Saturday, December 13, 2014

Building a House Month 8.5: Floors, Counters & Fixtures

When we last left off in our house posts, our home was half bricked, had crown molding, baseboards, and some interior doors. On December 6th, we pulled up to our home with the brick 100% completed.

Home sweet home, December 6, 2014

Much to my delight, progress was very underway on the neighbor's home. Living right next to a home under construction isn't exactly my cup of tea, so the more progress they make on this place before we move in, the better (the neighbors on the right have moved in already).

We saw that the tile had just been laid, so we couldn't actually walk inside the house. I could see the granite countertops in the distance. So close, yet so far away.

View from garage 

View from backdoor 
I still just love the brick color we picked.

Since we couldn't go in, it was a short visit, but it was a different story today.

We immediately noticed that progress to the pool and splash area had been made:

When we purchased our lot, I wanted it within a comfortable walking distance to the pool area. We are about 1.5 blocks away. While we may or may not have kids while in this house, we knew it would be attractive to a future buyer. Plus, I plan to use the pool myself!

We drove to our house, and couldn't wait to take a peek inside:

December 13, 2014
However, we encountered a minor road block:

It was locked! We had to go to the office and have our sales representative come unlock it for us. We immediately noticed more doors and some fixtures were installed. And since the tile had grout, we could walk on it.

View from entry

Dining Room 
In the kitchen, I was finally able to see the granite countertops in person, and they had done the backsplash! I really, really like all of our selections. It was so cool to finally see everything together.

We also noticed more of the lighting in.

 The living room had its ceiling fan.

As did our room and the other two rooms: 

One of the other two rooms (they are identical). 

In our bathroom, there was a lot of progress: 

Hello double sink! 

Hello jetted tub! 

Hello not yet tiled shower! 

The other bathroom seemed even further along:

Half tiled second bathroom 
In the backyard, we had dirt.

We mentioned to the sales rep that our real estate agent had confirmed a closing for January 12th; however, the sales rep had emails showing a closing date of January 28th, which she seemed to think was accurate before seeing the house. After seeing the house though, she said our home was further ahead of some that were supposed to close before January 28th, so, we're not sure what that means for our closing date. We do have our rate "locked in" until something like February 9th, and I made sure to mention to the sales rep that we wanted the house closed on before we lost the rate. She seemed to think January 28th was totally doable.We would be totally fine with either date, but fingers crossed, it will be in January.

This was likely our last visit until we return from winter break travels in January. It will be exciting to see what is accomplished in the next three weeks when we get back.

Here's to home sweet home!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Finals and Finalized

Alright! I'm officially writing from the other side of the Fall 2014 semester, which ended this morning when Brendan and I submitted our grades and grade books. Boy does it feel GOOD to be done. I am REALLY proud of all that we accomplished this semester. New numbers in the writing center where I've been doing tutor coordinating show student usage up 66% this semester from where it was the fall before I started. We saw 5,753 students this semester, and we tutored about 100 a week.

Here are the numbers that mean the very most to me: of my developmental writing students, 79% passed the developmental writing course and moved into credit level English with me halfway through the semester. Of those students, 80% passed credit level English 1301 with a C or higher (and 67% made a B or higher!). I feel darn good about THAT.

After we turned in grades, we went to a party at school to celebrate the semester ending with the English Honor Society that we both advise. We had 9 students come and hang out, which was really fun and sweet.

Then, it was time to finalize something else: our home loan.

We locked in our interest rate at 4.125% and found out that our loan payment, taxes, and homeowner's insurance payment will be $4.00 less per month than what we are currently paying for rent at this apartment. I knew buying a house was a financially wise decision, but I was pleasantly surprised at how affordable it will really be. Our lender said our payments will only be 19% of our take home pay (she said most people use about 28% or higher of take home pay), and she said considering our credit scores and savings, we were "dream buyers." That made us feel good. When we started saving in October of 2012, we had set goals, and I'm really proud that we even surpassed those goals. Back then, we were just trying to build an emergency fund, with at least six months of living expenses, and we waited to buy a house until we could do so without depleting the emergency fund (of course, it helped that they needed 9 months to get it built!)

So, the final grades are submitted, the homeowner's insurance is acquired, the interest rate for our loan is locked in, and now, all there is to do is enjoy the next 3.5 weeks of vacation. I know it's going to fly by (it always does), but I have a long list of things I'm looking forward to doing (and it doesn't include packing). Rest and relaxation, here I come!

Here's to getting all the checks off the list,


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

December 2014 Stitch Fix Review: The Best One Yet!

I was so excited to get home from work today and open my fifth ever Stitch Fix! For those of you that have no idea what I'm talking about, Stitch Fix is a styling service for women. Check out my initial review of my first fix here. I've had mixed "luck" with my past fixes. Each month, five items are sent.
In February, I kept two items, in March, I kept two items, in April, I kept zero items, and in May, I kept two items. I took a break from June to November from getting fixes, and in that time, Stitch Fix has clearly made some BIG improvements to their services. For one, they ask more detailed sizing questions, and for two, they keep a record of your notes to your stylist and even give you a chance to revise your requests before your stylist puts together your box. I think these additions led to a better fix.

Here is this month's note to my stylist:

I really would like some colored jeans. The same brand and fit that I received in my March box would be lovely. I'd like colorful sweaters and cardigans. I want all winter clothes. Please NO jewelry or accessories and JUST clothes. Thank you :)

I always make sure to specify the no accessories part, because they do carry bags, jewelry, scarves, etc.. I've never had problems finding accessories, and my mother-in-law owns a shop where she sells amazing jewelry, so for me, the focus is all on clothes. I like that Stitch Fix is customizable.

So, without further ado, here's my fix:
Side note: asking for all winter clothes leads to the heaviest stitch fix package ever.

Up first was the Dita Colorblock Sleeveless Ponte Dress.

Oh how I love this dress! Let me count the ways: 1.) It is surprisingly thick and warm, 2.) It is obviously of high quality, 3.) It is flattering, 4.) It is conservative enough to wear to work, and 5.) I don't own anything quite like this. #1 was a keeper for sure!

Up next, the Adora Ankle Length Skinny Jean and the Genie Colorblock & Striped Sweater.

My stylist left me a note that there were no petite colored jeans right now, so she was sending me dark grey. That was actually fine by me. I have light grey jeans, but no dark grey ones. At first, when I saw the jeans were a size 27 and not my normal 28, I was really disappointed. I thought they wouldn't fit, and these jeans are basically the reason that I ordered a fix. But, to my great happiness, the jeans fit PERFECTLY. Not only that, but they are amazingly comfortable. As a child, I refused to wear jeans. I bought my first pair in the fifth grade when I had to wear them for a play. I remember hating them the entire time. Needless to say, as an adult, I am so picky about jeans, and I hate shopping for them. To have jeans sent to my door that fit like a charm and are comfortable is worth so much to me. #2 item was a Stitch Fix win!

About that sweater though...it is expensive ($68) and really just doesn't "wow" me enough to justify that price. It is comfortable, but I think item #3 will be a return for me.

Oh well, I was 2 out of 3, so on to #4, the Armando Geo Knit Sweater:

Out of the box, I was worried this was going to be very boxy and unflattering. Even after putting it on, I thought, well this is either the best sweater or the worst, and I'm not sure which! But honestly, I think I really like it. Though I'm normally not a fan of 3/4 quarter sleeves, I like them here. Plus, the sweater is right for the price ($34). I can see myself wearing it for fun or teaching, so I think it will get a lot of use and be a good value. #4 is a keep!

Onto the last item, the Layla Twin Stripe & Elbow Patch Cardigan:

Stitch Fix kind of has an obsession with these oversized cardigans, and I think I'm going to have to request to nix them all from my future fixes. Being short, I feel these long cardigans drown me out. This was super cozy though...if only I could justify the price just to wear it as a house robe! 

But alas, I'm not buying a $48 house robe. So #5 will be a return.

The one "bummer" here is that the two items I do not want are valued at $116, but there is a 25% discount on everything if you keep all five items, which means the difference in keeping or not keeping the two things I don't want is only $42. Does anyone want a long cardigan (S) and a fuzzy sweater (M) for their 25% off prices ($87 for both)...speak soon; I have to check out with Stitch Fix shortly!

Anyway, now that I've selected my items, I will fill out a survey with my opinions, which will help my stylist in the future (can I keep Angela?!), pay for my items, and return the items that I don't want for free in the pre-paid envelope.

Do you want new clothes without the hassle of actually shopping for them? Try Stitch Fix through my referral link, and I will earn a $25 credit towards the purchase of future fixes. Thank you in advance!

Do you think my choices were spot on? If you were in my shoes, what would you keep, and what would you return?

Tell us in the comments!


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Building a House Month 8: Brick, or You Can Huff, You Can Puff, But You Can No Longer Blow This House Down

Before starting this post, I will admit my dates are a little "off." December 6th will officially mark eight months since the purchase of our lot, but since we are not always in town to get photos each week, I'm updating when I can.

When we last left off, the drywall was 90% complete. Oh what progress has been made since then! On November 22nd, we noticed the brick had been moved to areas around the house, which I took as a sign that our brick work would soon begin.

November 22
 All the rooms were primed with paint

Dining room 


View from entry 
The kitchen cabinets still hadn't been stained. I have a feeling this room will soon be my new favorite place. I'm so excited every time I see photos of our soon to be kitchen!

What am I equally excited about? Our master bathroom. I can't wait to take baths in my whirlpool tub!

Our master bedroom will be bigger than the room we have now. I know that we'll need some new furniture. I'm thinking of ways to make it perfectly cozy. I see an oversized chair in our futures.

The living area is coming along nicely. I love how much natural light our new house will have! We only have four windows in our apartment...it will be nice to have nine!

Second and third bedrooms are actually identical (just flipped). Here is one of them.

 Second bathroom:

In our garage, we found some of our interior doors waiting. The builders have been using the garage as storage this whole time, and it is fun to see what is "waiting in the wings."

We also took a drive around the neighborhood to note the progress being made. Nothing in this photo was built eight months ago. 

Returning from Thanksgiving on November 30th, we pulled up to a big surprise: 

November 30
Brick! By my estimates, the brick work was more than 50% complete. 

We both love the color of brick that we picked (Hanson's Santa Fe Trail for anyone that is curious). We think it's not too red and not too brown but just right.

Inside, things were looking painted. The light makes this room look more yellowish, but it really is just beige. All of the trim is white. Also, do you notice the crown molding and baseboards?

Dining room
 We also noted that some of the interior doors had been installed. These will all remain white as shown.
View from entry 
Something else exciting: the cabinets were stained!

What a difference that makes, huh? Our color is "traditional walnut," and I think it looks just as perfect as I hoped it would.

The cabinets in the bathrooms had been stained as well: 

I am very excited for the double sink in the master bathroom! No more being in each other's way at the sink every morning. Speaking of the master bathroom, it finally got its correct shower:

This is just the bottom, and the walls around the shower will be tiled (which will look nicer and give us more space than using one of those pre-built units).
2nd bathroom

Another thing that makes a big difference, in my opinion, is crown molding. Brendan and I opted to add it in the front entry way, dining room, living room, and breakfast area. I am really glad we did. 

Note: hanging out in our living room is the incorrect shower. I wonder when they will discover who this shower belongs to and deliver it to its rightful home?

crown molding in breakfast area/door to master bedroom

Crown molding in front entry way

Small improvements included interior closet doors and shelving in the master closet. 

Oh goodness, I am so excited for some more closet space. I get 2/3rds, right Brendan?! 

Outside, we are awaiting the addition of a sidewalk: 

As you can see, a heck of a lot of progress was made in the last two weeks. Brendan and I were very surprised the crew was so productive, given the Thanksgiving holiday. My research has been correct so far and predicts that next is the driveway, flooring, and countertops. By golly I'm excited! Next week, we have a meeting with our lender to sign our application and disclosures. As any homeowner has experienced, the paperwork process for buying a house is intense. I have sent every piece of financial information about both of us possible in a PDF file to the lender, and still, there is a request for ten more things. It is crazy. The lender won't let us "lock in" the interest rate until 45 days out from closing, so hopefully that can be accomplished soon. I don't want the builders to rush our house, and we have our apartment until March 5th, but of course, I'm eager for our life as homeowners to begin as soon as it can. 

For now, we have so much to keep us busy with finals approaching next week and nine days until grades are due. We also have four holiday parties in the next two days! I'm feeling really thankful this holiday season and filled with joy as well. I heard about something really exciting today. The Abell-Hanger foundation has agreed to double any donations made to our local West Texas Food Bank, up to 75,000 dollars. Brendan and I gave last month, and I wish our donation could have been doubled! If you have much to be grateful about, give others something to be grateful about as well, whether it's a financial donation or a donation of your time, I know it will be appreciated. 

Here's to the house and the most wonderful time of the year! 

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