Charmingly Modern

Drees Homes House Progress: Early April

Don’t miss any of the updates!
House Progress: January
House Progress: Early February
House Progress: Late February
House Progress: Early March
House Progress: Late March

By the time you read this entry, we are the proud owners of a brand new home! This is the day we close on our house, and it’s also the day I show you how things turned out during the first part of April. I’m saving the big reveal until next week, so you’ll have to be patient. I want a chance to get some photos of the inside of the house without red dot stickers everywhere (we had to put stickers on damaged things to create a punch list for the builder before close).

End of March, these things were still on the list -

  • Doorknobs
  • Carpeting upstairs
  • Register vents
  • Lights on the porch to be installed
  • Exterior trim and door painting
  • Painting touch ups on the inside

And the house was looking like this -

(By the way, WordPress updated its software and now I can’t get images to center anymore so… I realize this doesn’t look very organized but until I can figure out what’s going on, it is what it is!)

So what changed in April?

First Week of April

Exterior

Our front door got painted! It’s a matte black. I’m not sure that I like the fact that it’s matte, but for now it works.

Also, all of the exterior trim was painted but it looks very similar to the picture from March. The main difference is you can tell the wood that frames out the columns is now painted because the panels no longer look grey.

The porch lights were installed, too! They look a lot better than I thought they would. I like how they are kind of unassuming.

I also made it around to the back to get a photo -

See what I was saying back in the March update about our yard being a mud/dirt wasteland? Sooner or later we’ll get grass.

I ventured back there to see if the bay window framing was painted and, as you can see (although this is your first time seeing it…) it was. I’ve already mentioned this, but I do wish we would have gotten a brick wrap. We do have some plans of doing a finish for the concrete foundation – either a brick covering or stucco, or something. So that might help with the stark siding look.

Let’s venture inside.

Interior

The garage’s drywall got finished off – that is not paint, it’s just drywall mud. But it goes a long way to make it feel like a finished space.

We got doorknobs! I don’t know why the wall looks yellow in this photo, but our walls are most assuredly not yellow.

We also got towel bars and toilet paper roll holders but that isn’t very interesting to look at, so no pics of those. They’re all in a chrome finish, though.

We got carpet! We upgraded the padding under the carpet in the hopes that it would last a little longer. We’ve never had a low pile carpet like this before. I’m not a complete fan of carpet, but it wasn’t in the budget to put hardwood throughout the entire house (that would have been amazing, though!). We’ll get to it eventually!

And that is pretty much all that I can share without giving too much away, before the big reveal. Everything on the list was completed the first week of April and, in fact, the house was considered “done” by April 9th. That same day we had our independent inspection done and there were only a few areas of concern that came back.

The next Wednesday, April 16th, was our Homeowner Orientation with a Drees Warranty Representative. The rep walked us through the house and went over certain features (like our thermostat, which is digital and very intimidating to me!!) of the house as well as helped us put together a punch list. On our list weren’t too many outrageous issues – the few things from the inspection were on there, plus things like more paint touchups, touching up the stain on various areas of the floor and vacuuming out the register vents a little more.

And now, a week later, here we are! Closing on our house! Watch out next week for a house tour, as well as a breakdown of what came standard with the house and what we chose to upgrade. Hope you enjoyed the building journey!

 

Posted in Building with Drees, Home No comments

Money Monday: March and April Grocery Total

I don’t know how a whole two months went by without me updating about our grocery spending, but they did. Whew!

I left off in February, and at that point we had added $429.14 to our annual grocery spending. My monthly spending goal for groceries is $400 so February had us over budget by $29.14, but that isn’t too terrible.

Here’s how March and April broke down (which, technically, April isn’t over yet but I don’t anticipate grocery shopping again until next week on May 1st. If that changes, though, I’ll update this post!)

 

March – $437.77
April – $369.38

In March, we went over budget by $37.77 but if you look at the week ending in March 15th, you’ll see I spent $252.51. Remember that time I bought a ton of meat? That’s what’s going on there. I did my regular grocery shopping, plus had a separate trip for the ingredients for the freezer meals.

But you can see in April how that paid off! My weekly spending really went down and we are ending the month under budget by $30.62. Woo hoo!

I have about 10 meals left from the Wildtree stuff. You can tell we started tapering off using them the week of the 19th. I did grocery shopping today (which is the last entry you see) and I have a couple Wildtree meals on the menu so that bill includes two dinners. I think I need to do another freezer meal prep day soon so I can keep seeing the savings.

I also really, really want to increase our savings. That was my goal going into March – to increase our percentage saved/bill.

In hindsight, that was kind of silly because the % depends on how much you spend and my expenditure varies from trip to trip so the % is not based on a static number. Plus, some weeks I need less and other weeks I need more. Plus plus, sometimes Kroger has great sales…sometimes you hit a week that is a total dud.

Regardless, I’m disappointed that I haven’t done better with savings. Every week I feel like I’m going to do so well but then I get to the checkout and I’m like “that’s it?!?!!” Although I do have to say I was really happy with how things turned out today. Kroger has their Buy 4 Save $4 deal going on and I did that three times and combined coupons with the items I was combining.

This pains me to say, but I may have to try out other grocery stores to see if I can find better deals. I know at Target you can combine Target coupons, manufacturer coupons, Cartwheel savings and Target Redcard 5% discount. That’s something I could try and see what happens, especially since both Targets in my area are now “super” Targets with a pretty decent grocery section (although they lack decent produce).

So, I guess my goal for May will be to see greater savings, some how, some way. Wish me luck!

Posted in Money Monday No comments

Review: Shout Color Catchers

Disclosure – I was not perked by Shout and am not being paid for this review. Shout has never contacted me and has no idea who I am. This review is entirely my own opinion.

A few weeks ago, my sister-in-law was at the apartment and she brought a box of Shout Color Catchers with her. This was the second or third time she told me about them and I guess she was tired of me not listening so she gave me a box of my own to try.

I was really suspicious. I honestly thought these were a gimmick. I mean, the clothes I wash have been washed hundreds of times (probably) and there was no possible way any colors were running.

So, I did an experiment.

I washed a load of dark clothes – mostly black t-shirts, dark colored pants and socks – and tossed in a yellow tank top and a towel that had a white border. And, of course, I also tossed in a color catcher. I washed the load on the normal setting, which defaults to warm/cold.

Imagine my surprise when the load was finished and the color catcher came out looking like this -

That’s my used one next to an unused color catcher. It was almost totally saturated with color!

But I still wasn’t totally convinced. I thought maybe they just changed colors with agitation, or as a reaction to soap. So, I ran an empty load, on the same settings, with a color catcher to see what would happen.

And what happened?

Nothing!

The top sheet is the one in the empty load. The middle sheet is an unused one. And the bottom is from that load of dark laundry + a few light colored pieces.

Needless to say, I’m sold on the color catchers. But have they really improved my laundry routine?

The short answer is, yes.

I used to divide dark and color laundry out by shades of colors – dark greys, blacks and browns; greens and blues; pinks, purples, oranges and reds; light greys, creams, mixed white (clothing that’s mostly white but has other colors on it, too) and yellows. Crazy town. Tons of laundry loads.

Now, I combine pretty much everything into one load except the creams and mixed white clothing. I keep that separated out and I still wash all white clothing by itself to keep the brightness of the whites.

Color catchers are definitely an added expense but, if you’re like me and you divide your laundry out into a ton of loads, it’s probably worth it. I don’t know that you will really save money per se; I think it would depend on your water usage and if you know your cost/load (I don’t). But it’s probably worth it if laundry drives you crazy, like it does me. Going from so many loads down to just roughly three has been such a nice treat.

Posted in Daily Journal, Home No comments

That time I bought a ton of meat

About a month ago, my friend invited me over to her house to prep a ton of freezer meals.

And by “a ton,” I mean 20.

She had signed up to be a Wildtree distributor and so we got together to try two of their kits, which together made 20 meals.

The night before we got together, I went grocery shopping for the meat I needed for all 20 of these recipes. The recipes ranged from things like fajitas (two kinds), flank steak, pork chops (which I subbed out… not a fan of pork), tons of chicken recipes, fish, etc.

I felt like a freak with my meat cart, rollin’ around Kroger. My bill came to $156 and some change which boiled down to about $7.80/meal for meat. Not too shabby, considering the meals serve 4-6, which meant I could probably get two servings out of each meal making the cost really only about $3.90/meal (for meat only).

There were some miscellaneous costs in there (that I subtracted out of the total above) – freezer bags (two boxes), honey, a can of tomatoes and some vegetables. My friend provided some of the vegetables and I brought the rest. There weren’t a ton, though. Mostly it was peppers and onions for fajitas, and zucchinis.

So how do you prep the meals?

Well, I’m glad you asked.

I didn’t snap any pics of this process because I was handling raw meat for pretty much 3 hours straight, but the idea is you have these pieces of paper you cut up and each paper specifies what the recipe calls for. Then you just assemble the ingredients as specified by the paper in a freezer bag.

Wildtree provides the recipes and all seasonings and oils used. They have special blends of seasonings just for their recipes, as well as specially flavored oils (like a grapeseed oil that’s garlic flavored… yum!!!!).

The meal above is the flank steak. So I put that steak in a freezer bag with the oil and seasonings. The veggies went into a separate freezer bag. Then both of those bags, together, went into a third freezer bag. And inside that bag I put the paper with the recipe on it so I could remember what the heck was in the bag as well as know how to prepare it when we were ready to eat it.

It was one of the first recipes we tried and I have to say, I was really impressed.

The recipes have you put a lot of seasonings on the meat – or what seemed like a lot to me – but after having eaten about half of what I prepared, I know why… because you freeze it and you want the flavor to be maintained. None of the recipes we’ve had have been overpowering in flavor.

One thing I’m taking away from this experience is that next time I will probably further divide up some meals that I know we won’t eat the full serving of. Like recipes that calls for 2 lbs of chicken breasts or something. We aren’t going to eat 2 lbs of chicken breasts in one meal.

Another thing I’m taking away? Freezer meals are really great. I definitely plan on either doing this again with Wildtree, or just putting together freezer meals on my own. For just three hours of prep time I ended up with 20 meals, so the time spent was completely worth it for the convenience of having a ready to grab meal straight out of the freezer. It’s definitely cut down on the number of times we say “let’s just eat out!” since all I really need to throw together is a side dish. Not to mention, it’s cut down on weekly grocery spending because there is at least 1 or 2 dinners I don’t have to buy a main dish for since I’ve already got it in my freezer.

Have you ever tried freezer meals, or Wildtree? Please share if you have – especially if you have a favorite freezer meal recipe.

Posted in Cooking 4 comments

My perfect morning

I’m one of those people who is a morning person at heart.

I’ve never risen to meet the sun – on purpose – but I’ve seen the sunrise after pulling an all-nighter. I turned 30 several weeks ago and one of my heart’s desires is to turn myself into a morning person.

There’s just something about the morning, isn’t there? Quiet and full of promise. Very different from a sunset, which seems to me to be about rest and release. Finally, the day is over and we can settle down. But the morning? It’s new.

Here’s my perfect morning, in pictures -

YaZhang Photography, Central Pennsylvania Landscape

early morning coffee

“New morning coffee routine” Swedish Love Affair

Via New Day New Lesson

Via The Smoothie Lover

Wake up early.

Grab some coffee.

Write in the quiet.

Fix breakfast.

Wake my baby.

And play :)

The perfect morning, for me.

Posted in Daily Journal, Motherhood 2 comments