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Creating a Cozy Outdoor Deck Space with Wayfair

We recently gave our deck a little refresh thanks to Wayfair! Having a place that is comfortable and relaxing for our family to go when it’s nice outside has been such a game changer this spring and summer. We have a beautiful, large, full-grown oak and crab apple tree that shade our deck…it really is a lovely and peaceful place that we enjoy together. When selecting items to decorate the deck I wanted to focus on things that would help the kiddos enjoy it too…the first thing that came to mind was an outdoor rug! A place they could sit and play with toys. Since we’ve rolled out the rug that’s exactly how it’s been used. I also wanted to hang deck railing planters full of geraniums because they help repel mosquitos!

Below is a sneak peek at the items we selected (with links for your convenience!) and photos of the finished look. How do you think it turned out?

Outdoor Gray Throw Pillows | Small “Home Sweet Home” Pillow | Navy Blue Seat Cushions
Large Outdoor Area Rug | Small No-Slip Rug | Deck Railing Planters


This collaboration was sponsored by Wayfair. 

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Our Kitchen Update on a Budget

We did it! We finally have our kitchen mostly done! Aside from a few cosmetic updates – we will call it complete. One year later…but better late than never! We love the results and how much brighter it is. It was definitely one of the bigger projects we undertook after moving into our new home. When starting this project we knew that it would need to be done on a budget. We wanted to keep it under $5,000 which in reality, isn’t a lot of money when you’re updating a kitchen (so we found out the hard way). I’ll be sharing tips on how we saved money and what we did below – keep scrolling!

But first….a before photo! I have never loathed green countertops so much in all my life.

Solid Surface Countertops:
The photo below is of the new countertops going in! Putting in the new countertops was the most expensive part when updating the kitchen. It cost us roughly $2,300 for the countertops alone. We went with Solid Surface countertops. After reviewing the pros and cons of not going with a granite or a quartz…it was clear to us that we really would get a much better deal going with solid surface and it would keep us within our budget. Unlike granite or quartz…you can’t cut on solid surface countertops with a knife or put anything hot on it, however, the similarities are quite comparable. This info from the solid surface website can help you out! We ended up getting our countertops from Home Depot! Our new white castiron double sink came as a special offer with the purchase of the countertops. Keep an eye out for deals and specials at places like Lowe’s, Menards and Home Depot! The new kitchen faucet and garbage disposal were roughly $200 total.

Ta-da! Below images are the “finished” product.

Cement Tile Backsplash:
For the cement tile backsplash, we worked with Riad Tile and got their Emma Grey Tile. It was delivered fast and really is the show stopper in our kitchen. The cement squares are beautiful, durable, and add a fun style to this space. Riad Tile offers the lowest prices in the country! We highly recommend them! We measured out roughly 34 square feet and the cost for the tiles and all of the installation supplies was roughly $600. We saved on labor and had my dad do the install and use his wet saw for cutting and fitting the tiles. We also updated all of the light switches and outlets and changed out the ceiling boob light!

Painting the Cupboards:
Installing completely new cupboards would be quite a costly undertaking so to save money we decided to sand and paint them! Err well… my dad was the hero again for this project and helped us out a lot by doing most of the grunt work! We went with Behr Paint and the color Whitewash Oak. We paid roughly $150 for the one gallon of paint that we needed, brushes, and primer. We bought new hardware for the cupboards – handles and hinges to match the faucet. We went with the color Brushed Nickel. We paid about $125 for all of the hardware! Around the island, we put up wainscoting which was super inexpensive and easy to install. It gave our otherwise very plain island a nice updated look.

 

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5 Tips for Styling Open Shelving for Under $20

I am not an interior designer by any stretch of the imagination and I don’t claim to be one! I actually have a hard time with interior decorating and design things – I can never make up my mind. This little space used to be an open square hole in the wall that dated back to the 70’s – I’m not even sure what it would have been called or what it was used for? I had my dad close it in and put shelving inside so that I could put some little items in it to help create a spot to show off some of our own unique style (aka another place for little plants)!  I wanted to share how I went about styling this shelf for under $20!

1) Thrift Stores
I love thrift shopping. It’s a fun way to find unique items that have character and the price point typically doesn’t break the bank. On this particular shelving space, I have two faux greenery items that I found at a thrift store – the little sprigs in the round jars. I think they might have been 50 cents each! I have a little tub in the basement that contains little thrifted things I like to put on shelves throughout my home.

2) Use What You Have
The two photo frames are things I had up in our old home and didn’t have a specific place for here in our new home – until I needed something on these shelves! I dug them out and was elated to find that they fit perfectly. So go digging in your boxes, tubs, etc…and check out what else you might have around the house and change it up – take something that was in the bedroom on your dresser or nightstand and give it a new location in your home…simple little things like this make things feel brand new without spending the money!

3) Shop at the Dollar Store or Target Dollar Spot 
We’ve all done it. We’ve all walked into Target and spent more time perusing the Dollar Spot than we anticipated – and we likely took home a few things. Thankfully…the items are at a good price and usually pretty darn cute! They always have pretty seasonal vases, candles, and other items that fit great on open shelves. Just don’t go overboard! Another great place to visit is your local Dollar Tree or General Dollar…they usually have some fun things to play around with and make your own. On this shelf the little round vases, home sign, and two little mini succulent plants were Target finds most of which were in the Dollar Spot section. Each item costs roughly $5 or under and in total was roughly $20! (the only money I spent)

4) Personalize it
Rowan and I did some watercolor paintings recently (he created the top one) and mine is of the palm branch. We played music, did some painting, and ate snacks together…then I got to show him how once our paintings dried – we could put them in frames on the shelf. Now he likes to point them out to Dusty and when people visit and say “look, mom and me painted those!” 🙂 They are cute and add a special and personal touch to for the space. I’ll have fun switching them out with new paintings we make. Homemade items or artwork is a very inexpensive and personal way to make a shelf unique and special!

5) Neutral color palette
I’m pretty predictable when it comes to color palettes. I like neutral tones and warm hues. Whites, creams, beige, and wood textures make it easy to switch things out with each season without having to completely swap everything out. Keeping the items in that color family will help you keep costs down when it comes to decorating your shelf!

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Baby Q’s Nursery

I’ve been wanting to share Q’s nursery for a long while now but haven’t had the time to snap the photos! There are still some small decor things I want to incorporate – an adorable handmade kite banner from my friend, a few other smaller wall art items, and a plant for the ceiling plant hanger. All in good time! I was too eager to wait any longer – done or not! And Q made a little cameo appearance for a few photos that I will treasure forever. Disclaimer – she was ready for her nap when I snapped these quick so she’s not in the best mood 🙂 hah! Scroll to the bottom of the post to shop links from items in her room.

 





If there’s something in these images not listed below – please feel free to email me for a direct link – samanthaelizabethcollins@gmail.com

cardigan (similar) |Bows |  leggings | Sandals | Faux fur rug | Large Floor Rug | Round Basket (similar) | Babyletto Crib | Crib sheet (similar)| Wicker Rocking chair (similar) | We Are the Gardeners Book | Cotton Pouf | Noahs Ark Wooden Set (similar) | Wall Decals | Porcelain Hexagon Air Plant Hangers | Changing Station ShelvingSquare baskets | Round Mirror | Accordion Peg Rack | Plaid Hooded Coat (similar) | Pink Dress (similar) | Purse Basket (similar) | Burts Bees Striped Changing Pad Cover | Wooden pull toys (similar)| Wipe dispenser | White Noise Machine | Dresser (similar) | Floor Lamp | Hanging Bullet Planter| Lollipop Baby Cam | Table-side Night Light

Shop the Post

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Round Up + Spring Cleaning Tips

I took to Instagram to ask my lovely readers what tried and true house cleaning tips and routines were out there! And many of you wanted me to share my findings. As a busy mom of two littles and a husband that works A LOT – I’ve been eager to find routines that fit our crazy life. The fact is that I have minimal time in my day to dedicate too much to cleaning. I’ve been terrible at finding a good routine that I can keep consistent with – and one that’s manageable with kids underfoot. Many of you mentioned having someone come to clean – yes, this is a great idea and when I worked a full-time job I had a cleaner come every two weeks but in this case, as a stay at home mom, I wanted to see if I could create a routine that would allow me to save the money we’d spend on a cleaner and instead, develop a system I could maintain on my own. Sounds easier said than done – but I wanted to give it a try – and then still look into maybe even a monthly cleaner to help with the deep clean work 🙂 I’m still in the process of figuring out exactly how this will look for me but I’ve used bits and pieces of all of the amazing advice I’ve been given to start creating this cleaning routine. I hope some of this advice helps you too!

First, I had two ladies recommended to me who are pros when it comes to cleaning and both have awesome templates and such to use and follow – and since I’m not about to re-invent the wheel I wanted to share links to their info here The Case for Simple and Clean Mama. Below is a list of all of the great ideas many of my readers put into use! I hope it helps in your effort to create a system that works for you too!

Tip Round-Up:

  • Never leave a room empty-handed – pick up as you go!
  • Set a laundry day. It doesn’t have to be the only day you do laundry, but do a lap around your house and grab towels, pillowcases or sheets…the bigger things you pass over.
  • Consciously doing daily tasks like making the bed and at night, making sure counters are cleared of clutter and wiped (love a good counter spray).
  • Continuously rinse and load dishes after meals and snacks…kitchen looks clean all day and less overwhelming than if I were to come back to it after dinner.
  • Separating bathroom day and floor day..makes bathrooms extra quick and allows more time to do the shower, etc if you don’t have to tackle floors at the same time.
  • It’s easiest to stay tidy if every item has a home and a place to be put. Clean as the day goes on.
  • Start laundry in the morning and have a goal. “Today I’ll clean the toilet” or “I’ll wash mirrors”
  • At night – every toy is put away! I also vacuum each evening after dinner (just under the table). We have a small house so it’s doable to do a quick once over in the evening.
  • I sweep, vacuum, and steam mop. Once per week (sweep more if I need to). Might be gross but I’d rather spend my energy elsewhere. However, when my child goes to bed I do 5 things: laundry (usually Mondays and Thursdays), any dishes, put all toys in their places, wipe table/high chair, and countertops, and restock diaper caddy. I don’t let myself go to bed unless I’ve done all of those things but they can be done in 15 minutes, with the exception of laundry. Laundry days I pour myself a glass of wine and watch the bachelor or journal. But that’s it. That works for me!
  • Having a vacuum that is cordless and can suck anything, anywhere all the attachments/size, my Dyson is my favorite cleaning product. I seriously vacuum up to 3 times a week and whenever a spot is messy. It’s so easy to do with it and doesn’t even feel like a chore!
  • I stay on top of the dishes. I won’t let them sit more than 24hrs untouched. Sometimes I’ll leave them in the sink overnight, but overall I keep on top of it especially after meals, that way they don’t build up. (And during the day you won’t feel guilty having last nights dishes with today’s dishes).
  • Laundry for me is anytime I have a full load ready to go between all the hampers or just one. I don’t have a specific day, I just do it when necessary and keep on top of it.
  • Once a month or so I take a stiffer duster and wipe Knick knack/lamps/random things down.
  • We do all toilets and kids do too… legit once or every two weeks I clean and wipe down the toilet and avoid letting pee and such build-up.
  • Countertops/dining room table, anything surface space that is always used especially with food- I love my all-purpose spray and I use that with a paper towel to wipe the whole surface down regularly. It helps keep crumbs off the floor and I know I’m using a more clean surface.
  • I use disinfecting wipes to wipe out sinks/faucets/toilets too- and overall handles/whatever else is regularly touched.
  • My biggest downfall and pet peeve is putting things away like laundry/the dishwasher.
  • A clean kitchen is a top priority as it’s center of the home: dishes, wipe down countertops & kitchen table, go through the fridge for food going bad, sweep the floor if needed, light a candle (daily)
  • Vacuum whole house (hardwood floors with rugs), clean toilet, laundry, fresh bath towels (weekly on weekend).
  • Scrub bathroom counter, clean shower/bathtub, fresh sheets & pillowcases (monthly).
  • Dust furniture & scrub floors about 2x a year if I’m being honest. Also, I’m not big on “built-ins” and “Knick-knacks” I see them as junk & dust collectors. Minimal decor = less dusting.
  • I literally cap off at 30 minutes a day, Monday-Saturday for actual cleaning. Divide your home into sections and try to be even in timing. For example, I might group both kid’s bedrooms, their upstairs carpet, and the stairs and landing all together. Those all get vacuumed, dusted, etc on one day, only 30 mins worth. Then Tuesday might be my kitchen. Etc etc. Sunday is reserved for meal planning for the week, then grocery shopping and meal prepping if you do that sort of thing. Do a load of laundry a day, or every other, and designate one day a week for all towels, and one day for sheets. The reason I love it, is between two small kids, one cat, and one dog… I needed to feel like I could have someone stop over unannounced, and I wouldn’t be embarrassed about my house. This way, literally NO space in your home hasn’t been cleaned in over a week! But I work lots and lots of hours, so it was too daunting to try and spend three hours of my day and a half weekend to cleaning!! So this really does work and help and now I’m motivated to get back on track.
  • We like to have a fully clean home at once so we do one big clean a week, usually when our son is napping. We start around breakfast, then take turns watching him and both finish up for his hour and a half nap. We are both really good cleaners so we do fast but thorough. I do all the counters, bathrooms and kitchen, and my husband sweeps, steam cleans and vacuums the floors. We both take bedroom sheets and make the bed together. Then we do laundry every night. It may seem like a waste but I’d rather do a bunch of moderate loads than a few huge ones. We fold right on the bed and put it away that night. I fold and put away pants, underwear, and PJs, and my husband does all of the clothes hanging.
  • The thing that I mostly keep up with is the laundry- every day is a load! I have one of those washers with auto-sensing- so if it’s just a few things it’s ok! There you have it! I’ll be back to the blog soon with the system I put into place using a lot of this advice and piecing together what works for our family.
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House Hunting Tips

In my last post on homeownership, I spoke specifically about my favorite reason for becoming a homeowner and I provided some information on how to better prepare yourself early on for the home buying process. In this post, I am going to share more specifically about tips for getting started with house hunting. This step would take place after you’ve learned a bit on the home buying process. Many of these tips are mostly being shared based on our own experiences with recommendations from the Michigan State Housing and Development Authority (MSHDA).

How to save for a down payment
When it comes to saving for a down payment the answer seems to be fairly simple, start early – while you’re young – save, save, save! Even a little bit goes a long way. Putting this money in a savings account or place that you can stash it and forget about it is best…then you won’t be tempted to dip into it. If saving early on wasn’t something you were able to do, you can also find ways to lower your expenses in other areas, and then start stashing. Again, don’t be discouraged if it’s only $20-50 per month. Every little bit counts. Set up a long term goal – over the course of X number of years on how much money you’ll save to go toward a down payment on a home. Be realistic about your salary and income over those years and what your bills are and then see where you can start saving, little by little. The “how” when it comes to saving for a down payment is to simply get started, be consistent, and be realistic. I would also recommend reaching out to a local mortgage lender to get an idea on what your price point would be on a home and a ballpark estimate on how much you’ll need to save. Some individuals looking to get money for a down payment will also come up with other creative ways to get the money needed, whether that be borrowing from family, selling investments, or other miscellaneous things. There is also down payment assistance through MSHDA that can help you get started! If you’re a first-time homebuyer, check out MSHDA’s Michigan Down Payment. The program provides down payment assistance up to $7,500 for first-time homebuyers. Eligibility requirements apply.

How to work with a real estate agent
When we started to get the ball rolling on house hunting, our first step was to ask around for recommendations on a real estate agent – we went to friends and family for their recommendations. Here are some great things to consider when shopping for a real estate agent: Who in the area do people love? Who have local friends and family had a great experience with? Did the agent return calls quickly and efficiently? Do they have a good understanding of the local housing market? The list goes on. But we found that firsthand recommendations were the way to go. We then called and set up an appointment with the agent to get a feel for their personality and work style and to ensure it would be a good fit.

One thing that is important for new homebuyers to know that we weren’t quite aware of before we got started is how the agent and homebuyer relationship works and what the agent actually does.

  • First, you are to look to your agent as a trusted guide. They will learn more about what you want, need, budget, and preferences. They will then help you start to narrow down your choices and get an idea for what is realistic given your purchasing power.
  • Second, it’s important that your agent has a great network of people they work with. That includes a team at their agency, and professionals such as lenders, home inspectors, and contractors.
  • Third, is that the agent a great advocate for you and your family when it comes to the right home to purchase. When it came to buying a home in Minnesota (while living in Michigan) we had to really put a lot of trust into our agent because we couldn’t be there in person to look at homes. Our price point was very competitive and the turnover was very fast and insane! Our agent would Facetime with us and do a walk through and then give us a very honest assessment on the home once outside. There were many times when our agent would tell us “There’s a lot of work that would need to happen in this house…I think you can do better. Let’s be patient.” Taking his word for it always worked in our favor and we ended up with the house we wanted and at a great price. It still needed some work but overall it was the best for our money.
  • Fourth, your agent should be good at negotiating and moving things along quickly if the market is competitive. Our agent was so good at this. We had put an offer in on a home and he had paperwork to us to sign via email immediately, we ended up being outbid only hours later but in the end, he was ready to have things signed and locked and loaded for us if need be.
  • Fifth, their ability to manage the fine print. The paperwork is insane. This was something I was not ready for whatsoever…but if we had chosen not to go with an agent, I’m pretty sure the paperwork and contracts would have broken us immediately. There was exhaustive work that our agent had to put in in order to secure the home for us – he called us on Sundays, in the evening, texted us, etc. The thought of having to do all of that leg work on our own was overwhelming – thankfully, we didn’t!

How to manage your monthly mortgage payments
The great thing about “managing” monthly payments is that most of the management side of things goes through the bank that you’re getting your mortgage through. However, naturally, your job is to make sure that you make your payments on time! It is also equally important to understand what is wrapped into your mortgage payment. For us, it included the mortgage loan payment itself, homeowner’s insurance, and taxes.

 

How to find your perfect neighborhood
Finding your perfect neighborhood can be tricky if you aren’t familiar with the city or town that you’re moving to. This was the case for us. We were newbies to the city we were moving to and had to do some asking around and digging to find which neighborhoods were super kid and family-friendly. We loved that our agent was very knowledgeable about the neighborhoods we were looking at. He knew which areas were family and kid-friendly and which we should avoid. We wanted an area that was a close drive to everything and also had good schools and playgrounds in the neighborhood.

While the homeownership process and house hunting may seem stressful and cumbersome…it is so very worth it! If you live in Michigan and want to get started on becoming a homeowner but need some friendly guidance – reach out to MSHDA or check out their website to learn more.

What are your house-hunting tips? I’d love to hear your stories!

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Our Favorite Thing About Being Home Owners

We officially became first-time homeowners this summer! It has been one of those things we’ve dreamed about for a really long time. Our journey to homeownership is a bit slower than most our age because of constant moves and changes in our location due to Dusty’s medical school studies, not to mention we haven’t had the budget to support home buying. Now that Dusty is officially no longer a “student” and is now making a salary, homeownership is one of the first things we prioritized as a family.

Throughout the years that Dusty and I have been together we’ve lived in a few different places in Michigan – Marquette, Lansing, and Skandia. All three have been completely different experiences. In Marquette, we were newlyweds and decided to rent a townhome for a few years, we then moved to Lansing where we rented a small home in Lansing proper, a neighborhood called Reo Town. Then Dusty’s medical school studies brought us back to the Upper Peninsula where we chose to rent a home in Skandia, which has been more of a rural country or woodland experience for us…we lived about 20 minutes outside of Marquette. Each rental experience has been completely unique and different and has allowed us to see what we want in our forever home. Renting has been good to us… the experience of being renters of different types of properties and in very different communities has given us a broader outlook on long term housing and homeownership for the future. We wouldn’t change these experiences for anything, it has definitely equipped us in being more responsible homeowners.

Photos below of us in our first townhome together as newlyweds! It was small…very small!

The “journey” to becoming first-time homeowners was not a simple one. We truly did not realize how much would go into the process. It was quite tedious and stressful! Our favorite thing about being homeowners is that we now have a true place to call our very own; a place that we can invest in and put our own personal touch on aesthetically with hopes to see a return when we go to sell it in a handful of years. Some of our main goals are updating the kitchen, painting throughout the house, landscaping in the back and front yard, and a handful of other small things. The things we are doing and plan to do will add long term value to the property. Renting was a wonderful experience and really allowed us the flexibility to test the waters and get a feel for different types of properties and home settings. Renting allowed us to grow and become the homebuyers we are able to be today.

Photo below of Dusty and I outside our rental home in Lansing, MI.

When it came to buying our first home this past spring we can definitely look back and say “I wish we would have known…” it all worked out but a better understanding of the ins and outs of home buying would have provided us with a much better foundation for success when it came to diving into the process.

If you’re looking to become a first-time homeowner I would absolutely, without a doubt, look into resources that can help you navigate and prepare for the process. If there is one thing we would have done differently, we would better prepare ourselves for the process and ins and outs of buying.

 

If you find yourself contemplating or moving toward homeownership, here is some very helpful information and resources from the Michigan State Housing and Development Authority (MSHDA) that can get you started.

Down Payment Assistance:
MSHDA offers loans with down payment assistance of $7,500. They also offer a unique set of mortgage products and are an affordable partner for all loans.

Housing Education Classes:
MSHDA has housing education classes and one-on-one pre-purchase counseling services that have been shown to benefit those who later became homeowners and improved the financial creditworthiness of those who did not. These housing counseling services include:

  • Homebuyer Education
  • Pre-Purchase Services
  • Financial Capability Services (including credit repair information)
  • Rental Services
  • Foreclosure-related services to families.

Discounted Private Mortgage Insurance:
MSHDA helps make loans more affordable by offering conventional loans with discounted private mortgage insurance (PMI). A borrower with a conventional loan only has to pay PMI up to the point their equity in the home reaches 20%. Then it goes away. A government loan like an FHA loan carries mortgage insurance for the life of the loan. (VA loans have a funding fee. They do not require monthly mortgage insurance.)

If you’re looking to start your homeownership journey, learn more about MSHDA’s homeownership resources and programs on their website – click here.

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Our Home Buying Story

For those of you that have been following along, you’ll know that we found a home recently! We are SO excited to have the house hunt over with it was quite a grueling and awful process in a very competitive market – for those of you who have gone through it…bless you. I’m convinced our finding this house was a totally a “God thing” because the house we landed should have gone for a lot more than what we got it for…and how in the world we were the first to make an offer on it after it being on the market for 20 minutes…need I say more?

Photo of us out for dinner in Florida celebrating that we finally purchased a home!

Here’s how the home buying process went for us (attempted cliff notes version):

I had been observing the housing markets for our top three residency rank list cities for a while…like many many many months prior to finding out where we were going. I did this out of nerves and a tendency to try and envision what life would be like should we land in any of our top three cities. I knew that if we landed in Dusty’s number one spot (Rochester -Mayo Clinic) we’d be up for some stiff competition when it came to finding a house. We knew this based on what we’d heard from others, our budget, city size, and the houses that had been available for the last handful of months. Locations one and two on his rank list offered quite a bit more for your money and not as competitive of a market…so while I wanted to end up in our number one residency spot I also knew that finding a house would be tough for us! And before anyone asks – renting would be just as bad. We have two dogs and two kiddos (one due in August) and the cost per month to rent a 3 bedroom apartment or home was well beyond what a monthly mortgage would be. So we knew to rent was not going to be an option and we wanted to build equity and resale value into a home.

As soon as we found out we were for sure going to Rochester we scrambled to get a realtor, mortgage lender, and all of the crazy things that you need ironed out in order to even start seriously looking at homes. It was a whirlwind, to say the least! Not only were we already entering a competitive market but the market in our budget was very competitive because there are roughly 500+ medical residents and fellows moving into the community at the same time we are and many of which are looking for a single-family home like we were and making roughly the same amount of money. Yikes!

Most homes we looked at in our price range were in need of updates badly and a lot of TLC (like a lot), or they were in a neighborhood we weren’t crazy about, too pricey, not enough bedrooms on one floor, an unfinished basement, no backyard fence, too far from town…and the list goes on and on. The homes we did like went like hot cakes. We bid on two homes in the first few days of looking…one home would need some work on the inside but not enough to make it a deal breaker – that home sold about $25,000 above asking price, which was way too pricey for us. The second home was bid out from under us about 20 minutes before we called to place ours…that was the house I felt the saddest and most discouraged by…it was in that home that I envisioned R and Q playing in the back yard, Gus and Reo chasing squirrels, I envisioned our furniture in it and how I’d decorate…I thought for sure it would be ours – but nope! Poof, gone SO fast. We were even willing to go a little over asking price for it.


We found out quickly that there was not much time for negotiation with any of the homes we liked…we had to pull the trigger and make a decision immediately – and the hard part was we weren’t there in person to look. We had an amazing realtor who would go into the homes within an hour of us calling him…he’d go in and do a walk through via Facetime with us…he was older, knowledgeable, and super genuine about the showing – he’d tell us if there were things we would need to consider fixing, he would share what he knew and thought about the neighborhood…etc. we were so blessed to find someone willing to work hard to help us out! It’s true when they say “get a GREAT realtor!” What they mean is – a realtor that knows the market, responds to emails and/or texts, calls back immediately, and is willing to go above and beyond to help you find your home. Trust your gut and don’t be afraid to shop around for realtors – and take referrals from friends!

When it came to the home we ended up purchasing – the way we happened upon it was pretty funny and again, where I truly believe God’s hand played a part in it – we had heard about the home through our realtor. He had been the one who had sold it to another resident family three years prior and he knew they were looking to move again this spring/early summer. He sent us info about the home and we glanced through the listing photos from three years ago and it was perfect. Exactly what we were looking for! Now we just had to wait to see when they were going to list it and hopefully be the first to put in an offer. In the meantime, we couldn’t assume it would be ours and we couldn’t bank on it working out so we kept looking and we kept browsing home listing websites day in and day out for a week and a half. It was one of the most nerve-racking processes we have ever experienced.

It was a busy morning and we were packing to try and get things in order to head to Florida to visit my parents for a week. We saw a house online that was just so-so and asked our realtor if we could see it anyway. It was about 10:00 a.m. and he told us he’d call us at 10:30. I think Dusty and I were really just trying to encourage ourselves around the housing market…we knew deep down the house he was about to show us wasn’t the one… but maybe we could make it work? Maybe?  We did the home walk thru and felt a bit deflated – the home was the last one we were going to look at before leaving for our trip to Florida (we just wanted to be done so we weren’t spending our sunny Florida vacation days browsing websites and doing Facetime home tours)…there hadn’t been much activity on house listings for almost 5 days…so we decided that looking at something was better than nothing…in hopes of raising our spirits…and as expected the house was only OK…lots of cosmetic updates needed, huge back yard with no fence…and a narrow kitchen and no dining room. It was small – and at the ceiling of our budget… the same old story we’d been running in to for almost two weeks at this point. After the walk through our realtor told us it’d be a lot of work for our family and he suggested we be patient and see what else came up while in Florida – we weren’t thrilled with the idea but we knew if we pulled the trigger on something we weren’t in love with we’d regret it later on. So we agreed that we needed to pass on it and we went back to packing for our trip – both of us feeling overly frustrated. Dusty decided to take R into town to run errands so I could finish packing without interruption…I remember walking into R’s room feeling mad and upset that house hunting wasn’t turning out to be as promising as I had hoped and prayed it would be. And if we wanted to move into a home prior to Dusty starting orientation at the end of June…we needed to find something within the week…otherwise, our closing date would start merging into his orientation and work schedule – making for a very difficult and taxing process.

I was folding R’s shorts and packing some books into his suitcase about 20 minutes after Dusty and R left for town when my phone made a noise telling me there was a notification…we desperately needed to get on the horn with packing but for whatever reason I grabbed my phone to look and there it was – posted to Zillow! It was the home we had seen and loved a week earlier – the one our realtor had shown us and had said might possibly be listed sometime soon! I couldn’t believe it! I hurried and called Dusty, sent him the link. We noticed the family who listed wasn’t using a realtor to sell – it said for sale by owner, which was why our realtor hadn’t known it was going to be listed that day. Dusty called the owner and basically told him on the spot “We’ll take it!” The home had been listed for 20 minutes and we were the third to call. The first two callers wanted to set up a “showing”…but at this point, we knew what we wanted, liked, and what was on the market…we had to bite and bite quick! Our realtor had sold the house to the current owners three years prior and had told us it was in great shape when he sold it to them…so three years later the assumption was that it was still in great shape.

The seller ended up taking our offer and we started the process of confirming our purchase and signing paperwork immediately. It all happened super fast and was a whirlwind. Whew! We definitely felt like we won the lottery. The only downside was that the family wouldn’t be moving out until the end of June…making our closing date in the middle of Dusty’s orientation…huge bummer, but the house has everything we were looking for and then some. Sometimes, you just go with it, have faith, and know the other details will work themselves out!

We were so happy to leave for Florida the next morning knowing we had found our home. We were able to relax and enjoy the sunshine while on our trip and even sneak out for a dinner date – just the two of us. We can’t wait to move in and share some of the fun updates we’ll be making to it. I for one can’t wait to do some kitchen updates, get a garden planted, make R’s room into a big boy room, and start decorating Q nursery!

We’ll share some pictures of the home at a later date! 🙂 

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Three Tips for Keeping a Clean Kitchen and Bathroom

This post has been sponsored by Faultless Brands, makers of Bon Ami. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

A lot of my readers are mothers who either stay at home with their kiddos or work outside of the home—with busy and chaotic lives to say the least! Between diapering, school drop off, and all of the demands in life, cleaning usually falls to the wayside because it’s not always enjoyable and it can be the last thing that feels important given all of the “Mom” demands we face daily. Here are some tips that I try to abide by when it comes to keeping my kitchen and bathroom clean, and by no means do I do this perfectly. There are many days when cleaning my house is the last thing I pay attention to, but hopefully, these ideas can help encourage you!

Use Great Products That Work!
First and foremost, make sure to keep an arsenal of products that are tried and true in your home. I love natural cleaning products with simple ingredients that are safe and effective. One of my new favorite cleaning products is Bon Ami Powder Cleanser. This product has no harsh chemicals and is safe to use in the kitchen around food, young kids, and pets. I also love that it has a variety of uses—pots and pans, kitchen, and bathroom. The versatility of a product is such a big deal when it comes to using great cleaning products.



Schedule Cleaning on Your Calendar & Get Your Kids Involved
I know this can sound super counterintuitive, but it has worked for me with R. There are days when I schedule cleaning certain spaces in our home into my calendar; otherwise, it may never get done. On bathroom cleaning day, I typically ask R to join in the fun. I’ll give him a wet rag with a little bit of water on it, a broom, and sometimes he just likes to stand at the sink, run the water, and “brush his teeth.” Either way, I always feel confident and comfortable with the cleaning products I am using around him. Bon Ami is great to use in the bathroom, and I don’t have to be concerned about whether or not R will come into contact with the cleaning product. Bon Ami’s simple ingredients do not contain harsh chemicals, so this gives me a huge peace of mind!


Clean Your Stove Top & Sink Weekly
When it comes to deep cleaning our kitchen, I usually get Dusty involved. I typically schedule this for once a week, usually in the evenings after R goes to bed or else directly after dinner while R is playing. I like to do this weekly because if I don’t, it really just creates a ripple effect and before you know it my kitchen looks so terrible! We usually will clear everything off of the counters and start by scouring the stove top, which is almost always brown with stains and grease. I will spritz the stovetop with water, sprinkle it over with Bon Ami, let it sit for a minute and then use a sponge to scrub it clean. Once our stove top is sparkling, we tackle the kitchen sink! Dusty cleans up any pots and pans that are left over from dinner and then we scrub out the sink, again, using Bon Ami to help us along the way. What I love most is that Bon Ami can be used across all sorts of rooms and surfaces in our home, safely and effectively. Keeping things simple, easy, and safe!



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Decorating for the Holidays + Show Us Your Goodwill

Goodwill Industries of Northern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan has a campaign going on right now called “Show Us Your Goodwill” #showusyourgoodwill where you share a photo of an item you’ve found at Goodwill and how you are reusing it in your own home or life. If you are selected, you could win $50 to Goodwill! Post it to their Facebook Page or tag them on Instagram.  Make sure to use the hashtag #showusyourgoodwill when you post!

I’ve always loved decorating for the holidays, but this year the Christmas season seemed to outshine the Thanksgiving season early on due to all of the snow we’ve gotten in Northern Michigan. I love trimming the tree, putting up garland, wreaths, and playing Christmas music so loud the neighbors can hear.

Decorating for Christmas is one that can get really expensive really quick if you’re not careful. With all of the tree trimmings, garland, lights, figurines, etc… one can easily spend a whole lot of money on trendy items. I prefer to get creative with second-hand items found at Goodwill. You get to repurpose something that was discarded by another, get creative with things that are perhaps less traditional in style, and save money in the process, putting your money toward the things that matter most…like that Christmas ham, adopting a family, or giving nice gifts to your loved ones.

In total, I spent $25 on “new” Christmas decorations for our home from Goodwill. Here are a handful of super easy things I snagged from Goodwill that anyone can adopt and use themselves!


Paint old Christmas houses – $3.99 for the whole set at Goodwill
I got this idea from my friend and décor/re-purposer/handicrafter extraordinaire, Mari! I grabbed a box of discarded Christmas village houses from Goodwill and knew right away what I wanted to do with them. The box even had these little trees to go with them! It took me all but 20 minutes to paint two coats on each of the four little houses. I then lined them along a shelf above our coffee station. They would look equally cute on a side table or mantel.

Repurpose old signs (chalk paint/circuit) – $1.99 Goodwill
I stumbled upon an old and super light sign at Goodwill that had the old saying “Live, laugh, love” across it. I knew right away that a little chalk paint over the words and then adding my own stenciled saying for Christmas would make it brand new again. I was ready to hand stencil the sign when my lovely friend Angela offered to make the words on her Cricut machine. The adhesives were just applied to the board easily and took all of 5 minutes. I used two coats of white Rustoleum chalk paint before adding the letters – voilá – easy and cute!

Candlestick holder $1 at Goodwill
When I saw this little gold candlestick holder I knew I had to have it. I love the old traditional look of candlesticks. We have some battery-operated ones that sit in our windows with a timer and come on at night and have the look of a flickering candlestick. Makes our house so warm and cozy! I had a few candlesticks laying around so I added one to the holder and put it near our coffee bar. My plan is to put two more candlesticks up nearby and light a new one each week to mark the advent of the season and the countdown to Jesus’s birth (Christmas Day)! I hadn’t thought of this idea until I made my trip to Goodwill!

Silver Platters – from $1.99 – $3.99 at Goodwill
I got the idea of keeping an eye out for silver serving platters from Joanna Gaines and her new Magnolia Magazine that came out for the quarter about a month and a half ago. She had a whole section in the magazine devoted to how silver pieces have basically become extinct in our culture and how taking them out and cleaning them and using them during the season can bring back a traditional and sentimental feel. I was shocked to find a handful of silver platters at Goodwill, just discarded under mounds of plastic plates and serving dishes. Tarnished was an understatement – they needed a lot of love, but my mind raced to the many different ways we could use them. The smaller platter, perhaps for Santa’s cookies on Christmas Eve? The larger one for Christmas Day cinnamon rolls? The larger one for decorations like bulbs or greenery? SO many fun ways to use silver during the holidays. Here is a link to the more non-chemical way I used to try and clean them.


There were so many other things I saw at Goodwill that could have been awesome for decorating for Christmas, but I had to reign it in a little. My finds left me excited and ready to go back and browse again soon! I’d love to see if you find anything from Goodwill on your next thrifting trip to the store – make sure to send me a photo! I love seeing other people find awesome treasures.

Black Friday at Goodwill
If you’re a Black Friday shopper, Goodwill in Marquette, Escanaba, Marinette, Iron Mountain, and Sault Ste. Marie Michigan will be having a 50% off EVERYTHING sale. Yea, you read that right! Stores open at 9:00 a.m.

 

This blog post was sponsored by Goodwill Industries of Northern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, thank you for supporting the brands and organizations I work with. All thoughts and opinions are my own!