We Bought Ourselves A House

So, we did it! We got the house. We went over on Friday and signed the final contract. We already had our initial browse design appointment and we have a final one set for next Sunday. I am filled with a combination of fear and relief.

This was a very difficult decision for us to make. Mj tends to worry a little less then I do about money and finances and he wasn't so sure if I was going to go for this. It's about $25K above what I felt our bottom line budget was. I crunched numbers and ran it every which way I could and decided that if we come up with some more cash to buy our interest rate down with points then we could make it work. Even if we don't end up doing this in the end I need to know that it's at least an option.

People think I'm crazy for being so fanatical about savings and finances. Some people come out of the womb with a Coach purse and I came out with a savings account. I got my first job at Ross Dress for Less at 16 and have been putting money aside ever since. It has served me well over the years. Even if I don't make a whole lot when I have needed money for big important purchases it has been there. I say no to shopping, trips, and lots of other things I want all the while this money has been sitting in the bank. That's what you have to do. If you dip into it every time you want something its going to disappear and not be there when you really need it. Well, now is one of those times. Most of what Mj saved over this year he was gone that we thought we would use as a down payment has towards paying off some bills. If we need what's left of my life savings to get into this house then so be it. It's tough to let go of though. It's been comforting to know it's there even if I never touched it.

We may not have any money left over for new furniture after we get the necessary washer, dryer, and refrigerator. There aren't going to be any extras added onto our wedding package. We will still go somewhere but we won't be going to Europe for our honeymoon now. Certain sacrifices have to be made in order to get what you truly want.

Unfortunately, it is not cheap to live in this state in this county even right now when the housing market the way it is. I want to have a place that we can happily and comfortably live in for at least the next ten years and I think we have found it in this house. All my life I have really settled when it comes to a lot of different things including where I live. I have lived in places I really didn't like to keep my rent low. I have settled for a tiny studio for the last five years and for the first time I am not going to have to do that. Even though I am scared it feels kind of good too.

One of the things I love about Mj is his willingness to change and be flexible. He is not used to being on a budget but I have worked one out for him and he's okay with it because he understands the bigger picture.

For me this is no different then any other year. You sacrifice. You live within your means. You don't always get everything you want. And you save. Even if you can think of no particular reason to do so.

House Hunting Drama

It's so hard to find a house that you like. Well, let me rephrase that. One you like AND can afford. One house we went into smelled like moldy cat and the other was missing the front portion of the stove. Never seen that before. There is always something and you typically can expect that you are never going to find everything you wanted in one house. It's either price, location, the size of the yard or that extra sink you won't get. Unless your pockets are super deep and sometimes even then something has to give.

Last week we looked at a new build on our way home from another day of house hunting with our realtor. She happened to mention a new KB Homes Community and it was on our way home so we stopped in. I love looking at model homes even when I'm not in the market. We really liked it but quickly put it out of our head as an option. It's too expensive.

We kept looking. We put in an offer on a Short Sale condo in Eastlake. The price is right but we are dismayed by the $433 monthly fees. There Mello-Roos AND HOA's everywhere you look in that area and it can eat up your budget in one swallow. The commutes not all that great either. We already know we can't afford to live centrally and we would prefer a detached home but in this market you can't be too choosy.

Days go by and we hear nothing. We start getting cold feet about the commute and can't seem to stomach those high monthly fees. Mj's thoughts turn back to that new build. It's about a minute from where we live. We already know the commute is not all that bad and the HOA totals only $135. It's more expensive but maybe, just maybe we can do it because we won't have $400 plus in fees.

We call and find out they have only one lot left in this phase so we scramble around getting paperwork together and our check book so that we can snap up the last one in this price range. We submit to our 3rd credit check in about as many months because the builder will pay $6700 towards closing costs if we use them.

And then more waiting. Meanwhile, a different realtor who is trying to get us a foreclosure tells us he has a house for us. We don't know the price yet and likely won't be able to get a look inside for another week. What to do? Do we sign a contract on the new house when there is a possibility of another lurking?

Today I find out we are approved for the new build. The lending agent is going to send me an e mail outlining what we need to pay off and what additional documentation we are going to need to provide. At about the same time I find out that the foreclosure is going to be too expensive for us anyways. They have another one but they don't know the price yet. I wasn't totally thrilled with the pics but it's hard to tell without seeing it in person. I am already thinking this likely won't work and I probably won't like it better then the new build so I am able to put that out of my head and focus on trying to get the new house.

The cold hard numbers show up in my inbox. Not only did we get pre approved but it also allows for about $10,000 in upgrade design options. Time to do a happy dance right? Well, not so fast. The bank can approve us for a million bucks but it makes no difference if we can't afford the monthly payment. I talk it over with the selling agent but it's not looking too good. I am absolutely not willing to take on a monthly mortgage over what I feel we can comfortably afford. If it means we have to walk away from ten houses then so be it.

I drive home dejected and my mind racing faster then the cars whizzing by me on the freeway. If only I made more money. If only we had saved more. Is it really necessary for us to have a wedding? Oh, and what about all that money we spent on my car 3 months ago? This new house is slipping away and I am wondering how are we ever going to find a house in this expensive competitive housing market. Are we going to be stuck in the studio forever or settle for a dump? What can I do aside from winning the lottery or robbing a bank to make this happen?

We have a design appointment scheduled for tomorrow and I have already imagined where we will put our furniture. This is our one window of opportunity to get into a house. Prices are still low but it won't last and if we don't get one soon there might not be a second chance.

Beer with dinner? Hells yeah. I really need it right about now.

Clutter Crazy

I am not allowed to do dishes anymore. Mj found hamburger meat in one of the pans and bleu cheese on one of the plates after I "washed" them. The problem is not that I am a miserable dishwasher. I can clean with the best of them. I am not the greatest cook but I always try to make sure I am the one who does the dishes and cleans the kitchen to compensate. The problem is that I can't see. By the time I get home from work it's dark. By the time we finish eating dinner it's even darker and the kitchen light has been broken since well before Mj came back. I am in there scrubbing pots and pans and plates that I can't even actually tell if I've gotten clean because of the poor lighting. Mj just has to re wash everything and so I have been banned. I will definitely get in there on the weekends but apparently during the week it's just not such a good idea until that light is fixed.

That is just one more challenge of my current living space. The other issue is clutter. Everywhere. I can't find my socks or anything else. I can barely shove my clothes into drawers. Every surface has stuff on it. It is driving me MAD!! I don't know how those obsessive hoarders can stand being buried in all that stuff. Of course it is an illness and I am beginning to think I have one too but in reverse. Realistically, I know I do not have OCD but I definitely do have an issue with clutter. I need to be organized. I need the counter tops to be empty. I need for everything to be in it's place at least most of the time. Right now it is impossible to have hardly anything in it's place because there is barely a place for anything and it is quite simply driving me nuts.

Organization is more then just having everything in it's place for me. When my living space is out of whack I feel like my life is too. Same thing with my finances and my food but that's a whole other blog post. I guess it's some kind of control thing and it comes in handy at times to be so disciplined in these areas but right now it's just driving me crazy. Right now I would really like to be able to see my pajamas laying across the bed haphazardly [instead of forcibly cramming them into the too small drawer] and not care one way or another. I'd rather see a messy pile of paperwork on the table and not care if it stays there or not. I want to put things away and organize but there is no space to do it. So there things sits and there isn't anything I can do about it. I have already done everything I can to maximize my space. I can't believe I'm saying this but I have kind of given up. Not totally of course , but I am just accepting there isn't much I can do. Which is probably a good thing.

I can hardly believe I have lived in such a small space for so many years. Most people I know can't even imagine such a thing. When I tell them I live in a studio their eyes kind of bug out a little. It is definitely not ideal but I did what I had to do.

The close proximity to Mj doesn't bother me at all. I actually enjoy having him right there all the time. The idea of him being far far away in another room or downstairs when I am upstairs in bed actually feels kind of lonely. Right now we can pretty much see each other and talk to each other all the time from any location. Where he is I am and vise versa. That's kind of what happens in a studio and I kinda like that part.

But, if it means that I will have enough room in my closet and less crap shoved into every nook and cranny I am really thinking that I could probably get used to it. I know he's coming to bed eventually even if he is in a far away land down the hall.

Burger Night

Last Week we stumbled upon Oroweat Sandwich Thins at Henry's Market inspiring Mj to declare Sunday burger night. I love bread so having a burger animal style with meat and lettuce to avoid all of the carbs and some of the calories in bread just doesn't cut it for me. These Sandwich thins are kind of pita style and they are only 100 calories each. You get the bread you crave but with way less calories, carbs and a whole lot more fiber. They cost $3.50 which really isn't all that bad.

Of course the burgers we used were extra lean. I topped mine with bleu cheese crumbles [my latest obsession], onions, 1 strip of bacon, ketchup and mustard. Mj topped his with sauteed mushrooms and onions, 1 strip of bacon, provolone cheese, ketchup, and miracle whip. Can you say delicious? We paired it with some high fiber Bush's baked beans and it was quite the delicious, simple, and not overly gluttonous meal. I got to have my burger and my bread. Oh, and of course nothing goes better with burgers then beer. For that we had Michelob Ultra in keeping with our carb saving theme.

All this, while watching the Saints Vs the Vikings. Sounds like a perfect Sunday dinner to me.

Saturday Morning Laziness

It may have been a short week but I tell you what, it sure did NOT feel like it. I've been adding an extra hour onto each work day in the morning so I can get next Friday off and it's wearing me out. It felt like all the house hunting and wedding stuff was just overlapping and getting really crazy all at the same time.

Last night was date night. Mj met me at the door with some pretty pink carnations before we rushed off to dinner. We were both starved. Then we went to the movies to see The Book of Eli. It was a late night making sleeping in that much more precious the next day.

I just love delicious and cozy Saturday mornings that I get to linger in bed and take my time doing anything at all. My time is my own and doing something or nothing at all is up to me. It feels like I haven't had one of these in a while but I am having it right now and it feels so good. Mj had a work function to go to so it's just me here. It's quiet and I can hear the water fountain outside.

I am still in my jammies and getting ready to leisurely turn on the TV and decide what I want for breakfast at 10:21 am on a Saturday morning. This is the life!

Oh crap! I can't get the TV to work. The new flat screen with HD is way too complicated for the likes of me. But that's OK. I can get caught up on Make it or Break it and Teen Mom online.

We Are Officially House Hunters

When I was a little girl back in the days when I used to live at home and share a room with my big sis I used to cry in the morning when I overslept and woke up late. Even then, as a youngster there was that whole sense of some sort of loss of control and fear having to do with something so unplanned. Yes, I am a control freak and even if I wasn't able to identify with that back as a youngster I am sure that's where the tears came from.

So, I don't cry anymore when I oversleep but it still sucks. Good thing it doesn't happen all that often. Yeah, because of the whole control freak thing I often double and triple check that my alarm is set just to avoid this so I don't know what happened. I woke up at 6:30am and needed to be at work at 7:00am. It's about a 20 minute drive so basically I managed to get out of the house in 14 minutes [I was 4 minutes late].

Last weekend was a three day weekend but exhausting nonetheless. The day I found my dress I was out house hunting all day and then dress hunting by night. When I was trying on dresses I felt like I was on Say Yes To The Dress and during the day I felt like I was on House Hunters. Without the video camera's of course. Mj and I LOVE that show and watch it non stop. Saturday was our very first day of going out and looking. Sunday we went to Mj's friend's house to watch football and then there was more house hunting on Monday. I couldn't go out today because I have to work but Mj looked at a great condo that is a short sale. It looks like we are actually going to put in an offer on it just as soon as he can shuttle the paperwork back and forth between me and our realtor. I'm not too worried that I haven't even seen it. He is way pickier then I am so I trust his judgement. With so much competition you have to move quick.

House hunting is tough right now. There is inventory out there but in our target area there are lots of foreclosures and short sales. You might have 10+ offers for every property and often times you get priced out because some are paying over asking price. I am READY to move. It's been close to five years in a 400 square foot studio and I think it's time. I am yearning for room to put things and space to exist because right now we really have none. Things are so cluttered sometimes I can't even stand it. Clutter aggravates me to no end and in a space that small with two people it's inevitable. Everywhere I turn there is clutter and stuff crammed into every nook and cranny. The lower bar on my closet where my clothes hang perpetually wrinkled fell down because it's so overloaded.

I am working on our budget and even after having all of this time to digest this the thought of taking on another mortgage and simultaneously taking on a rental property is extremely frightening. There is so little margin for error financially. All it takes is one month without a renter to smash my carefully thought out little budget to pieces.

I just have to take a deep breath and hope for the best on this one and hopefully that is what we will get.

The Dress

My fitting room. One of these is MY dress!

When I walked into David's Bridal Saturday it was a madhouse. There were women everywhere trying on all kinds of dresses. Babe, my bridal consultant could barely find me a room. When I looked at these bridal dresses in the plastic garment bag they all looked ugly. It is so hard to tell what the darn dress is going to look like. There is just so much fabric there and it's just so massive that you really can't tell what's what until you see it on a body.

I scanned the aisle with my size on it and there were only about 2 that looked decent to me. Babe started pulling dresses from my list of favorites that I brought in and dress hunting was in full swing. My mom and three friends were there to help me make this important decision and I must say I really did feel special being the center of attention as I put on these gorgeous dresses. I felt like I was on "Say Yes to The Dress" except there were no cameras and I was not trying on thousand dollar dresses. All I knew going into this is that I wanted to try strapless and that I did like the pick up style on the bottom. This is not my first marriage so I was considering Ivory but there is just something about a pristine white dress that I couldn't resist.

The first dress I put on was perfect. It made me feel like a princess and it hung beautifully on me. I think it was one of the two I just randomly grabbed at the beginning. It wasn't on my favorites list and I'm not exactly sure where it came from but there it was and I liked it. The second dress was a corset style that showed off my shape a little and I kept it on my list as a possibility. Every other dress thereafter was measured against those two.

Dress after dress I tried on. Still sticking with my 2 favorites but just wanting to make sure there was nothing I liked better. The #2 fav dress with it's lace up style may have eliminated my need (and the cost) of alterations but they only had it in a size 6. I tried on a similar one in a 2 and it fit perfectly but I went in there to buy a dress that day and didn't want to order one from another state without knowing if it would for sure work or not.

I kept going back to that first dress in my mind anyways. I love the silver beading on the bodice and the pick up style ruching down the skirt. It probably didn't make it onto my favorites because it was priced at $499. Ideally, I was trying to keep my dress around $300-$450. But, I did get $50 off due to the sale and I feel pretty good about staying under $500. In fact, there was NO WAY IN HELL I was going to go above that anyhow!! I think I must be between a size 2 and 4 which sucks. It's a strapless and I want it to feel secure around my body. It will have to be taken in a bit at the waist and shortened at an additional cost but bottom line is it's my dress.

It's an exhausting process. Those dresses are big and heavy. They can practically stand up on their own and you can't really get into and out of them by yourself. It took about 2 1/2 hours to make a decision on the bridal dress and I found a bridesmaid dress in about 30 minutes.

My Bridesmaid dresses

Some of those bridesmaid dresses are downright ugly and look a heck of a lot better in the catalog then they do in person. I wanted something cute and re wearable for my bridesmaids and I was afraid I wasn't going to find it in Pink but I did!! It is a beautiful soft pastel pink (although it doesn't quite look like it online) and will be perfect for a Summer wedding. It is sateen and has a matte finish and not some gaudy satin shiny thing. It even has pockets! They will wear a black pin on flower at the waist to complete the look and incorporate my 2nd color. This is a chic not overly formal look that I was going for. They will get $20 off their dresses because I bought my bridal dress there and my out of state bridesmaid will have no problem getting it.

I put my dress on layaway so I could spread out the payments. It will stay at the store for 60 days when I will make my final payment. I can either take it home that day and come back later or send it straight into alterations.

I kinda felt like part of the David's Bridal wedding machine while I was in there but I think going there was the right choice for me. They have great dresses for reasonable prices. That penny pincher inside of me says I should have just stuck to the $99 dresses and called it a day. I am very frugal and don't have extravagent taste, but I simply would not have been satisfied with a simple plain dress-not that one like that could not have been pretty. This is a BIG party afterall, so give me just one day to do it up big for a change. I wanted the dress to be unlike anything I would ever wear again. I wanted an amazing dress not just an OK dress. Don't I deserve that for once? I am thinking that maybe I do.

I just bought the most expensive and elaborate dress I will ever own in my lifetime. Never mind that I will only wear it for about 10 hours. Mission accomplished.

Photographer: Check

It's no wonder that you don't usually see too much of the wedding reception dancing shenanigans in wedding pictures. Unless you hire a photographer for 8 hours there is only so many events you can fit in and it seems the standard time frame that is offered is 6 hours and it's usually a couple hundred extra per hour over that. Couple shots, bridal party shots, family shots. I want detail shots and candid shots too. I want them to be good and I don't want to rush through dinner and cake cutting just so we can get to the bouquet toss before the photographer has to leave.

I got the sign that I was looking for to help me make my photographer decision. Patrick called and left a very nice follow up message and also offered to add an extra hour onto his services. His portfolio originally caught my eye first and then I kept going back and forth second guessing myself. He captured some really great moments in his pictures. He has a photojournalism style that I was looking for. Very artistic and candid. I will get the basic posed group shots but everything else should be candid. That extra hour will help us to fit more shots in with hopefully less rushing. This is a special day and I don't want to motor through it.

For $1495 the package includes 2 photographers which will be great for maximizing time. We get four 8 x10's, ten 5x7's and a DVD of all images with reproduction rights. I don't even want to buy an album because I think it will be way fun to do my own with Walmart or Snapfish. I created one already as a gift to Mj that documented our first nine months together before he fled the country. I had a great time doing it although it took me forever because I wanted to get everything just right.

I don't really think "engagement" photos are necessary. I have tons of pictures with Mj. None professional, but we are about to have a bunch of professional pics so maybe it's something we can save for a year when we are not already spending thousands of dollars on a wedding. Do we really have to have that poster size shot engagement shot of us sitting on an easel at our reception? I think it might be just as nice to have some candid shot of us during the time we were dating and falling in love with each other. I have such fond memories of that time so why not?

I am thinking of doing our couple shots before the ceremony starts. It means that he will see me before I walk down the aisle. I am not sure that I like that idea but I think we might get better shots if we have the chance to do those without all eyes on us . We will feel more comfortable and relaxed. This way we can go straight into bridal party and family shots right after the ceremony and hopefully make at least some of our cocktail hour. That's when the drinks are free and unlimited [well, we are paying for it but you know what I mean] and I would like to mingle and enjoy it.

Huge sigh of relief that this decision is made. I was about ready to lose my mind. I am still on track budget wise too! Now that the DJ and photographer are booked I can relax a little bit.

All that is left cake and It won't be too hard for me to decide on that. I want to order and get the invitations out and THEN deal with that. I am hoping that a co worker can do the bridal party flowers. We probably will not be using flowers elsewhere as they are just too expensive. If I can come up with something creative for centerpieces that involve flowers I will but I will likely be buying them wholesale and just kinda doing it myself. We shall see. I have decided not to hire an officiant. Instead I will enlist the services of one of our friends for that. I think it will be more special that way and of course save us about $200-300 dollars.

Dress shopping tomorrow! One of my bridesmaids will be there and my mom is coming down to help me decide.

Choosing A Photographer Is Rough

The only thing worse so far then agonizing over location is agonizing over a photographer. I am literally paralyzed with indecision over who to go with. Originally, I was going to use Studio Blue. It seems to be a fairly new company but is the little less expensive sister of Bella Pictures. Bella's packages start around $1800 for bare bones. When Studio Blue is having a sale you can get a 6 hour package with 1 photographer(no prints) for about 1k. They basically work as a photography agent and assign you a photographer about 60 days prior to your wedding. You do get an opportunity to review the portfolio and the pictures on this website look good but the more I thought about it the less sure I was of going that route. I guess I just didn't like the idea of not really getting to pick. It could be hit and miss. I was just about ready to book them when I decided not to. I can't find any information on them and can't seem to find any reviews on the net from anyone who has used them. I'm all about saving a buck but this is one area that I really dont' want to take any chances with.

When I started looking elsewhere I found that for about $500 more I could get 2 photographers and some prints included.

Aside from venue the pictures are the most important thing for me in this wedding planning process. When all is said and done aside from your memories and your actual marriage that is what will linger the longest. My photography budget is $1,500. I found two local ones in that range with great portfolio's and similar package pricing but am having a super hard time making a decision. I have e mailed a couple of friends asking their opinion and it is literally split 50/50.

Hubby got tired of hearing me wine about it last night and he looked at both portfolios one more time and has stuck with his original opinion. He is leaving this decision in my trusty hands and says it's up to me. I guess the problem I am having is that he liked Fritz and I liked Patrick. Part of me wants to just go with my gut and pick the one that appealed to me most but the other part of me wants to pick the one he liked because I really do like them both and actually he does too! I don't want to make the wrong choice!! These photos are going to be precious to us both and I want to get it right.

I have looked at their portfolios over and over and over. Not helping. I spoke to both photographers and have got an idea of how they work but I am still stuck. Help! What do I do?

Getting Pre Approved

You'd better not have any secrets from your significant other when you go into a meeting to discuss a home loan. If there was anything about your credit, income, debts, bank accounts or finances that you were keeping on the down low it will be exposed with a quickness to your significant other and some random stranger who will punch your digits into a computer and decide your fate.

In our case, there are no secrets but it is kind of odd to be sitting there so exposed. Things that you may not normally talk about even with people you are very close to is fodder for discussion. Nothing is off limits. Income, job title, bank account balances, who you owe, and what you owe. You can't run and you can't hide.

You may have an idea about what kind of house you want but as you divulge all of your financial matters you are about to find out what kind of house you can get.

Gone are the days where you could walk in there unemployed and be approved for $500,000. The banks actually seem to care about whether or not you can actually make your mortgage payment or not now. We went in there hoping for a certain amount and it turns out we may not quite get that but we are hopefully still going to be in a good position to find something decent within our budget. That is actually OK by me. I am fine with being "forced" into a house that we can afford rather then being ushered into something that may overextend us. From the get go that has always been my primary concern. I want a nice house but I am not willing to push the limits of our monthly income to get it. If that means we get a little bit less house then so be it. We will make it our own, be together, and be much better off in the long run by playing it safe.

We actually got pre approved already by our bank for exactly what we wanted but this home lending service works with the real estate agent we are hoping can get us into a foreclosure and he requires that we at least get pre approved with his preferred lender.

We have great credit and few debts. I wish I earned more money. Don't we all? There is no point in playing the blame game but I know that would help A LOT. I regret that I already own a property which will count against me with a lender.

What I regret even more then that is an old student loan debt that I co signed on for my Ex Husband. It's this black cloud over my head that won't go away. I hate it that even in divorce he is still dragging me down. I take pride in my credit and I hate that what happens to it is not 100% in my control. I paid my student loan debts off but I still have his lurking in the shadows of my credit report. If I had been smart I would have insisted on him figuring out a way to refinance and get my name off before finalizing the divorce. Lesson learned the hard way on that one. Don't EVER co-sign for anyone on anything. Just don't.

We won't have any problem getting a home loan. It's just a matter of how much.

We Don't Have to Commute

It's a darn good thing the fate of where we intend to buy a house and live for the next chunk of our lives didn't depend on me getting a new job. If it did I am not exactly sure how that would have turned out. But it just so happens the burden of such a task rested on Mj who thus far has never had any problem landing awesome jobs. He did it again. My little hot shot found a new job and just in the nick of time. Just when we really needed to figure out the work situation so that we could begin some serious house hunting.

The job he left when he went overseas for Eleven months is about 158 miles away. That is about a two hour and 10 minute commute without traffic. Which of course would never happen so it would probably take close to 3 hours. Impossible!! Crazy. I mean, how many years of your life will a commute like that take away? Not to mention the money spent on gas. We couldn't move way up there because the cost of living is way too high and then of course I would have to find another job. So, to compensate our original plan was to move about 45 miles North which would then mean we were both commuting although mine would not have been as far. We would have been closer to my family but further from both our friends and my work. We really love being where we are right now and it was a bummer to think we'd have to leave. We did NOT want to do that but there weren't really too many other options until Mj ran out and got himself another job.

We will both be working in the same area now. Close enough that we could even meet for lunch or carpool if we wanted to.

I was so excited and proud of him when he called me with the news yesterday. It pretty much solved all of our immediate problems and is allowing us to take the next step in house hunting. Turns out his company actually eliminated his position while he was gone. Worst case scenario he would have collected unemployment and job searched or taken this other independent contractor position he was offered. But the bottom line is no job, no mortgage loan, no house and now we don't have to worry about that. Win-win because provided the company doesn't find another position for him by Tuesday not only have they been paying him the whole time he's been gone but now they will have to pay a severance which is just fine because he already found a closer job.

To celebrate last night, I brought home Strawberries with Dolce Frutti chocolate sauce and champagne. The chocolate hardens as it sits so you can make your own Chocolate covered strawberries. We ate as we dipped them but you have to be careful because the chocolate gets too hard to dip. Next time we'll dip them all then eat.

He says the whole situation was stressing him out a bit. Not that I could even tell the cool cucumber that he is. Him stressing looks no different then usual while I am prone to mini breakdowns.  I so needed someone like him to balance me out.

While we jumped right into wedding planning when he came home we had to wait on the house hunting until this job thing was sorted out. We are getting that much closer to getting out of this tiny studio and Mj being able to get all of his things out of storage. In fact, we just got back from the home loan office not too long ago.

Everything seems to be falling into place. Exactly where we want it to be.

Hey Mr. DJ

We really lucked out with our DJ. Not only are we getting a great deal but Ralph and Jeremiah were referrals and seem like really nice and professional guys.

At the end of last year a girlfriend of mine hosted a small bridal event at a hair salon. She makes custom bridal jewelry (really beautiful by the way but not in my budget). Mj was still out of the country at the time but I went anyways to support my friend and gathered some information from some of the vendors. As soon as I got my date I called them up and luckily they were available. The prices they quote on their website are much higher then what we are getting.

Mj and I met them at Starbucks last night. They are only charging us $500 for the first hour and $50 for each additional hour. They are going to get there nice and early and not charge for set up. They are also willing to play for about 30 minutes after free of charge. We need them for 5 hours so that is a total of $550 for basic package and lighting which is basically a steal considering that some of the other prices I've seen range from $600's to $1,000's. They did offer us up lighting and our name in lights on the dance floor at an additional charge. Having our names displayed in lights would be a really nice effect and make me feel a little bit like a star but I don't think we will pay extra for that. I am considering the up lighting though. They said it helps set the mood and darken the area a bit which might get more people on the dance floor which means more fun for everyone.

You have to be careful if you are getting a low price because sometimes you get what you pay for but my girlfriend has basically vouched for them by having them at their event so I feel comfortable with them. We got another huge packet in addition to the one we already got from our venue so that means more homework! We have to come up with some must play songs and sort out a timeline for announcements etc.

Whoo hoo! I am under budget on my DJ. I couldn't be more happy about that. Next vendor to tackle: The all important photographer. I found 3 online that are in our price range, available and with portfolio's that I like so I will be making some decisions about that this week.

What Color Should I Be?

I am really struggling with what colors I want to have for my wedding. Me being the practical person that I am really want my bridesmaids to have a dress that they will actually be able to wear again for some other occasion. It feels strange even talking about bridesmaid dresses at all. When this whole concept of planning a wedding started I was only planning on having my two sisters in it and was just going to have them buy dresses on their own in a certain color or basic black or even wear something they already had in their closet if it was appropriate. Then, as the wedding machine rolled along I started to feel like I really wanted my oldest friends to be a part of it also. The number of bridesmaids has grown to 3-5 depending on availability. I didn't want to make a big to do about everything but now it just makes more sense to coordinate.

I love pink. It is absolutely my favorite color. But how will Mj's groomsmen feel about wearing pink accents on their tux's? I already know Mj doesn't want to wear any pink but that's OK because he can be in black and white. The pink bridesmaid dresses look funny online on the David's Bridal website. Almost garish. Making me think it might be better to go with black and maybe do a pink sash to compliment the dresses. Should my color just be pink or pink and black? Black and white is always so classic and so beautiful but I feel like I want that splash of color in there too. I thought about jade green at first because I know the drapes in the reception room are going to be that color and thought about putting brown with it but brown just seems so drab. Other then the bridesmaid dresses I am not sure how else I can coordinate my "color" into the wedding anyhow. Our wedding package includes white or off white linens for the table and one choice of colored napkin. The chairs are gold ballroom style which I have decided not to cover in order to cut costs considering that they are decent chairs although white would be a better color. I still haven't decided on centerpieces yet. Flowers are so expensive that I am trying to come up with some other alternative that might incorporate whatever color I choose.

I need to see and try on the bridesmaid dresses myself. If I don't think the color and the dress is cute and re wearable then I don't want to put my bridesmaids in it. It will also make it easier for me to decide on invitations once I get the colors nailed down.

Guess I better get my butt over to David's Bridal after all and get on with the whole wedding dress shopping thing while they are still having their sale. I was trying to put it off for financial reasons but I don't know when their next sale will be and I don't want to find myself pushing it too close. It will also help me nail down my colors which will help me make decisions about everything else.

Who ever thought deciding on a simple color could be so complicated? That's wedding planning for ya.

Cuddle Time Interrupted

I was almost late for work Friday morning. I am generally not all that thrilled about getting out of bed at 6:25 am no matter how much sleep I got but what made it so difficult that morning was Mj. As soon as my alarm went off and I turned to the right to hit snooze his arms encircled me and he rested his cheek on my back in such a cozy way that I smiled to myself and sighed as I snuggled back under the covers.

There it goes again. That darn alarm. Why won't it leave us alone? I hit snooze again for the second time which is normal. When it went off again this is normally the point where no matter how good it feels to be cuddled up I force myself to get out of bed because although I should get out of bed at 2 snoozes I haven't been able to get out of bed any sooner then 3 for a long time and that is REALLY pushing it. For some reason I ignored the voice of reason that told me if I didn't get out of bed RIGHT THIS MINUTE I was going to be late.

I enjoyed every last extra minute I got to stay in bed with Mj's warm arms around me. He is the best cuddler. I was just so comfortable and it felt so perfect to be right there in that moment that I didn't want to move. After that 4th snooze I finally disentangled myself from those amazing arms and threw my reluctant legs over the side of the bed to start my morning routine. I was rushing which I hate and just barely made it to work in time but it was worth it.

I hear so many women complain that their husband doesn't show them affection. He won't hold their hand and doesn't like to cuddle or hug. I am so glad I don't have that problem. I crave that physical affirmation of love and Mj has no problem with giving it to me.

That's just one more reason why I love the weekends. Not only do I NOT have to be forced out of bed by some annoying alarm clock but I get to cuddle as much as I want.

Are Photos On Wedding Invites Lame?

Is it lame to put a couple picture on your wedding invitation? I am searching the Internet for low cost wedding invitations and come across a few websites that give you the option of uploading a picture. I googled "low cost wedding invitations" and Vista Print came up near the top. You can order everything in increments of 10 which is nice and customize your order online. I only saw one fold over design. The envelopes are not included but they are so inexpensive that even after you add on a matching envelope you can still get 100 for as low as $80 with the sale they have going. I don't know how long the sale is going to last or if they are always that low. I also heard about Double Trouble Designs from another blogger. Their lowest price is: $150 for 100 plus a $40 design fee. Their designs are really cute and modern. 1st Class Wedding Invitations offers quality outer and inner envelopes and have a wide range of prices from $.86 cents to $4.50 each (based on a 100 order) with some great designs that can be ordered in increments of 25. The less you order the higher the price-gets which in some cases makes it not such a good deal. In all cases the RSVP portion is an additional cost.

People keep asking me what my colors are and as I started looking at invitations I started to feel like I should know my colors before I select the invites so that they can match. On the other hand, "Who really cares?" It is such a minor detail that it probably won't matter too much one way or another although I know that some brides will go to great lengths to coordinate every single little detail.

Just last week we received a beautifully embossed wedding invitation that opened up into 3 different panels that were artfully closed together by a pretty satin ribbon. "There will be no ribbons on our invitations." I immediately thought. Namely because those ribbons probably aren't cheap. On the other hand I don't want my invitations to be tacky. It should not look like I went to Cheap Invitations R Us. It doesn't need to be formal but I still want it to convey the elegance of our event.

I really want to get the wording on the RSVP just right too. I want it to be clear without sounding rude that the invite is extended to invited guests only. If your name is not on the invitation then you were not invited and you can't bring so and so if the plus one we have named on the invitation can't come. This means I should probably get an inner envelope aside from the outer one that will be addressed, mailed and probably thrown away, so that I can write the guest name on the outside of something they might hang onto. I also want names indicated on the RSVP so that not only do I know numbers but I will also have the name of each attending guest to write on name cards for the reception.

I can't believe that people pay into the $400's for 100 invitations. OK, I take that back. I can believe it but it's not something I plan on doing. Invitation Consultants has some really pretty invitations and some designs are as low as $104 for $100 that include outer envelopes only but most of them are way too pricey for me. What I did find useful is their nice selection of unique and classic wording idea's for invitations and RSVP's.

I'll keep searching for now and hopefully come up with something soon. I did not do save the dates because I have only started planning 6 months in advance. I am just going to spread the word right now by word of mouth and e mail.

According to About.com

Question: How far in advance should I address and send wedding invitations?

Answer: You should probably start to address your wedding invitations three months before the wedding. (If you have a calligrapher, check with them four months before the wedding as to when they need your guest list and invitations.) Ideally, wedding invitations are sent 8 weeks before the wedding – allowing guests several weeks to make travel arrangements and arrange time off from work if necessary, before sending them back to you.

Remember, you'll need to get them back in advance so you can start labeling place cards, make final head counts, etc. Ask for an RSVP date 3 weeks before your wedding, if you sent them on time. At a minimum, send them out six weeks in advance, and set an RSVP date of 2 weeks before the wedding.

My wedding date is July 10. I absolutely do not have a calligrapher!! People do that?!? Since I didn't do save the dates and a lot of guests will have to travel in order to come I am going to send the invitations out March 1st and request RSVP by June 1st to try to accommodate the inevitable stragglers that won't reply by the date I've asked.

I've got some time to make a final decision. If I decide to go with Vista Print I HOPE that they still have those low prices when I am ready to order. If they don't this frugal bride is gonna be mad.

Cooking For Dummies

Since Mj has been home he's been cooking up quite a storm in the kitchen. Everything he makes tastes good and I am pretty much the assistant. I did make beef stew in the crock pot alone but not really because he told me everything I was supposed to do. I want to get into the kitchen and make dinner for him on my own so that's exactly what I did last night. I can't come up with meals off the top of my head like Mj. I don't know what Bay Leaves are or how to season food and put it together but that's what cookbooks are for right?

Mj puts me to shame in the kitchen and probably always will, but as his wife I still want to make my contribution to the cooking. I also think it's important to share and enjoy meals together. I think he will appreciate my effort and it makes me feel good to do something for him. My unwillingness to and lack of desire to do so in my previous marriage was a mistake that I don't plan to repeat. Food used to be my mortal enemy. It was always seen as something for me to resist so why would I want to bring more into my house and cook it? Especially when I could get by on canned soup, a sandwich, or nothing at all. Not only that but it was the LAST thing I wanted to do after getting home from work. That was the old me; things are different now.

Mj picked up the ingredients I needed while I was at work. I rushed home and into the kitchen to make the easy and totally not fancy Broccoli & Pasta Bianco. It's basically pasta, broccoli and cheese. I found the recipe online at Campbell's Kitchen. The site is full of simple and quick to prepare low fat recipes mostly centered around their canned soups. It fits right into my post holiday eating recovery plan and something a beginner like me should be able to handle. I needed something quick because I don't get home until 5:30pm or so.

I threw everything together and ended up with a lot of extra pasta that Mj will undoubtedly find something tasty to make with. It only took 25 minutes to bake and looked and smelled pretty good coming out of the oven. We had some dinner rolls with it and were able to eat by 7:15pm.

The verdict? It turned out OK. It could have had more flavor but it tasted good. I felt kind of bad because everything Mj makes is so delicious and mine was just so so. Chef Mj suggested that real garlic and pepper would have probably given it more flavor. The recipe called for some ground pepper and I added some Garlic salt but I guess that just didn't cut it.

I will never be on Top Chef but I was really hoping that I wouldn't end up on Worst Cook's In America either. We watched that show on Monday and the best that some of them could do is make canned soup or boil a chicken. I am not that bad off, but I am a long way from being good.

Post Holiday Eating

I did pretty good over the holidays in terms of not over indulging just because there was food and chocolate everywhere I turned. I tend to have pretty decent willpower when it comes to eating in moderation but it kind of went downhill for me on Christmas Eve. Mj and I stopped and got breakfast sandwiches from McDonald's on the way to my mom's. Once I got there I couldn't seem to stop eating, drinking, and snacking on everything in sight. That led right into our trip the day after Christmas. The only thing worse then holiday eating is vacation eating and I did plenty of it. We didn't eat out every single day but I found myself eating way more then I normally do and feeling just a bit like a stuffed pig. I have what is probably a bad habit of stepping on the scale every day and I hated it that I had no idea how much damage I was doing while I was away.

Granted, I have what Mj refers to as a "complex" when it comes to weight and food. I admit it. I tell him how fat I feel and he laughs and rolls his eyes telling me that I am not even close. I don't dare tell my friends I feel fat because it will probably just piss them off. I am not fishing for compliments or trying to be that annoying skinny girl who always complains about being fat. I really mean it. I appear slim on the outside to others even though I feel big on the inside so they are never all that sympathetic. I can't say that I blame them. On more then one occasion I was told by one of Mj's relatives that I was "so skinny," but I don't see that when I look in the mirror. I probably still ate less on the trip then what a lot of people do but it was WAY more then usual putting me outside my "comfort zone" and triggering my weight anxiety. Realistically, I know this but there is this thing inside my head telling me that because I gained 2.5 lbs over Christmas break that I am huge.

Anyhow, since I've been back I have fortunately not gone on a starvation diet as I might have done in the past. Aside from our New Years Eve steak dinner plus tons of bread and dessert [oh my] I have been on what I guess I will call a modified sandwich diet. I was just so sick of food and eating. I need to eat light right now just to unclog my system.

I am getting back into my "normal" eating routine and starting to feel better inside my skin which is good. I just have to keep it up.

Spilt Milk

Laugh at myself story for the day:
It is not uncommon for there to be a cup of water just sitting in the fridge. Often times I will get some water to drink, not drink it all and just stick it back in the fridge. If I am thirsty again later I'll just reach into the fridge and grab it.

Well, yesterday I reached into the fridge and grabbed the water cup but when I took a swallow I was met with a very unfortunate surprise. Instead of water it was spoiled and rancid milk that had been sitting in the fridge the whole time we were out of town. It only took a few seconds for my taste buds to to tell my brain "Crap, It's not water!!!!" before I was running towards the sink to spit it out.

I'm the type of person who has never vomited outside of a toilet no matter how much alcohol consumed. I go through 5 napkins during one meal because I have to wipe my fingers after every time I pick up a piece of finger food and can't stand to see crumbs on the kitchen counter, but I could not hold in this rancid milk long enough to make it the entire 3 steps from my fridge to my sink. I almost did, so there wasn't too much spillage but the taste was so disgusting that I hardly even cared. I just kept spitting and moaning and rinsing my mouth out with water. Mj came rushing into the kitchen thinking I'd fallen or something! Ok, maybe I am dramatic but it was pretty traumatic at first. It was disgusting and funny at the same time.

"Mj bring me my toothbrush." I couldn't even bear to stop spitting, sputtering, and rinsing long enough to go to the bathroom and get it myself. As the shock wore off we both started laughing because it is quite hilarious when you really think about it.

I proceeded to cleanse my mouth of that horrible taste. Has anyone ever had curdled chunky sour milk? Well, I don't suggest that you do.

Mj says "that's why you should always look before you drink." Lesson learned.

Save The Date

It's so exciting!! I officially have a wedding date. My wedding will be on July 10, 2010. We decided on a location before Christmas but just finalized the contract and paid our $1,000 deposit yesterday. All done by fax and e mail-gotta love it!!

As I was searching for locations there were times I felt myself looking longingly at mansions, wineries, and lush golf course country clubs. Some of these locations were absolutely fabulous. I could only imagine how lavish and fantastic it would be to have a wedding at a place like that. I was not however seduced by the $90 per plate catering costs, $5000 venue fees or $8,000 food minimums. I have a budget and it does not include using the money we have saved for a down payment on a house in order to finance our wedding.

Back to reality. Which is fine, because there were a lot of lovely locations that were within our budget. I couldn't just look at the cost alone- I had to factor in the ever present sales tax and hefty 18-19% gratuity. That adds a lot onto the final tab. I also had to consider the estimated cost of my extras: DJ, Photographer, Officiant, cake, and flowers. This is on top of any costs associated with the facility and food.

We decided that Zosa was just too far to make it convenient for out of town guests. We also felt that the rooms were just a little too pricey. Basically, after the wedding we would be heading back home and our guests that were staying in town would either have to switch hotels or else we might not see them again and it would make it more difficult for them to do the whole tourist thing if they wanted to while they are here. We would have gotten so much more for our money with their great all inclusive package prices but we decided to pass.

MVR was actually the less expensive hotel option but Mj just didn't like it. The upside in addition to cost is the free parking and they provided false flower center pieces. The ceremony location was right behind the pool and was not closed off at all so he did have a good point about that not being ideal. When I crunched numbers to include alcohol, and Hors D'oeuvres I really liked the price though because we had a better chance of staying in the $10,000's. It would not be nearly as stylish as The H and I was willing to accept that but Mj was not.

The H Hotel it is. It is centrally located, the room prices are reasonable and the renovations on the entire hotel will be done in February. It is convenient having the ceremony and reception in the same place. The garden area for the ceremony is beautiful and private. The reception room is intimate and has floor to ceiling glass that looks out onto the garden area. The hotel does the catering, provides staff, tables, chairs, and linens. There were some really scenic locations that I found online but by the time you add in the cost of paying staff and renting tables, chairs, linens, china, bar set up, etc through the catering company the cost seemed way too high so I think this was the best way to go for us. One downside is that they do charge for parking which we can either host or make our guests pay. The upside is that I won't have to buy chair covers because the hotel has nice gold ballroom chairs whereas the MVR had an ugly maroon that I would have wanted to cover.
Garden Ceremony Location

View of the Garden from the Reception Room

I like it that we will have plenty of time to use the facility. There were some places that wanted you in and out in 4-5 hours which I didn't like because I don't want to rush through this. The changing room for the bride is right across from the reception area and is available as early as 10 am. The ceremony venue fee is $1,190. What's nice is that the ceremony location is set up with a sound system and CD player so we won't have to hire a DJ for the ceremony at all. The reception room cost is included in the food prices. We have chosen a reception package that provides one hour unlimited drinks during cocktail hour along with a cheese display, a single plated entree selection, and champagne toast. The cost for this is a very reasonable $55 per person. The food minimum for our room is $3,000 which we will have not problem meeting with our planned 75 guest list. We may add on an additional fruit display. Their bar hosting packages are flexible and we may also add on some extra alcohol.

I want to work on getting our officiant, DJ, and Photographer in place next because those services usually do just one per day so you have to book those well in advance. In my earlier searches for locations I have come across possibilities for all of the other vendors too and have saved the links in a hotmail draft for later reference. I've done most of the research I just have to dig it up and make decisions.

So, the key is to keep the cost of all of my additional vendors as low as possible so as to try and stay within budget. That includes officiant, flowers, photographer, DJ, and cake. I also will have to decide on low budget center pieces and invitations.

New Year's Eve Nap

Our New Year's Eve plans basically consisted of going out to dinner. Mj is not that into the whole New Years Eve party scene and I am not into the cost and the crowds so dinner was just fine for both of us. We went to a nice restaurant and enjoyed a good steak dinner. As if I needed to stuff my face full of any more food then I already have what with the holidays and traveling. But, it's New Years Eve and it will be my last indulgence for a while so I can cleanse my body of all of this ridiculous over eating. I enjoyed my meal and even ordered dessert. I can undo the damage next year right? At the restaurant I saw some girls in their chilly party dresses and unforgiving party shoes and was so glad not to be in their shoes. I was warm and comfortable in Uggs and jeans. I didn't have to try to look all cute just to go out and eat some steak.

We were so tired from traveling that we actually didn't make it until New Years. About an hour before midnight Mj turned the TV to one of the countdown shows. We promptly dozed off within minutes. I woke up to Britney Spears performing. My goodness she is looking better then ever and I really wanted to watch it but I couldn't even stay awake for that and the next thing I know it's 12:32 am and Mj and I are both knocked out.

"Oh no, we missed it. Do you still want champagne?" I said nope and off we went back to sleep.

New Years Day was spent watching movies and relaxing. That is all either of us wanted to do. We did have some champagne and toast to the New Years. A day late, but oh well. Oh, we did toast at dinner too-so technically that should cover it!

It's been a while since I made any New Years resolutions, but here are a few things I want for the New Year:
  • Get back to my normal eating [non pigging out] routine.
  • Get better at cooking.
  • Start all over with Rosetta Stone and move forward with learning Spanish.
  • Reduce my anxiety and stress. Be happy. Bad things in life happen-just deal with it.
  • Spend little to no money on wants. There is no room in the budget for anything but the wedding.
  • Buy a house, plan and enjoy and amazing wedding, and go to Europe for my honeymoon.
  • Earn more money. No plan whatsoever.......
  • Exercise. Doesn't have to be at the gym.

Meet The Parents

Delaware is a place I never in a million years ever would have thought I would visit. Mj is actually the only person I've ever met in my life from there. It's not as cold as I thought it would be. We missed the storms thank goodness but there are still various piles of shoveled snow on the sides of the road.I enjoyed our trip but it's so good to be back home. We stayed the first three nights at Dover Air Force base lodging for only $30 per night. It even has free Wi Fi. Can't beat that. The room are pretty nice too!!

It reminds me a lot of Jacksonville, NC where my older sister currently lives. They are virtually interchangeable which perhaps could be said of many small towns in the South and the East Coast. You have your Super Walmart, Restaurants, fast food joints, and a small downtown area. It's flat and there are trees on either side of the highway that really isn't a freeway. There is lots of greenery and the most adorable little doll house like homes made of brick and aluminum siding. They have porches, sun rooms, and basements. No stucco to be found anywhere. All of the businesses look like charming brick houses. They even have Amish people in Delaware. The girls wear loose gray dresses, black sweaters, black boots, and white bonnets. It was freezing out and these two young girls were wearing that and riding a horse and buggy. I couldn't believe my eyes. The brick downtown jailhouse is more charming than any jailhouse I've ever seen before.

Definitely not a Super Max Prison

Amish Buggy. I can't believe people still live this way!

I met Mj's mom and dad and a bunch of his other relatives. It was really nice to have the opportunity to meet before the wedding. Everyone was really nice and welcoming. After we left Dover where most of his family lives we drove down to Virginia to meet mom. We stopped at a place called Cracker Barrel for breakfast which has the best pancakes I have ever tasted before. Brown and crispy at the edges unlike most restaurant pancakes which are pale and flavorless. The traffic was horrible so it took us about 7 hours but his mom had dinner ready for us when we got there and we had a good time. We spent the night there before heading out the next day to Washington D.C.

I have never been there before and I would definitely like to go back when it's not so darn cold. It was about 32 degrees. I was doing OK the whole trip because my exposure to the arctic conditions came in short spurts but I found myself outside for about an hour straight as we walked around DC and I thought I was getting frostbite. Seriously. My face was numb. My left hand was hurting and my lips were frozen. We checked out two museums at the Smithsonian.

Natural History Museum

We also got to see the huge White House Christmas tree. For some silly reason I thought we were going to be able to walk up to the White House but that was not the case. Security reasons and all I suppose, considering it is the president's house. We were able to see it from behind wire bars and trees. We had nothing to eat the whole day except a shared street vendor hot dog which was absolutely delicious so we took the subway back to our car and went to dinner. One of Mj's friends met us there. My hands literally had pins and needles as the blood began circulating back into them. We stayed the last night at the Hyatt that cost more then our three nights at Dover AFB and was extremely nice although we didn't really get to enjoy it much. We went to bed early to get ready for our 4:30am wake up call so that we could make our 6:45 am flight.

The Garden Room view from our Hotel Room. That's Mj walking towards the check out counter.

At the airport I stood under falling snow. So what right? But as a born and raised Cali girl that is something I have never actually done before. I've seen it for the first time in College and been in Atlanta when it had snowed but that is the extent of it. I thought it would be wet coming down but it's so light and fluffy!!

The flight out here wasn't so bad. Mj and I had the row to ourselves and we kept fairly occupied with reading and the in flight movie. The way home was entirely another story. We sat on the runway for about 2 hours while they de iced the plane. I was in and out of sleep the whole time so I don't really remember. Then our flight from Baltimore to LA was expected to take 5 hours and 11 minutes!! Towards the end of the flight it was so hot I had to take my shirt off and my butt was killing me. Due to the delay we missed our connecting flight and got home a later then expected. We were exhausted. All we wanted to do was get home and take a nap so we could rest up before our NYE dinner.

I always have thought that a couple's ability to travel together is a reflection of the kind of relationship they have. The ex husband and I traveled horribly together. It was stressful and worrisome to the point where it overshadowed excitement over the trip itself and it certainly was a reflection of how bad our relationship was. Things could not be more different with Mj and I. Things did go wrong on our trip here and there but as long as we were together and just went with the flow it was fine.

It is so good to be home. Did I already say that?