Thursday, May 21, 2015

Pre-Construction Meeting with Ryan Homes

Spring is here and we are one step closer to breaking ground! Our new house is about 45 minutes from our current place, so I don't get out by the house very often. I typically go every 3 weeks when I'm out that way for my Xtreme Lash appointment. It's fun to drive by and see how the greenery is filling out.

This was three weeks ago. My husband was in charge of snapping our selfie. ha! I love the way the green was starting to fill in and make those distant neighbors disappear.

Then this picture was taken yesterday, check it out! Bye-bye, neighbors! It's amazing what a difference three weeks makes. I was really hesitant to go with this lot because of all the woods, but my husband was in love. They just looked messy and sad when we first saw the lot two months ago. Now they're actually starting to grow on me. No pun intended there, ha! I can see myself looking out in our backyard and feeling good about our choice.

We also have our final plot map. Our sales rep joked that we can put a go cart track in back there. About half of the backyard is wooded, still hard to wrap my head around. Such a blessing that this is even possible!

Our pre-construction meeting went well. It took about 2 hours, but we didn't have any problems at all. I actually love that it was uneventful. Our project manager confirmed all of our options, talked about the process, and we left feeling even more confident in our choice to build with Ryan Homes. We're waiting on a little bit of paperwork before the lot will be staked and then digging is set for June 10th. In about three weeks, we should have more than just grass and dirt to show! ;)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Getting Fit with FitBit

I have become one of 'those people' friends. It all started innocently enough, but I am now a believer in the FitBit. I mean seriously, who am I?
FitBit Activity Level Chart

One of the downsides to working from home has been a decline in my activity level. I went from walking around the classroom and all over school every day to largely working behind my computer for hours at a time. There are many days I don't even leave the house to go to the mailbox. I've tried the treadmill (boring) and a bike with a lap top desk (still boring) and eventually just gave up on both. Then I started to see more and more of my friends jump on the Fitbit wagon. I figured it couldn't hurt and I'm a pretty competitive person, so I figured the daily progress charts would be encouraging.

I had a hard time deciding between the Flex and the Charge HR. There wasn't a big price difference, so I ultimately decided to go with the Flex because of the color and ability to swap out the bands. The Charge HR was only available in black, so that wasn't nearly fun enough. It arrived on April 23rd, a Thursday. I put in about 2,000 steps by doing my regular activity. The recommendation is 10,000 steps per day so I was way under. I had 0 active minutes, which meant I didn't move for 10 continuous minutes at any time during the day. Friday and Saturday were much the same. I managed to get 11 and 12 active minutes respectively. My little baseline test was over and it was eye-opening for sure. 

Pink FitBit Flex

So then I put myself to work. I shot for 5,000-7,000 steps per day for the next week. I ended at 47,000 steps and 265 active minutes because I was breaking my steps up throughout the day. It was definitely motivating and if I checked my steps and was well under my goal, I made myself go for a walk. I caught up on the DVR while walking in place if that's what it would take and did laps around the living room more than a few times. 
FitBit Activity Level Chart
I also started drinking more water. Most days, I was lucky to get in one 24 ounce bottle. But the FitBit has you log each bottle you drink and I became more aware of that too. Most days I get my little girl full of water now. Hurray! 

Each week I increased my active minutes and worked to get more steps. With just those changes, I started to drop pounds. I've worked my way up to 10,000 steps+ per day by taking walks around our neighborhood. I usually go on my own in the afternoon and then again in the evening with my husband for about 3 miles each time. I ended last week with 85,000 steps and 636 active minutes. 

I also upgraded to the Charge HR when it was available in purple. I like that it displays my exact number of steps and keeps the other stats right on my wrist too so I don't have to check them on my phone. I can quickly see where I'm at on a walk and leave my phone {and the work inside it!} at home. It is a little thicker and not nearly as cute because the bands aren't interchangeable, but the extra data is worth it. 
Plum FitBit Charge HR

I also like the heart rate feature. I can see how hard I'm working, how many minutes per day I'm spending in each zone, and track my heart rate over time. As I've become more active, my resting heart rate has gone from 83 bpm to 68 bpm, which essentially shows that my heart is getting more efficient. I'm also down 7 pounds in less than a month without changing anything other than my activity and water intake. 
FitBit Charge HR Heart Rate Graph

Another nice bonus on the Charge HR is that it keeps track of the stairs I climb. I shoot for 15 flights a day, but my record is 50. It also tracks my sleep automatically without me having to remember to put it in sleep mode, like I had to do with the Flex. I'm such a data nerd, so I love all the different things it's keeping track of.

Overall, LOVE the FitBit experience. I love the social interaction and challenges on there, which help keep me accountable even on days I'm not feeling it. But at the same time, I'm not a slave to my little gadget. I'm under the weather this week and taking it easier, no problem.

If you want to connect on the app, you can find me here:

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

NVR Mortgage: not a fan

For the most part, our home building process has been pretty smooth with Ryan Homes. We're still not happy with our Guardian representative. After four emails, he still hasn't even replied to us about getting a copy of our options in writing. I dislike that because he included upgraded speakers that we want documented, as well as just a list of everything we've paid to have instead of a lump sum on the contract as "upgrades." I think it's super unprofessional to completely ignore emails altogether. If he doesn't have the paperwork {or just doesn't want to give it to us}, he could at least reply. My husband is going to call the main office and start rattling some cages. Our meeting was over two weeks ago, it's been plenty of time.

But we hit another little bump in the road last week. Because we were previously building a different home, we already had a mortgage through our bank. When we switched to this house, we needed to update our mortgage with our new contract. Except the way Ryan does the contract is a little different. They don't add any of your upgrades/options into your initial contract. This meant our original contract was for LESS than our desired mortgage amount. But when the options were added back in, we were back to our original price and the mortgage price we wanted. So we couldn't give our contract to our banker for our new mortgage application until all those change orders went through and our price was back up to the purchase amount we needed. We contacted our mortgage agent and it was no big deal, she said she'd easily be able to push our mortgage through again once we had the final number.

When you sign your contract though, Ryan asks you to fill out a mortgage application with their in-house company, NVR mortgage. You're given $2,000 in credits for making the application and they do a soft pull on your credit to get pre-approved. We agreed. Well, turns out it's a HARD pull on your credit. That wasn't a great surprise because we are both really careful with our credit.

But we were pre-approved and NRV wanted to meet with us to see if they could beat our current mortgage terms, so we met with NVR on March 230th. We're using a special physician's mortgage to save on interest rate and reduce our downpayment, which allows us to keep more money invested and growing. NVR doesn't have this program available, but assured us that we were buying at the perfect time because their physician loan program was literally starting the next day. We signed off on the full application and waited to see if they could beat our rates. They pulled our credit again a week later, another hard hit. yay! :(

Then we heard nothing. N-O-T-H-I-N-G until May 6th. Turns out NVR never got the physician mortgage program at all. We could still get a regular loan through them, but it wasn't nearly as good as the mortgage we already had through our bank. Now we're scrambling to get our mortgage updated with our bank for the new address/price before our pre-construction meeting that's scheduled for the 21st. Our mortgage banker isn't concerned and the whole process only took about a week last time, but it's super annoying that we waited over a month, had TWO hard pulls on our credit, and NVR didn't even have the program we were applying for. Definitely wouldn't recommend doing business with them.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Furniture Finds: Pottery Barn for less

Our housing journey continues to hum right along. With around 5,000 square feet to furnish in the new home compared to the 900 we have now, furniture is going to a big project. Our plan was to pick up pieces here and there for the next few months so there would be less to do all at the same time when we close. I've been keeping my eye out for end tables, curtains, fun pillows, rugs, stuff like that. We planned to leave the major purchases and bigger items for after we're actually in the house. 

I've been browsing Pottery Barn catalogs as well a Crate and Barrel or Restoration Hardware, but I just can't bring myself to spend that much. I had my eye on the Banks table from Pottery Barn, but at nearly $3,000 for a fancy table we wouldn't use very often? No way. But can we appreciate how pretty it is?

I tracked down a similar table at Ashley Furniture called the Strumfield. Our local store had it listed for $1,600. It was slightly rougher in texture and had more black than brown in it. It also didn't have the fancy balusters, but was a good second choice for the price. It was smaller than the Pottery Barn model and doesn't have the extra leaf option on each end. Still... with a whole house to furnish we don't want to spend too much on any one piece, so this one went on our maybe list. 

A few weeks later, we drove out to the Pottery Barn outlet to browse. I was hoping to grab a couple sets of their striped curtains that I just can't bring myself to buy. They didn't have the curtains, but my husband spotted a smaller table that would be perfect for our morning room, where we plan to eat most of the time. It was the West Elm Terra table. It's the dark brown expresso color that we love and was in great shape with just a small scuff on the very bottom of the table leg. West Elm price? $700. Outlet price? $200. 

Needless to say, we grabbed that table right up. We'll still need to pick up seating for it after we move in, but what a great find!

I really should have taken pictures of this outlet because furniture was PACKED in there. Some of the things were pretty banged up, but others looked good as new. Tables were on top of each other, couches, chairs, lamps... you name it. I was overwhelmed at first, but then digging through it became a fun challenge to see what we could find. I'm so glad we did because we found this! What? Banks table. Large. Expresso. Both leaf extensions (not pictured). Not a scratch or scuff to be seen. 

I told myself to walk away. Walk. Away. But it was actually my husband who investigated it. And then wanted it. Where is the man I married?! The one who is usually holding pretty tight to the wallet. Not here today, friends! Are you ready for the price?

So... we bought that one too. ha! And let's just say that one wasn't going to fit in the X, so we had to scramble for a truck from my father-in-law. Totally worth it. Not only did we come out under budget on both pieces, but that's two less rooms to furnish later when we move in. 

Up next? Lighting and area rugs. You know I'm going to find a deal. ;)

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Baby Cuddle Blankets

There has been a bit of a baby boom among my friends, so I've been busy making cuddle blankets for their arrivals. I absolutely love spending time at my sewing machine and look forward to having a craft room in our new house so I can sew more often. Right now, my sewing and embroidery machines live in the closet and it's such a pain to drag them out. I can only have one machine out at a time and pretty much need to finish a project all in one day instead of starting and stopping because of the time it takes to get everything out and put it all away. I look forward to being able to just close the bonus room door and leave my projects a hot mess from time to time. ;)

First up was a blankie for little miss Aubrey. Her nursery is a cute mix of teal, pink, purple, and gray in fun patterns.

Then was a dog-themed blankie for handsome little Wyatt. Aubrey and Wyatt's mommas are great friends of mine who I met on The Knot while planning our destination wedding years ago. Who knows? Maybe Aubrey and Wyatt will get married someday since their mommas are such great friends and they are due at the same time. ;) 

Finally, Drew surprised us and came a little early so he beat his blankie out of production. It's the thought that counts though, right?

I typically use minky on the back of my blankets and a mix of flannel and cotton on the front. Flannel is softer and "rags up" better, but cotton comes in a better selection of colors and prints. Then I include ribbons on the side the blankie can be attached to strollers with links. They're also great for attaching toys or keeping baby busy with curious little fingers.

If you want to see more of my sewing projects, you can hop over here to my old sewing blog Little Apple Cuties. It was a fun side project of mine before my graphic design work took over. I just don't have time to sew commercially anymore, but still enjoy making things for friends.

I'm often asked which embroidery machine I use, so this is it. I went with a fairly basic machine because I wasn't sure how much I'd use it. It's a standard 5x7 hoop, but I also bought the jumbo 5x12 hoop for my machine.