Feel Good Fix – October 2015

Nowadays it’s nearly impossible not to feel overloaded, stressed out, or just simply like you have no time for yourself. There’s no time to stop, relax, take a break; but the everyday hustle can be detrimental to your mood (among other things). So, we’ve decided to help you find ways to improve your mood with our monthly Feel Good Fix! Think of it as a monthly homework assignment… for yourself. You can do it just one day out of the month, or every single day if you can. It’s all up to you and when you feel you need that extra boost of happiness.

This month, we’re starting simple – talk to someone that makes you laugh. We have all heard that laughter is the best medicine, so lets put that medicine to good use! We all know someone who we can rely on to put a smile on our face. Perhaps it’s a sibling, a friend, or a coworker. Whoever it may be, take a couple minutes out of your day to talk to them. You might think, couldn’t I just watch a comedy for laughs? It’s not the same as a one-on-one conversation with someone you know and can relate to directly. You can’t depend on something scripted to make you laugh to the point of tears – but you might know someone who can do just that. Take a few minutes today, or some time this week, to reach out and connect with someone that makes you genuinely laugh and feel happy. Leave us a comment and let us know how it helped lift your spirits! 🙂

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NACA Part Three – My Experience from Beginning to Almost End

In this final installment of my experience with NACA (the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America), I will review the steps I went through after our mortgage counseling.

After many months of budgeting, planning, taking care of open credit report issues, ensuring all bills were paid on time, and most importantly, saving – my husband and I were finally able to say we had checked off all of the “to-do’s” on our action plan.

This. Was. Not. Easy.

It was WORK to budget and stick to that budget. It was WORK to make sure all of our bills were paid on time and that the right amount of money was going into our savings account monthly. It was WORK to negotiate with creditors or have errors on our credit report corrected. Although this was a lot of work, it brought about a growth, maturity, and unity in my relationship with my fiancé. We were working diligently to ensure that we had a solid start to our marriage and a solid foundation to grow upon.

The application process was a few weeks of stress and panic. We had to make sure all documents in our file were up-to-date. As previously mentioned, one of the standout differences of the NACA program was that they underwrite upfront for an APPROVAL, not a pre-approval which is standard with many conventional and FHA loans. At the time of our application, it was a bit of a hectic time as the bank that backed the loans for NACA was being transitioned from one institution to another.

We signed a STACK of forms. No sarcasm. A STACK… I should have hugged a tree as I left the office since a tree gave its life just for us to have a STACK of mortgage application forms to sign.

We followed up frequently. (Don’t be THAT person that follows up every two hours. Be reasonable.) We QUICKLY submitted documentation that was requested of us. It was nerve-wrecking. Let’s be honest. You are being judged. Not only are you being judged, it is by someone you have never met or seen before and you don’t have an opportunity to explain, encourage, or separate yourself from the crowd. Yet, when that approval comes in… It is OH… SO… SWEET. You feel as if you have overcome a major hurdle. You finally have a sheet of paper with your name and a bank’s name on it, and that sheet of paper says that bank will back you for a mortgage.

NACA requires that the realtors used for the house hunting process take a course and be registered with NACA, as the realtor needs to be familiar with the restraints and style of mortgage provided by NACA. We requested a realtor we had met at a NACA event and hit the ground running.

House hunting is NOT easy in South Florida, especially when you are on a budget. I will not bore you with the details, but I will give you the facts that you need to know…

  • NACA allows you to use 10% of your mortgage amount for repairs/upgrades to a home (so long as that additional 10% falls within your approved mortgage amount).
  • NACA does not allow you to incentivize a buyer on your offer. You can’t say, “Hey… we’ll pay you an additional 1% in cash at closing.”
  • Most importantly, NACA does not allow you to take out a mortgage above the appraisal amount. This is logical, but since NACA doesn’t let you pay (even out of pocket) above the appraisal amount this becomes an issue, especially in hot real estate markets where most people offer above asking price.

Here is what happened with my fiancé and me: We made an offer on a home of approximately $260,000, and the owner accepted that amount. We went through the inspection of the home (which was passed with flying colors), and then we moved on to the appraisal.

That is when everything basically fell apart. It was the downfall of the process. When the appraisal came in, the house appraised for approximately $235,000. NACA would only approve a mortgage for the $235,000 appraised amount. The $25,000 difference was too great of an amount for us to negotiate down or come to an acceptable agreement with the seller. The seller was adamant on selling for $260,000.

My fiancé and I had to walk away from purchasing a home about a week before we would have closed. It was also the week of my fiancé’s birthday. It was also exactly 4 months before our wedding. For approximately 2-3 weeks, we were about as depressed as you could get.

The fault in my situation is that NACA should not be used in hot real estate markets where buyers are a plenty and sellers are scarce. In our market, it is very common for homes to go for slightly above appraisal. Additionally, NACA’s appraisal dispute department was a nightmare to deal with. We had an extensive list of comparable homes that reflected the home was worth more than $230,000, yet they were not trying to find a way to help a customer who has worked so hard and had also referred several friends to the program.

There are certain neighborhoods where sellers outnumber the buyers. In THOSE markets, I’m sure NACA is most effective. The buyer can set the terms with the sellers.

I’m sad to say that my fiancé and I were not able to buy a home. Because it was so close to our wedding, we had to rush to find a place to rent. A year later, we are still renting. It’s a vicious cycle, yet we are already preparing ourselves to buy a home in a year or so using all of the lessons we have learned.

NACA was a great program and a great experience, but for our specific situation, it was not a happy ending.

-Angie

Mommification

How often do you see them? A mess of lopsided pony tails, yoga pants, loose-fitting shirts, and diaper bags. Fabric literally engulfing them to the point of looking like a walking pile of laundry. Sneakers or flip flops carrying them from errand to errand until they collapse at the end of the day. I call them Mommies. Or should I say us? I call US Mommies. Sure, we’re blessed with beautiful, bouncing bundles of joy. But along with those bundles comes Mommification – when you realize that you’ve somehow slipped into a state of perpetual “blah” when it comes to clothing, shoes – just style in general.  We don’t mean for it to happen, but it does. Your appearance is secondary to the little life you’ve created. Comfort and mobility are crucial if you’ve got a toddler to chase after. You’re just. too. tired.

There are some of us that seem to do it all while still maintaining an impeccable appearance. But as for the rest of us – we need help! The first thing you need to remember is that they’re just clothes! We shouldn’t dread getting dressed – like, putting on ACTUAL pants. But what if things just don’t fit like they used to? They won’t. And that’s okay! But please don’t resort to that drawer full of workout clothes, or worse – lounge wear. Listen, I’m all for spending a day in your pj’s, but if you’re leaving the house in something that’s meant to be worn Sunday mornings relaxing on the couch, then we have an issue. Find pieces that fit well and make you feel put together. For new moms, choose pieces that are easy to clean and are made of a good quality fabric (for all the extra washes they’ll have to go through). Hang these items in the front of your closet. When you start to get a handle on life with kids and you’ve created a schedule for yourself, find the time to inventory the items you have that can be added to this new section of your closet.

Now, I’m not going to tell you what to wear – wear what you like! If it makes you feel good, go for it. The more put-together you look, the better you’ll feel. One of the reasons new moms go through postpartum depression is because of all the changes that just happened to their bodies. Dressing in a manner that accentuates this feeling only makes it more pronounced, causing a vicious cycle. I’m not saying that if you get all dolled up post-baby you’re guaranteed to eliminate postpartum depression. There are many other hormonal and environmental factors involved as well. But it’s a drop in the bucket to work towards feeling like yourself again – which is the main goal.

The most important thing every mom (new or not) needs to know is that just because you’ve become a mom, it doesn’t mean that’s all you are. You are much more than just one piece of you, even if it’s a really huge piece. You are also a daughter, a sister, a friend, a teacher, a student, and anything else you want to be. And if you loved getting all dolled up pre-baby, then you’ll definitely still love it post-baby (you just have to play around with the pieces a bit).  Being a mom is another part of you, another hat you wear, and you should pair it with a great outfit!

Melissa

Coming Soon: Video Blogs!

Hi Everyone!

The last few weeks have been a handful! Business trip, hubby’s birthday, nephew’s first birthday (cue: “awwwww”), and getting some SERIOUS crafts done! Time to focus on ME again! Life happens! Enjoy it. LIVE it. The only thing you need to remember is always come back to focusing on your goals and what will make YOU happy! After all, YOU spend 24/7 with yourself. No running away! =)

I’m currently working on my last NACA Experience post… A recap from my business trip (and the confidence that I packed), and also a video about always “trying again” when your commitment to your plans slips up.

Video?

Yep! I decided I will also be video blogging! Not every post… Sometimes words are better spoken…

I hope you all have a wonderful day and can’t wait to hear from you soon!

Angie

NACA Part Two – My Experience from Beginning to Almost End

NotSo30s NACA Experience 2

In part one of this series I introduced you to my experience with Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA) and the introductory homebuyer’s workshop. Today, I would like to tell you about the next major step in the NACA process – mortgage counseling.

After you have attended the homebuyer’s workshop and returned your registration information, within about 2 weeks you will receive an email with what will become something as important to you as your social security number, your NACA ID number.

Keep it. Save it. Make a note of it in your phone or where you can easily access it when you need it.

Along with your NACA ID, you will receive information on logging into your online NACA file. NACA utilizes a paperless system. It is YOUR responsibility to upload your documentation via fax or directly through the computer. If you are not computer savvy, I highly recommend finding a friend who can walk you through the easiest methods for uploading your documentation.

When I refer to documentation I mean bank statements, copies of specific bills, your budget (more to come on that later), paystubs, and any additional proof of income. The homebuyer’s workshop describes in detail exactly what items need to be uploaded.

Here is the FIRST IMPORTANT TIP I will share with you today: BE PROACTIVE. GET ORGANIZED. Gather all of your documentation EARLY. Keep a binder and stay on top of all of your documentation. Every time you receive a new paystub, bank statement, etc. upload it to your NACA file immediately and keep it in an organized binder.

At the workshop you will learn that NACA requires you create a budget. They breakdown line items for you. You absolutely must have this prepared. This budget served me and my fiancé for more than just home buying aspirations. Being that we were engaged and planning our lives together, it was a phenomenal learning experience for the both of us. We both learned how to manage our expenses and income. Budgeting became very important for us and we learned how to save money on a monthly basis. If you were to ask me what the absolute best part of the NACA experience was, it would be how to PROPERLY and REALISTICALLY budget.

At this point you have your NACA ID, are gathering your documents, and preparing your current budget. Your current budget is how you are spending and what your expenses are at that time. No need to exaggerate. They need to see your REAL utilization of money. So, what’s next?

You will be assigned a mortgage counselor and will be assigned a first appointment. Yes, the appointment AND the counselor will be assigned to you. These mortgage counselors are often booked for weeks in advance. If it is IMPORTANT for you to buy a home, then you will make your meetings happen. You will be able to schedule future meetings at more convenient times later in the process.

So, here is my SECOND IMPORTANT TIP: FIGHT for a good mortgage counselor! When I was assigned my first meeting, it was going to be a “telephone meeting” with someone in an out-of-state office.

Nope.

NOT OKAY.

I immediately called my local office and demanded to be scheduled with a local counselor. A telephone meeting is NOT the same as an in-person meeting. MAKE SURE your first meeting is in-person. Do not settle for anything less. Also, if you connected with a mortgage counselor at your workshop, request them as your mortgage counselor.

If you are applying with a spouse, significant other or relative, you BOTH need to attend all meetings. Again, if it is important for you to buy a home, you will make it happen.

On the day of your first meeting, have all of your documentation with you, AND already uploaded to your NACA online file. Be organized. Refer back to the NACA manual for the list of required documents to verify that all of your documentation has been uploaded.

Your mortgage counselor will review three main areas. First, they will run your credit history. There is a minimal charge for this. The counselors do NOT look at your score, they’re more interested in your credit history. If there are any red flags that will cause delays in getting a NACA approval, your counselor will point them out for you. For my fiancé and I, there were 3 collections accounts that we were unaware of that we needed to close-out. The counselor added these items to our “action plan” which we received at the end of our meeting.

The second area that the counselor reviews are your bank statements and paystubs. If there are any overdrafts, or questions about spending, these will be addressed. Overdrafts are NOT allowed. Refer to the NACA manual for the appropriate length of time since the last overdraft. The counselor will also point out questionable spending and advise you of anything you need to resolve. Next, your savings will be analyzed. You will discuss the anticipated purchase price of your new home and the monthly payments, then calculate how much you should have in your savings account for the home purchase. These items will be added to your action plan.

Finally, your counselor reviews your budget with you. This is something you need to STRICTLY ADHERE TO. By sticking to your budget you show that you are financially responsible and capable of handling the expenses of being a homeowner. Again, this is the aspect of the process that my fiancé and I benefited from the most. We realized that our small, frivolous spending added up to a large amount at the end of the month. We also learned that we were capable of saving more money each month than we thought possible.

At the end of your meeting you will receive an action plan with all the items you need to address before your next meeting. If you have plenty of money in savings, no red flags on your credit report, and your budget is in line you may be able to go straight to the application process.

For us, we needed to wait about 6 or 7 months to save enough money. We also used that time to clear up red flags.

One of the differences between NACA and a standard mortgage broker/company is that you are not going through this process for a pre-approval. You get APPROVED from the beginning. All of the hoops you jump through have a reason—an actual APPROVAL letter.

I will emphasize again that it is very important to upload your documentation every single month. Find a way to track what you need to upload. Also, always keep a copy of everything.

As you continue through the process, you will see the items on your action plan get checked off and will feel a major sense of accomplishment working towards meeting your savings goals!

After your follow-up meetings, and once you have completed the items on your action plan, your mortgage counselor will let you know that it is time for the application process!

Stay tuned as the last installment of the series discusses the application process, house hunting and being under contract!

If you have any questions you want to make sure to address in the final post, either comment or email me. I will do my best to help as many as I can!

Side note: Being that I have gone through the NACA process, I highly recommend you read ALL parts of my NACA experience before you make any decisions. You may also consider attending just the workshop to become more informed before making your decision. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask! Email me at NotSo30s@gmail.com )

Authenticity – Who Are You?

Lately, the word “authenticity” has crossed my mind at random moments in the day… it’s been when my brain is a little bit more quiet than the norm, or when I am thinking about my future goals and plans.

Authenticity.

Who am I? Who are you?

No, really. WHO are you deep down inside? Have you really given this some thought?

We all have a façade; a mask that we wear when we want to portray a certain personality to those around us. Sometimes, we get so accustomed to that projected personality that we believe that is who we really are. We begin to justify decisions, reactions and thoughts based off of that personality. After a while, we forget who we truly are, and we become blind to the consequences of not being our true selves—our authentic selves.

What do I mean by this? Are you blindly happy or blindly sad? I say blindly in the sense that we are using a construct of who we think we are to justify how we feel. Are you happy, but you rationalize your decisions without considering their long term effect? One day, our TRUE selves will need to come out—no longer stifled by the layers upon layers of a life we have built around the person we want others to believe we are.

Being blindly sad has more to do with the weight of our decisions, and not knowing why we feel a persistent sense of sadness or despair (no matter how good or bad things may be in our lives). As we make choices based on the person we want to be seen as, our inner selves cannot come to terms with the effects of those decisions. They may have lead you down a path where your true self never wanted to go, or cannot find joy.

This projected personality can, at times, be seen by others. When you “try too hard,” are excessively eager, or try to squeeze yourself into a conversation or situation you manage to put off the people around you (as these people can see right through the illusion). You may not even be aware of your actions. Your absolute need for approval and constant attention is a clear sign – you are not being your authentic self.

So. How do we find out who we are?

We stop. We find some quiet time. We write. We think. We analyze.

I know, I know! Sometimes we barely have five minutes to ourselves. Our busy, fast-paced life is always demanding MORE, MORE, MORE from us. Yet, we need to make time for ourselves.

Recently, I started thinking about the changes I have gone through over the last decade. About 10 years ago I was desperate for the attention of a particular person. My self-worth and ability to be loved was determined by the amount of attention I would receive from that person. Five years ago, I would have turned a blind eye to issues that caused me inner turmoil, to avoid stirring up issues. I also went through a stage when I felt I was not living life to the fullest and enjoying myself and those around me if I wasn’t texting/calling multiple friends in a day and planning a jam packed social schedule every weekend.

Even now I still have conflict within myself. They mainly surround basing my self-worth on a number on a scale. I am, at least, in a place where I am aware of this and am working on it.

I find that I am in a happier place. A more peaceful place in my life. I do not base my ability to be loved on the amount of attention I receive, but instead on the quality of love I share with my husband. I no longer base what is supposed to be my life’s happiness over the amount of people I communicate with on a daily basis and see on the weekends. I value those who have shown me authentic friendship and have appreciated my authentic self.

I find I am second-guessing myself less every day. I now have new goals, new dreams and new achievements to chase – and honestly, I am genuinely happy/nervous/excited.

What is my message here? I hope you find happiness with who you really are. Don’t work so hard to build an illusion of who you are for others. Bring down your walls. Take the time to think about what makes YOU happy. Who YOU are. What YOU want to do with your life.

I want you to know that it is OKAY to be who you are. If you find your energy depleted from either shunning attention when you really want to shine or devoting too much time to others when you really just need to be alone – STOP and listen to what YOU want. Free yourself from the illusion. Create YOUR definition of happiness.

NACA Part One – My Experience from Beginning to Almost End

NACA Part One

I am frequently asked: “Did Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA) work for you?”

NACA is a company that I first learned about from a credit counselor my husband and I were seeing. We sought out credit counseling to improve our finances in order to purchase a home. A credit counselor can tell you which debts to prioritize or how to help improve your credit – but they seldom advise you on how to properly budget. This will be important later.

I researched NACA online and saw they were hosting a seminar about 20 minutes away that would take place in about 2 weeks. (At the time, my husband and I were not married yet and were living with our respective families.) It is crucial to sign up for those workshops, as you cannot begin the NACA process without attending a seminar.

My husband (should I call him fiancé? That’s what he was at the time. Fiancé. Let’s do that…) My fiancé and I arrived a couple minutes late. I’ll be honest… I gave him hell, as I despise being late, especially since I had NO idea what to expect. The seminar we attended was held in the summer of 2013. We signed-in and several NACA volunteers wearing BRIGHT yellow shirts handed out large booklets to everyone. The seminar was held in a gymnasium. Folding chairs and portable bleachers were set-up in the middle of the court, as well as a screen for a presentation. The poor acoustics in the gymnasium made it difficult to hear the short video clips that were played, and I’m sure it was worse for those sitting in the back. Additionally, the projector was not designed for such a large space and the presentation was difficult to see. I recommend, if you are attending a NACA seminar, get there early and sit close to the front!

The presentation began with the creation of NACA and who they are. I’ll admit—it was a bit cheesy and “cheerleadery.” (Cheerleadery. Cheerleader-y. I know it isn’t a word, but it fits people! Just stay with me here…) Anywho. Then, they got into the guts of the program: the requirements, how their mortgage plan works, and the steps to qualify. This is not your normal mortgage program. It is EXTREMELY structured. EXTREEEEEMELY. Yet, the benefits, if you work hard enough to qualify, are absolutely worth it. I mean it.

Now, while you are there, don’t you DARE think about leaving early and that you are slick enough to sneak out and still get credit for attending. Yes. I said credit. You cannot begin the NACA process without having attended the workshop in full. How will they know you left early? Easy… you must complete a registration form that is given only at the end of the seminar to receive your NACA ID number and this is required to initiate the NACA process. And no, you cannot arrive late either. I believe they close registration about 15 minutes after the presentation begins. Without turning in that registration sheet you will not have proof that you attended, and that form is collected at the VERY end of the presentation.

“So what, Angie? I can sit for a quick presentation. It isn’t a big deal.”

Well, the seminar wasn’t exactly quick. When I registered for the seminar it was scheduled for FOUR hours on a Saturday morning. Yup. FOUR hours. Saturday morning. It was a sacrifice; however, my husband and I very much wanted a home of our own and we felt it was well worth the investment if it got us to our end goal.

The seminar we attended did not last the entire four hours. The presenters were organized, limited the number of questions they answered in front of the group and asked for those with further questions to save them for the end of the seminar.

Now, remember that booklet I mentioned? Crucial. Vital. I can’t stress this enough. About 95% of all questions are answered in that booklet. It described, in detail, the mortgage product NACA offers. It also has all of the requirements and rules including: “What if I have had a previous foreclosure?”, or “what if I have current medical debt?”

I don’t remember all of the specifics; that is what the workshop is for. But I can tell you, that while there are rules, they are not as restrictive as most FHA/conventional type mortgages.

Some BENEFITS of the NACA Program are listed below. (Please keep in mind that this post is being written as of May 2015. All of these items are subject to change, and I insist that you visit the NACA website for more information. I am only sharing with you what I learned through my own personal experience.)

So, I’m just going to bullet point these for you. Why? Cause they are so major that they will speak for themselves.

  • No Down Payment
  • No Closing Costs
  • Ability to Buy-Down Your Rate
  • Fixed Interest Rate
  • Interest Rate Tends to be Below the Industry Average
  • No Application Fees
  • No Membership Fee
  • No Private Mortgage Insurance
  • Your Credit SCORE is Not Used to Determine Eligibility, Only Your Report Information

I know you are thinking, “What’s the catch?” There aren’t any “catches” per se. There are, however, requirements and a very structured process. Here is a breakdown of some of the items that come to mind:

  • Your credit report is reviewed. Any collections accounts, late payments, etc. are reviewed. This, however, is not a deal breaker. Your mortgage consultant will review your report with you and tell you what items need attention. They give you time to handle those issues or to provide a longer good payment history.
  • Your budget, bank statements and monthly savings are reviewed. You must stick to a budget that you discussed and planned with your mortgage consultant. NACA has a set formula of how much money you need to be able to save each month in order to show that you will be able to handle the monthly expense of being a homeowner.
  • Volunteer work is required. You can volunteer at NACA events or the NACA office. Your volunteer work is logged and you must meet a minimum number of volunteer hours in order to qualify.
  • Volunteer work is required after your home purchase in order to help support the NACA program.

I’m sure you have a TON of more questions, and I am by no means finished telling you about my NACA experience. I am preparing more posts on my experience with this program. Part 2 will be all about budgeting, qualification and the application process. Part 3 will be about the approval and house hunting process. Each phase is different with NACA, as it is with any other mortgage provider.

If you have any questions or areas you’d like me to address in subsequent posts, make sure to either comment or email me. I will do my best to help as many as I can!

Note: Being that I have gone through the NACA process, I highly recommend you read ALL parts of my NACA experience before making any decisions. You may also consider attending the workshop to simply become more informed before making your decision. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask! Email me at NotSo30s@gmail.com )

Farmers Market First Timer

IMG_8709 IMG_8710 IMG_8708

Have you visited your local Farmer’s Market? Have you hesitated because you thought it was only for people who ate organic? Or thought the prices would be too high?

Today, I want to ask you to give your local Farmer’s Market at chance. Just once.

I have a local Farmer’s Market that is within 5 miles of my home. For months I have said I wanted to go check it out, but never actually made a visit until this weekend. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Honestly, I thought there would be more vendors. I learned, however, that more vendors gather at the mid-week Farmer’s Market.

Nevertheless, I walked away with two big bags full of purchases!

Check out my video with my haul from my first trip to the Farmer’s Market – and make sure to let me know what you like about YOUR local market!

(I’m working on my video skills! LOL!)

NotSo30’s Cheddar-Stuffed Perfect Burgers

Being that it is Memorial Day weekend, barbecues around the country are making countless burgers and hot dogs. Why not make yours a little bit more exceptional than the norm?

Today I prepared Cheddar-Stuffed Burgers. They are easy, delicious, and can be customized an endless number of ways. The best part is HOW I prepare my burger patties in the perfect shape every time!

What You Will Need:

  • 2 pounds of ground beef
  • 2″ Wide Block of Cheddar
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Baking Sheet
  • Aluminum Foil
  • 2 Cup Measuring Cup
  • Cutting board or mat
  • Paper towels

Notes:

  • I used 85% Beef/15% Fat ground meat. I usually stick to this or 90% Beef/10% Fat ground meat. If you go with a higher fat percentage your burgers will be too greasy, and any lower than this fat percentage your burgers will be very dry.
  • I used a 2 cup measuring cup, as it is what I had handy that was circular. Feel free to use the small round take-out containers you find at your local deli. Basically, you want something with about a 4″ diameter.
  • Do not pre-mix your ground meat with seasonings. Hand mixing the ground beef results in a chewier and dried burger. This is due to the heat in your hand melts and emulsifies the fat in the ground meat.

Instructions:

  1. Cover your baking sheet in aluminum foil. Try to make the foil as flat on the sheet as possible. It won’t be perfect, but smooth it out as much as you can before you wrap the foil around the edges of the sheet.
  2. Salt and Pepper the foil. Yea. You read that right. You will understand this step later. Make it look something like this. IMG_8679
  3. Slice your block of cheddar cheese. Keep your slices to 1/4″ or less. Set aside.
  4. Place 2 paper towels (stacked) on top of a cutting board or mat. Set aside.
  5. Grab golf ball-sized amount of meat and GENTLY press it down into the bottom of your measuring cup. Try to have as little hands-on time as possible. I use the back of my fingers to gently press the meat down.  If you need to add a little more meat, go ahead. You want a layer at the bottom of the cup, and not so thin as it will crumble apart when you try to take out the patty later.
  6. Place one (or two if you are feel crazy) slice of cheddar in the middle of your patty. (Warning: If you decide to go crazy and add two slices, you will need extra meat to cover the cheese and it may result in an over-sized burger patty that may not cook as evenly.) I gently press the cheese into the patty, just to slightly wedge it in place. Your patty should now look like this. You should have no holes on the lower portion of the patty. IMG_8681
  7. Grab another golf ball-sized piece of meat and place it on top of the meat. Now, gently press the meat down and out towards the edge of the measuring cup.
  8. Once you have an even top layer of your patty, and can not see the cheese, prepare for war! I mean, to knock the patty out of the cup.
  9. While holding both side of the measuring cup, turn over the cup and give it a few solid WHACKS on the cutting board (on top of the paper towels) to knock the patty out of place.
  10. Lift the patty up and place it on top of your seasoned aluminum foil. (Voila! The bottom of your burger is now seasoned!) IMG_8680
  11. Repeat steps 5 – 10 with the rest of your ground meat and cheese.
  12. Once all of your patties are ready, season the top with salt and pepper.
  13. You are now ready for the grill! ENJOY!

    I experimented with two different sized measuring cups here. Unless you want a hockey puck, stick with the larger 2 cup measuring cup

    I experimented with two different sized measuring cups here. Unless you want a hockey puck, stick with the larger 2 cup measuring cup

Home Is Where The Couch Is.

 

This is totally not my present living room. Just the floor display of the sofa we DID order.

 

In the fall of last year, my husband and I moved in together about 45 days before our wedding day. That was a narrow window, especially with all of the last minute wedding tasks to accomplish. Before we lived together, I lived with my family, he lived with his.

Combined, the furniture we owned was a full-size bedroom furniture, a large desk unit, and a nice wood kitchen table with chairs. The expenses of the wedding, honeymoon, moving, and holidays were a hit to our finances. We did not have the luxury of running to the furniture store, right after moving in together, to buy all of the items we needed. Yet, we were so incredibly happy to be together. (Yes, incredibly cheesy moment. I call them “velveeta” cheesy moments.)

Little-by-little we have begun to purchase our furniture, and make our residence feel like a HOME. I am currently writing this from the delicious comfiness (is that even a word? Now it is…) of our king-size bed. This was our first major furniture investment, and it has been wonderful.

The problem, however, is that our living room has actually been more like the dogs bedroom/hubby’s video game room. We have only had one recliner and a tailgate chair in the living room since moving in. I kid you not. That room just wasn’t a priority for us.

As of today, that has all changed. We just finished ordering our living room sofa. It didn’t seem like a big deal at first, then I got to thinking… I get to have movie nights with my husband. I get to entertain guests. I get to fall asleep on a comfortable sofa while watching TV. I get to curl up and read.

The living room is one of the social epicenters of a home. Second possibly to the kitchen. My husband and I now get to enjoy all aspects of our home, and all get to share that space with others.

Our environment has an impact on so many aspects of our daily lives: physical health, stress levels, overall happiness, etc… Slowly, but surely, my husband and I are molding our home into our place of joy, relaxation and love.