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Good Housekeeping's Grilled Watermelon, Tomato & Feta Cheese Salad


Yesterday my husband, three kids and I celebrated Memorial Day to honor all of the fallen soldiers that have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we may live free. My husband is huge on honor so we had a nice family BBQ to honor the fallen. We grilled chicken breasts, chicken sausages and summer veggies. Along with grilling all the food I made a super cute and delicious salad that I found on the cover of the new Good Housekeeping magazine. I definitely couldn't resist the grilled watermelon stars especially for Memorial day and I will using this recipe for the 4th of July too!

Here is what you need:
Watermelon ( I used a personal size)
Mixed green
 Crumbled feta cheese (I used garlic & herb feta)
Balsamic Vinegar
Olive Oil

Here is what I did:

Cut your slices of water melon an 1/2 inch thick
Place them on the grill until grill marks appear
Place on a plate and let them cool off
Use your star cookie cutter and  cut out your watermelon stars
Mix your greens
add in sliced radishes & slice wedged tomatoes
Then add your feta cheese (crumbled)
Splash with balsamic & olive oil
Place your watermelon stars on top of your salad
Salt & pepper

For more detailed directions pick up the latest Good Housekeeping magazine today! There are also many other yummy recipes and home ideas in there too. You might just be seeing more recipes and projects inspired by their magazine from me in the future!

Everything you need to know about Buying & building a model home while Selling your Home at the same time. Finances included!

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* Thanks so much for reading this post! Just as a courtesy I wanted to prewarn you that this post is long and very detailed! I want to try and cover everything I've learned about the process of buying a new home and selling at the same time so you can learn! If you have any other questions feel free to e-mail me @*

These past few months have a been a whirlwind of emotions and finances. In the last part of February 2015 we put our first home on the market after finding our dream model home. We really had no idea what the selling process entailed as well as the process of building a new home. Not to mention we would be doing both at the same exact time! Call me crazy. I know.

It all started with this crazy idea of looking to see what was out there on the market just to "see" other houses and what they cost. We had lived in our first house for almost 5 years. Our kids had grown a little more and we added our now 2 year old toddler. We were crammed for space with only 3 bedrooms so I started googling homes in my area. I showed my husband a picture of a brand new finished home and we immediately put all the kids in the car and hit the road to go look at the neighborhood and house. It was then and there we really considered selling our home to build a brand new home. We knew we wanted to pick out every detail so it was ours.

After that night we went on home searches day after day. Model home after model home. Builder after builder. We searched high and low and even searched in another city which my husband works in 45 minutes away. We were really serious about finding the perfect home for us so we invested a lot of time checking out all of our options. It is SO important to look at every house that you can as well as those same model homes in different locations of town. Consider the neighborhood more than the house. You cant change the neighborhood but you can change the house and it will be so important for resale value. It will be worth your time in the end. During this endless search we still had no idea what we actually qualified  now with my husband's Firefighter income compared to his Medic income 5 years prior. We didn't know what the process of selling our home was going to be like, how much we could truly afford and how we were going to sell and buy at the same time. It was like walking around blind while looking at gorgeous homes. We didn't even know if we'd fall in love with a home that was out of our price range. We just had to hope and pray that everything would work out.

The day came where we walked into a beautiful McCaffrey Home and fell in love. A two story, 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom dream with a master bedroom balcony, spacious master closet and upgrade options drool worthy. The kids were excited there were stairs and quickly picked their bedrooms. After we checked it all out, my husband and I drove away with peace and excitement. We knew it was "the one."

Our next question was how much is this all going to cost?! We had zero clue about the loan process on buying a model home nor how much selling would cost. Heck, we didn't even know how much the upgrades that we wanted would cost. So, after much prayer we decided to go into the McCaffrey office and get advice and to see if we could qualify for a loan as much as our model home. We then decided to put our house on the market to secure our lot right away. We didn't want to chance not getting the exact lot that we felt was best for us.

When selling and buying a new model home at the same time, here is how it works...

Your current home has to be in escrow to secure your lot OR you go with their selected Realtor and put your house on the market to secure it right away.

If you choose their selected Realtor, you also have to put down their lot securing fee. In this case it was $2500.00 up front that same day and some local home builders are $5000.00 but they will not cash it until your loan is approved. If you are approved, the lot fee is added to your down payment so it doesn't go to waste.

So, you  agree to sell your home with their Realtor, you pay $2500.00 the day you choose your lot and they put a "hold" on your lot until you qualify for the loan. That same day you also fill out ALL of the loan paperwork and apply for your home loan! You either are approved or not the next following week or two and will be notified either way. If you get a green light, your lot will then say sold and if you don't qualify, you get your $2500.00 back and the lot will be available to anyone again.

If you agree to all that, then you will be in contingency with your home builder and will be given 60 days from start to finish to close escrow on your current home. If you don't sell in the 60 days, the builder will extend the contract and try to work something out or you will lose your lot.

The same day you apply for the loan, you have to determine a rough amount of money you will be putting down for you down payment to determine if all of the numbers work out for your annual income with the price of the home and if you will be applying for an FHA or Conventional loan. Conventional loans are 20% of the home price. Anything below 20% is an FHA and there will mortgage insurance added to your monthly payment. If you do have to get an FHA, once you start making payments and hit your 20%, mortgage insurance goes away.

Since we were selling our home and it hadn't yet sold, we had to guesstimate how much equity we would be getting back. Thankfully, we had bought our first home when the economy was at an all time low in 2010 and there were a lot of foreclosures, ours being one of them. Now that real estate is finally picking up again, we were blessed with a good chunk  of equity and we based our guess off of what we thought we'd walk away from the sale with with the advice from our Realtor.

Since we are talking finance, let me tell you up front so you aren't in shock like I was. Anything that has to do with framing or plumbing as far as upgrades goes can go into your home loan. For instance, we chose the master suite balcony which was $7,000. That was added onto the price of our house for the loan. EVERYTHING ELSE and I mean EVERYTHING as far as upgrades goes has to be paid in CASH before you close escrow on your model home. You have 2 options. Pay for the upgrades with some of the equity from the sale of your home or you pay in cash from a savings. If you choose equity, if you have it, it will lower your down payment making your monthly payment larger.

Here is an example of upgrades that you could potentially be paying for with rough estimates:

Plank tile downstairs $5900
Wrought Iron Stair casing: $3400
Upgraded carpet $2000
Tiled master shower $3000
Seamless shower door $3000
White Cabinets instead of wood colors through out the home $7800
Garage door opening system $400
Adding electric dryer outlet instead of Gas $338
Upgrade front door with glass panel $2000
Ceiling fan pre wire $90 per room
Adding outlets $50 each
Adding holiday package for Christmas light switches roughly $400
Taller garage door $200
Bigger sliding glass doors $180 each
Adding ceiling lights $150 each
Adding blinds $2000
Want a bigger lot? $3000
Concrete path for bigger lot $2000
Man door on the side of the garage $2000
Pre wiring for mounted flat screen TV $180
Sink in kitchen island $1800
Sink in laundry room $1800
Upgraded glass pantry door $300
Upgraded back splash $600
Courtyard $3000
Whole house two toned paint $880

You can also upgrade, granite colors and how much it hangs down
Upgrade bathroom tiles, back splashes, all the faucets in different styles, different packages of colors of faucets, upgrade carpet pads, different levels of carpet.  There are 5 levels of upgrades for everything you can upgrade each with a different price package. You can even upgrade to hardwood floors. There are a million things you can upgrade and I haven't even covered half!

Before you know it, you could be spending $25,000 or more in CASH just for upgrades! I figured out why people choose not to get homes that look like the models! I just wanted to give you a heads up so you aren't blind sided and you can prepare financially for the things that you really want. Each builder will have their own prices.

You won't know your upgrade fees until you sit down at the design center and choose everything. Then all of your upgrades with be put on your list and added up for the final price that you will need to pay.

As well as upgrades fees, you will have to pay closing costs if your builder does not cover that. It is all based off how much your home is. For us, they will roughly be around $7000. So add that on top of all the upgrades. Closing costs aren't added into your loan where I live.

So say, $7,000 for closing costs, $25,000+ for upgrades and $2,500 for the lot will be cash or equity.

Now let's move onto selling fees on top of your new home fees.

You put your house on the market! Yay, congrats but did you know it costs money to sell!? I didn't realize how much it actually would cost until we put ours up for sale.

You will need to get your home ready to sale first.
Make any repairs that are obvious.
Touch up paint, clean the carpet, add some fresh landscaping such as flowers and bushes. New door mat, replace burnt out light bulbs, possibly hire cleaners. I will be writing another post about how to get your home ready to sale pretty soon.

So you pay for all the little things before you put your house up for sale.
 Then there will be inspection fees when you get into escrow, the buyers can ask for you to pay part or full closing costs, and the realtor's fees which are 6% of the sale. After the inspections there will be things that you are required to be repair to pass another inspection and then repairs that the buyers request. There will be a pest control inspection and a home inspection. In your realtor's financial breakdown you will have an amount of money set aside for repairs.

You could be looking at at least $20,000 just to sell your home and will come out of what you walk away with. So, if you guesstimate your equity, cut it by $20,000 and that's what you could walk away with.

In the end, 34,500 for your new home and $20,000 for your old home. So you are looking at buying and selling costing you  54,000 NOT including your down payment! That is IF you choose upgrades.

With ALL that said, here are some home buying tips.

  • One of the first steps is figuring out how much home you can afford. Start by sticking to the right price range. A rule of thumb is to look at houses that are 2.5 times your annual salary.
    • Ideally, your monthly housing payment shouldn’t be more than 28 percent of your gross household monthly income.
    • Use an online mortgage calculator to help figure out what you can afford.
  • Your financial history is important too. Lenders look at income, assets, job history, credit score, total debt and how much you’re willing to put down as a down payment.
  • The traditional estimate for a down payment is 20 percent of the purchase price of the house, which can lower your monthly payments and avoid mortgage insurance better than a lower down payment.
  • Remember that closing costs can add to the amount you need to close your loan and take possession of your new home. Look them over carefully, because they can vary from one lender to another.
  • Mortgages come in all shapes and sizes, and which one you choose depends on a lot of variables, including your budget, the amount you can afford to put down, the interest you’ll pay and the term length. All mortgages have pros and cons, but starting with at least a top-line understanding of what’s available is important as you save for this major purchase.

 Buying a home can be scary and nerve wracking, so it is important that you shop around for the perfect Lender for you. Capital One offers great home loans!

  • Capital One’s goal is help first-time homebuyers understand how the home loan process works, which is why we’ve launched a new online learning center that features the know-how they’ll need to become the savviest homeowners on the block.
  • The Capital One Home Loans Online Neighborhood is a free online resource where you can learn all about home buying. We’ve gathered easy-to-understand articles and helpful videos, as well as information about Capital One’s Home Loans offerings.
  • Our friendly online neighborhood covers all stages of the home buying process – from deciding whether now is even the right time to buy and how much home you can afford, to the documents you need to apply for a mortgage.
  • Buying a home is an important process, but certainly not a simple one – Capital One’s new online resource lays the groundwork with a glossary of terms you should know, an overview of the loans available and more.
  • If you’re interested in learning more about Capital One Home Loans and how we can help you get home, visit or call us at 855-900-8886.

They have a ton of information on their CapitalOne website. Find out how much you qualify for with getting "pre" qualified and then you can be on your happy way to finding a new home! All the proceeds from your old house will be rolled over to your new loan by the title company so you don't have to worry about a thing. 

So start saving and get yourself qualified with CapitalOne. It is going to take a lot of planning for your new dream home.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

HOUSE TOUR: A peak into my old house

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Today I'm taking you down memory lane for me! A  tour of my home that I lived in during high school. My mom designed every single detail of this house from scratch, including the blue prints. Her heart and creativity are infused in every room. From the archways, columns, round windows, crown molding, granite, tile to you name it. She dreamed it and then built it! 

It was such a privilege to live in this gorgeous home which sat on 40 acres in Round Mountain Estates. There are SO many memories in this home. From watching it be built, endless swimming during the hot summer months, taking pictures out in the fields, blasting Britney Spears in the game room, waking up to the snowy mountain tops afar and looking at all of the twinkling city lights from the balcony at night. My little sisters were brought home to this house and my husband proposed to me at this house and  my kids swam multiple summers here. It will always have a really special place in my heart.

So now is the fun part of me reminiscing during my home tour!

Home Facts:
Bedrooms: 7 + gameroom 
Bathrooms: 6
Sq. Ft: 5580
Lot size: 40 acres

 "Gorgeous custom built estate on 40 acres on the hills of the Watts Valley gated community. This beautifully designed home was adorned with impeccable detail, design & quality. Enjoy breathtaking views of the sunrises & sunsets on these rolling hills. It truly has a 360 degree view of the surrounding Sierras. This home is grand but yet intimate, completed with many luxuries & conveniences in mind. A beautiful staircase & chandelier greet you at the entrance. The kitchen is a chefs dream with quality material & cooking amenities, 2 kitchen islands, 6 burner cooktop, double ovens, dual dishwashers, a warming drawer & built in espresso bar. The living room has floor to ceiling picture windows with beautiful accented crown molding. The master bedroom has a private bath that's sure to please w/ plenty of built in cabinetry & designer detail. The grounds include a pebble tech pool, outdoor cooking area & mature landscape! The solar panels are included and a great asset."

 Here she is in all her glory!  This is the front of the house. There is a very very long driveway in which you drive up a big hill to get to it.
Here is the view standing in front of the house looking out towards the road.

 Side of the home with a pergola, big patio, built in BBQ, sink and fridge for entertaining. 

 The back of the house and the pool with a rock waterfall. I loved hanging out in the spa and looking at the view of the hills.

The concrete slab used to have my little sisters play dome and the path around it was for riding bikes. This is the other side of the backyard.
Front door entrance with staircase

Formal dining. My mom used hardwood floor and tile to create the criss crossed floor.

The great room. Criss crossed molding and a ceiling medallion in the center. Built in entertainment center and floor to ceiling windows.

Now from the Great room we go into the breakfast area and kitchen.

 My mom faux marbled those columns like a boss. See where I get my painting habit from?

 My sisters and I spent plenty of time making messes in here, feeding our friends and boyfriends, and grabbing tons of snacks to take upstairs to hang out in the game room.
2 dishwashers, built in espresso maker, pot filler, dual ovens and warming drawer.

Now let's move on to some more of  the downstairs.
My mom's laundry room.
Lots if cabinets in the hall
One of the downstairs bedroom.

NOW let's take a look at my mom's master bedroom. It is a DREAM and HUGE! The crown molding has built in rope lighting and it has a fireplace.

Now take a walk into the master bathroom. 

His and her sinks, jetted tub, his and her toilets, his and her closets, huge shower and make up vanity.

 Make up vanity...

One closet.

Now let's stroll up stairs...
Here is my old bedroom with a jack & jill bathroom connecting to my sister's bedroom. That window has an amazing view that I really took for granted. Sunrises coming up over the hills, snow top mountains in the winter months and rolling green hills covered with flowers in the spring.

The game room where I spent countless hours playing Dance Dance Revolution and then later my mom moved her craft room from downstairs to this huge room!

View from the balcony.

So there you have it. Just a little sneak peek into my past home. There is a TON of other rooms and spaces that are part of the house but these are all of the pictures that I have now. I hope you enjoyed looking through them as much as I did. 

 It was a dream home with a ton of land. We sipped Pepsi by the pool with oversized sunglasses and bikinis in the califorina heat, blasted music, hung out with many friends, had tons of family parties and made a ton of memories. I will forever love that house. The house upon the hill.

What was your favorite thing about the house? Do you see where I get my love for house design, real estate and interior design now? My mom picked out every itty bitty detail and I'm proud!

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