Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Wedding Details

Well we received the word-we officially close on our house January 6th! In the interim- a few pictures of some of my favorite details from the wedding...

Jason's name sewn into my dress

Jewelry! From my amazing friend Layne over at The Dashing Pearl

Ring bearer sign. You're That Girl Designs

I love this shot of us in the chapel!

Props to Kelly Lyle for this shot! 

Cupcake tower MAD House Cakes

Cupcake flavors-thanks to Simple Elegance for the idea and set up!

Centerpieces- Forget Me Not Florists

Table numbers- The Copy Shop

Head table

And they lived happily ever after...

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Buying a House: Part II

Part II: Negotiations

You found your house! Now what?

The first step is putting together your offer. Since we bought new construction, our realtor was working directly with the builder to hammer out offers and counteroffers. One thing we did not expect was going in list price. We were actually THIS close to signing our offer and I finally asked what we were going in at!

From the market here in Washington, builders wont even entertain an offer that is under list price. A friend of mine in Florida had the same experience buying new construction a few months ago, so maybe it’s a national trend…that’s for the experts to figure out. Ultimately, our offer was for list price with $5,000 in closing costs and some minor upgrades for the house (such as hardware for kitchen and bathroom cabinets).

Next comes the counter offer. Unless the seller is desperate to sell, they will never accept your first offer (and if they do….that should probably raise some questions). Our builder countered with $2,500 in closing costs and no upgrades. This was pretty much what we expected and met our requirements of what we needed from them to be able to get the house. But of course this wasn’t good enough for us!

This next step is at your discretion-your counter offer.  In some situations it may not be in your best interest to counter back. In other situations, it is. Your realtor is there to help you make this decision. In our situation, we countered back with $3,500 in closing costs and to have the hardware “rolled in” to the purchase price- meaning instead of the builder giving it to us at their expense, the cost is added to the purchase price of the house. Not every builder allows this.

Depending on the number of counter offers, at some point the two parties will either reach “mutual acceptance” (you both accept the offer” or one party will cut their losses. For us, the builder accepted the above counter offer.

In our area, “earnest money” is widely needed to solidify the sale. It’s sort of like putting a security deposit on an apartment. It shows you are interested in the property. For us, our earnest money ($2,000) will be refunded to us at closing. We gave our earnest money to the seller (who then passed it off to escrow) when we signed our acceptance of the final purchase contract.

What next? See part III 

Photo updates!!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Buying a House: Part I

Welcome to part one of how to buy a house! The number of parts in this series is TBD...I'll let you know once it's all said and done!

Step one: Get pre-approved for a loan

Even if you’re only casually looking, I highly suggest getting pre-approved. This will give you an actual price range for your budget as well as let you know how much money you need to have saved for closing costs, appraisals, etc.

Step two: Find a realtor

The best way to do this is simply by word of mouth. Our realtor was recommended to us by our loan officer who actually bought a house from him. Working with people who already have established business relationships with each other is seriously the way to go. Information doesn’t get lost in translation and they’re more than happy to help each other out.

Step three: Nail down a location

This was rather difficult for us as the hubs and I work in two different towns about 15 miles from each other.  Ultimately we decided on a location that will take hubs about 30 minutes to drive to work and me about 15. We picked the location because it is right off the interstate but is far enough away you don’t hear any of the traffic. The town also reminds us both of the town we’re from and has everything we want shopping and entertainment wise.

Step four: Decide new construction or older home

This was fairly easy for us. As first time home buyers, we didn’t want anything we would have to go to the trouble of renovating or potentially have to pay out of pocket for any necessary repairs. Plus my taste runs more toward granite countertops and dark wood cabinets which pretty much comes standard in new construction these days.

Step five: Find a house!

I suggest making a must have list and a wish list. This will help you separate the necessities (for us, minimum of three bedrooms, two car garage, etc) from the wants (four bedrooms, three car garage, etc). Then start looking! For us, it took no time at all (one day). For others, it may take months. If there’s even a small doubt in your mind about the house, it is not the one for you. For me finding the right house was like finding the right wedding dress-I knew as soon as I saw it.

UPDATE: More pics! The builders have made A LOT of progress in the last two days!

We have cabinets!

And a loft that just needs floors!

This shower and bath... :D

Friday, November 29, 2013

So We Bought a House...

The other day I received a text message from my bank saying my checking account (which had a balance of $0 as I was about to close it) was SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS. Someone had used my debit card information to pay their insurance premium-to an insurance company I had never had a day in my life!

The hubs and I (after a minor freak out on my end) went to the bank to clear it all up, and in the process got to talking to the girl helping us about starting to look around at houses. She mentioned it might be a good idea to talk to their loan officer to get pre-approved for a loan that way we would know what our actual, rather than estimated, budget would be. Brilliant.

The loan officer was super nice, the wife of a retired solider. She got us all the information we needed and recommended her realtor to us, a retired solider of Puerto Rican decent from Chicago who specializes in VA loans. HELLO, it's like Jason & me combined. So we met with him, super cool guy who spent several hours walking us through the process and educating us. We ending up making plans to casually look around at houses the next day simply to get an idea of what area would be perfect for us.

Casually looking, ha. Do I do casual looking?

Of course the first house we saw I fell in love with. We looked around at different houses and different neighborhoods for a couple hours but nothing compared to that first house. The neighborhood was just the right size, all new construction (the one I loved is still being built), prime location for me working in DuPont and Jason working in Tacoma.

So we decided to sleep on it and our realtor and we went our separate ways for the day. And I couldn't fall asleep. Every aspect of the house just kept running through my head. Ultimately we decided the house is perfect for us and gave our realtor the OK to start the home buying process-more to come on that in a later post.

Want a tour?

Front of the house. It's still under construction so the posts on the front porch are temporary. The house looks greener in this picture-it's more of an olive green that looks gray from a distance. I wish it was more of a neutral color...mainly because I REALLY want a red door. But it's cute and I love how it looks! It has character.

It's a real fireplace!! The cutout above is for a flat screen (and is even wired for it!) In the future, I would love to put in short built-ins beneath each window.

View of the kitchen taken from in front of the fireplace. HUGE island/bar faces out to the living room. The first doorway there is for electrical stuff (don't ask me...), the second is the downstairs half bath. To the left of those doors is the entryway.

This is probably my favorite feature-the bonus room/loft upstairs. The house is a three bedroom but the tradeoff was this space here. We plan to put a desk in front of that half wall (where the stairs are) to be Jason's office area. TV/entertainment area will take up the rest of the space.

Another view of the loft taken from in front of the half wall. I'd LOVE to put a window seat in front of that window and some small shelves in that gap area for DVD's, etc. TV/entertainment center will go on the wall.

One side of the master bath. This is where the shower will be next to the soaking tub. Opposite this wall will be double sinks (relationship saver!)

No picture of the bedrooms...because right now they're just boring plain walls.

And that's (most) of the house so far! More pictures & updates to come.

Homesite #9 (Top left)- SOLD!

Monday, October 28, 2013

I'm Married!

Or maybe I should say we're married...

After almost two years of waiting, the (now for real) hubs and I are hitched! We're on our way back from Cancun (seriously, in-flight wifi is awesome) and I thought I'd touch on some of my favorite highlights from our wedding.

The crying
It might be weird in including this but A) my dad did not cry (at least while he was with me) which absolutely saved me from crying and ruining my makeup. There were bets going on in my family regarding when he would cry because let's face it... Papi is a teddy bear.

After threatening the hubs that I would turn around and walk back down the aisle if he did NOT cry... He teared up as I reached the altar. Score! So I remained in place and the ceremony continued ;-)

After doing so well at not crying ALL day, at the end of the night my uncle of all people made me bust out in tears!

Jason's letter
My husband, God love him, is not a writer. At work, he has me proofread his emails and let's not get started on how much I helped him with his papers in college. Really, he's not one for communicating his thoughts and emotions in either written or verbal form. Which is why I couldn't believe he not only had a card for me the morning of our wedding but an actual hand-written letter as well. He passed both off to our wedding planner who gave them to me in front of one of the photographers. Needless to say I pretty much bawled my eyes out.

A thoughtful gift
One of my bridesmaids made us a glass ornament containing paper from all our wedding-related stationary: wedding invitation, rehearsal invitation, shower invitation, etc. Her husband even saved a ribbon from our exit wands that we can hang the ornament with on our Christmas tree!

My dancing marine 
The hubs in his dress blues doing the Gangnam Style dance. End of story.

Sibling bonding 
The brother was awesome this past week. I when the family was stressing me out, he pulled me aside (maybe slipped me a shot too) and gave me a pep talk. At the end of the reception, he pulled me aside and told me he was proud of me and loved me.

Exiting in style 
Hot off of pinterest, we did a sparkler exit leaving the reception. I can't wait to see the pictures! We also walked across the street to our hotel and several people yelled out congratulations which was a great end to the day!

Best man's speech 
Jason picked his best friend since junior high to be his best man. They both enlisted in the military together (BM in army) and actually ran into each other in Iraq., and shortly before BM's convoy hit and IED, injuring him and earning him the purple heart. Seeing someone with a similar military-esque personality as Jason showing emotion is always emotional for everyone else.

Mommy and me time
With all the wedding-related errands and projects to take care of when we got into town, my mom and I spent a lot of time together which hasn't happened in probably over a year. It meant a lot.

We had guests travel from Kansas, Nebraska, Utah, Arizona, and and Hawaii, among other states. Everyone who was meant to be a part of our day was. I it means SO much to us having people in our lives willing to spend the time and money to be a part of our wedding.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

5 am Thoughts

-Car seats should really come with built in massages for road trips. Except maybe for the driver

-Airports are a prime location for an anthropological study

-"Don't make me think, I haven't had any coffee yet! "

-Getting a job offer ten minutes after doing the interview can really boost a girl's confidence

That's all I have for now... I need to finish my coffee ;-)

Monday, July 29, 2013

We're Moving to...


Jason got an offer for the Team Manager position in Washington! It's been a rough couple of weeks playing the waiting game-he was supposed to hear back last Tuesday...but then we heard nothing all week! But bright and early this morning, he came over to my desk at work and gave me the good news.


We should get more information regarding the relocation benefits but essentially...we get to move for free! And we get a house hunting trip with expenses paid in the next couple of weeks. It's so nice to know we won't have to pay a small fortune like we did when we moved down here.

His new job will start September 30-two weeks before we head to IL for our wedding! We sure like to do everything all at once-we got engaged the DAY before he moved down here.

I submitted my application for the exact same position I'm currently in but in WA. I feel pretty good about my chances but I was really hoping to not have to interview all over again. Oh well- it's a good problem to have.

How does Tacoma compare to where we live now?


Population: 200,000 vs. 34,000
Number of Targets: 5 vs. 0
Number of Starbucks: 17 vs. 2
Number of Malls: 1 vs. 0
Number of Libraries: 8 vs. 1
Dominating Political Party: Democrat vs. Tea Party

Score: Tacoma-6, Florida-0

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My Favorite Wedding Sources

We’re officially less than three months from the big day! Still no word on anything from the prior blog post, but no news is good news right? Supposedly (I use that term loosely), we’re supposed to hear back either way by the end of this week…

In order to avoid thinking/stressing about all of that, I thought it would be useful to put together a list of all my favorite wedding sources.


We used them for our save the dates and were very pleased with the results. This site is MUCH cheaper than Wedding Paper Divas and I thought the quality was similar. We spent about $30 for 50 save the dates!

Paper Source 

This website sells every type of paper and stationary you could ever need. I ordered inner and outer envelopes, envelope liners, and mats for our invitations. The quality of the paper is fantastic and they had the exact sizes and colors I needed. And I loved that the invoice they put in the package was signed by the person who put it together. They had great customer service (plus they have a category just for chevron)!


This site can be hit or miss as you don’t actually order from the site-you order from individual vendors who hand-make what they sell. I’ve gotten some great personalized gifts and handmade wedding d├ęcor I wouldn’t be able to find elsewhere. The one drawback is that it can often take several weeks for you to get your order as most vendors do not make the products beforehand.


This one probably seems obvious, but how the heck did people plan weddings before pinterest?! I love that I can post all my ideas on here and they have even created “secret” boards so people can’t take your ideas! Our wedding planners are also on pinterest, so they can see everything I post so they know exactly what I like.

The Copy Shop

We had our wedding invitations (designed by my AWESOME friend, Rachael) printed here as well as table numbers and some other stationary for our reception. They have both printing and design services. They were FABULOUS at making sure they knew exactly what I wanted. They are based in Illinois but were really great at corresponding via email/phone with me in Florida. And the total price tag was better than I expected!

The Knot

They have all sorts of of tips on wedding planning and etiquette as well as a wedding shop but the feature I like the most is their website tool in which you can create and customize your own wedding website. The tool is easy to use and our website looks great!

What are YOUR favorite wedding planning tools?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Book Review: Calling Me Home

Now that I have a full-time, grown up job and am planning a wedding in my off time, I really haven't had too much time to read. Since I was a kid, I've always been a complete bookworm. It's a way to escape and a way to travel to a different place and a different time.

I've been updating my Goodreads account with some summer reading and just crossed the first one off my list. I came across this title from Jen Lancaster's annual summer reading list. Jen always has the best recommendations. I bought this book on my Kindle with the intention of holding off reading it until my flight home in a few days. Yeah...that didn't happen. It took me less than 24 hours to finish this, reading it at the gym and in the car (don't worry, I wasn't driving.)

Calling Me Home is the story of Isabelle, a young white girl growing up in a sundown town in 1939. She's the white daughter of the town's doctor who falls in love with her black maid's son, Robert. The book goes back and forth between current day and the past, giving you a little bit of the past and relating it back to current day.

I don't say this lightly (my mom's an English teacher, I used to work in a library and hope to again) but this is one of the BEST books I have ever read. I was slightly torn on whether or not to read this as I cannot stand stories that do not have happy endings and I knew there was no way this story could end happily. But I was so glad I read this. This was one of the most haunting books I have ever read. It is written in a way that makes you feel as if you were Isabelle and know the risks involved with falling in love with this man. 

I was actually very happy with how the book ended. I think the author, Julie Kibler, gave it the happiest ending that was possible without making it seem far-fetched. I couldn't believe this was her debut novel, it was written so well.

This book evoked very powerful emotions, forcing me to think about my own parents' marriage. My white mom married my Mexican dad at a time where it wasn't illegal, but it was still very, very rare. Even then there were risks involved. When my dad was a child, he had to sit in a separate area of the movie theatre. While life was much better for minorities at that time, it still wasn't perfect. It was better for me growing up, but it still wasn't perfect. 

This book made me proud of being mixed...something I've struggled with. Thank you to Julie Kibler for writing this.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Margherita Pizza

With the wedding now five months away, the time to diet has descended upon me. During the week, it’s soup for lunch and baked chicken, quinoa, and veggies for dinner. That being said, I still let myself splurge a little on the weekends.

I’ve been looking for a good pizza crust recipe for a while and haven’t come across anything in which the taste was worth the effort.  Then I came across this one on Pinterest for garlic pizza crust...Anything with garlic has to be good, right?

Well it was. This recipe is definitely a keeper and it’s really not all that labor-intensive.

After the crust was prepared, I topped it with mozzarella, Italian, and Parmesan cheeses and some sliced tomatoes.

Stick it in 375-degree oven for about 20 minutes.

Serve with a salad if you're feeling guilty.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Tagalong Cookie Bars

For the last couple of weeks, the hubs has been studying hard for his CPCU designation…meaning I have to find ways to entertain myself since he has been shut away in the office.

Luckily enough, it’s also that time of the year…you know, when Girl Scout Cookies are being delivered.  I made these Thin Mint Gooey Cake bars last week. Now it’s time to conquer my second favorite Girl Scout cookie…tagalongs!

I’m using this recipe from Jasey’s Crazy Day. The one complaint I have about this recipe is how many steps there are...but that is also why I chose this recipe-it kept me entertained all night!

Here’s what you need:

Shortbread Layer
1-½ cups flour
½ cup powdered sugar
2 sticks butter

Brownie Layer
1 box brownie mix + ingredients indicated on box
¼ cup hot fudge topping (the brownie mix I used had hot fudge included so I skipped this step)

Peanut butter Layer
2 sticks butter, softened
½ cup creamy peanut butter
1-¾ cups powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla

Chocolate Gaze
2 cups chocolate chips
1 stick butter

Note this recipe calls for a LOT of butter…so if you have, you know, a wedding coming up…take this into work like I am!

Mix up the shortbread layer first and bake at 350 in a 9x13 pan until golden.

Pour brownie mix over shortbread layer and bake until done. Stick pan in the freezer while you mix the peanut butter layer.

Once brownies are completely cooled, top with peanut butter layer. Again, stick the pan in the freezer while melting the chocolate glaze. It is important to do this otherwise the layers will melt together!

Pour chocolate glaze over peanut butter layer and stick in the fridge for a few minutes so the chocolate solidifies.

Then EAT!!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Cookies & Cream Angel Food Cake

Ok this is seriously one of the quickest and easiest desserts to make. I especially prefer to make this in the summer/spring because it’s so light.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 store-bought angel food cake
  • Crushed Oreos (I only used a few)
  • 1 package cookies & cream pudding
  • Cool Whip

Note: I usually use low-fat Cool Whip…but I sent Jason to the store and this is what he got. Hey, at least this time he remembered to look at the other side of the grocery list.

The first step is to rip the angel food cake into pieces. Seriously, just tear it up into pieces.

Then add about one and a half tubs of Cool Whip (or two-thirds of the big tub) and the pudding mix and mix until completely blended.

Then add in some crushed oreos (between cake tearing and cookie crushing, this dessert is great at releasing stress!)

I like to let the dessert chill for a couple of hours in the fridge to thicken up a bit but it’s just as tasty to eat right away.

This dessert is also very versatile-this is an adaptation of my mom’s recipe-she uses strawberry jello mix and strawberries in place of the cookies & cream pudding and Oreos. I think next time we’re going to try cheesecake-flavored pudding and fruit.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Baby Bucket List

I was talking with one of my coworkers the other day who as a daughter about my age who has been married for a couple of years. She mentioned her daughter and son-in-law have put together a "Baby Bucket List" of items they want to do before they have a baby. That got me thinking-what would be on our baby bucket list?

-Visit Hawaii (hopefully for our honeymoon)
-Visit DC. Jason has never been and we both want to visit the USMC museum
-Go to a Bruno Mars/Lady Gaga/Katy Perry concert (guess whose idea this one was...)
-Get a dog! It's taking all my self control to put off getting one until after the wedding
-Get my Masters 

Any other ideas?? What would YOU put on your baby bucket list?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Peggy's Pumpkin Poke Cake

 This recipe is probably one of my favorites that I’ve found on Pinterest. My boss brought this dessert into work after a long day of medical bill research (sounds fun, doesn’t it?), hence the name.

I’m making this recipe slightly out of season at the request of my new team members at work who heard me talking about how good it was.

You will need:

Step one is really easy. Just combine the yellow cake mix with the can of pumpkin. No eggs, no oil needed. 

Once thoroughly combined, spread in a 9x13 pan and bake at 350 degrees until cooked through.

Because I’m bringing this into work but still wanted to keep some at home for the hubs and I, I used an 8x8 pan to take into work and used the rest of the batter to make into cupcakes to leave at home.

Let the cake cool for about 10 minutes and then poke holes all over using the handle of a wooden spoon.

Pour the can of condensed milk all over the cake, distributing as evenly as possible.

Let chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Here’s where I veered from the original recipe, which calls for the cake to be topped with Cool Whip. I decided to make homemade whipped cream.

All you need for homemade whipped cream is a carton of whipping cream and powdered sugar. Using a mixer, mix the whipping cream on high until it begins to peak.

Mix in powdered sugar to taste. Spread over the cake and top with caramel sauce and toffee bits.

What I love about this cake is how dense it is due to the lack of eggs and oil. The addition of the condensed milk gives it great moisture which contrasts nicely with the crunch of toffee.