Budgets and priorities

At an estate sale a few months back.

…just that title alone. I mean, are we all sobbing softly/asleep yet?

So yes, of course, I have big-ish plans for my home. Kitchen dreams, bathroom fantasies, landscaping wishes. Just yesterday, I ordered some wallpaper samples for the stairway and some sink hardware for our downstairs powder room showed up (in an unnecessarily huge box. Thx, Home Depot.) on the doorstep.

We’ve done a few things here and there to the house that you can actually see and that are, I suppose, “fun.” Most of that has been paint. It’s inexpensive and approachable and can really make a huge difference. We’ve also installed some ceiling fans and light fixtures because bad lighting just bums me out. Also curtains, which to me, put the fun in functional. They are pretty and soften a room, plus it prevents the neighbors from having to look at me while I stare off into space and mindlessly shove the kids’ fruit snacks into my gaping maw after they’ve gone to bed.

We’ve also done some upgrades that are decidedly NOT fun, but are nonetheless necessary: New roof–so our homeowners’ insurance policy will keep on keeping’ on. New thermostat–it’s a Nest  and that’s actually been awesome. Radon mitigation system–cancer can kiss my ass. Chimney repair–since having smoke fill your entire basement via the not-so-functional fireplace down there is not ideal.

All of these things are expenditures that have made our house better, and I’m lucky that they’re repairs we’ve been able to do. But of course, I’m itching to get to the fun stuff–the first two up are the relatively approachable powder room and entry wallpaper situ. I’m hoping to do posts on those so soon! Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers so that this may happen.


…I can feel in my bones that we have a few more nuts-and-bolts fixes that are going to take a decent bite of the budget.

  • First up, we have something SUPER weird going on with our pipes/possibly the heater. Since it’s gotten legit cold, the pipes have been intermittently humming and banging, and it’s getting worse each day. A plumber came out on Monday (to assess some frozen pipes. Woo hoo! Nice knowing ya, $250) and couldn’t figure it out. So the HVAC people are coming Friday. The noise seems to start up when the heat kicks on, and you can get it to briefly stop if you turn on a sink or flush a toilet. It’s especially fun in the middle of the night when you’re trying to sleep and it sounds like a 747 is roaring right through your bedroom. For 45 minutes.

    I have no idea what this is, so there’s no telling what the scope of this issue will be. Dr. Internet says it may be a valve, so here’s hoping it’s something minor like that.

  • Did someone say HVAC? Our is about 25 years old, and the struggle is real. Moving in, we knew its days were numbered, but we managed to eke out two summers with the old gal. It’s not efficient at all, and frankly doesn’t do a great job. Odds are not good it makes it another summer.
  • Pros of having a screened-in porch/balcony situation: Outdoor enjoyment that can either be bug free or a great place to sunbathe (moot for this Casper-like being). Cons: The screens are so old and ripped up, we’re really not keeping any bugs out, but that does provide built-in entertainment for the three felines who use the space as their catio for as long as weather permits.

    The other MAJOR con is that the roof of the porch (i.e. balcony) is just old and basically janky, so it’s leaking pretty badly onto the porch, which btw has for the most part all rotten woodwork–posts, soffit, you name it.

    I guess the good news is that it all seems to be going at the same time, so I don’t mind the idea of tearing the whole mess down and starting anew, but I doubt this is going to be cheap.

So. There you have it. All of the various upcoming money pits scattered in and around the house (oh, and we also need a fence pretty badly). They all seem of pretty equal priority to me (I mean, obviously the pipes are top because UGH! the headaches and, you know, possibility of water gushing everywhere).

If anyone’s out there, what projects are in your crosshairs? Make me feel better/insanely jealous, depending on their level of form and function.

Budgets and priorities

And a little more about me

So, I guess it’s best to start at the very beginning.

I am Alison, and about two years ago, my husband (Marc) and I bought a house in Oak Park, Il. Now we live here with our twin daughters and three cats. Previously, we lived in nearby Chicago, but we wanted to move to a place with good public school options. Plus, Oak Park is an easier commute to the western suburbs, where Marc works.

So far, it’s been great. We’re about a block from the el (CTA trains do run out to a few close suburbs like Oak Park, Evanston and Forest Park…Skokie I think too), so it’s incredibly easy to get into the city. I should probably do a post on Oak Park itself soon, but quickly I’ll say that it’s got charm, interesting history and we can walk to the grocery store, gym, public pool, the library, etc, etc. Coming from Chicago, it almost feels like Mayberry. It’s a good fit for us.

ANYWAY, on to the house itself.

Ours is a side-entry brick Colonial that was built in the early 1940s, which is unusual for the area. Oak Park is mostly filled with beautiful rambling Victorians, Prairie style gems and stucco bungalows. But really, there’s a wide mesh of styles on every block, which makes things fun in my opinion. In general though, a 1940s house is much “younger” than  most OP homes. I would have loved to have lived in any of the styles I previously mentioned–I grew up in a 1920s foursquare and 1918 Arts and Crafts house–but our house came on the market at the right time and had everything we were looking for. So I consider us very lucky. Plus, I feel postwar/pre mid century modern housing isn’t represented as much, so it’s kind of exciting to (maybe???) cover some new ground here.

Ah, let’s do some pictures to break up this wall of text I’m building. These are from the listing, so they’ll do great to give us a blank slate:

The front of our house in summer – Note the house next door. It plays a role in our home’s story. 

I love the mature garden we have going up here (obviously I can’t take credit). It sounds so corny, but alking up the path to the side of the house with everything in bloom really gives me a sense of setting and it kind of feels like a whole experience transitioning from sidewalk to garden–I guess as much as it really can in a little space.

One thing I do have to point out that the grass has never looked as good as it does here. There are so many trees shading the front lawn that it doesn’t get enough light or water to really thrive. What you see above is sod that the sellers laid for the listing, and it didn’t really take that well. We’ve since built a short rock wall dividing the lawn in half, so that the portion closer to the street will be filled in with Vinca and the area closer to the house–where there is a teeeeeeeny bit more sun–remains grass. I’ll do a whole post on the front in the spring when we don’t have three inches of snow covering everything.

The entry, where you look straight into a little office. Living room on the right. Dining on the left.

Just a little reference point.

I am deeply in love with the quarter-sawn oak floors. They’re in amazing shape.

As you can see, the house is fairly simple and not at all grand, but she’s a solid home with some real charm. Downstairs we have a living room, dining room, small kitchen, office, half bath and screened-in porch. Upstairs are three bedrooms and two baths. Not too big, but plenty of room for us.

The living room, which at the time seemed about the size of our condo!

Great light and a woodburning fireplace.

Oh kitchen, you mean well. But you need help. 

I have lots of plans and feelings for this room. Let’s hope my wallet feels like keeping up!

Ok I could go on and on about the house, the year, the neighborhood, our plans etc., but I’m going to cut myself off here. Another day.

Thanks for reading!

And a little more about me

Hello, world


…and welcome to my new site. Thanks for stopping in.

This will be a space where I document my home and the changes I make to it. We are a young family, and our needs are continually changing, and I feel anyone’s environment should adjust–or live–with the people who inhabit it. That’s how I chose the name for this blog.

I hope you’ll read along and comment and help make this a generally living–and lively–space. Here’s to the journey.


Hello, world