Tuesday, March 30

a simple equation

Dear US Government,
Typically I avoid most things having to do with politics and governmental structure. But today, I would like to say thank you. Thank you for the lovely checks the Man and I recieved yesterday. Who doesn't love a tax refund? I think this is where we would cue the music and thank the Academy-- or in our case, our accountant. Seriously though, partner a tax refund with the First time homebuyer's rebate and you have two very happy nerds. Not only will this be going to cover the replacement game console (which arrived yesterday-I'm telling you, Amazon is amazing!) but it will also help fund a few projects around our nest.

Before we talk projects, let me share with you what I came home to after class last night. The Man decided to try and repair his current console. When I walked into our kitchen, he had pieces and parts scattered everywhere. By 1:00am he had completely taken his console apart, repaired the problem and put it back together. It was completely worth missing out on a few hours of sleep to see those little blue and green lights flashing when he hooked everything back up. I am so proud!

We're still going to keep our backup from Amazon because the Man says it is only a temporary fix on his old system. How's that for accessorizing a nerdy nest?

Returning to our regularly scheduled refund announcement.. I have some big plans for our rebate. My goal is to get the most bang for our buck and still fulfill the following criteria:

+ pay off some bills

+ put some in savings

+ complete a big house project or two

+ indulge in a few small treats

Since we don't have a minivan to add racing stripes to, watch wrestling or have any interest at all in Hannah Montana like Nick from Punny Money hypothesizes; hopefully we can prove him wrong when it comes to how we spend our refund. Although I should confess, a new iPod might make it onto the list as an indulgence. My nano bit the dust about two weeks ago and I've missed it more than I thought I would. But that's low on the priority list.

In my last post, I mentioned a little thing about tearing out a wall? We are finally able to move forward on this! The Man's uncle has done a lot of work on building and renovating local homes in our area and he quoted us a great price to help us with this renovation. I'm a big believer in DIY, but when my DIY involves a supporting wall and makes someone with 15+ years of experience say repeatedly "what a mess, this is gonna be a mess, what a mess." I'm not afraid to call in the pros.

Our goal is to open up our great room and tear down this wall between our kitchen and great room. The Man and I have always wanted our kitchen to include a bar and love open floor plans. Although we plan on a total kitchen renovation eventually, I'm trying to find a way to make everything we have "new" again. I am always amazed at the changes people have made in their homes while reusing a lot of what they already had.

We're hoping we'll be able to do a split level bar and then eventually replace the tops of both our counters and bar with granite (or something like that).

I love the light and bright look of this kitchen. There's just something about it that's so cheery and feminine to me.

This is a lot closer to what I expect our setup to actually look like. We're hoping to eventually add in new dark wood cabinets (to replace our builder's grade laminated-front lovelies--more on that later) and add in slate-look tile floors, and upgrade to stainless steel appliances. I like to blend traditional and modern, and I think those changes will do just that for our dated kitchen. But, all in due time!

For now, opening up the space will bring a lot of change to the feel of our nest. We'll also be relocating some cabinets and I'll need to brainstorm some creative storage, paint colors, and little things to spruce up the kitchen in the meantime. Mix that in with the fun of a main wall demolition and we have our first true renovation adventure.

In honor of last night's quantitative research methods class, I present you with the following equation:

tax rebate+two working consoles+tearing down a wall =
very happy nerdy nesters

finding our nerdy nest (part deux)

The Man and I went to investigate a house Mike had shown us on the MLS. If you are looking for a home in the Auburn/Opelika area, or really anywhere-- there are a ton of great tools available online.The local MLS is one of them. Granted, it won't include as much information as your realtor will have access to, but it is a great starting point to see what is available in your area. It's also really helpful to see what is in your price range, and a lot of realtors include pictures and virtual tours as well.

After Mike showed us the house as listed on the MLS, we patiently waited a day and then drove over to check it out on a Saturday afternoon. We parked at the bottom of the hill and began our stealthy trek to the top. Keep in mind this is in broad daylight. The Man is rocking his typical winter wear of a black leather trenchcoat whereas I'm in my favorite baby pink velour hoodie and pigtails. We immediately liked the house, but I had my concerns. My biggest worry was the hill (and lack of a laundry room. I had always wanted a laudry room.)The Man loved the hill and I understand why now that we can look out over all our neighbors. There is just something awesome about being "the house on the hill."

As we rounded the back corner, we were locked into the sights of who would become our neighbor. She was at the house next door with her home inspector. We made our way back down the hill hoping not to be caught stalking, but Neighbor Lady wasn't having it. She asked if we had bought the house and told us it was going up for auction that day. Our hearts sank, but we knew we had to see inside-- even if it was just to show Mike an idea of what we wanted.

We called Mike and he met us at the house on the hill a few hours later. We toured the inside and began checking off our "want list." The house on the hill had almost everything we wanted in our home. I insisted that Mike schedule to show us some more houses (just because.)Not only did he show us that house, but also the one Neighbor Lady was planning on buying. We made an appointment to meet Mike in two days to tour a few other options.
Two days later, we met Mike outside of the Brick House. The Man and I love the look of brick and the pictures of this house on the MLS showed potential. However, our tour fell through when the current owner of the house cancelled through a note posted on the front door. Who does that?

We told Mike we wanted to see the House on the Hill again. We oohed and ahhed and told him we were seriously interested. He said he'd do some checking and get back to us.

An hour later, he called. The house was available, but an offer had been made. If we wanted it, we'd need to put in an offer that night. By 9pm we were leaving Mike's office with a copy of our offer in hand. We were in a competitive bid over a house we saw for the first time 4 days prior and had a great Realtor on our side that we had met less than a week before. We had found our home and made an offer TWO WEEKS after deciding that the time was right to buy.

It took longer to find out if we won the bid than it did to find our realtor and our house. That weekend was torture. Sheer-angsty-waiting-Did-we-get-it?-Is-that-our-house?-Are-we-moving?-Will-we-make-it?OHMYGODWHENWILLTHEYCALL!torture.

They called. We got it. We jumped and I giggled and screamed and we hugged. And then I freaked out and morphed into a bundle of paperwork and mayhem. We wanted to close by November 30th. I had a week to get ALL of the loan paperwork in for both the Man and myself. We had a week to confirm the cash for a downpayment. I don't remember much from that week, other than the fact that when it was all done we were one step closer to owning our home.

We closed on November 30th, 2009. Mike handed us the key to our new home and the next part of our journey began. We moved that weekend and I've been nesting ever since.

It was chaos. It was madness. It was entirely, completely and undoubtably worth it. I love our home. It's perfect for our little nerdy family.

Now if we can just tear out that one wall....

Monday, March 29

finding our nerdy nest

I have to confess, when the Man and I decided to buy our house I was thrilled. I have always loved looking at houses and had dreamed of the day I could have a realtor walk me through house after house pointing out things that gives each house a selling advantage.

It all happened pretty fast starting in the early weeks of October 2009. The Man and I had been living together for a little under a year and were out doing our Sunday shopping. We drove through what is referred to as the "Mill Village" and saw a sale sign in front of a house I had long admired. I just loved the character of the older houses and the potential each one had. The Man suggested we at least grab a flyer, just for kicks, when the neighbor saw us stopped in the drive. She offered to show us the house if we'd come back later that afternoon.

I couldn't resist a tour, even if it was just for kicks. We returned a few hours later to check out the house. It was very much a mill house, and not at all what we were looking for (even though at this point we weren't even really looking.) I kept wanting to tear out walls, replace cabinets and fixtures and re-paint everything. I loved the hardwood flooring and the classic front porch-- but it couldn't compensate for all the changes we'd want to make.

After touring, we piled up on the hand-me-down love seat at our apartment and talked houses. I had thought about buying before the Man came into the picture, but decided I ought to wait until the time was right. The Man felt the time was right and we never looked back.

I began reading everything I could about buying a home, choosing a realtor, and the home buyers rebate. I knew at this point we were working on a deadline, but didn't think we would really find anything and close in a month and a half's time. Have I mentioned that I can become somewhat obsessive about certain tasks? Within 2 days I had appointments to meet with three different Realtors. Two of which specialized in being buyer's agents which I was determined we would have.
"A buyer’s representative (or simply buyer’s rep) is a licensed real estate professional who represents prospective home buyers in their property transaction" --RBAC

After one popular agent in the Auburn/Opelika area informed us that what we were looking for was impossible to find, we dug our heels in deeper and called in reinforcements. I asked my co-workers, friends and family for recommendations. It's through one of my Dear Mother's cohorts that we were introduced to Mike Rogers.

We like Mike. Not only was a great resource for us nerdy newbies, but he was friendly, funny, down-to-earth and exactly what we were looking for. He didn't give us any pressure to sign with him, to buy, or to rush into anything. One of the great things about Mike was that he was really cool-- he gave advice without being patronizing (like so many other folks were) and we trusted him. We really believed that Mike would show us homes we could afford and do the best he could to find us our perfect home. He knew our price range would be difficult to shop for, but he never once said "impossible." During our meet and greet he pulled up a listing of homes we could afford. Within an hour of meeting him, he had shown us a picture of our home. We just didn't know it at the time.

After meeting Mike, the Man and I had decided to do some scouting on our own. At this point we were a week into the hunt and had house-stalked every night. I had a running list on Trulia of favorites. I really loved Trulia. I know it's probably not accurate, but I still house-stalk on Trulia just to see the pictures of local homes that are for sale. We would pull the addresses from Trulia, plug it into Samantha (our GPS) and go house-stalking after work. We'd drive up to the house, walk around it and peer in windows if possible. This went on for a while... at least 20 or so houses.

But I never went inside one.. not until we called Mike a few days later, on a Saturday afternoon.

What the hail?!

I know, I know, I couldn't resist the pun.

It hailed last night, as in little balls of ice falling from the sky. What is it about late weekends in March in Alabama that prompt crazy weather? Last year we had a terrible thunderstom, disasterous tornado, followed by 2 inches of fluffy snow. In March. In Alabama.

We had an eventful evening in the nerdy nest. I was late leaving to buy groceries, and the Man had been busy working outside all day. After a 3 hour adventure to Freds, Target and Kroger I arrived home to a devasted gamer.
The Man loves video games. Loves them. He loves me too, but that's beside the point. Last night, his favorite console died. It just showed a flash of yellow blinky light and died. As soon as I saw him hunched over it, with cables strewn about-- I knew there was no holding out for frugality in this nerdy nest. I knew what must be done.

As he phoned his friends to share his shocking news, I put away groceries and prepared for battle. Although the Man loves his games, he is also a grown-up, hardworking guy who does everything he can to provide for me and our little family. He knows that the money for a new gaming system was not in the bank. He knows that we've been working to pay off our credit cards. He knows that I am not an impulsive girl, and would probably encourage him to wait until bills were paid.

What he didn't know was that I was going to insist we order another one immediately. No, we don't have the money. And yes, it will have to be on credit for a while. But this is something that we both enjoy, and what is a nerdy nest without an awesome gaming system?

I prepped dinner while he called around to the local game stores - out of stock. Wal-Mart, KMart, Target, Best Buy.. all out of stock. It seemed to be without hope until a friendly smiling logo appeared on the computer screen.
Amazon- we had it ordered and done in less time than we were on hold at GameStop. My nerdy Man will have to do without for a few days, but I'm hoping Amazon will have it shipped and in its rightful home by the weekend. (I heart Amazon.)

Sunday, March 28

Free cookies?

This Saturday morning was a little chilly, but still sunny and great for yard sales. However, I don't think everyone got the memo. I had scouted about 3 different sales, one of which had promised home-made cookies while you shop. Another claimed to be a "HUGE moving SALE!!" Apparently they had already moved as when I arrived there were no tables, signs or even cars around. Even the cookie sale was a bust-- the girls were sweet, their prices.. not so much.

Luckily, a chat about yard sale-ing over dinner for Girl's Night Out led me to the best sale of all. One of the girls from the office mentioned seeing a few signs off a main road here in Opelika.

There weren't many signs to help me find my way, and after looping through a cul-de-sac or three I found the sale. She had a few tables set up and I lucked out. Not only did I pick up a few shirts for less than $1.00 total; I also found some great things for our nest.

A cute lined basket to corrall lotions and hairbrushes in the master bath ($2-- and the tag said Pier One!)

A giant clock that might find a home over the mantle, or with a coat of paint it could end up in the kitchen. To give you an idea of the size, next to it is one of my favorite felt tip pens. There is just something about a felt tip pen that will make your handwriting cute no matter how messy it is.

It was completely worth the $3 based on size alone. Plus it balanced the traditional and modern tones that we're looking for in our living room.

My final purchase to share with you is this rug, bought at the same sale as the clock. I just loved the loopy texture and couldn't resist it at $1.00. I knew it would look brand new after being washed with a bit of bleach. (May I just say how much I love all things white and fabric now that I've discovered the wonders of a cap or two of bleach in the wash?)
Oh, and the paw you see modeling the luxurious texture of our rug is our youngest furbaby. She saw me with the camera and could not get enough attention. Either that or she was enamored with the camera strap.

Yard sale total - around $10 including gas, breakfast and everything I picked up. Not too shabby for a morning's worth of entertainment for this nerdy girl.

Along with yard sale-ing, I spent some time with my folks over lunch and then went to Lowe's. Lowe's is crack for new homeowners. Hell, Lowe's is crack for anyone who has a house, wants to have a house, or wants to do anything remotely dealing with a house, really. It's addictive and I need more. Simple as that.

Seriously though, I think I'm hooked. I was tempted to go by there today when I was out buying groceries. I just felt compelled to visit.

Sorry Lowe's. Maybe next weekend..

Friday, March 26

one of the best things..

One of the best things about Fridays is my weekly yard sale list. I love preparing for the weekend with a nice clean legal pad, my favorite pen of the moment, and the online classifieds.

My addiction to yard sales started about two years ago when I moved from my mother's home into an apartment. Hello sweet freedom, how I missed you!

Let me explain a little here: I went to college about three hours away from my hometown. I lived in a total of three apartments in the four years of school, all within a one block radius of each other. After graduating school and facing a big question mark about my post-college life, I caved and moved back home.
(Later on, I would meet the reason why)

Living with my mother was a change of pace after having my own 2-bedroom home. I sold most of my belongings in a yard sale with some friends, gave away most of my furniture to the girl who took over my lease, and packed up what was left. Following the move, living in a 10x12 room taught me wonderful lessons on paring down and organizing my chaos.

After a year and a half of cohabitation with Dear Mother, it was time. Time to find my own place. I considered home-ownership then, but I wasn't positive I would be staying in the Auburn/Opelika area. I really wasn't sure of much more than my desire to have my own space again.

I moved into a great apartment complex that wasn't overrun by students. I began the hunt for cheap furniture and all the wonderful things that take a space from Renter's beige to cozy home. I learned that my Saturdays were best spent hopping from one yard sale to another, then grabbing a late breakfast, and hitting up the thrift stores on the way home.

Now, as a new homeowner the thrill of the hunt is back on. Besides, it quenches my desire to shop at a much lower price point than any other stores I've found. I guess I was just meant to be a yard sale/thrifty chick.

Thursday, March 25

here's to the ladies who lunch

Recently I was invited to attend a Pampered Chef party at the home of one of our new neighbors.

Can I just say that the combination of good food, yummy wine, and lovely cooking accoutrements was almost more than this girl could bear!

I set a budget for myself beforehand. At least I made an attempt to be frugal! I purchased a few things for our new kitchen, but am proud of my ability to resist the centerfold of the show. Meet the Deep Covered Baker-- able to be used in both oven and microwave :

I was able to shy away from her alluring power. However, the Mexican Lasagna we made that night has already been recreated for my classmates-- not even a week later.

Who can resist a quick and easy recipe that makes enough for a crowd for less than $15. I fed 14 of my fellow students and still had some for leftovers.

+ 1 pack boneless, skinless chicken breast = $3.50 ($7.00 with BOGO free)
+ 1 pack mini flour tortillas = $2.50
+ 1 bag pre-shredded mexican blend cheese = $1.50
+ 16 oz cream cheese = $2.50
+ 1 medium onion = $ .50
+ 1/4 cup chopped cilantro = $1.00
+ 2 cans enchilada sauce = $2.00

Total cost = $13.50

Simply throw the chicken in the crock pot with a little seasoning and love; blend the cream cheese, shredded cheese, and cilantro together; dip the tortillas in the enchilada sauce and layer in a casserole dish. I made 3 layers of tortilla, chicken, onion, and cheesy goodness. I covered the final layer with the rest of the sauce and shredded cheese, and baked it on 450 for about 20 minutes.

It was awesome.

Now I just have to wait patiently for my other Pampered Chef goodies to arrive. I'll be sure to share once they come in.

Wednesday, March 24

A quick hello

I thought I would take the time to give at least a brief introduction to why I've decided after years of blog-stalking to bite the bullet and write one of my own. It all started when I realized that my mental filing cabinet was growing full with snippets of life-- from class projects, to work rants, to home decor inspirations and sometimes simply observations on living the crazy nerdy life I lead.

Truthfully, my life isn't that interesting. It's actually probably much more boring than yours-- though might I add that yours is apparently boring enough to read this nerd's blog. I'm terribly unskilled at writing.. completely new to blogging.. and entirely too ambitious for my own good.

Let's just add one more item to the to-do list and give this blogging thing a try.