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City vs. Suburbs: Is the Grass Really Greener on the Other Side?

2 Mar
Image: Lower Manhattan, Lori Rochino.

Image: Lower Manhattan, Lori Rochino.

Can’t decide whether or not to stay in the city or move to the suburbs? Join the club. Most people start out in the cities because of a job or school. While it’s all well and good when you’re a student, single or in a DINK (Dual Income No Kids) household, it may not be the best case scenario if you decide to start a family. The first step is to consider your own goals and your own reasons for moving. While the grass almost always seems greener on the other side, like anything else in life, there are almost always tradeoffs.

Here are some questions to consider before making the choice:

Kids & School
Where will your kids (or potential kids) have space to roam around and play?
What’s the quality of the school districts? Will you have to enroll your child in private school because the school districts in the city by where you live suck?
How’s the competition for admission to those urban private schools?
How’s the school district in the suburb you’re consider moving too? How much are taxes?
If you did opt for private school outside the city what are the costs there?

Home Improvement, Exercise & Transit
Would buying a real house with yard space in the suburbs or country work better for your situation? Instead of walking or taking public transit everywhere you will need a car and you will need to drive everywhere. Can you imagine yourself carpooling your kids (and/or) pets in a minivan?

You will probably gain weight because you don’t walk everywhere like you do in the city.
Can you discipline yourself to workout at home with the distractions of a busy family life? If not, would you pay for a gym membership and if so will you actually use it?

You will no longer be a renter but a homeowner. Problems with leaks, plumbing, wiring, housing structure, etc. will become YOUR problem. Are you prepared to become a home improver and take care of DIY projects yourself or hire a professional to take care of home improvement or maintenance matters? What about snow days? Will you be okay with shoveling your driveway when you get a couple feet of snow? Will you be willing to invest in a snow blower for those mega snowstorms to keep your driveway clear?

What Worked for Us
When my husband and I got married, we decided that once we had a family we would definitely move out of the city. Cost was a big factor. Space was another. While the Boston area was a great place to live we knew it wouldn’t work for us once we decided to have children or pets. First off, it’s expensive, even in the surrounding Boston metro area. Second, you don’t a lot of space for the money. Third, we also factored in having family near by. That was important. We had both sets of family within a one and a half hour radius of Philadelphia PA so we decided to move to a suburban bordering on rural town in eastern Pennsylvania. That made a huge difference in terms of cost and proximity to family.

What We Gained & Miss
While we miss the cultural diversity like the best museums, events, a huge selection of restaurants to choose from, our set of friends, we decided that leaving the city worked for us. While we’re still figuring things out here, we’ve learned how to embrace the tradeoffs of one situation for another. It was certainly a big adjustment leaving the city but we’ve gained a lot.

Advantages: We’ve made a home for ourselves here, we’ve made a lot of new friends along the way, we see family more often than before when we were a lot further away from each other and we’ve made the best of it. We haven’t abandoned the city completely. If we want to do cultural things and have more dining options other than chain restaurants we make the plans to visit our friends in the city. When we see how cramped their situation is in their apartment living space, we appreciate the space we do have and invite them to visit us whenever they’re in our neck of the woods. We see how they shop and how they take the elevator down with their empty cart bags with wheels to the nearest Whole Foods while their children walk along side with them and wonder if that would have been our life if we had lived in the city with the families.

Making the City Work
There are some diehards that make it work. I met a lady in New York who lived on the Upper West Side in New York City and she had three children. She and her husband had a two bedroom where the three kids shared one bedroom and she and her husband shared another. She agreed yes they have no space. But the city is basically an extension of their living space. The Natural History Museum is just steps away from their apartment. Central Park is right there. They all get to walk everywhere and not worry about cars. Their doorman knows their children by name and high five each other. They’re like an extension of their family.

What Works for You
Whatever situation you imagine yourself in you can make it work for you. It just depends on what tradeoffs you’re willing to live with, what’s important to you and what you’re willing to sacrifice. Most of all, it’s really your attitude, approach and willingness to embrace change or to adapt to where ever you are that will make urban, suburban or rural lifestyle successful for you. There’s no perfect answer except the one that you consider after weighing all your options and talking to people in the situation you want to eventually be in.

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How Anthropologie and the Drought Got Me into Gardening

19 Aug

My jalapeno pepper plant

I’ve never had a green thumb. Most of my house plants tend to die. The ones that did survive were the Ikea ZZ plant and miraculously this hand-me-down jalapeno pepper I received from a lady at my puppy‘s playgroup. Since I’ve started simplifying and decluttering my wardrobe through the Glam Save Style Challenge, I’ve found the time to learn how to garden.

Alys Fowler‘s Garden Anywhere

Alys Fowler‘s Garden Anywhere from Anthropologie‘s clearance section in Boston has become my nighttime reading. (It sat on my bookshelf for awhile though.) I always wanted to start a garden but never knew where to begin. Anthropologie always had some gardening books and garden-inspired displays which piqued my mild interest in gardening.

Lauren Santo Domingo’s garden, Vogue (Sept. 2012)

I was also inspired by Lauren Santo Domingo’s garden in Paris featured in this month’s Vogue. Those large terracotta pots of lavender along with the purple salvia, bay, jasmine and roses reminded me of my mental note to start a garden (more for herbs and veggies, although flowers would be nice too). Seeing those pots made me think how container gardens seem like a good way to start since they’re smaller than traditional gardens and seem easier to manage.

Image from Alys Fowler’s Garden Anywhere

Nowadays with the drought affecting food prices, now may be a good time to learn how to grow some of our own herbs and vegetables. I remember after reading Barbara Kingsolver‘s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Michael Pollan‘s In Defense of Food  how I’d wanted to try to find some small way to go back to the land. This is one way to start.

City vs. Suburbs

28 Mar

I just got back from NYC where I used to live and work when I was still single. It feels great to go back. I almost feel like an alumna that graduated from living in the big city to the next stage in my life – getting married and starting a family.

What’s great about the city is easy access to everything – the shops, restaurants, museums, cultural events, etc. You could walk everywhere and get good exercise or just hop on a bus or subway. The only problem is it’s inconvenient if you have a large purchase or need to lug a bunch of groceries. That’s where suburban living is a plus – you don’t have to hail a taxi (especially in cold, snowy, rainy weather). You could hop in the car and put your heavy purchase in your trunk.

People watching is more interesting in the metropolitan area. You don’t need to look to fashion magazines since the streets are practically a runway. Since many people from around the world tend to flock to urban centers, one gets to see how people dress and present themselves. I notice details from a bold accessory or handbag here to a new shade of spring flats to a colorful trench. In the suburbs, it’s pretty casual. Too casual sometimes. Then again, it’s nice to let the hair down and just be yourself and not get too caught up in vanity and pretentiousness. Baggy sweats and T-shirts rule here.

I’d say the biggest difference is cost of living and living space. Apartment living doesn’t allow for much space for stuff, which could be a plus and a minus. If you’re single, space isn’t a priority since you’re out and about anyway and can hang out at bars, clubs, coffee shops or whatever. You’re not likely to be stuck in an apartment (unless you need to save money for that weekend). If you have a family, it may pose a challenge and you’d need to be creative with your space. Cost of living is muy expensivo but that’s a given.

In the suburbs you’ve got more bang for your buck with housing – more square footage and an actual yard which is ideal if you have active pets or kids. Plus you can garden, plant more trees and be more in touch with nature. The cost of living is lower as well. The only problem is, if you have a lot of space, you may end up becoming a hoarder and bringing more stuff than needed just to fill a space whereas if you live in the city, you’re likely to declutter and get rid of what you don’t need so you could fit everything you need in tiny spaces.

Tennis Courts – to pay or not to pay?

6 Sep

With the U.S. Open in full swing, many are motivated to pick up a racket and play some good tennis.  When I lived in Manhattan NY, I was never able to play because there weren’t any free public courts available.  The courts that were available required that you pay for the privilege of play time.  Central Park Tennis Center requires you to have a season permit of $200 and pay $15  for one hour of play time. Midtown Tennis, where Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour plays every morning, has hourly rates ranging from $75-90 and seasonal rates between $1500 and $1800.  If you want private lessons, expect to pay upwards of $120 and hour depending on your tennis pro.  Looking at rates like that make me appreciate life in the Philly ‘burbs where my husband and I can just hop in a car to the local high school and play in one of the tennis courts there for FREE.  No reserving, no waiting, no having to take a subway or cab and no paying out-of-pocket expenses for permits or hourly rates.

Tennis Courts:  Urban Win 0, Suburban Win 1

U.S. Open tennis court. Source: altiusdirectory.com.

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