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“Home, Sweet Home” Gets Me Every Time

Home Sweet Home art from Etsy shop claireabellemakes
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As a writer, by profession, I explore words and phrases every day. I’m fascinated by clichés and oft-used phrases. So, I’ve decided to bore you all with a look at where some of those sayings come from.

Starting with one that we should all feel so lucky to say, “Home, Sweet Home.” (It’s also one I touched upon in great detail yesterday.) So where does “Home ,Sweet Home” come from? And what does “Home, Sweet Home” mean?

Home Sweet Home vintage mugs from Etsy shop SimpleTreasury
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Well, according to the vast depths of the internet wikipedia, the phrase originates from an American playwright, author, poet and all-around creative guy, John Howard Payne. In 1822 he wrote the lyrics, which were then set to music and the next year, became an integral song of the 1823 novella Clari, or The Maid of Milan. (Not to be confused with the later opera Clari.)

The lyrics are as follows:

Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home;
A charm from the skies seems to hallow us there,
Which seek thro’ the world, is ne’er met elsewhere.
Home! Home! Sweet, sweet home!
There’s no place like home
There’s no place like home!

There’s even a movie about the lyricist, appropriately titled, Home, Sweet Home.

Home Sweet Home pillowcase from Etsy Shop audemarine
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But that doesn’t really answer the question, “what does ‘home, sweet home’ mean?” I guess nothing is going to answer that question except one’s own mind though.

To me, “home, sweet home” is not referencing a place, but the feelings associated with the idea of home.  “Home, sweet home,” is the comfort and safety associated with that idea. It’s the familiarity and ease and all the feelings—stress, love and everything in between.

My “home, sweet home” is the sigh of relief I feel after a long day. It’s the joy I feel when surrounded by friends and family. It’s the pride of a job well done. It’s the weight lifting off my shoulders before a three-day weekend.

What’s does “home, sweet home” feel like to you?

What Home Means Gets Me Every Time

Skyline_BostonGMETWhat does home mean to you? When I count my blessings (which I do, at least every night) I always include both my house and my home. Some times, these terms are used interchangeably, but in my world, they are two distinct things.

They’re not even places, both of them.

A house is a place, sure. But for me, a home is a feeling, a state of being.

A house has walls and rooms and doors. A home has people and events and memories.

A house needs upkeep. A home is almost perfect any which way it is.

A house stays where it is. A home can follow you everywhere and can be anywhere.

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For so long I feel as though my idea of house and home has been distorted. While at college “home” was a term I used to refer to going back to the place where my parents lived. (Or the place I needed to be taken after a long night, let’s be real.) When we bought a house, “home” was something I decided I suddenly had one of my own.

But really, “home” is something you can always have, no matter if there’s a physical structure with it or not. Maybe it’s about the people.

Home Card from RedBubble

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There’s that saying, “Home is wherever I’m with you” that’s been popping up a lot the past few years, especially on sites like Etsy. You can see how that’s true, especially if there’s a person (or persons) in your life whom you couldn’t imagine being without.

On the flip side, “House is wherever I’m with you.” Nope. Just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

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For me, the best thing about “home” is that you can actually get away with having more than just one—and it’s way more affordable than having more than just one house.

To this day, we all probably say “back home” in reference to where we spent our formative years. We may call our parents’ houses “home” or our grandparents’ houses “home.”

Or we can call “home” the place where our physical dwelling place resides, (as the song goes, Boston, you’re my home.) We can refer to home as those special people in our lives. And we can say that there’s no place like it.

There’s a book, You Can’t Go Home Again, with a title that’s now a popular phrase in our everyday vernacular warning people you cannot return to an idyllic world you came from after you’ve left it.

Bon Jovi even wrote a song about it, but really, don’t click if you don’t want it stuck in your head.

But there’s also a popular story of a lost son returning home that says you can always go home again.

I think, and feel free to disagree, that if you have a memory, you can always, always, always go home. Places are temporary. People don’t last forever. But your thoughts and feelings about “home” can transport you there any time.

Our Dining Room Gets Me Every Time

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We’ve been in our home more than a year, and, just now, we’ve finally started to feel settled throughout all our rooms. We’ve done a lot of work over the past year and today I’m excited to share the dining room updates with you.

Some details. On our mantle. (Maybe this year we’ll get around to using the fireplace.) The clock was a wedding gift. The photos are all old family photos from both me and the Mr. including his dad and grandparents and my grandparents. I had a friend help me with getting the resolution right after scanning them in, then printed them using MPix. There’s also one of Louise as we were trying to include the whole family in the room. Next to the front door we hung a wedding photo, though we plan to change that one out every year or so as our family grows and ages.  The new chandelier is from Overstock. And what did the old one look like? Here’s the room before we closed on our home.

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Oh hi, Mr. GMET.

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The walls were a very pale shade of green, which would have fine, except for two things. First, the previous owner didn’t leave any of this green paint behind. Meaning we couldn’t patch any of the holes they did leave behind in the wall. Two, this room had lead paint in the baseboards and the mantle, so we knew we were going to have to do some repainting anyway. We went with Benjamin Moore’s Athena, as we did in our family room and kitchen. We hired a great local company to take care of all the deleading and though it wasn’t cheap, we know it was worth the investment in the long run. We were out of the house for just over a week and came home to a painted, lead-free abode.DiningRoomGMET_InProgress

Over the course of the year, I’ve shared some of our updates with you. Left, our newly polished floors. We decided not to have them refinished because we were putting down an area rug anywhere. Our first Thanksgiving in the center there shows our in transition space, pre-painting, post-furniture shopping. And that rug. I just love our stripe rug (no longer available) from West Elm. (Table from Macy’s.)

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With all the photos going on throughout the room, we wanted to keep the wall opposite the windows pretty clean and simple, hence, just one simple shelf. When we think about needing more storage, we just think back to the previous owner’s furniture and how cumbersome it looked in the room. (Maybe we need a bigger wine rack though?)

DiningRoom_GMET3Finally, opposite the mantle, we enlarged three more old family photos. One of each of our mother’s with their mothers. And one of my grandparents with my dad. To the right, you can see our ode to our “first home”. And, we had the interior of our front door painted black, just to make it pop. (It was previously white.)

And that’s it. Now, who’s coming to dinner?

 

One Year at Home Gets Me Every Time

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This post has been in the back of my head for about a month now. We’ve just been a little busy and I haven’t had the chance to get everything out that I wanted to say. But it’s all about our one year anniversary of being home owners.

So far, we’ve managed not to set the place on fire, so we’re doing pretty good. However, we have had some learning curves along the way as we’ve survived four seasons in our new abode.

Truth: we paid someone to paint our kitchen cabinets and then repainted them ourselves. I came home from work expecting all the painting to be complete and found half of the kitchen cabinets hung upside down and all the cabinets a little less than what our standards required.

Lesson learned: A good painter can be hard to find. And even harder to afford. This isn’t a place to try to save money if you want it done right the first time.

Truth: a house is a lot of work. Like you wouldn’t believe. Case in point, this post is overdue because our weekends have been spent doing things around the house this summer. (More on those projects to come soon.)

Lesson learned: You either need time or money to get most things done. Have a plan and stick to it so that you don’t end up with less of either than you’d like.

Truth: we almost flooded our basement. We were trying to “turn on” the water line to our new refrigerator when a piece, installed by the previous owners, popped off and water went EVERYWHERE. It was late, and just the two of us, and I had to run and get a neighbor (thank God for neighbors) to help us stop the water.

Lesson learned: Know where the main water shut off for the entire house is. It might come in handy at some point. And it’s good to know where that is before the chaos begins.

Truth: location really is everything.

Lesson learned: And by that I mean your neighborhood. You can’t change it. And your neighbors (see above.) You can’t handpick them. We’re glad we did our research and found a community we love.

HerculesSnowStorm

There are many other things I’m sure we’ve learned in the past year, but those are the biggies, in my mind. We’ve made a good amount of changes inside and out and I’m looking forward to sharing them all in the next few weeks. N

Buying a Home in (Greater) Boston Part 2 Gets Me Every Time

EnteringHomeOwnership

Hooray! You’ve got your budget under control. Or at least, you’ve seen what affordability looks like in a spreadsheet. Bonus, you can see where your money is going each month and how much you are (should be) saving. Now what?

Well, in the great greater Boston area, it’s time to talk the first “L” of real estate. Location. Location. Location. And in Boston, we have more than a few to choose from. In the city? Or out of the city? North, south or west? Commuter Rail, T, Bus or Ferry. So, why not start with narrowing it down by area?

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Some of the “community” lines on this map are a little off. But, then again, ask 5 different people what exactly the “North Shore” or the “South Shore” entails and you’ll get 5 different answers. Amiright? Also, there are many great towns not on this map. Andover & North Andover are missing for example. And, I’m no expert on Mass geography, so if some of these ‘burbs names are off, I do apologize.

When we started our search, we started with two very basic questions:
– North, south or west?
– Boston city limits or not?

We answered the first pretty easily. Although many people I know (through work) live on the North Shore, Mr. GMET grew up in Metrowest. Coupled with that is family proximity—his family lives in the “Blackstone Valley” region and I have extended family in Rhode Island. So, south it was.

The next question was one we didn’t figure out for a while into our search. We wanted to be close to the city, so we looked on both sides of the line, including towns like West Roxbury, Hyde Park and Milton in our initial search before we really focused in on one town.

CommuterRailGMET

How’d we narrow it down? We looked at a ton of stats and ratings. City-Data is a great starting place. Simply type in a town and you’ll get the median age, home price, income and more. Greater Boston Suburbs is another one if you’re looking to move beyond Boston. We looked at how long our commute would be on the Commuter Rail if we lived away from the MBTA bus/T. It turned out to be shorter than our typical commute on the Green Line, no surprise there.

IntheCarGMETSo, armed with our narrowed down list and a bunch of research, we jumped in the car a few weekends in a row. We looked up the name of a restaurant in each of our top towns and headed out. We ate in each town, walked around the area where we ate, then drove through a few neighborhoods. We wanted to know what we were getting into, of course.

Finally, after figuring out our budget, we knew we were looking for a little more than a starter home. (We call it our “forever home.”) So, in addition to all the specs and stats, we also started looking at grown-up things like school rankings. Yes, we are that forward thinking. Keep in mind, we started this whole research and budget process more than 18 months ago.

All of these factors helped us settle on Milton and Dedham as our two key markets that we wanted to explore. Next up? The “fun” part. Exploring actual homes. Stay tuned.

Buying a Home in (Greater) Boston Gets Me Every Time

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I have never lived in a house/apartment/dorm room for more than five years. To some, that sounds awful. But for me. It’s been great. Why? Because I’ve gotten to decorate a new bedroom (when I was a kid) or a whole home (on my own) every five years or so. And that means that I’ve even had purple and black carpets in two of my many bedrooms. Yes. Purple carpet. Every girl’s dream. And black carpet. Every teenager’s dream. (Shout out to Mom & Dad.)

Needless to say, I couldn’t be more thrilled that we now have a home that we’re planning on staying in for the foreseeable future. (forever and ever.) And the fact that it’s taking me longer to decorate is A-OK because I have all the years in the world to do so.

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But first, on how we got here. Being a first-time home buyer can be crazy nerve-wracking. And being a first-time home buyer in a major metropolitan area can be even more of a nail-biting good time. The good news, there are endless options. The bad news, same thing.

Now since I’ve been through this, I figured I could offer a few tips with the old Boston touch. Today, the most important. The one thing you must do before you even start looking. Before your hopes get high. Make a budget. You gotta do it. It isn’t the fun part. But that’s for later. There are plenty of downloadable spreadsheets on the internet, but here’s a breakdown of ours.

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You might have more or less expenses, depending on your habits (Netflix, Weekly Dry Cleaning, etc..) but this is a pretty good start. And. Because I love ya, I’ve got a downloadable Excel version of our blank spreadsheet right here. It has two columns (now, renting and later, owning) and we calculated everything to be based off of a full year’s expense.

I’ve got some more Boston specific tips coming up soon too. Hold on to your house keys!

Kitchen Updates Get Me Every Time

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It’s ready for primetime—the kitchen! But more importantly, it’s ready for dinnertime. As you can see from the above “split screen” photo, the biggest change is paint. And lots of it. 
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We painted the walls Benjamin Moore Athena and the cabinets Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace. We also added new hardware including drawer pulls, cabinet handles and hinges. Let me tell you, those little guys start to add up quickly. Regardless, we love the look.

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If full disclosure, we did hire a painter to refinish the cabinets for us. BUT… he got a little sloppy and we were not happy with the results at all. So, we repainted them ourselves. Over many weekends and nights. (He had already gone over his timeline and we were beyond ready to have our house back.) I found a few resources online, but stuck pretty close to the step-by-step over at Young House Love. Especially since their cabinets looked pretty similar to ours.

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The other big change that we made was adding some more airiness to this side of the room. We removed that double cabinet to the left of the sink to allow more light to stream into the kitchen. The photos were taken at different times, so it’s not best to judge these two against one another in terms of natural light flooding in.

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We picked up the brackets at IKEA and had two pieces of wood cut to fit the space. Then, they all got a coat of Chantilly Lace paint and we mounted them on this little piece of wall.

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Here’s a closer look. There enough room for the glasses that we use daily, a big serving bowl and a cookie jar that’s just waiting to be filled with something sweet. We did a lot of holding up random pieces of cardboard and scrap wood to determine the depth, which is just under 8 inches.

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Another big change was filling that empty hole right there. The previous owner took the fridge, but that was OK with us.

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Because now we have a gorgeous stainless steel one. It’s lower profile than the previous owners. Plus, it’s got water and ice in the door! You guys, this is a first for me and I couldn’t be more excited.

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The other appliances are all staying the same for the time being. I mean, let’s talk about a serious expense. But we don’t mind. After living without a dishwasher for three years, I’m just happy there is one at all.

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This is the view from our “family room,” which a reveal of is coming soon, don’t you worry. We still need some art over there to the left of the cabinets too. All in time. All in time.

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Lastly, the floor. It’s not exactly our taste, but it’s in good shape, is durable and easy to clean. So, we’re sticking with it for now. Who knows what the future will hold. So, one last look. Above: before. And…

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After. Coffee brewing. Dishes cleaned. All is right in the world.

Living the American Dream Gets Me Every Time

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So, as you guys know, we have a new home. So, in the spirit of independence, freedom and all things American, I wanted to give you guys a little digital tour of the new homestead. Before we begin, keep in mind this is an empty house. An empty house that needs paint and some window treatments and just the right lighting. OK, ready?

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The open space in the house was a huge selling point for us. Along with the wood floors. And the new windows. And that gas “wood” stove.

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The kitchen isn’t the most grand, but it’s perfect for us. We’ve already got a new refrigerator (not to worry) and we’ve got some updates planned in there as well.HomeTour_GMET_4

The master suite is currently our favorite place in the house. It’s been painted. It gets great morning light. And we both have our own sink. Oh, and something about a great closet.

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And look, you can come visit. There are two rooms to choose from—unless you want to stay in the basement that is.

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More photos to come as we paint, update and decorate. Can’t wait to fill you in!

Parting Gets Me Every Time

GoodbyeBrookline

For just shy of three years, I called this tiny one bedroom apartment home. Two with Mr. GMET, all three with our #LouiseTheCat. Before this, I had lived in two other Brookline apartments, and I’m sad to no longer call it home. As a family, we had so many special moments in Brookline:

• went on our first date while I lived there.
• brought Louise home.
• were married at our church.
• first lived together.

Those are the big memories but there are countless others like walking home from Red Sox games (okay, we only did this once), watching the marathon fly down Beacon Street (thanks, Cate!), going to “our” breakfast spot every Sunday and begin regulars at some of our favorite restaurants.

Thanks for the memories, Brookline! You’re only a short drive away, so I’m sure we’ll be back soon.

 

Donating Gets Me Every Time

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Back earlier in the year, say, oh, January, I mentioned that I wanted to get organized. Well. With a move, comes the opportunity to throw out, give away or donate all the things you can bear to part with. And we did just that.

Now, in this pile, I must tell you are more than 100 things. And this pile didn’t include any of the kitchen items—random mugs, bowls, an underused toaster oven—that we donated as well. While I planned to do a nice layout of all the things we gave away, I didn’t have time. So, here’s the basic rundown:

• Clothes that didn’t fit, weren’t worn any longer or we were just “over”
• Some random office folder and supplies that we didn’t need.
• A couple duffle bags, two cowboy hats and a small radio
• Four mugs, one bowl, that toaster oven and a no-longer-needed-might-be-possessed microwave

It felt so good to take a huge carload of “stuff” to the Goodwill. Maybe something we’ll do every year.