Welcome to Melrose

The last time I wrote about the house I was announcing that we were homeowners. My intention was to post a front photo after closing and that didn’t happen. Today I have several photos of the front as we have made several changes since July 2012. Follow the progression through the pictures below!

Homewood, AL cottage

Here is the front in July 2012. Originally built in 1941, this is one of Homewood’s idyllic cottages. People don’t believe me when they ask for our address – it’s Melrose Place – yes, like the tv show.

Homewood, AL cottage

A closer look at the entry way from July 2012.

We knew immediately that we wanted to replace the screen door. As you can see above, the hardware was visible and the door hung at a diagonal. After living in the house for a short time we also figured out that the evergreen tree to the right grew like crazy! We were constantly trimming it and it blocked the view of half of the porch.

Homewood, AL cottage

In October we decided to cut the crazy evergreen down. When we did we found the exterior light and a mount for a flagpole. Since it was October I bought some mums and decorated the inside of the porch to get ready for trick-or-treaters.

Homewood, AL cottage

In December we decorated for Christmas by hanging globes inside the screened porch and draping lights over the two bushes which frame the walkway. I wanted to outline the roofline – a la Texas – but apparently Texas is the only place that really does that.

I love how Texas homes outline the roofline at Christmas. This is the classiest example I could find on Google Images.

I love how Texas homes outline the roofline at Christmas. This is the classiest example I could find on Google Images.

We found a carpenter who makes custom screen doors and window boxes in early December. I had planned to add window boxes since the day we bought the house and they were one of the best Christmas presents we could have received! This picture shows them empty because by the time we hung them it was too late to buy pansies and too early to plant anything else. You can also see the new screen door which hangs straight and is even with the lines of the porch. The hardware is now installed correctly (on the inside) and we added numbers in the cross bar.

Homewood, AL cottage

One of our best Christmas presents? Window boxes!

Now we have the window boxes planted and our azaleas bloomed for the first time. Spring is absolutely beautiful on our street!

Homewood, AL cottage

At the end of a full day working in the yard, I apparently couldn’t move the blower or my garden bucket for the picture. In fact, I could barely move my body…

That brings everyone up to speed on the front exterior! My lofty blogging goals include an update on each room and the backyard. W and I take so much pride on the front exterior because the other houses on the street care for theirs as well. I imagine the Rascal Flatts song “Mayberry” applies to Melrose Place in Homewood 🙂

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My Apologies

I have been MIA for almost a year. And this wasn’t the first time things went radio silent at Watkins Wanderings.

It seems that each time I approach a year mark of silence, I muster the energy to write a few posts. Then I disappear. Again.

Life is busy, we Watkins are a happy bunch, and the lack of posts isn’t for lack of content. In fact, I have so many things I would like to post but time escapes me. After creating and posting content to the interwebs all day, every day for clients I spend my minute amount of free time with the husband, pups, and friends. Sans computer, which means no personal blogging.

There are plenty of people in this world who can manage a full time job, own a house, have a happy life and meaningful relationships, and blog all at the same time. I guess I’m still trying to find that balance, so I’m posting today to issue my apologies.

I’m going to attempt to blog again. There will probably be more photos than words so that I can blog quickly. First on my list is a house update… coming tomorrow!

**P.S. When I proofread this post, I read “all day, err day” in a Lil’ Jon voice. You should too 🙂

shih-tzu-at-computer

Sophie, overseer of hours spent online

buttermilk ROASTED chicken

W and I have a weekly supper club with some close friends here in Birmingham. Each week we select recipes that none of us have tried and then we cook up a supper-licious storm. Last night was the first supper club hosted in Homewood (at the new house, obvi).

Our menu consisted of the following:

Hors d’oeuvre – Rosemary Asiago cheese paired with crackers
Salad – Caprese (we needed to use the last of our tomatoes from Saturday’s Pepper Place purchases)
Dinner – Buttermilk Roasted Chicken from Smitten Kitchen with some grits

buttermilk roasted chicken from smitten kitchen

buttermilk roasted chicken. image from smitten kitchen. because we had no time to take a picture of our own.

Dessert – Giada de Laurentiis Mini Chocolate Meringue Cupcakes

Every.single.dish was amazing, but let me tell you – the buttermilk roasted chicken will rock your world. I found the recipe over the weekend and I will definitely make the dish a habit. The preparation is simple and the outcome will change your life. I left the chicken in the brine for 30-ish hours.

I knew that Giada’s cupcakes were very involved and I’m not a person who does well in the kitchen with multiple time-consuming/involved/difficult recipes. I saw them last week on her Bowling Night episode of Giada at Home.

The moral of this story: the winning dish was the chicken. Make it. Change your life. And make your supper club very, very happy.

An Update and Big Plans

W and I are proud to announce that we are almost homeowners! Everything will be official soon, but until then I should probably explain how we have arrived at this point.

During the month of June, I traveled home to Texas for a family beach trip and some time in my hometown. The first week of my trip was on Mustang Island, which is outside of Corpus Christi, and is home to a small town named Port Aransas. Our week at the beach consisted of rest, relaxation, amazing food, and a surprise baby shower for my sister Elizabeth (I’m going to be an aunt!).

W stayed in Birmingham working and taking care of the pups. We had been working on preparations to look for and buy a house before I left and sure enough all of the puzzle pieces fell into place right as my vacation began. W spent a few evenings with our realtor looking at houses in Homewood and wasn’t very impressed. Come mid-week we received a new listing email from our realtor that featured a cottage in Homewood’s Edgewood neighborhood. The pictures were impressive so W and the realtor arrange a showing appointment as soon as possible. After the showing I received a call from our realtor who explained that W was ready to buy a house without me. (She wanted to play devil’s advocate since I hadn’t been there in person.)

I assured W that surely it could wait a few days – he just needed to cool his jets. However, let me say that two weekends prior every.single.house we had an interest in went under contract. The Homewood area is still so desirable that its real estate market is fast-paced. Great homes move quickly. After showing my entire family the listing photos and virtual tour at the beach, everyone took W’s side and agreed that this house will not last through the weekend.

W and I agree that he can put an offer on a house I haven’t even seen as long as it is contingent on the inspection. My family beach trip wraps up and we head to my hometown so I can have more time with sisters and my parents. During these few days, W keeps me updated on negotiations and schedules the inspection for the day after I fly back to Birmingham. After flight delays and a piece of luggage lost, I arrive home at midnight and I’m due to be at the house bright and early the next morning.

Inspection day is super hot. I arrive at the house with my own camera, iPhone, notepad, pen and a 25 ft tape measure. I was so nervous because what if I absolutely hated it?! Who lets their husband buy a house?! I was also excited because I thought it had potential from the photos and virtual tour.

You enter this cute Homewood cottage through a screen door that leads to a screened porch.

Homewood, AL screened porch

Not a bad start. I take measurements of the room and hope that I like everything else as much as the porch. Once I recorded my measurements, I entered into the living room.

Homewood, AL living room with hardwood floors

Can you even believe the hardwood floors? Again I was really happy with what I had seen so far!

I walked through every room, one-by-one, taking measurements and recording them for my future reference. Heck if this was the house I was going to have a lot of planning to do!

Needless to say every room had its perks and I understood why W had to act without me. 🙂 The inspector was very thorough and helpful. He gave us a few things to consider/negotiate and we decided that we would negotiate since we loved the house. I should explain at this point that I have a history working in real estate and I am licensed in Georgia. Our thoughts at this point were: Should we negotiate on the sale price? Negotiate on closing costs? Or negotiate that the sellers’ must fix it or we walk?

The answer to that question depends on your personal situation. We decided that if the sellers’ could cover closing costs, then we could use our funds to make the appropriate repairs.

After more successful negotiations, we were under contract! Since that day I have been making big plans for every room on Pinterest. You can follow me here or follow our house board here. Once the closing is complete, I will show everyone the facade. I can’t wait!

Our First Anniversary

Time flies when you’re having fun, right?! I cannot believe it has been one year since our perfect celebration… it seems like yesterday!

our_wedding_toast

W and I wanted to celebrate our first anniversary with an enjoyable dinner out on the town and the traditional first anniversary gift of paper. Many of the nice restaurants in Birmingham are closed on Monday evenings so we actually started our celebration Saturday evening, where we had a reservation at Hot & Hot Fish Club. Unfortunately I did not take any pictures of my food or drinks (due to a new self-imposed rule of no phone at meals) but I can assure you everything was spectacular! I don’t know who tends the bar at Hot & Hot but oh.my.goodness my cocktails were good. The cocktail menu had so many appealing choices that I ended up trying three different varieties over the course of our evening. 😉

We also thoroughly enjoyed the food. W ordered one of their classics: Loin of Rabbit Stuffed with Fennel Sausage on Sweet Corn Puree with Field Peas, Heirloom Tomatoes and Baby Okra. I ordered the simple grilled fish, red snapper, because the Gulf red snapper season started on Friday. How’s that for a fresh catch? The Gulf Red Snapper was served with Tomato, Avocado, Grilled Vidalia Onions and Basil-Lime Vinaigrette. Following our entrees, we ordered an after-dinner libation to compliment our dessert, Elton’s Chocolate Soufflé with Crème Anglaise and Whipped Cream.

We had a wonderful evening and I highly recommend Hot & Hot!

Hot and Hot Fish Club on Urbanspoon

Last night was our actual anniversary and we decided to celebrate at home with W’s famous spaghetti, a bottle of wine and gifts. W’s famous spaghetti is an adaptation of this spaghetti all’amatriciana from foodnetwork.com. We like it spicy so he basically follows the directions, but puts in a tbsp of red pepper.

After dinner we swapped our paper gifts. I am a stationery fiend and love to have personalized notepads in practically every room. W noticed that all of them either have my first name only or they include my maiden name and I still use them. No more though! He gave me four notepads with my new name on them.

First Anniversary Gift Ideas: Paper

I tried thinking of something besides stationery for W. I fatefully found a watercolor print on etsy that I knew he would treasure!

Etsy Seller DogArtStudio Watercolor Print of Labrador Retriever

Etsy Seller: DogArtStudio

Getting to Know You

DISCLAIMER: I found this post sitting as a draft when I thought I had posted it live…weeks ago. But we are definitely still getting to know the Magic City so without further ado…

Well we haven’t been in Birmingham long but the storm of moving has passed. Not a single box remains in our apartment, although our storage unit is a different story. The pups made their adjustment and actually l.o.v.e. our new place. W and I enjoy driving around somewhat aimlessly while getting to know the city.

One thing that Birmingham is very proud of is its culinary scene. We are excited to have more options available and we didn’t really know where to start. We want to try as many places as possible but we are also trying to cook at home more often than we eat out. In my mind this translates to cooking on week nights and going out during the weekend.

We have also been exploring because our current apartment is temporary. Sometime in the fall the entire complex will be demolished so that a new luxury development can start building. We have been trying to get to know different neighborhoods so that we can choose a place to make more permanent. Right now our favorite seems to be Homewood. Why?

1. Convenience. No matter where we have lived previously, we have always rented in an ideal location. We really enjoy walking to as many places as possible and having simple commutes. Homewood is convenient to W’s office, downtown, and many other neighborhoods in B’ham.

Homewood AL Edgewood neighborhood

An example of a home for sale in Homewood. Photo credit: Realty South

2. Comfort. Homewood feels very comfortable, safe, and is just really darn cute. We love the tree lined streets with plenty of sidewalks, the parks, and the older houses. Finding a house with a yard is definitely on our list of things to do – the pups would greatly benefit.

3. Commerce. Homewood has a great amount of shops and restaurants. The boutiques are fab and most of the restaurants we have tried were keepers. You really wouldn’t need to leave unless going to the Apple Store at The Summit (but this isn’t far away either).

I plan on trying to blog about our favorite restaurants and other unique finds in the city. Hopefully I can find a better blogging routine before we need to move again. You just never know…

Buon Giorno!

It seems with each and every post I always have an excuse for my lack of blogging. I think this time will be the first acceptable one.

I have been on an extended vacation in Italy with my mother in law (M) and sister in law (Claire @ HighGlossBlue). This was a birthday gift for M and a trip that all of us absolutely appreciated.

May 1 we departed ATL and arrived in Rome’s Fiumicino airport, from which we bought train tickets straight to Florence, where we stayed for three days. We saw the major sites and museums, bought some amazing leather pieces, and we really enjoyed our bed and breakfast which was located above the Piazza del Porcellino.

Florence, Italy St. John's Baptistry

Florence, Italy: Mosaic Domed Ceiling of St. John’s Baptistry

Sounds awesome right?! Well it only gets better because our next stop was cooking school in Positano. A true paradise. From Florence we took the train to Naples and cooking school provided us transportation to Positano. In Positano we stayed at the Hotel Savoia and had cooking classes scheduled almost every other day for a whole week. When we didn’t have cooking classes on the agenda, we were taking excursions to destinations such as Capri, Amalfi, Ravello, and Sorrento.

The Vertical City: Positano, Italy

Positano, Italy: The vertical city

Our cooking classes took place in commercial kitchens of two restaurants: il Ritrovo and Le Tre Sorelle. Il Ritrovo is located in the hills above Positano and our instructors, Salvatore and Marilu, taught us how to make homemade pasta, chicken cacciatore, tiramisu, and many other recipes. Over Memorial Day weekend we all recreated the chicken cacciatore and tiramisu. We impressed ourselves and those who didn’t make the trip 😉

Il Ritrovo Via Montepertuso

Making homemade pasta, il Ritrovo Master Chef Salvatore

After our week in Positano, we had a morning tour of Pompeii and then we drove to Rome. We spent three days trying to see all of the sights and the Vatican. Our first day we used a 1-day walking guide from a travel book so that we could see many sights in a short amount of time. This walking tour included Trevi fountain, Spanish Steps, Piazza del Popolo, Pantheon, and of course some churches in between. Another day was spent touring the Vatican with our guide Paola. Our last day we walked through the Borghese gardens and ate the best gelato in all of Rome at Ciampini.

Blue Grotto Capri Italy

Capri, Italy Blue Grotto

Finally we returned to ATL, craving burgers and fries, and already planning our return trip to Positano.

The Latest: We Are Still Alive and Well

I started this blog with the intention of recording memories of our first year of wedded bliss. Even though I had the best of intentions that hasn’t happened. Heck I can’t even stick to once-a-month updates. Every time I sit down to update there are just so many things to note. Thinking back on everything that has happened since my New Year’s post is overwhelming and just isn’t going to happen.

Instead I am going to include the most major changes since mid-January:

1. At the end of January, we had an addition to the family. W finally decided it was time to get his man dog. Hence this precious face:

Shug, our new addition

Shug, our new addition

2. February is a complete blur – probably because we were consumed with raising a rambunctious puppy. We managed to save many shoes but ended up with a lot of ruined socks. Sophie hated us for this entire month because of the daily attacks. However, one afternoon in a state of sheer exhaustion this happened:

spooning puppies

Sophie & Shug - quality time spooning

3. March. March was busy and brought drastic change to our lives. W spent the beginning of the month considering some career options and decided it was time to look for something new. Mid-March he lined up some interviews in the big city (Atlanta) and a slightly smaller but bustling city (Birmingham, AL). Our time in the Palmetto state was complete. He accepted an offer in Birmingham so we started to pack and arrange an interstate move – all while we were still training the puppy.

Packing & Preparing for a Move

I labeled boxes on our patio in order to avoid a high from this Sharpie magnum. I love any and all Sharpies - Fine Point, Regular, Sharpie pens, and this giant.

4. Last week during the first week of April the move was made and now we are settling in. We are excited to be back in Alabama, home of our Auburn Tigers. The pups both enjoy our new apartment and the sprawling lawns between the buildings. W starts work on Monday and I am happy I can continue working from home.

Hopefully we will have exciting updates to share as we explore this new city!

A New Post… About our New Year Celebration

Naturally this is a catch up post on our married life, as maintaining my personal blog is difficult after a long day of blogging elsewhere…

Anywho, W and I have thoroughly enjoyed the first 10 days of the new year. We began with a new years eve celebration at home. This may sound boring but we had a fun filled evening preparing a feast and consuming a bottle of wine and champagne. 🙂 Our menu consisted of the following recipes:

Both Barefoot Contessa recipes were perfection. I actually compared Paula’s red velvet recipe with that of my Nana’s and made a few adjustments accordingly. I was so confident that I didn’t need a whoopie pie pan according to Paula’s instructions. Well that was false – her instructions did not work out, as the batter would spread so thin and combine to make a large pancake-like creation. I did cut that large pancake into circles in order to make whoopie pies, but I also saved enough cake batter to make a small round cake. Maybe next time I might pour a small amount of batter into a cupcake pan so that the teaspoons cannot spread….

While we prepared this feast, we had the Auburn bowl game on. We were happy with the outcome, although we didn’t feel very confident until the second half. I should also mention that this day I was a crazy person. I told Andy I wanted to start the new year with a clean house, but I did not mean a little vaccuming and tidying would do. No. I meant that every surface needed to be cleared, pledged, and put back together. I also meant that every fan needed dusting, baseboards needed a wipe down, and so did the chair rail that runs through our entire apartment…

Needless to say by January 1, I had nearly killed both of us and we could barely move. We decided to watch Mad Men on the Roku all. day. long. We have never caught the Mad Men fever but that changed after watching 2.5 seasons back-to-back. Now that is our nightly show so that we can finish season four before season five begins this spring.

Since I didn’t take any photos of our feast, I leave you with a picture of baby Sophie in her holiday pajamas.

Holiday Pajamas

So sleepy!