Tuesday, December 29, 2015


As luck would have it, I worked late on my birthday because it was the day before my flight home for the holidays. I trudged out to the parking garage to find that someone had backed into my car. Happy birthday! Merry Christmas!

Sunset on Christmas Day

Once I got to California, I rented a car and drove about an hour and a half "home" (my parents relocated away from my hometown while I was in college) in the rain. The rest of my trip was all sunshine and blue skies, of which California has had too much lately, if the brown golf courses are any indication.

I worked a moderate amount over the holiday (lots of deals are pencils down at the moment), but my dad worked more. One night, we took a pizza to the hospital so that we could try to eat dinner together while he monitored a patient. He was called away to labor and delivery after his first slice.

Hallmark's "Smokin' Good Times Grill" 2015 ornament

I will always be grateful to be home at Christmas, but as my family is whittled down by time, I feel more and more nostalgic for the past when the extended family was able to gather together under one roof. There were only four of us around the table this Christmas!

Speaking of family, check out this awesome snapshot of sisters Emma, Hilda, Berta, Immgard, Greta and Merrianna in Innsbruck, Austria in 1923. They were the daughters of my great great grandfather's brother.

Innsbruck, Austria (1923)

Monday, December 14, 2015

One Year

December is my favorite month of the year. I have many happy childhood memories of the holidays and all it takes are a few decorations and sparkly lights to bring on the nostalgia. (With each passing year, I'm more grateful for the incredible gift that is a happy childhood.) Now, I add to the collection of happy memories the anniversary of buying my first house. 

Welcome home!
I closed on my house a year and a few days ago. If I were Pinterest-perfect, I'd have a beautifully decorated home to show you by now. Instead, I have a house that's in great shape with some fundamental improvements that add value but a fair number of blank walls and empty corners. The upshot is a declining mortgage balance, a student loan balance rapidly approaching zero and another year in big law under my belt. I've been very responsible this year.

As a symbol of the incremental improvements I've been making, here's my little, artificial Christmas tree (a housewarming gift from my family and the first personal possession that crossed the threshold). This year I've added a tree collar to cover the metal base. I'd never seen or heard of tree collars until this year, but I like the clean, finished look. Maybe next year we'll get wild and add a star or angel on top ;)

This year in home ownership:

  • I scheduled a second home inspection right before the end of the one-year builder's warranty. (There is a 10 year warranty for major structural issues, but the builder covered smaller issues during the first year.)
  • I cut my first property tax check. (I don't escrow my taxes and insurance.)
  • I hired painters to seal my cedar fence to preserve it's beautiful color and keep it from turning grey.
  • I hired tree trimmers to take care of the beautiful 100+ year old oak trees on my lot.
  • I learned to dismantle the catch on my kitchen sink.
  • I learned to use a power drill and installed drapes.
  • I discovered that roman shades are even more spendy than I feared.
  • I sealed the grout in the kitchen, bathrooms and laundry room.
  • I started a vegetable garden.
  • I spent hours researching washers and dryers.
  • Favorite non-essential purchase of the year: new mattress for the master bedroom. (My old mattress was a hand-me-down that was probably 20 years old.)

The mortgage stresses me out more than rent ever did and I waste a lot of time wistfully perusing furniture, window treatment and home goods catalogs, but I love this house and hope that I'll be living here for many years to come.