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Our Blog Should be Like a Mullet

Posted by on June 1st, 2014

When I first started blogging back in 2011, Lisa and I would cover more topics in our blog posts than we do today. A lot has changed since then. For starters, Lisa doesn’t write anymore. I’m also much more focused on home improvement and DIY projects specifically. Gone are the recipe posts and the occasional humor post. Probably for the best. At some point over the last few years I decided that sticking with this one niche topic would be better for our readers and frankly more satisfying than trying to cast a wider net. For the most part, it has been more enjoyable. In December we introduced our free email newsletter and started publishing wood working plans to try to build our following. Things got serious.

While this approach is all well and good, it can leave our blog a bit impersonal. Our posts are much more technical. I would prefer to make our blog more like a mullet. Not just business in front, but also a party in the back. My goal for this website is to build a community of people that not only enjoy reading my posts, but also contribute their own opinions and experiences.

In today’s post, I want to share some details of my life that I don’t often discuss on the blog and in the comments section I’d love to hear about you and your life.

What I do when I’m not blogging or working on the house.

For the most part, I’m usually trying to help Lisa around the house with the cleaning, laundry and taking care of our two girls. I used to cook more frequently after I graduated college, mostly because I had to. When I was 23 and 24 I was glued to the Food Network. I loved Oliver’s Twist and Good Eats. Nowadays, Lisa does 99% of the cooking, but I’ll try to do something one night a week or so. In case you missed that math, 1 night out of 7 equals 1%. Unfortunately, I find it much harder to cook if I’m actively working a home project like our office remodel.

What I do for fun.

When I have some genuine down time, I enjoy playing a first person shooter on our PS3. It’s setup in our sitting room. Lately I’ve been playing Battlefield 4. I didn’t pick-up the latest Call of Duty game. My video game time is usually 30 minutes or less so I prefer the run and gun type games that I can jump into and then quit. I never play the campaigns, just the multiplayer. I like to think I’m pretty good at it, too. Leave me your PS3 handle in the comments section and I’ll add you to my friends list, especially if you have BF4.

What TV I enjoy.

I HATE getting sucked into TV shows. It’s the worst. What I mean is… the shows that I get addicted to are usually so good that I end up binge watching them and they kill my evenings. I’m a big fan of Doctor Who. That’s pretty much the only regularly scheduled show that I watch. Otherwise I’m watching hockey or DVDs with our kids. I’ve managed to avoid watching Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and House of Cards. Lisa just started watching Mad Men.

Where I travel

I have a great full-time job (that I won’t get into) that enables me to travel very rarely. I’ve been to San Diego, Seattle, Japan, Ireland, Denmark, Canada and Germany (soon). In my personal travel I’ve been to Portugal, France, The Netherlands and Mexico. Would love to get to the UK, back to Ireland, Italy, Greece and Scotland. It’s hard to pick a favorite place. In the US, I love San Diego. Even wrote a travel post about it way, way back when. It’s hard to beat the East Coast though. Philly and NY food is pretty hard to beat in the sandwich, pizza and European ethnic food department.

Sports

I don’t do sports. I used to run and workout when I was younger, but I haven’t been to the gym in a long, long time. I would love to start running again on a regular basis. Not for competition, just for good health and for enjoyment. Just this week, I ran for the first time in maybe ten years. My legs are destroyed. It’s going to be at least 4 or 5 days before I can walk normally again. This summer, I’ve been thinking about learning how to hockey skate so I can play in a rec league next year. I can ice skate, but I can’t skate backwards, speed stop nor have I ever tried to skate with a stick and puck. Going to be interesting.

Hobbies

Is watching and talking about Doctor Who a hobby? No? Well, then blogging is my hobby. Lisa and I are also dabbling with some online business ventures. One of my goals is to add a membership section to this site beyond the email newsletter. I also started writing a book on kitchen remodeling. Hope to have it finished by the end of the summer.

Now it’s your turn. Tell me a little but about yourself.

Posted in Blogging,Life. Tagged in ,, ,

How We Sold Our Home Quickly

Posted by on August 15th, 2013

Relax everyone.  We didn’t sell our current house.  We aren’t going anywhere.  I’m talking about our first home.  Lately, I’ve been a bit under the weather so we haven’t done a whole lot of home improvement work around here.  I’ve been going through a lot of our old posts and noticed we never really discussed how we sold our first home.  It’s worth writing about for three reasons: we sold it ourselves, we sold it in two days and we learned a ton from the process.  So this post is about how we sold our home quickly and if you’re currently trying to sell your home or you’re thinking about it, I think this post may be helpful.

first house

Before we Listed the House

For several months preceding the sale of our first house, we were looking for a new place to live.  We loved our home, but in our hearts, we’re both suburb people.  The house was located in the city and while it wasn’t “downtown” by any measure, it was still very much a city environment.  Don’t get me wrong, the city is a blast and certainly has its advantages, but we were ready for a change of pace.  So, we spent our weekends going to open houses and checking out builders.  After not finding anything we loved, we had talked about just selling the place and maybe renting until we found something we loved, but that never really materialized.  That changed one Saturday when we walked into the model home for our current home.  Something clicked and we were suddenly very motivated.  After giving it some serious thought for a few days, we signed a contract to build our current home.  That decision was both incredibly exciting and nerve wracking at the same time.  What if we couldn’t sell our home?  Back in 2010, when this was taking place, the real estate market in our area wasn’t exactly roaring.

Properly motivated, we set out to finish all the home projects that were still hanging out.  There’s a popular saying that you’re not finished working on your home until the day you move out.  That was certainly true in our case.  Thankfully, those last projects were mostly minor and we were able to wrap them up before our first showing.

Listing it Ourselves

We made the decision to list the home ourselves and went with Owners.com.  Why sell it ourselves?  For one, we weren’t thrilled with the idea of giving a seller’s agent 3% of the sale price.  We also thought we could handle the showings and interacting with perspective buyers.  Since we still lived in the home and didn’t have any kids, we could be pretty flexible with our showing schedule.  Honestly though, the biggest reason was saving some dough.

The most important thing to selling a home yourself, in our opinion, is getting the listing on the MLS (multiple listing service).  The MLS is what realtors look at for their buyers and it’s the database that Realtor.com, Trulia, Yahoo and other real estate listing websites get their homes.  If we tried to sell the house ourselves just by using a For Sale By Owner sign or an ad on craigslist, we wouldn’t have gotten anywhere.

The Owners.com approach was pretty straight forward, and I expect this to be a pretty standard practice with other DIY realty sites (but verify it first obviously).  You pay a one time flat fee of a few hundred dollars and not a percentage commission.  These sites usually have some sort of package deal with varying price levels.  Once you’ve paid, Owners.com sets you up with a local realtor that provides you the necessary paperwork to fill out.  You fill out the forms and email some photos of your house and the realtor enters the listing into the MLS.  That realtor’s contact information may also be listed on the MLS and Realtor.com as a point of contact, but they just pass along any interested buyers directly to you.  That’s the extent of that realtor’s involvement.  They don’t get any additional money from you or the buyer.  They’re just a middleman in this model.  Now, we did this three years ago, so some of this may have changed, but that’s how it worked in 2010.  I’d like to add that if a buyer has an agent, they still get a commission.  But paying one commission for 3% beats paying two for 6%.

How We Sold Our Home Quickly

At this point we had signed a contract for a new home and had just listed our house on the MLS.  The listing hit the MLS on a Tuesday morning and by lunch time that same day, we had a few calls and booked a showing for that same night.  The initial interest was a relief and Lisa and I were excited that people actually wanted to see it.

In a normal real estate showing, the owners of the home are usually out and the buyer’s agent accompanies their client for a walk thru.  We know that because that’s how it worked when we bought that first house.  We probably could have opted to do that as well, but we decided to stick around for the showing.  We thought if there were any questions from buyers about the history or the remodeling, we’d be available immediately with answers.

The first couple to see it seemed to like it, but they were cool customers and didn’t show their hand.  They thanked us and left.   We had a second showing later that evening, but they didn’t seem very interested and openly talked about all the work they would need to do. Sometime after  the second showing, the couple from the first showing called us and made an offer.  We were thrilled.  We played it cool though and told them we’d think about it.  After a few phone calls going back and forth on the price, we accepted an offer we liked.  That was Wednesday night.

Why It Sold Quickly

There are a lot of intangibles when it comes to fast home sales:  Location, price point, schools, condition and age of the home, competition, on and on.  It’s not easy to explain why some homes sell in a week and some homes sell after being on the market for a year or more.  I can only tell you why I think our home sold quickly.

We Had an Aggressive Asking Price

After living in that house for six plus years, I knew how much money I thought it was worth, but that’s not enough.  We had to look at comparable homes for sale in our area.  We looked at houses that had similar number of bedrooms, bathrooms and central air.  The second bathroom and central air were critical items in our area since most houses were older and even the newly remodeled ones lacked a second bathroom and not all of them included central cooling.  Looking at these sample homes, it became obvious what price ranges weren’t selling.  We needed to be below that threshold.  More importantly, since we wanted a quick sale, we thought it was important to be clearly below what we thought we could get for it in an ideal market.  That was a hard decision to make, but we hoped that we’d get some foot traffic because of it and maybe there would be multiple offers.  We had real concern though that after already setting a low price we’d get low ball offer.  Didn’t mean we had to take them though, so we marched on with our aggressive price.

The House was Turn Key

Even as soon as a year before we sold it, we avoided large drawn out projects that would take forever to finish.  We kept adding improvements, but most of the projects we did at that point were smaller.  We concentrated on paint colors that had mass appeal, simple decor that complemented the size and age of the home and avoided clutter.  The goal was to not have any conversations with potential buyers that sounded like: “Well, we meant to get to that” or “All you need to do is fix..”  There was literally nothing left to do.

We Took Great Photos

I wish we still had copies of the photos we used for our listing.  They were great.  We took photos of nearly every room from multiple angles, so there was nothing really unknown from the listing.  Looking at homes online ourselves, it drove us crazy when a house had a great asking price in a sweet neighborhood, but only had a couple photos.  To me, if a listing has a few photos, it means the seller is hiding something.  The more pictures the better.  We didn’t even have an SLR back then.  Our point and shoot worked fine, but if you have a friend or relative with an SLR, that’s even better.

We were Motivated

Like I mentioned earlier, we signed a contract for a new home.  We were itching to leave.  If we hadn’t had that pressing need to get out, there’s a chance we may have held out for higher offers or a bidding war.  The fact of the matter is, we took the first offer that came along.  The offer was solid though and it had no contingencies.

So that’s how we sold our home quickly.  I’d like to emphasize that home sales can be long and difficult regardless of the circumstances.  Just because you’re doing everything right, doesn’t mean it will work out.  This is just what worked for us.

Posted in Life. Tagged in ,,

Our Daughter’s Wiggles Themed Birthday Party

Posted by on February 7th, 2013

Happy Friday everybody! Hope your week has been a good one. Last Saturday we celebrated our daughter’s 2nd birthday with a small family party. I guess small family is kind of a relative term in this case. Plus we had a few neighbors. We decided to go with a Wiggles theme since she’s a HUGE fan of the show. Lately she’s also into Caillou. It’s not my favorite show, but she lets me watch hockey whenever the Flyers are on and I let her watch Caillou. I think that’s only fair.

In case you’re not familiar with the Wiggles, it’s a group of Australian dudes that wear colored t-shirts and sing and dance. She’s a big fan of their music. There are few things cuter in life than watching a 2 year old try to dance along with a TV show. They each wear a different color: purple, red, blue and yellow. So, the challenge for decorating the party was to try to incorporate those hues into the party decor.

wiggles themed birthday party

Instead of using our house like we did at her party last year, this year we rented out a local small school house. It was ideal. All we had to do was some light cleaning afterwards and we were set.

wiggles theme birthday party 2

For food, we had a decent variety with pasta and potato salad, lunch meats, tomato pie and Chik-Fil-A nuggets (jackpot).

party food

Lisa made some Wiggles colored cake pops for dessert to supplement the birthday cake.

wiggles theme cake pops

She didn’t stop there either. She also had time to make cookies! Everyone got a little cookie baggie as party favors. The best party favors are ones you can eat before you get to your car, IMHO.

wiggles themed cookies

My favorite dessert also made an appearance, pretzel donuts!! While they may look like your average glazed donut, make no mistake, these donuts are something different. They are amazing. I’m convinced they alter the part of your brain responsible for decision making. I’ve seen people snort them. One of the neighbors that attended is now a full blown pretzel donut addict. The thing is, these donuts may not even be the best product this bakery makes. Scary.

pretzel donuts

I digress.

We also put together special little goodie bags for the other little kids in attendance.

wiggles birthday party

All the invitations, the cookie bags and the kids’ party favors had these custom made Wiggle graphics. Lisa took a stock Wiggle image, added the stars background in Photoshop and printed them all up. Fun stuff.

So, I think Lisa and I are both hoping that this time next year we’re not posting about a Caillou themed 3rd birthday party. I’m not even sure what that would look like. I presume it would involve a lot of whining and disappointment as is the overarching theme of that cartoon.

What are your weekend plans? Any foods you’re addicted to or is that just me (and now Mike)?

 

Posted in Baby Stuff,Cooking,Life. Tagged in ,, ,

Our Dog in a Christmas Sweater

Posted by on December 5th, 2012

Things are a bit busy at the moment.  Work is hectic, which is typical before the holidays and I’ve got about a week left in my grad class.  I’m really enjoying the course, but it does eat into my free time like a son of a gun.  Looking forward to the Christmas break.  I’ll have something like six weeks until classes resume.  Two more classes after this current course and I’ll have degree in hand.

As a consequence of our recent schedule, we’ve been somewhat lax in our Christmas decor.  We’re looking forward to posting on all the holiday cheer we’ll have in our home shortly.  We DO have our tree up.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share some holiday photos of our beloved schnauzer/wolverine Finnie.  Finnie isn’t big on wearing shirts or sweaters.  They make him a bit nervous.  That’s a shame, because we have a bunch of dog sweaters.  (He’s actually really chill when he’s got one on and he doesn’t mind getting them on that much.)

Here’s Finnie back when he was still a puppy…

christmas dog sweater

This was his first taste of Christmas cheer ala dog sweater.  He was somewhat ambivalent on the whole issue, but Lisa and I were big fans because a.) he looked good b.) he stopped chewing on our cabinets when we was donning his gay apparel.

After the success of that first year, we naturally diversified his holiday wardrobe somewhat..

dog looks like chewbacca

This maybe my favorite one yet.  He looks like Chewbacca wearing a Japanese kimono.

deck the halls dog sweater

There it is.  It’s a “deck the halls” sweater.  Look at him.  He loves it.  I think.  Honestly, I’m not sure where his face is in this pic.

But wait, there’s more…

candy cane dog sweater

That’s a candy cane and snow flake sweater in case you were curious.  It’s times like these that I wish he was a real person, just so I could whip these photos out to show his first girlfriend.

So do any of your holiday traditions involve your pets? 

Posted in Holiday,Life. Tagged in ,, , , ,

Hurricane Sandy Preparation

Posted by on October 28th, 2012

Hey guys!  Hope this weather filled week finds you well.  Lisa and I are pretty much smack dab in the middle of the path of Hurricane Sandy.  It’s not supposed to get terrible until sometime tomorrow.  We’ve heard the eye of the storm will make landfall around Ocean City, NJ sometime in the early hours of Tuesday morning (1:00 AM or so).  This is really the first major hurricane we’ve ever experienced.  Last year, we had Irene, but I think that was a tropical storm by the time it reached us.  Here’s how our Hurricane Sandy preparation is going…

1.  We rounded up all of our flashlights and bought extra batteries.  We have flashlights both downstairs in our kitchen and also in our bedroom in case the power goes out while we’re sleeping.
2.  We did all of our laundry ahead of time.  If the power goes out for a few days, it’s a bad time to be out of clean socks and underwear!  Having a ton of clean clothes available means I’ll be able to get to work even if the power is out for an extended period after the storm.
3.  We ran the dishwasher one last time and will be switching to disposable plates if we lose power.  This is so we don’t have a ton of dishes sitting in the dishwasher.  We could still wash dishes in the sink too if needed, but who wants to do that?? :)
4.  We cranked down the temperature of the fridge and the freezer.  That switch will likely cause some of the items in the fridge to freeze, but it will extend the life of those same items if the power is lost.  Also, keep the fridge doors closed and only open it for essentials.  Don’t loiter with the doors open!!

5.  We stocked up on ice.  Lisa has been making ice like it’s her job and then emptying the trays into a gallon sized ziploc bag.  If we lose power and it’s out for a good day or so, Lisa can dump the ice into a cooler with essential items like milk….. and bacon.
6.  I went around the perimeter of the house and brought in anything that might fly or be blown away in high winds.  Since we don’t have a deck or deck furniture, this amounted to a couple pumpkins ;).
7.   I unplugged my landscape lighting’s transformer from the exterior outlet.
8.  Both cars are in the garage.

9.  Lisa stocked up on some baby formula that has a long shelf life if we run out of milk.  Lisa and I can stick with water, but the baby needs her nutrients!

10.  We also stocked up on a good amount of non-perishable food items and Lisa baked some last minute items like biscuits..

11.  We do have beer in the house, so nobody panic.  Remain calm.  It’s not an Octoberfest, but we go into power outages with the beer we have, not the beer we want.

12.  We’re keeping our phones charged constantly.

13.  Most importantly, we’re keeping a close eye on the news and weather reports in case we need to evacuate.

If you noticed, we’ve been down to about 2 posts a week for the past few weeks.  Things have been busy around here lately and we have a lot of catch up posts to share.  But for now, if you’re affected by Hurricane Sandy, we hope you stay dry and safe!!

Hopefully we’ll be able to post again on Tuesday for the Pinterest Challenge!

Are you in the path of the storm?  What are you doing to stay safe and dry?

Posted in Life. Tagged in ,, , ,

Lisa and John Take DC: Part Deux

Posted by on August 16th, 2012

In our last post, we talked about the first day of our Washington DC trip.  Today, we’re going to show you the great time we had on our second day.  Amazingly, we pretty much did everything Kristen and Joe did from Popcorn on the Stove, just a day earlier!!  Can’t believe we didn’t run into them.

After gorging ourselves on room service Thursday night, we awoke refreshed and marched over to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum just as it opened.  Our daughter slept in her stroller the entire hour we were in there, which made it easier.  If you’re a sci-fi or air and space geek like me, this place is pretty much the place to be.  I could’ve spent DAYS here.  There is a ton of interesting displays and historical pieces.  The gift shop was awesome.

Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St Louis?  Check.

NASA Apollo 11 and Gemini capsules?  Check.

Now apparently there are two Air and Space centers.  The one we visited on the National Mall and another in Virginia.  I believe the one in Virginia has larger items, like the Space Shuttle Discovery.  Must. go. there.

After we left the Smithsonian, we headed over to the National Archives building and saw the original Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  Worth checking out.  No photos were permitted, so we obviously don’t have any.

Across the street from the Archives is the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.  Lisa wanted to show our daughter some dinosaur fossils.  The only dinosaurs she’s seen to date are on Dinosaur Train, so this was a rude awakening.

Mission accomplished.

Our last stop was one Lisa was dying to check out for a while.  We went to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum.  While the gallery of presidents can be mildly educational, the rest is just media personalities.  Lisa thoroughly enjoyed herself.  She pretty much goofed off for a half hour.

There’s no way Tom Cruise is this tall in real life.  Uh uh.

As for me, I got to poo-poo the people I’m not a fan of and thumbs up the one’s I like.

Not a fan of the Capitals.  Not even a little.

Since I don’t want this to be a political blog, I think we’ll leave it at that.  ;)

We had a great time in DC and are hoping to get back down there again sometime soon. There are a bunch of sights we didn’t get to see that are still on our list.  Amazing how many things there are to do there.

Have you ever been to a wax museum before?  Did you take stupid pictures too? 

Posted in Life,Travel. Tagged in ,, , ,

Lisa and John Take DC

Posted by on August 15th, 2012

Yes, it’s true! John actually took a few days off from work and the blog and we packed up our gear and headed to our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. It was great and a fun time was had by all. Since we took so many photos and went to so many sights, we’re going to split this into two posts. Buckle up!

We decided to plan this trip last minute and after a lot of debating we decided to take a train instead of driving. I have to say I would definitely do it again. The worst part about the train is packing light so everything would fit into two backpacks. We also knew we would still be seeing some attractions after we checked out of our hotel on day 2 so we’d still have our backpacks with us for half a day. It was still better than driving, in my opinion.

We took a Wednesday evening train and checked into our Marriott hotel, which was two blocks from the White House, and ordered room service – one of my favorite things to do on vacation. Yes, I am sure DC has some great restaurants but with an 18 month old, eating in bed seems like the best option. She had a ball jumping on the bed, too.

The view from our hotel room was pretty sweet.

The Attractions

1. The Capital Building: We woke up early on Thursday and hoofed it over a mile to the Capital Building. We were able to schedule this visit through our State Representative’s website and were able to get a tour from one of his staffer’s on pretty short notice. No strollers, large bags, or food and drink were permitted in the building so we traveled extra light. The House gallery also prohibits cameras, so we left our SLR in the hotel for this portion.

The Capital is filled with about 4000 statues (not the real number). One of the cooler statues is a mock up of the one that’s on top of the building. It’s a lot bigger than it looks from outside.

The outside of the building has a huge courtyard. Perfect place for pictures.

2. The White House. After the Capital building and lunch, we headed over to the White House, which is on the other side of the National Mall. We would have loved to see the inside, but you need to book tours six months ahead of time. Oops. We did get some pretty sweet photos though. The White House grounds are impressive. Makes me realize our grounds at home need a little work.

3. The Lincoln Memorial. Just around the corner from the White House is the Lincoln Memorial. It was HUGE in person. I always thought it was smaller. By the time we got there it was really busy. Luckily, even the Lincoln Memorial had an elevator for a baby stroller.

4. The FDR Memorial. Further down the road is the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. Since I had Scotties when I was young, I HAD to see this one. People rub the dog’s ears and FDR’s knee for good luck. We stuck with rubbing the dog ears!

5. The WW2 Memorial. I think this is a new monument. It’s HUGE and a very fitting tribute. Definitely worth a stop. There is a large reflecting pool and a plenty of places to stop and reflect.

That was our first day. We capped it off with room service again back in our hotel. That may have been the most enjoyable part of the day. The second day we went to the Smithsonian and Madame Tussaud’s. We have plenty of fun photos of that whole day to share with you tomorrow.

Have you every been to DC? What did you do when you were there?

Posted in Life,Travel. Tagged in ,, ,

5 Tips for New Home Builders

Posted by on July 19th, 2012

Thinking about building a new home?  It can be one of the most rewarding experiences in your life, but it can also cause a lot of stress and aggravation.  Here are 5 tips for new home builders that we’ve learned from the build of our new home in 2010.

5-tips-for-new-construction

Before you Build

1.  Did you know you can use a realtor even with a new construction builder?  Yep.  As a buyer, you’re entitled to use a realtor regardless of the type of property you’re buying.  Before we decided to build our current house, we were concentrating our home searches on local builder’s websites and it never occurred to us to enlist the help of a realtor.  We were mainly looking at new developments in our free time and thought it was a little liberating to deal directly with the builder.  However, more than one of our neighbors used realtors during their build and they had a positive experience.  Using a realtor to deal with a builder can be advantageous if the build process becomes problematic.  They can help negotiate prices and options on your behalf, which can end up saving you big money, which brings us to our next piece of advice..

2.  You can haggle with the builder over the home price and upgrade options.  We didn’t really know this was an option when we built.  We treated it like it was going to Walmart and picking items off the shelf, it costs what it costs.  However, had we known better we may have tried to negotiate a few additional options.  All in all, we got what we wanted and we were very happy with the price.  Some of the features we would have liked but didn’t pop for, we’re adding ourselves at our own pace.  The important take away from this tip is don’t treat the process any different than buying a pre-built home.  You can make an offer lower than the stated value of the home and the options.  It doesn’t mean the builder will take them, but you may get a few additional options thrown in.  The state of home sales and local demand are likely to be key factors in how likely a builder is to adjust their price for a sale.

3.  Take a serious look at the other homes in the development and pay particular attention to their features.  If your home will be one of the later homes added, you can get a feel for how many homes have brick, stone, siding and their colors.  The current neighborhood inventory may be likely to affect your home’s features.  A lot of builders won’t let you build a home that is identical to the home next to it in order to preserve some individuality.  If the builder doesn’t stop that sort of thing, then be aware that someone may be able to build next to you with the same exact features as your house.  This all may play into your decision on which lot to pick and what elevations are available.  Plus there may be options you weren’t aware of like bigger basement windows or egresses.

During the Build

4.  Our builder had us come through the house before they insulated and dry walled it to pick security system locations and to perform a general inspection.  The project manager advised us to take a lot of pictures so we know what’s behind the walls.  Why would we want to know that?  In case we want to know where wires, pipes and gas lines are run.  It’s not crucial, but it certainly helps during some home improvement projects or repairs.

For example, if the upstairs heating or A/C doesn’t seem to be working properly, we know what the distribution system looks like….

Or what if we want to hang a flat screen TV on the wall and we’re not sure where the studs are (plus our stud finder isn’t working)…

Get the idea?

5.  Addition by subtraction.  While you will undoubtedly need to pay extra for added features, it may not cost you anything to remove something from your plans if you really don’t want it.  Case in point:  Those huge builder grade mirrors in the bathrooms that everyone ends up ripping out when the renovate the bathroom.  Even if you get an upgraded bathroom package, they usually still come with those huge mirrors.  If you’re a fan of them, good for you.  I’ve seen a lot of people dress them up with window trim and they’re totally okay with them.  If you’re not, you can ask your builder to just leave them out.  There’s nothing in the international builder’s code that requires gigantic mirrors in the bathroom for an occupancy cert.  Your builder will probably be open to doing slightly less work, especially if you ask nicely for it.  We were able to swing this no-mirror move in both our master and our hall bathroom.  Right after we moved in, we popped by Ikea and installed these Kolja mirrors.  They’re cheap, but they’re more attractive and a lot easier to remove than the giant Hubble telescope like space mirrors they were going to put in.

Any new construction advice to add?  What would you do differently?

Posted in DIY Projects,Life. Tagged in ,, , , , ,

Parish Picnics and Potato Pancakes

Posted by on July 17th, 2012

On Friday afternoon, Lisa and I took the baby up to Swoyersville in Northeast Pennsylvania to attend my old parish’s annual summer picnic.  My mom and brother still live up there and she volunteers every year, usually helping out in the kitchen during the festival.  I grew up in that parish and have many memories there, most are happy with only a few sad ones.  The parish has since merged with other local Catholic parishes to form the new parish of St Elizabeth Ann Seton.

The actual church is Holy Trinity and it’s also where I attended grade school.  During the school year, we arrived for our “home room” at a daily 8am mass before shuffling over to the school building.  The class sizes were tiny.  I think I was one of seven students in seventh grade there before we also merged with other local parochial schools for eighth grade.  Yeah.  That small.

The summer picnic is usually three days in July (Thu-Sat) and has been celebrated longer than I’ve been alive.  The bazaar wraps around the parking lot surrounding the school, the rectory and the church.  It kicks off around 4pm and it gets packed.  The beer tent (yes, there is a beer tent) is usually pretty over flowing with parishioners, neighbors and volunteers.  There are a lot of raffles, BINGO and kids games  In mid-July, if you’re in NEPA, this is the place to be.

The best part of the whole celebration is easily the food.  Since this parish was originally founded by Slovaks and there are a lot of Polish families in the area, there is a long tradition of wonderful ethnic food at this bazaar.  I honestly don’t know what the difference between Slovak and Polish food is.. it may all just be Polish food at this point anyway.

Behold, the ethnic platter:

1.  Piggies in a blanket.  These are all beef balls, ironically not pork.  They are combined with cooked white rice and wrapped in a cabbage leaf.  They are then basted with a tomato and water sauce and cooked until done.  They are simple and flavorful.  My Polish grandmother used to make these quite often.

2.  Pierogies.  No autospell, not “groupies.”  Just like Mrs. T’s except these are perfect.  Dough pockets filled with potatoes and cheese.  They are boiled then baked with a ton of butter and some onion.  They literally melt in your mouth.

3.  Halushki.  It’s pasta with cabbage and onion and you guessed it, butter.  It’s surprisingly flavorful for the minimal amount of ingredients that go into it.  It’s kind of like the fries to this happy meal.

During our visit, we were able to pop in on my mom while she was in the kitchen.  My mom is Irish, but she still helps to prepare the Polish food.  The pierogies are made well ahead of time and then frozen.  They are then defrosted and cooked during the festival.  They make an unbelievable 9500 DOZEN pierogies for this picnic.  Amazing.  What’s even more amazing is they’ll sell all of them.

The pierogies waiting for the pots..

All the pots boiling…

Just outside the kitchen, other volunteers are preparing the kreple, which are little donuts.  They roll out the dough in this impressive machine… that conveyor belt is about 8 feet long.

A Polish summer festival wouldn’t be complete without the signature dish: the potato pancake.  These pancakes are potatoes mixed with a pancake like batter and fried until cooked through.  The demand for these pancakes gets pretty large so they have a team of pancake fryers standing by to sling one off.  They have about six fry stations in case things get real crazy.

While this is our daughter’s first festival, I’ve brought Lisa here before.  Amazingly enough, she’s never had a potato pancake.  What gives?  That’s like going to a Queen concert and leaving before Bohemian Rhapsody.  What’s the point??  This time she was interested in trying one.

We bought two fresh off the fryer.  You can eat them just like that, but personally, I love them with just a touch of salt.

The verdict?  She really liked it.  That and we inhaled a bag of kreple before we got to the turnpike.  I think that means we’ll be coming back again next year.  :)

What are your favorite summer traditions?  Do any of them involve drowning things in butter?  Why not?

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A Trip Down Memory Lane…

Posted by on May 24th, 2012

Today is our 4th wedding anniversary. I don’t know about John, but I think the 4 years flew by! As my gift to my hubby I’m giving him the day off from blogging and I am taking over the reigns and giving our readers a little trip back to our wedding in 2008!

It was a beautiful day and although there were a few hiccups (being accidentally called ‘Linda’ by the con-celebrant priest was my favorite) I wouldn’t have changed one thing!

Just a reminder to our readers that way back in 2008, us brides relied on magazines and theknot.com to plan our weddings. There was no pinterest yet if you could believe it!

Here are a few details from the day. We actually still use these personalized napkins since we have some left.

Our programs made by my sweet cousin…

For favors, we made a donation to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

A couple pics from the ceremony. This parish and church is actually scheduled to close now since the diocese is consolidating parishes. John and I have since moved out of Philly, but we’ve talked about trying to catch another last mass there before they close it for good.

This is one of my favorite pictures…

We drove in style!!! That’s a 60′s Rolls-Royce we rented.

The reception was a blast and the venue was perfect. We’re not adding any group photos since I’d have to ask permission from about 20 people per photo, so I’m going to stick with just a venue shot!!

Our beautiful cake… and it was delicious, too!

Our awesome thank you cards from our photographers, Costello.

In fact, all of our album pictures are from Costello and they all turned out fantastic.

I guess you can tell John really pays the bills nowadays, he looked like a baby when we got married! On that day, everything was great and it was a perfect day we shared with so many of our loved ones. We are so blessed to have such a wonderful family.

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