84. We bought a house!

If you remember my post regarding my aspirations for this year, you know that the first thing on my list involved saving up money and buying a house.  Well, we did it!  As of today, we are officially homeowners.  We purchased a cute cottage in a quiet Milwaukee neighborhood nestled in between the suburbs of Wauwatosa and West Allis.

It’s the cutest ever, LOOK AT IT.

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I can’t wait to paint and move all of our stuff in!

This process was way more involved that I originally thought (and there are a lot of extra costs that surprised us a bit).  I thought I’d take the time to inform some of you about basics of the process if you’re curious about taking on a mortgage and owning a home.  This is by no means an all-inclusive list or exactly how the process will go for you (and I’m obviously not a professional), but I hope it will still be informative.

  • Get pre-approved for a mortgage.  Don’t even tempt yourself into looking at houses before you know how much you can afford.  Although there are programs that allow smaller down payments ($0 if you’re a military vet), most banks will require at least 5% down.  This is what we ended up doing.
  • Find a realtor.  We are lucky enough to have a friend in the business, so unfortunately I can’t offer a ton of advice on how to search for the right person.  I would suggest talking to friends or relatives who have recently bought a house and ask them to suggest a realtor or realty company.
  • Decide which properties you are interested in seeing.  Your realtor can help you out with this by preparing a list of MLS properties based on your preferred neighborhood, must-haves, deal-breakers, and max budget.  We chose a few neighborhoods around the Milwaukee area.  The listing had to be for a single-family home with at least two bedrooms, 1.5 baths, a fenced yard, parking (you’d be surprised how many houses only have street parking available) and appliances included.  We also excluded any properties with radiator heat, which we can’t stand.  Our max budget was set to $125,000 in order to keep our mortgage about the same as our rent.
  • Put in an offer.  Make sure you are SERIOUS.  If the seller accepts your offer, you are locked in on that particular property, so it’s important that you really, really love the house (and everything that goes along with it).  Your realtor will help you draft the offer contract, which has lots of contingencies in place to protect you: inspection, appraisal, financing, etc.  A contingency basically allows you to back out of the deal with no penalties should a problem arise, i.e. the house fails inspection miserably because there are major structural issues with the home.  There are three things that can happen after you put in an offer: the seller will accept the offer, the seller will present you with a counteroffer, or the seller will deny the offer.  If the seller accepts the offer straight away, you’ll need to put down a deposit (also called “earnest money”), which is usually about $1000.  The seller can also choose to counter your offer if they feel it’s too low, which you can either accept, counter, or decline.  If you put in a lowball offer, or your offer just isn’t the best one, the seller may choose to decline your offer, which means you are back to searching for properties.
  • Schedule an inspection.  This can cost anywhere from $300-$500.  We paid $530, which included the inspection and a radon test.  (I’m glad we got the radon test because our house actually failed!  The seller did get a mitigation system installed, though, so we’re all good.)  Make sure to allot about 2-3 hours for the inspection.  A good inspector will explain what he/she is looking for and discuss any potential problems with you.  If the inspector finds any major issues, you may want to spend the extra money for additional inspections (foundation, electrical, etc.).
  • Schedule an appraisal.  Your mortgage company will likely do this for you, since they won’t give you a mortgage for more than the value of the house.  Based on sale prices of similar homes in our neighborhood, our house actually appraised for $15K less than our initial offer.  The seller dropped the price to match the appraisal value (+ an additional $825 for the radon mitigation system).
  • Get final loan approval.  Your lender will let you know what final documents and information they will need to give you a final approval letter.
  • Pay for home insurance.  You will have to pay for a full year of home insurance.  This ended up being a bigger cost than I thought (>$800).  I assumed I could pay a down payment and do monthly payments, but I soon discovered that we would need to pay for 12 months up front before we closed.  Yikes.
  • Closing.  This was a super smooth process for us.  The lender confirmed our employment one last time, let us know how much money we’d need to bring to closing (in the form of a certified check), and asked for proof of insurance.  Our closing appointment barely lasted 30 minutes, even though we basically signed our life away.  I was told that the length and intensity of the closing process definitely varies from lender to lender, so you may not have such a quick closing.  We also got a check to pay for this year’s property taxes, which will be have escrowed starting next year (i.e. the bank holds onto it for you every month so you don’t “accidentally” spend it and screw yourself at the end of the year).  The most exciting part?  Our first mortgage payment isn’t due until January 1st, and it’s $165 less than our rent. 🙂

Well, that’s it!  We’re doing a ton of little projects over the weekend before we move in, so I’ll make sure to document everything I can and share it with you.


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83. Plans for “new” TV stand.

Jason and I are in the process of getting ready to move (more details about that soon!), and I’ve been busy selling off a lot of our current furniture so we can upgrade to new(er) stuff.

I’m really digging this TV stand.


South Shore Reflekt TV Stand

I am not, however, digging the ~$216 price tag.  You know how I love getting what I want for as little as possible.

My solution is to just update out current TV stand, which is an older Ikea Besta model:


Ikea Besta Adal TV Stand

The shape is pretty close already, right?

The plan is to paint it white, add some wood veneer to the front of the drawers, and update the legs.  The hairpin legs I picked out were delivered yesterday, and they are gorgeous.  I’m planning to work on this project over the next few days, so I’ll hopefully have some before and after goodness ready for you lovelies by the weekend!


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82. as·pi·ra·tion

An aspiration is defined as “a hope or ambition of achieving something”.  There are a number of things I would like to achieve this year…in all facets of my life, be it personal or professional.  This is my year to do great things and to make an impact on the world around me, I can just feel it.  It’s this tingly sensation right below my skin.

Here’s a short list of my aspirations for 2016:

  1. Save up money.
  2. Put a down payment on a house with said money.
  3. Continue to pay off debt.  (I hate you, Student Loans.)
  4. Write & release more music.
  5. Travel more.
  6. Finish the half-cooked craft/DIY projects on my to-do list.
  7. Write more blog posts.  (Goal: At least 5 per month.)
  8. Publish a booklet of original knitting patterns.
  9. Find beauty, love, and happiness in each day. 🙂

(Doesn’t a list of aspirations sound way less cliche than a list of “New Year’s Resolutions”?)

This may seem like a daunting list to some people, but I truly believe I can do it!  Some of these are personal goals I’ve had for a LONG time, I just never made a serious effort to accomplish them.  I’m done with that kind of attitude.  If I want things to happen, I have to go out and make them happen.  Putting this in writing will also help to keep my accountable; these are basically promises I’m making to myself, and I can’t let me down.


What are some of your aspirations for 2016?


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81. See ya later, 2015.

Happy 2016, everyone!  I love these little “reports” from WordPress.  Enjoy!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 150,000 times in 2015. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 6 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

80. I knit a lot of sweaters.

If you didn’t already know it, I am addicted to knitting sweaters.

I recently finished knitting the “Portage” cardigan by Melissa Schaschwary.  No photos yet, because I have to fix the pockets.  I seamed them before blocking and now they look weird.  C’est la vie.  I can’t wait to show you the final product, though, because other than the pockets, it’s a glorious sweater!

I’m currently working on two additional sweaters: “White Pine” by Amy Christoffers and “Cozy Neighborhood” by Joji Locatelli.  Both are gorgeous sweaters that I can’t wait to finish (and wear), especially Cozy because I used such pretty yarn.  Here’s a sneak peak (I’m further along now):

The Craft Queen

I’m using Malabrigo Arroyo yarn in the color “Glitter”.  The name is a bit confusing, because I’m not really sure how that corresponds to a colorway consisting of shades of brown.  Either way it’s super pretty!

If you don’t think I’m crazy already, I’m itching to start another sweater: Demi by Kim Hargreaves.  I’ve had the book in which it’s printed (Rowan Vintage Knits) for at least a few years, and I finally went ahead and bought the perfect yarn for this project: Plymouth Encore Tweed in the color “Grape Jam”.

The Craft Queen

Photo credit: yarn.com

Purple-y goodness, yes?  I’m especially excited for this sweater, the number one reason being this yarn is machine wash AND dry.  Scoreeeeeee.

So, what’s on your needles at the moment?


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79. Before and After: Tiered Shelf

Guess what? I turned that trash shelf into something gorgeous!

I think this might be one the quickest furniture makeovers I’ve ever done.  There are still things sitting finished in my apartment that I haven’t written about yet, but this one I got done in record time AND actually took proper before and after photos.  I’m patting myself on the back right now, you should see it.  I look pretty ridiculous.

Let’s start off with the before shots:



Definitely not in the best condition, but definitely not awful.  It just needed some tender loving care!

I started off by lightly sanding to the whole thing and giving it two coats of Behr Premium Plus paint in the shade “Mountain Pine”.


Image credit: thehomedepot.com

I really like this color.  It’s even prettier in person!  Just wait.

After the second coat of paint (which I let dry for ~24 hours), I distressed all the edges by sanding with a light grade sand paper.  Super easy.


After that, I decided that the finished piece would need a little more pizzazz, something to make it look more expensive…or at least like I did something else to it besides slap on a coat of paint.  The solution I came up with: stamped aluminum sheets.  These are sold in the building supply aisle of hardware stores; I got mine at Home Depot (exact here).


I measured the inside portion of all the shelves and cut out the appropriate size from the larger sheet using tin snips.  A word of caution: Definitely wear gloves and eye protection when cutting!  I tore up my fingers in the process and am still wearing bandages. :/

After I had the sheets cut out to the sizes I wanted, I used contact cement (exact here) to adhere the sheeting to the inside of the shelves.  I chose to close off three sides, but doing just two sides or just the back would also be a great choice!  This stuff works really well, but it is SMELLY.  Definitely use this stuff outside if possible, or at least somewhere you can open a ton of windows.  It’s fairly simple to use: paint both surfaces you want to stick together, let the stuff dry until it gets “glossy” (i.e. shiny), and then press the two surfaces together.  The only downside is you can’t really readjust once you put the surfaces together, so try to be as precise as possible!

The finished product, which I absolutely adore:





So, what do you think?  Did I do the piece justice?!  I honestly think it’s super cute.  I was going to sell it, but I’ve decided to keep it instead.  What the crap…I’m turning into a hoarder.


Thanks for reading, check back soon for more transformations!


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78. Knitting: New Girl Skirt

My latest finished knitting project is New Girl, a skirt pattern by Allyson Dykhuizen.  The pattern is very well written, although I did make a mod.  I didn’t want to have to sew the waistband shut and thread the elastic through at the end, so I just picked up the cast-on row when the waistband was finished (closing in the elastic as I went).  I’ll admit this made knitting the increases for the body of the skirt a bit awkward, but I would still do it the same way if I were to knit this again.

I will say that all of that straight knitting was a bit boring, but I do like the finished product.  The daisy stitch at the bottom of the skirt also made my hands hurt, which doesn’t happen to me too often.  I had to take frequent breaks.


I finished this skirt a little while ago, but I didn’t get around to blocking in until last week.  I finally wore it today!  I really love how it turned out, don’t you?


FYI: The yarn I used is Quince & Co. Chickadee in the colors “Honey” and “Peacock”.  I knit the smallest size and used about 3.75 skeins of Honey and 1.5 skeins of Peacock.

I’ve got a few more finished knits that I’ll be sharing with you within the next few days, so stay tuned!


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