Big, BIG things happening for us as of late.  Apparently we don’t know how to do low key/boring. :)

2010 – Engagement
2011 – Wedding/Honeymoon
2012 – PURCHASE OUR FIRST HOME!!!!!!!!!!
2013 – ??? I’m sure we will find something to spice things up next year!

Remember back in February when we turned 30 and went on our lovely trip to Mexico? Well the day before we left for vacation we found out the owner of the condo we rent is planning to sell.  What did this mean for us? Well it meant we had to move and do it within the next few months.  STRESSFUL! The thought that we would need to move, or that our apartment would be sold, was nowhere on our radar.

We had planned on building up our saving account a little more and then purchasing our first home.  The plan was to move at the end of the summer (or possibly early 2013).  With the news of an impending sale coming our way, the purchasing timeline was moved up.  Our move out date was no longer being driven by our savings account but by our current landlord’s desire to sell.

Despite our initial freakout everything has worked out pretty well.  We have a friend who’s a realtor so we called him the day we found out about needing to move and he got us hooked up with the lender that afternoon.  Within a week of coming back from vacation we were preapproved for a place and ready to start the big search.

While we were drinking margaritas and relaxing on the beach the husband and I came up with our must have and like to have lists for our first home.

Here is what our list looked like in order of priority …

Must Haves:

  1. Within our ideal price range
  2. In DC (not Maryland or Virginia)
  3. Pet Friendly – we can’t part with little Miss. Sophi!
  4. 2 bedrooms
  5. Washer/Dryer
  6. Walking distance to a metro

Like to Haves:

  1. Parking Space
  2. Plenty of Storage
  3. 1.5 or 2 bathrooms
  4. Patio and/or balcony
  5. Fireplace

I felt like this was a pretty good list to begin with and began stalking RedFin for listings. After looking at a few condos in person, our must have list started to change a little.  We quickly realized a large living/dining area was important to us.  Small bedrooms were okay as long as the living space was big.  I feel like I do two to three things in the bedroom.  Sleep, get dressed and watch tv. I don’t need a massive amount of space for any of those.  Also, it became very clear places under ~800 sq feet were just too small.  As it turns out the one bedroom we rent is slightly over ~800 square feet so when you add a second bedroom but don’t increase the size of the unit the living space shrinks considerably.  TIP: find out the square footage of your current place before you start looking at places (to rent or buy).  This  will help you to gauge what square footage is ideal for you.

After viewing at least 20+ places in person and probably over 100 online we ended up putting an offer in and after a week of negotiations the place was officially UNDER CONTRACT.  WOOT WOO!!!

Based on our initial list we end up with the following:

Must Haves:

  1. Within our ideal price range – FAIL we went over the initial budget
  2. In DC (not Maryland or Virginia) – CHECK
  3. Pet Friendly – CHECK
  4. 2 bedrooms – CHECK
  5. Washer/Dryer – CHECK
  6. Walking distance to a metro – CHECK

Like to Haves:

  1. Parking Space – Fail
  2. Plenty of Storage – Fail … well kind of.
  3. 1.5 or 2 bathrooms – CHECK
  4. Patio and/or balcony – CHECK
  5. Fireplace – Fail

PLUS our living/dining room is HUGE and get a ton of natural light, win win!!  Overall I would say we made out VERY well with our first homeowner purchase.

Looking back at the process here are a few things I think we did right and a few more I wish we had done:

  • Go with your gut. If you love it then you love it and if you don’t there are always more places coming onto the market so don’t settle.  For those of you who purchased a wedding dress and had “this is THE dress” moment that will happen for your home too!
  • View a lot of places and even take a look at places you aren’t sure look great online. Not all places photograph well (or the owner just puts up crappy pictures).  We found a few I wasn’t sure about online and then really liked in person.
  • Remember the paint color (or wallpaper) can always be changed!
  • Determine what the deal breakers are. For example I hated when the second bedroom didn’t have a window (which didn’t come to light until we saw a few places like this).  It didn’t bother my husband, but we agreed when things are a deal breaker for one of us then the place is out.
  • Figuring out what you can afford and comfortable spending BEFORE you start looking and don’t look out places above your price range.  I mean let’s be honest if you find a place for 100k that you like, but then look at a place for 500k 9 times out of 10 you are going to like the more expensive place.  Just don’t tease yourself it isn’t worth it I promise (same thing goes for wedding dress brides!!!).
  • Going back to the first choice place at least once before putting in an offer or shortly there after. It felt so good to walk into the condo and confirm I LOVED it.
  • Getting the paperwork in order while looking for a place. I wish I had asked the Lender for a list of the paperwork we were going to need to provide (bank statements, w-2s, paychecks, etc) to get fully approved.  The documents takes a while to compile and if you are like me, you might have forgotten how to access some of your 401k accounts online.
  • Don’t take the negotiations personally.  The seller wants the highest price possible and you want the lowest.  Some back and forth is to be expected.  We had a hard time with this because we felt our initial offer was very reasonable/fair.

And remember to RELAX and try to ENJOY purchasing your first home!!

Related blogs coming up soon: Moving, painting and other homeownership related projects.

What tips do you have for a first time home buyer?  Do you have any pre-move in tips for us?

Don’t forget to leave your tidbit by commenting below :)

I don’t know why, but back in February I became slightly obsessed with making red velvet cupcakes.  I wanted to make them for my 30th birthday, however my husband told me cooking for my own birthday celebration was a no-no! :)  Little did I know he had already purchased my favorite cake vanilla on vanilla.  Plain Jane over here, but I do spice things up from time to time.

I’ve heard a ton of stories about red velvet cupcakes ending up too dry so I was weary of picking a recipe to follow.  I ended up referencing the follow recipes which can be found here (primarily used), here and here.

For my first try at these somewhat finicky cupcakes they turned out great! My husband tried the batter and loved it. Then talked about how great the house smelt the whole time they cooked.  He’s my designated frosting checker and gave the A-OK on that little number as well.  In the end the final cream cheese frosting on a red velvet cupcake was a success in our house tonight!

What you will need for the cupcakes:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz) red food coloring
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp white vinegar

NOTE:  3 tbsp of coco powder is equal to about 1/4 cup – in case you are referencing other recipes like I did.

Preheat oven to 350. Line muffin tin with baking liners.

Cream butter and sugar on medium-high for two minutes. Mix in one egg at a time, beating after each addition.

Combine food coloring and cocoa powder to bowl. Watch out for your clothes! I got food coloring all over one of my favorite shirts … pout!  Turn the mixer to low and add to the butter/sugar/egg mixture until just incorporated and then beat on medium for 4 minutes.

Sift together the flours, salt, and baking soda and set aside. Stir buttermilk and vanilla together.

Add dry ingredients to the bowl in three batches, alternately with the buttermilk in two batches, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat on medium until just combined.

Add sour cream and vinegar and beat on low until combined.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 full and bake for 20-30 minutes.  Check the cupcakes at about 15 minutes with a toothpick to see how they are coming along.  Let cool on a wire rack or in the pan.

While the cupcakes are cooking or cooling make your frosting.

What’s needed for the frosting:

  • 16 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 10 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Combine the cream cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in the mixer at med speed.  Add the powdered sugar to the bowl in small batches, while beating on low.  Be careful not to add too much or it was dust you and the counters with sugar as it combines. :) Once fully combined beat on high until desired consistency is reached.

For a stiffer icing, add more powdered sugar.  If needed add a little milk to make the icing softer (you shouldn’t need to do this).

Put your icing into an icing bag and cut off the tip of the bag.

Apply the icing in circles from the outside in.  You should have some frosting left over.  It’s a little too much frosting for 24 cupcakes.

Happy Cooking!

Do you have any tips on making red velvet cupcakes?

Don’t forget to leave your tidbit by commenting below :)

We began our honeymoon in Positano and then we were off to Sorrento.  Day 6 was spent on the train heading north to Cinque Terre.  The trip was long and I read an entire book on the train ride there!  The trip wasn’t over when we arrive at the Monterosso train station.  We then had to shlep our luggage up a hill to the hotel.  Then it was official … we had arrived in Cinque Terre!

Cinque Terre, Italy: Honeymoon Part |  Life's Tidbits

Screen shot from Google Maps

We stayed at the #1 hotel in Monterosso, at least according to TripAdvisor, Hotel Villa Steno.  The hotel was great and the view was amazing.  We made good use of our balcony during our stay. I would definitely recommend a balcony with an ocean view!

Day 7: Day at the Beach

After sleeping in a little, we lathered up with sun tan lotion and headed to the beach!  The day was spent ocean side reading, tanning and hanging out.  The beach was beautiful and while relaxing on the beach I read Sarah’s Key, which is a great book and I highly recommend it.

Cinque Terre, Italy: Honeymoon Part |  Life's Tidbits

After a drink on the balcony and taking in the beautiful views we decided it was time for some PIZZA! Nothing had compared to the first place we found in Positano, however we were going to try to find something at least close.  As always we used the TripAdvisor app on the iPhone and decided upon Pizzeria Da Ely.  The pizza was very good and we were able to land a seat outside without having a reservation. :)  After a lovely dinner and bottle of wine we headed back to the hotel.

Cinque Terre, Italy: Honeymoon Part |  Life's Tidbits

Monterosso al Mare shuts down a lot earlier than Sorrento and Positano did.  For us this was a good thing, because the next day we planned to hike the 5 cities of Cinque Terre!

Day 8: Hiking Cinque Terre

We woke up early, which was a nice change and headed directly to breakfast.  After breakfast we packed water bottles, sunscreen and the camera into our backpack and headed towards the trail for our big hike.  We hiked from Monterosso to Vernazza.  I honestly don’t think I’ve ever sweat so much in my entire life.  It was SO hot and although the hike wasn’t hard there were enough stairs to make it so I couldn’t control the sweating. Hahaha.  Sexy, right?

Anyways after finally reaching Vernazza we stopped for lunch at Gianni Franzi.  I had the pasta with meat sauce it was A-Mazing.  After resting for a while we began the hike to Corniglia.  Once we arrived in  Corniglia it was time for a drink at a cute little bar.  The path from Corniglia to Manarola was closed for some reason so we would have to hop on the train to Manarola and then we could finish the hike through the cities.

The path closure was about all the level of excuses we needed to skip the last two cities (Manarola and Riomaggiore).  It was hot and we were tired from already hiking for the better part of the day.  We got on the train and headed back to our beautiful hotel.  We sat on the balcony, watched the sunset and savored our last evening in Cinque Terre.

Here are a few pictures from the hike:

Cinque Terre, Italy: Honeymoon Part |  Life's Tidbits

So beautiful!!! Even though we didn’t finish the hike I am glad we enjoyed the portion that we did do.  I think if it wasn’t so hot then we would have done the whole thing.  On our last night we went to Il Casello for dinner.  The food was great and the view of the ocean was perfect.  I think this is a place that only takes cash though … just a little fyi/heads up if you decide to go.

Day 9 would be spent on the train to Rome – our final stop on the honeymoon.

Caio! See you in Rome!!!

Happy traveling.

Don’t forget to leave your tidbit by commenting below :)

After spending three days in Positano, Italy we had a driver pick us up and take us to our next destination … Sorrento!

Google Map of Sorrento, Italy | Life's Tidbits

The plan was to stay here the shortest amount of time and therefore find the cheapest place we could.  We ended up staying at a cute little B&B on the main strip.  We had decided to do a lot of sightseeing while in Sorrento so we were less concerned with staying at someplace “fancy”.  Besides sleeping at night we weren’t really in the room so it worked out perfectly.  This B&B was in walking distance of the port, train and a ton of restaurants.

Day 4:

We arrived at the B&B, checked in, and went ahead and changed.  We walked around town a little and headed down to the port to catch the ferry from Sorrento to Capri.

Honeymooning in Sorrento, Italy - ferry from Sorrento to Capri | Life's Tidbits

Once we arrived in Capri we had a horrible lunch (pizza & beer) at a “restaurant” near where the ferry dropped us off.  Due to poor planning and arriving at siesta time we missed seeing the Garrato and ended up taking a bus to Anacapri city.  The city was unfortunately pretty much shut down.  We walked around for a while and then took the bus back down to the port. If you plan to explore Capri make it there early in the day.  Our poor planning lead to a less than amazing day.  Dinner however made up for our so-so day! After looking through TripAdvisor reviews for a long while my husband found Ristorante Bar Parco Ibsen.  This place seemed a little weird as we walked down the path, but it was so romantic and the food was A-MAZING!

Honeymooning in Sorrento, Italy - Ristorante Bar Parco Ibsen | Life's Tidbits

After a fantastic dinner we randomly walked past someone handing out  brochures  to see some new ruins.  Although it was still “under construction” it was a fun way to spend 30 minutes.  A little impromptu sightseeing!

Honeymooning in Sorrento, Italy | Life's Tidbits

Despite our plan to head directly to bed, so we could wake up early for the trip to Pompeii, we ended up at a little wine bar just down the street from the B&B.  It was crazy – the whole main strip had been closed to traffic and people were mulling about. It was so much fun to people watch and have a glass of wine.

Day 5:

It’s our one week anniversary!! We totally overslept, but managed to rally and get to the train station. After a fairly quick train ride we arrived at Pompeii.  My husband is super into the whole historical thing so we rented audio guides and headed off to see the ruins.  One thing to note is we forgot to pick up a map! Seriously navigating around without a map proved to be difficult, but neither of us realized our mistake until it was too late.  Thank goodness we have the Rick Steve’s book with us, which included a mini map of Pompeii.  We spent the day wondering around Pompeii (and sweating a lot … Italy in August is HOT!).  The husband was definitively way more into the whole experience than me, but overall it was a great day.

Things to do in Sorrento, Italy: View Pompeii for a day. Honeymooning in Italy | Life's Tidbits

Clearly since it was our one week anniversary we figured we should splurge on dinner.  So we chose L’Antica Trattoria restaurant for dinner and ate a 7 course meal.  It was WAY too much food, but it was also fantastic so C’est la vie.  My favorite course was the pasta and shrimp with a lemon sauce served in a lemon!

Honeymoon: L’Antica Trattoria restaurant in Sorrento, Italy | Life's Tidbits

Honeymoon: L’Antica Trattoria restaurant in Sorrento, Italy | Life's Tidbits

After dinner we rolled back to the B&B and hoped into bed.  It was a long fun day, but we needed to rest up for tomorrow when we would be boarding the train for a long ride to our next destination.  I think one more day in Sorrento would have been nice. That way we could have explore Sorrento itself a little more.  This is someplace I would definitely like to return to one day.

Caio! See you in Cinque Terre!

Happy vacationing.

I know I am a bad blogger and I still haven’t told you about how we made our own wedding invitations, but that DIY project was a HUGE undertaking. Honestly, I’m not completely sure how to walk you through the process step by step … YET.  So instead I started thinking maybe I would just begin by sharing our DIY rehearsal dinner invitations.

After determining the location, invite list and all that fun stuff for the rehearsal dinner I decided we (the husband and I) should DIY own rehearsal dinner invites.  We had left over card stock from the wedding invite inserts as well as extra envelopes (from our DIY Calligraphy).  I mean it would have been such a waste not to take advantage of the left over paper materials, right?!?!?! ;)

Early on I found Wedding Paper Divas. They have fabulous invitations for various occasions, in fact it is the website we purchased our save the dates from.  I quickly found this rehearsal invitation, which served as my inspiration for our DIY invites.

Image Credit: Wedding Paper Divas

What you need:

Photoshop has a 30 day FREE trail you can download.  We used a 30 day trial to create the initial draft of our wedding invitations. In the end we ended up purchasing Photoshop.  We planned to use it not only for wedding stuff, but also for my budding photography hobby!  If you plan to go the 30 day trial route, make sure to save the final version of your invitation as a PSD, JPG and TIFF file. This will ensure you are able to print the design even after your trail expires.

To ensure we could use some of our left over envelopes, I knew the invitations would need to be 5×7.  Once I had the size I found a free image online of a chandelier and downloaded it. From there I Googled rehearsal dinner text and placed it on the initial version of the invite.  After that it was just a matter of finding a layout we liked as well as fonts.

The majority of the text is in a renaissance font, which is free to download!  Then for our names I used the same font we used on our invitations for our names, again a free font you can download.  I felt using a little of the same font as the wedding invitations tied everything together.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures of the process, which is a bummer, so I can only really describe what I did.  I printed two invites on each piece of card stock and then used my handy dandy paper cutter to make them 5×7. I printed a number of test versions on plain paper before using the card stock.

This is one of the test versions, please excuse the crappy blackberry camera shot:

I had printed almost all of the rehearsal dinner invites when I remembered I had purchased a paper rounder punch. I decided to go ahead and use one of my test invites and round the corners to see how it looked.  I ended up loving it and the husband was in agreement.  A bunch of punches later we had rounded edges instead of sharp corners.

Here’s what the rehearsal dinner invitation looked like totally finished:

Here are a couple of extra tips:

  1. SPELL CHECK!
  2. Print test versions on plain white paper before doing a sample on your nice card stock.
  3. Print using High resolution.
  4. Make sure you have enough paper.  You will need extra for test prints as well as if you detect a mistake. Or if like me your ink cartridge starts to die so some invites are better than others.
  5. Start early.  Even though you don’t have to print as many rehearsal dinner invitations as wedding invites (usually) they still take time.  Better not to be up against a deadline.

Happy Planning!

Don’t forget to leave your tidbit by commenting below :)

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