Retirement Tracker


Yes, I’m 30. Yes, I’m talking about retirement. Call me crazy, but this girl just can’t help that I like to plan! 😉 I went into our frugal philosophies and goals before, but since it’s officially been 1-year since we became retirement saving ninjas – I wanted to give everyone an update on our progress. Our goal has always been to live a simple, meaningful life. Especially now that we have this kiddo (soon kiddos) romping around, I’ve found a stronger and stronger desire to work toward a goal of financial independence. I know for us that will never mean not working cause this girl has got to keep busy (and frankly I LOVE my job!), it will just mean the flexibility to choose the life paths that present themselves to us, vs. feeling locked chain and anchor to the 9-5. Because let’s face it, feeling forced into anything is just not a recipe for a happy life, and yolo y’all!

I’ve referenced Mr. Money Mustache before, who’s principles have always been a guiding beacon for us. One of his big tenants is the 4% rule – essentially, in order to retire off your nest egg, you need a sum that allows you to meet your living expenses by drawing down 4% at a time. He actually breaks it down here into the multiplier you need for that which is Monthly Living Expenses x 12 x 25. So the multiplier here is 25 times your annual living expenses (for others that may be interested in following a similar formula). We will personally aim for a number slightly higher than this, but it’s a good baseline to reference for starting.

Our general game plan for retirement savings and income stability has been two fold. Although we’re trying our best to invest heavily in conventional retirement accounts in this season of life, we’re also super focused on paying off our home and our condo. I personally feel tied to both of us working full-time until our mortgage is paid off in full. Many frugal living advocates advise holding on to your mortgage (you keep tax deductions, many loans these days are low interest) but again, I guess it’s the risk adversity in me that really doesn’t like the idea of having TWO mortgages hanging over our head – it’s just a lot of capital that is no longer needed – not to mention, once paid off, the condo we own becomes part of our income generation as well (since our monthly living costs are so low, this income stream (albeit nominal) will help get us much of the way toward monthly expenditures.

To date, we’re 37% paid off on our mortgages (so 63% more to go until we hit financial independence here). If we continue to have similar income streams over the next few years we’re between 6-7 years from having these paid off. So still a while, but certainly shorter than a conventional 30 year loan. To pay these off as quickly as possible, we’ve increased the principle dollar amount by supplementing it with any rental income we have coming in. When H starts K in 2-years, we will also funnel his monthly daycare payment into this pot, and we will do the same with our daughter when she starts up at elementary.

For our retirement assets, we’re about 14% of the way toward this goal. I stated initially that we’d like to be financially independent within 10 years (so 9 years, now). The market is also bound to fluctuate – a lot – which is not something I stress too much about y’all. We don’t change our investment strategy during ups and downs in the market, we just keep plugging at the max contribution rate we can afford. Much of our retirement income will not be available to us without a penalty before we’re old geezers so if we get to our goal retirement amount by 40, for instance, and then let it sit for 25 more years, even assuming 5% growth (which is my conservative figure year over year), that’s actually much more than we’ll ever need. Because we’re limited in what assets we can pull down from when we’re younger (40-60ish) we’re focused on paying off our house, etc, so that we can have very minimal monthly expenditures sans mortgage and can use our rental income for our monthly needs like groceries, etc.

Y’all – my one word of encouragement on this would be to just *start* saving. Like $5 a week start saving. If you have an employer contribution, max it out guys! That’s wasted $ on the table! And if you think that there is no money to save, I’d *really* encourage you to look at your spending and see where you can eliminate something that you’ve come to take for granted. For me – y’all – it was Target runs. Cliche, I know. But cutting this down and just asking myself – do I need this (?) has been a critical (small) way I can move toward better spending habits. And don’t get be wrong, I still lurve me some target, but I’ve found it’s much more fulfilling to buy our clothing, etc second hand much cheaper, and I don’t have the guilt or the burden of the excess spending.

One more life hack – I swear y’all – one of the biggest drains I think on families nationally is our expectation of owning new (and excessive amounts of) cars. When Jay and I got married we sold both our crappola cars and bought a 2007 Toyota Prius, which we drive sparingly. Not having a monthly car payment, or an expectation of a fancy/new car, has been critical for us. Cars are the biggest depreciating asset around, they’re nice to have from a utility standpoint but unless I’m feeling like Tevye after he hit it big and became a rich man, don’t expect me to be driving around in no Lexus 😉 (BTW – all time fav dance move is the rich man shoulder shake – go watch Fiddler on the Roof if you don’t know what I’m talking about – it’s a hit at parties)

Ultimately – $$$ is all about finding what works for you and your family. If you like eating out every week – go for it! If you prefer a new dolce purse, that’s awesome. But if you find that you regret some of those expenditures at the end of the month, I’d encourage you to take a hard look at your monthly bills and see if there are ways you can funnel funds toward more productive long term goals. For us, we’ve found the equation to happiness is simplicity – and ultimately – what makes both Jay and I happiest these days is spending time with our little humans, so the sooner we can optimize that, the better!

Psst – I also loved this very simple, straight forward analysis by MMM shows how (2) teachers can reach financial independence in 10 years or less. 🙂 Hint, I make about as much as a High School teacher (aka NOT a lot) – so early retirement is definitely something that’s attainable for many!

Composting Our Food Waste

Maybe it’s nesting for baby #2 over here, but I’m like feeling this urge to turn our house into like a self contained oasis where we can get everything we need from our home sweet home – food, love, little bit of this, little bit of that. I feel like there’s some type of symbolic mama bear thing going on – maybe the world seems a bit different of foreign to me, and I think my way of dealing with the chaos around me is trying to create knowns here at home. And y’all – for so, SO, long, I’ve wanted to have a yard that produces food for us. I mean – I’m realistic, I get that I’ll still go to the grocery store and buy tyson chicken more than I should, but I want to start pushing us toward as healthy a lifestyle as possible, and I think knowing precisely where you’re food is coming from (and what it took to get it there) is a good step in that direction.

So some of y’all that follow me on insta and facebook probably saw my initial inspired rant about the steps we’d be taking to get this rodeo happening. This book was a super fun read for me (it’s like 99% pictures, and explanatory text) and it had a few nuggets of info that inspired me to get started on this little self sustaining journey.  Modern_Homesteading_Book_Review

Now it’s a bit of country snobbery IMHO, where they kinda imply that the only way to live sustainably is to like go all out and homestead the heck out of it, and I’m all about finding middle ground guys and empowering people to make small, incremental steps where they’re at. I mean, would it be nice to have a peach tree orchard – sure! But if someone can do something small, and build from that, I’m kinda more on that train.

So our first small step was snagging this compost bin off craigslist for $20.


Y’all I love this thing. Like it’s taking the place of the cat in my hierarchy for love for household people/pets in Sell Casa. I feel like wonder woman saving all our food scraps (what, what) and 1) avoiding the landfill and 2) creating some sweet sweet soil for all my crops I be tilling come spring (obvi).

It’s pretty easy concept – just pop open the top and add in your goods. Nothing with dairy or meat can be added, or weeds that go to seed (then you just have compost that’s going to be full of weeds). In fact, I’m so afraid of the whole weeds taking over the compost bin thing, that I’ve decided to avoid all types, not just those (like dandelions) that go to seed. (If anyone knows more about this than me, would love to hear insights)


It’s also super fun to see H get pumped about bringing the compost out and I hope it helps him, in small ways, as he grows up, think about wasting less and wanting less and making things stretch further, faster – vs. this very wasteful society we’re currently all marinating in.

It’s also an added bonus that this little nook of the garden used to look like this.


And I convinved the hubster to drop six dolla billz at our favorite local hardware shop for this new handy dandy house house thing I’ve been eyeing for a few weeks.


Better, right? Not perfect, but definitely better! H always wants to swim in his pool, so it’s nice to have the hose more accessible and less likely to get all tangled up like it did before.

The rest of that row along the house currently looks like this (#dontjudgebut I’m hoping my food I plan to grow just grows as quickly as all those weeds 😀



Life By the Numbers


Y’all do you ever feel like you’re so clear on something that it’s just your marching orders and your life calling card. The last few months I’ve been feeling like that about our finances. On. A. Mission. Working our butts off to create the future we want. And 6-months or so in to our new regime (we started the beginning of the year), I’m feeling fairly obsessed with our modifications. Have y’all heard of Mr. Money Mustache? He’s a fairly famous lad with the frugal nuts of the world and his personal tale is one where he saved a significant portion of his income and essentially retired after 10 years of working.

So literally, my new {personal} life mission is to create a life where we can be on our own watch as soon as possible. IE not working for the man, unless we feel like it. 🙂 Frankly, I love my job, so I’m not in a huge hurry to trade in my cards in life. But then, I love my bambino, and I think he’s pretty awesome as well – so, it’s all about finding that balance right?

I’ve been feeling inspired by some of the changes we’ve been making here around our house that are (hopefully) setting us up for a really solid financial future, and I wanted to share a few things with y’all that we’ve found really have been game changers for us. So starting January 1, we started making sure we had atleast half of our income, 50% of it, going straight into retirement account. We’ve always tried to be really good about saving our money, but when I sat down late last year and did the math, I realized we were only saving about 15% of our income, and the more I read blogs like Mr. Money Mustache, I started to realize that was whoafully insignificant for what our financial goals are.

I think different seasons of your life, have different needs. Our first 6 or 7 years as a married couple we were all star savers in many respects, but the money was always going toward saving up for a house, or buying a car, etc. Now that we’ve got those things – ie house, car – we feel like those boxes have been checked for us and we’re able to move on to different things.

So there are some upsides to aggressively saving for retirement, namely the ability to use all the contributions made to a 401k, 457 plan and IRA as tax deductions. So for every $1 you put into these accounts, you’re off the hook on that amount of taxes each year. So that’s sweet (basically brings your tax bracket down). The downside (IMO) is that almost all this money is not truly utilizable until you’re 65, or 62 or like – when you’re OLD basically. It will be a long while before we can touch that moola. I’m lucky at my work that I have something called a 457 plan, which enables you to use those funds as soon as you leave your place of employment – ie, if I “retire” from my current job at 40, we could start drawing down from that fund as an income supplement. But even with traditional retirement assets (if your employer doesn’t offer a 457) there are ways to diversify your retirement savings so that you have liquid assets to grab when you want or need. For us, that’s our Roth IRA, which is the retirement account we’ve been contributing to since we were married. At any point you can use your principal from that account for anything – since it’s put in post tax, the principal is your money to use whenever you want it.

So anyway, blah, blah, blah – woo hoo, saving money is great. But how in bloody hell do you get to a point where you can save 50% of your income, you ask. Extremely valid question, and grasshopper, I’ll tell you, I think it took me a solid 7 years to get to this point, but the basic premise is don’t buy stuff you don’t need. Patent pending on that nugget of life advice, but you guys, sometimes the simplest answer is all there is to it. Some tools I’ve found pretty helpful for our household.

  • Create some type of budget or expectation of where you want your money to go, and stick to it by allocating the remainder into your savings account. 

Not particularly revolutionary or sexy, but y’all, if you don’t have an idea of where your money is going, I can guarantee you, it’s not going to the right places.

Anything that doesn’t go toward our monthly expenses and retirement goes into short term emergency fund – which right now is only like a hundred bucks each month, so all and all we keep things pretty tight (purposefully) which keeps us as accountable as possible. So I actually don’t track against what we spend each month in each category – persay – I just know each dollar we spend since in all honesty, we don’t spend all that many. Like our grocery shopping is done once a week – I know if I stay under $100, we’ll be on track for my (general) goal of $400 a month. So I don’t obsess over it, but I am very aware of it.

  • Autodraft money to go straight into your savings accounts (ie retirement, stocks, bonds, wherever).

Treat that money like it was never yours to spend – and you’ll never miss it. In fact, you’ll gleefully watch as it turns into more and more money – much better than spending it! 🙂

  • Identify triggers that you know are going to mess with your budget.

Going back to the grocery shopping example, I try to meal plan and only run to the grocery store once per week. I find it easier to track the expense that way and we don’t get nickle and dimed with this and that and the other thing. $20 here and $30 there adds up quick and will blow your “$400” grocery line pretty quick.

  • Buy EVERYTHING used

In all honesty, I could get better in this category but I’ve found that there is virtually no reason to buy 99% of what we use new. Other than food (obviously) our clothes, furniture, bikes, cars, house – all used with very few exceptions. It encourages you to be more methodical about your spending and also makes me wait for stuff I really don’t need. Things I know we will need (like 4T clothes for my 2T tyke) are always things I buy as far in advance as possible. So plan ahead for necessities and everything else you just got to wait for 🙂

  • Be easy on yourself

Set manageable goals and don’t beat yourself up when you screw something up. Y’all, I remember the first year of our marriage – ya know zero money saved up, student loans coming from every angle and just the stress of a brand new marriage – I lost it over forgetting to use a coupon at the check out lane. I like thought the world was going to end. But you know, it didn’t, and I was out like a dollar. Maybe even fifty cents 😉 I wanted so much to be able to stick with my plan that I lost it over that slight deviation. But you guys – the thing is about this frugal path Jay and I chose is that it’s about the long view man. I didn’t know that when I was 22, but that’s the truth. You can’t fret about small blimps along the way, you just get true to that path and you’re fine. Things happen with finances – you have good days and bad days, more abundant years and really tight ones. It’s all about laying the groundwork with the right mentality and a solid foundation.

Whew – so that was sorta long, but I hope a smidge helpful to at least one person out there! I’m curious to hear what others do to keep their financial goals on track. Do you guys have any nuggets of information that y’all have found really helpful for your household in making the numbers work each month, or different strategies you’ve used to save more? Would love to hear!

There are some really great blogs if you want to start to fine tune your finances – my two current faves are Frugal Woods and Mr. Money Mustache.


Money Honey

It’s no secret that home ownership has a pesky habit of taking all your moolah and making you wonder where you put it. This house, well, let’s just say it’s been all that and more, on steroids.

It started with the basement, see ya later $3,500!

Fixing Basement Wall with Ramjack

Then we moved on to a furnace. In July. In North Carolina. Just where you want to be spending your dollar bills in the middle of summer. Farewell, $5k – nice knowing ya!

Converting from Oil to Gas

And now we’ve got our kitchen, which after appliances, new cabinets and counters, will be setting us back north of TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS. I may or may not be weeping as I type this.

Cortina Counter Top

The good news is, we’ve gotten a lot of big ticket, necessary items out of the way on the front end of this house, which gives us 1) more time to enjoy said improvements and 2) less concern that a big old expense is looming around the corner.

Ok, scratch #2. There are always expenses looming. 😉

The bad news is that in the last 3-months, it’s been feeling like we’re hemorrhaging green backs faster than we can replace them. And I’m not talking the George Washington variety, I’m talking the Benny Franklin crowd.

The last two months, we’ve had credit card bills over $10,000. Y’all, I made less than that two months of spending my entire YEAR of working the first year out of college. That’s a lot of money, it’s too much money and it was starting to freak me out. Like whoa.

Now most of this spending was planned. We sold our Ann Arbor house at a profit and we were able to use that money for a solid down payment on this house, along with a bit of extra cash to help with these known expenses we’d have walking into this fixer upper of ours, but still. It wasn’t something I felt comfortable with and I told Jay that starting in August a new sheriff was in town. 🙂

Downpayment on House

When we did sell our house, we took about 85% of the profits to pay a downpayment on our new home, and squirreled the rest away to pay for pending projects. Overall, I’m super glad we kept some cash on hand to help with some of the more unexpected extra costs that hit us (ahem, washer 2.0), etc.

Jay and I have always been really big savers, so luckily we’ve been able to pay for all these expenses from our savings, but truth be told, watching our savings account whittle down these last few months has been a bit frustrating. I know that they’re all temporary expenses and I know they’ll all improve the value of our property, but still – spending that much money is just hard for me to stomach, yo!

In general, our monthly breakdown of where the dollars go, looks like this.

Budget Breakdown

That little pie above has been our general budget since we’ve both been employed, and it works out great for us. We treat our savings account as a house slush fund, too, so it’s general $$ that we throw into our savings account each month to use for unanticipated + planned house/life/other expenses. We always keep a set minimum in there though, as an emergency fund.

Even when we have really bad months, where I’m slamming my head against the wall, I’m so thankful for a few things Jay and I put in place early in our marriage that have really be crucial to being pretty financially independent at 27 years old.

Steps to Financial Freedom

1) Live Off 1-Income: Ever since we’ve been married, we’ve always treated my income as our “non-essentials”. Jay’s income pays for necessities, mine pays for all savings. We started using this strategy early on in our marriage to pay off $30,000 in student loans, and just kept bank rolling it forward to pay for house down payments, car loans, etc.

2) Save Early, Save Often: Our first influx of money as a couple was from wedding gifts. Instead of going out and buying big ticket items – we put the money in the bank. We’ve followed suite since.

3) Pay off debt! I felt overwhelmed by the amount of debt Jay had coming out of college (nearly $30,000) – but by prioritizing our expenses and consistently placing needs over wants, we did it. In less than 2-years. Did I mention I made less than $20k my first job out of school?! We were not in fancy well off jobs – very normal – very moderate pay! Any tiny bit you can do, helps! We started payments at $50 a month (before legit jobs) and then started using my income to pay it off quicker once employed.

4) Simple Living: If I could give any new couple, or seasoned couple, one bit of financial advice it would be to live as simply as possible with a lifestyle where only one income is needed. In our 5 short years of marriage, it’s made such a difference for us. If you can’t pay for it in cash – don’t buy it! (mortgages withstanding…) 😉

5) Identify End Goal: Now – not everyone wants/needs to be Bill Gates, right? Jay and I know we’ll always be looking to live a modest lifestyle, so although saving is the name of our game, we’re not looking to buy a yacht, ya know? If that’s your goal – that’s awesome! But keeping your financial goals in perspective can help to keep you motivated and going strong.

Creative Ways to Add To Income


One last thing I’ve found to be helpful with financial security – ya got to learn to hustle, y’all! Get creative! Figure out something special you can offer to generate extra income. Sell stuff on craigslist, babysit or do lawn work for neighbors, open an etsy shop.

Along that vein, last month was a really big month for me with my design business. As of the end of August, I’m going to be bringing in almost as much as I was making when I was working full-time. Whoa. Crazy, right?! It’s exciting, and it’s also been a bit overwhelming to learn how to balance the demand that I’m getting for my interior design service. I’m totally humbled, and definitely up to the challenge, but it’s been a pretty crazy ride this month – that’s for sure! Although it’s never easy to start a business, it is very rewarding to see what some hard work and dedication can do over 6+ months.

This is our first full month of being back on track, and I’m happy to report that our financial situation is finally back where it needs to be to keep us in the black. No more kitchen renos or furnace replacements for a while, that’s fo shizzle.

How do you guys keep your finances on track? Any tips and tricks to get into good financial shape?

It’s Mine, All Mine!

Yep, it’s a done deal folks. That sweet little cape cod is now our home sweet home. SO EXCITED!

All the fun started last Thursday, when we went to the house for our final walk through. Thursday night as I was falling off to sleep I leaned over to Jay with an epiphany of a thought that popped into my head. If buying a house was to getting married (I feel like I’m taking a standardized test here..), the final walk through on the house is like your rehearsal dinner, except without lots of food and wine. Now that I think about it, walk throughs could be greatly enhanced if said food and wine accompanied it, the real estate world should work on that…

Closing, that’s like your wedding day – exciting, expensive, emotional, binding … 😉 And the rest … it’s like your marriage – sometimes a whole lotta work, but so worth it when you see how amazing it can be with lots of nurture and dedication. Symbolism like whoaaaa – what what. Needless to say, my perfectly contrived analogy was blowing my mind at 1am in the morning… 😀

Or maybe what was blowing my mind was this image, still fresh in my noggin.

Durham North Carolina Real Estate

Yep – that sign means it’s officially ours! Well, almost.

For the walk through, I met Mr. Jay up at the house. He insisted on riding his bike so that he could scope out his new commute home. 😉 This picture just makes my heart so happy. Nothing makes this guy smile like a bike, I’m telling ya.

Bike Commute from Durham to RTP

Luckily, we didn’t find any hairy beasts left behind during the walk through, like this guy. Pretty sure he qualifies as a hairy beast, and he’s been chilling like a villian in the upstairs closet since our first visit to our future abode. Not sure if Santa got kidnapped, or what the deal is with him sporting that bag over his head and all.

Life Size Santa

They did leave a decent amount of junk behind, but really, meh. A few hangers here and there … from what we’ve unearthed so far it looks like they also left behind some interesting stuff. Like a big old collection of old magazines and a mad amount of really, really old books! When we went to investigate more Friday evening after closing, we found literally boxes full of books, some dating back to the 1920’s (antique roadshow is calling).

Value of Vintage Books

Unfortunately some of them are pretty damaged, since they’ve been up in a humid, southern attic for who knows how long, but a lot of them are in good enough condition that I think they’d look pretty nice styling a bookcase in the future. For now I’ve sorted them into a definite keep pile and I check on ebay first to make sure those goodies aren’t worth a house payment first, pile. 😀

Some of my favorites are some razzle mcdazzle old school children’s books – which (in a very PC fashion) refer to learning all about your friends in different countries – like Kimbi, the “native” of the jungle. Yeeeep.

Vintage Children Books

Some of the books are actually super pretty! Overall, I’d say I set aside 60 or so that I plan on using in some fashion in the future! I also told Jay that I’m pretty sure we need to install a built-in bookcase now. Ya know, so I can have a spot to put all my pretty books that no one will ever read. #practical

Books from First World War

Here’s a stack of keepers I set aside. Love them!

Determining Value of Old Books

So, I got super exited about the books we found in this post, and forgot to tell you about all sorts of other exciting things that happened on move-in day. Turn the key in the lock right after closing – and Jay immediately notices something chilling in a corner of the living room. He walks up to it, and says “Is that a bird”. Cue Mary – mmmm eerrrrr, I don’t know (backing away toward door). As he’s assessing the bird situation in the living room, I crane my head to the right and see ANOTHER BIRD in the downstairs bedroom. Whaaattt? So I snapped a very quick photo of the first bird, just to prove it happened and then dropped everything like it was hot and ran for the hills. Jay, assuming they were dead (all sorts of questions in my head at this point – why are there dead birds in my house? how did they get in here? is this house possessed?) and low and behold, I hear a bellowing yell from the inside of the house informing me that the birds are alive. It’s allllivvvveee!!

Now that I’m outside, I’m mildly entertained by this concept, so I get close enough to the windows to peer in and see Jay running around like a lunatic, opening the windows and trying to gently coax the birds to flee out the windows. Snicker … See that little black thing in the corner, it’s a wee little birdie that got into our abode pre-move in.

Birds Getting Into House

Another very exciting detail was the actual closing process. Our realtor is so sweet and amazing, that she brought champagne for us to toast the sale of the house! This is our third house, but definitely the first time that anyone popped bubbly for us!

Champagne Toast

Seriously, if anyone lives in the triangle area (or is looking to move to the area, like us!), than I can’t recommend Eve enough. Here we are with the entire dream team that helped this purchase happen. We only had just over 3-weeks between the offer and closing, so they were all rocks stars to get things moving as quickly as they did. Really a great group of people! (Here is her contact info, if you’re looking for a realtor!)


Overall, I’m having a hard time even enunciating how extremely excited I am. We had tons of fun making some major changes the first weekend, and I’m so excited to share them with you later this week!

This picture pretty much sums up my sentiment about our new little abode! Now, time to start working and getting this place into tip top shape!

Moving to New Home

Exciting Changes!

Whew!! What a month April was. Jay and I moved down to NC, set up shop, bought a house, closed on our last one – and we haven’t killed each other in the process – it’s a miracle. In all honesty, Jay and I have been adjusting so well to our life down here. At least once a day I look at him and just kind of proclaim on the top of my lungs “Can you freaking believe it?!?!! We did it, man! We chased that dream and we made it happen! Can you believe we actually live here now?! He usually smiles back and just says – best. decision. ever.

Moving Cross Country In Uhaul

Now that we’re adjusting to our new routines I wanted to formally announce that I’ll have a new routine up here on the blog, as well. Now that I have so much extra time on my hands (since I’m working part-time) I’ll be posting to this sweet little blog o’ mine daily! Between all the design clients I’m assisting, adjusting to life in our new home and the hurricane of renovations that are about to hit this joint after we close on the house next week (eee!! get EXCITED!) – I know I’ll have more than enough to post about for all of y’all!

Another fun detail – I’m sure you regulars have noticed – but for the foreseeable future, every Tuesday there will be a giveaway up for all you lovely ladies and gents. SCORE! Who doesn’t like winning free stuff?!

It’s been a busy month over here – so how about a recap round-up?

Cross-Country Movin’

Moving From House to Apartment

We started out by, ya know, moving! 😀 This is life as we know it these days. Ugggg. I can’t wait until it’s not a battle to find my underwear for each day. Seriously.

Howdy Neighbor

Vintage Chesterfield Sofa

Let’s all swoon over Jessica’s house one more time. Le sigh. It’s a beauty!

Oops I Did It Again

Closing on House in North Carolina

Oh, yeah. There was that one time I almost bought a house and then lost $500. Oye – let’s officially archive that memory, shall we?

Number Cruncher

Where to Splurge and Where to Save

On a better note, we closed on our house in Michigan! Fixing up a house has lots of costs, but lucky for us, this round of home ownership also had a decent amount of rewards, too. Check out the post to see how we came out after all of our renovation costs.

Exploring Durham

Durham Real Estate

We’ve had tons of fun getting to know our new home! We explored lots of neighborhoods (Here, here and here!)

On the Hunt

White Kitchen Shaker Cabinets

Speaking of which, I also did a virtual house crash of one of my favorite renovated homes here in Durham!


Antique Fern Print

We had a giveaway each Tuesday this month – which will continue into the foreseeable future. (so come back every Tuesday if you want to win some loot!) PSST!! The Gnosis Art Giveaway is up through this Tuesday!

Home Sweet Home

Brick Front Porch

And of course … we rounded out the month by introducing you to our new home! Can’t wait to get started on the renovations! 😀






Home Sweet Home

I swear, sometimes in life, things are just fate. The last few months – I’ve felt the universe pulling us in a different direction. Obviously with our whole pack the bags and head on down to NC routine, but with so many other things to. It feels like we’re exactly where we’re supposed to be right now and that just makes my soul so happy.

Case and point – 6 months, maybe a year ago, before we had any type of finite plans to move our booties down to the land of the pines, I was on my regular Trulia hunt looking for another home, in another city (dreamer and a schemer) and I pointed this exact street out to my husband and went through the whole “If I don’t live on this particular street tomorrow I’ll just die from disappointment” (always good for a little melodrama, I am 😀 ) And guess what, the universe must have been calling, because we’re officially closing on a house on my virtual “dream street” in a week and a half. A WEEK AND A HALF.

Here is our little cutie up close.

Trinity Park Durham

During our trips down to NC to go house hunting, we’d actually passed this house a couple of times and we opted not to make an offer because 1) I thought it’d be way out of our price range (and it was, we had to negotiate quite a bit to get it where we needed it) and 2) It looked totally done-zo from the outside, and Jay Bird and I really like a project. Ok – I like a project and my husband likes me, so by default, he likes a project 😀 Sweet Lord, I know that man wonders what he got himself into every once and a blue moon day. Snicker.

My absolute hands down favorite feature of this little looker is the side porch! It’s the little things in life.

Side Porch on Home

I seriously can’t wait to sit out there on a warm summer evening sipping a cocktail with Mr. Jay while the orange tabby begs to come out from the side window. Ahh, I can see it right now.

The house has a ginormous back yard, with a ginormous tree to go along with it. Look how small Jay looks up next to it!

Large Oak Tree

Another added bonus “bones” wise on this house is that it’s already got a really nice dormer on the back, making the living space on the inside that much nicer. Since this will be our 3rd cape cod (seeing a theme here?), we can really appreciate the value add on things like this. Our first house had a dormer, while the second one did not – after pricing it out for the second one, we know we’re saving a solid $40k by avoiding any future construction projects down the line on that front!

Cape Cod with Back Dormer

Now although the outside is practically magazine worthy done, the inside, ummmm yeah. Pretty much every single room has some highly stylish window shades with some ultra classy matching wallpaper. Probably all the rage when it was done but I fear these curtains are counting their final days as we wait to close.

Curtains Matching Wallpaper

Another wallpapered room greets you when you first walk into the door. Ironically, I’m seriously considering some grasscloth wallpaper on these walls later down the road. Along with some wainscoting on the bottom – yummalicious! 😀 The wallpaper in this house is most likely hiding tons of settlement cracks, too, since the home was built in the 30’s and actually has some work that needs to be done on the basement after move-in. (joy) I’ll go into all those fun details when I post about our inspection, next week.

How to Remove Old Wallpaper

A very exciting detail in this space (for me!), is a tiny little hole in the wall (pretty much literally) room, that I will most likely be converting into a little office! It’s pretty darn spankin’ rinky dink, but I think it will work great for a new work space. Plus – it’s got a window!

Small Home Office

The upstairs has 2-full bedrooms in addition to this wee little room, and a bathroom to boot! Lots of room for improvement, but also it’s got a pretty good layout that I think we can expand upon and work with nicely.

This bedroom upstairs is smallish, but a solid 2 feet longer than the smallest room in the last house – so that’s a bonus!

Persian Rug in Bedroom

The master upstairs is actually pretty roomy, not as roomy as our attic conversion, but ya know – can’t win em all 😀

Upstairs Bedroom in Cape Cod

I only got a quick side angle shot of the kitchen as well, so y’all will just have to wait on baited breath to see what we’ll be doing with that space. BIG plans people – it’s going d-o-w-n.

Dated Kitchen Cabinets

I wasn’t able to get lots of up close photos since we were whirring in and out of the house super quick (the owners seem to pop up every 10-seconds … awkward …), but I will definitely give y’all a legit round of before photos of the interior before we start whacking down any walls. Oh, you betcha, there are some walls coming down 😀

Like (most likely) the wall between the kitchen and the dining room, here.

Taking Out Wall

Overall, I think we’re pretty darn excited to call this place home. Jay gives it his approval. Seeing our little Prius parked in the driveway in this shot also makes everything feel a bit more real, too!

Moving into New House

This front door, it just puts a big old smile on this face of mine. Home Sweet Home!

Brick Front Porch

The Next Chapter

As you’re reading this Jay, the orange tabby and I are headed on down south to our new beginning. Our next chapter – it’s actually happening and holy man is it surreal. Our real estate agent just came by the house and slapped up the “Sold” sign and I’ve gotta say, for some reason that was the jolt to my system that made me connect the pieces and remember that we’re actually doing this. That we’ve actually committed to a whole different concept of reality. In so many ways, I’m so excited. Like hold me back, cause I’m just going to freaking bust from the seams. But still, when you stop and think about it for a second this whole shebang we are taking on is big. It’s a big deal and sometimes at those fork in the road moments you’ve just got to hold your breath and jump.

Jump is what we did, and I’m still kinda coasting and at an undetermined location. I’ll swing back to the blog next week to update you guys on our move and to show you our new digs, but to formally close this chapter of our lives, I wanted to do a legit before and after of our sweet little Ann Arbor brick bungalow. Ready to go on a little journey?

Sold Sign

Here we are – a year and a half ago. A year and a half. See, in all honesty, writing THAT is one of the more humbling things for me. I can’t believe how short our stay was at this house – I really can’t. If you would have asked that girl, standing next to that sign right there in the picture above how long she would have been in this house, she would have confidently said oh, probably 10 years. I thought I’d bring my babies home to this house. Each day on my walk into work, I’d envision how someday I’d walk with my little’s to drop them off at daycare and later school. I thought this home, this community, was a place for our family to grow, to set roots and although we didn’t set root here, I know we’ve grown. For better and for worse, Jay and I have learned (every day, every hour) so much more about each other, our love for each other, and the shared dreams we have for tomorrow. But tomorrow called sooner than we thought it would and now we’re off to the next thing. Off to the next thing …

Even though it’s been short – it’s been a journey I wouldn’t rewrite. It was our journey, it is our journey.

And it all started right here. Walking through these doors into our new home. This is what the entry looked like on day #1.

Entry Before and After And before we left.

Flowers in Foyer

Ok, you’re right, that’s more a close up photo of the lovely flowers I snagged before leaving town 🙂 But you can definitely see the transformation in this photo. Darker floors, french door in the background. Mucho different. Here’s a shot from the front, too.

Spindle Leg Foyer Table

For a point of comparison, here is the living room before.

Living Room Before and After

And a few iterations later…

Green Couch in Living Room

In complete honesty, this room never felt “done” to me. I mean, to be fair, we were only in the house a year and a half, but still. It was never quite there. I do have to say, I’m pretty smitten with our green machine couch we snagged on craigslist a few months back. This guy definitely made the cut for keepers in the furniture department.

Crushed Velvet Green Sofa

Let’s sneak a peak at the guest room, shall we? Mmmmmyeaahh. Froofy.

Guest Bedroom Before We changed a few things around, and had this!

Cozy Guest Bedoom

Nice and cozy 🙂 Our bathroom first floor bathroom changed a lot too. We had this when we moved in.

Bathroom Before and After And after we switched a few things out, we had this.

Bathroom After

I loved all the little details in this space. I think I’m pretty sold on these cross handle cuties for all future homes. Love it.

Kingston Brass Cross Handle

The other bedroom downstairs had many iterations. It started out as this.

Master Bedroom Before and After Cruella called, she wants her dalmatians back …  And then it became our bedroom, and finally, landed up as this!

Small Home Office

Now, considering this room got slapped together a mere 24 hours before the house got listed, it definitely had details (art, extra seating) that just didn’t happen. Overall though, I’d work in this office! I like that it has a view of the front of the house, great for people watching 🙂 Not to be creepy or anything … did that sound creepy?

Of all the rooms in our house, the dining room and the kitchen definitely saw the most wang bang crazy zang transformations. This is what our dining room looked like when we bought the house. A nice, cozy, functional space. But do you notice that wall, kinda hacking off the kitchen and dining room? We took quick care of that! 😀

Dining Room Before and After Right before we packed up our truck, our dining room was rocking this look.

Sisal Rug in Dining Room

I’ve got to say that everything felt SO MUCH more open after we busted a move and eliminated that wall. Probably one of the best design decisions we’ve made to date.

Speaking of our wall into the kitchen – let’s take a look at that bad boy before.

Kitchen Before and After And after some blood, sweat and tears, this!

Kitchen After

So in love with my Persian beaut!

Persian Rug in Kitchen

Although the kitchen and dining room are very different than when we moved into the house, our all time all-star in this category has definitely got to go to our attic. Mamma mia, it was a hot mess when we moved in.

Attic Conversion Even though the previous owner had added drywall at some point, it really, really was not legit stuff. Seams everywhere, poke a hole in it with your elbow stuff. Not good. Plus, I mean – just look at that pink carpet. Gone, get rid of it I tell you!

I’m so SO in love with how this room turned out. Almost makes me not want to be moving my tuckus down the river.

Converting Attic into Bedroom

The carpet is to die for – so soft underfoot and way classier (IMO) than the pink panther we had before.

Winterthur Potters Clay

Since this room is basically all knee wall/slanted ceilings, we tried to make the most of it by adding tons of storage everywhere we could. Finally his and hers closets!! #Movingonup

Board and Batten Trim on Closet

Last but not least, in our before and after photo shoot, we’ve got the basement.

Finished Basement After some paint and our hubba hubba built-in, we had this.

Tufted Ottoman Coffee Table

Bon voyage, Ann Arbor – it’s been real.


New Year, New Projects! | January Recap

You know it’s been a busy month/beginning of the year, when I don’t get around to the monthly recap until mid-February. Fail.

It’s pretty exciting to think that for the next monthly recap, I’ll be able to include a FINISHED attic. Omeergggauuud. That makes me feel like chest bumping the next stranger that walks down our street. Pumped, I am. (Yoda talk)

March Blog Sponsors

I’m also SO excited to announce that the month of February/March will be chock full of some pretty sweet giveaways thanks to some amazing new sponsors for the blog! Think personalized address stamps from Blush Paperie, Artwork from Eva Juliet, Jewelry from Junghwa Jewelry, and some sweet etsy finds from Hearts Beat Electric. I know, right?! Get excited blogosphere, it’s going to be epic.

But before we get all pumped about the future, let’s dwell in the past and see some of the projects the Sell household got done in the fine month of January.

Raise the Roof

How to property insulate attic

In the month of January, we finally bid farewall to our insulation fun fest and installed our final round of foam. Can’t say it didn’t feel good to finally have a completely insulated and air tight upstairs.

Plus, we got our DTE bill this week and it looks like all that insulating is paying off, too. For the month of January, our bill was only $158. Last year, even with our brand new high efficiency furnace, we were at $190! Anddd it’s been considerably colder this year (polar vortex, anyone?).

House Hunting with Mary

Durham Real Estate

I’ve got a  new Thursday tradition round these parts with the start of my house hunting with Mary posts. Cause really, couldn’t we all use some real estate eye candy every once and a blue moon. For serial house hunters like me, the only way to get my fix is to pretend I’ve got a million dollars lining my pockets and go out and find that next beauty. Ahhh, to have a dream.

USA for Jesus’s Day

We set a pretty lofty goal this year and tried to have a completely China Free christmas. For those that actually check tags before you buy something, I think you can agree that this is a harder task than initially imagined. In the end, we actually did pretty good and tried to buy as many locally sourced, USA made products as possible. I definitely think this is a tradition we’ll be looking to keep!

Gifts Made in the USA

Mission Organization

Chalk it up to the new year, but we’ve been I’ve been on an organizing kick the past few weeks. Closets, drawers, my underwear. Nothing is safe. 🙂

Plus, who doesn’t like having an excuse to search for cute organization bins? Count me in!

Inexpensive Basket Locations


Drinking in some Drywall

Ah, yes. I’d almost wiped the drywall saga from my memory. Two contractors and way more money than I wanted to spend later, we finally had a finished attic. Finished, in your dreams Mary!! We had an attic that had drywall kinda sorta up, that needed a decent amount of elbow grease before it’s day in the sun. Even though the drywall install did not go as planned, it was a pretty exciting moment to finally, FINALLY, have walls up in our attic!

Drywalling Attic

Picking La Paint

After we slaved for a weekend or so and fixed up all the jankiness that we fondly refer to as our drywall, we decided it was high time to paint this joint and make it actually look like a room instead of the bunker it had been for the past 3-months. I don’t know about all of y’all, but I do have to confess that painting has to be my favorite part of the room transformation. On this room in particular, the addition of paint really took it from ugg to on it’s way.

Best Greige Colors

Board and Batten

For $20, this project was without a doubt my favorite home renovation DIY to date. I just can’t get enough of this stuff, it just makes such a difference on the wall that was kinda meh before.

Here’s how everything look post install. Yummerlicous.

Twenty Dollar Board and Batten

Plumb De Dumb

What better way to close out the month of January than with the install of our lovely marble floors in the bathroom. Just like your favorite go-to little black dress, err leggings in my case 😀 I’ve gotta say that this new pattern is going to be in my back pocket for future homes. A bit trickier than a traditional subway tile pattern, but only incrementally. And by George, I’d say the look is leaps and bounds sexier. Am I right, or am I right. 😀

Marble Subway Tile Herringbone Pattern

Sometimes You Just Gotta Do It Yourself

Drywall, it’s starting to feel like our insulation. The project that never ends … or at least goes WAY longer than my little heart would desire 😀 We had a pretty gosh darn exciting weekend around here and I’m so very happy to report that there is now paint on the walls – PAINT. Since we’ve been working on this project since, ya know, August, it feels purty darn good to finally be moving on to the fun stuff.

But before we got to my favorite step (painting), we had some more grunt work to do. Even though we hired not one, but two drywall installers to come by our little home to work on the attic, we actually had a fair amount of work to do after they left. Oye. When we waived adios to our drywalling dudes, our upstairs looked like this. Looks done, right?

Drywalling Attic

Nope! We still had a solid 2-days of grunt work ahead of us. Namely, our drywall needed a final coat of sanding before we could put on our painting pants and start adding the finishing touches. Look how thrilled Jay looks about it 😀

How To Sand Drywall

The night before we got to the sanding, we had to get rid of fuzz left on the wall from the contractors initial pass over with sand paper. Like this.

Getting Rid of Drywall Fuzz

It basically looks like dust left over from sanding (I wish), but in reality, it’s spots on the drywall where the sandman got a little over zealous. A little too much mojo gave us spots on our wall looking like a Georgia Peach, which once we paint, would be difficult to get ride of.

So, before we could even get to our final coat of sanding, we had to come through and skim coat a few of the problem areas to make sure that they’d be looking their Sunday best once we pop our paint and primer over it. The night after we paid our drywall installer the big bucks, we were upstairs doing this. Not how I was initially envisioning spending my evening, but ya can’t win them all. 🙂

Skimming Drywall

In complete honesty, it really wasn’t that bad. It saved us another day or two of $22.50 an hour in labor, so to us, we kinda just decided to suck it up and feel good that we were saving our last bit of moola. We divided and conquered on this task. I was the little detective that went sleuthing around the room looking for problem spots, and my trusty man came back through and skimmed out the areas in need of extra attention.

We let the mud dry for a day, and then came back through for the fun part. Sanding. 😀 Here were the tools of the trade that we used.

Tools for Sanding Drywall

There were two immediate issues for me with the sanding. 1) I have a sensory problem with anything on my hands. Anytime I feel something dry, or dusty on my hands I want to lick them. I’m seriously not kidding. It’s kinda gross, I know 😉 2) I have a sensory problem with the sound of drywall getting sanded, it sounds a little too chalk boardy to me. So needless to say, I was a bit twitchy up there helping Jay. 😀

One of the biggest issues was coming through and sanding over all the high spots where everything was not quite smooth yet. This was especially tricky since it required a whole lotta laser eyes looking for any trouble spots. Everything kinda starts to blur together when you’re looking at a white wall for hours on end. While Jay was coming through with the larger hand sander, I was on the look-out for smaller trouble spots with my hand sponge.

How to Sand Drywall

Spots like this, for instance. These spots were my call to action 😀

Sanding High Spots on Drywall

After getting some brief instructions from our final drywall dude, I was off to the races. Whenever I saw a spot like this, I’d just grab my hand sponge and lightly sand in a circle to get rid of the textured bump between the wall and the mud. Kinda wax-on wax-off style from Karate Kid (and why yes, I DID have very, very sore arms everything the next day).

How to Sand High Spots

Here is how that same spot looks after. Bam. Looks better! The real test is to run your hand over after you sand. If everything feels like the same (smooth) texture, then you are good to go. If not, you probably need to sand it down a bit more.

Sanding Drywall

As soon as we were done with our sanding gig, we wiped down the walls with a broom and got to priming. As an fyi to anyone else trying this project at home, I tried using a damp rag first, but this wiped off too much of the mud, so we decided the broom was the better bet.

Priming the walls was the point in the project I starting doing karate chops and jumping jacks and asking/telling Jay every 10 seconds how GREAT everything looked. High as a kite, cause we all know what comes after primer. Paint, Paint baby.

Here is how our attic was looking by the end of our dirty, dusty weekend. Wootie, wootie, tootie frutie.

It kinda, sorta, looks like a ROOM!

How to prime drywall