The Name Game: Introducing Carly R.R. Hublou

Well, I did it; I changed my name.

Surprisingly, the feedback from my blog and Facebook polls was quite helpful. Some of my friends changed their names completely; some kept their maiden names in some form. But the option I liked best (which I had not considered previously) was my cousin Tammy’s suggestion of keeping my last name as a second middle name. That way, it would always be there and I could use it if I wanted, but my legal last name would match Kevin’s. This really appealed to me and seemed to be the most elegant solution to my self-imposed problem.

Another interesting tidbit I received in response to my last post was from my father-in-law, who explained to me the origin of the surname Hublou:

If you change your name to Hublou then people will ask you “What’s the origin of that name?” or “What nationality is that?” That’s when you can be totally cool and say “It’s Flemish.” The looks you get are unforgettable because no one knows what Flemish is. Then you can say it’s from “Flanders” and once again you get that awestruck look. They’re spellbound. Then you can get into a real conversation that it was absorbed by Belgium, but today there is real talk about a movement to secede. You can start talking about Flemish painters like Rubens, and my personal favorite Bruegel. It’s endless.

Thanks, Dad. (<– very, very weird to say!)

Sometimes you just have to write it out 7th-grade-crush style to make a decision.

Sometimes you just have to write it out 7th-grade-crush style to make a decision.

After writing my name out every possible way, I finally decided on my cousin’s suggestion. Plus, this option allowed me to stylize my name as Carly R.R. Hublou, which is awesome, albeit a little pretentious. (And I’m still deciding whether I like the periods.)

So I took an afternoon off from work, rounded up my paperwork (marriage license, birth certificate, Social Security card, driver’s license), and headed to the happiest place on Earth, the Gainesville Social Security office (SSO).

No, I’m kidding. It’s actually the most depressing place on Earth.

When you are a bride-to-be, or a newly married woman, you have this unrealistic expectation that everyone around you is also farting flowers over all of the wonderful things you are doing to prepare yourself for your new life. The first time I realized this was not true was when we filed for our marriage license, when the notary lady and Kevin sat there stoically as I beamed from ear to ear and was so giddy I could hardly sign my name.

Papers in hand, ready to go!

Papers in hand, ready to go!

The most recent time I realized this was when I went to the SSO to change my last name. When I walked in, I was greeted by a Mall Cop-esque security guard who gave me a once-over and decided he didn’t need to search me (even though the signs at the entrance insisted that I would, in fact, be searched). I thought this was strange until I entered the waiting room — a cold, windowless square with two groups of chairs awkwardly facing each other — and realized that I, along with only two other women, were not the usual clientele of the SSO. Whereas I was clean, healthy, and not holding a screaming child, nearly everyone else was either dirty from a hard day’s work, unfit for work due to injury and/or drug addiction, and/or unable to work because of said screaming child. Thus, what I thought was going to be a pleasant experience — in which I skip into the SSO wearing a crown of tweeting birds — was actually quite depressing and lonely. No wonder Kevin gave an emphatic “NO” when I asked if he wanted to join me.

With no book to read and my cell phone nearly dead, I had no choice but to watch the other people, watch the weather-only channel playing on the TV (which, to my relief, showed the number of the current customer being served…until I realized it never changed and I had no clue how long I would be there), or read pamphlets on how Social Security Can Work for Me!

After an hour of waiting (during which I came to feel extremely humbled and grateful for all of the good things that have happened in my life, including not having a screaming child), the powers that be finally called me forth, and, as expected, my conversion from CRR to CRRH began with: “How do you pronounce the new last name?”

Once I escaped the talons of government, I was hoping I could breeze over to the DMV and get a new license, but, alas, no; you can’t move forward with any other name-change activities until you receive your new Social Security card.

So I waited…and was pleasantly surprised at how quickly my new card arrived, which was several days sooner than the promised date! At least I now know that some things can move through government relatively quickly.

20-year-old me and 28-year-old me.

Me at 20 and 28 years.

With my new Social Security card in hand, I visited the DMV, where I had a very pleasant visit. Alachua County allows you to make an appointment online for the DMV location of your choice, and if you have an appointment, your wait time is virtually zero. I arrived early for mine, but I was still served right away and assigned to the happiest government worker I have ever met. He made the process a breeze and even let me take my new license photo a few times (which was a cinch for him after the wannabe-beauty-queen before me insisted on about 10 photos before feeling satisfied with her new mug shot). After the disaster that was my previous photo, I really wanted to get this one right. I even made an appointment for a haircut and style right before the DMV appointment so that my mane would be on point. The results made me very happy. Oh, and I’m now an organ donor!

After the DMV, I drove to the voter-registration office, which was the last physical stop on my journey to becoming Carly R.R. Hublou.

The following week, I used my new email address (Finally! My email address is my first and last name!) to send a barrage of emails to:

  • My employer, to update my W4, work records, benefits, etc.
  • My bank.
  • The IRS, to update my Employer Identification Number (for my side businesses).
  • My clients, to update the name they write on my checks.
  • The manager of my student loan.
  • All of my many credit cards.
  • My investment accounts.
  • My homeowner’s insurance.
  • My mortgage lender.
  • My car insurance.
  • The post office (but I don’t know why…the mailman clearly doesn’t look at names, judging by the volume of mail I receive for humans other than Kevin and myself).

All of them had different rules for which documents I had to show to prove my identity. Some required an official signed letter; some were fine with just an email. The process was exhausting and inconsistent, but I am, for the most part, finally done. (I still haven’t tackled changing my name at UF because the process sucks and I don’t want to change it halfway through a semester.)

The best thing to come out of this process, though, has nothing to do with my name. Remember several blog posts ago when I  said that Kevin and I wanted to get married for financial reasons? Well, those reasons are starting to come to fruition. While filling out my new W4, I realized that I had not been claiming enough exemptions, which is why I always get such a big return at the end of the year. (And this is BAD, people. If you are happy with a “big return” at the end of the year, you do not understand the time value of money or the fact that you are giving the government a year-long, interest-free loan!) I thought as a single person the only options were 0 or 1, but in fact you can also claim 2! And now that I’m married, I can claim even more! That’s significantly more money per paycheck! I was so excited about my new exemption status that I nearly tripped skipping out of HR’s offices.

Another financial benefit: cheaper car insurance. That’s right! When you get married, you are required to report your spouse as a named insured on your personal policy, even if their policy is with a different company (and Kevin and I have separate policies). I was nervous about doing this because I thought my premium would increase. But, in fact, the opposite happened: my 6-month premium became $50 cheaper! Why, you ask? Well, insurance researchers have found that married people tend to be in fewer accidents than their non-married counterparts, saving me $100 a year in insurance premium. Score!

So, to conclude this saga, you can now address me as Mrs. Hublou, our future child(ren) will be made fun of but at least have the same last name as their father and mother, and I will be pronouncing/spelling my last name for the rest of my life, like some bizarre act in a really terrible variety show.

And, just in case I ever run for political office, I’ve already developed by campaign slogan: ‘Blou your vote on Carly!

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We Did

Almost exactly one-point-five years ago, I started this blog and discussed our intentions to plan our wedding, and exactly one year ago (and, ironically, on our third anniversary), I wrote about our decision to be indefinitely engaged.

Today, on the fourth anniversary of our first date, I get to write about our wedding.

(So, I did write the introduction and half of this post when the above was true, but then I put off writing the rest, and so technically none of that is true now.)

Sometime in December 2014, Kevin and I finally agreed that A) we needed to get married (for financial reasons, of course), B) we wanted to get married (for love reasons), and C) we wanted to keep it simple.

We went through several iterations of what “simple” meant and finally landed on a three-course wedding format—one that would please our family, friends, and financials.

And, when we discovered that 2015 would include a Super Pi Day, and also that this day fell on a Saturday, we knew we had to get married on that date.

But it was December, and no one knew of our plans but us.

On January 4, 2015, while lunching with some of our friends at Bangkok Square (best Thai in GNV!), we discussed our wedding date and were disappointed to learn that half of the people at the table were busy on Pi Day. Dismayed, we realized that, if we wanted people to attend, we had to get to work right away. Since I don’t believe in save-the-dates, and since paper invitations would have taken too long (oh yeah, and would have been ridiculously expensive), we used Facebook to invite our friends and an email blast to invite our family and non-Facebook-using friends. Imperfect? Maybe, but we didn’t care; it was cost-effective, and it allowed us to easily track who could come.

Part 1: The Ceremony

Having been to many weddings, I knew that the ceremony was not something that everyone would want to attend, no matter how short we made it. Also—and this is just me being weird—it felt arrogant to expect people to come watch me parade around in a pretty dress and say some fancy things. So, while we told our friends about the ceremony, we let them know that it was 100% optional. To our surprise, many of our friends still came, which truly warmed my heart.

Covered pavilion at Bivens Arm looking toward the seating area.

We held the ceremony at Bivens Arm Nature Park, a gorgeous, free park near downtown Gainesville. Originally, I wanted to get married at Cellon Oak Park, which is about 20 minutes north of Gainesville and boasts the largest oak tree in Florida (though when I drove Kevin there in 2014, the park was closed because one of the tree’s largest limbs had fallen, so who knows if it’s still the grand champion), but it’s devoid of seating, which meant we would have had to rent chairs and truck them out to the site. Since we planned to have a very short ceremony, it didn’t seem worth the cost to do this. While I had been to Bivens Arm before, it had been several years since my last visit. When I Googled it and saw that it provided comfortable seating and a pavilion perfect for a ceremony, I knew it was perfect for our event.

While I was content with the decorous natural setting, Kevin and his friend from work, Lina (who graciously volunteered to be our day-of ceremony coordinator), thought the site could use a bit of sprucing. Together, we scoured Michael’s for cheap wedding decor. I found some amazing owl vases (50% off!), which we planned to rest on our newly purchased bar stools (a gift from Kevin’s parents) from our bar, white tulle (buy one, get one 50% off), and blue and white fake flowers (50% off)—just enough decoration to add a personal touch without detracting from the rustic beauty of the park. And, better yet, after the big day, we had so much tulle left over that I returned one of the rolls to Michael’s, and while we did keep the owl vases and some of the fake flowers as decorations in our house, I sold the used tulle and half of the flowers on Craigslist for $20!

As for the colors, my preference would have been seafoam green (my oddly specific favorite color), but since my sister was my only bridesmaid (actually, my matrón of honor), and since she also had to buy a flower-girl dress and a ring-bearer suit, I told her to pick any dress she wanted in any color (except red) and that would be my color. I wanted the dress to be something she would actually wear again (and not something the bride tells you you could actually wear again but then never do), and though she chose a super fancy floor-length gown, I think she goes on enough cruises to reuse that baby at least once on those fancy-schmancy dinner nights.

For the officiant, well, that’s a funny story that involves me and the Internet and being creepy (or really good at the Google, depending on how you look at it), but we ended up finding the fiance of our wedding photographer, who happened to be a notary and who happened to have never officiated a wedding. But, he did have a lovely baritone voice, and I had no problem gambling on his ability to read words from a piece of paper and sign his name nicely. In the end, he did a great job, and now we’re actually friends in real life.

As for the ceremony itself, it was really important to Kevin and me to write it ourselves and make it meaningful to us, even if it did not adhere to customs or the religious beliefs of anyone other than us. We loved what we came up with; it was traditional enough to follow but uniquely us. Lina, who is from India, told us that in traditional Indian weddings, people close to the bride and groom speak during the ceremony to honor the couple. Kevin really latched on to this idea, so we asked his dad and brother and my sister and aunt to prepare a little something. At first, I wasn’t fond of the idea, but I’m glad Kevin insisted on it, because I think it turned out well and made the ceremony even more personal.

Wide shot of the site.

Our beautiful ceremony venue.

I know everyone says this, but the ceremony really did go by in a blur. Though we spent hours writing our wedding ceremony, it took only a few minutes to complete, and it felt like a surreal, out-of-body experience. But it happened and, in under 15 minutes, we were husband and wife.

After the ceremony, we spent a few minutes chatting with our friends and taking family photos before we headed into the woods for a brief photo shoot of just us. The one thing I regret is not budgeting more time here, as we felt very rushed to get photographs in before heading to our next event, but in the end, our photographer (Tyler K. Reed Photography) got plenty of great shots. (I mean, let’s be honest; how many photos does anyone really need of their wedding day? The answer is not that many.)

Part 2: Family Luncheon

Because all of our family came from other cities (and some from other states), we wanted to do something nice and a little fancy for them as a thank-you (which is why this event was called a luncheon and not simply a lunch). We decided to treat our family to a meal at Francesca’s Trattoria, my favorite Italian restaurant in GNV and one of the first restaurants Kevin and I visited for a date.

This turned out to be the single most expensive transaction for the entire wedding, but it was worth it. The food was great and we had the chance to hang out with our families before the chaos of the party began.

Part 3: House Party

Homemade fire pit and wood benches.

While we always knew we wanted to host a party in lieu of the traditional, formal reception, we originally planned to rent a house or venue and throw the party there. In the end, however, we decided that it would be more advantageous to host it at our house. We had never thrown a housewarming party when we purchased the house, and we thought we could make better use of the money we would have needed to rent a place to make some small improvements to our own abode, like building the bar and adding a permanent, homemade fire pit with benches.

When we first started dating, Kevin (though he swore he never wanted to get married) told me that the best wedding he had ever attended was one that was held in a park and included hot dogs and beer. Having been to many weddings myself, I knew that the real recipe for success/fun was not how cute and clever the table centerpieces and party favors could be (and the last thing I wanted to do was throw the same uninspired, “look what I found on Pinterest,” rustic-chic wedding that every other female human is throwing these days); all we really needed was alcohol and food.

So we rented a keg, picked up some handles of liquor and mixers, concocted a red sangria, and made lime-infused water for the DDs. In honor of Pi Day, we ordered 25+ pizzas from Domino’s and 8 freshly made pies from Publix, and we also served some appetizers/finger foods.

We converted most of the rooms in our house into seating areas to give people different areas to roam. We set up dual beer pong tables on the side of the house, and we had a bonfire going (at least for a little bit) in the backyard. We put up minimal decorations but enough to feel festive, and we had a diverse playlist (curated by yours truly) going while Darren Aronofsky’s film Pi played on our TV in the background. (Looking back, I should have played Life of Pi instead, as Pi ended up being an obscure choice.)

For our guest book, we agreed that we did not want a framed photo, painting, or other physical object that we would then feel obligated to tote around with us for the rest of our lives. Instead, I used Google Forms to create a fun survey, the results from which are more fun than signatures and will last until the sun blows up and destroys the Earth (and thus the Internet). We were also then able to email a link to the guest book to everyone subscribed to the Facebook event for those that missed their opportunity to fill it out at the party.

What I loved most about our party, though, was how generous people were. We had asked our guests to not bring gifts (since we were not throwing a traditional, costly reception); we just wanted people to come have fun with us. Though several of our friends still contributed to our honeymoon fund, others brought us homemade gifts, like a giant jug of cherry-infused kombucha, a pitcher of white sangria, and fried chicken. Kevin’s aunts took it upon themselves to purchase all of our paper decorations and even lit up our driveway with luminaries. These were unexpected surprises and made us feel very loved.

The downside of the party was that only a few people took photos, so I don’t have much to show for it. But the experience was a blast and exactly what we had hoped it would be. Everyone seemed to have a good time, and most of the food and beer disappeared. I’d call that a success.

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The Rundown

Here’s a breakdown of everything we spent money on and our grand total for our wedding. While we missed our $1,000 goal, I’m satisfied with what we spent. In the end, we both agree that it was exactly what we wanted: our friends and family hanging out, having some drinks, and being merry. In truth, I can’t imagine the evening being anything else other than what is was: perfect for us.

  • Marriage license: Alachua County, $94
  • Invitations/guest book: Facebook/Google Forms, free
  • Music: Various playlists curated by us using Google Play All Access, free (though we did pay $30 for a Bluetooth player to have music at the ceremony, and we pay a monthly subscription fee of $8 for Google Play)
  • Ceremony:
    • Venue: Bivens Arm Nature Park, free
    • Photography: Tyler K. Reed Photography, $188
    • Notary: Kody Latham, free
    • Planner: Lina Khan, free
    • Decorations (tulle, owl vases, flowers): Michael’s, $60 – $20 resale on Craigslist – $7 returned tulle = $33 net
    • Bouquets and boutonnieres: Alix Mathia, free
    • Flower girl basket: Amazon, $10
    • Flower girl flowers: Random person’s hibiscus bush on my way to the ceremony, free 😀
  • Attire:
    • Kevin’s suit: Already owned, free
    • Wedding dress: David’s Bridal, $212
    • Shoes: Amazon, free (generously gifted by my mom)
    • Jewelery: Amazon, $35
    • Hair & Makeup: Did my own, free
  • Lunch venue: Francesca’s Trattoria, $351
  • Reception:
    • Venue: Our house, free
    • Snacks and accessories: Sam’s Club/Dollar Store, $160
    • Liquor, wine, and keg: Sam’s Club/Publix, $180 (and we had extra beer, which we delivered to local friends the next day, and tons of extra liquor, which we will just keep for future use :D)
    • Dinner: Domino’s Pizza, $190 (and we had extra, which we donated to a few friends but mostly to our little brother, Tim, who is in college and lives off of pizza)
    • Dessert: Publix pies, $57
    • Decorations, plates/cups, favors: Oriental Trading, free (generously gifted by Kevin’s parents and aunts)
    • Serving dishes: TJMaxx/Goodwill, $50

Total: $1,615

How We Saved Money

Obviously, our style of wedding isn’t for everyone, and I know a lot of brides spend years dreaming up their perfect day, no expense spared. But here are the major ways that we saved money, and maybe future brides will find just one or two of these (rather than all of them) helpful in planning their own weddings.

  • We held the party at our house (instead of renting a venue).
  • We served pizza and pie (instead of serving an elaborate, multi-course meal).
  • We used electronic resources for our invitations and guest book (instead of using paper, stamps, knick-knacks, etc.).
  • We made our own playlist and used our own sound system (instead of booking a DJ).
  • We scoured the Internet for a talented but flexible photographer and then booked her only for the amount of time (and photos) we really needed (instead of booking an all-day, thousands-of-photos affair).
  • We used a notary to marry us (instead of using an officiant). (By Florida law, notaries cannot charge more than $30 for marriage ceremonies, though many do them for free.)
  • We used minimal decorations and fake flowers that we arranged ourselves (instead of buying real flowers and maximum decorations).
  • We used paper flowers for the bouquets/boutonnieres (which we still have and will have forever), and we stole a few petals from a random bush for the flower girl basket (instead of paying for real flower arrangements that die in a few days).
  • We used what we already had (when appropriate) for our attire, hair, and makeup (instead of renting tuxes or having a professional stylist slather my face and hair with products).
  • We uses paper plates and cups, and we raided Goodwill for serving dishes and then filled in the gaps with inexpensive items from TJMaxx (instead of buying high-end dishes that no one would notice).

To wrap up this post, Kevin and I would like to extend a very humble thank-you to everyone who helped make our day special. We couldn’t have done it without the love and support of our family and friends, and we are very grateful to all of you. Thank you!!

Build-a-Bar Workshop

(Warning: This is a long one with lots of pictures. If you don’t like to or can’t read, just scroll to the bottom to see the end result. <3)

Once upon a time, we bought a house, and this house had a very annoying wall between the kitchen and living room. The wall blocked light and air from flowing through the house, making it feel small and stuffy.

Hi, I’m a wall. I like to divide spaces for no reason!

To my relief, however, our home-closing inspector assured me that this wall was indeed not load-bearing and could be removed.

For over a year, I dreamed of everything this wall could be instead of a wall: a basic hole, a bar, a doorway with bookshelves on both sides. Kevin, however, spent the majority of that year reminding me what a pain constructions projects are and that removing the wall would be a lot more work than just cutting it out. But his negativity did not deter me. I kept dreaming.

Eventually, in January 2015, when we decided that we wanted to have our wedding at our house, Kevin flipped sides. We decided we would build a bar, and he got to work right away planning our new construction project. In his enthusiasm, he made the first cut (mostly just to look for the electrical wires):

The first cut!

Kevin enlisted the help of his dad, a seasoned construction project manager, to cut out the wall. The two spent an entire Saturday in January cutting, reinforcing, and dry-walling our new hole:

And what, you ask, was I doing during this part of the project? Attending my little bachelorette party, of course, planned and executed by my wonderful sister.

Nothing raunchy. Just some yummy food and a fancy hotel in Orlando.

But once I returned and Kevin’s dad was gone, the rest of the project was up to us.

Our next big decision was what to build the actual bar out of. Our first idea was to buy a piece of tree, since there are several folks in these parts who cut down trees and make them into other things. We searched but couldn’t find a piece that really wowed us, especially given the $250+ price tag of these humongous tree parts.

We started brainstorming other materials we could use and the ways in which we could morph them to look fancy. We considered butcher block, tile, laminate, and about a hundred wood options from the aisles of Home Depot and Lowe’s (because they really do stock different products!). Needless to say, we spent a lot of time in big-box construction stores before finally settling on a beautiful piece of plywood (which, by comparison, was only $30).

The plywood was about 1.5 inches thick, which we thought was too thin for a bar, so the plan was to cut it in half and glue it to itself to double the thickness. We used liquid nails, actual nails, and 122 pounds of Carly to fuse the two pieces together.

Always use protection…especially when sanding!

Once the glue dried and we were sure that it was sufficiently sturdy, it was time to sand. Home Depot’s cuts, while convenient, were far from precise, and so the two pieces we glued together did not match up perfectly, plus we needed to smooth the edges. Using a palm sander borrowed from my friend Jason and the tiny sander piece from Kevin’s Dremel accessory kit, I sanded all of the edges and rounded the corners.

Meanwhile, Kevin continued working on the never-ending sanding and dry-walling required by the hole in our wall. If I had known ahead of time the level of sanding required by this project, I would have declined. Kevin was quick to criticize my pitiful drywall-sanding attempts, but I reminded him that my small lady arms were no match for his testosterone-rich man arms and that he was really the best sander out of the two of us. This logic worked for a little while, but inevitably I was roped back in to drywall sanding.

Next, it was time to mount the bar…or for the bar to mount the hole…yeah, there’s no good way to phrase it. We used the strength of my thighs and some water bottles to hold the bar level (enough) while Kevin use liquid nails and regular nails to place the bar.

It may look like I’m using my arms, but my legs are doing most of the work.

Here’s a super creepy picture of Kevin, just for fun. Yes, he’s wearing a robe.

Trying to nail the bar into the wall was a most unpleasant experience, especially because failing at these sorts of tasks is especially frustrating for Kevin. We couldn’t decide whether it was our higher-end nails or our low-end drill bit that was the problem, but Kevin kept stripping the nails before they made it all the way in to the wall, leaving us with little nail heads poking up every few feet. I promised him we weren’t screwed (haha…ha…ha….) and that we’d find a creative solution. Using another attachment from his Dremel tool kit, he sanded down the nails until they were slightly lower than flush with the bar, and I filled the holes with wood putty.

Sanding down the rather unruly screws.

We also added heavy-duty shelf brackets under the bar, mounting them to the underside of the bar and the studs in the wall, just to make sure it wouldn’t budge.

Then, it was time to stain the wood. After another long, drawn-out discussion in Home Depot, we finally decided on a Minwax ebony stain. To me, it seemed the most interesting, even if it wasn’t the same color as our kitchen floors. Plus, the bar would extend mostly into the living room, where our furniture is black and white, so ebony seemed to make the most sense.

Unfortunately, having already tested the stain on the underside of the bar, we knew that the wood putty stained differently from the actual wood. It was then that we decided to go for a more distressed look. Once again, Kevin resorted to his magical Dremel accessory kit and used several tools to achieve a “we rescued this piece of wood from the side of the road” look. The wood putty areas that we stained now looked like additional “distresses” in the wood rather than glaring mishaps.

Next, it was time to paint. We wanted to keep the same neutral color in the living room, so Kevin saved a small sample of the wall he had cut out, and Home Depot used it to match the color perfectly. (Pro tip: If you need to have Home Depot match a paint color, go to the store first thing in the morning. We learned that this is the best time to go because the paint machines are freshly calibrated each morning and will produce a better match than they would later in the day.)

We also had to choose a color for our accent wall in the kitchen. Now, for me, this was one of the most difficult decisions because I am terrible at visualizing. It is the one skill I regrettably lack. While Kevin found it easy to visualize the room each time I taped up a new paint sample, I struggled to see the color outside of its tiny space on the sample paper. Plus, I kept trying to match the paint to other things in the kitchen, like our curtains or our clocks, and Kevin reminded me repeatedly that decorations can be replaced while paint is permanent. (OK, I know, paint isn’t permanent, but getting Kevin to agree to paint is harder than getting him to pick out new decorations.) I brought home at least 30 paint samples (who knew there were so many shades of blue??) before finally settling on Blue Agave (which happens to also be our favorite Mexican restaurant in Gaineville).

Finally, after over a month of work, it was time to add the finishing touches: glaze and moulding. We spent (literally) another four hours in Home Depot debating the pros and cons of epoxy versus polyurethane before choosing the latter. While the epoxy would have made our bar more resilient, I didn’t want our hand-crafted piece of wood to lose its wood-like qualities. I wanted to be able to put my hand down on the bar and have it still feel like a piece of wood, not a piece of plastic. Plus, the epoxy (~$50 after purchasing the two boxes we would need) was waaaay more expensive than the polyurethane (~$7 for 8 ounces), and we thought the polyurethane would be less of a bane to apply. Indeed, it was relatively easy (we got the three coats we needed out of one can), and we ended up loving the way it looked.

To cover up where the uneven drywall met the bar, and to add some final pizzazz, Kevin wanted to get a few strips of moulding. Picking out the moulding was the easy part; cutting it was horrific. We don’t own the proper tools to cut moulding, but that didn’t deter us because Home Depot provides a moulding-cutting center in its stores, complete with a variety of saws and these plastic boxes that help you cut angles accurately. The saws, however, are tired, old, dull saws, and plastic is never a good material to use with a dull saw. What we thought would be six easy cuts turned into six cuts featuring sound effects from 1980s slasher films. EEEEK EEEEK EEEEK EEEEK. We drowned out the aisle; anyone who entered it left shortly after. And even after enduring the nails-down-the-chalkboard saw music, we still had to sand down the edges at home because the cuts weren’t precise enough. Next time, I think we’ll bring our own saw…

Meanwhile, our house had devolved into a renovation nightmare. Dust was everywhere, as were the sheets that were supposed to protect our stuff from the dust. The kitchen was…well, I’ll just let these next few photos speak for me.

Cleaning was a bitch.

As a side project, we decided to use the leftover wood stain to upgrade our kitchen light-switch covers. Originally a boring, country-ish, light shade of wood, they now match the bar and look great contrasted with the blue of the wall.

As a final touch, we purchased some funky bar stools from IKEA. We finished the project just in time for our wedding, and it served as a great gathering point for our guests.

Overall, the project took 2 months to complete, but we only worked on weekends, so it could have been done in much less time. We’re so glad we did this project. It really opened the living areas without sacrificing the separation of spaces. (I am not really a fan of the “open-space” concept.) Air and light flow so much better, and we’re excited to have added some character to our little home. We’re also incredibly proud that we were able to complete this project without looking too much like amateurs.

For your viewing pleasure: the “after” pictures:

(In)Definitely Engaged

It’s been an unforgivably long time since my last post, and I know (read: hope) you all have missed me so much. You may be wondering what we have been up to since my last post. Well, we’ve mulched the yard, scraped and re-painted our bathroom ceiling, started the summer garden, cut the grass, planted new flowers, attended our friends Sam and Knight’s wedding, traveled to our respective homes a few times, replaced our garbage disposal, removed a few gigantic trees, etc.

What we have not done is plan a wedding.

Yes, 14 months since Kevin gave me a ring and 7 months before “the date,” and nothing is planned.

We are much better at wedding speculating. Sure, I have thought about wedding plans—everything from photography (I did manage to find someone who would do a wedding for Kevin’s strict $1,000 photography budget) to colors to themes to playlists. And I can’t even quantify the number of hours we have spent debating the pros and cons of eloping versus having a small wedding (family only) versus having a wedding extravaganza. To me, the latter two options seem trite and not worth the headache. My dream wedding is the one that costs very little stress and—more importantly—very little money.

(Plot twist: Kevin—the one who never wanted to get married—is the one who is pushing for a real wedding, while I am leaning more toward a romantic getaway elopement.)

My problem is this: I believe our input (money + time + stress) would not return a gain for the output (presents + fun – wedding day stress). We might break even, but I think the reality is that we would see a negative return. I’m sure many people think this is a terrible way to look at “the happiest day of your life,” but to me, happiness is financial security and making sound investment choices. I very rarely squander my money on myself, so why would I change my spending habits for a wedding—a one-day event that probably won’t be the happiest day of my life? (And I have always considered this a ridiculous colloquialism; I would prefer that my days only get happier as I age, so that every day is the happiest day of my life.)

So, for now, the October 25 wedding is off (you’re welcome, sports-fan friends), and instead we are indefinitely engaged (but still definitely engaged!).

Kevin’s opinion (via creatively formatted Google Hangout today) defines our struggle rather accurately:

I just…
I
don’t know
I don’t know what I want
I don’t want to get married in some secret shotgun ceremony like a heathen
but
on
the
flipside
having a wedding that’s big and beautiful and not heathen
is
very
expensive
and I don’t care
because the truth is that
We are both kind of heathen

Needless to say, he melted my heart.

Surviving Homeownership

I have finally moved in and settled down, both into our new house and into my new job, and feel sane enough to resume blogging. As someone who has rented apartments for the past 8 years, the transition to homeownership has been a roller coaster of fear and excitement. Kevin can attest to the stress I have put myself through over the past 2 months. Between closing on and deep cleaning the new house, packing and cleaning the old house, traveling for Thanksgiving, buying presents and traveling for Christmas, ending my old job, and starting a new job (phew!), I declined into a constant state of anxiety.

To anyone considering undertaking a new adventure, I highly recommend tackling only one life change per annum.

Though excited about all of these huge changes, I was freaking out about everything. I called Kevin at work in tears one day, certain that I had found a termite and that we would now have to pay millions of dollars to deconstruct and rebuild the house. I still don’t know what kind of bug I found, but after hours of research, I determined that it was not a termite, and I can now differentiate between termites and ants. To any experienced homebuyer, bugs are a natural part of moving into a house that has been vacant for several months. However, I found so many and such variety of bugs that I was sure I would never be able to live comfortably in my new house.

This, of course, was irrational. A month after our move (and some serious self-pest-control initiatives), I rarely see a bug inside the house, if ever, and Peanut keeps watch over the backyard.

Peanut on the prowl.

For the record, some of my other freak-outs included the following:

  • Situation: Someone down the street was burgled.
    • Fear: Robbers.
    • Irrational Carly Conclusion: We need a monitored alarm.
    • Final Outcome: We’re fine. We have a dog for an alarm.
  • Situation: There is an off-colored spot on the ceiling.
    • Fear: The ceiling is leaking.
    • Irrational Carly Conclusion: We need a new roof.
    • Final Outcome: We’re fine. It’s not leaking. The roof is 3 years old.
  • Situation: There was a funny smell coming out of an electrical outlet when the cover was removed.
    • Fear: There is mold in the walls.
    • Irrational Carly Conclusion: We need a new house.
    • Final Outcome: We’re fine. Every house has some mold. Nothing is perfect. Life will go on.

These days, I feel like my normal self and am absolutely loving being a homeowner, mostly because it means that I will not be moving my house-load of crap for at least 5 years (fingers crossed). Having moved three times since July 2012, the thought of never moving again is a sweet release. I have also learned that owning a house means that, yes, unplanned repairs will be necessary, and they will occur at the most inconvenient time in your life possible, but most things are manageable and don’t require an immediate emotional breakdown. Plus, we’re aggressive savers; if we have to pay for a repair, we probably will be able to, or we will learn to live without (looking at you, toilets that won’t stop hissing!).

So what are the perks of owning a home? I’m still discovering them myself, but here is a collection of what I love so far:

  • Trash pickup and recycling. No longer do we have to trudge copious amounts of drippy garbage a quarter mile across the apartment complex. The trash man comes to us! And, since we now have recycling bins, we barely make any trash at all; most of what we use goes to recycling or the compost bin. We only throw away un-compostable food and un-recyclable plastic. Our huge reduction in waste makes me really excited.
  • Fixing it up. I never thought that laborious work would be fun, but it is when you own your house! Things like re-sealing the roof, digging up bricks, cutting down dead trees, deconstructing and burning the rotten shed, and replacing small plumbing fixtures are all fun adventures rather than tasks from hell. (As the installer of all things I can’t do myself, I’m sure Kevin has a different opinion.) And small improvements make a big difference; it feels (and smells…) like a totally different house from the one we purchased. Every time I improve something, I imagine the house smiling on the inside, happy to be so loved and cared for after years of neglect. (See also: anthropomorphism.)

New faucet!

  • Decorating. Want to color the walls with crayon? Chalkboard paint? Go ahead. The house is your canvas. No permissions necessary.
  • Mailbox. I have a real mailbox, and it doesn’t require a key or a stroll, and it’s right outside my door!
  • Hanging out on the roof. (No commentary needed.)
  • Wanting to be cleaner. When I lived with my parents, I was always in trouble for having a messy room. My argument (however untrue) was, “It’s my room and I like it this way!” My father’s retort, without fail, was, “Well, it’s my house and I don’t want it to look like a pig pen! When you own a house, you can do whatever you want!” Naturally, this logic really appealed to me. Once I moved out for college, I never moved home again, and every place I lived did, indeed, look like a pig pen. But now that I own my dwelling, I want to make it nice. I want it to be fresh and clean, and I don’t want to leave dirty hideaways that might appeal to bugs. Being a homeowner has made me so eager to keep clean that I find myself with some kind of cleaning device in hand nearly every day. Thanks, Dad. I get it now.
  • No HOA. Though homeowners’ associations provide a lot of benefits, they also cause a lot of undue cost, stress, and pain. I’ll mow my own lawn and skip the community pool (inevitably full of germs, icky band-aids, and piss) in exchange for doing what I want with my land and structures, thank you very much. The last thing I need is another level of government telling me how to live my life. (See also: Libertarianism, HOA tyranny.)
  • Cheaper than rent. Okay, so maybe the house payment (which equals mortgage + taxes + insurance) isn’t cheaper than my Gainesville rent was, but it is cheaper than my Tampa rent was—and it’s 600 SF larger.
  • Fenced-in yard. I no longer have to endure the freezing morning air while my dog takes her dear sweet time sniffing out the perfect place to unload. She can stay out as long as she wants and freeze her teats off; I’ll stay inside and drink coffee. (Side note: I just learned how to spell “teats” and also that Googling “teets” is NSFW.)
  • No shared walls. Time to see just how high we can turn up that sub-woofer before our ears explode! TURN IT UP TO 11!!!
  • No annoying maintenance guy who leaves his skinned hunting prizes on the hood of his truck to dry out during the day and then steals your plants because he thought you had already moved out of your previous apartment, even though some of your items were still clearly sitting inside the living room!! Yeah, you know who you are, creeper. RIP jasmine, rosemary, basil, and lantanas. I hope you’re not dead.

Of course, I’m sure there are plenty of things I will miss about apartmentship, like stress-free living, sharing walls (a bane, but at least someone might hear you scream if you’re in trouble), and mega dumpsters for disposing of large items (or bodies) easily.

Speaking of getting rid of bodies, Gainesville’s handbook for garbage collection strictly prohibits disposing of dead animals in your residential garbage cart. So while we may be surviving homeownership, someone’s pet did not. RIP, Fido. Despite an unceremonious removal from this life, your memory lives on in every new-resident garbage-collection pamphlet.