A Photo Tour Through Our California “Mountain” Home

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Ah, home sweet home. This week marks one month since we moved into the house we now affectionately refer to as River House (even though the “river” that supposedly runs behind our house is currently only a dry creek bed. I’m sure the massive El Niño they’re predicting for this winter will take care of that in no time, though).

It was a bit of a gamble moving out here–we’re getting a steal of a deal on the rent (by Bay Area standards, not by normal human standards), but the house is in the “mountains” (Californian for tree-covered hills). Even though it is physically quite close to civilization, there is an absolute feeling of remoteness. Though only two miles separate River House from town and the rest of Silicon Valley, the two places sometimes feel like they are worlds apart: Mountain people drive trucks instead of Ferraris; in the mountains you hear crickets and cougars (yes, large wild cats share our property) instead of The 101 or 85; in the mountains your gardener is Jesus, not Jesús from Ramirez Brothers Landscaping. And even though we’ve only been here for a month, I kind of love it.

I know you’ve all been curious to see what life is like out here in the boonies, so here’s a peek inside our little mountain life.

We are probably the only house in the mountains (or anywhere, for that matter) that has a large cement goose wearing a dress and an Irish welcome plaque at the front door. You really can’t miss us.
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Once inside the threshold you enter the Great Room. Turning left you’ll see our living room and school corner. My favorite part of this room is the massive vaulted cedar ceilings and the river rock fireplace (we’ll talk more about the necessity of that fireplace in a moment).IMG_6503

To the right of the living room is the area we’ve set up as the dining room and, beyond that, the kitchen.
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I love our kitchen at this house! It’s spacious and bright and, as of last week, fully functional. See our brand new fridge? This was a gift from our landlords two weeks after we moved in…after our old fridge died. We went 4 days with no working fridge which made storing food and eating fresh food a bit of a challenge. The ordeal gave me a greater appreciation for my pioneer ancestors. With the help of our generous neighbors offering us space in their fridge and a chest freezer in our garage, however, we persevered and survived the Great Fridge-pocalypse of 2015.
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The kitchen is so spacious that I actually have empty drawers and cabinets–and that’s saying something considering we own such obscure kitchen gadgets as an apple-peeler-corer-slicer and a Turkish coffee station.IMG_6519

Remember how we’re living in the mountains, and it’s full of wonderful surprises? Well, no tour of our kitchen would be complete without the inclusion of our little kitchen friends, the ants. And the gnats, but they’re too small and too fast to snap a photo of.IMG_6518

Off the kitchen is one of our five decks. This one is currently housing our BBQ…and a drying rack with our swim gear.IMG_6512

Speaking of the decks, we spend quite a bit of time out on them. This is Bota’s deck (she allowed a guest for the photo op):IMG_6514

And the boys’ play deck:IMG_6130

Back inside the house, we’ll finish the tour of the top floor of the house. Just off of the Great Room/Kitchen set up is the master bedroom (or, if you ask the boys, The Boys’ Second Bedroom):

IMG_6471Notice the utter lack of grown-up bedroom furniture. We had sold half of our bedroom furniture before we moved to Ireland, and then we sold the rest of it this summer so we wouldn’t have to move it. This was before we realized that we actually need bedroom furniture for absurd purposes like HAVING FURNITURE TO USE. Our mattress is currently sitting on the floor, I’m using a Rubbermaid container as a night stand, and I literally found Jon’s nightstand in a dumpster. It’s actually pretty cool, because we feel like we’re in college again. Not to worry, though, because our real Grown Up furniture has been ordered and is en route as we speak (!).

From the bed you can see our two private decks and gas fireplace–once you look past the Rubbermaid nightstands, it’s quite the retreat. IMG_6469

The white door you can see to the left of the fireplace is our closet. It’s a massive closet with ample storage for our clothing (and our full suitcases and boxes full of clothing, because it turns out bedroom furniture like dressers are actually useful for things like holding your clothes).IMG_6473Continuing on through the master suite you come to the master bath. The soaking tub is so inviting to my achy pregnant body but, unfortunately, I can’t use it. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but California is in a DROUGHT, which means there are water restrictions in place. And by water restrictions, I mean our mountain home is basically siphoning water from the city through a straw and if we go over our allotted amount, the water police will come knock down our front door. And they’ll fine us thousands of dollars, but whatever. Alas, the soaking tub will have to wait.
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Finishing up the tour of the master suite is our…office corner? I don’t even know what to call it. We have a dresser, filing cabinets, boxes of crap we don’t want to unpack, a bookshelf, school stuff, and a random office chair (with no desk) crammed in there.At least there’s a pretty little deck to go stand on if you want to get out of the mess!
IMG_6472This is also where we house our modem (for the world’s slowest internet) and our landline telephone (because we don’t get cell phone reception at the house). See, it really is like we’re in college again.

That wraps up the top floor of the house! Now, down to the first floor.

The boys’ bedroom is the first room you come to at the bottom of the stairs. We have their bunkbed set up so they can practice their climbing and diving skills from more precarious heights.
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Opposite the bunk bed is the boys’ dresser and reading corner. Pay special attention to the most important addition we’ve made to the bedroom: our eye in the sky camera.IMG_6496

Since the boys are now residing on a different level of the house from the parents, we considered it prudent to install surveillance apparatus. The camera allows us to capture all of the bedtime moments when the boys are anywhere but in their beds.IMG_6425

Next door to the boys’ room is the nursery/storage room/guest room/play room (don’t ever let me be your interior designer). This is the nursery side of the room (Yes, we are 4 months early, but it was just easier to set everything up than store it):IMG_6475

The closet in this room is stacked floor to ceiling with baby paraphernalia: IMG_6477

The opposite side of the room is currently acting as the boys’ play room (because this room has a door that locks, thus containing the mess and the temptations).

(Not pictured: the center of the room, the “guest room”, where we will set up our blow-up air mattress for anyone who wants to brave a visit).
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Also downstairs is the boys’ bathroom. It’s cute, but it smells like pee, so I try not to go in there.IMG_6474

We also have a lovely laundry room downstairs with a utility sink (an absolute necessity with children, I’ve decided).IMG_6479

One whole wall of the laundry room is lined with floor-to-ceiling cabinets. The cabinets are chock-full of electronics equipment (What, that’s not what you store in your laundry room?)IMG_6480

Outside of the laundry room is a linen closet and our game closet. We rarely play games, so I find it absurd that we own this many. Anyone want to come over for a game night soon?
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If you go down the hallway past the laundry room you come to our garage. It’s pretty well organized with storage along the walls, infinity toys on one side, and a narrow sliver of empty space down the other side where Jon can maneuver his car inside to park (it’s a very shallow garage, so it’s quite amusing to watch this transaction take place).IMG_6494

Outside the garage we have our yard. Yup, that’s it. Our property line extends 6 feet on either side of the house and is backed by the (dry) creek and a canyon wall, so this is the entirety of our outside space.IMG_6488

You may have noticed a wooden fence in front of the house (see the photo at the top of this post if you need a refresher), and you may have thought that was a nice little fenced-in yard. You would be wrong. What that is, my friends, is the propane tank enclosure. Because we live off the grid in the mountains, our main heat source for the house is propane gas (what?!?!). Since moving here, I have had to endure propane safety lessons with the gas company and join a propane users support group. True story. Thankfully it’s still FREAKING 100 DEGREES EVERY DAY HERE, so we haven’t had to try out the whole propane gas heat thing yet.IMG_6482

Now, I mentioned earlier that the fireplaces were important, and now you know why. With propane being our main source for heat, and propane being VERY EXPENSIVE, we are told that we will be relying on those fireplaces more and more as the seasons change. As such, we are stockpiling wood scraps and collecting them in aesthetically-pleasing boxes around the outside of our house. You’re welcome, neighbors.IMG_6483

Now, with all drawbacks (bugs, propane, water restrictions, slow internet, no cell service, no yard) aside, River House really does suit us well. Every time we walk out our door we are greeted with nature’s playground:IMG_6493

We have woods and canyons and creeks to explore. It feels very much like the Northwest, and very much like home.IMG_6441

And, though you can’t see the houses or the people very well in this photo, we have incredible neighbors. Neighbors who invite us over for dinner and let us borrow their fridge when our fridge dies and who invite us over for bonfires and s’mores and whose kids have Power Wheels drag races with our kids in the street. The neighborhood is teeming with children the same ages as our boys and we’ve all made fast friends. It’s a wonderful tight-knit community, and we feel lucky to live here.IMG_6486

I hope you’ve enjoyed your tour through our mountain home, and let us know when you’re ready for a visit! I’ll even blow up the air mattress for you.

House Hunters: Silicon Valley

Since I arrived in California a week ago I have had one mission: FIND US A HOUSE. We are currently living in corporate housing, which has actually been sort of amazing. Our apartment complex is not too shabby…in fact, I think it might actually be a five-star resort and they just gave us keys to the wrong place. But I’m not complaining.

In a few weeks, though, we’re getting kicked out of the resort (er…apartment) so we need to find something more permanent. The rental market here is crazy (I have literally been on the computer when a house is listed, called the agent, requested a viewing for that afternoon and gotten a call back before my scheduled viewing saying that the house has already been rented). The houses, if they’re any good at all, are available one minute and then gone before you can dress the kids, go to the bathroom, lug your diaper bag down to the parking garage and buckle the car seats.

But that doesn’t really matter anyway, because nobody wants to rent to you if you have a dog (which we do) because they’re afraid the dog’s nails will scratch up their brand new hardwood floors (which they will). Oh, and another thing. The rent here is expensive. Shockingly so. And, so, it’s been a week of many deep breaths and faith and pleading with landlords to just consider our sweet dog and “let’s try this again’s”.

After many dead-ends, we have finally come to a place where we have some good housing options. I now present to you 3 of our top-contenders in this edition of House Hunters: Silicon Valley. Now that we’ve narrowed it down, maybe you can help us out. Which is your favorite?

House #1: Santa Clara Luxury Apartment

IMG_8864 Description: This is the apartment we’re living in now, our corporate housing “resort”. It is located in Santa Clara.  Our apartment is on the third floor and has 3 bedrooms/2 bathrooms. If we decide we don’t want to move, we can just stay here (or in one of the other thousands of apartments just like it that are run by the same apartment company).
Monthly Rent: I don’t even know, but there are a lot of Ferraris in the parking garage.
Pros: 5 salt water swimming pools, huge central park with running trails/playground/fields/basketball/tennis; free yoga/Zumba/spin classes in the state-of-the art on-site exercise facilities; on-site movie theater with free movies every week; on-site Starbucks/pizza place/taco restaurant; brand new apartment with all the bells and whistles.
Cons: We’re on the third floor, which means every time the dog needs out or we have to leave the house it is a 20-minute ordeal to dress and pack up the children, walk 3 flights of stairs/wait for the ridiculously slow elevator, and get outside; 30-45 minute commute to Jon’s office (and we all know how much he LOVES traffic…); no yard for playing or entertaining; only 1 reserved parking spot

House #2: Los Gatos “Big House”

Audrey big house Description: Located on the border of Campbell and Los Gatos on a quiet dead-end street (there’s an elementary school at the end of the road). The house has an open floor plan with 3 bedrooms/2 baths. There is also a detached 3+ car garage/utility room.
Monthly Rent: An arm and a leg
Pros: By far the biggest house we’ve seen with spacious bedrooms that we might actually be able to fit beds into AND two family rooms that you could actually fit furniture into; fully fenced yard with a covered patio, grassy play area, and a separate “hot tub” patio that is just waiting for a sandbox (or maybe a new hot tub!); weekly gardening service included (because, in California, apparently that sort of thing is considered standard); brand new stainless steel appliances in the kitchen; a ginormous detached garage with wall-to-wall storage, a full fridge/freezer, and a utility sink; in a great school district
Cons: At the top end of our budget; moderate commute to work (15-20 minutes); we have to provide our own washer and dryer; can’t walk to Starbucks in under 5 minutes

House #3: San Jose Remodel

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Description: A newly remodeled home (as in, they’re still finishing the remodel this week) in the heart of Silicon Valley. 3 bedrooms/2 bath with an attached 1 car garage and a fully fenced back yard with mature fruit trees. There is also a large workshop/storage shed in the back yard.
Monthly Rent: #allthemoneyIMG_9022
Pros: Fully remodeled with state of the art appliances, newly tiled bathrooms, fresh paint, and new hardwood floors; great location in a quiet neighborhood 10 minutes from Jon’s work; plenty of storage; wood stove for all of those cold California summers; window seat in the dining area off the kitchen; brand new washer and dryer included; separate den in addition to the bedrooms; great price for the area
Cons: Small bedrooms; shop/shed is directly outside the back door so it would be difficult to see the kids if they were playing outside and I was inside; no air conditioning; kitchen is mostly closed off from the rest of the house

Sound off! Which one would YOU choose? We’re signing a lease on one of these beauties this weekend, and our choice will be revealed tomorrow 🙂