How to Make A New City Feel Like Home

IMG_7534When George and I moved from Chicago to Dayton, we talked a lot about how important it was that we make an effort to engage with our new city, get to know new people, and start to make Dayton feel like home.

Now, it certainly helped that I grew up in Dayton, but a whole lot has changed in the 10 years that I’ve been gone! Although the roads are familiar and we have a built-in support system here, Dayton feels so different (in a good way!). It’s grown so much, has super trendy restaurants and breweries, and since I’m older (and my new favorite thing is mulching our front yard) I’m seeing Dayton with new eyes. George and I decided it was really important to get to know this mid-size city again as a couple and we’ve had a lot of fun exploring over the past few months!

So, here’s my advice for making a new city feel like home (especially a manageable city like the DYT after living in a huge city like Chicago):

  1. Go on walks around your neighborhood: We’ve found that walking around our neighborhood makes us feel like we’re part of something bigger. We see the same dogs, check out the new houses for sale, and stop by the high school baseball games. We feel part of a community without actually having to talk to many people. 😉
  2. Read the local paper: We read both our small neighborhood newspaper (which is hilarious and the best) and follow the articles on Dayton.com to keep up to date with new restaurants opening, events downtown, and just general knowledge stuff that makes us feel like we have some inside knowledge about what’s going on.
  3. Use social media: When we first moved, I immediately started following Dayton restaurants on social media and joining local Facebook groups. And I learn so many things this way! I learn when a restaurant’s trying out new menu items, when one of our favorite bar’s is having a free “crafternoon,” and when there’s a free concert in the park. It’s amazing the stuff you can get for free when genuinely engage in social media.
  4. Volunteer: George and I made a pact to volunteer at an event at least once a month this year and that’s been an incredible way to feel a part of our greater community. We don’t have stipulations on what kind of event it is, it just has to be something we care remotely about. So far this year, we’ve volunteered for an LGBTQ+ Youth Summit, two beer festivals, a trails symposium, a pancake breakfast, and announcement video for a local political candidate. We’ve met some incredible people, gotten to know leaders in the community, and had a lot of fun seeing how all of the different events are organized (ok, maybe that’s just me who likes to see how events are organized).
  5. Go to stuff: Seriously, just getting out of our house and going to events downtown has been our biggest source of Dayton-inspiration. We’ve been to lots of grand openings, open houses, and free events around the city. Our move also coincided with a political climate that lends itself to lots of protests, so we’ve attended quite a few local protests downtown. It makes us feel like we have something in common with our neighbors and makes me say to myself, “I love this place” about 10,000 times.
  6. Learn about the history: I love teaching George about the history of Dayton, and we’re working on a radio project right now that’s making us dive even deeper into Dayton history. Going to the museums, driving around historic homes, and just talking about the history of the city has given us deeper ties to this place.

Got any other ideas for us as we approach our 1 year anniversary of living in Dayton?

Winter in Review

Monday, March 27, 2017

It’s officially spring in Dayton (both according to the calendar and the weather!), so I’ve been looking back on photos from the winter and feeling pretty glad it’s spring again. The daffodils are blooming, we got to go on some long walks this weekend, and we’ve thrown the windows open in our little yellow house.

The winter was full of friends and family and lots of cookies – here’s a look back on the past few months!

In December we jumped into the holiday spirit by cutting down our own Christmas tree (really, Danny cut it down), building gingerbread houses as a friend’s birthday party, baking and consuming lots of holiday-related sweets, and celebrating Christmas and New Year’s with family and friends in Ohio and Florida.

In January, we took a trip to Chicago to see Hamilton (oh my gosh is all I have to say about that) and Prairie Home Companion, celebrated Dr. Daddy’s birthday, his veteran pinning, and participated in Dayton’s local Women’s March and march against the travel ban.

February was full of celebrations because my bestie friend got engaged! And I celebrated my 28th birthday on Feb. 28 – which made it my golden birthday (and I had to explain that to absolutely everyone who came to my golden birthday party ;)). Plus, we celebrated Valentine’s Day with sushi and a movie and had lots of fun with friends at book club and game nights.

Taking the time to look back on the past few months and realize what a truly full and wonderful life George and I have definitely helps me reset and prepare for spring!

A Newlywed’s Guide to Grocery Budgets

grocery-budget

Thursday, October 27, 2016

When George and I first started living together, we definitely had to adjust our grocery spending and eating habits. George had to learn to live without milk (oops, lactose intolerant partner over here), and I had to learn to always keep Sriracha in the fridge. Plus, we’ve tried a lot of different eating habits (diets, you might say), and now we’re pretty much a groove of what we buy every week. Here’s how we keep grocery costs down in the Drake Reveal household.

  1. Produce: When we go to the grocery, we buy mostly produce. We try to stay in season, but we have a couple of go-tos that we always buy. We’ve discovered quite a few different ways to cook broccoli and zucchini, so those are always on our list. That way, when we need an easy side dish, we always have them on hand.
  2. Make from scratch: We try to make a lot of things from scratch. If we make it, at least we know what’s in it right? Plus, with my lactose intolerance, making stuff from scratch ensures that I can use dairy-free milk alternatives. We made dairy free cream of chicken soup a few weeks ago, and it worked so well! We have a few extra cans now in our freezer, so we won’t have to buy that anytime soon. Some other things we make include: taco seasoning (waaay better and not as much salt!), hot chocolate mix (cocoa, sugar, and a pinch of salt, so easy!), breads, jams/jellies.
  3. Raid the pantry: When we don’t know what to eat, we sometimes put what we have on hand into this website that gives you recipes based on what you already have. This is an efficient way to use what you have and avoid making recipes with 20 different ingredients you need to buy.
  4. Dairy & Bread: Okay – this is a hard one because it’s a little unique to us. We hardly ever buy dairy or bread at the grocery. A lot of our weekly recipes are based on Paleo or Whole30 recipes, so there’s really no need. Plus, if I buy bread, I will literally eat it all, so it helps with my self-control. These are two huge things for our budget because they’re so perishable – if we had to buy milk and bread every week, it’d definitely increase our spending.
  5. Set Challenges: A couple of days ago I posted on Instagram that we set a little grocery challenge for ourselves. If we got our receipt under a certain amount, we could splurge on some 5 for $5 cookies. We did it! Setting challenges or little rewards (especially those that don’t involve food likes ours did, ha), is a great way to make grocery shopping just a little more fun and hopefully cut down on your bill.

Do you have any tips and tricks for keeping your grocery budget low? Comment below!

Throwback Thursday: Our First Date

Thursday, October 13, 2016

It’s been over four years since George took me on the most surprising, thoughtful, epic first date. And because it’s weird to blog about a first date when it happens because then maybe that first date would be freaked out and wouldn’t want to become your husband, I’ve never blogged about it!

Today, George just happens to be wearing the same shirt he wore on that date, so I figured now would be as good a time as ever.

George and I met while getting our respective master’s degrees at Goldsmiths College in London. George planned our first date as one surprise after the other – I had absolutely no idea what we were doing.

We started out by stopping at a corner store to get something that George said we would need for the first part of our date. He wouldn’t let me see what it was because he was paranoid that if I knew what he bought, I’d know what we were doing. He bought peanuts. We were going to feed squirrels. How in the world would I EVER have guessed that?

So, we continued walking to Greenwich Park, where said squirrels were awaiting us to feed them – and after walking all around trying to find an entrance that wasn’t blocked off by London 2012 Olympics shenanigans, we finally got to the spot. These squirrels in Greenwich Park are unbelieveable tame – they’ll sit on your lap if you feed them, so we spent a while naming the squirrels and doling out peanuts.

After the squirrels had gotten their fill (I mean, not really because we probably could have sat there all day feeding them), George went to change and we took transit to a little Italian restaurant near Baker Street called Anacapri. George has a long story about why we went there, but the owner was the most welcoming man. We sat outside at a little table and after dinner he brought us limoncello (twice- instead of bringing the check) and sang us Italian love songs.

After dinner we wandered around near Tower Bridge, which is our favorite London landmark. Like to the point we get actually upset when it gets blown up in action movies.

I had no idea when taking pictures that night that the man in the photos would become my husband. So, thank you, London Ruth, for obsessively documenting things on your little digital camera.

5 Tips for Moving Across State Lines

Friday, September 23, 2016

In the middle of August we made the move from our little apartment in Chicago to a little yellow house in Dayton, OH. This was the first time I’ve packed up an apartment without my momma’s or my brothers’ help (although they couldn’t get out of the unpacking), but George and I developed a pretty good system and survived a move across two states.

As we were moving, we kept a list of all things we want to remember for the next move. Because moving doesn’t have to be the worst thing ever!

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  1. DIY, but not everything. If you can hack it, don’t fool around with those crazy-expensive “all-inclusive” movers. When we first started looking for movers, we were quoted $6,500 for our move. Heck, no, we won’t go. We decided to go for the much cheaper option of renting a truck and hiring help on both ends. We still hired professionals to help us load and unload the truck, and although we had to drive the truck ourselves (read: George drove the truck himself), we saved over $5,000.
  2. Get more than you think you need. More tape, more boxes, more truck, more furniture pads. When you put in your house size on Uhaul, it gives you the estimated size truck you’ll need. DON’T TRUST IT. We got the next size up from what they recommended, and our stuff juuuuuust fit. Also – I ended up running to Walgreens mid-move to buy more tape because our movers used to wrap all of our furniture in the furniture pads (we rented more of those than we thought we needed too, and used all of them).
  3. Craiglist. We got tons of free boxes from Craigslist and bought some super cheap wardrobe boxes and Rubbermaid bins that saved our lives. There are always people on Craigslist trying to get rid of moving boxes either free or much cheaper than fancy new boxes that you just want to recycle anyway.
  4. Clean as you go. Wipe down cabinets as you pack, keep out the vacuum cleaner so you can vacuum a room as the movers clear it, put a bin full of cleaning supplies in your closet so it’s the last thing to go out. After our movers finished loading the truck, we didn’t want to leave it in the alley for long. I finished a quick run through of the house and then we were out of there! Cleaning as we packed and moved saved us so much time in the end.
  5. Prep. Before the movers came the morning of our move, we moved all of the boxes into a central location in our apartment (which, I know, would be totally crazy if you lived in a larger house/had more stuff than we do). We also took apart big pieces of furniture (like disassembling our bed frame and taking off our dining room table legs) the night before so we didn’t have to worry about the frustration/time suck of doing that the same morning.

Bonus. Tip your movers! Get cash beforehand and make sure its accessible. Our movers on both ends of our move worked so hard to get everything done quickly and make sure all of our stuff got there in one piece. If they do an awesome job like ours, make sure to put their names in your phone so you can write a review later!

Boundaries

 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

My  hometown is notorious for speeding tickets. The police know exactly where to sit so they’re just out of sight and can nab you going 35 in a 25 at the bottom of a hill, or coming around a corner. When I got my license, I learned pretty early on to only go a couple of miles per hour over the speed limit, and where the traps were. I developed a subconscious understanding of the boundaries of Oakwood, so I knew where I could push my speed a little more without getting pulled over.

When we moved back to my hometown a few weeks ago and George started driving, I found myself giving him the reminders that my mom gave me when I learned how to drive – “It’s 25 here,” “They’re usually sitting at the bottom of this hill,” “Here’s the school zone – they’re ALWAYS here during lunch.” And I could tell him (even on roads without city limit signs), “You can go 40 now, we’re in Kettering,” or “The right side of the street is Dayton, but the left side is still Oakwood.”

I don’t have very distinct memory of how I learned all the boundaries of my hometown. I guess it just comes from 18 years of living there. So, even though the boundaries were really obvious to me, George is just learning them. And when I tell him the speed limit or give him a heads up of the cops’ favorite hangouts, I don’t mean to be a backseat driver, I just want him to understand those boundaries that feel so clear to me.

Street Double Yellow.jpeg

This got me thinking about people’s personal boundaries. We spend a lot of time thinking about our own boundaries, our limits that we’ve developed over many years. They seems to clear to us – we know all the ins and outs – we know where to tread lightly and where we can speed up a little bit. We know that during certain times the boundaries may be more flexible.

Sometimes it’s hard to share those boundaries with others. Maybe it’s because we aren’t even aware that we’ve set them, or maybe it’s that they seem so obvious to us. It’s hard because we don’t want to seem pushy or passive aggressive. We want to give people the benefit of the doubt. But it’s not always so clear. Sometimes there isn’t a city limit sign.

So, have a conversation. Talk about limits. Respect someone else’s. Push your own.

When You Don’t Share a Last Name…

Monday, September 12, 2016

  1. You get back to the hotel after your wedding and they say, “Ah! Mr. & Mrs. Drake!” You laugh it off and say, “Thank you, but no, I didn’t change my last name,” and then get a card 10 minutes later sent up to your room with complimentary champagne that says, “Congrats, Mr. & Mrs. Drake!”
  2. The woman at your honeymoon resort’s front desk says, “You didn’t change your name?! That’s the whole point of getting married!”
  3. You have to creatively add another monogram to wine glasses you got as a wedding present.
  4. Decor around your house mostly just includes the initials of your first names.
  5. Calling utility companies require an awkward dance of making the customer service representatives go back to another screen and change your husband’s last name because they automatically filled it in as the same as yours.
  6. You had a little trouble depositing checks from your wedding because they were made out to a person who doesn’t exist.
  7. You contemplate adding your husband’s last name so you can write letters of recommendation for your brother without it looking like nepotism.
  8. When filling out volunteer forms online, you have to explicitly state “George Drake Jr. is my husband” so you’ll get placed together.
  9. You use a lot of ampersands as decoration because they don’t judge you.
  10. The woman at the DMV tells you you’re awesome for keeping your last name because it’s super cool and you agree with her.

I wrote about my decision to keep my last name in this post, and two months into being married, some strange things have happened that I definitely didn’t predict. Even though I sometimes get frustrated, I hope that I’ve dealt with all of the weird situations with grace and understanding and started some valuable conversations.