The New House

Frock Files | The New House

We tried to wait. We really did. But then, a couple of months after writing that last post we went to an open house on a whim and walked into The One!

I should point out here that finding a house that works for us in New England was not easy. James is a paraplegic, so he uses a wheelchair and we needed a single-level home. And because of the winters, we needed a two-car garage. On the West Coast and in Hawaii, houses like these are a dime a dozen. But here, ranch houses typically come with one car garages if there’s a garage at all. We needed two bathrooms and at least three bedrooms (since my family doesn’t live here and we want them to visit). And, lastly, we wanted a fenced-in yard for our dear Kona. This house–the open house we went to–ticked all those boxes and a whole bunch of “wants” as well, like:

  • A fireplace (two, in fact!)
  • A stone patio
  • An office for James and an office for me
  • Character
  • Wood floors
  • Not just a two car garage, but a three car garage
  • Cute, quiet neighborhood
  • Within walking distance of a charming downtown area
  • With a gorgeous back roads commute through the country to work

Let me back up a bit and explain a few things. In my last post, I lamented that we weren’t ready and hadn’t saved for a down payment, etc., etc., but it turned out that we had built up enough equity in our condo to make that down payment happen. On top of that, the house we came upon was significantly less expensive than what we had originally expected to pay. So, put simply, the financing worked out.

Even we can’t quite believe our luck.

The town we chose, Maynard, is nestled among more expensive and desirable towns like Lincoln, Concord and Sudbury, but Maynard has historically been thought of as a blue collar mill town. In fact, we hear that some people in the neighboring towns still don’t want their children to mingle with the children of Maynard, if you can believe that.

But we’re totally in love with this quirky little town, with its restored vintage cinema, pottery/video rental/used bookstore, authentic Mexican restaurant, and art spaces. We can’t wait for summer to come so that we can walk downtown to the farmer’s market before stopping for coffee at the little corner cafe. There are lots of rainbow flags here. Maynard is delightful!

So that’s the update for now. I’ve been busy filling all the empty spaces–we went from 1,000 square feet to over 2,400. And I’ve been painting up a storm. We’re breathing life and love and our personalities into each room, and as we do I’ll be documenting our progress here.

I promise it won’t be another nine months before my next post!

Love, Joy

P.S. That last house I wrote about? Ironically, I drive past it every day on my way to work. And when the snow was here, I drove by the new owners’ cars caked in snow. Life’s funny.

We are the lucky ones

house

We found a perfect little house last week. It’s a bungalow on a leafy road with a wraparound porch. Inside, it’s bright and airy, with the kind of dining room that would be ideal for Thanksgiving dinners with James’ family, and an extra space for my parents to stay in when they come to visit. There’s a huge yard; the kind of yard that would make for a happy, tired corgi. We fell in love.

But we aren’t prepared to buy this house. We haven’t saved enough for that giant downpayment. We need to work on our condo to get it ready to sell. We need to sell our condo. I need to learn how to use a snow blower. You know, all the fun things.

Needless to say, I was a little heartbroken. I’m not someone who longs to have children, and I’m not really focused on getting into the C-suite. The thing that I pine away for is a house for our little family.

Then, last night, I took Kona out for her last walk before bed and we ran into one of our favorite neighbors. He and his wife have a dog named Memphis who gets so excited about seeing Kona that he sometimes has a little snorting attack. They live in one of the affordable housing units in our building. I asked Memphis’ owner how summer was going. He used to do contract landscaping, but he told me that he had recently taken a full-time job as a custodian at a local high school. “Health insurance! Dental! Retirement!” he exclaimed, rolling his eyes back and shaking his head like he couldn’t believe his luck. “It’s the best! I feel like a new person.” I told him that I felt the same way with my relatively new entry into the full-time work world. It made me so happy to see him so fulfilled simply by being able to provide for his family and stand on his own two feet. We agreed that we’re both very lucky.

And then I came upstairs, picked up my iPad, and learned about the attack in Nice. Another tragedy. More innocent lives lost.

It’s funny how things matter and then, suddenly, they don’t. I think all this terrorism is supposed to make us fearful, and while I am afraid, I am also more appreciative and more present. I am more awake. If it’s possible that time could be short–and that’s always been a possibility, however less likely–but if it’s possible, then I want to stop seeing things as obligations and more as choices. I want the people I love to know that I love them. And I want to be happy right where I am.

I don’t want to stop planning for the future. We will have a house one day. But for now, we’re here. We’re happy. And we’re so, so lucky.

Simple Summer Pleasures

Simple Summer Pleasures

When I first got to Massachusetts ten years ago (how did that happen?), I was so enamored with spring and fall because all my life they had been novel, abstract concepts. Growing up in Hawaii, I loved grey, cool, rainy days. I loved any opportunity to wear a sweater (usually because of air conditioning). I loved reading books where characters took long walks with autumn leaves underfoot and ate hot things out of checkered thermoses.

Fall is still a special time—we got married in the fall, we go to Vermont in the fall, and now I even host a small blogger event in the fall—but over the years, I’ve grown to appreciate summer more and more. I used to be confused about why James was reticent about welcoming fall. He’d say, “It’s because winter is right behind it.” And, for some reason, at the time, winter didn’t bother me that much. But now, after the crazy winters we’ve had, I understand.

When I was little, my mom read us the Little House on the Prarie books, in which Laura Ingalls Wilder talks about their long, hard winters. She would probably scoff at my idea of a “hard” winter, which includes heat at the flick of a switch, four wheel drive, and my idea of “hard decisions” like whether to make pot roast or chicken noodle soup (with ingredients simply plucked from shelves and refrigerators). But winters are still very long. So long, in fact, that I’ve begun to worship summer like a true New Englander!

Simple Summer Pleasures

If we learned anything from the French while we were in Paris, it was how to take the time to enjoy simple pleasures. Summer in New England is abundant with these. It’s because of winter that even the mere act of opening the windows seems luxurious.

One of the simple things that I indulge in is podcasts, and my favorite is Happier with Gretchen Rubin (The Happiness Project) and her sister Elizabeth Kraft. I loved their recent “Try This At Home” tip, which suggested that listeners take advantage of the “amenities” of their homes. So often, people buy homes because of their great screened in porches, swimming pools, or man caves, but in the busyness of everyday life, they forget to use them. For us, it’s our balcony.

We’ve long thought of our balcony as a bit of a joke because it’s so narrow. To fit on it, normal-sized people have to sit sideways. Kona takes advantage of our balcony all year long–in the wintertime, when she gets hot, she paws at the door so that she can go out and tromp around in the snow (her favorite!). But the humans of this household almost never go out there. I’m a lounger, so buying a bistro set never really appealed to me. But then it came to me: a hammock!

Our contractor/handyman will come and put in the hooks for us this week (our building is made up of metal and wood studs, so it seemed safer not to DIY this time). In the meantime, Kona and I have been hanging out on the balcony, armed with pillows, library books, and blankets. In fact, as I write this, she’s curled up by my feet, breathing in the cool June morning air and occasionally lifting her head to look at our neighbors walking by below. I’m drinking my coffee. For me, there is so much pleasure to be found in not being rushed.

Simple Summer Pleasures

What simple pleasures are you finding in your summer days?

Love, Joy

P.S. Registration is open for The Hello Sessions! It’s a full day of workshops, where you’ll learn about the steps you need to take to make your small business thrive, how to make great videos (without a ton of equipment or video know-how), and how to grow your social media audience through authenticity. Come learn with us in Portland this October!

Paris, Part Deux

PARIS PART DEUX

On our last day in Paris, we did two things I’d been wanting to do the entire time: shop and buy macarons! It was still drizzling, but the wind had died down and we weren’t soaked through, so we ventured out. Here’s the email I sent my parents that day:

The weather was slightly better today, so we ventured out to the Galerie Vivienne. The verdict is that you both would love it. We went to the Galeries because people have said that they transport you back in time. It’s true. They were built in the Belle Époque era and they feel very classic.

Galerie Vivienne

We had lunch at a cozy cafe. I had a delicious Caesar salad and James had the (don’t freak out!) boeuf tartare.

Cafe at Galerie Vivienne

I found a wonderful boutique called aBis that had lots of Rifle Paper Co. stuff. I bought a pretty bracelet, a little purse for Jolie, and a scarf for Rebecca’s birthday. 

Here’s my bracelet:

Bracelet from aBis

Afterward, we went to Laduree to get Macarons as omiyage. We chose the St. Germain store because we were told it’s less busy than the one on the Champs Elysees. There was only one customer in front of us! I bought a TON of Macarons to take to work, only to come home and find out that they don’t last very long and may fall apart on our journey. So fingers crossed that they make it!

Laduree St. Germain

Laudree Macarons
We decided to have dinner at Nagoya again because tonight I was well enough to enjoy it. The oyako don was deeeelish! James had udon–also delish. 

Nagoya

On the way back to our flat, I took a picture of the charming flower shop in our neighborhood. 

Flower Shop in Montparnasse

Au revoir, Paris!

Paris!

Paris

We recently got back from Paris, where we arrived just in time for historic rain and, yes, flooding! We have impeccable timing. While we didn’t get to see everything we had hoped to see, what we did see was exactly as charming and as dreamy as we had hoped for. 

One of the things that made our stay so special was the lovely Airbnb apartment we rented in Montparnasse. We highly recommend it for anyone traveling to Paris, as it’s centrally located, near a metro station, within walking distance of a whole bunch of great restaurants, and completely comfortable. I chose it because it has a tiny rose garden. The owner of the apartment could not have been nicer. We arrived to fresh croissants and baguettes, which we promptly devoured with a bit of raw honey.

Airbnb in Montparnasse

I wrote my parents an email on our first and only sunny day there, which I’ll include here:

We are having fun in Paris! Last night, we went to a restaurant called Spring. My friend Kim just came to Paris a few months ago and she recommended it. She told me to say hi to her friend Jonathan who is a sommelier. He was delighted and he said that he loves Kim even though she doesn’t drink wine. They all took a picture with me to send to Kim:

Spring Paris

Afterward, we walked through the courtyard of the Louvre. 

Louvre Louis

Today, we had lunch at a little cafe called Madame. It was delicious! The waitress’ dog was there, which I thought was very sweet because he was so well behaved. But then I took this picture of him and ten seconds later he peed on that wall!

Cafe Madame

We still had coffee before leaving:

Cafe Madame Coffee

Then, we tried to go to the Luxembourg Gardens but just when we got there a thunderstorm rolled in! So we ducked into the Musee du Luxembourg, where we saw lots of Monets and Degas’ and other paintings. My favorite things were these birds in the gift shop:

Luxembourg Museum

Then, we decided to walk to a store I read about called Merci. Halfway there, we ran into a little stationery store where I found a card that reminded me of Auntie Shirley. I promptly forgot it was in my hand and walked off with it. When I returned to pay for it (flustered), the shop owner gave me a discount for “being so kind.”

Stationery Shop Paris

By the time we got to Merci and I took this photo outside, they were closing! They were very rude about it, in fact. But at least I got a good picture out of it:

Merci Paris

And while we were waiting for our Uber, this dog and his owner walked up to a bakery and the dog just waited outside while the owner went in for his bread. He didn’t move at all! We’ve seen a lot of very well-behaved dogs off leash here. I don’t know how they do it, but I wish they’d teach Kona.

Good Dogs in Paris

We just got back from a delicious hole-in-the-wall Chinese place where they make their own noodles. We saw the guy pulling them. We ate them too quickly to get a photo.

And now we’re back in our cute apartment to go to bed! I had to take a shower because my feet were black from all the walking we did today. I think we walked about eight miles in total, so at least we’re burning off some of these calories.

P.S. We found a flower shop that had more peonies together than I’ve ever seen IN MY LIFE. And they were ALL beautiful!!!!!

 
Peonies in Paris 

More Parisian adventures to come!

Love, Joy

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