Meet Christina, native of Gilbert, AZ, Recruiting Manager at Fox Restaurant Concepts, mother to the fabulous Zooey Rae, the fuzzy Pancake-Pickles, Sriaracha- Cinnamon and their newest addition, Russian Tortoise, Taco Shell. Christina is a professionally trained chef, a plant whisperer, big hearted animal lover, sage advice giver and above all, a fantastic Mom. Christina grew up in Gilbert before it was a city, jokingly, on the, “edge of a cornfield with cows, horses and stinky air.” Christina spent a few years as a chef but ultimately found her calling in management and people development within the restaurant industry. Although Los Angeles was calling for Christina’s talents, she ended up staying in Phoenix and wouldn’t have it any other way.
N: Why do you love Phoenix?
I’m from here, and instead of running from it, I embrace it, I loved it. I have watched the evolution of Phoenix. I work in the restaurant industry so watching the food scene as well as the arts, culture, etc.- it’s been cool to watch what has changed. Watching Zooey grow up in this city has been wonderful too.
N: We met at a difficult time in your life, being newly separated and single mom, you were looking for somewhere to live. What was that like for you?
C: I had a lot of anxiety about purchasing a home. I had been married so young, when we bought our first house, it was during the crazy time of the market, when there were 30 offers on houses, cash, etc. We made so many offers, we looked at so many houses. I wasn’t involved in any of the loan, paperwork the first time around, so I had a lot of anxiety about that part. Also the market was getting hot again and I wasn’t seeing much out there.
N: What was on your wish list vs. what you ended up with?
C: I wanted a great yard, I wanted Zooey to be able to have space to be a kid. I wanted a good kitchen with gas stove. I wanted charm, something different. I didn’t even realize, but everyone said after I bought it, it reminded them of my grandparent’s house. It’s funny how you hyper focus on things. The kitchen was not exactly what I wanted, I am a culinary professional so it was a high priority. The kitchen I got was small, galley style, closed-off. But you make concessions for the big picture stuff.
N: How did you end up taking the leap and making an offer?
C: Finding the right house was the reason I ended up taking that leap. I was really excited about the home right away, I could see myself there. I pushed myself to make the decision and move forward so I could gain some independence. I was, for sure, scared and nervous, but excited.
I picked out a lot of homes based on pictures, the pictures of this house were good, I liked the look, but we had been down this road of good pics and then the house was bad. Right when we pulled up, the front yard, the grass, the brick pathway, I was like, oh no, I like this and it’s at the top of my budget! Even though the interior was painted really terribly, the staging was weird, I could see past it. The natural lighting, the cute front door….then I opened up the door to the backyard and I was like, that’s it- I have to have this!
N: Can you share anything with other home buyers that you learned through the process?
C: At the time I was buying the house, being at the top of my budget was the biggest deal. I remember the house was $5k over what my max was and I was like, I can’t, I can’t do it. I feel so silly about it now, because I don’t even think about it anymore. When you are in the moment and you are the buyer, it feels you’re being sold to. We are trained in life to buy things that don’t maintain their value- cars, bags, you know? You need to switch your thinking about homes, this is something that can gain in value, your money is being invested in your future. Find someone you trust too, know they have your best interest in mind.
N: What about any advice for home ownership?
C: Be patient with yourself, I think we have this idea that, “I move in, everything’s going to be perfect, I’m going to buy all the furniture I want and it’s all going to be done.” There’s this big pressure to have everything picture perfect. Here I am 2 years later, and I still have 100 things to do. Also, get a home warranty, that has saved me 100 times. They have fixed the AC, dryer and wine fridge which is an essential piece of equipment around here! I renewed my warranty too.
N: What are some of the changes you have made?
C: First thing, fresh paint on everything and painted the front door yellow. The built in shelf between living and dining- I did that one right- I stripped all the paint off. Scraping it off layer by layer, which was oddly gratifying. I bought super-expensive, nice paint. I love it, I’m super happy with how it turned out. The hood was a big thing, there was a bathroom fan above the stove when I moved in…what, I know? I had never seen something like that in my life. I had to have a hood. My ex made these great industrial shelves for the blank wall in the kitchen too.
N: What is your favorite room in the house?
C: My favorite is Zooey’s room. It’s this artistic space, full of artifacts from things we have done, parties we have gone to and things she has created. When she was younger, I wanted her to have a great play kitchen, I refinished the whole thing and collected it piece by piece. Her room is a collection- it feels like love.
N: How would you describe your interior style?
C: Colorful Jungle. I love color, I had to paint the walls white because everything I have is so colorful. I want my home to feel comfortable, lived-in, bright, fun, cozy. I have Zooey, 2 dogs, a tortoise, you know? This is my first place of my own. I always lived with a partner or roommate. This has been the first time I ever was able to say, this is what I want, choose colors, couches, all that stuff. It’s my sanctuary.
I am a big fan of vintage stores and markets. I really like to reuse things- planting in old cans and things like that. I love going to the Phoenix Flea to find new artists and ideas. It’s all over the place, I try to be thrifty as a single mom.
N: Now, because you are so in tune with the food scene, we have to ask your top picks for places to go.
C: I’m all over the place in terms of price and occasion, but here we go!
Top 5 Restaurants
Glai Baan– great neighborhood spot, love their story, such lovely people, dumplings are amazing, specials are a must.
Nook– for pizza, I know that’s controversial, gotta get porco e funghi, add sopressata, add truffle oil- it’s the only pizza I order there!
Pho- Pho Thanh- best Pho in the valley
Burger- Attic, good happy hour deal.
Mexican- this is a 2 parter- Tortas el Rey and the fresh tortillas and Queso Fundido at Otro Café.
Chelseas Kitchen– they have a great kids menu, Zooey loves it.
Iced coffee- LGO, hands town the best iced coffee in town
Hot Coffee- The Henry or home
Espresso- Lux or Cartel Coffee
Written by: Misha Renteria, Photography by : Jesse Miller