Cards with print and cut, mod podge, embossing, and more!

I've been having a little fun doing something I don't normally do, which is make cards.  Normally I feel like cards are kind of a waste of paper.  People rarely save them and paper = trees, ya know?

Regardless, I did want to make a few cards recently, and here are the results.

The first one was for my mother in law's birthday.  This card was made with print and cut, my favorite feature of the Silhouette Cameo.  The card itself is pale pink cardstock but everything else is print and cut.  I filled the background shape with the pretty rose pattern, use the color matching dropper tool to pick out pinks from the roses and make a gradient of colors for the cake, and filled in the cake stand and candle parts with solid colors.  Print, cut, glue, voila!

The second card I made is for our awesome, patient, and hard working Realtor.  This card is actually a "Welcome to the Neighborhood" card in the Silhouette store but I just deleted the text and added "Thank you" instead (Font name- Cheri).

Before cutting the letters I ran the paper through my Sizzix Big Shot using a Cuttlebug embossing folder.  I had to bump my blade up from 3 to 5 to cut through the cardstock after that, but I like the delicate detail it gives.

Everything on this card is colored card stock, no print and cut this time!  The hearts have Mod Podge Dimensional Magic  on them which is really fun as it dries clear but hard, smooth, shiny, and raised up.

I'm considering making our holiday cards this year instead of ordering the ever-present Shutterfly photo card, but we'll see if I have the patience for that (especially with a newborn coming soon!).


Diary of our short sale home purchase

We just bought a new house!  Last time we built a house which I found very stressful and didn't enjoy.  This time we wanted to buy an existing home.  As luck would have it, we fell in love with a short sale.  We had looked for over a month before finding this house and knew that it was ours as soon as it was listed.

This was not a smooth process.  It was about 4.5 months from offer to closing, which is miraculous compared to some short sales, but it was still a long, stressful, sucky waiting period.

Throughout that time I kept googling for info on short sales- timelines, how the banks involve handle short sales, etc- and quickly found out that there IS no real good guideline for how a short sale will go.  Nonetheless I decided to document and share the progress in the hopes that it helps someone out there.  This is exactly the type of info I would have loved to find in my searches.

Things I want to point out:  

-Having 2 liens against a short sale = probably would run if the situation ever came up again.  They spent over a month just hashing out who got how much money from the sale between them.
-We got incredibly lucky.  This house was only built a few years ago, was kept pristine, and the owners short-sold due to job relocation, not financial hardship.  They were great every step of the way. Some sellers don't really want to lose their house and can make things difficult or even trash the house.  Ours not only kept it gorgeous but left behind things like a lawn mower, stainless steel fridge (all other appliances included in sale), and tools.
-We got early access to the house to allow for cleaning, mowing/weedwhacking, and to get our household goods delivered.  This isn't really normal and may be confusing in the timeline- remember how I mentioned the sellers were great?  They really were!

Ok, let's get down to the info!  Lien #1 on the house was with Nationstar, who I had never heard of prior to this.  Lien #2 was with Bank of America.  Bank of America used to hold both liens but shortly before the house was listed, Lien #1 was sold to Nationstar.

March 30, 2013:  Saw house listed online

March 31, 2013:  Submitted offer ($2,500 above asking price) based on photos alone as we are both out of state and want to move fast.  We know several people in the area which makes us confident in the neighborhood.

April 1, 2013:  Sellers (not their bank) accepted our offer and sent it to their lender

April 16, 2013:  My negotiator "urgently" requests my lender info (and gets my hopes up)

April 30, 2013:  We sign to extend contract

May 2, 2013:  In my previously mentioned googling for info, I find out that Lien #1 is notorious for making sellers use auction.com for short sales even if there are offers on the property in order to solicit a better price.  In addition I read that Lien #1 is known to not give any sort of closing cost assistance unless you finance through them.  Most alarming, however, is that I read that Lien #1 requires the short sale buyers to apply to finance through them regardless of if the buyer already has financing already.  It's emphasized that the buyer does not have to use them, but that the application is part of the approval process.  I flat out will not agree to this if it comes to it- every application like that is a credit hit, for one thing- and e-mail my Realtor all the info I've found.  She passes it on to the Negotiator for our side who assures her he has not dealt with that before.  *Note that in the end, NONE of this came up, for which I am very grateful!*

May 14, 2013:  Short sale lender completed their appraisal and accepted it without contesting it.   We extend contract again and are told 5-7 days to finish up paperwork.  We are told the appraisal belongs to them and can't see the information, which is annoying.

May 20, 2013:  It is suggested that we schedule the home inspection to start getting ready to close, and we agree.  After a few days of no contact from the seller's bank, we cancel this for now.

May 24, 2013:  Hubby has arrived at his new duty station and is able to actually go see the house in person for the first time.  I am unable to travel due to pregnancy so he sends me a video.  Luckily, we still love the house after seeing it for real!

May 30, 2013:  Seller's lenders request info from us such as SSNs and our mortgage lender.  Again we get our hopes up.

June 6, 2013:  We sign to extend contract for the 3rd time after spending a weekend house-hunting for non-short-sale alternatives with no results.

June 10, 2013:  We keep hearing "Any day now!" from negotiator and no longer believe it (a month ago we were told 5-7 days, remember?).  Our contract was only re-signed for a week so we make an offer on a newly built home.  Builder counters for more than it's listed for.  We decline.

June 13, 2013:  We sign to extend contract for the 4th time.

June 17, 2013:  Seller's lenders AGAIN request info similar to May 30th request.

July 15, 2013:  Yes, a month went by with NOTHING happening.  The 2nd smaller lien on the house wanted more money in the deal, and sellers agreed to kick that money in, so 2nd lien gives approval verbally.

July 16, 2013:  On the good news of one lien giving verbal approval, we go ahead with the inspection.  Overall it went well, but roof has some storm damage.  Sellers agree to pay to fix the damage (it's minimal).

July 17, 2013:  Hubby and I have both signed mortgage paperwork on the house.

July 26, 2013:  Mortgage approved, underwriting completed pending appraisal and cleared title.  Lien #1 still has not given approval.  Roof repairs completed.

July 29, 2013:  Lien #1 is waiting on Lien #2 to give their approval in writing.  We were told they would send it on 23rd.  Did not receive it until today.

July 31, 2013:  Lien #1 counters the closing cost assistance in the contract.  We asked for $2500 (and offered $2500 above asking), they counter with $2000.  We aren't going to kill the deal over $500 after all this time and I'm sure they know that.  We accept and sign.  We think this means approval coming soon.

August 7, 2013:  Appraisal came in and it's great news for us!  Still no approval from Lien #1.  Someone either at my lender or Lien #1 is having issues with the HUD-1 form, not sure who.  As usual we're told this is "THE LAST STEP" until Lien #1 approves the sale.

August 8, 2013:  Seller's bank's appraisal has expired and it must be current to close.  The ball was dropped due to bank's negotiator's wife giving birth and no one else handling the paperwork in the meantime.  Same day appraisal is scheduled.

August 9, 2013:  Lien #1 approves!  We are good to move forwards!  Sign contract amendments to close on the 15th.

August 15, 2013:  This is the day we are supposed to close.  We were told all our paperwork is at the title company and they are trying to rush it.  Things are made complicated because both of the sellers and myself will have to sign, notarize, and overnight documents back.  Only hubby is in San Antonio.

August 16, 2013:  We are told that the title company had to correct the HUD-1 form and that first our lender and then the two short sale lenders have to approve it before we can close.  They now believe we will close on the 20th or 21st and fund (and get keys) on the 21st or 22nd.

August 17, 2013:  In a twist I've never heard of, without even having to lease the house before closing or anything like that, hubby is given access to the house to get it cleaned and ready to have our things delivered.

August 19, 2013:  I am told that our lender has approved the HUD-1 form and that Lien #1 has approved as well.  I have seen Lien #1's approval.  Unsure where Lien #2 stands- may be done since Lien #1 usually makes them go first.  A local notary (I am out of state) calls me to talk about signing tomorrow but notes that he has not received title company's paperwork to do so yet.  Title company does not return my phone calls trying to find out what is going on.  Realtor requests HUD-1 from title company so that we can see what we need to pay at closing.

9:15 PM Local Time, 10:15 PM for me in NC, August 19, 2013:  Title company calls me with the clear to close, e-mails me paperwork, and tells me we will be signing tomorrow and hopefully funding/keys the day after!  I am in shock that she is still at work but quickly panic when I see the closing documents list that we owe $8100 in closing costs.  I call my Realtor (around 9:30 PM her time at this point) who goes over the HUD-1 form with me and realize that actually, we're getting credited $500, so we actually owe $0!  Our estimate was $2500-3500 (went up after Lien #1 countered our closing cost assistance request).  I still don't believe it until the closing is over.

August 20, 2013:  Title company calls me again, goes over paperwork (all 105 pages!), and tells me sellers will be signing today.  Hubby is scheduled to go in person to close tomorrow at 11 AM.  Our household goods arrive at the new house!  Early in the afternoon I get all my copies of the closing papers signed, notarized, and taken to FedEx to be shipped overnight mail to the title company.

August 21, 2013:  At 11 AM local time hubby signs closing documents.  At 2:30 PM local time, we get a message that the closing and funding have been completed!  The house is finally ours!

Still to do:  We still have to switch utilities into our name (will be done tomorrow), set up our HOA account (will be done when title company sends HOA the settlement statement), update things like our bank account with our new address, file change of address form with post office (both on tomorrow's list as well), and of course unpack, decorate, re-landscape, buy a new dryer (ours is gas and the new house needs an electric one), a new kitchen table (we didn't have a formal dining room- now we do, and our current marble topped kitchen table is perfect for it!), replace some broken furniture (mostly our desks), replace guest room bed (the mattress sucked so we ditched it), consider replacing couch (it didn't come out of storage smelling all that great), aaaaaand last but not least, in a few months move myself, our toddler, our soon-to-be-born baby, and allllll of our toddler's bedroom furniture from NC to TX.



Faux Bojangles Biscuits

Wow, I never shared this recipe???  I loooove biscuits and used to make this every week, keeping them in tupperware and re-heating in the toaster oven as needed.  They are great for breakfast sandwiches, dinner rolls, snacks...did I mention I love biscuits?

Biscuits are probably the only thing at Bojangle's that I actually eat and they do a really yummy biscuit, so I convinced a friend of mine who managed one to snag me the recipe and adapted it a little to what I usually have on hand.


3 cups self-rising flour OR 3 cups all-purpose flour with 3 & 3/4 tsp baking power and 3/4 tsp salt mixed in
2 tsp powdered sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup salted butter (or unsalted, if you converted all-purpose flour to substitute for self-rising; I've found otherwise it's too salty)
1 & 1/2 cup buttermilk OR 1 & 1/2 cup milk (I use skim) and 2 tsp cream of tartar- mix and let stand for 5 min


Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.  Mix dry ingredients, then add butter (softened is best, and I use my Kitchenaid with paddle attachment to mix it all in).  Add buttermilk and mix well.

Spread flour on your counter and dump out dough.  Knead until non-sticky, then roll it out to about 1/2" thickness.  Use a cup or a biscuit cutter (I use a child size drinking glass) to cut out circles and place them on baking tray (I prefer stoneware- up to you!  You may have to spray your tray if it's not non-stick).  Keep rolling and cutting to use up all the dough.  Place biscuits touching each other on tray.

Bake for 15 minutes.  If you want (I do!) at about 13 minutes, carefully spread some butter over the top of the biscuits and finish baking to get that greasy golden Bojangles biscuit sheen.

When I want to re-heat them I pop them in my toaster oven for 3 minutes, but I'm sure you could easily warm them in a regular oven as well.


Decorating small gift boxes

I am really bad at wrapping gifts.  I almost always tear the corners and they usually look sloppy. The smaller the box, the harder it is.  This time I just went simple.

Jewelry box + washi tape = simple, cute decoration (and washi tape is easy to remove, making it easy to open, too!).

Not much excitement here, just working on sewing some baby stuff- 4 weeks to go!


Our worst kept secret ever

Pregnancy related things are really hard for the hubby and I to keep secret.  Despite 5 miscarriages and a year of fertility treatments to conceive our first child, we still told everyone the second our home test showed up positive, even though almost everyone thought we were crazy not to wait a little bit (that almost kind of hurts- "hey, remember you might fail at this?").  We never regretted it though!

This time around, family & friends knew right away (in fact, I walked straight out of the bathroom, where I called my just-deployed husband, and over to my dad, and started spreading the news!) but we didn't post on Facebook until the ultrasound showed heartbeat.  Why?  I don't know.  Last time my sister actually spilled the Facebook-beans so maybe I would have waited last time too.  Facebook is weird like that.

One thing we tried really, really hard to keep secret is the new baby's name.  With our first, we knew from before we got pregnant what he would be if he was a boy or girl.  With this one, we still had the girl name, but no boy name.  Agreeing on one took months, but we did!  Then hubby decided we should keep it secret.

Secrets can be fun, although my mother in law now knows, since he can never resist her asking :) I thought of a really cool idea though.  What if the "baby announcement" hospital photo of screaming 10 minute old baby was also a name announcement for everyone else?  At least for the Facebook crew, who don't get up to the minute, super close family secret updates.

I set out to re-created a prop for a photo I saw.  And I am IN. LOVE.

I used my Silhouette Cameo to design the whole thing.  Simply resize the mat to whatever your blanket size is (this is 30 x 40 ") and design away.  I then copied the whole thing into a new file, split it up by color, and lined each color up on the mat one by one.  I cut them out of Siser Easyweed HTV (my favorite brand!), weeded & cut the words apart, and then re-created the whole thing on the blanket.  I pressed with my iron and parchment paper (no fancy heat press or teflon sheet here- I think I'm proof that you don't need tons of $$$ equipment to make something awesome!) and total pressing time was about 20 minutes.  I spent extra time going back and forth since the blanket is a waffle weave and I wanted to make sure the HTV really got in there.

So, blog-land friends, please be honored that you now know the name of our soon-to-be-born son!  I can't wait to swaddle him in this blanket and post a photo.

I did try to take a photo of how this would look as a swaddle, but a 14" doll (even my preemie first-born was 17.5"....) whos arms naturally stick out to the sides did not make the best model.  I don't have anything else to use though!  Oh well :)  It'll be on my son one month from today!

I got some questions about the design process so let me show you some screenshots.

Here we have the design mat resized to the blanket size, which is 30" wide and 40" long.  Ignore the red box- that is showing you where the 12x24 cutting mat is.  These are all free fonts from around the web.  

Once that was done (using lots of duplication, resizing, and moving things around) I copied it into a new file and started to split it up by color.  My HTV sheets are 12" x 15" so I resized my mat for those.  You can see here that some colors took 2 sheets- some took 1/4 of one.  It varies.  Anyway, I didn't show it with this screenshot, but don't forgot- MIRROR BEFORE YOU CUT HTV!  Mirror your image!  Select it and hit "flip horizontally."  Also, remember HTV goes on your cutting mat shiny side DOWN!  :)

When I make something with HTV I get asked a LOT about the pressing process.  I don't own a heat press or a teflon sheet.  My iron is from walmart.  It goes from 1-6, temperature-wise, so I set it on 6.  

I press in two stages.  First, I use parchment paper over the HTV with it's little carrier sheet (the shiny sheet) attached.

Next, I remove the carrier sheet, put the parchment paper back down (VERY IMPORTANT!  DO NOT IRON OVER HTV DIRECTLY!) and press it again.  I do about 15-45 seconds of pressing over each area each time.

Here's me removing the carrier sheet after the first press.  The HTV is adhered, but I think the 2nd parchment-paper-only step really helps it adhere well (especially on textured fabrics like this.

I hope that helps some of you who like me don't want to drop $200+ on a heat press, or even $10 on a telfon sheet- I've never felt the need! :)


Print and Cut Magnets with the Silhouette Cameo

My son has a Mickey Mouse magnet board and randomly asked me (after we'd been to the mall and several other stores today) for Cars and Turbo magnets to go on it as well.  Luckily I found a pack of Avery magnet paper that I bought who knows when, and voila!

Well it wasn't quite "voila."  I had to find all the images (and nice clean ones without tons of background to mess up the trace), save them, open them one by one, trace them, and get them arranged before printing and cutting.  All the images were hunted down via Google Images.

Once open, you have to trace them to get cut lines.  I normally make the image really large, erase anything I don't want (like a logo in the corner), and trace it by turning off High Pass Filter, bumping up the threshold into the 90s, and then hitting "Trace Outer Edge."  Below you can see my settings to trace Francesco.  By hitting Trace Outer Edge it only traces the outer edge as stated, so that white area inside his tail will NOT cut.  If you want to cut out the details like that, hit Trace, not Trace Outer Edge.  I figured that the tail probably wouldn't be that sturdy and this is for a 3 year old so I stuck with the edge.

Arrange everything on your paper- letter size as the magnet paper is, as registration marks on.  I then hit the cut line window just to double check that all the cut lines are turned on.

And print!  I set my Preferences to "Best."  The instructions for magnet paper say inkjet printers only.

Now on to cutting.  After scanning registration marks, I set it to the preset magnet paper settings, but I bump up the blade from 4 to 5.

After cutting...well, this is the best photo I could get!  My son was so excited that I made something just for him and he couldn't wait to take them off the mat- all by himself of course.

Now he's occupied playing again.  Score!