Hawaii Vacation – A Reflection

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There’s a lot I could say about our Hawaii vacation. That it was so many things to be home. Amazing, heartbreaking, nostalgic, relaxing, invigorating, disappointing, delicious, fun.

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In Hawaii I settle into myself differently than here, or even compared to San Francisco, a place that I consider to be my heart’s home. There’s something about the islands that makes you take it down a notch – makes you not care about wearing the same outfit three days in a row, or not think twice about that second helping of dessert, or not worry about whether you should end an email with “Very Best” or simply, “Best,”.

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Mom’s neighbor’s house. She lives in Kalihi Valley with my aunt and grandma. It’s very lush, which means it’s also very buggy!

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I think Hawaii does that for everyone, tourists and residents alike. But for me there is a “coming home” element to it that somehow takes it to a different level. And it’s not just because my family is here (which of course plays a big part though).

My whole perspective on who I am changes. For example, I can walk into a store and feel comfortable chatting it up with the sales reps (which I do NOT do). Or when I’m with people who’ve known me forever (I went to a high-school reunion while I was there) – it’s all so….easy. To just be. It’s hard to explain.

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Class of ’90 (eek!)

They say Hawaii is full of ancient magic (it is no joke, you guys – the ghost stories I could tell you¬† – many from the mouths of people who don’t, or who used to not, believe in spirits).

But it’s magical in other ways, too. Its beauty, that I appreciate more and more each time I visit, its ability to make me slow down (even when I don’t want to) and its powerful reminder of where I came from, where my mother came from, where her mother came from and back and back and back.

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Mom with our little girl, making leis from her stephanotis flowers.

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Easter, Hawaiian style.

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My trip was hardly deep or spiritual. We did a lot of beach time, family time, eating, lazing around. The usual vacation stuff. But then, when trying to explain the trip and looking at all the photos and really thinking about what Hawaii means to me. There’s a lot there. And the beauty of it is that it will all still be there when I return. Until we meet again. A hui hou.

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Houseplants

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We finally bought some indoor plants and what a difference they make. Can’t believe it took us a year. I think part of the reason we waited so long is that I am afraid of killing them (haven’t had much luck with indoor plants in the past).

I did research on the easiest houseplants to take care of and then headed to Charvat, a local Grosse Pointe florist. Dave Charvat (an owner, I’m assuming) greeted me and gave me an overview of my options.

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When I first walked in, I spotted a full, grassy plant by the window. A ponytail plant. Of course. Was it easy to take care of? Yes. Check. They don’t have a huge pot selection at Charvat, but I did find a perfect $10 one for it. The plant itself I think was around $35.

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They also had a rubber tree that was the exact size I was looking for, so I grabbed it as well. It looks great in the family room and I love the pot from Modernica.

After a bad purchase from Wayfair (their online dimensions were not accurate), I decided to spend a little more cash for a really nice planter, which I am so much happier with.

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I’ve been really wanting a Fiddle Fig (I love the big, glossy leaves) and thank goodness it made the list. For the longest time, I thought Dave was saying FiddleyFig, which made me think of a leprechan every time he said it, but then later I realized he was saying Fiddle-Leaf Fig.

They didn’t have one in stock, but he offered to get one for me and said it would get there within a week. I think it was about $60 or $75? Somewhere in that range. And another chic planter purchase from Modernica.

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A few weeks later I went back to the store, looking for three plants to use for our dining room table centerpiece. I spotted some aboricolas, which Dave said would grow quite a bit unless I kept cutting them back.

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He re-potted one of the plants so it would be in the same size container as the others. They fit perfectly in our IKEA pots. I am obviously big on the white pots (if it weren’t for my husband, I would have picked a white pot for the family room, too!).

ponytips (768x1024)I told Dave that the tips of our ponytail plant were turning brown. I remember the delivery guy (they offer free delivery, which is so nice) saying that the worst thing I can do is over-water, so I’ve been careful not to overdo it, but maybe I was under-watering?

He said browning tips happens to their plants as well, and they’ve figured out the reason is the chlorine in the water. He said to leave water sitting out for a day and then water the plants, or use filtered water. I trimmed the tips and am hoping they’ll stay healthy.

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My parsley plant, in the meantime, is sadly ready for the compost pile. It was only a couple dollars at Eastern Market, but I so wanted to keep it alive through winter.

We’ve only had the plants for a month and a half, so I am still nervous about keeping them alive, but so far so good. Do you have houseplants? Which is your favorite?

Kitchen Demo – Day Five

DayFive2 (600x800)On Day Five, the fireplace was framed out. Another snafu. Behind the marbled tile and brick, they found cinder block. Fine. However, the cinder block contains the fireplace in the living room (on the other side of the wall). Taking out the bottom rows would mean screwing up the whole wall, which we didn’t want to mess with. This means we’re losing about five inches of width in our already narrow family room. Super bummer.

DayFive (772x800)They also started the process of relocating the kitchen window. By relocating I mean moving over to the right about eight inches. Quite a big deal to gain that small of a space, but what that will do is give me more room between the sink and stove/range, and also give me a nice corner cabinet, so it was worth it.

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Kitchen window from the outside.

Meanwhile on Day Five….

I took a last-minute to San Francisco and Napa (thanks in part to my amazing husband, who shuffled his schedule around to be on kid duty). I spent Day Five (and Days Six and Seven), eating delicious food, going for walks along trails and beaches, looking at art, tasting wine and spending time with friends. It was great to get away from the noise and the chaos of the remodel.

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Cypress trees along the Land’s End trail and of course, the Golden Gate.

Bridge.LandsEndI ate a solo lunch at my favorite Asian restaurant, Out the Door. (THIS is how you do Asian, Grosse Pointe! Are you listening?). Cellophane noodles sauteed in sesame oil with garlic, scallions, Dungeness crab and cilantro. And a side of sriracha.

OutTheDoor.Oct14 (678x800) OutTheDoorMenuI love Robert Motherwell, and I got to see two of his paintings on this trip. I’d seen them both before, but it was fun to view them one right after the other. One was at Hess Collection winery in Napa and the other at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park.

Hess.MotherwellI was worried that being back in San Francisco was going to make me come completely undone. That maybe as I drove into the city, sadness and longing would overcome me and leave me feeling empty, lonely. But it never happened. I loved seeing the Bridge again and the ocean and the haunting foggy beauty that is Northern California and I will always miss that. But I think I’m where I’m supposed to be. On the descent into Detroit, I even caught myself thinking…”it’s good to be home.”

Our New Home!

house.backyardWe closed on our new home yesterday – what a relief. The whole mortgage process was complicated and stressful, but its over. We are now Michigan homeowners!

The house was built in 1960 and is 3248 square feet. Its exterior is traditional Midwestern brick, with painted shutters and a weathervane over the garage. It is located in the city of Grosse Pointe Farms and is walking distance to a small shopping district. It’s also super close to Lake St. Clair, a huge plus for us. We both love being near the water (in fact one of our criteria for moving out of San Francisco was that we had to move somewhere that was close to a large body of water).

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First floor bathroom.

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Family room

photo 1 (600x800)The first time we looked at the place, we crossed it off our list. We had just started looking, and everything was really dated and we thought it would be too much of a headache to redo. The kitchen window overlooked the backyard, but its appliances were over 20 years old (including the trash compactor, which I was baffled by. At first I thought it was a second dishwasher) and the cabinets? Formica. The sponge-effect painted walls, dark first floor bathroom and “heavy” decor (maroon leather couches, lots of flourishes) didn’t exactly help sell the place.

And then there was the wallpaper…

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In dining room, looking through hallway to the living room.

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Looking down to the dining room.

The second time we looked at it, we were further into our house-hunt, and paid more attention to the flow, layout and general well-being of the house. We liked the big, private (fenced in on both sides of house) backyard and nice patio (although it had just been cleaned, so was very slippery that day). My husband loved the big and very clean heated garage. Even though we didn’t love the styling (gold fixtures, ’80s lighting, carpeting selection, etc.), the rooms were decent-sized and the second floor bathroom placement made sense, unlike many other places we’d seen.

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Master

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Guest room.

However, it was a four-bedroom. Which meant that either our guests would have to sleep in one of the girls’ rooms when they came to visit, or that the husband would have to stick his office in the basement (with low ceilings that barely cleared his head). We once again crossed it off the short list.

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Basement

house.basement2We knew we weren’t going to find the perfect home, but we kept hoping something new would come on the market that would have most of what we wanted. So we kept waiting. But both of us kept looking at the house online, and somewhere along the way, we decided to look at it one last time.

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On our third visit, we only saw good things about the house. Both the kitchen and family room (which were connected by an open doorway) had sliding doors to the backyard (which housed a hot tub, which we’re inheriting), the upstairs layout was perfect (master set off from the rest of the rooms, and none of the remaining bedrooms was too large or too small), there were hardwood floors throughout the first floor (except for the kooky family room) and the dining and living rooms had big windows that extended all the way to the floor. Why hadn’t anyone bought this place, it was awesome!!

We put in an offer right away and after a short negotiation, paid just a little under asking. The home inspector who came to look at the house told my husband it was the best house (condition-wise) he had seen in a long time. Two new furnaces, almost brand new roof (it was totally redone a couple years ago), new air conditioning units, a central vacuum and a generator, all in excellent condition.

house.front2We met the sellers at the closing. They were sweet and gracious, offering to give us a walk-through to show us the lay of the land (how to use the generator, for example) and making themselves available if we had any questions. We were thrilled when they told us they were closing on a condo in the next few days and if it all went as planned, they would be out of the house by August 4th, one month earlier than planned.

So we hate the decor. It can be changed. And after meeting the previous owners I realized, they loved the decor. They loved the house. And they took care of it for us for 23 years. And you want to know something funny?…..we have a very small budget for immediate home improvements (and a larger budget for a kitchen remodel, hallelujah). We’ll need to pick and choose which things to do this year and which things can wait. Well, I won’t be mad if the wallpaper isn’t the first thing to go.

House-Hunting in Grosse Pointe: The Short List

In my last post, I revealed that we already found a home here in Grosse Pointe (we close next week!). Here, I’ll show you the homes that were on our short list, and give the reasons why they didn’t make the cut.

RADNOR CIRCLE

homes.radnorhomes.radnorbackRadnor Circle is little street in a quiet neighborhood very close to “The Hill,” a shopping district about three blocks long (coffee shop, a few restaurants, a high-end shoe store, Brooks Brothers, a couple banks, a real estate company, Rite Aid, kitchen showroom, and a handful of businesses that end with “Associates,” “& Company,” or “Enterprises.”).

The house was (yes it’s still standing. It just makes more sense for this story to put it in the past tense) 3100 square feet with four bedrooms and built in 1950. It had a huge backyard and what seemed to be great neighbors, one of whom was tending to her raspberry bushes the day we looked at the house.

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The kitchen overlooked the backyard (my ultimate), but the style wasn’t my favorite (I’m highlighting kitchens because it’s the most important room in the house to me). The home was in okay condition, but needed updates. The master bath was tiny (my husband gets claustrophobic, especially with bathrooms and especially when our two little girls insist on being in the bathroom with him at the same time) and two of the bedrooms had low ceilings (the husband would have to duck). There was also no family room (though there was a sunroom extension off the dining room, but it would not be usable during winter).

Ultimately, there were too many dislikes and we also felt it was priced a little high (and since we first looked at it, the price has been lowered twice and is still on the market at the time of this post).

N. DEEPLANDS

homes.deeplandshomes.deeplandsbackNorth Deeplands lies in the city of Grosse Pointe Shores. It’s right off Lake Shore Drive and not too far north, which makes it a desirable location for most. The home was built in 1959, and was 3800 square feet with four bedrooms. One cool thing was that it shared a backyard fence with my husband’s dad’s final home – something which felt comforting and was definitely a plus.

homes.deeplandsbarhomes.deeplandsentryhomes.deeplandskiWe quite liked this place and went back and forth about it for a long time. The rooms were dated, but there was something about the way the house flowed that felt right (good ju-ju). Loved the wet bar in the family room and the fact that the kitchen overlooked the backyard.

The bedrooms were fine, but the room that sat above the garage was slanted and odd and if I remember correctly, the upstairs bathroom situation was also weird. And no fifth bedroom for my husband’s home office, which would mean he would have to work in the basement, which was not ideal, especially in this case.

The house price was lowered one time, and is now off the market, which hopefully means it was sold to a great family who will love it there.

RATHBONE PLACE

homes.rath homes.rathbackWe were “this close” to placing a bid on Rathbone. In fact, we called our realtor, told her we wanted to make an offer and met her at the property to see it one last time. The home sat on a dead end private street (meaning the residents living on that street were responsible for repair, snow plowing, etc) in the city of Grosse Pointe. The street itself is beautiful, lined with large stately homes (most much larger than the one we were looking at). It was 3200 square feet and built in 1956.

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The home had many great updates, but unfortunately, not in the style that we prefer. Lots of dark and lots of gold. The selling agent made a point of telling us that all the fixtures in the home were recently updated to brass (which we would have switched out first thing). Still, the home was well taken care of, something that is a huge selling point for us.

The best thing about this place was the backyard. A built-in fireplace, new patio, lots of space and a “secret” doorway to access the city park, which was just over the backyard fence. When we first viewed the house, we didn’t pay much attention to the park, but the second time we went there (the day we were planning on placing a bid), it was Memorial Day. From the backyard, we could see and hear the 30+ groups of people enjoying their holiday. As my husband pointed out, it was a happy kind of noise and something we probably wouldn’t notice after a while. Me, I wasn’t so sure. I felt exposed and hesitant to share my living space with all of Grosse Pointe.

We talked it over that night and decided not to make an offer. My husband wasn’t in love with it, so he was fine letting it go. Plus, it was at the high end of our price range, which would mean we could do very little in terms of remodeling or decorating. It sold a few weeks later.

 STEPHENS

homes.stephenshomes.stephensbackStephens is a coveted street in Grosse Pointe Farms. Meaning that if you say you live on Stephens, people might say, “oh!” Meaning, it’s a very picturesque area, with beautiful (and expensive) homes. This particular home was the Canadian consulate. It was in pristine condition and everything was redone. It had a great open floor plan with sliding doors off the family and dining rooms. At 4600 square feet and six bedrooms, it was a little out of our price range comfort zone, but we looked at it anyway.

homes.stephensliving homes.stephenskitch homes.stephensentryMy husband really liked the spacious rooms and the fact that he would be able to have an office not in the basement (which actually would have been a great place for an office – it was finished like a main floor). And yes the kitchen had the best appliances and cabinets, but the whole place felt very sterile to me and I’m not sure that could have been remedied with decor (which we wouldn’t have been able to afford anyway, had we bought the house).

We didn’t have to discuss it long, though, because two days after we looked at it, our realtor called and said the sellers had received multiple offers (one of which they accepted later that day). It had been on the market for three days.

CLOVERLY

homes.cloverlyhomes.cloverlybackCloverly is a street one block parallel to Stephens. Another coveted street in Grosse Pointe Farms. Of all the places we saw, we loved Cloverly the most. It had a gorgeous facade, big backyard and lots of character. It was built in 1929, was 4200 square feet and had five bedrooms. The owners took excellent care of the place and it showed.

homes.cloverlyliving homes.cloverlykitch homes.cloverlyfamiliyBUT….the garage was small. It wouldn’t fit the motorcycle and it probably wouldn’t have fit both of our cars, or if it did, no one would be able to open any doors. The kitchen needed updates and it faced the street. And it was segregated from the rest of the house (being part of the servants, area back in the day) so whoever was cooking (me) would be totally alone (and not be able to keep an eye on the kids). And, if again I’m recalling correctly, I think this is the home where the basement ceiling was also quite low, which meant more ducking for the husband.

No matter how much we tried to justify its shortcomings, we could not bring ourselves to place a bid. After our first walk-through (I think we did three?), the owners lowered the price by $25,000 (or $30. Something like that). It sold shortly afterwards.

We still look longingly at the Cloverly house when we drive by. It was the one that got away. Fortunately. Because Lord knows I would not be happy up in that kitchen.