We Moved – Hello Saluda!

We survived the great move of ’15. For those of you who don’t know, we moved from near Brevard, NC to Saluda to be closer to my office. I’ve cut my commute by half, which is awesome. However, the big bonus with the move is that we’re now on 7 acres (and the landlord has no problem with livestock). The previous tenants didn’t care for the house and it’s in need of some repairs and updates, but we’re going to be doing a lot to the place in the next year. The house may have some downfalls, but the land definitely makes up for them. Here are some photos, but please don’t judge us by the boxes and mess. Hopefully everything will be completely unpacked and arranged soon.

The land even has a small apple orchard on it that’s apparently still producing. My (hopefully) epic garden will go in next to it. I know, I know. I’m getting started very late this year, but the WV bar and move kinda messed with my gardening schedule. By the way, if anyone local has a garden tiller, I would LOVE to borrow it to break ground on the garden.

Here’s our main living area.

Here it is from the other side.

The kitchen (I was in the midst of unpacking that most important of rooms when I took this).

Front room, which will house my office and a few instruments.

The bathroom is a little dated (and Carolina Blue), but I think some white paint on the walls will do a lot of good. I just wish I could drop a nice tub in there for baths!

The previous tenants made some, um, interesting design choices. This one will likely be the craft room.

The Dora room will be a pain to paint, but I think it will eventually be a guest/exercise room.

 

Our bedroom has the least interesting paint job, which is probably a good thing. We’ll just need to fix the closet and throw some white paint on the walls.

The view from the bedroom is great!

There’s also an entire floor downstairs, but it’s mostly unfinished at the moment. I’ll probably post some of those later (especially since Beth might be kidding in the basement if we don’t get a small barn up soon).

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New Job

If you weren’t aware, I was recently offered a job at a real estate law firm. I’ll be starting on Monday, and I’m extremely excited!  Of course, the means that Carver Law is being shut down, but I’m not complaining about that. It also means that my time at Lutheridge is coming to an end. I’ll miss the wonderful people I work with and my lovely walks around the camp, but I’m looking forward to practicing in my profession (with an actual salary, too!). Bring on the new adventures!

Adieu 20s, Hello 30s

It’s funny how things change. I’ll be 30 tomorrow, and I can’t help thinking about myself at 20 and how different my priorities were.

When I was 20, I was doing my undergrad in New York City. I went to NYC specifically because it was a huge, metropolitan city far away from Western North Carolina and little old Hendersonville. I thought that if I ever left NYC it would be for another large, metropolitan city that didn’t require a car (I hated driving). I knew that I would never, under any circumstances, move back to North Carolina.

My career would be something incredibly cool and interesting. Practicing law crossed my mind at a few points, but was quickly replaced by becoming an editor at a major publishing house, working in some unknown position in the fashion industry, etc.

My preferred magazines were Glamour, Cosmo, and People. My highest priorities were being thin, being popular, and getting drunk (not necessarily in that order). Looking back, I can tell you that I failed on one of those and I don’t know if what happened with the other two could be classified as success. College was in there somewhere too, but it wasn’t exactly at the top of my list.

My vision of my ideal guy was a cool, intelligent, urbane, bad boy who eschewed anything mainstream. He certainly would have some cool yet intellectual job that paid well. And he definitely wasn’t blond.

Fast-forward to today. I live in Brevard, NC, with aspirations to move to such hip and urban locations as… anywhere where we can get some land. Yes, acreage where we can have a nice little goat farm is now my priority over location. In fact, staying close to family is something of a priority too, though, for the right job, we would certainly consider relocating…to somewhere we could still get acreage and have a little goat farm.

I’m a licensed attorney in North Carolina. Is practicing law cool and interesting? Depends on who you ask. Is my career my identity? No. I enjoy law, but I have a lot of interests outside of it as well.

I currently subscribe to Dairy Goat Journal, Better Homes and Gardens, and Southern Living (thanks, Mom!). My highest priorities are buying a house with some land, succeeding in my chosen career, and managing my little herd of dairy goats. Starting a family in the next few years is in there too, but making the commitment to make and care for a new person is huge and requires some amount of financial stability.

I’m married to an intelligent guy…who’s dorky (just like me); blond; doesn’t care whether or not something is mainstream, just whether he likes it; and is the nicest, most caring man I have ever met. He’s going to school for auto body repair, because that’s what he likes doing. At 20, I probably wouldn’t have responded to his message on that online dating site, but at 26, I did. And it was the best message I ever sent.

Was I wrong at 20? Am I right now? No to both. Life is a journey. We change and mature along the way. Our priorities may change, our goals may change, and our circumstances may change. Change is good. The test is how we react to it. I love where I am now in so many ways. Would I like to change some things? Of course. I would love to hand myself a great job with benefits, some land with a nice house, and financial security. Since I can’t do that, I’ll just have to continue loving the other parts of my life. I have an amazing husband, some very cool animals, and a future full of possibilities.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

 

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope yours is off to a good start. I apologize for my very lengthy absence from blogging, but life keeps getting in the way.

2014 is starting out to be a year of new beginnings for us. I will be starting the new year with a new job! It’s an office job in Arden that starts on the 20th. While it’s only 29 hours a week and I’ll have to keep a few nights at the restaurant, it should make my schedule less crazy and hopefully I’ll get back into the swing of things here. I’m also hoping that I’ll have more energy to put into creating new items for my Etsy shop, Haus of Ariella.

John starts school tomorrow. He’s going to Blue Ridge to get an associate degree in auto body repair, which is right up his alley. He’s a bit nervous about starting school after not being in a classroom for so long, but I know he’s going to do amazingly. Plus, most of his classes seem to have brief classroom component followed by hands-on work in the shop, which he’ll love.

Other new endeavors include trying to be a bit healthier this year. As some of you may know, John and I tried to do that last spring. I was on Weight Watchers and John, while not on the plan, was eating the same meals I was for the most part. We lost a good bit of weight in a healthy way and were more active. Unfortunately, when I started studying for the bar, stress got the best of me and I threw WW out the window. I also stopped exercising as much. After I took the bar, I hoped to get back into a good routine, but working long hours at the restaurant threw my off and I never really got back to where I wanted to be in terms of weight or general health. I recently signed back up for Weight Watchers, and I’m trying to find a used elliptical to put downstairs (I’d just walk in our beautiful neighborhood in Pisgah Forest, but I know I won’t be able to motivate myself in this cold, cold weather). John is hoping to find time to work out between classes or after classes on his shorter days. Hopefully, with our new schedules, we’ll be able to commit to a healthier lifestyle that we can maintain.

I’m also trying to learn a bit of Spanish this year. I was hoping I’d be able to take courses somewhere, but the continuing ed courses seem a bit too slow for me and other courses won’t work with my schedule. I was thinking about getting Rosetta Stone, but it’s prohibitively expensive. Someone on my Etsy team told me about a website called Duolingo that helps you learn languages. It’s free and fun, and while it won’t get me to where I want to be, it’s a good foundation in vocabulary and basic grammar. It’s a good start, and I’d recommend it as a fun way to start on a new language or brush up on vocabulary from one you used to know.

All in all, I think we’re starting off in the right direction this year. Have you started anything new this year? Do you have any resolutions?

Happy New Year!

Our New Home

It’s been quite a while since my last post, but we’ve been quite busy. I’ve been working a lot and we recently moved into a new place! We’re renting a really cool house in Brevard from my mother’s former coworker and her husband. They had to move fairly suddenly when she was offered a job in Michigan, so a good bit of their stuff is still here and we had/have a lot of cleaning to do. We’re also going to do a bit of repainting to make it our own. We’ll be here for the next two years at least, so we want to really make it home.

We thought we would have it ready for company sooner than we actually will, so our plans for a cook-out have been delayed. In the meantime, here’s a photographic tour.

The Kitchen

The kitchen is one of the first things we’re going to repaint. We want white cabinets and a mint green wall. We think it will look quite nice with the granite counter tops.

Dining Room

The dining room is really cool with built-in bookshelves over the sliding door. We’ve painted the bookshelves white since I took this photo, though the place is still mostly in disarray. Our new dining room set looks pretty awesome in there (thanks, Suzanne!).

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The dining room goes into the living room, which is a rather large space. We want to paint the living room/dining room a light blue. We also want to get a small love seat to go where my desk currently is (the desk will go into the office once we repaint the floor).

Porch

Off of the dining room, there are french doors that lead to an enormous screened in porch. There’s also full sized outdoor table that isn’t shown in the photo, so we’re going to have space for some great cookouts.

Office

There are three bedrooms in the house. Above is the former craft room that we’re going to turn into an office/craft room. the fabric and such are the owner’s, so we’re boxing them up for her and putting them with the other things they’re going to come back for. The floors are painted baseboards, so after we get it all out, we’re going to repaint those.

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The second room is the cat/guest room (sorry guests, but we’ll move the boxes to the office before you come). The cleaned the carpeting that was in the room prior to leaving, but they had 7 dogs and 4 cats who had done a bit of damage prior to that. Of course, if an animal smells that another animal has peed somewhere before, it becomes an automatic invitation to go there again. So John ripped up the carpet (we were given permission to do so, if you were wondering) and used a ton of Nature’s Miracle on the boards. We’re also going to paint that floor.

Our RoomNext is our bedroom (please ignore the half-folded laundry on the bed). We’re going to try to find a cheap bed frame that preferably doesn’t require a box spring. Other than organizing and doing a bit of decorating, our room doesn’t really need anything.

Bathroom Mirror

Our bathroom is in pretty good shape too. I need to get a new shower curtain and a bathmat. John made a small vanity for next to the sink for us to replace the shelves in the photo, which is nice. I love the medicine cabinet mirror in there!

Guest BathYou can’t see much of the guest bathroom in this photo, but it’s perfect the way it is. It also has a wonderfully deep tub for me, which I love!

Garage

The garage is kind of packed, but a lot of it belongs to the owners’ daughters, and they’ll come pick up their stuff soon.

Workshop Workshop Workshop Workshop

Last, but not least, is the workshop. It’s enormous! John has been working so hard to get it organized and to get the shelves with their stuff on them to the sides so that we can have a more open space. He also killed the mold that was infesting one of the walls and re-Drylocked it so that I can go down there and breathe. He also made the sliding door down there functional again, which is really nice. I’ll show photos of the finished project at some point, but it’s looking very promising. He’s also going to attempt to revamp the piano they left for us (the action is pretty much gone – he’ll have to replace most if not all of the bridle straps).

We have a lot of work to do, but we’ve already made a good bit of progress. Hopefully we’ll be able to have company soon, especially since John’s family will be here at the end of the month!

Back to Reality

As some of you (i.e. everyone who has had any contact with me in the past three months) may know, I recently took the bar exam. It was a two day ordeal of the complete opposite of fun. I think I survived, however, I’m less sure that I passed. I’ve honestly been having nightmares about certain bizarre questions that appeared on the exam, but I try not to worry too much during the day, since there’s not a damn thing I can do about it now.

John and I both start work next Wednesday. He has a part-time position at Lowe’s in Brevard, which is good because then he can apply for full-time positions as well, plus he can always request more hours if they’re available. Even their part-time permanent employees are eligible for benefits, too, so we’ll have to look into how much that would cost. I’m going to start waiting tables at The Black Rose, which is a pub in Hendo.

Waiting tables isn’t exactly ideal (having a stable legal job would be ideal), but it’s money coming in and the schedule is fairly flexible, so I can transition to practicing law as I get legal work coming in. Once I find out if I passed the bar, I’m going to (hopefully) look into renting a small office space to meet with clients. I saw something that looked perfect and was a great price, but entering into a year-long lease without knowing whether I passed would be a bit foolish. Of course, the ideal situation would be going to work for a firm as a full-time attorney, but I might have to gain a bit more experience and make some more connections for that to happen.

Our big challenge right now is finding a place to live.  It seems as though every other house out here is for sale, but there’s almost nothing for rent, so the prices are unreasonably high for a lot of rental units. We really aren’t expecting much from a house, but if we’re going to be living in an old, run-down, 700 square-foot house with one window AC unit in a bad part of town, we don’t want to pay $800/month for the privilege. There are very few apartment complexes here too, so they can charge just about whatever they’d like.  Asheville seems to be better as far as the rental market goes, but since neither of us currently has a job there, it would be a bit silly to move that far away from where we’re working.

Of course, we did find one place that seemed perfect – reasonable price, decent size, pretty good location. The problem: we have cats. Apparently that was a non-negotiable, so we’re back to the drawing board. Our goal was to be out of my parents’ house before our anniversary, which is September 22nd, but that might not happen.

My biggest problem with the housing hunt is really how we’ve been treated by the people we’ve spoken too about properties. Apparently, renters are the scum of the earth around here and deserve no respect whatsoever. I made an appointment with one agent to see a place. We got there at the appointment time and another couple with kids had just driven up. The agent basically ignored us, let us all in, then said we could fill out applications. I wouldn’t have had an issue with it had the guy 1) told us in advance that someone else was going to see the place at the same time and 2) actually acknowledged our existence at some point. The place was a bit iffy for us anyway, but the way we were treated while looking at the place made us quite certain we didn’t want those people as landlords.

Yes, this is the actual house we were grilled about being able to afford to RENT
Yes, this is the actual house we were grilled about being able to afford to RENT

I called about another place today and asked if we could possibly see it today. Instead of answering that, the woman grille d me about our income and savings. Clearly our income is an issue when renting a place, but could we please just see the shanty (and it did look busted from the ad) before we fill out an application. We have a reasonable idea of what we can afford and OF COURSE we have enough to put down the first month’s rent with a security deposit. Why would we be asking to see run-down little shacks if we couldn’t afford it? The conversation was off-putting enough for us to say forget it to that place.

There’s a small possibility that we could be able to rent from a friend of my mom’s, but I’m starting to think that might be a little too perfect to actually work out. In the meantime, I’ll be waiting table and anxiously awaiting bar results. Hopefully something will come together for us soon.

The Wedding Budget: What It All Cost

Ring Power!

The wedding was amazing, but now that I’ve (almost) finished swooning over my photos I have to look at the numbers. As some of you may remember, my wedding budget was $2,000. Well it’s one thing to say that your budget is $X, but it’s an entirely different matter to stick to that budget. So here’s the big question: how much did it all actually cost in the end? Let me break it down for you.

(In US dollars)

80 Invitations and return address labels: $43.15
100 Save the Dates: $10.38
Dress: $145
Necklace: $32.50
Earrings: $12
Shoes: $96
Photography: $400
Roll of Stamps: $45
Tux: $105
Chuppah Fabric: $30
Chuppah Letters: $18
Faux Flowers: $4
Flower stems: $4
Sheet Music: $2
Bubbles: $11.99
Guest Book: $37.80
PVC: $25
Makeup: $75
Catering: $725
Wine: $150
Beer: $216
Cake: $40
Roses: $75
Baby’s breath: $30
Vases: $5
Napkins: $10
Desert plates: $10
Cups: $8
Champagne: $50
Chairs: $115
Total : $2530.82

So we went over our budget by about $500. That’s a fairly significant sum for people in our financial situation, but it’s far from the end of the world. Also, my parents paid for some things for us in addition to the wedding money they gave us.

As expected, the biggest costs were food, alcohol, and photography. We had a few costs that I didn’t anticipate: flowers, chairs, and champagne. However, the cake ended up costing quite a bit less than I expected since it came from Sam’s instead of the baker we wanted.

Of course, you may notice that many things you expect to see on wedding budgets are missing on ours. There’s no venue, DJ, officiant, hair, etc. That’s the wonderful thing about getting married near your family – you have built in help in the area. Our family and friends really stepped up and helped us immeasurably both in terms of just getting things set up and by saving us lots of money.

How we saved

Venue: We were so lucky to have my aunt and uncle let us use their beautiful farm for our wedding. It’s an amazing venue and it allowed us to have the wedding we wanted. I wanted an outdoor wedding, but most of the venues I looked at before we decided on the farm cost the entire wedding budget for four hours and the ones that had reasonable time periods were about twice as much as we wanted to spend on the entire wedding. The only place that would have been affordable enough for us would have required us to severely limit our guest list to make it so. They only charged a couple hundred dollars to rent the outside area for the ceremony, but the reception cost was per person based on catering (they catered themselves), which started at $26/person for just hors d’oeuvres. Considering the list my mom gave me of people on her side of the family we needed to invite had 40 people on it, we would have had to exclude a lot of people we really wanted to have there. It also couldn’t have been the kind of party we wanted, so my aunt and uncle really saved us with the venue.

Our delicious reception dinner

Catering: If you did the math on the catering, you may have realized that $725 divided by 80 people comes out to just over $9/person – i.e. super cheap in terms of catering a wedding. The secret? Having an amazing cook in the family who does catering. My aunt, Billie, gave us an amazing deal on the catering, and it was absolutely delicious! To go with the British theme, she made shepherd’s pie for the meat eaters. She also made one of the best veggie lasagnas I’ve had for the vegetarians (though a lot of the meat eaters ate it too). When we got home, John’s only complaint was that we didn’t take any shepherd’s pie with us because he really wanted some more. If you’re wondering what to compare that $9/plate to, the only other catering option we found that would have been that little was a very basic taco bar from a Moe’s-style Mexican restaurant. That would have been cool, but that didn’t include any vegetarian options of extras like chips and salsa. Even pork barbeque (which I don’t eat, but beef or chicken would have been even more) was more expensive than that, especially when you added sides. A comparable meal at most of the places I contacted would have started at anywhere from $16/person to $25/person. The best part about using Billie was that we already knew she was a fabulous cook and that anything she made would be amazing!

Alcohol: So we didn’t save as much as we might have on the booze since we bought more than we needed (we expected more people to stay longer). However, we got the wine for $3.99/bottle from Trader Joe’s, and no, it wasn’t Two-Buck Chuck. No, it wasn’t the world’s best wine, but it wasn’t Boone’s Farm either. Some of the wines were better than others (my mom and maid of honor bought a selection of different wines at that price point – there were quite a few to choose from), but they were all comparable to the $6-7/bottle wines at most grocery stores. The beer was standard domestic cans from Ingles for $15.98. People may not have been wowed by our beer and wine selection, but, as far as I know, no one complained. The good thing about doing cans of beer instead of a keg was that the leftovers didn’t go to waste. Oh, and though we thought bottles would be classier, the cans were a bit cheaper and they were easier to recycle.

DJ: My aunt and uncle have a sound system at the farm, so we didn’t need to rent equipment and decided to save money by DIYing it. We asked my cousin, Brent, to MC for us and John’s friend, Danny (Ashtray), came with us to do the music during the ceremony since Brent didn’t think he’d make it in time. We just made playlists for the ceremony, dinner, and dancing. The only thing I think we should have done differently was putting the dancing playlist on random. We tried to put mostly upbeat, danceable songs in the playlist, but interspersed it with some slower songs so that people would be able to take breaks to talk or get more drinks. However, when it was on random we ended up with several very high energy dance songs in a row followed by a bunch of less dance-y songs. So basically, people who were into the high energy songs got tired quickly, then the slower songs that followed kind of killed the dancing. There were bursts of dancing throughout, but it never really took off.  My advice: make the playlist in a set order.

Officiant: There aren’t many synagogues in the area, and none of them were willing to marry a Jew to a non-Jew. Basically, if we wanted a rabbi to perform the ceremony we would have had to pay a lot of money (officiant fee plus travel expenses) to “import” one. My mom mentioned htat their friend, Alan, was an officiant and might be willing to do it, so I asked her to find out how much he would charge. He ended up agreeing to do it for free, which was awesome. He was a really cool guy, and, as an added bonus, he looks vaguely like Jon Pertwee (and was just as tall).

Invitations: Groupons for Vistaprint were the secret there. Groupon and Living Social both pretty routinely run $17 for $70 of printing services for Vistaprint. The best part about Vistaprint is that if something is wrong with your order – even if it’s your fault – they’ll let you fix the problem and will resend it to you for free.

Those, of course, aren’t the only things we saved on, but those are the only ones I’m going to go into now. I’ll do another post on DIY chuppahs. If you have any specific questions, please ask in the comments.

We were so happy to find a way to have the wedding we wanted without breaking the bank or slashing the guest list. Of course, there are many ways to save on a wedding, and not everyone is lucky enough to have a free venue, great cooks in the family, or even be married close enough to home for their family and friends to be able to chip in that much. What do you think is the best way to save on weddings (other than the obvious go to the courthouse)?