Friday, August 18, 2017

2017 CSA Week 11: Celery?

This week is going to be a tough one. 

Sweet onion
Summer squash (1 zucchini; 2 patty pan)
Cucumber (2)
Tomatoes (6)
Rainbow chard

Last week we managed to use a lot of the herbs by making a mediocre chicken dish in our Instant Pot (and I will detail why I hate the Instant Pot in a post in the near future - I do not recommend you get one), but I'm pretty much stumped about this week's basket.

The carrots and cucumbers I will eat with lunch. Maybe some of those tomatoes, too.  I want to make zucchini bread and I think I'll call dibs on that zuke for that. The lettuce is up to Dr. BB. We'll make an egg dish with the chard. And then I'm out.

We still have onions in the fridge from other weeks. Celery is disgusting. It's also the first time our farmers have grown it and I'm definitely making a note to tell them in the end of year survey that if we never get celery again it will be completely fine with me.  We got papicha earlier this year and never used it, so I don't know how that's going to change. 
I don't know. I think I'm just sort of giving up on the CSA this year. I'm no good at vegetable using, I guess.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Things I Love: LL Bean Blueberry Lip Balm

Last summer I was randomly at an LL Bean with my mother and sister. Because I have an addiction to lip balm, I made an impulse buy of a couple of tubes at the register. I don't actually think the lip balm works that well - if I'm being honest, my lips might feel a tiny bit dryer after I apply it - but it is delicious. I don't know that I've ever seen blueberry lip balm before and I adore the way it smells and tastes. I keep it my bag that is associated with my part-time job and when that bag is with me, I must apply it at least one every hour.  It's great.
So if you want to know what I'm going to be doing today, you should know that it's sniffing this lip balm and sweeping the floors. Let's call my life sooooo exciting.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Buying Our House, Part III: An Offer Doesn't Mean You're Done

Part I and Part II here.

So when we last left off, we had made a formal offer. The house was on the market for $235,000. We offered $205,000. The sellers countered with $215,000. We counter-offered with $210,000 and within two hours, they had accepted. We set a 60 day closing  period (30 - 60 days is pretty normal and we wanted a long closing because Dr. BB's mom was ill during all of this and we thought longer was better - you do what works for you).  All of the communication was being done through the realtors, so Dr. BB and I were anxiously sitting with our phones waiting for texts from our realtor during this process.  Yay!

I naively thought that we were done. Little did I know that there were still plenty of steps left in the home buying process during which the deal could fall through.

Earnest Money
First up, we had to pay "earnest money." That is basically money held by the title company during the deal itself.  It basically tells the sellers that the buyers are serious about the contract - that we, as buyers, weren't going to keep looking around for a better deal during the time that the contract was being finalized. If the deal does go through, earnest money is used to cover down payment and closing costs.  If the deal falls through, if it's not the buyer's fault, the buyer still gets their money back in full. We had 72 hours (or something like that) to get $10,000 to the title company for earnest money after we signed the $210,000 offer.

Then, there was a concern that despite the pre-approval, the bank could deny us financing. Our credit union required very little from us, but here is the list.

1) We had to complete a form called the "Escrow Option Form" that basically said we'd escrow taxes and insurance.  Escrow is basically a separate account that a little bit from your mortgage payment goes to each month to cover homeowners insurance and property taxes. I am not sure if you are legally allowed to buy land with a loan in the United States without escrow.  We esigned this form. With the exception of the very first formal offer on the house we made sitting around a table, everything we did was esigned.  Very convenient.

2) Copy of our most recent paystubs

3) Copy of our previous years W2s

4) A copy of our homeowners insurance and paid receipt for a full year

5) A copy of home inspection report

The first three were easy, but the last two items required more work on our part.

Homeowners Insurance
We needed to provide proof of insurance roughly three weeks before closing. We looked at a bunch of places and filled out various online forms (that took FOREVER) to get quotes.  I'm looking back at my records and it looks like we looked at State Farm (because it had been our current renters and automobile insurance carrier at the time), Prudential (through Navy Federal Credit Union because it was recommended to us), and a local independent agency in the town we were buying. The local agency was literally half the price and it gets comparable Yelp reviews, so we went ahead and did this.  This "research" process for homeowners insurance was probably the most time intensive part of the entire home buying process, I kid you not. If we had looked at more homes, maybe I couldn't say this, but we faffed about with insurance companies for a long time.  Be prepared.

We also switched our auto insurance at the time same time, but that's a separate post.

There was a slight problem when I had to do the final purchasing of the insurance without Dr. BB because he had to go back to Iowa (sick mom), but the insurance guy was able to esign for Dr. BB, so yay!  I had to write a check for the full amount of insurance (that gets tucked away in escrow). It was $505 for the year.

Inspection Report
Inspectors were crazy busy during the time we needed one!  I used one recommended by our realtor (turns out I probably should not have done this and used one I found independently, but I didn't know that at the time, so feel free to lecture me in the comments) and he was really the only one who could do it in a timely manner.  It cost $375 for his standard rate for a home our size, plus we paid $125 for a radon test because, well, I guess people do radon tests?  Anyway, we met the inspector and our realtor at the house one morning (during the week - I don't know how people with 9 to 5 jobs do all this) and it took us about three or three and a half hours to do the inspection. It was interesting and I learned a lot (including that there is indeed knob and tube* wiring in our house and that vermiculite insulation might make finishing our attic a challenge). The inspector took a bunch of photos during the inspection and put it all into an electronic report that we were then able to send to the bank.

The inspector actually did note some things that weren't up to code in the electric and plumbing work and essentially we stipulated that those things had to be fixed before we would close.  The sellers agreed to this.

Meanwhile, What's the Bank Doing?
While of this is going on, we're getting stuff to esign for the bank. Most of it is literally the same documents over and over again with slight changes. These forms are a loan estimate (there was an error once that we caught, so we did look at it fairly carefully), acknowledgement of loan estimate (lol), interest rate agreement, and escrow agreement. Over and over. By looking over my emails, I estimate we signed these things 10 - 12 times.

So I guess they're getting all this stuff organized, checking our credit, and all that. They're also getting the house appraised.

Lenders use third-parties to obtain unbiased estimate of the true (or fair market) value of what a home is worth.  Appraisers use all kinds of things to determine this estimate, including using comparable properties, information on the housing market, and the condition of the property. All lenders order an appraisal during the mortgage loan process so that there is an objective way to assess the home's market value and ensure that the amount of money requested by the borrower is appropriate.

The appraisal for our house came in at $205,000, which was $5000 less than our price (and, incidentally, our starting offer).  While I panicked a bit, our realtor was excited for us. Good news!  The sellers will have to come down to the appraised price.  And, after some haggling (at one point, I literally asked our realtor if the sellers were going to walk over $5000), they did come down to the appraised price.  Yes, I think the house is worth more than that. Yes, I think that the appraisers used some ridiculous comps of shitty modern construction in less desirable neighborhoods.  Yes, I feel kind of bad for the sellers. No, I am not sad at all that we paid less than we thought we were going to.

So once we got all this to the bank, the appraisal was done, we esigned one more document locking our interest rate in place, and our loan went to underwriting, a process I don't really understand, and then we waited. 

I know I said this was going to be a three-part series, but I lied! I think there are two more installments left. Come back next week for more rambling.  I swear that this will someday be useful to someone buying a house for the first time.  

*There are A LOT of horror stories online about how getting houses with knob and tube wiring insured is hard. I mentioned it to our insurance agent and he shrugged.  "It's been there for a hundred years without a fire. Can't imagine it's going to be a problem." 

Friday, August 11, 2017

2017 CSA Week 10: Halfway Through the Season

This week's basket is going to be a challenge, but we shall persevere. 

Aji hot peppers (2)
Slicer tomatoes
Green Kale
Dragon's tongue beans

I don't know. We had some lettuce on tacos tonight. Dr. BB is making a pinto bean kale soup and he'll use some of the kale in that. Maybe he'll use one of those peppers, but we already bought a jalapeno for that soup, so I doubt it. I'll eat the tomatoes raw. Those stupid beans are a problem - I don't really care for them and neither does Dr. BB. I've been eating them raw, but that A LOT of beans when you don't really love them.

I think I'll make a salsa verde with the tomatillos because I honestly don't know what else one does with tomatillos. 

The garlic will get added to the pile of garlic we cannot use.  The next person who visits our house will get loaded down with garlic and onions from our CSA because we just can't use them.

The parsley, sage, and peppers are quite problematic. If I'm being honest, they'll probably end up in the compost. But.  Maybe I'll attempt to dry the herbs.  That would be fun. I did end up using the basil from last week in a pesto (which was kind of gross, but I tried!). 

Not the best basket we've ever had, but forward march.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me, Sonicare?

I have a well documented dental regime. About five years ago, Dr. BB and I purchased a Philips Sonicare electric toothbrush on the recommendation of our dentist and it was a glorious thing. Seriously.  I loved that thing. 

We got the fanciest toothbrush because he and I have different dental needs. I need a setting especially for gum care and he needs...something else that is actually pretty standard on most electric toothbrushes, so really it's MY issue that forces us up into the luxury model of electric toothbrushes. ANYWAY. 

There are a few things to note.  First, the toothbrush heads are neatly stored. Second, there are TWO buttons (one for power, one to select the setting).
This is the traveling case. Note how the toothbrush heads are beautifully stored with their plastic caps.  (Mine is five years old and I definitely cleaned it after I saw how it gross it was in this photo.)

But we recently discovered that our precious beloved toothbrush was losing power. It had put in five years of good service, so we bought the newer version of the same toothbrush

And it gives me the sads. Why? Why did it LOSE functionality in the redesign?
The thing that bothers me the absolute most is how the toothbrush heads just sort of hang out in the cup.  I That is not neat and organized. I think this was probably designed with the idea that only one person would use the toothbrush and you could just store the toothbrush with the head on it, but we share this toothbrush. You'll also notice that this only has one button. It is both the power button and the way to choose the setting, but I can't figure out how to change the setting, so if it's on Dr. BB's setting, I just use that one. It totally defeats the purpose of why we got this and I want my second button back.
But who in the hell designed this travel case?!  The heads don't even fit in there!! Yes, you can fit them in there if you take the plastic caps off, but who does that?  You're going to get toothpaste and bacteria from your toothbrush head in your travel case! If you get a head that isn't one of the standard heads shown, it won't fit in the case EVEN WITH THE PLASTIC CAP off.  Yes, caps lock. This is how upset I am about this redesign.  This is...ridiculous. 

There are a couple of things I do like about the redesign. I like that the rubber is gone because our rubber was starting to peel back on the old toothbrush. I like that the travel case closes magnetically instead of with a plastic clasp; again, after five years of hard labor, our the clasp on the old case is no longer functional. 

But seriously? We purchased a $170 toothbrush that doesn't make me happy in every single way? That's not acceptable to me.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Buying Our House, Part II: Online Forms Galore

Part I here.  

During Spring Break we got some suggestions for realtors in the area. We went with someone who grew up in the town where we were looking and still lives here.  We called her, sent her three or four listings from Zillow that met our qualifications, and she starting doing whatever it is that realtors do to set up viewings.

Lending Options
Meanwhile, we were going through the mortgage approval process. There is pre-qualification and pre-approval and pre-qualification is generally a simple process and pre-approval is a giant pain in the ass. It turns out that if you want to actually know the rates that banks are going to offer you, you have to fill in lots of information so that they can figure out your debt to income ratio, and that is essentially getting pre-approval. We spent the better part of three hours filling out forms for the first credit union we did the pre-approval process through. It went much faster after that because we had the papers and information handy, but it was a process.

Things we needed for pre-approval:
Tax forms from the previous years (easily available to us since we file online)
Pay stubs from the previous pay period (easily available to us through online portals)
Bank statements (ummm, kind of easy for the credit union we actually use, but surprisingly challenging to export to other banking institutions)
List of all our assets (essentially we have none except for a 7-year old car with 180,000 miles on it, some spendy bicycles, and a few pieces of jewelry)
List of all our debts (this is what slowed us down - Dr. BB has some small student loans and finding exactly what he owed on these and what the account numbers were was surprisingly challenging)

We also had to type our basic identifying information approximately eight million times.

But we were pre-approved (for 250K, even though our budget was 225K, but don't get me started on this - one bank pre-approved us for $650K, which no...we couldn't afford that).  Yay!  We were pre-approved through two credit union and one bank and basically just went with the one that offered us the best rate. The lending institution basically just gives you a letter (an electronic document) with the information that buyers will need for pre-approval.  We happened to use the credit union we actually bank through, so I'm not sure what impact that had on the rest of the process.

Your Housing Market Is Probably Better Than Ours Was
We told the realtor we were qualified for 225K and we were off to look at houses.  Only...there were no houses. The market here is challenging for buyers. There aren't many homes in the 350K - 500K range, so people in our price range are holding on to their properties because there aren't any places to "move up" to.  So people who are in starter homes and looking to trade up to a slightly better house are snatching up houses in this price range. So.  That was that. Things were not going to get better in the market just because I wanted them to, so we were kind of stuck.
Just part of the jungle. You don't even know what you can't see behind those dogwood trees.
We looked at a total of two homes and made an offer on the second one we saw. Because, I swear to all that is holy, there were no other acceptable homes.  Location was a deal breaker for us and this house is on the "right side" of town (makes the commute to school shorter) and checked all our must-have boxes.  The house IS quirky,  the layout of the closets and bathrooms is not ideal (I am being generous here - the layouts make NO sense and I'm a bit confounded by how they got this way), and the yard is borderline ridiculous, but there you have it.  We made an offer.
Dozens of those bags later and our yard still looks like someone needs to take care of it.
We met with our realtor at the property, sat around their dining room table, and signed a bunch of forms, including the formal offer.  The property owners were given 48 hours to respond. So we waited.

Friday, August 04, 2017

2017 CSA Week 9: Heirloom Tomatoes!

This week reminds me that we still in the heart of the growing season, despite oddly cool temperatures.  This week the list brings us lots of goodies.

Summer squash (1 large; 1 medium; 1 teeny tiny)
Cucumbers (2)
Heirloom tomatoes (3)
Dragon's tongue beans (they have strange coloring, but when heated turn green and taste like green beans)
Fresh garlic (2 bulbs)
Jalapeno (2)
Fennel (2)

I'll eat the carrots, cucumbers, and tomatoes raw. I'll use the fennel in a slaw. The patty pan squash has never been a favorite around here, but maybe I'll slice it and grill it and see what happens. I'll tell myself that I'll make pesto with the basil sometime early next week, but in actuality, I will through it out next week when I pick up the new CSA. :) 

We occasionally use jalapeno peppers in a couple of Mexican-inspired recipes, so maybe we'll use those. We'll use the kale in a frittata as is our norm. Those dragon tongue beans are a favorite of our farmers, but I don't love green beans so much and I don't love those dragon tongues. I guess I'll try to get Dr. BB to eat most of them, but the rest I'll chop up and eat raw for lunch, complaining about it the whole time. 

2017 has been a challenge, my friends. I'm trying to work up enthusiasm for things like the CSA in the hopes that summer 2017 can somehow rebound, but, if I'm being honest, I can't. I should really want to make pesto and use all the ingredients, but lately I just have a shoulder shrug for the unused vegetables that end up in our compost.  I'm going to go all Dan Savage here and say it will get better and I know it will, but in the meantime, I'm going to complain about having to eat green beans.
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