... dance, fitness, food, health, life...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Adventures in apartment hunting

The hunt officially began earlier this summer while we were still in Colorado. Try as we might, no one wanted to rent to us sight unseen. Okay. Frustrating - we were going to give them money, after all, which we thought should be enough - but we understood. I guess.

Fast forward to 2 weeks ago when we rolled into town. I really didn't think it would be so hard to find a place. I never had a hard time finding apartments and rooms to rent in FoCo, so I assumed it would be a similar experience here. We'd find a handful of listings on craigslist, we'd tootle around looking at said listings, then we'd decide on one, sign the lease and live happily ever after. Ha, silly Jessi!

The first place we almost rented was clean, in good shape and updated (there are lots of old buildings in Pitt, some of which are very charming and beautiful, some of which are quite sad). We got as far as filling out an application, signing the lease and paying the application fee. We were at the rental office, about to pay the deposit and first month's rent when we were told that because hubby is an international student on a student visa, they required that we pay not only the first month's rent, but also the second-to-last and last months of the lease. Um, what? First off, that's total BS. Secondly, who has that kind of money to drop on an apartment lease?? Certainly not a student and his dancer/writer spouse. And while nice, this place was no penthouse on 5th Avenue. Thanks but no thanks, sub-par rental management company (who has terrible online reviews, btw, which we were ignoring in our haste to find a permanent place - stupid move on our part, but we quickly learned our lesson). Moving on.

We made phone calls. Lots of them. They were largely fruitless since the majority of places we called, both private renters and rental companies, had already rented their advertised apartments. I was indignant - take your listing and/or sign down if you've rented the place, for crying out loud! One company told us that they keep their "apartment available" sign up year-round. I'm no real estate professional, but that just seems pointless. And frustrating for those of us looking for a place to live.

We made all kinds of appointments and visited all kinds of apartments. So many were rather pathetic and some were downright unlivable. At one place, I was shocked to learn a family with children had lived there before. One place after another had me more discouraged and more tired. I started to worry that I was being way too picky and maybe I should think about lowering my standards. What  was I looking for, exactly? Oh, a clean space, working appliances, no insects and no mystery food smells, no fearing radon or carbon monoxide poisoning... I was quickly losing patience (and I don't have a lot to begin with, y'all).

Then hubby calls the umpteenth listing from craigslist. At this point I'd had it and didn't care anymore. Fine, we'll go look later today. Yes, I'll keep an open mind. Schmeh.

Omigosh, we walked into an apartment oasis in a desert of total dumps. It was clean! Updated! No insects! No mystery smells! It was clean! And furnished - bonus! I loved it at first sight. I also got a good vibe from the neighborhood as we drove through, which is important. Other 'hoods didn't give me good vibes. I listen to my intuition, it knows what's up.

But we didn't take it right then and there. Our experience up to that point had us apprehensive and distrusting. A few days went by, we looked at other places and made more phone calls. But I couldn't stop thinking about that lovely little third-floor apartment. After more deliberation and discussion, I convinced hubby that it was meant to be. He called the landlord, we made an appointment and we signed on the dotted line. And exhale...

We move in this Saturday! I'm really looking forward to settling into our first place and feeling at home.

Anyone else have similar harrowing house or apartment hunting experiences??

Happy Hump Day!


Friday, August 24, 2012


My apologies for the delay lovelies... Following some trauma, my laptop was rushed to emergency surgery Tuesday morning. Turns out it needs a hard drive transplant (sad face). The IT surgeons tell me it won't be back until early next week, maybe. Meh.

But back to business... the wedding!

We did not have a full-out, typical wedding, but it was perfect all the same. We only got engaged on July 1. It was important to us to be married when we embarked on our new chapter in Pittsburgh, so we had to plan our big day before our big move. We're also a poor couple of kids - he's a student and I'm a dancer and a writer. Thank God for our amazing family and friends! Without them, there is no way we would've pulled it off.

Bestie hugs
People immediately stepped up, offering their time and services. Friends and fam made and brought food, organized details, decorated the park where we held our party, and helped make things like my bouquet and hair piece. My dress? I bought it at Marshalls. My shoes at DSW (I l-o-v-e my shoes, btw, and will be wearing them again and again). My colors/decor theme: peacock feathers. Love!

The ceremony was very small, including close family and friends only. We held it at the CSU Annual Trial Flower Gardens, which is across the street from the University Center for the Arts, where I've been studying dance over the last five or so years. It's a beautiful place!

We did it!
After, we headed to my friends' neighborhood park for our party. We wanted it to be both a wedding celebration and a farewell party, since we were leaving the state the very next day. The weather was a perfect sunshiney, not-a-cloud-in-the-sky Colorado summer day. There was dancing, lots of thank-you-for-coming hugs, and just good ol' fun. We were happy and exhausted by the time we made our grand exit (I thought since it was a low-key, nontraditional affair, we would be immune to being wiped out at the end... silly Jessi).

Oh, not to forget... It was important that we included elements of my hubby's culture into our celebration. In addition to Persian music and dance - we made our Mr. and Mrs. entrance to the party a dance to a traditional Persian wedding song - we also added a variation to the cake-cutting. Following the cake, we each dipped one of our pinky fingers in a small dish of honey and fed that to each other. It symbolizes the promise of providing a sweet life to the other. I like little personal touches like that.

My friend Melissa Mullins was our photographer and she did an amazing job! Check out more pics on her site. So good. I really mean that. Out of all the planning details for a wedding, good photography has always been my biggest priority and concern. Mel completely delivered! Thanks friend!

Hooray for getting hitched... and for Andy Warhol's art! (Mr. Warhol's hometown is the 'Burgh, btw)

All pics by Melissa Mullins Photography, all rights reserved.

Up next: apartment hunting adventures in the 'Burgh!

Happy Friday lovelies!!


Monday, August 20, 2012

Pittsburgh first impressions

A smattering of random thoughts and commentary on my new city...

I nickname everything and everybody. I have no idea why I do this, but I just can't call people or things by their proper or full names. Apparently the correct nickname for Pittsburgh is "Pitts", not "Pitt". But I like "Pitt" better. Pitts makes me think of armpits. The other one I've heard is "the 'Burgh." I like this much better, so I will probably start referencing it as such.

Like I mentioned in  my last post, the architecture and greenery in this city are stunning! Between old houses, cathedrals and synagogues, it's a photographer's dream. Too bad my photog skills don't extend much beyond my Crackberry, but I've been able to grab a few decent shots...

Love love love all the bridges (that's Heinz Field in the background, home to the Steelers)
The Cathedral of Learning, this amazing, tall, historic, gorgeous building, part of the University of Pittsburgh

Food. This hungry dancer has been more than well-fed over the past week. I will save the juicy details for future Hungry Dancer posts, but here is one sandwich that dominated me...

That, my friends, is a Colossal Fish & Cheese sandwich from the infamous Primanti Brothers. We saw this restaurant featured on TV a couple months before we left Colorado and agreed to visit once we arrived. Their signature is piling whatever meat you choose with fries, homemade cole slaw and tomato. It was completely unhealthy and delish. And ginormous. I am barely clutching only half in my hand and that half was bigger than my fist! Needless to say, I took most of it home.

When it rains, it pours... literally. We quickly learned to carry umbrellas with us at all times. In Colorado, dark clouds will roll in, looking as if they are about to unleash the next major flood, but it's all a tease... almost as soon as they appear, they're gone and it's back to full-on sun. In Pittsburgh, if the weatherman says it's going to rain, it will. And it means business. I will be investing in a legit rain coat and galoshes in my near future.

Someone was a bit grumpy as we waited out the torrent

It's still surreal that I'm not just on vacation but actually living here. We're still hunting for a permanent place (another post in itself), which means we're still living out of our suitcases, so that doesn't help. I can't believe that I've only been a Pitt resident for 7 days! Feels like lots of time has passed since flying across the country and getting married (only a week ago!)... and speaking of, more on the wedding tomorrow!

Happy Monday lovelies!


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I'm a Mrs!


It's been a whirlwind the past four days, between getting married, frantically packing and re-packing and re-packing again, flying for hours on end, finally arriving at our hotel at 3am, learning to navigate a new city and fighting with the US Postal Service to let us set up a dang PO Box. Oh, the adventures keep coming.... but we made it! And we're hitched!


Pitt is blowing my mind with the stunning architecture and green spaces

More detailed wedding and Pittsburgh scoop to come, so stay tuned!

Happy Wednesday!


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Hungry Dancer: Garden Fresh

I love love love how easy it is to eat fresh in the summer, thanks to gardens and farmers markets. I'm particularly loving the bounty we're starting to get from our garden. My landlord went crazy with planting this year... We have two garden plots in our back yard, herb pots all over the back deck, and he even converted our front yard into a garden! Our grass was measly and pathetic anyway, so it's a huge improvement.

Lately we've been enjoying tomatoes (roma, cherry and a mystery variety), peppers and strawberries. This hungry dancer is in love - I had forgotten how intensely flavorful homegrown produce is! My mom is a tomato-phile so we had tons of fresh 'maters growing up, among a ton of other fruits and veggies. When I picked the first batch of strawberries from the front yard and popped one into my mouth, it was the perfect burst of sweet and tart. My taste buds were giddy with nostalgia - this is what a strawberry should taste like! I will never look at grocery store strawberries the same again.

I whipped up a quick and delish lunch for Fiance and I yesterday during our yard sale that featured veggies from our gardens....

Garden tomatoes

Is there anything better than fresh basil?

Well, besides goat cheese :)

The 'shrooms came from the grocery store

I warmed the whole wheat tortillas in a skillet for a hot second to soften them, added crumbled goat cheese, topped with the tomato and basil, finishing with a dash of salt and fresh ground pepper. Delish! I got rave reviews from Mr. Fiancé, too :)

What are your summer fresh favorites?

Happy eating!


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Yard Sale Saturday

T-minus 9 days until Pittsburgh... which means we're getting our yard sale on today! It's been disappointingly quiet so far, but I'm crossing my fingers that the late-night college crew will roll up clutching their Starbucks when they finally roll out of bed.

If today is a bust, we'll try to sell some of our goods via craigslist. Otherwise, it's all getting donated to ARC. Can't take anything with us beyond what we can stuff into a couple {huge} suitcases.

Fiancé is poised and ready for the shopping masses... Now where are they??

In other news... I think I have the dress!! I bought it the other day and was on the fence about it, but decided to buy it as a "backup", just in case I didn't find anything else. I've been pretty discouraged this week about not finding the perfect dress. But when I pulled it out of my closet yesterday to take another look, I liked it better than when I first bought it, so it's growing on me. Maybe I'll love it by next Sunday, ha! A couple of girlfriends have stopped by our sale and gave me their positive opinions, too, which makes me feel so much better. Now to find shoes and accessories! Oh, and fiancé's outfit. A full-on suit is too much and too hot, but he needs to look like a groom at the same time. Oy...

What does your Saturday entail? Are you a yard sale shopper? If so, come on over! ;)

Happy Saturday!!