You bought a house…now what?

Welcome to the first house update! As you may have heard, we bought a little house on a little mountain in the Hudson Valley. It’s our little respite from the wilds of city life; and someday soon it will be the place where we get to relax and revel in the good life with friends and family. To kick it off, I thought I’d share our priorities in turning the house into a home!

Entertaining in New York City is hard: small spaces, no spare bedrooms, lack of a real table. I grew up in a house that was always open for guests (my mom is totally the hostest with the mostest), and Ryan is an incredible cook, so it’s very exciting for us to have a place where we can really host company. With hiking trails steps from the front door, a fireplace that begs you to snuggle up with a good book, and a back porch that’s the stuff of dreams, it’s a little retreat that we can’t wait to share with our loved ones.

Making the house a great place for company is one of our top priorities, so a lot of our decisions around furnishing keep that in mind. “How many people can you sleep and feed in a 760 sq. ft. house?” you ask. “At least six!” I say.

Another major consideration in making decisions about the house is, of course, design. We want the space to be cozy and inviting, to use the gorgeous landscape around as inspiration, but to feel more sophisticated than rustic. Too many qualifiers? Let’s throw another one in the mix. Ryan and I are both very opinionated, and don’t necessarily agree on everything (shocking – I know). I was a little worried we’d have a hard time settling on things that we both liked, but it’s been surprisingly easy! I’ll write more about how we’re team-selecting things in a future post.

Finally, I’m forced to face the reality that we don’t have a bottomless budget. Yup folks, we’re outfitting a house on a dime. (Ok, more than a dime, but less than a lot.) Luckily, the house was renovated fairly recently and is in great shape. We don’t have to shell out for any major renovations or repair, just a few small maintenance projects and cosmetic updates. Finding quality stuff at a decent price is one of my hobbies, so this has been fun! I’ll try to keep track of expenses and share as much as I can here in case anyone else out there is also looking to do some redesigning on the cheap.

Our first project – paramount to my happiness – was repainting the accent wall in the living room.

Red Orange Wall
Every color is flattering on Hektor, but…

Honestly, I don’t know what you’d call that color. Red-Orange? I totally appreciate the former owner’s bold vision, but it’s just not for me. When we first saw the house, Ryan and I were totally charmed – with the exception of that wall (and a truly offensive countertop that I will address another time). Throughout the protracted contracting process, I collected pins of beautiful walls and paint colors to pitch to Ryan. We landed on Gentleman’s Gray by Benjamin Moore months before we actually closed on the house.

Editor’s Note: Benjamin Moore has some pretty cool features on their website. I didn’t use them all, but found the ‘see color in room‘ option super helpful. Also, I was SO impressed with the paint. At our salesman’s suggestion, we used the Aura line in eggshell and I can testify that it is idiot-proof.

Because I am impatient and unprofessional, we didn’t bother to put samples up on the wall to make sure we liked it. (I am definitely one of those people who disregards the “use a small amount first to make sure you’re not allergic” warning on hair colors and skin creams.) We marched into the nearest paint store, asked the salesman what we needed and went to town…in the dark.

Aubrie paints
I totally know what I’m doing.

Now, I remember “helping” my parents paint my bedroom walls growing up, so I figured I knew what I was doing. My sincere apologies to my parents, because if I helped at all, it was a handful of rolls up and down a wall until I got bored. Pardon my French, but painting is such a pain in the ass you guys. Mostly the taping. I’m high on the clumsy spectrum, so I wanted to make sure we taped and covered everything. It looked ridiculous (Dexter would have been proud), and was SUCH A PAIN, but I’m glad we did it.

In spite of our inexperience and the many imperfections, it came out beautifully!

Wall in Gentleman's Gray

Later that weekend, Ryan caught me admiring photos of our handiwork while we caught up on some tv. I can’t help it – I’m so damn pleased. We took on our first project and nailed it (but like, don’t look too closely). Not only is the new color lovely, but it really makes the house feel like our house and not somebody else’s.

I’m a little bit in love.

 

 

Seasonal Clean Out with thredUP

I’ve written about my zeal for seasonal purging before, but I’m giving my autumn ritual a little technological upgrade this year!

Living in the New York City means minimal closet space, but it also means riding the subway with actual fashion models and designers everyday. Figuring out how to have a closet full of things that make you feel beautiful in the midst of all that glamour, and having enough room in your closet to store, say – the Christmas decorations, and your suitcases, and spare pillows for guests, and your scuba gear, and the last ten years’ tax records…you get it – can be a challenge. If I were (was? were? help me grammar police) a gajillionaire, I would a) get a bigger closet or b) buy nice new things everyday and then give them away when I was done. Alas, I am not.

Instead, I try to keep a closet of good staples that I love; regularly get rid of things I don’t love anymore; and find wonderful pieces at affordable prices to replace them. It’s not a perfect science, but it works. Thrift shopping is a fantastic way to find quality pieces for good prices (and it’s environmentally friendly!), but it takes so. much. time. You have to pour through options, visit different stores, really give yourself time to sort through all the stuff to find the goodies. It’s a fun activity with your girlfriends on a lazy Saturday, but not practical for most of us, most of the time. Enter thredUP!

thredUP is the creme de la creme of online thrift stores. They cover quality control, customer service, and cute packaging as well as any boutique retailer, but it’s thrifted! I’ve mentioned thredUP before, but this is the first time I’ve used their Clean Up kit. All you have to do is request a “clean up kit” and they’ll send you this cute bag where you stuff all your stuff. You can request a kit to consign your clothes (aka you make some money off of them) or you can opt to donate the proceeds of your items to charity. Right now, your kit can benefit Hurricane Harvey Relief through the Houston Food Bank. (I’ll keep an eye and alert y’all on social media if any other relief charities pop up. It’s been a brutal month for natural disasters and tragedies, and there are so many places that need help right now!)

Aubrie packs a bag for thredUP

I packed up the things that don’t belong in my closet anymore (but could look great in someone else’s), popped them in the bag thredUP sent me (complete with shipping label), and voila! My clothes are on their way to a better life (hopefully in a roomier closet), and I didn’t even have to schlep to Goodwill. I highly recommend trying it out next time you clean out your closet.

temporary

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I also did a little shopping when I ordered my clean up kit. If it ever gets cold this year, I’ve got two gorgeous wool skirts that I picked up secondhand for next to nothing!

Are you a thrifter? Want to start? Online shopping + thrift shopping = great, convenient deals!

New adventures online and off!

While it still feels like summer here in New York, autumn is officially upon us. With new seasons come new adventures, and this year, I’ve got a few big ones planned!

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you know we closed on a new house last weekend. Ryan and I have been thinking, talking and planning to buy a weekend house for months, so even though the announcement is new, it’s been a long time coming. We’re so excited this little place is finally ours!

Drunk on Opportunity - New Mountain House

Side view of our new mountain house

I don’t know if it officially qualifies as a “tiny house,” but it is the most darling little house. I can’t wait to make it a little home! We’re completely starting from scratch, and I’ll try to document the process every step of the way. Look forward to some house-focused posts here. I’ll cover everything from designing the place to figuring out how to keep ticks off the puggle (ahh nature).

We totally slept on the floor the first night. We reallllllly need to get a bed. Also, please excuse the pile of destroyed tennis ball. Hektor is an artist of destruction.

Sleeping on the floor at our new house

In addition, I am delighted to announce a new series here on the blog: The Keeping it Real Panel. Each month, you’ll get to hear from a panel of experts (aka real people) about the things no one wants to get real about on the internet. We’ll answer the tough questions that the rest of the web won’t get honest about like:

How often do you actually wash your sheets?

Have you ever gotten booze-y and gone on an online shopping spree? What did you buy?

How many times have you had cereal/popcorn/wine for dinner in the past week?

(Drunk on Opportunity, where we ask the hard-hitting questions.)

It should be fun! There are a bunch of awesome experts who will be weighing in. I’m looking forward to introducing them to you all, and to introduce a little dose of reality to the world of lifestyle blogging and social media. Yea, it’s impressive when we post pictures of those gorgeous gourmet meals we made with Blue Apron, but let’s not pretend we all eat that way the other 6 nights of the week. Right?

I’m jazzed about what’s coming down the pike for this little blog, so thanks for following along. I hope you’ll have some fun with us in the coming months!

Our trip to Spain

If you’ve interacted with me in any way shape or form over the past six months, you probably know I went to Spain this summer. My apologies to everyone who is tired of hearing about it, but it was such a treat for me. For starters, it’s the first time I’ve taken two weeks off of work since I started my career. (Don’t be like me – take more vacation!) On top of that, Spain was a place that Ryan and I both really wanted to visit, so we put a lot of thought and planning into making sure we could really disconnect and enjoy the journey. Enjoy, we did!

While I’d love to tell you every amazing thing about all the incredible places we visited, I know I’d bore your socks off. Instead, I’ve rounded up a few highlights – some less-touristy gems + the touristy things that are 100% worth the crowds – that I recommend if you’re headed to the Iberian Peninsula. I’ve also been experimenting with mediums lately and crafted a little “movie” (it’s a slideshow with music) with photos from our trip. If you’ve got a few extra minutes and want to enjoy some scenic shots with a little Spanish guitar, give it a look! (Full disclosure – it’s not Oscar-worthy.

The International Mass at La Sagrada Familia was a truly moving experience for me. It was such a gift to 1) experience the basilica for the purpose that the artist intended (Gaudi was pretty devout) and 2) attend a multi-lingual Mass. La Sagrada Familia is one of the most breathtaking places I have ever been. On a Sunday morning the place is bathed in this warm green glow, and you feel like you’ve walked into a mythical forest that might actually be closer to God than the world outside.

While all of the Barcelona neighborhoods in the guidebooks are lovely, for us, the Gracia neighborhood took the cake. Down the hill from Park Guell, the Gracia neighborhood has plenty to see and do, without all the price-hiking and crowds that come with the more touristy neighborhoods. We had a delicious relaxing lunch HERE and just loved meandering around.

Road-tripping across Spain was a FANTASTIC idea. For starters, the roads in Spain are spectacular. There are a couple of kinds of highways: Autopistas and autovias. Wikipedia offers a pretty comprehensive synopsis of the differences, but let me sum it up for you. Autopistas are luxury highways. They are niiiiiiiice: flying in first class, nice. But don’t think for a second that ish is free. They are EXPENSIVE (like $100 in tolls in one day expensive). Autovias are a range of things from a) regular highways to z) country roads that have tractors on them. Autovias are free.

The weather was particularly dicey (intermittent driving rain and fog) when we drove from Barcelona to Cartegena, so we took the Autopista Mediterraneo (or AP7). It was pricey, but worth every penny. We hopped on a parallel autovia for a bit, and it was packed with 18 wheelers and far less scenic. For the rest of our trek – Cartegena to Granada; Granada to Ronda; Ronda to Carmona, Carmona to Seville – we drove the autovias and they were awesome. The A92 across Andalucia is a particularly amazing drive, and frankly was one of my favorite parts of the trip. The scenery is epic.

Cartagena is a less visited city on the Mediterranean coast, and it totally charmed us. The Roman Theater felt like an ancestral home to the soul of this theater kid. The Museo Nacional de Arqueologia Subacuatica (National Museum of Underwater Archeology) was a really unique experience. As history nerds with SCUBA certifications, Ryan and I were fascinated!

The Alhambra in Granada is not to be missed (buy tickets online in advance)! It is spectacular; and in spite of being one of the most visited destinations in the world, it doesn’t feel like a tourist trap. I definitely didn’t feel like we had enough time in Granada, so we will have to go back.

Ronda is gorgeous and so worth a visit. We were there during Feria De Pedro Romero (also known as Feria Goyesca). No, we did not go to the bullfight, but it was delightful to see everyone in their Goyesque finest.

By the way, modern Spanish women were using fans everywhere we went. I am all about bringing this useful accessory to New York City summers.

Espinaca con garbonzo, estilo de Carmona is my absolute new favorite dish.

Seville is a charmer. Perhaps because it was at the end of our trip, and because the weather was perfect, and because the recommendations we got were the BEST, but Seville completely stole my heart. The people, the culture, the history, the architecture, the friendly bus system – I am hooked. I definitely want to go back. The Alcazar is lovely (and again, buy in advance online and skip the massive line outside….we bought ours day-of while looking at the line, and then sauntered right on in). Go see flamenco. Go to Triana to buy ceramics. Try not to get locked in the parks when they close them at 11pm. Take siestas. Hang out. Talk to the locals. Go to Bar Julio. Fall in love with Seville.

 

Aubrie and Ryan in Seville

In short, the trip was phenomenal. There were definitely some moments that tested our nerves (like that time we got trapped in a parking garage), but on the whole it was a magical, enriching experience that only made me hungry for more Spain!

How to pack for a two week vacay without checking a bag

I just went on a two week vacation with a single carry-on suitcase. Here are my tips for packing smart!

It’s taken me a week, but I’m finally back in the swing of things post-vacation. To everyone who’s asked, Spain was amazing! It was a really phenomenal trip and I promise to put together some photos and share our favorite experiences soon. Until I get those proverbial ducks in a row, I’m excited to share some packing tips with you.

To set the stage: I am not a light packer. I insist upon packing running clothes and sneakers anytime I’ll be gone more than one night. I get cold easily, so even when I’m going to Florida in July I pack a sweatshirt or a jacket. Most importantly, I feel very strongly about having the right shoes for the right occasion, so I refuse to travel with just one pair. Because I am convinced the airlines have a vast conspiracy of flight bumping and luggage mishandling designed to strand me in a new city with nothing to wear, in spite of my long list of “must-haves,” I never travel with more than a carry on. Which means I went on a two-week trip with a single suitcase. Here are my tips for packing smart.

A good carry on is a MUST
My parents got my a luggage set years ago, and it was one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. The larger suitcases have facilitated my many moves; provided storage in one too many tiny NYC apartments; and carried my entire world when I studied abroad. The carry on has been my vacation/work travel/long weekend accomplice for more than a decade. Whenever I attempt to travel without it (for example, heading home for the holidays), I end up packing multiple smaller bags and making a mess. Invest in a good carry on and commit to it.

Master Packer AF

Lay it all out
Embracing outfit permutations is the name of the game for travel; however, most of us need a visual to see what will and won’t work. I lay out everything I’m thinking of packing and decide what fits. If a piece of clothing doesn’t work for multiple outfits, it doesn’t go.

Packing Smart

Don’t forget your travel day
You have to wear clothes and shoes through the airport, so you might as well make sure they fit in with everything else you’re packing. Lie that outfit out with everything else! This is also an opportunity to save space on bulkier shoes. Wearing my sneakers on travel day meant I didn’t have to make space for them in my suitcase.

travel kicks

Ziploc is not just for brown bag lunches
Take yourself over to Bed Bath & Beyond or Harmon Face Values and pick up some Ziploc Travel Bags. These will change your life. Not only do they save space, they help keep your suitcase organized, and protect clothes from the bottoms of shoes and any leaky toiletries. I also use standard quart sized ziploc bags for things like undies, bras, socks, etc.

Ziploc Space Bag

Keep your toiletries in your “personal item”
You have to take your liquids out at security anyway, so I keep my toiletries in my backpack or purse instead of my suitcase. It makes getting through security less of a hassle, and I have access to my contact solution, moisturizer, etc under my seat during the flight.

Packing Smart Step 2

Do laundry while traveling
Since we were going to be gone so long, I made sure to book at least one Airbnb with a washing machine during our trip. It was a huge help. However, we ended up needing to do laundry before we got to that stop, so we threw a bunch of the Tide travel packs my parents gave us into the hotel bathtub and got old school. It was a little ridiculous, but it worked, and we had a pretty good laugh looking at all our clothes hung to dry all over the room.

 

I wore or used everything I packed at least once and never felt like I needed something I had left behind. Getting through airports and train stations, to and from rental car companies, in and out of hotels, cabs and public transportation was no sweat. When we landed back in New York and sped through customs with Global Entry, we didn’t have to sit around and wait for checked luggage to come through. It was luxurious.

I know that it’s very different if you travel with kids or older adults, but if you can swing it, I’m a firm advocate for the carry on only. Buen viaje!

Aubrie in Castille