Monday, June 24, 2013

Hilltop Cooler

I came up with a fun cocktail to sip on our new deck. I call it the Hilltop Cooler, due to the family joke that we live "on the hill" since our new home is located at the top of a moderate incline (not a real hill by any means, but in flat Delaware it seems like a mountain).

It's frothy, bubbly and citrusy all at the same time. I made it with lemon sorbet, but I'm definitely going to try it with other flavors (mango sounds like a good idea) in the near future.

This drink seems light and fruity, but don't let it fool you. The combination of vodka and sparkling wine can sneak up on you, so sip slowly and enjoy responsibly.

Hilltop Cooler
by Keeley
serves 2

2 scoops lemon sorbet (I use Haagen Dazs)
1/4 cup vodka
about 1 cup sparkling wine
1 thin slice of lime, rind included
lime slice for garnish, optional

Place sorbet, vodka, sparkling wine and lime in a blender. Blend until mixed well, about 30 seconds. Pour into champagne flutes and garnish with a lime slice. Serve immediately.

Friday, June 21, 2013

What Had Happened Was...

I've been scarce on the blog front lately, but for good reason. My husband and I just sold our home and bought another in the last 2 months. It's been crazy, exciting and stressful, but now we're looking forward to enjoying our new home.

So how did this all happen?

Max was born last July increasing our family to 2 adults, 1 baby and 2 dogs. I stayed at home with the baby through December and returned to work in January. We discussed upgrading to a larger home over the past few years, but we were concerned about taking a financial loss due to the downturn in the housing market. The addition of a baby made our modest townhome seem even smaller. Also, we started spending much more time at home after Max was born and we definitely felt we could use more storage space, a larger kitchen and a yard where the dogs could go out instead of always having to be walked.

I was reading news articles about interest rates being at record lows and the improvements in the housing market. I educated myself about the local real estate market by researching local prices on Zillow.

We entered into this experience expecting to take a loss on our property and assuming that it would take months to sell. We spent the entire month of February preparing our home for sale (small repairs, removal of excessive stuff, etc.) and listed our home in March. Thirty-one days later, we received an offer. We accepted the offer and sold the home in late-May. The selling experience was a whirlwind of stress and excitement.

After our old house went under contract in April, we needed to find our next home. I feel that finding our new home was more difficult than selling the old one. We were selective because as second-time home buyers we know the hassles of moving and real estate settlement. Ultimately, we found a new-ish home that is perfect for our growing family. We're still close to family, but we're in a single family home in a beautiful, established neighborhood with a layout that works for our new lifestyle. We now have a formal dining room, large eat-in kitchen and a huge deck with a flat backyard.

Of course, our new kitchen looked like this for over a week:

It looks a little better today, but we still have a lot of settling in to do.

I can't tell you how excited we are about this new place. Yes, the entire experience was an expensive hassle, but I still can't believe that less than four months after our first contact with our realtor we have not only sold our old home, but we've purchased and settled on a new one. We know we've been incredibly blessed by meeting the right realtor for our situation and by having the foresight to plan for the sale of our home.

I'm looking forward to getting back to cooking and baking in our new kitchen. We stopped doing heavy grocery shopping once our home was listed and we spent three weeks in between houses at my mom's (where she did most of the cooking). We purchased a new grill for this home, so we're looking forward to having the entire summer grilling season in our new backyard.

Through this process I learned some things that may help you if you're thinking of buying and/or selling a home:

1. Financially plan and prepare. We did automatic savings from our paychecks for two years (it went fast, I promise!) to prepare for this buying/selling experience. We bought at the peak of the market, so we ended up taking a modest financial loss on the sale of our home. We feel that we made up for it by getting a much lower interest rate and a great price on our new home. Remember, if you're taking a loss on your old home, it's likely that the person selling to you is taking a loss, too.

2. Commit. It was so hard to pack up our old home for sale without knowing where we were moving and when we'd get there. In addition, friends and neighbors told me horror stories about families whose homes were on the market for over a year. Once you decide that you're going to sell your home, just commit to it and things will start to fall into place. If your home is priced appropriately for the market and in good condition, it will sell.

3. Find the right agent. Plenty of people are licensed to sell real estate, but if you're dealing with a tedious situation (we knew we were risking a financial loss), find a realtor who will help you stage your home well and sell it for a fair price. We also wanted a realtor who knew the local area and could educate us about neighborhoods. We ended up hooking up with a local agent through a (free) referral service at

4. Learn the basics. Look up recent sales in your neighborhood (Zillow is a great resource if you don't yet have an agent to assist you). Understand terms like settlement help, commission, and interest rate. Get pre-qualified for a mortgage before you start your search. Learn about credit and know your credit score. Understand home inspections and appraisals. There are tons of good resources online to read about all of this stuff.

5. Know your priorities. It's very easy to lose your mind when you're dealing with negotiation, buyer's demands and keeping your home pristine for showings, all while going to work and dealing with family issues. I admit that I had a few meltdowns, but it was worth all the drama.

One more thing for sellers: I had friends tell me that they required 24 hours notice prior to showing their home. We did not do this. We wanted as many potential buyers as possible to see our home. In order to keep our home ready we hired a cleaning service to deep clean every two weeks, we moved the dogs to my mom's home, and we packed up all of our extra "stuff" and lived a minimalist lifestyle while our home was on the market. We never turned down a showing. For the most part, we got at least two hours notice. Yes, this was difficult with an infant. Yes, people wanted to see our home right at Max's bedtime. We made it work. I really think that's how we sold our home in 31 days.

If you're thinking that all of this sounds like a hassle, yes, you're right. But my husband and I worked really hard to get into this new home and we feel that all of the sacrifices are worth it. We don't drive fancy cars and we haven't been on a big vacation in a couple of years, but we now have a home where we can raise our children and entertain friends and family for years to come. We feel that it's worth the headache. Who knows, maybe one day we'll look back at the spring of 2013 and laugh about how crazy this time was. For now, we're just looking forward to our first summer in the new place.

Does anyone else out there have any real estate stories to share? Are you thinking about plunging into the market?

Clayton's Organic Beef | Check it out on Potluck

Happy first day of summer! I just did a product review and recipe featuring Clayton's Organic Beef over on Potluck, ShopRite's blog. Although I cooked the steak indoors, this recipe can easily be adapted for the grill.

Hop on over to Potluck and check out the recipe. If you live in the Mid-Atlantic region, you can buy Clayton's Organic Beef at your local ShopRite.

I received Clayton's Organic Beef compliments of ShopRite. I am a contributor for their blog, Potluck. All opinions are my own and Keeley and ShopRite go way back... as in, before the days of blogging.
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