Thursday, August 29, 2013

Half Marathon - Quickly Approaching!!!

I have one month until I run my second half marathon.  I can't believe that it's coming up so quickly and when I look at my calendar, I am going to be so busy with the start of school that it's probably going to really sneak up on me!

Fort 4 Fitness
I'm running the Fort for Fitness Half Marathon in Fort Wayne.  I chose this race for a few reasons...

  • My parents live there and I have a free place to stay!!
  • The course is fairly flat
  • You finish in the minor league baseball stadium downtown - I love sport facilities!!!
It's been a little over 2 years since my first half and I have 2 main goals for my second

Improve my race time - a little over a year ago (May 2012), I ran the Indy Mini Marathon, and I ran it in 2:18:18 (that's 10:34 pace) and I'm really hoping to do better this time around.  I am not setting a specific goal for myself beyond that, but I'm thinking about running with the 9:55 pace group, which would mean I'd finish in 2:10:00 and that would be a pretty awesome improvement!!

Keep running when I'm done - after my last half, I told myself I was going to take a couple of weeks off.  WELLLL, that turned in to about 11 months off and it took me signing up for this race and having J create a training plan for me that got me started again.  I don't know if it's going to take me running more races or just having a "training plan" that includes running and lifting days to keep me organized and on top of things, but I really hope I can take a couple weeks off after the half and then keep running/training.

I only have 12 training runs left before the half... I only run 3 times a week for the sake of my joints and muscles, and here's what I have left...

I got myself some new shoes a few weeks ago and I'm loving them...

Mizuno Women's Wave Inspire 9 Running Shoe - Dick's Sporting Goods

And because my calves and ankles have been my problem areas lately, I'm planning to order these before the race - hopefully it's cool enough out on September 28 to wear them without being miserable..

Half Marathon lower leg savers...

I just can't decide which color I like better... suggestions welcomed!!!

30 more days & 12 more runs before (hopefully) my most recent goal is achieved.  I found this and it pretty much sums up...
Just keep swimming

Monday, August 26, 2013

ONE WEEK until the start of school!!!

Schools in Michgan don't start until after Labor Day, which is awesome for me as I see all of my friends already heading back to school and being immersed into Welcome Week events and I have one more week to try and create some sort of organization in my life!

I have one more week to get this ready...

By the time this week is over, this calendar will be full of the fall semester events that my students have going on.  For the first time in a couple years, I'm feeling more excitement than dread for the start of the school year.  I haven't felt dread because the students were returning - I just dreaded the first few weeks of school and all of the crappy repetitive stuff that came with it.  My new job is a lot different and it's going to be an exciting opportunity to get to know the students I'll be working with all year.

For those of you who have already started the world of Fall semester - hope it's started off with a bang!!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Selling a House - What We Wish We Would Have Known

We OFFICIALLY closed on our house yesterday (HOORAY!!!), and we have had a lot of really important insights that we wish we would have known as a first time home seller, so I thought I'd share them and hope they help someone else!
Do your research ahead of time
  • Know what the market is like in your are
  • Look for comparable houses - see what's available in your house size as well as in the same schools (these can be separate - if you are the only 4 bedroom house in your school district, that's a big deal)
  • Look at the finishings in those houses to see how yours compares - if your house is more move in ready and needs less updating, that's a reason it should be listed for more
  • Know what you think your house should be listed at and see if your realtors' market value is similar - this should be a factor when deciding which realtor you want to work with
Interview multiple realtors
Just because you like the first realtor you meet doesn't mean you should stop there.  Talk to a couple of others and if you still love the first, it should just confirm to you that they are your best choice!  Once you have chosen, be ready to give reasons to the others that you did not select - they will ask and it's nice if you can give them something meaningful.

Ask who you'll REALLY be working with
When you are interviewing realtors, you are going to get to know the person whose face will be representing your house - that doesn't mean that you'll have much access to them, or that they will actually be doing most of the work.  Ask them who schedules their appointments, who draws up their paperwork, and who answers the phones.

After the interview, our realtor was the person who contacted us about 10% of the time - the others in the office were the ones we had contact with 90% of them time, and we didn't get to meet them ahead of time.

Don't accept contingencies
Unless of course you have all the time in the world!

We were supposed to close on July 26 because that's when our buyers were supposed to close on their house.  It's now almost a month later and their house buyer's loan has still not been signed off on by the USDA - don't even get me started on the USDA writing home loans.

Next time, we will not accept a closing contingent on another closing - we will set a date and after that date, there will be a charge for every additional day that goes by that we haven't closed.

Know how offers and counter offers work
If you get an offer on your house, and you want to counter, you have to be sure EVERYTHING written down - if you are removing something from your counter, you have to put it in writing - an example:

$100,000 purchase price
$3,000 in Closing Costs
$500 for a home warranty

If you want to counter at a price of $105,000 and you don't want to pay closing costs, you can't just counter with this...

Purchase price $105,000

You also have to say Seller will not pay closing costs.  If you don't wan to make any changes to the home warranty, then you don't have to mention that.

We had a situation like this, and we didn't know that our realtor's office had screwed up our counter, but they did and we were FURIOUS - as first time sellers, we didn't know how that worked and we almost got screwed by it (we also almost fired our realtor because that's their job and you should be able to trust that they are doing it right)

Don't show your hand
Your realtor doesn't need to know what your bottom line is, so don't share it with them.  Yes - you should know in advance what you'd like to make on your house and where you're willing to give, but that doesn't mean you need to share that information.  Realtors want to make a sale because they want their commission - that's their job - so giving that information to them could make them push you to make a deal that you don't really want to make because they are trying to seal the deal.

Selling a house is stressful - most people are on a timeline when doing so, so be prepared when choosing your realtor, listing your house and going through the process.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Back Yard

This is what our deck looked like before Jason took a weekend and redid it...

The wood was warped and had not been taken care of and it was dangerous because people would trip over the warped wood.  There was a weird trellis that had the vines from HELL growing on it and I hated both of them!  Jason and I love entertaining and we had a great outdoor space, so we knew we wanted to make it more entertaining friendly...

First step - a fire pit.  Jason took one afternoon to put this in and it got TONS of use!  We loved having people over to sit around a fire at night - BYOB and a snack to share and it was a party!

The other thing Jason put a lot of hard work in to was the deck.  We had some great friends who came over and helped and a majority of the deck was done in one day.  As you can tell, the footings of the deck were still usable, as was the underneath structure - so we really just needed to replace the boards on the top and the railing.  We had 2 sets of stairs and the second set was not really necessary, so we closed one off and created a great space for the grill.

Again, we didn't have time to really enjoy the deck and we didn't ever really get outdoor furniture, but it was so great to walk outside and see the work Jason did - he did a great job!

Monday, August 19, 2013


I talked previously about the plans for our kitchen renovation - well, we were able to do everything we wanted and we put a lot of time and money into the kitchen that we really didn't get to enjoy for long, unfortunately.  I am confident, though, that it really set our house apart once we put it on the market.

This is what the house looked like when we bought the house:

I didn't like the yellow, the peel and stick tiles were coming up because the didn't have any blinds on the back door, the appliances didn't match (and when I opened the dishwasher, the smell made me gag) and there was a big space at the end of the wall of cabinets that was not really functional for anything.

SO, as soon as we moved in, we painted the walls green and when we went to Best Buy to purchase a microwave and to just look at dishwashers, we ended up walking out with a whole kitchen of stainless steel appliances - by far my favorite home improvement that we did!!

After that, we started planning and trying to decide what else we wanted to do in the kitchen.  We knew the floor was a need.  We considered the counters and a solution for the open space at the end of the cabinets to be a want, and the cabinets to be a dream - a dream that we decided wasn't worth the work.

We did do a lot of work on the other aspects, though, and I think it turned out great!
New floor and counter top & stainless appliances
Solid surface counters with sink built in
Large pantry on left pushed down to fill gap at the end of
the cabinets.  Wine cabinet and recipe book cabinet added above;
double cabinet added below
Pull out trash added to bottom cabinet
Allen + Roth Antiquity Counter Tops from Lowe's

Tanned Brown Ceramic Floor Tiles
I would have loved to change the cabinet color - I love white/off white cabinets and being able to make that change would have made me REALLY love my kitchen - I guess it also would have made it much harder to leave it behind  :)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Master Bedroom & Bathroom

When we bought our house, we had our choices down to two great houses.  One of the things that really sold us on the one we chose was the master bedroom and closet.  It was a huge room that had great closet space and ended up being a great room with a little work...

You can't really tell from this photo how large the room is - its dimensions are 16 x 13 so we had plenty of space for furniture without it feeling at all cramped.  They had two sets of blinds on the window because it was really wide - it made the window look like a mess.  They also had their TV in the corner by the closet so there were wires running over the closet door - I hate when you can see wires.

Since the master is upstairs, it got new carpet like all the other rooms.  It also got new paint... I loved the paint color in our room - it was relaxing and really pulled everything in the room together.  

Excuse the mess - we were on our way out of town, but wanted
to show J's family pictures of the new house  :)

One thing I didn't love about our house was the master bathroom.  It was nice to have the en suite, but it was a really small bathroom with only one sink.  It was adequate, though, and we never really had problems begin in each others way.  

  • This room also got painted - the same color as the twin room.  
  • Jason replaced the light fixture and framed the mirror - we actually tried to replace the mirror, but it was huge and couldn't find anything we liked that would fill the space properly.  
  • It grossed me out to have a towel bar over the toilet (wet towel + toilet = GERMS) so we took that down and got over the door hooks instead.
  • Right before we put the house on the market, we put the same vinyl tile in here that we put in the guest bath and it made a HUGE difference!  

This is actually a really good place to see what we did to the door knobs in the house, too - Jason spray painted all of them with oil rubbed bronze spray paint.  I just LOVE how it turned out and it held up really well - I found the idea on Pinterest  :)

Had we stayed longer, I probably would have made some additional changes to the bathroom, but overall, it was a great little space and it was a great "first master" for us!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Guest Rooms

We had a 4 bedroom house - not because we needed the space, but because we originally we thought it would be a great chance to grow in to the house.  One of the rooms was over the garage, and ultimately it was a bonus room - which ultimately left us with two guest rooms.

This is what those rooms looked like when we moved in... again - sorry for the poor quality.

The first two things we did when we got into the house is replace all the carpet upstairs and paint just about every wall in the house.  I use the term "we" loosely because it was really Jason who did 98% of the work.  We also painted all the trim in the house white to really make the colors pop.

In the room that was the office, we created what we thought would eventually be a nursery, so although it was slightly larger than the other guest room, we put a twin bed in there.  

We purchased blinds for all the windows and put up some white heat reducing curtains, because the window faced south and got afternoon sun.  There were some other things that I wanted to do with this room, but never got around to it.  

One of those things would have been to make a really awesome, long shelf like this one:
EASY DIY Entryway Shelf with Hooks from

The shelf would have gone on the long wall that's to the left of the dresser.  Overall, the room was cute and comfortable and it had a handful of visitors who stayed there!

Our other guest room ended up being much more finished - it was also the room that most of our guests stayed in.  For only being there for 2 years, I'd say we had a good number of guests come visit - mostly family, but we hosted some great holidays at this house!

The wall on the left in this picture is the same color as the twin room.  I wanted an accent wall in this room and I was not disappointed by how it turned out.  I loved the colors of this room and it felt warm and comfortable.  One thing you cannot see in this photo is the great armoire that we got from my aunt.  It is a beautiful dark wood piece that is about 4' tall and was originally a TV cabinet.  It was a great place to store all the bed linens!

I love creating spaces the guests walk in to and feel at home - I can't wait to have a place for visitors again!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Dining Room

We are only a few days away from officially closing on our house - it's been kind of a long road, but overall I'd say we have been pretty lucky with the quick process that we've been through.  Before I officially say goodbye to the house, I want to share some of the improvements/changes we made to the house during the two years that we owned it... starting with the dining room:

I'd say my decorating style lends to clean lines and timeless furniture and fixtures, but things that also make a space feel like home.  For some reason, I am not a fan of yellow - I don't mind gold accents, but it's always been my preference to avoid yellow as a main color in my apartments/houses.  This is what our dining room looked like originally (this is with the previous owners' furniture and sorry for the poor pictures... I didn't anticipate needing better ones):

The dining room was one of the first rooms completed - some minor updates made a huge difference:
  • Remove the border and new paint (a light green with grey undertones)
  • Remove the curtains and get 3" faux wood blinds
  • Change the fixture - purchased from Lowe's

Issue: there was a large passthrough between the livingroom and the dining room, but the wind was not centered on that passthrough - this creates problems for me, who likes symetry, and makes the chandelier and the table look weird. 

Solution: NONE - gotta live with it  :)

My aunt gave us the dining room table and the hutch that you can barely see on the left side of the photo.  The chairs are from Steinmart and I am pretty sure we got them for around $60 a piece, which is way less than I found dining chairs for anywhere else!  The chairs are similar to this (with dark legs)...

Dining Chair Oak Legs by GJC Furniture Newstead Stoke on Trent. Dark Brown Faux leather covers. Stylish & modern would suit any dining room with great design and quality feel.

I love the light fixture and I considered taking it with us when we left, but it was not expensive enough for the worry of taking it down and having to put something else up.  Here's a better shot of the chandelier.

Bel Air Lighting 8-Light Modern Meets Traditional Oil-Rubbed Bronze Chandelier

The changes to this room were minor, but it felt like it made a large impact and we hosted Thanksgiving, 2 Easters and a bunch of other random get togethers that this room created a great setting for - fun, family and great conversations!!

Friday, August 09, 2013

Doors of Greece

I love museums and I love seeing great scenery when I travel, but I tend to be really taken by something more unusual - like food, or architecture... in Greece it was the doors!  So much of the architecture there is the typical white washed material that you see in movies, and it's beautiful, but I found so many unique doors as we walked around the islands, that I was just taken by them and started photographing them.  I am planning to make a "Doors of Greece" poster - inspired by this poster that I've seen in New Orleans...


So, here are some of my favorite photos of the doors of Greece -  

The last one might be my favorite photo of my whole trip... 

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Greece: Crete & Santorini

After a night on the ship, our next stop was Crete.  We were only there from 7:30 am-11:30 am, which was definitely not enough time - especially since we slept until 9:00 am.  It was also kind of an icky day, so although we did leave the ship and walk a little ways in to town, we didn't get to see much of Crete.

Crete - on an icky day   :(
From there, we set sail for Santorini - the island that we were all looking forward to the most, and it did not disappoint!!  When we got there, we were scheduled for a tour - our tour took us up to the highest point on the island as well as around the island with stops in two small villages.  It was a really great tour and we got to see a ton of really cool things!

View from the highest point

The first place we stopped was Oia (pronounced ee-yuh)Village.  It was beautiful!  I took SO many pictures on this island and there are so many that I loved!  We stopped in to a beautiful Greek Orthodox Church before we started through the villages small walkways...

As we walked through the village, there was beauty every where you looked - between the white washed houses and the beautiful blue water, it was such an amazing place to just walk and look around.

This little book store was so whimsical - I took this pic because
I knew my cousin would absolutely love it.

On the bookstore wall

After a little while in Oia, the bus took us back to Fira, which is on the same side of the island as the port, but WAY above it.  This was our last stop and we had a little over an hour to enjoy a wine bar with a great view and even better wine - and of course, our last chance for some great Greek food.

Wine, Saganaki, Pita, Tzatziki and a view
I also got to FaceTime with J while we were here

View from the wine bar

A little dessert wine - on the house

If I lived in Greece, I would drink wine EVERY DAY - it is by far the best wine I've ever had and I didn't try any of their wine that I didn't like... it is so smooth, but also has so much flavor, especially Santorini grapes.

To get back to the train, we took the cable car from the top of the island (Fira) down to the port...

We had to get on smaller boats to take us back to the ship, and I could not sum up our time in Santorini any better than this...

It was a great last day - I would go back to Mykonos or Santorini in a heart beat.  We finished our last evening on the ship by having dinner with a Turkish family - a husband and wife who were both engineers and their two kids, a 14 year old a the cutest 6 year old ever.  They were so friendly and we talked and laughed and it was a great "last night".

We packed and got our suitcases out before midnight so they could take them, and we had an early breakfast and then went to the airport.  We were REALLY early for our flight so we had a good amount of time in Athens to kill... I would not recommend spending too much there - it's pretty boring.

We had a really nice flight back - pretty good food, and more great movies!  On the way back to the states, you're supposed to stay awake to get on US time... it was much easier when I was watching movies.  We got delayed at JFK, but finally made it back to Chicago about 24-hours after we had gotten up to leave from Greece.  It was a really long day, but I took a shower and slept great in our hotel and felt back to normal the next day!  It was a trip of a lifetime!!