would be, it stopped me from just getting the work done.

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There is no better feeling than having solid floors and straight white walls. Our front door has slammed for ten years because our front wall was crooked and it is just mind-blowing that it no longer slams. Now all of our windows can open and it feels like we got a brand new house. We have had iron bars on two of our windows which I find to be odd because they are inaccessible and the smallest windows in our house. It was a bitch to remove them (they had to saw them off) but it makes such a huge impact now that the iron is gone.

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I somehow squeezed a few extras into our budget which was mostly adult-boring work. I have wanted built-in shelves forever but with crooked walls and corners that were always moving because of the bad foundation, it wasn’t a possibility. I almost contemplated painting the fireplace mantle white to match the new built-in shelves but I am so happy we didn’t. Now I have ample storage space for my large art books that didn’t fit on our old bookshelves.

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Rene graciously repaired our broken tiles on our fireplace hearth.

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So on the last day of our two month project, I was elated at the transformation. Wow! look at this lovely blank canvas! Yet…don’t those floors look lackluster? When you are over-budget and having to figure out some way to create a budget to get our floors refinished, you brainstorm with your practical, spendthrift husband. Antz was able to sell our old couch, the coffee table, a mirror we no longer used and our old Ikea chair. I wouldn’t have thought that anyone would buy our old furniture but thanks to the Nextdoor app, we were able to fund our floors!

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It took one day for the floor refinishing which meant we had to stay out of the house for 48 hours so the floors could dry. We spent the weekend at my Mom’s house and when we saw the result, it was the cherry on top of our remodel. I am so grateful to all our workers who handled my silly questions and requests (I literally drove them crazy reminding everyone to not touch the freshly painted white walls and I kept leaving post-its around the house with notes of things they needed to finish) with patience. They were respectful, reassuring and always smiling even during the hottest days. One of my guys told me, “I’d rather be here working and sweating than at home comfortable and broke.” We gave all our workers a small bonus because they were awesome and they deserved it.

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Thank you so much Rene, you are the raddest contractor in Los Angeles. We are in love with our beautiful house. The photos of the remodel are coming soon.

A Piano in the house

Growing up in the golden age of awesome television commercials during the 1980’s has left me with a catalog of catchy jingles. If you lived in Southern California you were graced with this Colton’s piano song

Well, who would have thought that someone in my Facebook Mom’s group was giving away a beautiful upright piano and I was lucky number one to claim it?! I hired piano movers and it came into our home within a week.

The best part is my next door neighbor is a keyboardist for the band Sea Wolf. She is so talented and cool so I called her and asked if she would give Liv weekly lessons. How amazing that everything came aligned in just one week?! I have wanted a vintage piano since we bought our house but I was sure it would cost a fortune. Another concern was where the heck was it going to fit in our small space? The night before it was scheduled to arrive I shoved our bookcase into another spot, dispersed a few things throughout the house and moved some boxes of photos into our garage and… Voila, it fit like a glove!

I am so fortunate to have this lovely piano present itself into our lives!

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I played piano for two years as a child so I’m proficient but definitely rusty.

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Liv has a keyboard that she learned her scales on but I am hoping she will learn how to play songs from the Amelie soundtrack.

I did some research on our new piano and the brand is Hobart M. Cable which was founded in 1900 in Indiana. The company made upright pianos until the 1960s. The company was purchased by a Korean company in the 1990s so my piano has history.

I am guessing ours was made in 1951 based on photos I’ve seen of other Cable pianos with the same spindle legs as ours. I hope to find out our piano’s birthday and possibly more information when we have a professional come over to tune it. I resisted the urge to paint it yellow because of it’s age and the wood has grown on me in the last few days.

I’m thinking of christening her as Penelope the piano for no other reason other than I want to tell Olivia “Hey, go play Penny!”

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Olivia’s Big Kid Bedroom Makeover

The time has come for my bebe to graduate from a nursery to a kid’s room. It was weird to see her giant body cram into her toddler bed every night so we figured it was time to makeover her room. Plus her Yo Gabba Gabba toys were taking up too much space on the tiny bed.

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Let me keep it real, her room was overloaded with stuff! We cleared out a ton of old toys, clothes that no longer fit and clutter when we did our Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up weekend during the summer. Tip to any parents who may want to do the same, send your kids away so they can’t interfere with the clean up. Liv has been known to hoard birthday party favors (I call them junk toys) and dig them out of the recycle bin! I have bought baskets, bins and bookshelves to store Liv’s things and no matter how much I donate, her room still looks like a toy store exploded. The best piece of wisdom I read in the Tidying book was that the more storage solutions we purchase to control our stuff, the more clutter we create. If something is not useful or pretty, get rid of it. This is why I am planning to do less toy shopping next year (more on that soon!)

I asked my creative director hubby to lend his talents to help me visualize my design in a mood board. The theme was white and birch with a dash of pink. I was inspired by these Miffy-themed rooms I found on Pinterest. I was worried that the room was looking too beige and boring so I added more color in the accessories. I kept the glider because it’s my favorite place to sit and read her stories and it’s such a great chair. We also couldn’t part with the handmade mobile Antz made for her nursery, she’ll have it forever. It did break my heart to get rid of the kitchen (after only two years) but it was collecting dust and she didn’t play with it that often.

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Liv has been wanting bunk beds so she could have sleepovers. That was my main focus of the room. I wanted to find a bed that wasn’t made of metal and she could climb up without giving me a heart attack. I originally wanted to stick with the Oeuf brand and almost bought this Perch bunk bed but it was too large for her tiny room.

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I will definitely reconsider getting it when she’s a few years older and I finally get rid of the brown chair. Hopefully, I’ll have a larger house by then!

Her walls could use a new color. Gone is the orange/cream and brown nursery palette. As most little girls are, Liv is an avid fan of pink, so we found a princess pink (that wasn’t too obnoxious) for the majority of the room.

I love the black paint trend but since it’s a kid’s room we chose one wall for chalkboard paint so she can have some creative fun.

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I bought two Michael Sowa prints (from my fave movie) a few years ago. I intended to hang them in our bedroom but there isn’t enough wall space so they sat rolled up. I thought it would be cool to give Liv’s new room some new art so we searched for frames that were similar to the movie. We heard Aaron Bros was having a major Black Friday sale so we checked it out but they did not have a large selection of gold frames. We found one that was perfect for the Dog in Cone but I really wanted an old, ornate frame for the Fowl with Pearls.

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Luckily, I had a trick up my sleeve and his name is Antz. He is the master of finding treasures on the cheap. He searched all Thanksgiving weekend with no luck. Then he sent me a photo of the steal of the century.

IMG_7474The frame looked like he stole it directly from Amelie’s apartment and he only paid $12!! I spent more on the prints than the frames. Yay!

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So next was a trip to Ikea. I am always wary of their furniture because of their well-know reputation for not being the most sturdy. However, I was interested in the Kura bed because of it’s low height, versatility and popularity for Ikea hacks found on Pinterest. The price was so reasonable and I can style it so many different ways, I didn’t hesitate.

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Olivia approved

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Once again, I scored a great deal on Cyber Monday shopping on adorable bedding from Typo Shop. It was perfect timing since I now have to buy bedding in pairs for the bunk beds.

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Liv has began reading by herself so I wanted to create a nook for her to be comfy. We found a darling reading lamp at Ikea and I ordered a strand of Brightlab lights in peony pinks for a pop of color. I bought a book ledge from Land of Nod and it turned out so cute, now I wish I bought two.

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I had a terrible time finding the right rug. Antz was adamant about not getting anything too light and he wanted something soft that she could lay on. Yet my picks were either too expensive or made of scratchy material. I was excited to attend the Lulu & Georgia Pop Up shop in West Hollywood. I’ve been wanting their Elodie rug forever but even the sale price tag stings. $$$

I fell hard for the sweet pink Elodie rug and I was already headed to the cashier to buy it when I realized, it really was too expensive for a kid’s room and it was a high maintenance rug. I still want it for our bedroom but I had to be an adult and not throw a tantrum on the floor.

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Even though they had all my favorite things and lovely Eliza Gran baskets on sale, I left empty-handed. We are prioritizing our travel budget now so I needed to find something within our budget. Back to Ikea we went and picked out a reasonably priced neutral rug that I won’t feel terrible if it needs replacing at some point. Plus a sheepskin rug is the best solution for coziness.

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We bought a larger shelf unit for her books and hide her dress-up clothes and tea party dishes in baskets. The Kallax unit was a perfect fit on the chalkboard wall.

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Antz installed a floating shelf to display her My Little Pony and P.O.P. toy collection (which is getting out of hand, although I admit, I am guilty of adding new ones when I can’t resist the cuteness!)

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I tried to contain the kid’s avalanche of toys as best as I could. She does have some pretty awesome stuff though.

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She enforces a strict no no shoes policy in her new room. I am smitten with the pink cheeky Yeti & Friends monster who resides over her bed.

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The piece de resistance is this adorable petit biscuit pillow made by French designer Annabel Kern which plays music from Amelie!

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I must say, for such a small space this is a dreamy kid’s room. My husband deserves all the credit for making my concept come to life. He worked tirelessly to have the room finished so Liv could have her first sleepover this weekend. I have a few more finishing touches to work on (I’m waiting for the photo to be printed for the oval frame and I am searching everywhere for this Miffy cushion) but I am so pleased with the outcome. At the rate she’s growing, we’ll have to give her our bedroom soon!

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Our Taco Fiesta

Our last party at home was our bebe shower four years ago!! I have been wanting to have friends over for a BBQ before our trip. The more I planned, the more I got overwhelmed with the idea of cooking and then I remembered how great the food was at our friend’s party. So I called their caterer and was surprised at how affordable hiring a taco caterer was. I made fresh lemonade and cucumber spa water, put up some decorations and voila, our party was ready.

For the last few days I’ve been searching locally for peonies but I guess they are late this season so this morning I headed to the downtown flowermart. Bad idea, the day before Mother’s day is the worst time to be shopping for flowers. The roads were closed, traffic was at a stand still and this was at 8am! I lucked upon a parking spot and stepped over the dude sleeping on the sidewalk to walk the three blocks to the flowermart. I have never seen that place so crowded before. You would think they were giving away flowers but everything seemed to be double the price. Horrible tacky roses were everywhere. The good news was I found peonies, the bad news was the same bunch I would normally pay $6 from Trader Joe’s was now $20. Oh well, I shopped around and found a pretty bunch for $15 *all the pros know how to find the flowers at a discount* I fell in love with a bunch of mini daisies and was in and out in under a half an hour. 

New bedding makes me so happy *I love my Alexandra Ferguson pillow I received as a gift from Leslie*

Thank you Fancy!
A giant balloon and a giant Ban.do pouf are a girls best friend

Thank goodness the weather cooperated. It was sunny enough without being too hot. Everyone relaxed and ate tons of tacos.

I enjoyed myself so much I hardly took any photos, I did manage this shot of the peppers cooking, which no one was able to handle their hot.

Liv was a party animal
I bought my lemonade dispenser two years ago, so happy to finally use it
I made this banner out of scraps of fabric and Liv’s old baby clothes
Tomorrow I’ll take a better shot of my Oh Joy for Target vases
Chris just cannot keep his clothes on! Nice Cthulhu dude.
Veda stole the show with her adorableness

I tried my best to catch a Veda smile

Merci to Letty for taking care of all the cooking. Contact me for her number, she’s wonderful! Big hugs and kisses to all my lovely guests, your presence was a pleasure and I am so happy to have such rad people in my life. What a perfect way to start Mother’s Day.

*Special thanks to Kim for making the tastiest sangria, everyone loved it!

Great photos Ana!!

Change it Up!

My goodness, what a difference furniture placement can make in a room. For the past eight years we have kept the “dining room” side of our living room in a state of boring. We used the corners to stash things behind furniture we aren’t using everyday like bags of fabric, our broken Bose speakers *I don’t know whether to have them repaired or just buy new ones* and miscellaneous junk *Nintendo Wii accessories/bags of stuff we can’t decide to keep or donate and our vote for Obama 2008 sign too* We’ve had the same modular bookcase from Target sitting in the corner somewhat collecting dust. Our bar hasn’t really been used since our Halloween party ages ago. Well, this Saturday Liv and I went to dance class solo….pause for obligatory photos

 

Liv has two dance personas

So we could allow Antz to sleep in *he deserves it* When we came home I was so surprised!

 

 

 

My new fiddle fig leaf plant looks so awesome on the bookshelf
The room looked like this before
Yawn!

I’m so happy to have a new home for my beautiful record player. I am super stoked about my new craft space.

Being able to stare at my world map makes me so happy
Antz is so sweet, he put my clock on Paris time because he knows that’s where my heart is.

As for all the junk that was buried in the corners, it all got pushed into another corner!

Dirty little secret stash

We are pretty stumped for where to store this necessary junk. I would love to condense our filing cabinet into this pretty one.

TPS Pink file cabinet

Problem is, this guy is 27″ tall with caster wheels and it wouldn’t fit under any of our desks. If I took off the casters, it still would be such a tight squeeze that I wouldn’t be able to open the top drawer and I doubt all of our paperwork would fit in just one drawer. I’m still searching for the right solution. I am ready to get rid of that old, bulky printer for this slim version but Antz is feeling like, the one we have works and we still need to find a dedicated space for it. Where do most folks keep things like this? Don’t say under the bed or in a closet because our closets are ridiculously stuffed and our bed has storage drawers crammed with bedding and computer supplies.

Oh, I do love the room! I am feeling inspired to paint the walls white, bring in new curtains and finally get a dining table and chairs. We shall see…

2013: Looking Back

Days, weeks and years are really warp speed ever since Liv was born. It’s ridiculous how much fun we are having with this kid. Even her worst days are fantastic because she cuddles up to us and says “I’m sorry I was bad and says I love you Mommy and Daddy.

Feels like yesterday she was this small

When I hear that, I’m done. I love her so much I could die. I never knew love like this which makes me love so hard and appreciate every one else in my life so much more *Antz, My Mom, Maria, Debra, her Godparents: Aimee, Leslie & Stephen* They are so supportive of us and I feel forever indebted to my family for putting up with my annoying antics. Thank you for a terrific year guys!

*and now I’m in tears!*

Anyway…my point is, this has really been an awesome year. I didn’t get to blog as much as I would have liked due to ongoing technical issues but I would love being able to look back at the highlights of the year.

The best & raddest of 2013

I started off the new year with a list of non-resolutions

I was in full-steam ahead in kitchen planning mode

Liv went to her first birthday party of the year…

…which turned into going to a birthday party every single weekend for the entire year!

We took Liv to an open casting call for kid models at American Apparel.

Unfortunately, we didn’t hear any feedback but it was good experience

I had a delightful Valentine’s Day thanks to my lovely husband.

Almost three years later, I finally made a video of Olivia’s birth. *go ahead and click, there’s no gross parts*

Aimee & I dorked out on several occasions.

Our tribute to our dirty Uncle Terry

We celebrated our seven year house-anniversary and I gave an extensive tour of the house before we moved in.

Our living room the day we moved in
Our living room now

I dragged my engaged friend Jes to the wedding event, The Cream and we had a blast!   

I bitched, moaned and complained about our kitchen, A LOT!

I celebrated my 36th birthday in such an epic way, it was posted in one, two, three parts.

My new lovely friend Jihan
Her studio was fantastic
Jihan making the frill magic happen
My Geronimo birthday balloon
We partied at The Standard downtown LA
Antz beat me in a bed-jumping contest
My bestie came out to party
Rooftop photo shoot
Thank you Antz for making my birthday so much fun!!

Olivia booked her first modeling job with Misha Lulu at the beautiful Humphrey’s Estate

I met an amazing group of people.

The creator of Misha Lulu, Karen and her daughter/muse Bela are wonderful.
Here’s sweet Rubyellen of Cakies

After seven years of whining, I finally put my money where my mouth was and we began our kitchen renovation.

Our choice for wall paint and ceramic subway tile
It took ages to choose a wall paint color
Antz tried to remove the layers of paint himself, then we found the wonderful Rene
New copper plumbing happened *and a new fancy showerhead*
We got BRAND NEW floors!!

 I posted our kitchen remodel in one, two, three parts.

The kitchen before



 the kitchen during
This floor almost gave me a heart attack.
I still hug my dishwasher everyday
Our kitchen after
Our amazing contracter, Rene. I love our new lovely kitchen, what do you think?
For Mother’s day we took a crazy road trip to Salvation Mountain
A very weird but remarkable place
This child spazzed out over her Cinderella gown, she’s worn it everyday since

//player.vimeo.com/video/83003410 Olivia grows from sunkissis on Vimeo.

We celebrated Liv’s birthday at Disneyland.

Liv met her favorite Princess

Liv modeled for Geronimo Balloons!!

I saw my incredible Björk at the Hollywood Bowl!!

Our friends Tom & Jes got married *on our same beach in Malibu!*

Antz & I celebrated our eleventh year of marriage at the first annual Diner en Blanc in Beverly Hills with friends.

//player.vimeo.com/video/72957003 Diner en Blanc from sunkissis on Vimeo.

I did a thirty-day photo challenge.

I blogged my thousandth post!

Liv started her second year of preschool.

Liv also started a new ballet school and hip hop class!

Anna Maria is an amazing teacher and Liv loves going to dance class

My BFF Aimee got her dream car *it’s really super cute* Allegra!

She got the most beautiful tattoos with Liv’s name and my initials *I’m so touched and honored* I love you bestie!!

Liv and I were a part of the 100 portrait project by Marcello Ambritz.

My Mom made her big screen debut in the documentary Sample This. I’m so proud of her!

 Liv started soccer class. She’s a natural!

Our little kitchen was featured on The Kitchn!

I changed my blog’s blogspot address!

Grammy Bobbye taught drum class for Liv’s class

Liv vamped out for Halloween.

She really got into character, she loves being a vampire!

We went Trick or treating on spooky Carroll Avenue

The house where Thriller was filmed
We didn’t get murdered by the scariest Micheal Myers dude ever!

Liv made two major discoveries this year, Pippi Longstocking *she loves the 1970’s movies* my favorite as a kid!

This rad costume was a gift from my friend Aura and she borrowed her Dad’s shoes.

…and Michael Jackson. Thriller is seriously her jam!! *We are very proud of her awesome taste* The house on Carroll Avenue sparked her obsession with Thriller. She loves to watch the full-length video and she wants to be the werewolf “Michael” for Halloween next year. She’s totally not afraid and she says it’s just makeup Mommy.

I got a new car.

My Bestie is moving into my neighborhood!!! YAY!!

I co-hosted a RAD baby shower for my good friends Story & Chris *and made the best cheese platter and spa water ever*

We met Tunameltsmyheart and he really did!!

We went to Liv’s school Winter Solstice.



We took silly holiday photos at Poketo.

 GSyFQr on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs

We spent Christmas at the Palms Place in Vegas.

05eJC7 on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs

Photo

 Santa paid Olivia a visit.

I had a pretty fabulous year. The highlight of it would be this lady here.

Always laughing, eating her fingerberries

 And lastly, here’s a video of my favorite Instagram photos of 2013.

Thank you for stopping by Violently Happy. I wish you all a very stellar & Happy 2014!

P.S. I start my new ecourses in January! I’m hoping to post about my 2014 goals in a fancy way.