Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Closing Day 2014

We have so many reasons to celebrate. First, I must say Happy Anniversary to the man of my dreams! Seven wonderful years and many more to come. It takes a special man to put up with me, and he does. He was made for me and I appreciate everything he does for me.

Two years ago, we closed on the sale of our condo for our 5 year anniversary. Today, we celebrate seven years by closing on our construction loan! YAY!

The surveyor told us he would be out to the lot today to mark the house corners. Well, he surprised us last night.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


With the process of building the new house, I didn't want to forget where I came from. My first house is very special. It was the house Mr. JCrew and I moved into together and raised our family.

I wanted to create a watercolor of our first house and hang it up in the new house. My mom has a wonderful friend in Florida that is an artist. This friend is a special one that was there for her when they both lost children to horrible accidents. It would be really special if she created a watercolor for us.

I inquired for her work, but she was reluctant because of her time availability. I said it was no rush and we'd wait. However, I was browsing on my Pinterest board over Christmas break and found a link to an app called, Waterlogue.

It's not free, but it's cheap. All I'd have to do is upload a photo and it turns it into a watercolor painting ready to print. It gives you over ten options that make the painting exactly how you envision it.

Since Mom is moving in with us, we needed a picture of her first house in Alabama. This house is a special house as well. It's the house my parents bought and made new beginnings in. It's the house my whole family stayed in while taking care of my dad in his final days. And it's the house we are currently living in and creating memories.

I used a different setting for each painting. That's what is neat about the app. The setting I used on one picture, may not be the best setting for the other picture.

I have the digital copies of the pictures ready to print on watercolor paper. I'm excited to print them and hang in the new house. I'll make sure to keep you updated on where in the new house they go.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas 2014

This Christmas has already proved to be a fun one. The boys are at a really cute age, and they over-react to everything!

This was the first year we had Santa visit us. We have always been on the cusp of if we would or not invite him, but Little JCrew came home from school talking about Santa. We figured this would be a great opportunity to teach the kids how to believe in something they cannot see.

We started off Christmas Eve with our tradition of baking Jesus a birthday cake.

This was also the first year I let them completely do it on their own.

All I did was have ingredients measured so they could add them in and mix.

And they LOVED licking the remnants.

I always remember the joy of licking the bowl. Glad I can share the memory.

After we baked the cake, we baked some cookies for Santa. Santa came to the neighborhood at 7:45 riding around on the fire truck. The boys were amazed. We quickly went home to get into bed. If Santa was already in the neighborhood, he was waiting on us to fall asleep.

Little JCrew was first to get up. I almost woke Mr. Brigglesworth up, but he is so grumpy if woken up, so I let Little JCrew explore the gifts Santa brought.

He immediately noticed the new toys set out. We have put a lot of the old toys into storage. Little JCrew's first comment, "What is this?"

And he noted that Santa ate his cookies and drank his eggnog.

There were a lot of "ohhh's" going on. He was so excited.

Mr. Brigglesworth then got up and he made the same noises of excitement.

He definitely noticed that Santa ate the cookies. He kept pointing it out. "He ate them! He ate them!" My little foodie notices those things.

Later in the morning, we Skype'd with Aunty Kerry.

They always ask about the puppies and Uncle Hal, too!

This Christmas was really fun. And we included Dad in it. Starting at Thanksgiving, we lit a candle every evening to remember Dad.

My family and I wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2014


The planning of House #2 has reached the one-year mark. We worked with a really talented house designer, but it took a long time. We didn't get our final set of plans until May. Then in August, we realized we needed to make some major changes. We went back to her, but she was back-logged. We didn't get our final set of plans until mid-November. But the wait was worth it.

Back in July, we had two builders bid the house. One builder never got back to us. The other quoted us $250k over our budget. We then reduced our budget by another $50k and that is what led us to make the changes on our house.

But the quote from the builder was not a loss. The quote was broken down by line item. About half of them told us who they used for the quote and exactly how much it was. Those were our allowances. Allowances were items that our decisions would affect the price. For instance, if we wanted spray foam insulation vs blown-in or batts, the price would go up or down accordingly. Or if we wanted to pay for Anderson Windows or save choosing Plygem Windows. Our choices would drive the cost.

It was during that time, that we decided we were knowledgeable to build this house ourselves. The General Contractor/Builder is a Program Manager and Planner. He/she coordinates all the work of the subcontractors and plans out what needs to be done by when so there is no time lost.

We started researching what we needed to do. I could give our floorplans to a lumber supply company and they could provide a material take-off. That quote wouldn't include labor, but you'd double it to get the whole cost. And then you'd have to add the extra allowances.

For the most part, we steered away from calling those subcontractors from the builder's quote again for a new quote. But it was a good comparison to use when we received the new quotes.

I unknowingly called the lumber company that the builder used to quote the material. He recognized the plan and he alerted the builder. That was fine. There are several lumber supply stores that we could turn to, so we sent our plans to three others. Most subs like to talk to the builder and not the homeowner directly. I don't understand the logic, since the homeowner is making the decisions. But then again, there are prices builders don't want to disclose, because that could be a source of profit for them.

Our first stop to get a quote on our own from was the plumbing fixture store. I'll have to write a separate post about it. It was like Christmas. I found what I was looking for and didn't have to special order or settle. And the prices were great!

MAAX - Optik

We explained how we were building the house ourselves and asked for the builder discount. Most places offer this. The builder gets the discount, but the builder most of the time charges the owner full-price. It's how they get their profit. The salesperson was happy to give us the builder's price. He then asked if we had picked out our doors yet. I said we had not, and he then gave us the name of a lady.

That's how we got most of our names for subcontractors. The lady for doors, was actually from a lumber supply company just down the road from the house. I could have her do a material take-off for the whole house. Her husband is also a builder, and she gave us a list of all the subcontractor's her husband uses.

When I went to pick out a roof shingle, she gave me the name of a place that would have better selection than she would. Turns out, our neighbor used them and said the company saved them a lot of money.

Word of Mouth - Who Referred Us to Who

Whenever I asked for quotes, I told each person to take a look at the entire plan and quote me for everything they could do. If I asked for a door quote, but they could also provide shingles, columns, shutters and siding, I wanted to see their quotes.

I did notice that windows must be a money-maker. Every time I went to a subcontractor, they asked if I had windows already. The first time, I said I already had that taken care of, and he asked, "Have you paid for them?" I said no, and he provided me a quote... that would save me $1000. I was good with that quote, but I still have people ask me if I have windows. And I let them give me a quote.

The shingle supply company provided me with a roofer. The roofer is good, was used by our neighbor and had the lowest quote.

I did have to keep on top of each person. Email is not their preferred method of contact. I can send them the plans that way, but they are phone people. They responded to my constant phone calls best. Most quotes created more questions, but they were questions that needed answers.

We ran into a lot of questions when I dealt with the plumber, electrician and HVAC. Since we chose to do ICF for the house, they all had questions about where things go. I was able to look up YouTube videos and send them, but I also called our ICF subcontractor for a list of subcontractors he has used that are familiar with ICF. During that conversation, he gave me great advice. Like, how the window and door jambs don't have to be extended! We can order normal jambs and have the trimming contractor extend the jambs. This would be a much cheaper alternative.

We finalized our list of quotes and it all came within budget. We've now submitted our number to the bank and we have a closing date on the construction loan. The ICF guy, the foundation guys and the lot surveyor have all been notified of the potential start date. We just need to order the windows because of the lead time. And you will be kept up to date as well. 2015 will be an exciting year!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


There was so much excitement in the last two weeks. Mr. JCrew completed his college degree and the joy was uncontainable.

Back in August, I announced to our friends that we would be throwing a party to celebrate this occasion. Back then, December felt so far away and I was chuckled at for planning so far ahead.

But that's what Mr. JCrew wanted. Throughout the years, he has said he wanted a big party to celebrate all the hard work. He has an outgoing personality and he loves a good party. It was hard for him not to hang out with his friends and to do homework.

The day finally came. Finals week was upon us and it didn't seem real. To see him walk across the stage was a dream! You couldn't wipe the smile off my face or his.

We brought our cowbells to the graduation and rang them loud and proud when they called his name. He heard us!

The first 45 minutes of the ceremony couldn't have been any longer. I was worried about the boys, if I felt that bored. Luckily, I brought cookies from my cookie exchange the day before, and Miss Julie was there to be a fresh face of entertainment.

Next up, the celebration! We invited everyone that had been apart of our lives during this time. Everyone knew that Mr. JCrew was in school. We wanted to thank everyone for their support and patience during the last five years. It's not fun having to say, "No" to fun events because school got in the way. Mr. JCrew is glad to have a social calendar again.

The night couldn't have been more perfect. Seeing the smile on Mr. JCrew's face made it all worth it. The stress was gone.

I was finally able to describe the feeling I was experiencing. The night of graduation, I couldn't sleep. It was like we won the lottery and paid off a huge debt. It is a fresh start. It's an amazing feeling.

Not only did Mr. JCrew graduate, but his sister and her husband graduated and our friends, the Pittman's graduated as well.

We can't thank our friends and family enough. So many were a part of the effort and provided support when we were at our weakest. THANK YOU! We couldn't have done it without you.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Winter Urns

The ice-breaker for Sunday School two weeks back, had us reflect on what our front porch would say about us. (This is because we were learning about the Mezuzah). I was not there for the ice-breaker, so Mr. JCrew used me for his answer. He said that if someone were to guess who we were by our front porch only, they would guess we were gardeners. It's true, I love plants and I love to be out in the yard. And while we are temporarily living with my mom, I've stocked her porches with plants.

The neighborhood we live in has a garden committee, and I participate. It is so much fun! We were given the task to come up with a Winter urn for the clubhouse. The urns would stay at the clubhouse and be rotated with seasonal flowers.

First we had to select a design. We had four designs to choose from.

We ended up choosing the one that was very Christmas-y (#3). Since we did not have urns, we had to procure some. The developer chose those, and I kept them at Mom's house. They weren't Mom's style and she couldn't wait to see them go.

I used spare rock from the construction site to fill the bottom, after I drilled a drainage hole.

The lip of the urn would have trailing pansies that will spill over the edge. Gold, red and purple are the colors of winter (I was told).

Now, for the centerpiece, we picked a Colorado Blue Spruce. It's pretty and smells awesome! And for the greenery, we cut some branches from juniper, holly and magnolia on the berm at the entrance of our neighborhood.

We spray-painted some of the magnolia pods silver for some flare, and we had some fake red berries to add.

When the greenery withers away, we will remove them and the pansies will be there to take the lead. We also planted some crocus bulbs in between the pansies that should come up in January.

It was a lot of fun to put them together and meet new friends. And the coloring/style may not have been my mom's, it is perfect at the clubhouse!

When it comes time to make the Spring arrangement, we'll remove the spruces and plant them in one of our vacant common areas. And someone had a great idea of using dogwoods for the centerpiece of our Spring arrangements. Then we'll plant those in a common area when we are through with them as well.

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