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Renovations Phase One

When we first looked at our home, of course we had stars in our eyes and everything seemed amazing and perfect. After visiting it many times, it became clear to us that some changes would be necessary for this house to really be home.

First thing was that we really wanted to get rid of as much carpet as possible and replace it with hardwood. I've never been a fan of carpet, especially not in the living space where it can get dirty so easily and doesn't need to have such a cozy, warm feeling like you'd might crave in a bedroom. So, clean new hardwood floors became a must.

We decided to change out the carpet in the living room and hallway on the first floor, and the staircase, catwalk landing, and master bedroom. Since we'd be adding new hardwood throughout most of the main floor, we decided seamlessly connect it to the kitchen, and replace the existing hardwoods in the entry and dining room so that everything would match. The entry and dining room hardwoods had recently been refinished and the flooring itself was nice, but we really wanted a modern, seamless, threshold-free home, so we decided to get rid of those, too.

In order to save a couple thousand bucks, we opted to leave the carpet in the two main floor guest bedrooms. The carpet was new-ish and clean, and felt cozy in those rooms. Besides, both rooms had been recently repainted and had the beautiful wood ceilings installed, so we really didn't want to touch them at all. That also gave us the option to move in earlier and live in the two rooms of the house that weren't changing while we demo'd the rest of the house.

One guest bedroom is our office/dining/living room, and the other one we set up as a bedroom with the furniture we bought here in Tennessee that will stay in the guest area once our "real" furniture arrives from LA.

The second thing that absolutely had to change was the mirrors in the entry and dining rooms. We totally hated the jarring feeling of opening the front door and seeing a person -- yourself -- standing right in front of you. And since the dining room was going to be converted to Alex's office, we knew he didn't want to stare at himself all day, cute though he may be.

Plus we found those mirrors to be tacky, dated, ugly, and in bad taste. OUT.

We opted to remove the mirrors, and rather than hanging or repairing the drywall, cover it with stained beadboard. I remember thinking that wood paneling was totally disgusting when I was growing up, so it's kind of funny that we voluntarily added it to our house. I figure, if we don't like how much wood there is, we can paint over the beadboard with white, but it was the cheapest and easiest way to cover up the scarred walls.

We also decided to paint much of the interior stark, bright white.

So really, it boiled down to floors and walls. Here are some before + demo photos... I can't wait to share the results with you! {{I haven't even seen the finished product myself!}}



Try to see beyond my outfit and look at how nutzo these crazy mirrors {and chandelier} are!


The carpeting on these floors, on the stairs and catwalk, and in the master bedroom must go. If you look beyond that sunspot, you can see the hardwood in the entry that needs to be replaced in order to make a seamless transition to the new floors. The walls in here will also become a brighter, happier white color.


These are the two rooms we've decided not to touch. We are even leaving the drapes that the seller left behind for us. We won't be spending a ton of time in either of these rooms, so we'd like to just make the guest bedroom comfortable for visitors... but we still haven't figured out what to do with the dark blue room! Any ideas?

XO,
Annika

How to Buy a House in Four Thousand Easy Steps

I don't think I did a good enough job of emphasizing how truly strange of an experience it was to decide to actually make a move on this house. Sure, I was there for a few hours, but usually it takes us much longer than that to even muster an 'eh, should we bid?'

Couple that with the fact that the dude who was essentially going to bank roll this operation -- hello husband, thank you for working so hard! -- was not even there. Seriously, the guy got to peer into a back window, see some photos on a listing, watch some grainy ass facebook video, and then I was like iiiiii loooooveeeee itttttt letssss buyyyyyy itttttt!

For the week after we placed our bid, my favorite joke was that Alex and I were buying a house he hadn't even seen. Which was not so much of a joke, but a pretty scary half-truth. It felt a little nutty to put all our chips on a house that my life partner had barely even familiarized himself with.

Anyway, I know I left y'all hanging on the last house post, so let's pick up where I left off...


EastOver Planning

One of the best parts of marrying Alex was that he came with a different faith/religion/point of view. Neither of us are very religious -- my family celebrated the major Christian holidays, but didn't subscribe to much of the dogma of religion, and Alex was Jewish enough to be bar mitzvah'd but again, isn't much into attending services, or getting too deep into the confines of faith. {Oh, who am I kidding? He spent about 5 minutes today in the Starbucks drive through line yelling about how the concept of heaven makes no sense to him. "Is heaven just like, full of 84-year-olds? Do you get to pick what age you wanna be when you get there, or do you have to be the age you are when you die forever?!" Literally just screaming at me. So seriously, if anyone has the answers to this, holler.}

What we both enjoy about being an interfaith couple is the cultural elements. To me, that translates as an excuse to party. And since we've lived together, I've been REALLY into hybrid holidays. Lots of people are familiar with Christmakah {thanks Seth Cohen!}, but have you heard of EastOver? I'm preeeeeetty sure that I've invented this holiday, but I know, at the same time, that Easter and Passover usually fall in the same week because they most likely stem from a pagan springtime celebration {again, if anyone wants to back me up, holler right atcha girl}.

Themes of renewal, togetherness, and awakening are common in both celebrations... and there's even cute animals for both holidays -- lambs, bunnies, and chicks -- and a hunt for something: eggs or afikomen. Seriously, it's same dang holiday.

I won't claim to be an expert of either religious, but I am an expert at EastOver. The staples of our celebration are as follows:

- mangochewitz -- a sangria-like punch featuring manischewitz wine, mango lemonade, rum, and cut fruit
- Matzo ball soup
- Deviled eggs
- An extremely sacrilegious Seder plate {see below}
- An afikomen + egg hunt 
- Me wearing my best spring outfit
- Spending time with friends + lots of laughter

This year, EastOver is going to be a much more slimmed down celebration given the fact that we are closing on our house the day before the party. I'm hopeful that we'll be able to have friends over to our empty house to raise a glass of mangochewitz on the porch and celebrate spring together!


As soon as we had decided that we didn't want to skip EastOver this year on account of being mid-move, I ran over to Target and spent about twenty bucks in the dollar spot on some essential party supplies.


I got a couple of these cute ceramic egg shaped plate sets. They'll be perfect for setting out the deviled eggs on this year since my vintage milk glass and gold tone egg platter is still in storage in LA. In future years, maybe well have a more formal EastOver meal and I'll use these at the place settings.


I couldn't find proper disposable soup bowls at Target, so I bought these white paper to-go half pint cups with lids on Amazon, and added these gold bunny stickers from the dollar spot. I love that they come with lids because I have a nasty habit of making twenty two thousand gallons of matzo ball soup and this way, our guests can take some home for later too.


I tried really hard, but I couldn't walk away from these cute straws! How fun will these be to drink a mangochewitz with?!


I love these bunny place card holders, which I plan on using to label the offerings, and save for future years to use for table numbers or escort cards. This cupcake sized cake stand is something I'm hoping to use for years to come for birthday celebrations -- how cute would a first birthday smash cake be on this thing?! {#notpregnant} -- but for EastOver, I think I'm going to make one of those extra tall tin can cakes to display on this... if I'm feeling ambitious.

Just because we are keeping it simple doesn't mean I skipped on the essentials from the dollar spot. We are, however, skipping the sacrilege seder plate, but if you want to offend someone this Passover...

My favorite Seder plate --

Zeroa: 
Traditional: lamb shank bone
My version: lamb meatballs

Beitzah:
Traditional: hard boiled egg
My version: deviled eggs {seems very easter to me! A perfect mash up!}

Maror:
Traditional: bitter herb, horseradish
My version: horseradish hummus and pita

Charzeret:
Traditional: romaine lettuce
My version: Caesar salad

Charoset:
Traditional: apples, wine, and cinnamon
My version: I don't mess with the classic. It's Alex's favorite

Karpas:
Traditional: onion or potato
My version: bacon wrapped potato. {I don't know, is it super rude to put bacon on our Seder plate or is this just a way of embracing a ham-adjacent product and looping in easter??}

In any case, I think this seder plate is a fun way to turn a tradition into a meal and link one celebration with another to make a even bigger one!

I'll be sure to share photos from our slimmed down EastOver celebration less than one week from now!

XO,
Annika

House Hunting: Saddle Drive

Okay, so I'm probably breaking the cardinal rule of home buying jinx, but I'm so excited to say that we have finally found a house! After looking at over 100 homes in the span of close to two years, it looks like the search is finally winding down...

In early March, as we were prepping to get Alex to the airport for an afternoon flight to LA, I flopped onto the couch to take a break from cleaning to browse the real estate apps, as we have been doing every few hours for the last few months.

No sooner had I sat down, than I bolted up. "Alex! There's a house!" That's basically our stop-what-you're-doing-say-no-more code. Alex pulled up the listing on his computer. The house had been on the market for 36 minutes -- there wasn't even a listing description, just a price, some photos, and some basic stats.

4 beds, 2 full baths, 2 half baths, 2675 square feet, asking price $336,000

It was more than enough to get us super excited! As we were flipping through the photos, Alex got a notification that his flight was delayed, affording us just enough time to drive by the house on the way to the airport.

I threw on whatever was closest -- hello the work from home no pants life --,  leashed up the dog, and we piled Alex's suitcases into the back of the car. A twenty minute drive up some quiet back roads past lush public parks, up to the tippy top of a hill was our mid century dream home on Saddle Drive.

On paper it ticks all the boxes: the proper amount of bedrooms and square feet, plus enough office space for both of us, high ceilings, character, light, and a gas fucking stove! I don't know what I'm more excited about -- an office of my own with an actual door on it, or the gas range set into the granite island.

So anyway, we drove by the house, peeked in the windows, a poked around the neighborhood long enough to become desperately interested, and oh let's just say it, obsessed. As we were musing as to the state of the back deck, Alex got an email that is flight was moved up again, and we had to split.

We spent the short drive to the airport excitedly chatting about changing out flooring, office designs, and sectional shopping. We were already mentally moving in and we hadn't even been inside yet.

Alex and I decided that I should probably see the inside of the house and then we'd decide if he should even look at it when he got back into town. So I texted Kara, our agent, dropped Alex off, and turned around to head back to the house in order to familiarize myself more with the area.

The one unknown about this house is the neighborhood. We currently live in Franklin -- which we love -- but we haven't found any homes that we love. We decided last week to broaden our search to include some of Nashville, and as soon as we did, this home in Bellevue popped up!

I knocked around Bellevue for an hour while waiting for Kara to meet me at the house, bought some cough drops, took Bucket to the dog park at Percy Warner {which he loved! and got super muddy at}, and got a cup of coffee which did not help at all to calm my nerves and excitement.

When I finally met up with Kara at the house, I think I entered one of those blackout phases. It was so weird to be house hunting without Alex, especially since this house was giving me ~*the feeling*~! Alex was already mid-air, but through the magic of on board wifi, and facebook messenger video chat, I was able to tour him around the house, and after three {THREE} hours inside the place, we decided to put an offer in! And when I say "we," I basically mean "me," because keep in mind, Alex wasn't even there.



some highlights from the listing. by row from top: the front of the house, the entryway, the kitchen, the vaulted ceiling living room, the master bedroom, and the double decks on the back of the house.

We knew that they had twenty appointments for the following day, so we decided to come in strong with an offer over asking, and to pay our own closing costs. Since we were pre-approved for close to $90k above the list price, we felt comfortable bidding above, so long as we didn't get too far away from the value of the home.

What was funny was that Alex and I decided to bid on this house without consulting anyone else. Usually when we are considering this move, we call our parents, text our siblings, run the specs by our friends. But this time it felt so right, we didn't need approval from the outside. Instead, that night I called my parents to inform them that we were putting in an offer, not to ask their advice. I guess when you know, you know...

Our bid was submitted around 10:30pm on March 7th, and we gave the sellers until 2pm the next day to give us an answer. I could hardly sleep!

I'll post more about what happened next, so stay tuned!

XO,
Annika

Quarter One Favorites

Wow. I can't believe the first quarter of the year is nearly over. Usually the time after the holidays are quiet for me, and I use this time to catch up from the rush of my heavy season, but between house hunting, changing my business model,Valentine's Day craziness, launching a new collection, bringing on an intern and brand reps, Alex traveling every other week, and frankly remembering to go grocery shopping and change the laundry, finding time to write here fell to the bottom of the list.

I thought it would be fun to share some of the things that I loved and helped me stay sane during what I thought was going to be a relaxing season.


Prep dish. Guys. This meal plan service is taking all the stress of figuring out what to eat and what to buy so we can eat that thing completely off my plate. Pun intended. I love the yummy recipes and the break down of how to prep for 4 dinners, a dessert, snack and salad all in one day so I'm not worrying about meals as they come... I'm totally prepped!

this simple and quick beef stew was a welcome winter comfort recipe

Essential Oils. I am majorly drinking the koolaid on this. For the past few months, I have been fighting off daily tension headaches that wake me up in the night, and make my brain throb all day. After taking enough ibuprofen to make your head spin, and at the urging of my holistic loving friend Danielle, I decided to try essential oils. Diffusing lavender and cedarwood at night has revolutionized my sleep. I probably haven't slept a whole night through since high school and these two oils in the air make me sleep like the dead. So grateful that a little extra shut eye has also helped with my headaches, too!



This cookie recipe. I've been making these cookies close to once a week and I seriously wish I could quit it but they are so soft and chewy and puffy and delicious. Oh, and EASY.

The Sopranos. I am about 15 years late to this party but ho.ly. shit, people, if you haven't binged this series what even are you doing with your life? It's available to watch on HBO through amazon prime and this cable-less girl is loving it.

Goo Goo Clusters. Y'all. This little bites are like If a turtle got impregnated by a snickers bar. I first heard about these candies in Masterminds, when Zach Galifianakis exclaimed "that's a good goo goo cluster!" I thought these were some kind of fake made up delight, so imagine my surprise when after traveling over the holidays, I was greeted by a Goo Goo clusters advert on the escalator down to baggage claim. That's some damn good product placement right there. 

Chilaquiles. This easy but flavorful egg dish has been keeping me alive since we moved here. I can quickly make it out of things I generally have in my pantry using one pan. It's become a favorite of mine to eat twice or three times a day when Alex is traveling and I don't want to make a huge meal. tortilla chips + enchilada sauce + two fried eggs + beans + crumbly cheese + cilantro = yummmmmm



These jeans recommended by my sister. Stop what you are doing right now and get your butt down to target to get the High Rise Jegging Crop. Ignore the "jegging" part of the product name -- all that denotes is the fact that the front pockets are sewn shut, which is a good thing, believe me! These magical jeans are so well-fitting, and flattering on all three Benitz girls. Granted, we're sisters so we are curvy in the same ways, but these jeans fit better than denim I have paid $100+ for, and both my sisters are gonna back me up on this, because, hey they tipped ME off to these miracle pants!

actual fitting room photo I texted to my sisterfriends. see that look of sheer excitement?

This scarf from DFD. This handmade skinny scarf is the hardest working piece in my wardrobe. It's great for those bad (read: didn't wash it) hair days, for brightening up an otherwise bland outfit, accessorizing a purse, or using to define your waist as I have below. It now comes in three colors and is made by the hands of my dear friend Kim out in sunny California.



I'm trying to get back on the horse with posting more, so if there is a specific thing you'd like to hear more about {I'm sure house hunting is one of them! - more on that soon! -} please leave a comment here or on instagram and let me know!

XO,
Annika

Simple Lemon Tart



When my mom sent me that huge box of lemons, I instantly set about using them up. I love lemon flavored desserts, and could always stand to eat a lemon bar, so that was my first project. This lemon tart recipe came via Dinner, Then Dessert, and could not be more fool-proof. I've modified it slightly because I don't have a food processor at the moment (hashtag that's in storage), but I thought that it came out perfectly delicious.



Ingredients:

For the crust --
- 12 tablespoons cold butter, grated with a cheese grater
- 6 tablespoons sugar 
- 1½ cups flour 

For the filling -- 
- 1½ cups sugar
¼ cup flour 
- 4 eggs 
- ¾ cup of lemon juice 
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 8-10 sliced lemon rounds

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
2. Using your hands, mix the butter, sugar and flour until it comes together in a ball.
3. Press into a greased 14x6 inch tart pan.
4. Bake the crust for 22-25 minutes. 
5. Combine the 1½ cups sugar, ¼ cup flour, 4 eggs, lemon juice and zest in a large bowl and whisk until throughly combined. Pour into crust, and gently place sliced lemons on the surface of the filling, if desired. Put the pan back in the oven for 20-22 minutes, and bake until just set.
6. Allow to completely cool, before dusting with powered sugar, and slicing into squares.


Sunday Soups: Potato Leek with Bacon

I'm sure I've posted about my love for this soup on other blogs that I've had over the years, but let me just say it again. This soup is comforting, simple, delicious, and best of all, easy. Cool the whole thing in one pot and enjoy eating it in less than 30 minutes.



Ingredients:
- 3 slices of bacon, chopped
- 1-2 leeks, chopped, washed, and dried
- 3-5 Yukon gold potatoes, chopped into 1" cubes
- 2 cloves of whole garlic
- 1 carton of chicken stock
- 1/2 Tablespoon of seasoning mix like Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute
- 1/4 cream (optional. Coconut cream would also work if you're dairy free)
- salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. In a quart sized pot, add chopped bacon and cook until crispy.
2. Add leeks and potatoes and stir to combine. Cook 1-2 minutes until leeks begin to soften.
3. Cover with chicken stock and add garlic and seasoning. Simmer on medium for about 15 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender.
4. Stir in cream.
5. (Optional). Using an immersion blender, blend soup to thicken. I like my soup thick, but still chunky so I stop blending before everything is puréed.

Serve hot and enjoy! Makes about 4 servings.



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