This week, we’re sharing more details about my upcoming move to Missouri, including long-distance renovating, getting our Tennessee home ready to list, and what’s happening with the pink house.
We’re also sharing a book report for This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub.
You can find the podcast posts archive here.
And, if you’re looking for a specific code you heard on the podcast, you can see a full list on this page!
Long-distance renovating tips:
-Get the best contractor to avoid mistakes
-Do the bare minimum to make it ready to move in
-Find a contractor who has worked in your neighborhood
-Let them know your expectations in the first meeting
-Send pictures of what you want from Pinterest
Upcoming renovations after Elsie moves in:
-Add a sunroom to the other side of the house
-Make the porch wrap around
New home mood board:
-Lots of bookshelves
-An electric fireplace that looks real
-More green paint
-Paint Jeremy’s studio blue
-Try a reddish-pink color
How we prepared our home in Tennessee to list:
-Deep clean and minimize
-Removed personal items
The thing Elsie is most proud of with her Tennessee house:
-Hidden library, bedroom makeover, and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves
What’s happening with the pink house:
-Keeping it for now. We might need to live there next year for a bit and we’re planning to do an Airbnb for now. I wouldn’t be surprised if we list it. Currently unsure!
This Time Tomorrow book report favorite highlights:
-The time travel writer within a time travel book
-The father/daughter relationship
-That it was set in the 1990s
-The importance of spending time with those you love
Check out Books are Magic in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Miss an Episode? Get Caught Up!
- Episode #171: Elsie’s Moving Home to Missouri
- Episode #170: Twilight – Comfort Rewatch
- Episode #169: Reflections on Half Our Lives Online (And Half Offline)
Episode 172 Transcript:
Elsie: You’re listening to The Beautiful Mess Podcast. This week we’re sharing more details about my upcoming move to Missouri, including long-distance renovating, getting our Tennessee home ready to list and what’s happening with the Pink House. We’re also sharing a book report for this time tomorrow by Emma’s job. Yes, yes, yes. Okay. So thank you so much for your support last week. I feel like my heart is full of love. You guys never cease to amaze me with your kindness. I think it’s a blogger brain problem, to expect people to be mean about everything, and then when people are so nice, it really is so reassuring.
Emma: People are nice. Ooh, most people are nice.
Elsie: I’m gonna tell a little tiny bit of a story about our Disney trip. So, at the end of January, we went to Disney, and our daughter, Marigold turned five while we were there we timed it so that the day she turned five she got to meet Elsa, which is like her hero. She’s pretty much had one phase her entire life and it’s only frozen, which has been fun for us. She’s been on it for several years now. Every single year she wants the same type of birthday party, it’s very interesting. The thing I wanna talk about from Disney is something that we’ve been to a few times with the kids, but we’ve never been to the bi-baity boutique. Have you ever heard of this?
Emma: Oh, no. Never heard of it.
Elsie: There’s a little boutique next to Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom, and it’s where kids can get princess makeovers. And that was all I knew about it when we booked it. And I was like I definitely wanna get this because obviously, Marigold’s a princess and we should try it. So we were with another family, they had their two daughters and then our two daughters were there and all four of the kids did a princess makeover and it was so cute. So let me just describe it for everyone who’s never been there. So when you walk inside, it’s like this adorable little cottage and the wallpaper, it was like this beautiful antique looking wallpaper, but there was like little Disney, like little details of Cinderella mice, worked throughout it. It was gorgeous, beautiful. And my first impression was, this is nicer than the place where I tried on wedding dresses. This is true, like prom, everything. I’ve never had an experience myself this nice before.
Emma: It already sounds nicer than any place I’ve gotten my nails done or my lash stuff.
Elsie: Yeah. The first step was, and I will say this was like Build a Bear where it can get very expensive, but we decided to just turn our brains off for the day and go with it. So the kids pick costumes and it was so cute. So Nova picked a prince costume, which we knew she was going to cuz she talks about princes all the time and we were like, we love that for you. And then Marigold picked the Rapunzel costume, she wanted to pick the Elsa costume, but I was like, oh my God, you already have like eight of those. So I kind of talked her into the other one and it was just like a way more elaborate dress. So I was happy about that. Then they pick out a ton of accessories, there’s like wands, crowns, and Marigold had these like hair extensions, like this pink ponytail coming out the top.
Emma: Oh my God, that hair extension, when I saw it in the photo, Elsie was sitting photos that our like sibling group text, and I was just like, this hair extension, it’s wild.
Elsie: It’s wild, yeah I knew she was gonna pick it and I was just like, just say yes to everything. Okay, it was like her birthday present, and then we went into a dressing room and we dressed them in their costumes and then there’s this giant gold mirror and I was commenting to our friends, I want this mirror for my home. It was so beautiful and I did not know that it was about to do the most magical thing I’d ever seen. It kind of became a TV and it played a video of the fairy godmother talking to the kids about their makeover. So that was incredible like I couldn’t believe it, I was very wow. And then they go into a sort of like a separate salon, like across the street and they sit in salon chairs, they get their nails done, they get their hair done. Marigold and Nova’s differences really came out cuz Nova declined every single thing. She was like, no glitter, no nothing, and Marigold had everything that could be on her. There were jules glued on her face, glitter makeup, everything.
Emma: Her like, would you like more of this? And she was like, more of everything.
Elsie: Yes, and then after that they do kind of a little like reveal, which is so cute. And then they had a little portrait studio across the street and they got their portraits taken. And they are the cutest portraits I’ve ever seen and I’m going to frame them. They will be in my house when I’m 80. So yeah, the experience, I would say out of all the Disney things we’ve ever done that seem. You know, like the restaurants and stuff, they seem overpriced, whatever. This was worth it. This was worth it, like 20 out of 10, so worth it. At least for our experience. I thought it was the be one of the best things we’ve ever done there.
Emma: I love it. Yeah, and when you sent the photos, I was like, cuz honestly, most of the time when Elsie sends a picture of her two girls together, it’s like one of them’s dressed like. Practical, like beige, you know, just, that’s her style. That’s what Nova likes and then Goldie always has a princess dress on. Always. So when I saw their makeovers, how Goldie had picked the craziest hair extension I’d ever seen in my life, and it looked really good and just had jules glued all over her face. She just looked wild. And then Nova’s like in this prince outfit and she has a sword and her hair’s tied back like she’s ready to go into battle or something. And they both looked amazing and I was like, I feel like they both picked exactly what they wanted and they look amazing.
Elsie: Yeah, it was great. They did a great job and everything was so cute. It was just such a fun experience. Anyway, I can’t say enough good things.
Emma: Now I want a spa day where someone puts extensions in my hair. That sounds nice.
Elsie: I think we should have a spa day. Maybe we should invent a reason like maybe it’s our podcast anniversary or whatever. I don’t know, and just go get a spa day.
Emma: That sounds good.
Elsie: Okay, so this week we are gonna do a little follow-up to episode two last week cuz last week we dropped the bombs and we know you all had a lot of questions and I’m gonna try to answer all of them. Just share more details about our upcoming move and what to expect and maybe some more pictures in the show notes. So yeah, let’s get into it.
Emma: So let’s talk about long-distance renovating.
Elsie: So first of all, I will say long-distance renovating is kind of challenging and it’s not our first time to do it. I do feel like each time we have renovated, we’ve learned these life lessons that are building blocks for the next time. So one of my things with this long-distance renovation is that I’m picking the most reputable contractors. I’m not really trying to save money at this phase because I don’t wanna have a disaster, like when I first moved to Nashville. So I think picking people who have been recommended 10 times over, all the people that we’re working with so far are people who work in our neighborhood all the time. So I think that’s a very character test just because they know everyone and they know that you know everyone and I think that is helpful. And the other thing that I would say that I’m doing differently than I normally would is that I’m not really trying to do the most, I’m trying to do the least. I’m trying to be realistic and practical, so I’m not trying to renovate the entire home before we move in at all. I’m just trying to do the bare minimum that will help us be more settled when we are moved in. So we’re definitely doing the floors, we’re definitely painting and I’m doing some work to the ceilings. I’m building some bookshelves, some things that. You know, like we’ll do it sooner or later, but if I have to cut anything out, I don’t even care. As long as we do the floors and we can move in without ever having to move all that back out again.
Emma: Yeah, no floors is a good goal to do before all your furniture goes in.
Elsie: Yeah, and these floors are, I feel really lucky because they are original and they have room to be sanded and refinished again because you can only do that so many times in a lifetime. It’s a lot of times with floors that are over a hundred years old. It makes sense that if they had done a lot, then they might be coming to the end of their life and they weren’t. So I feel lucky they, the wood guy said they probably haven’t been refinished in more than 30 years, which is nice. So yeah, I feel excited to just do something pretty classic. We’re gonna choose a darker floor color this time, which we never do. And I feel like it’s a signal of a new era. I’m open to different things. I’m changing my style a little bit, which I have been for a few years, but this is bigger. It’s something that I’ve never picked a dark floor color before.
Emma: Yeah, what made you wanna go with a darker floor?
Elsie: I think I’ve just been looking at so many books and inspiration from the era of our home and just realizing that that’s like really what suits the home best. And I do think that lighter or mid-tone floors also look good in historic homes, but I think that darker floors look like they could have always been there. It’s like the most classic choice. My husband, really just loves dark wood, so this is like his chance and he’s like, woo, he’s so excited to have dark floors again. I’m excited.
Emma: So you mentioned you’re finding contractors who’ve worked in the neighborhood and things like that. What would be your advice for someone who’s needing to find contractors long-distance? Like how did you go about that? I know you’re from Springfield, but I still think, you know, you haven’t lived here in like eight years. So what’s the process for finding good people?
Elsie: I think there’s really only one contractor who I knew from the past who I still would call to this day. Most people are brand new, who I’ve never met before, which is normal. I think that finding people who work in your neighborhood all the time, that’s a good method because it’s like there’s already established trust, and a lot of times they like put their little sign out in the yard while they’re doing your floors or whatever, they want to be a part of the neighborhood, which is good.
I’ve renovated enough to learn how to be a good communicator from the beginning, so I let them know how, quote-unquote high maintenance I am from the first meeting. I’m actually not the most high-maintenance person, but I think I’m in the middle. I clearly said I will want to approve every step. I will need a clear iPhone photo, or I will need to come in person, things like that so that they don’t get ahead of you. Cuz a lot of times when you’re out of town, they just wanna complete the job, and they might finish the whole thing and not tell you certain steps, and then certain steps could be done, not how you were thinking. There are so many things in renovating that can be done differently than how you were expecting, and it really wasn’t their fault. There are just so many places to misunderstand and the way that it looks in your mind is usually not easily communicated coming out of your mouth or whatever. So I always have lots of pictures and I rely like heavily on sending Pinterest pictures and I would rather say, do it exactly like this than describe it to them and see what I’m gonna get. So that’s something that I would definitely recommend. I just think it’s safer.
Emma: Yeah. And then you also mention you’re trying to be a little more practical. So other than floors, you have other things you’re wanting to get done, but if some of ’em don’t work out before you move, oh well. So then are there any big renovations that you’re planning to do after you move in or just in the future generally?
Elsie: Yes, so since before the first time I saw this house, I knew that I wanted to do a major renovation, at some point the house has a partial wraparound porch. It’s a colonial revival home, which that style of home is known for its symmetry, but the way the house looks right now, it looks like there are sunrooms added to one side of the house and then not on the other side. So the symmetry is off. So I’ve always known that if I had a chance to do a big renovation, I would want to match the sunrooms on both sides so that the symmetry is back. , and I think it’s pretty obvious that it was added, the sunrooms were not original. I would also love to have the porch go all the way around and have a back porch, because right now it doesn’t have any kind of back porch, and the backyard is kind of underwhelming compared to the front of the home.
There are a lot of things I wanna do, but it’s stuff that we need, like an architect and a planning period and permits and probably a big budget. That’s not something I would try to attempt long distance or without living there first. The other thing I really learned from our last home was cuz we moved into the home we live in now in Nashville. We moved in here during the pandemic with zero renovations. We just got the keys and moved in the next day. And it was a little bit hard as a person who shares home stuff online because people were mean about our house for a long time. And I don’t get it for a long time, but as a project, it turned out better than anything I’ve ever done because I had more time to think, like really deeply think about the decisions before I made them.
And I think that I made much better decisions than I did in the past when I renovated houses that I hadn’t lived in yet. So I stand by that and I think that being able to live in a home and really, I like to overthink it. Like, think about every possible way you could move a wall or move a door, or like, where would the dream pantry be? There are usually lots of options when you’re doing a big renovation. I definitely want my time to overthink again before I make those decisions.
Emma: Cool, I love it. I’m assuming you have a new home mood board, describe that for us. You’ve told us that it’s a colonial revival, so we know it’s an older home and we know that. But other than that, can you tell us? I don’t know, colors? And we know you’re getting dark wood floors, but what else?
Elsie: Yeah, having just done our home in Tennessee, I’m really happy with it. There were certain things from this home that I kind of wanted to repeat. Like, you never wanna do the exact same thing again, but also if that’s what I really wanna do, that’s what I’m gonna do. So the things I’m gonna repeat are like an abundance of bookshelves. That was something that I love, I love, love, love, love it. I’m really happy with it. The faux fireplace situation, I think I kind of wanna try to find a version of an electric fire that looks kind of real. I think I wanna try that if we do like another bedroom fireplace. But I definitely am glad that I added the fireplaces and I really liked the colors that we used in this home. I know that green paint is not a new trend. Green paint has been going on for years, but I like it. So I will definitely do more green in the next home. It just feels good. It’s like a feel-good color that you love the feeling of something that much. And I loved the traditional wallpaper, so my favorite part of our whole home that we did was that little green nook room by the hidden library. I love that feeling and would love to do more of that in our next home. I call it my vampire room, it’s just kind of the opposite of the light and bright all-white, everything, old Elsie aesthetic that I used to be obsessed with, which I still like white, but if I were gonna do a white room, I would want it to be like molding on, molding on molding on like texture and like some wood, not just plain and simple. So I guess what I wanna do is take the style I’ve been playing with and take it more historic, more like the knives out. I started my thing again by buying all those weird little statues and those weird, like the weird stuff. I just got a brass alligator nutcracker on eBay, stuff like that all the time. That is definitely the aesthetic and then I’m gonna try one part of the home with blue paint, Jeremy’s studio though, not the main part but that’s like big for me. And then I’m going to try a little bit of a reddish, like a pinky-red color, which I’m really excited to try cause I don’t think I’ve ever tried that color.
Emma: Cool. I love it. Where’s that gonna be?
Elsie: Maybe you know the room that I keep saying the puzzle room? I’m thinking about that maybe.
Emma: Okay. Yeah, I love it. It kind of has like the girls call it a stage.
Elsie: Yeah. Or maybe the breakfast room. But yeah. I’m excited, I wanna try lots of new things. Oh, we’re gonna try ceiling tiles in our new living room. So those like tin, actually, they’re not always made of tin, but the textural ceiling tiles surrounded by moldings. I think that’ll be really different and I’m really excited to try that.
Emma: Cool. Well, if you’re having an abundance of bookshelves, sounds like a lot of the stuff that’s already in your home, is it gonna fit in the new home. I guess maybe let’s talk about that for a second, furnishings. So what are you keeping and moving? Is there anything that you know you’re not gonna be keeping or anything that you know you’ll be missing once you get to Missouri?
Elsie: So we’re not keeping as much furniture as you would think. So I really like the furniture we did at the pink house. It’s a lot of flea market furniture and a little bit of new stuff. And I think we’ll probably decorate our new home a little bit more like that. In our home in Tennessee where we live right now, we still have a lot of mid-century furniture that is held over from our previous homes.
So I do think we’re gonna have an amazing estate sale for anyone who loves mid-century stuff, and I think I would let go of a little bit of my wicker, but definitely not all of it. Definitely keeping the lamps, but yeah, I think that we just want to add more antiques, that’s really the thing. So in Springfield, there’s this incredible flea market, it’s called Relics Antique mall or something. I’m pretty much gonna furnish my whole home from there and Facebook marketplace I think. I think that the home we live in is just a little bit too much Serena and Lily, which I love Serena and Lily, but it’s very coastal and it leans a little more mid-century and more transitional, it’s not something that goes with like antiques. I wanted to have a tiny, tiny, teeny little haunted mansion feeling to it. So that’s what we’re going for. It’s not a phase I just like love antiques, I love living with them. I love being surrounded by them. And I also feel like if you can have your dream antique for like half the price of something new, or even for the same price, why wouldn’t you want to do that? I always thought of antiques as very expensive, but when it comes down to it, it’s actually not that. This is major furniture so you compare it to other major furniture purchases.
Emma: We used to be where our budget pretty much only would fit for like Ikea, you know? And now it’s a little more expanded in all sorts of directions. And although I still love something from Ikea here and there, I agree, I think new versus a flea market find and antique isn’t, sometimes the price isn’t really all that different at all.
Elsie: If you can have an antique light fixture versus a light fixture from Pottery Burn for the same price, then at some point it’s just a preference of which one you like, the way it looks better, right?
Emma: How did you prepare your home to list it in Tennessee?
Elsie: Oh, man. Okay, so first of all, our realtor is named Daniel Long and I’m shouting him out. He is the ultimate best. He’s one of my close friends, I love him. I’m not recommending him cuz he is my friend though. He’s an incredible realtor. He’s been our realtor for four years now and, he sold several houses for us and he always just does an amazing job. And one of the things I love about him the most is that he comes in and helps me audit what I need to do to prep.
And so months ago, probably, a year ago, we had him to our house and said, what do we need to do to get this thing ready to sell? It was when we still thought we were gonna move to New York and he told me, he’s very honest and he had me do things that I honestly wasn’t gonna do. Like we rebuilt this whole little rotten deck off the back of our house that I didn’t wanna do, but we did it and I’m glad we did now, he encouraged us to do some stuff like that. It’s just practical, he just gives his opinion about other things. So yeah, when I realized we were going to move, we were in the middle of our big renovation with all the bookshelves and the living spaces basically, so we had already done quite a bit. So with that stuff, I really just finished it and I decided Like I still had the choice. I could have canceled all my wallpaper at that point and been like, I’m considering it a flip now, but since I was already so close to the end, I was like, I just wanna finish it the way I planned it, and the way I designed it and photograph it just for my own personal joy, the way that I planned it.
And then I felt like there was a chance someone would like it or a chance they wouldn’t. You never know, right?
Emma: Well, it already wasn’t a great flip, so you might as well just do what you’re doing.
Elsie: Right. So I just decided to continue with that. And then for our kitchen for example, we never renovated it, it’s not a renovated kitchen, so we wanted to do some small updates. So he asked me to switch out that countertop that we had DIYed. It was perfectly fine for living there, but it’s not really appropriate for selling in our market, so we switched that out for a solid quartz counter. I switched all the faucets for gold and I added a backsplash tile, and that’s all I did to the kitchen, and it looks 25% better. It just looks like it’s updated. It doesn’t look like it’s renovated. It doesn’t look like it ever got gutted, but it does look updated recently. I switched all the hardware and just the small things like that. So that’s really what I did. And then, obviously, the cleaning and we had our painter finish all the trim in the house, like things like that. We tried to make it a finished, renovated home. Even though if we were staying there, I personally would renovate the kitchen still, I personally would renovate the main bathroom still, if someone doesn’t want to, then they’re the best they can be for now.
Emma: Yeah. And what’s it been like to live at a house that’s listed and actively showing? How long have you been doing that, as of the time we’re recording? How’s it been?
Elsie: One of the reasons we kept the secret of our move for so long is because I didn’t want our house listing to be passed around on the internet, and that’s not really in my control and I know that it has happened, and will happen and everything. But it was something I was trying to avoid or hoping to avoid. We have had our house listed since last fall. We did it for two months in the fall and then we took it down for about two months at Christmas to take a break. And then we put it back up around February 1st. So it is challenging, I would say it’s frustrating, it’s because we’re a family with two kids, but we do showings so much that we kind of have to keep our home pretty close to perfect all the time. And as a blogger and a person who does big projects and stuff, it’s also been challenging because I have to always be sure that I have enough time to take it back to zero anytime I start a big project, which keeps me from starting a lot. So I do think it’s dampened my creativity because I’m normally the type of person who will leave one table, is this project, another table is that project, and it’s just like there are projects everywhere all the time. And that’s honestly how I like to live and it’s just not something that we’re able to do right now. And then just keeping kids’ stuff reasonable has been hard. There was a certain part before Christmas where we had a heart-to-heart when we were like, you know what? We’re just gonna let the kids make messes and play because I don’t think that a house is not gonna sell because there are a few kid’s toys or whatever, you know what I mean? So we are taking the theory that as long as we’re taking care of the big stuff like we got a new roof, things like that, we’re not gonna stress about the magnet tiles and stuff because it’s just not really fair to our children.
Emma: Yeah. Plus, if you don’t buy a house just because there are magnet tiles on the floor, what’s happening with you?
Elsie: It’s definitely a lot of work though, keeping it that way. But it’ll be worth it and we’re happy to do it. I’m trying to have a good attitude and just like get through the season, right?
Emma: Yeah, it’ll sell soon. But yeah, it’s hard to have showings, especially trying to keep a house super clean with kids and things like that. I know how much you’re gonna miss the house. And you’ve talked about that a little bit, but what is the thing you’re the proudest of in this house that you chose to do, or will miss the most
Elsie: So I definitely think as far as something sentimental, the hidden library, it’s the top thing because it was a dream for me to do it. My husband thinks that now that I’ve done it, I don’t need to do one ever again. And that is a conversation that’s ongoing, for sure. But yeah, it was just so fun and, very fulfilling, very exciting. And It’s definitely a thing that we’ve had a lot of realtors posting just that part of our house, so I know that it’s the standout special feature too. But other than that, I am so proud of the renovation we did in the bedroom. It’s not as photogenic, it’s not as shareable, but the feeling in person, the difference that it made with the big paneled ceiling, it’s incredible. So I think that’s probably the most underrated renovation and then also just that big section of green shelves in our living room, I think was the other best choice that we made because the living room just didn’t have a lot of vibes before. Do you remember what it looked like before, it was kind of vibeless and now it has so much personality. So yeah, I think floor, ceiling, shelves, and then just simple paneling, a paneled ceiling were some of the best choices I’m very proud of those.
Emma: Yeah, and the people really wanna know what’s happening with the Pink House. This is probably the thing people ask the most. They’re like, is she gonna sell the pink house? Is she gonna keep it? They wanna really wanna know about the Pink House.
Elsie: Yeah, so this is how you can tell that I never thought we would move back to Missouri again because we only bought that house like a year and a half ago, right? A year, a year and a half ago. It wasn’t very long ago at all. So we had no idea and we love staying there during the holidays and stuff. I am very attached to it. I still haven’t finished everything I wanted to do there to update it, so I am not really interested in selling it. There’s not really a benefit to us financially to sell it right now. I think we bought it when the market was a little more up than it is now. So I think our first choice is gonna be to make it an Airbnb because then I could use it a little bit for my pictures and stuff. And we also still might need to stay in it when we’re renovating in the future. I think that it’s really, really close to our new house. I guess I probably haven’t explained that they’re two blocks apart. So that is really good too. I like the neighborhood proximity of it, so at this point, I think we’ll keep it and rent it out in some way. I definitely don’t think we’ll list it this year, but also stranger things have happened and I feel like if I say anything definitive, I curse myself, so I don’t wanna curse myself either.
Emma: Yeah. I mean, no one knows the future. That would be cool.
Elsie: Well, I hope I answered your questions and we will definitely take you along over the next six months as we move and settle in and everything. Have our first Halloween, it’s gonna be amazing. I keep telling Emma all these crazy ideas. I’m like, Emma, I’m gonna get 12-foot skeletons and you know, she’s like, okay, okay, okay. It’s gonna be amazing. It’s gonna be a great year. Okay, so should we go ahead and do our book report?
Emma: Yes, let’s do it. This week’s book report is about this time tomorrow, and we’re just gonna talk about the book. So if you haven’t read it yet, you might not wanna listen to this, just so you know that. So the point of the book is it’s a woman, Alice is our main character, and, she’s older, she’s having her 40th birthday, well, it’s not really older, it’s not older. Elsie’s 40 so I had to put that in there. I didn’t want her to feel old. Anyway, she also has an aging father who’s in the hospital. And so she’s kind of dealing with that in her life. She’s also at a point in her life where she has this career that she’s kind of sort of fallen into, I think she mentions that she wanted to be a painter, but she hasn’t really been painting and she works at her old high school as kind of a guidance counselor or an admission. She decides on the little kids who go to the elementary school, she helps decide that, and it’s something that she seems to enjoy, but it wasn’t necessarily a career that she saw herself doing forever, so she’s doing that. She also is in a relationship where she’s, okay, nice guy, but she doesn’t really see herself getting married to him and doesn’t really necessarily feel settled in that arena of her life either. So we kind of get the feeling that Alice is sort of looking at her life and thinking about making changes, but also kind of feeling like maybe she’s at an age where she’s just settling in, and it becomes kind of clear that the big thing in her life that actually matters the most is her relationship with her dad. And he’s, as I said in the hospital, he seems to be dying and so I think that that’s sort of the big catalyst of what is my life gonna be once he’s gone? It’s her 40th birthday she goes out to have dinner and drinks with a friend who is her friend from high school and she’s a mom. So they don’t stay out super late together cuz the mom lives in New Jersey and has to go back to her mom life. But they have a nice dinner and then Alice goes out for a few more drinks and then she ends up going back to her father’s old home, which is fake now as he’s in the hospital. And she goes to his gardening shed, which he always loved growing up, she mentions that that was a space that was something that he just kept up the gardening shed, and it turns out that the gardening shed is how you travel back in time. So for one day, she travels back in time to her 16th birthday. So she wakes up and she’s no longer 40, she’s 16 and it’s her 16th birthday, and she relives that day and any choices that she makes on that day affect her future. And then the next day she wakes up again and she’s back to being 40. But her life’s different based on whatever new choices she made as a 16-year-old on her 16th birthday. And that’s kind of the premise of the book and we watch her do this over and over again as she kind of tries on different futures to see what she decides and one of them, she marries this boy from her high school who she always had a crush on, Tommy, and she kind of sees what that would be like and it turns out it wasn’t the fantasy that she had envisioned, things like that. But my favorite part of the book is when she, as a 16-year-old, tells her dad about the time travel. And her dad is an author, he’s written Time Brothers and is into science fiction and time travel, and she tells him and she’s like, he’s gonna maybe understand maybe not. He tells her that he’s time traveled many times and he knows about the gardening shed. I don’t know if it’s really a twist, but I just didn’t exactly see it coming. Even though they kind of tell you because they’re like, he always loved the gardening shed, but I don’t know. He’s like I’ve always been time traveled. So she goes back to her 16th birthday. The day that he always returns to, is the day she was born. And later in the book, he explains that he thinks the reason that the time traveling sends him back to that day was because that was the day that he became the best version of himself because she was born. Also, he just talks about going back and seeing her be born over and over again. In a way, it almost sounds like a little bit of an addiction. Like I get more time, I get more of this special time because I think the older I get, the more I understand that there are these really special moments in life and they go by quickly and there’s nothing you can do to hold onto them, it’s like sand through your hand, but it’s so special. And in a way it’s this like melancholy thing that you’re always living where you’re like, oh my gosh, this is the most special moment and also it’s immediately gone. I think that this book really captures a lot of that. I think some of the major themes of the book to me is like aging and mortality and a little bit, and she deals with that through the lens of time travel and getting to relive certain parts of your life and in a way getting more time with the people you love. But I think it almost highlights the fact that there’s only so much time and that you won’t get forever. I just thought it was really beautiful and really sweet and really funny. It’s a very funny book, but it’s also kind of melancholy. It deals with death and it deals with, life choices and different things like that. I loved it.
Elsie: Yeah, I thought it was beautiful. The father-daughter relationship I thought was the best part of the book. The thing that the nerd inside of me, the thing that I liked the best about the book is that I love a book within a book and this book has, the character of her father has time travel books that are like famous and then it’s like made into a TV show in the nineties and so there’s a lot about that. For me, a book set in the 1990s is like a very millennial pleasure. I think that it’s the perfect setting for like, that’s when I was a teenager, so I really enjoyed that. But yeah, anytime there’s a book within a book and you feel like it’s a real book because it’s so in there so much, I think that that’s really interesting and like a nice touch.
Emma: Yeah, I agree. I also like that, you know, so Alice tries on a bunch of different futures as she makes small and sometimes large changes on her 16th birthday, and I kind of liked that that wasn’t the most important thing. I feel like what we’re supposed to take from the book a little bit was the most important thing for her was time with her father and just loving him and having that relationship and so it wasn’t as much finding the perfect career or having the perfect husband or living in a big house or a small house, because a big house is for loser rich people. It’s just like she tries on all these different things and sure she has opinions about them and whatever, but I really think the thing she goes back to over and over is, trying to save her dad. Some of ’em, she like convinces him to stop smoking, and some of ’em, she’s like, you’ve gotta exercise more, you gotta eat better. She just is trying to find a way to where she gets back to her 40-year-old self, he won’t be sick and in the hospital. At the end of the book, what we find out is she’s tried all these different things but the reason he’s really sick is that he time traveled too much and apparently that does something to your body in this particular book, in this particular version of time travel it does something to you if you go back over and over and over and she realizes that there’s no way that she can change that because, by the time she goes back, she’s 16, so he’s already time traveled a lot, but then also she understands why he’s doing it, he keeps going back, the same reason she does to get more time with these special moments with people that he loves. He sees her born over and over again and she kind of realizes there are things worth dying for, there are things more important. And you can’t really take those things away or ask someone to. You just kind of see her reckon with, there’s we only get so much time, even if we get to time travel, there’s still only so much time that we get to spend with the people that we love, and we can’t necessarily change the future so that there’ll be no death and no pain. We just have to appreciate what we have. And I think the scene where she’s like, this is the last time I’m gonna time travel, and whatever happens, I’m just gonna accept my future. She spends a lot of time with her dad and asks him lots of questions about his life and his cousins. I think she even records their conversation just like getting to know him more and things that she never asked him she wanted to ask him. I think that that makes a lot of sense as far as, if you knew, all right, this is the last time, and when I get back to the future, probably my dad’s gonna be sick again. And so how do I wanna spend this day? And it’s like just with them, just talking.
Elsie: Well, I hope if anyone read it, I hope you enjoyed it. I thought it was good too. I think I was distracted a little bit because I was afraid that the endings where it’s like the only life I want are the ones I had at the beginning. I was afraid it was gonna end like that and so since it didn’t, I was very satisfied because I did not want that ending.
Emma: I felt like it was pretty certain she wasn’t gonna do that, the author, because she references a lot of different, you know, like Jenna Rink 13 going on 30. And all these different words, like the ending, is either something like, oh, the only life I liked was my original, or, oh, I got the husband and the kids and the career exactly as I wanted. And I think she kind of goes out of her way to be like, yeah, she tried on all of those and they were all good. But the thing she really wanted was more time with her dad and she couldn’t have that because that’s not how life works, even if you can time travel.
Elsie: Well, I really enjoyed it. Anytime there’s a book set in the nineties, then you wanna read it. I am down for it.
Emma: Plus, I’m a big fan girl of this author. I’ve read many of her other books and I just thought it was really fun that she kind of takes this little science fiction turn. I love science fiction. Not that I read tons of it, and it doesn’t totally feel super science fiction, but it is, it obviously has time travel. It is also like one of the main characters, Leonard the father is a science fiction writer and so there are a lot of references to his work and to the TV show. And then he writes another book in some of the Futures Don of Time, and he talks about that. And so it’s definitely in that world, and so I just thought it was really fun to see this author do something a little bit different, but still very much like all the things that I love about her writing were in this book plus some time travel, so it was just like really fun, I loved it.
Elsie: Yes. Okay, so also I went to her bookstore last summer in Brooklyn and it was the cutest, best bookstore I’ve ever been to. I went with just Nova by ourselves for a mommy and daughter date and it was so special. So yeah, if anyone is ever around Brooklyn, her bookstore’s called Books are Magic and has the cutest free little library outside that I think I’ve ever seen in its very charming little spot with a great kid section.
Emma: I can’t wait to see it someday. I haven’t been yet, but I would love to.
Elsie: Okay, well we still have a couple more books. I think we’re halfway through our book club for this quarter. Alright, it’s time for a joke or a fact with Nova. This is Nova. Say hi.
Nova: So hi, so one fact is, did you know that the train from Harry Potter is actually real?
Elsie: A real train? Where is it in the world? Do you know?
Nova: I don’t remember, but I did know.
Elsie: Nice. Okay, we’ll have to look that up. That’s a great fact. Thank you, Nova.
Nova: Bye bye everyone.
Emma: Thanks so much for listening. If you’ve been enjoying our podcast, we would really appreciate a kind review, those always help. They help us grow and we’ll be back next week with a deep dive episode about goal setting. We are gonna be talking about the 12-week year method.