Finding Our Home and Hardwood Floors Part 1

I’m still getting used to this blogging stuff, so thank you for your patience on this post!

The last few weeks have been busy but exciting with finalizing renovations and getting the green light to move into the house.

I started to type the Hardwood Floor Post “with a bit of our home search story weaved in.” That quickly turned into me blabbing about finding our house instead of the hardwood floors.

So. I promise, promise that I’ll post this first as a teaser and then get right to the Hardwood Floor Post. Think of this as an intro or as a 2-part story, because they do go together!

Finding Our House

We purchased our first home about 2 ½ months ago and got the keys about 6 weeks ago. Since then, it’s been an exciting and busy adventure!

The day we first toured the house, we admittedly hated it. It was outdated and smelled strange. There was floor-to-ceiling wallpaper in the powder room, wallpaper borders in others, horrible carpet on the second floor, buttercup yellow (flat) paint throughout the house, outdated fixtures and appliances… the list went on. It screamed “work.”

One redeeming feature of the house was the hardwood floors. Even on our first visit, we saw past the glaring flaws of the house and appreciated the real hardwood floors throughout the entire main floor. They were in decent shape. The color wasn’t ideal (read: ’90s), and it did have some major scratches. But they were hardwoods.

Four-inch black scratch mark on hardwood floor
No, that’s not a scuff mark. That’s a huge black scratch in the floors. Even the hardwood floor guys said they’d never seen a scratch like that.
Another 2.5 inch deep scratch in the floor
Deep scratch in the hardwood floor that definitely requires sanding

We saw three homes that day with our real estate agent. We just been outbid on a house in the same neighborhood the week before, and it took a surprisingly emotional toll on me. I was crushed to lose that house. I really thought that was “the one” and could picture our family there.

By a strange stroke of luck, there was another house for sale in the small neighborhood with the exact same layout as The House We Lost. We’d seen the pictures online before and hadn’t even considered touring it. Even through the pictures, you could tell it needed a lot of love: it was the Ugly House.

We weren’t really interested in a fixer upper, but I wanted to see it. In some strange, twisted way, I thought it would be therapeutic to go see the Ugly House, pretend it was The House We Lost, and live vicariously through being there.

Bad idea.

Floor-to-ceiling bathroom wallpaper
It’s like you can see him thinking “This room isn’t really happening.”

The moment we walked in, I was just wanting for The House We Lost, putting its paint colors on Ugly House’s walls, mentally placing its nice details throughout. I was getting emotional again.

But maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea. I’d just make Ugly House into The House We Lost!

My fiancé was the first to discuss after seeing all three houses. “Well, that was a total bust,” he said. “Not one of those is even an option.”

I was crushed. He didn’t see what I did. I chalked up my optimism of fixing up Ugly House to still being overly attached to The House We Lost.

I called him the next morning, like I always do, and said, “Hey, I was thinking about it, and I have a really crazy idea. Promise to hear me out?”

He interrupted me, “I know what you’re going to say. We can fix up Ugly House. I think we should go for it.”

!!!!!

My heart leapt. I was so happy that he was willing to take on this big project.

After a lot of fixer upper math, discussion, thought, and prayer, we put an offer on Ugly House. We had a lot of back and forth with the seller and a completely rejected offer, which led to some anger (from me). Eventually, the seller came back after a few days and accepted our offer.

The joy was overwhelming. We finally got a house!

We quickly got to work researching contractors and scheduling appointments for them to come the moment we got the keys. We. Were. Ready.

It turned out that Ugly House (which was now Our House) was a much better option than The House We Lost all along. THWL was nice, but there were some parts of it I didn’t love. I would have worked around those design choices and compromised my own style (e.g. a brand new nice blacksplash. I didn’t love it. And I definitely couldn’t justify tearing down something brand new.)

Having a house where we could make it our own was the very best decision. It would be more work, but it would be worth it. And, no. I would have ZERO regret about ripping out the carpet at Our House.

“Having a house where we could make it our own was the very best decision.”

Renovation #1: The floors. The hardwoods needed to be re-sanded to get rid of the scratches. That carpet needed to go. We’d replace it with nice neutral carpet.

Removing gross, old carpet to create a new look.
See ya never, nasty carpet!

Deciding a stain color was our next step. I wanted to go with a dark color because I think it looks really elegant.

Our contractors sanded a portion of our dining area and stained 5 different samples of stain colors so we could decide. Here they are:

 We didn’t have a whole lot of time to choose because everything moved so quickly. I’m glad I didn’t have time to dwell on it because I would have overthought it. As someone perfectly commented on my Instagram it’s a hard decision because it makes such an impact. So true.

The amazing thing about the pictures is that they aren’t different stains. They’re not even in different parts of the house. That is the EXACT SAME area. The top image was taken at 7:00 PM when it was dark. The bottom image was at 7:00 AM when the sun was just rising.

And we chose….

Red Mahogany!!

Stay tuned for all the pretty pictures of how it turned out!

xoxo,
Maggie

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Gluten Free Eggnog French Toast

Gluten free eggnog french toast

As background, I am a carbivore through and through. Pasta, cookies, brownies… I love it all. Give me all. of. the. gluten.

About 4 years ago, my fiancé learned that he had a severe gluten allergy and had to begin a strictly gluten free diet.
Although we didn’t live together, this change impacted both of us.

We had to think more carefully about what to eat and what not to eat… and where to eat. There were countless times where we walked in and out of 3+ restaurants during a date before settling on one that reassured us they had a good understanding of “gluten free.” Our travel planning was always coupled with questions like, “Will there be things for you to eat?” “How do you say ‘no wheat’ and ‘gluten’ in [language]?” We’ve learned to pack protein bars as meal replacements at weddings and sometimes still leave after the first dance to snag more food at a local convenience store.

It’s been an adjustment, but we’ve learned so, so much in the past 4 years. Even better, the food industry is much friendlier to marking items “GF.” It’s thankfully now uncommon for a restaurant to lack a gluten free menu.

I put it in perspective that, in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t that bad. It’s something that we can work with so he can be happy, healthy, and full.

I’ve actually enjoyed the challenge when it comes to cooking – “Can I make this gluten free?”

Of course I can make it gluten free! The question is if I can make it gluten free without that gluten free, unsatisfying taste.

You’re probably asking why I don’t go completely gluten free myself. It’s a valid point. It would probably be the healthier option.

BUT!

I find that keeping gluten in my diet allows me to more honestly compare the gluten free options to gluten/standard foods. It turns out, my glutenous diet (yep, we’re making up words here) makes me the perfect critic of gluten free recipes.

If it’s not up to a glutenous standard, it doesn’t pass. So it had better be delicious. It’s that simple.

So here we are!

If you’re like me and enjoy eggnog at the holidays, that sweet, creamy, spicy drink makes you think of Christmas Eve. Since we’re past the holidays, I had just a few cups of eggnog left in my fridge and the expiration date rapidly approaching. I couldn’t quite bring myself to drink it.

But I was inspired at breakfast time the other day so it didn’t go to waste. Behold! The perfect recipe to use the last of your holiday eggnog.

The best part? This recipe 100% passes my gluten-snob test. Sooooo delicious!

It might seem like we didn’t make very much, but I can tell you that this recipe turned out very dense and filling because of the eggnog. 3 pieces filled my very hungry man, and 2 pieces was plenty for me. (Edit: I was kindly reminded that we also had a side of strawberries, just in case that makes a difference 😉 )

Enjoy friends!

Xoxo,
Maggie

Gluten Free Eggnog French Toast

Serves: 2

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 6 Gluten free bread slices (I used Essential Baking Deli Slice Multi-Grain)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp gluten free vanilla extract (or more to taste. I prefer a much more vanilla-y flavor. I probably used closer to 1 ½ tsp. Beware: that amount of vanilla is quite strong.)
  • 2/3 cup eggnog
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon + 1/4 tsp
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg + 1/4 tsp
  • Optional toppings for serving: butter, syrup

Directions

  1. Beat eggs and vanilla in a bowl. Stir in eggnog.
  2. Add ½ tsp cinnamon and ¼ tsp nutmeg to mixture. Stir well.
  3. Pour the mixture into a shallow dish. Sprinkle a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg on the surface of the mixture. **This is my trick 🙂 In between each slice of bread, re-sprinkle the nutmeg and cinnamon on egg mixture surface.

    Coat bread with egg mixture in shallow bowl. Lightly press bread so it absorbs the mixture.
  4. Carefully lay a slice of bread in dish into egg mixture. Lightly press on bread with backside of fork or spatula to help it absorb mixture. Flip with spatula to coat other side.
  5. Place coated bread slices on lightly greased nonstick skillet on medium heat.

    Sometimes gluten free bread is fragile 🙁 But don’t worry! It still tastes good in the end. Note: this was the only piece that broke, which is very impressive performance for GF bread
  6. Cook approximately 1 minute per side, or until lightly browned on both sides.

    Amazing!!
  7. Top with more sprinkled cinnamon and butter or syrup to taste
  8. Devour.
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In case you missed it – Stamp prices are going up in 2017

Stamp price increase 2017

Happy New Year, everyone!

2016 was an exciting year for me (getting engaged, buying a house, starting Dash of Discovery), but I am really looking forward to 2017 (getting married, moving into the house, and seeing Dash of Discovery grow!).

Anyone getting married or planning to send mail in 2017? Well, yes to both for this girl.

A little bird gave me a heads up that U.S. Forever Stamps will increase in price by $0.02 each, effective January 22, 2017. Note: International postage cost, postcard stamps, and per additional ounce cost will remain the same.

I know I’m late to this news because the official press release from the United States Postal Service is dated October 12, 2016.

Either way, I certainly can’t be the last one to find out, so I wanted to give you all a heads up. Two cents a stamp might not be a big deal, but it can start adding up.

In a typical book of Forever Stamps, there are 20 stamps. That’s “only” a $0.40 increase for the whole book.

But with wedding invitations (and a few going international), thank you notes for showers and wedding gifts, and plenty of miscellaneous mail to send, I will use way more than 1 book of stamps in 2017.

Here’s a great guide from Today’s Bride about postage cost by weight and category. They already have the new stamp price updated. Check it out if you’re sending mass amounts of mail this year and want a bit of Post 101.

I’m off to the post office this week to stock up on at least 8 books of stamps before the price goes up. That might only save me $3.20, but I’d rather spend it on something other than stamps… like ice cream… or coffee. 🙂

Hope you’re all enjoying your New Year so far!

xoxo,
Maggie

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What were we thinking? How to not regret buying the ugly house on the block

Removing gross, old carpet to create a new look.

This post is a little premature because I haven’t even told you much about this house project. Here’s the bullet point version:

  • My fiancé and I recently bought our first home, and we are thrilled to be homeowners!
  • The catch: the interior is a bit of a  “fixer upper”

When we bought this home, we knew it needed work. I should note right away, that I am not talking Chip-and-Joanna-Fixer-Upper style (love them!) with every wall getting knocked down. The fixing was just cosmetic stuff. The “bones” of the house are fantastic, and we knew with some cosmetic updates/upgrades, we could make it something spectacular.

Paint? I can handle. Upgrading cabinet and door hardware? Easy. Switching light fixtures? Bring it on.

But the carpet, you can’t begin to fathom. If you look closely at the picture above, you get a hint at what we were working with. Hopefully you agree: it had to go.

We hired a contractor to remove the carpet and install our sparkling new flooring. Everything seemed to be going well: the price was right, their reviews were glowing, and they could fit us in before Christmas and be done before New Year!

But then there was a water leak from the fridge. That caused a delay. Which delayed the painting. Which meant we couldn’t move during the days we had off for New Year.

Was I a little frustrated? Sure, but things happen. I was just grateful the leak wasn’t worse and didn’t cause more damage. I was also thankful that we aren’t living there yet, so minor delays don’t cause us to be displaced. (Yes, I understand that might be a unique situation compared to most people. I do understand how fortunate we are.)

Today the floors were finally dry and ready to be walked on. I excitedly went to the house with a friend, anxious to show off the house and ready to inspect the finally finished floors. When we arrived, everything looked great. Until I noticed there were a lot of details that weren’t finished.  The contractors were gone, and this was supposed to be “finished.”

I was so frustrated and immediately called my fiancé to report the issues with the floors. This was maddening. We invested in a top-notch company to do the job well. Was our investment now wasted because the job wasn’t truly finished? Did we just get scammed?

What were we thinking? Were we only a few weeks into owning this home and already regretting it?

Yes, I was having some second thoughts. I had to breathe and put everything in perspective: it’s going to work out.

After a lot of reflection and venting to anyone who would listen, I feel like I figured things out. I boiled down my frustration and stages of contractor grief into 5 steps on how you can get past those painful pit-in-your-stomach pangs of regret and fixer upper buyer’s remorse. Stay strong, friends, and read on:

How to Not Regret Buying the Ugly House on the Block (the “fixer upper”):

  1. Remember your “vision.” You saw something in that outdated, broken, neglected house when you decided to buy it, right? Don’t lose sight of that vision! Your vision is the most beautiful, valuable thing you have. It’s your brainchild of creativty that fuels your labor of love. If you need a visual to remind yourself, start a list, Pinterest board, or a good old fashioned scrapbook with inspiration clippings. Go to your Vision Board when you’re feeling discouraged by your project. Your house might be in choas right now (see the rolls of carpet in picture above), but it WILL be your beautiful haven soon.
  2. Set a budget and stick to it. It’s very tempting to splurge and overspend. But you can’t spend what you don’t have… at least you shouldn’t, in my opinion. Record everything that you spend money on for the projects (see #3) and track your progress. There will always be unexpected expenses. If things start getting dangerously close to overbudget, stop and evaluate. You might need to postpone some aspects of the project (see #4). Some fixer uppers might be moneypits and cause you serious regret, but you will regret it much more if you put your finances in jeopardy by overspending.
  3. Keep records and document EVERYTHING. This seems obvious, but it’s easy to forget when you’re in the whirlwind of multiple simultaneous projects. Save receipts. Write at the top what it was for. I promise, a year or even a few months from now you might not remember what that random receipt from ABC Hardware was for. Document your costs (see #2) so you know if you’re maintaining your budget. This is also important for resale purposes. You will have a better idea of what you did, how much it cost, and the theoretical “value” of your house when you go to sell it based on the value of the upgrades. Finally, take pictures. It’s not only great for documentation but it’s also fun to see Before & After photos. It’s your reward to compare the original to now and think, I did that.
  4.  Know that phasing the renovation is okay. Yes, you can do renovations, upgrades, and decorating in stages. It’s tempting to do it all at once and just get it done. If you have the financial ability and the time to do that, go for it! But the fact is that many people can’t do that.As silly as it sounds, actually separate your renovation projects into Phase 1, Phase 2, Phase 3, etc. based on priority and your available budget. We have a Phase Zero: the minimum viable changes that must get done to move in. This can vary based on your situation, but you should always repair all safety issues (usually found in the home inspection) first. After the safety repairs, Phase Zero for us was all flooring and most paint. We figured, why move furniture twice? Things in Phases 1 and 2 can be done as small weekend projects (replacing cabinet hardware, painting bathroom cabinets…).

    Phase 3 and beyond are major projects that are nice-to-haves. These are projects that we have to save for: major bathroom renovations, finishing the basement, replacing windows. Some might happen, some might not.

  5. Breathe. Breathe again. This seems corny, but it’s necessary. Having your house in choas is stressful and messy. You’re spending a lot of money to fix it, but breathe. This is an investment for you. Your hard work will pay off, and you’ll soon have an amazing space and home to show for it.

Have you ever had doubts about your project after diving in head first? What got you through it?

Can’t wait to hear your stories!

xoxo, Maggie

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Discovering Dash of Discovery

Maggie discovers Ireland

First and most importantly, I want to thank you for visiting Dash of Discovery. It may seem cliche, but I believe in gratitude. Thanking you for visiting this page is the least I can do. I hope that you will find this site’s information useful and come back for many posts to come. So you don’t miss anything, follow with Bloglovin.

I already wrote a quick bit about me for the site. Really, that is the “official” one. I thought I’d tell you a bit more about me and why I created this page. Here it goes…

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved writing. I can’t say I’m one of “those people” who relished the thought of writing a 10-page paper in college. But free writing is soothing and therapeutic for me.

I had an interest in starting a blog and a website for quite some time. I told my mom and her response was, “You love writing! I think that’s a great idea.” I chalked the support up to my mom just “being a mom.” (You have to love Moms. They provide unconditional support, but it can be hard to tell whether they think something a genuinely good idea or they’re just being the supportive mom.)

So I put the idea on the back burner and walked away.

After a few months, I couldn’t ditch the idea. I would constantly catch myself jotting down post ideas and mentally writing the outline. I knew it was time to propose the idea to another very important person in my life. I got up the courage and delicately pitched the idea to my fiance. If anyone would be honest about if I could really make this work or not, it’s him. He’s rational, logical, and always honest with me.

To my surprise, he answered the same as my mom and gushed support.

Still, I doubted. Why would anyone in Internetland want to listen to me? What sets me apart in the sea of amazing, established bloggers and savvy journalists? I’m not exactly an “expert” on any topic…

Before you whip out your tiny violins and close this tab because you think I have low self-esteem, hear me out!

It took me some time to figure out that I didn’t need to be an “expert” in a topic. I realized that I could write about my constant journey of learning and discovery. That includes both my successes and failures. I’m at a stage where life is changing and I’m learning how to navigate each stage.

I’m discovering:

  • How to transition from being a girlfriend to a fiancee to a wife
  • How to renovate a fixer upper
  • How to make a house a home
  • How to do things better, faster, and more efficiently
  • How to be a proud carbivore and adjust to cooking for a strictly gluten free (allergy), health conscious significant other (Spoiler: There are many, many tears and batches upon batches of very crumbly gluten free cookies)

I hadn’t realized it, but I was already well on my way to really rocking a lot of these things. What good is having all this knowledge, tidbits, and tips if I don’t share them?!

Eventually, I ran out of excuses why I shouldn’t make this site and just did it! Life’s about taking leaps of faith when people you love support you.

So, I give you my modest little blog/website– full of successes and failures, tips and how tos, strength and times of vulnerability. I do hope it grows into something of value for you and others. If any of the content makes your life easier, happier, or makes you smile, then I’m content.

I’d love to learn what interests you and what topics you’d like to see posts about on Dash of Discovery. Please leave a comment and let me know!

Can’t wait to take on this exciting journey with all of you.

Enjoy!
xoxo, Maggie

Ps. I hope you give me a little leeway as construct the website. I can be a bit of a perfectionist and want this site to look great. At the same time, if I waited to launch until everything was flawless I might never launch it out of fear of imperfection. If you encounter any major bugs or broken links, please email me: maggie (at) dashofdiscovery (dot) com.

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