34 before 34

It hit me about a few months ago that I had completely forgotten about my 33 before 33 list. I suppose impending parenthood can sort of take over your life in that way. That list wasn’t a total bust, but because I forgot about it so thoroughly, I don’t think it’s really fair to consider it done. Some years, I plan my lists for weeks ahead of time, but today is my 33rd birthday, and I still want to do all those things I thought up last year. So I decided to start a new list for my new year. The first 19 items are from 33 before 33, and the rest are new or just slightly revised for this year. When I turned 32, I was a newlywed who had a lot of high hopes, and adding them to a list helped me feel a bit like they weren’t as crazy as they felt. Now I’m 33, and we bought that house and I had that adorable baby, and I need a list like this more than ever, as I’m learning how to be BOTH the new me who’s a mom and the old me who really needs to create. So here we are. And even if I forget about this list by January, I think it’ll be a pretty good year.

  1. go on dates with Dan
  2. host a party of some sort (dinner party, housewarming, football party) for more than 4 people
  3. shoot at least one roll of film each with the AE-1, instax, polaroid
  4. make a wedding album
  5. make wedding albums to give to our parents
  6. visit the ocean (at least 5 times)
  7. walk across a bridge in NYC
  8. visit a new local brewery
  9. make pom poms
  10. eat at Pete and Elda’s
  11. make quote wall art
  12. crochet a giant scarf
  13. get another tattoo
  14. hang a photo gallery wall in our new place
  15. go to a Patriots game with Dan to celebrate six years since our first spark
  16. make a new dessert
  17. get a sewing machine
  18. and sew something simple
  19. make a wreath for each season (summer, fall, Christmas, winter, spring) for our front door
  20. decorate the living room and the dining room
  21. write in a paper journal three times a month
  22. blog more
  23. learn how to be a mom
  24. try NOT to overthink things so much
  25. go on a photo excursion (by myself or with friends)
  26. thoroughly purge my closet (again)
  27. start building a new wardrobe
  28. collect more bracelets for an arm party
  29. grow out my hair
  30. plan an awesome first birthday for Benjamin
  31. eat healthy food and exercise (and okay, also lose weight) to really stave off diabetes
  32. keep up with Project Life and Ben’s baby album
  33. choose a positive outlook even when things are hard
  34. laugh more. feel the wind. go for walks. read books to Ben. savor the snuggles. tell Dan how awesome he is. love big. breathe deep.

16. Finally Own an Expedit Bookshelf from Ikea

I have wanted an Expedit bookshelf from Ikea for a LONG time. Something about the perfectly symmetrical squares is just so appealing to me. I haven’t had a legitimate need for a new bookcase in a long time, because the amazing, perfect ones I bought from Pottery Barn back in 2006 have been so amazing. I added this to my 33 before 33 list anyway, because I knew we wanted to buy a house, and how could we not find space for one new bookshelf in a new house??


But when we realized that those perfect bookshelves were about 3/4 of an inch too wide for their intended location in our new house (despite my careful measurements to account for the light switch, thermostat, and power outlet! turns out the baseboard was enough to bump them. sigh), I recognized my chance. We bought not one but TWO Expedits during our Ikea trip back in early fall, and then the waiting began. First, for the boxes to be delivered (because we bought more than we could fit in Dan’s car, naturally) and then for the time to assemble all of this furniture we bought.


The Expedit didn’t seem too bad, as Ikea assembly goes, but MAN did it require muscle to get some of those pesky screws in. Luckily, Dan’s not a weakling like his wife, so we did eventually get both shelves assembled. I gazed at the one in the living room, empty, for weeks before we mustered the energy to start going through books.


I didn’t really anticipate how many more books I could fit on my old shelves, so there was a lot of sifting and decision making as I unpacked (and re-color-coded, because OBVIOUSLY I’m never abandoning that). We ended up with 3-4 boxes of books left over (because I can’t get rid of books), which was really okay with me, because yes, I suppose I should still keep those random YA books I bought when I worked at Borders, or those classics that I read in high school… but do they need to be on display prominently? No, probably not. (Confession: some were definitely still on display only because the color filled in a section nicely.)

#16. Finally own an Expedit bookshelf from Ikea

But seeing the shelf finally full of our rainbow books, happily in view from my spot on the couch at night? Is pretty fantastic.

The second Expedit is a 1×5 unit that’s now living in the craft room. I was surprised at how quickly I filled it up. But I love how it captures my favorite things all individually: cameras, yarn, and scrapbooks.

#16. finally own an Expedit bookshelf from Ikea

So this list item is very happily complete.

17. Get a cat

I’ve wanted a cat pretty much my whole life. It was never in the cards when I was a kid, as my dad has never made it a secret that he’s not the biggest fan of cats. (He used to tell me that he wouldn’t come visit me if I grew up and get a cat… but I never believed him on that one anyway.) Not having ever had one, I have no idea where this came from. My grandparents had cats for a long time, but they certainly weren’t especially nice or cuddly. In fact, Lydia scratched my sister once badly enough to create a cat-dislike almost as strong as my dad’s… and my brother and Smokey had a standoff on the basement stairs that he still remembers clearly to this day.


My cat-longing grew stronger when I started dating Dan and spending a lot of time at the apartment he shared with his brother. Their cat, Bluecat, is a strange, particular, overgrown kitten who is pretty much the best cat I’ve known. Even if he so prefers Dave that he almost never sat in my lap in the years I visited every other weekend. But he’s very posey, and I have taken quite a few photos of him over the years. (We do still have visiting rights with Bluecat, now that he lives with Dan’s brother and his fiance.)

Dan and I figured we’d get a cat once we moved in together… until our landlord specifically ruled out cats. So we pushed it back to whenever we found a house. (And I added it to my 33 Before 33 list.) As soon as we started the house-buying process, I started pestering Dan about when we could get a kitten. (Even though it would probably be an easier transition if we adopted an adult cat… I really wanted the experience and cuteness of a kitten.) We figured we should wait to get settled… and then we found out I was pregnant. We wondered a bit (and were told by some family and friends) if we were a bit crazy for adopting a kitten knowing we’d have a baby in a few months … but in the end neither of us could resist.


We visited a local shelter, and met the kitten we’d eventually adopt there. She was the first kitten we saw, and she was scarily small. They said she was three months old, but she was about the same size as some other kittens who were MUCH younger than that. She was impossibly sweet though. We filled out some paperwork, but left it at that, because we were worried she was sick. Not to mention the fact that she was gray, and Dan had just had a gray cat.

A few weeks went by, and with Thanksgiving and the beginning of December, we really didn’t have time to visit the shelter again to see if they had any new kittens. And then one morning, I got a call from them, saying that the little gray kitten was going to the vet that day, and she’d be available to take home the following day. And we were first on the (lengthy) waiting list for her. We honestly had no idea that we had formally applied to adopt her… but we saw it as a sign from the Universe that she was meant to be ours.

We brought her home two days later and named her Luna.


She’s still impossibly tiny, although they confirm that she’s about four months old. She has acclimated to us and our house fairly quickly. We had a scare a few days after we brought her home, and worried ourselves sick for a day and a half. It turned out she had a tiny kitten upper respiratory infection, which has cleared up very quickly with some antibiotics. She was back to attack-snuggle-attack mode within a day, and it was such a relief.

our Christmas kitten

She has wormed her way into our hearts pretty thoroughly, that’s for sure.

She gallops around the house, purrs louder than I thought possible, and went on a hunger strike until we realized it was just that she doesn’t like turkey-flavored kitten food, thankyouverymuch. She doesn’t meow, but stares at you and finally emits the tiniest squeak. She is a fan of snuggle-attacking, in which you think she’s there to snuggle nicely, and she’s really waiting for a good moment to start stabbing you through your jeans with her various pointy ends. And we both totally love it. In fact, it’s probably more accurate to say that we’re total suckers… but that’s okay too.

she fits in the pouch of a hoodie!
(she currently fits in the pouch of a sweatshirt AND doesn’t hate us for trying this so… I kinda think she might be the best ever.)

So We Bought A House

And I’m still processing, acclimating, feeling a bit (hugely) overwhelmed. I am still feeling scattered enough that I don’t really know what day it is, so forget about stringing coherent thoughts together.

But. We did it. We are homeowners. Thursday was a whirlwind, from our (several) trips to the bank to get certified checks, to the 85,000 times we signed our names. The closing was a little strange – I don’t know what I expected, ominous music as we signed 30 years of our lives away? – but even when it was over I still felt the same. But then we drove to our! house! where we babysat the cable guy and the cleaning service (expensive, but SO worth the peace of mind knowing we had a very short time frame to get the place ready before we were officially moving in). As Dan argued with the cable company to get our new internet working, I wandered our gigantic new place, starting to feel really super overwhelmed by all of the details, and noticing things like how none of the doorknobs are the same color, and they didn’t do such a great job painting in here and why is the carpet in the basement a different color than the carpet on the stairs (srsly, gray next to beige. Why not just use the same color??) and why does our new trash-company-issued garbage can smell like cat poop? (SO GROSS.)

It all finally, really hit me as I took in all of those details. Texts were coming in from friends – my favorite being Cynthia’s “you own a mutha effin home!!!!” – and I called my parents. It was just suddenly SO BIG and SO OURS.

But Dan got them to fix the internet. And we went out and bought subs and realized that despite being in rural Miscellaneous Western Jersey, there’s actually a lot very close to our place (a real camera shop, even!). We went back home and sat in our empty living room on our new wood floors and ate dinner as we drank the champagne the previous owners left for us. And it felt like the Exciting Beginning we have been hoping for.

1Guys, we have a (non-functioning) fireplace! (We’re going to get it fixed.)

Saturday was moving day, and I can’t tell you how lucky we are to have a vertitable army of siblings to help us. At one point, with both sets of parents, we had 12 people carrying our shit. It was crazy, and made the day go by so quickly. Sure, we may have learned the hard way that our couch won’t fit down the basement stairs when it got STUCK in the stairwell. The perfect home for the bookshelves of the world is a half an inch too small (because although we thought to account for the thermostat, light switch, and outlet, we neglected to account for the baseboard on the neighboring wall, ARGH). But we got everything in and having our families there to see (and gush over) our house was so, so cool. At one point, most of us were hanging around in the kitchen, drinking beers, eating pizza, and chatting, and it was exactly what I always pictured, exactly what I love best about other people’s homes that are the home-iest.

On Sunday, the day our lease ended, we woke up early and drove back down to our apartment to clean it from top to bottom. It was so sunny and bright there, and Dan and I kept talking about how the light was such a huge selling point when we signed the lease two years ago. It was hard work, but we managed to finish, load the car, pick up subs (again) and be on the couch in our new living room only ten minutes after football had started.

2Boxes as coffee tables/footrests? Sure. Also, our wedding quilt was the one blanket that we packed last/unpacked first, which felt extra special. Also, Dan’s new beard, now sticking around thanks to a fantasy football side bet last week. (I won.)

We have SO much work ahead of us unpacking and settling in, and I’m trying not to feel overwhelmed by that, too. Dan has a plan to tackle ten boxes each evening when we get home, which sounds like a lot but felt really good when we did it yesterday. And truly, I knowwwww you’re dying for more pictures, and if I had any idea which box my camera cable was in, I swear I’d post them. Very soon, I promise.

So I didn’t really think I had anything more than a few bullet points in me, but I guess I have a little more to say. It’s an exciting and overwhelming and completely exhausting time now, and I can’t wait to be done with the boxes and on to the imagining our new space for real.

This is arguably my favorite view in our new house – looking from the master bedroom toward the other two bedrooms on the second floor. That window looks out onto the oak tree out front, and from the second floor it’s just a window full of greenness.

#21. Cleaning House

Number 21 on my 33 Before 33 list was, simply, to get rid of all of the clothes clogging up my closet and drawers that don’t (and haven’t) fit. This type of item has appeared on lists in previous years, and tends to be something I’m only really spurred to do knowing I may need to move soon. My weight has always fluctuated between a few sizes, and as much as I hate to admit it, the past few years have had me at the higher end of my comfortable range. Higher than the dark, overalls-laden high school days. Like most brides, I had all sorts of plans to lose weight before my wedding… but I self-medicate with beer and food, so attempting to cut off my primary “you had a shitty, stressful day, you’ve really earned a beer” coping mechanisms during such a stressful year didn’t seem worth the, well, stress. (And let’s face it: part of me also recoiled at the idea that I should lose weight for my wedding. This is what I look like, dammit, why wouldn’t I look like myself on my wedding day?)

a bag of shirts

All that being said… I have a hard time getting rid of perfectly good clothes that fit recently but just don’t, now, and probably won’t in a while. I really liked that polo shirt, and that’s my “reading is sexy” t-shirt, and those jeans are just the best.

a great pile

But there’s a line between holding on to things because you loved them, and holding on to things that depress you to see. So I put it on the list. Because hopefully we truly are moving soon, and the last thing I want to do is continue to fill closets with clothes I can’t even wear anymore. Yes, I probably need to work harder to exercise and eat smart and stop rewarding myself for hard days with booze and burritos. But setting aside those perfectly good shirts for my sister to look through, and bagging up another giant bag to get rid of felt GOOD. I feel lighter already.

And I can always buy some new best jeans if I need to.

Five Years Later

Item #27 on my 33 Before 33 list is a special one. I’ve written about how Dan and I first started dating before, but the quick version is this: at a Somerset Patriots game on August 16, 2008, Dan and I sat next to each other, and didn’t stop talking the entire night. Maybe it was the magic of baseball under the lights, but we both felt the spark that night, even if it took us almost exactly two months to go on our first date.

five years later

Every summer since then, Dan and I have gone to a Patriots game together, to honor that first spark. Sometimes we go with his parents to celebrate our birthdays, and sometimes it’s just the two of us, but it is now tradition to see a game there each summer, no matter how many other baseball games we see.

five years later

Even though there are plenty of other anniversaries now, between our first date and when we moved in together and that whole wedding business, August 16 has always felt especially important, because it’s really where everything started. So when I realized that the Patriots had a home game on August 16 this year, I knew we had to go, in honor of the magic under the lights five summers ago. We were leaving for Cape Cod at 5am the next morning, but we couldn’t miss the chance.

five years later

And I’m so, so glad that we went.

The golden hour felt a little more golden, and we drank cold beers and elbowed each other. I made Dan take an awkwardly-too-close self portrait before we found our seats right behind home plate. We got hot dogs and fries, and ended up with juice boxes too, as we unwittingly ordered kids’ meals instead of plain old hot dogs. We sat next to some really obnoxious teenagers – so obnoxious that we moved our seats twice. But the lights were twinkling and the beer was cold and it was me and Dan and baseball, back where it all started. It feels like a million years and yesterday all at once.

A House Hunting Update, Better Late than Never

When I last wrote about our house hunting adventure, we had just decided to start looking at townhouses after an incredibly frustrating, depressing house hunt so far. I didn’t have a happy ending to write then, and I still don’t, but even as I wrote that, I had a feeling that things were about to turn around.

We looked at about ten different townhouses in our search area, which was really eye opening. It is really amazing how much more you get for your money in townhouses in this area – more square footage, newer finishes, bigger rooms, etc. And you get even more the further west you go. In the same price range and locations that had us looking at crumbly fixer-uppers with flowery wallpaper, we were looking at 3 bedroom townhouses with garages and basements. After our first day of townhouse-hunting, Dan and I were just so relieved. Maybe we could actually find a place to live after all. (Unrelated side note: calling them “townhomes” really irks me, even as I understand the not-entirely-subtle marketing of thinking of it as your home rather than just any ol’ house.)

the rolling hills of the miscellaneous West
the pretty rolling hills of Western NJ; still so wonderfully pretty to me, as this is definitely not a view you’d see on the Shore

I was a little nervous when one of the nicer-looking places sold before we could even schedule a visit, and started to get antsy when I realized that the first townhouse we looked at (and then saw again that weekend) was really, really nice. Dan liked it, too, even. After an uneasy Sunday evening (uneasy because I wanted to talk paint colors and craft room layouts-both of which help me feel like I can picture us living somewhere for real-and Dan wanted to zone out playing a game while he mulled this Giant Decision over), we agreed – we really wanted this place. So we decided to put in an offer the next day after work. (I’m still not sure how I got anything done that day at all.)

We learned about an hour after we signed a giant stack of Important Offer Paperwork that the condo association was not approved for the type of mortgage we intended to get. And then I was back in the “this is NEVER EVER going to work out” headspace…. what if we can’t get ANY place in this development we now really like, the one that’s head and shoulders better than anything else out there??. Luckily, the mortgage company was willing to work with us to allow us to get the type of mortgage that would work. Game on! The sellers liked our offer, and within sixteen hours of signing the paperwork, we had an accepted offer, still a bit less than the asking price.


dear pretty floors, I already love you
hardwood floors. everywhere. eee!

At this point, I think I was just in shock. It seemed way too soon to celebrate anything, even though I was furiously pinning home decor ideas. After everything we went through, and all the places we looked at, it just didn’t seem possible that it would work out. We had looked at 40 places total. I don’t know if that’s a lot in general house hunting terms, but it definitely felt like a lot.

We got through Attorney Review in record time, and had the inspection a week ago. Amazingly, there’s nothing (huge) wrong with the place, and we’re hoping that the post-inspection negotiations are straightforward. It still feels WAY too soon to celebrate, though.

I was trying to explain to friends over the weekend that I still can’t quite picture us there. Not because I’m regretting it, or don’t like it, or think it’s not the right place for us. It’s just so nice, and so big, and so bright and airy and just so much better than anything else we saw that I can’t believe it’s real. I can picture us staying there for a long time. It’s really more than we were hoping for.

So! That’s the story so far. We’re excited and still afraid to believe it’s really happening, and also sorta freaking out at the idea that we are probably moving in six weeks. Six weeks! This is all just kinda crazy.

our new oak tree?
is this our new oak tree? I think maybe it is. Yay!

33 Before 33

I have a bad habit of getting myself into long-term, big-scale projects. Often. I’ve never been one for new year’s resolutions, but there is something about having a yearly or daily project (or hell, just one that’s numbered) that motivates me like nothing else. This quirk is why I have completed four years of Project 365 (whining about it heartily by the end), and probably a little bit of why Project Life appeals to me so much. I have a weakness (or compulsion) when it comes to neatly stacked, numbered lists, and even when I need a break, I can’t seem to stay away from this style of project for very long. So after a few years off, I decided it was time to bring back the birthday to do list, last seen when I was 29 with my 30 Before 30 list.

Having these lists to guide me as I approach a new year has been such a great thing; I really think that if you strike the right balance of silly, small things and big, maybe scary things and things you’ve always wanted to do but just never got around to, it’s a recipe for a really great year. I have done some really fun things thanks to these years of lists, and sometimes I just need a list to push me that extra inch toward a goal. So I’m bringing back the list, with this one: 33 Before 33. In the past, I have obscured the big stuff in vagueries (“make a change” or “take a risk or two”)… but it’s not like it’s a secret to anyone (on the internet or in real life) that there are some Big Life Things that Dan and I want to get rolling on this year. Somehow, putting them on this list (and on the internet) in black and white make them feel more within reach. Less like we’re talking about some other people who are going to do adult-sounding things. If that makes any sense.

Or, the short version: I get majorly sentimental about projects and birthdays and numbered lists. And here’s the list of things I want to do while I’m 32:

  1. make a blanket that I get to keep (I made a granny square blanket for Ben)
  2. send random happy mail to friends
  3. go on one date each month with Dan
  4. host a party of some sort (dinner party, housewarming, football party) for more than 4 people
  5. shoot at least one roll of film each with the AE-1, instax, polaroid
  6. make a wedding album
  7. make wedding albums to give to our parents
  8. buy a house! (we did it!)
  9. paint a room in our new house (extra credit for stripes and/or chalkboard paint) (Ben’s room!)
  10. get a grill and use it
  11. visit the ocean (at least 5 times) (1: Cape Cod, August)
  12. walk across a bridge in NYC
  13. become a mother
  14. visit a new local brewery
  15. learn how to cook new (healthy!) meals with Dan
  16. finally own an Expedit bookshelf from Ikea
  17. get a cat!
  18. make pom poms
  19. eat at Pete and Elda’s (for my brother’s birthday in December)
  20. make quote wall art
  21. get rid of the large quantities of clothes that don’t fit
  22. crochet a giant scarf
  23. get another tattoo
  24. celebrate our first anniversary
  25. focus on today’s moments instead of worrying about tomorrow’s
  26. hang a photo gallery wall in our new place
  27. go to a Patriots game with Dan to celebrate five years since our first spark (done!)
  28. make a new dessert
  29. find awesome, reliable, go-to places to eat in our new town
  30. get a sewing machine
  31. and sew something simple
  32. make a wreath for each season (summer, fall, Christmas, winter, spring) for our front door
  33. choose hope instead of letting stress win

And in case you like to go back in time as much as I do, here are my previous birthday lists:
30 before 30
28 Things to Do While I’m 28
27 Things To Do While I’m 27