Tuesday, June 13, 2017

We Bought a House!

When I say that this purchase was the culmination of all my hopes and dreams, I am only mildly exaggerating. Welcome to Gray Barns.

 It has everything we could have asked for in a place: a name and some history, plenty of space for entertaining inside and out, and an in-law apartment we can rent out for a little extra money. Getting here felt like it took ages, because I have dreamed of owning a home since I was a little girl touring the Newport mansions and because started saving for a house down payment in 2010, long before I had any idea where that home would be.

But then, like all good things I suppose, it happened so quickly my head was spinning, and on May 19th, we closed and embarked on what's probably the biggest project either of us has ever taken on. We're fixing her up slowly, slowly, and documenting the process (along with some of the fun artifacts we're finding along the way, on Instagram.

It will take years until everything is really finished, but we're excited for the journey and to customize everything just so. Because of this, I wasn't really able to feel like we actually live here, and like we're not just staying for a while until something else comes along. But driving home last night, listening to the Beatles and looking out over the country roads I now drive everyday, something clicked and I'm feeling really at peace with things. It's a good feeling.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Gratituesday: Tennis

A coworker invited me to take a tennis class with her a few months ago, and the lessons started last night. I remembered how much I loved taking tennis at Coles (RIP, Coles. You were so beloved.), but of course I got all anxious ahead of the class and convinced myself I would hate it. Happily, I loved it just as much as I did in New York. It was such a tremendous joy.

My wrists are a little sore from it (although to be fair, my right wrist has been acting up lately anyway), and I can definitely feel that my form isn't as good as it was in 2015, but it felt much more natural to me starting than it did back then. It's also a little more expensive here, but my hope is that the little group I'm playing with can take what we're learning in the lessons and perhaps take it up ourselves at a public court one day soon.

It was also a little surreal to walk around the fitness center where the lessons are run. It reminded me so much of the first gym I ever belonged to, Club Fit, which was fancy enough to smell good and have a little cafe where I would eat veggie burgers with Shelby and her mom. I did not realize, then, how fancy this gym was. In fact, I kind of forgot how fancy it was as I went to increasingly less fancy gyms, starting with the Sarah Lawrence gym, moving on to to New York Sports Club during their decline, and finally ending up at Coles, which had a pool and tennis courts but no climate control and a terrible smell of mold and body odor.

I didn't realize what a privilege it was to have had a membership there, to have had parents picking up my tab and wanting only the best for me, a chunky teen just learning for the first time to portion control and use a weight machine. There was so much I took for granted in my childhood. There is still so much I take for granted every day. Walking around the pleasant-smelling River Valley Club, I was reminded of home in so many ways.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Weekend Wanderings: Whoopie Pies at King Arthur Flour

This weekend, R. and I went to King Arthur Flour to take a class on whoopie pies! It was my Valentine's Day gift this year, and we had such a wonderful time. It was one of the most fun things we've done in a while.

The class was three hours long, and we made two different types of whoopie pie: Classic Chocolate Whoopie Pies and Mini Coconut Whoopie Pies with Lime and Raspberry Filling. Both turned out really delicious, but the classic chocolate was the clear winner! The class moved pretty quickly, with the instructor showing us how to do each recipe before setting us free to try it on our own.

She showed us how to measure ingredients by weight instead of volume, which I'd never done before. Measuring baking ingredients by volume instead of weight can really affect your final outcome. For example, measuring flour by volume can lead to a difference of 20% depending on how you do it. Using a scale for your measurements also makes things go much faster. You can bet we registered for one! (And of course the stand-up mixture was always on our list. And a few other King Arthur items. πŸ˜€)

Overall, the class was a ton of fun, and R and I loved collaborating on the baking. We ended up with 15 big whoopie pies and 15 small ones between us, so obviously my coworkers enjoyed a bunch on Monday. We had such a blast that I would 100% recommend taking a class to anyone visiting the area. You can check out the schedule here, and I'd recommend booking early because they usually sell out. Most classes are between $75 and $150, and in addition to being loaded up with new skills, great tips, and lots of baked goods, you also get a free coffee, a 10% coupon to the store, and a bowl scraper.

I can't wait to take another one soon!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Wedding Wednesday: The Registry

I'm no stranger to registries. I've had an Amazon wishlist for almost a decade, and I love getting and receiving gifts. Plus, I've been buying gifts off of registries for many years, and have always enjoyed finding something personal for a couple I love while still knowing it's exactly what they want.

Because of this, you might think—as I did—that it would be simple to put together our own gift registry. And, in some ways, it has been. For example, I know immediately that although we have survived as a couple for the last 6 years without fine china or a stand-up mixer and our home has not felt exactly empty (especially, ahem, the particularly small home we currently occupy), we would register for gifts instead of doing a honeyfund or trying to raise money for our down payment. I love the idea of using items either everyday or at key moments in our lives and remembering the person who gave them to us.

Lauren was incredible and bought us our very first gift, a crystal cake platter that I cannot wait to use at birthdays and other celebrations for the rest of our lives. The idea of cutting our child's first birthday cake on the same cake stand and with the same cake knife as we do our wedding cake is simply too sweet and full-circley for me to even deal with, and I know that when we do, we'll remember getting our first gift from a dear friend I've only ever met once, because we were brought together by the magic of the internet. Swoon!

Most of the items we knew we'd want: a really sweet set of knives, new camping equipment for our new lives in Vermont, games that friends regularly transport to our house from other states (so they have one less thing to carry, of course!). And I knew we wanted to register at Amazon, so we could put all sorts of things from different companies on it (because registering at LL Bean and REI and Crate and Barrel and and and ... seemed excessive), as well as a physical store for folks who don't love the internet, and Macy's seemed as ubiquitous as any, with a nice selection of items.

But, in case you don't know us very well, R. and I spend a lot of time researching and thinking and considering before we make purchases, which, to be frank, isn't super often. Researching all these different items, while also having it in the back of my mind that these have to be the pieces we will use for the rest of our lives has been pretty intense. It's also why a few key items are missing from our lists: I can't buy china without holding it in my hands first, and the pattern we want (Wedgewood's Nantucket Basket) isn't available in person at Macy's, so we're considering ordering a place setting ourselves to see if we like it before going whole hog.

So, in case you're also registering for gifts, here are a couple resources I found helpful:
I also checked many items on The Sweethome, which is a great resource for learning everything from what the best cast-iron pan is to what kind of vacuum you really need, and Good Housekeeping, which has never led me astray, helping me to pick out my incredible handmixer, food processor, and favorite tomato sauce. If GH gives its seal of approval, it's as trustworthy as a Royal Warrant to me. (Maybe even more so, though I do love my Hunter boots and Barbour jacket.)

What was the best thing you registered for? Anything you now wish you hadn't included on your registry?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Wedding Wednesday: Answers from Married People

Thank you so much to everyone who responded to my marriage survey last week! I loved reading every single answer, and we got a ton of great advice (and learned some things about our friends and family that we didn't know already). If you haven't already taken the survey but want to impart some loving advice for us as a couple and tell your story, please go ahead and take it now!

We had answers from 21 people, including two couples where both partners responded. We had answers from couples married in every decade from the 1970s to today, and the most popular years to have been married were 2011 and 2012, with three people getting married in each of those years. Perhaps not surprisingly given the demographics of my friends and blog followers, we had 3 men respond to the survey and 18 women. Couples met at prom, at the auto shop, online, at work, through friends and family, and at Panera. Only one person asked that we not share their answers.

Also, I wish I could share every answer I got, because they were all delightful! But, I'm picking out just a few highlights here. If you have anything you think I missed or should definitely add, let me know in the comments!

The Secret to Making Marriage Work
"Marriage isn't 50/50, it's both people giving 100%."—Evie E.

"Understanding that you're both not done becoming people, and your relationship isn't done either. Everything always changes."—Liz O.

"Compromising while remembering we're doing it because we love each other. Compromising is the worst! I hate it! But we're both stubborn and it's the only way anything ever gets resolved. It helps to remind yourself that you actually like each other when you do it."—Anon.

"Always assume the best about your partner. Just because you see each other daily, that is no reason not to treat them with the same - or really, more - kindness, politeness than you treat other people out in the world. Pick up on "bids" for connection/attention and don't rebuff them."—Anon.

"Still allowing each other to enjoy the things that we did separately as well as the things the we do together; understanding the need for space."—Linsey H.

"My favourite bit is having our own little in-jokes that always get a grin or a chuckle out of the other person. And when you're with other people and you remember it, you can't help but grin. I guess that's representative of friendships and relationships in general, but what is marriage but a bit of both?"—Anon.

The Big Day: the Good, the Bad, and More of the Good
"It was like being at my own funeral, but I got to be there!!! Everyone I loved there to support us. Surreal. Beautiful."—Evie E.

"The worst was, by far, parts of planning where everyone wanted to give their input as if it was something that I hadn't been thinking about/working on all day every day."—Anon

"When the marriage officiant asked if we have anything to say to each other. I hadn't prepared anything and was nervous to speak off the cuff, but [my husband] went first and simply said, "I love you" without any hesitation."—Anon.

"No bad parts. It was the best party I ever threw. All the stars aligned to make a perfect day for an outdoor wedding."—Anon.

"The best part was the party. We had a simple cheap ceremony with a ton of friends and family in a park with kegs of beer and a taco bar. It was a fucking blast."—Luke W.

"Worst: my mother went rogue. She had birdseed to throw when the ceremony was done, but we didn't have a recessional aisle, so we just stood there and got pelted. So much birdseed came out of my bra many hours later."—Liz O.

Practical Advice: Finances, Family, Fighting
"I spend and he worries."—Maryann M.

"We're both personal finance nerds so we're really on the same page, which I think is important to both of us. We view our money as a shared pool, though we definitely discuss any large purchases beforehand. We have similar goals for our money (travel!) and both want to save but also want to live enjoyable lives, so we haven't had much conflict in this area, even though we had very different debt burdens after college—and still do. We were really serious about our relationship by the time we graduated, so even though we didn't merge finances until we were married, minus a joint account for rent/groceries, I think we were already both thinking in terms of shared resources."—Rachel H.


"Spending time as a family and taking turns with kid responsibility is really important to both of us. ... Even though we all need to work to afford to live, you can get another job, but not another family. If I had a husband who didn't get that, I wouldn't still be married."—Lauren D.P.

"[I found work-life balance] by becoming my own boss. It was priority in my life that I have flexibility for my family, so I make my own schedule and make sure to be home early and take days off constantly."—Regina

"Our biggest family rule is don't talk shit about your spouse to your family members. We are a team, first and foremost. I am the ambassador to my family and he is the one for his. That doesn't mean I am not close to his family - I am! But if there is an argument or we need to enforce a boundary, we know who's running point and who gets to make the final call."—Anon.

"Apologize! Even if you still think you were right, your ego is not more important than your marriage."—Jennifer C.S.

"We sit down and talk it out. We always try to see the other person's perspective and come to a solution together."—Lisa R.

"You're going to fight and you're going to disagree and have bad days. You're going to annoy each other. You're going to have to go through tragedies and such. Just remember that (ideally) you've picked the one human being on earth that understands you better than anyone else, that loves you the most and accepts you in spite of your many flaws. Remember that and why you love them in the first place."—Scott M.

Final Words of Wisdom
"There is no "right way" to marriage. However it works for you, is the right way. Vulnerability, for me, has always been the right path. Ultimately, don't be afraid of things failing. If you take risks and they don't work out and your marriage grows from it - yay! If your partner drops the ball or you realize you want something different, then you saved yourself wasted time. Keep striving for your own personal development even while being partnered. Marriage doesn't need to become the majority of who you are. ❤"—Lauren D.P.

"It's a big deal and you figure it out day by day. xoxo"—Evie E.

"Just love each other!!! Remember that what works for some couples may not work for you guys and vice versa."—Lisa R.

"It's pretty great. Also, people are going to write you checks immediately at your wedding to your 'married name.' You sign both your maiden name and then the name on the check on the back, one after the other."—Anon.

"Good boundaries during the wedding planning process will reinforce when you make decisions your families don't like later on down the road. (In our case, we were quickly labeled the "weird ones"- great! I'm going to do my own thanksgiving, weirdly.)"—Liz O.

"Love is easy. People who tell you you have to constantly work on it is lying. All the compromises, all the communication, all the figuring things out, is easy when you love someone."—Regina

"It can be very hard work, at times, but never lose site of the love that brought you together. And, keep laughing."—Anon.

"You guys have been together for so long and you clearly love each other. You're golden! Honestly our relationship did not change much after marriage except give us a sense of freedom, which seems odd. But I think we both felt a sense of comfort in being legally and emotionally tied to the other person. We could have bigger, more important fights without worrying the other person would just walk out on us. We could take bigger risks with our careers knowing the other person would support us."—Anon.

"Y'all have been a happy couple for so long, I think you're plenty ready. πŸ™‚ As for the wedding, don't forget to eat!"—Scott M.

"At the end of the day, it really is just a piece of paper; it has no magical power on its own to make or break your relationship."—Anon.

"You'll be fine! πŸ’–(If you still want to get married after 10+ years, god bless you.)"—Anon.

"Apparently people will ask you for advice, whether or not you're qualified to give it! πŸ˜‰ Haha - but actually, it's not so different from being in a committed relationship, though for me it does have a bit of an added cozy us-against-the-world feeling."—Rachel H.

"Just love each other and don't go to bed mad."—Maryann M.

"The commitment you make to each other and the legal condition of marriage are two different and separate things."—Luke W.

"Kristin and Roger, surveys and input are great, however, you will find your own way in working through any conflicts in your relationship (and happiness of course). All of your family and friends will always be there to provide support and advice. Weigh it out and decide what you want to use!! Love you both, and wishing you nothing but happiness now and in your married life!"—Linsey H.