Numbers behind the Nails: Our Experience with a Home Equity Line of Credit

I’ve been rather quiet around here because I’ve been pouring my energy into something exciting! We’re set to close on another house this Friday! We had it on our 2017 personal goals to work on getting a rental property and we thought initially we wanted to be in the commercial side of rentals but with the direction Greenville is going in we started entertaining small residential properties in the downtown area.  Greenville is building a new park currently called “City Park” starting in 2018 that will be more than twice the size of Falls Park and in the opposite direction along the Swamp Rabbit Trail.  With the Arts District also up and coming we lucked into a property right in between the two.  It’s 750sq feet of solid work so I shouldn’t be short on blog content for the foreseeable future!

Rendering of “City Park”

I’ll blog a little more about the house once we officially close! First order of business…..a new roof! 

I really wanted to blog about the “numbers behind these nails” because we’ve been recently educated first hand and wanted to be a resource for others interested in the same type of thing.  We are 30 years old with two kids and I work part time so it’s not like we have piles of cash sitting around.  For our DIY friends, this could be really beneficial to you! Let me start from the beginning….

We decided we thought we could try to finance a really small property or go in with other people on it. So, we started by emailing our realtor and telling her what we were interested in, what our budget was (the amount we thought we could finance), and a general location.  She added us to an email list where we got an email anytime something hit the market within our criteria.  I stalked Zillow for months and sifted emails for weeks ya’ll. I’d open and immediately look at location before even looking at the house….if it wasn’t where I wanted I didn’t even bother looking at anything else.

During this time our (uneducated in this arena) selves learned two things.  (Seriously don’t laugh at us if you already knew these things…..scroll along….this is for those of us still learning)

  1. The bank will not lend on land…no matter how good you think your idea for it is 😊
  2. If you are buying your second home you must have at least 15% cash to put down. It’s not like you can get 100% financing (and pay PMI like you could a first home)
  3. The rental property market in Greenville likes cash.

We quickly realized we weren’t going to be able to play in this game without cash so we started looking into home equity lines of credit.  When I say can’t play I mean investors here snatch up everything low priced they think they could flip within 24 hours of it hitting the market (or before it ever hits the market at all)

This is something we had thought about getting but never took seriously.   We poked around on google and saw we could apply with Bank of America (our bank) online so we went for it.  We filled out the application not knowing what to expect.

HOLD THE PHONE.  These interest rates are like 8%. Say WHAT???? No thanks.

Lesson learned during this phase:

  1. If you know someone at a small bank, go to them and explain what you are doing.
  2. If you don’t know someone we can recommend someone to you 😊
  3. The rate at the small bank is going to depend on your credit but ours is 2% for the first year and prime (4.25%) thereafter. We went with BNC.

The bank does a “drive by” (computer generated) appraisal on your house which could come back good for you or could come back awful….ours came back really low and was scary for a couple days.  It came back at 10K over what we paid for our house which isn’t fun when you bought a fixer upper (for a steal) and have done a bunch of work.   So, we ordered a full appraisal where someone came out and actually came into our house and did a full report.

That appraisal came back much higher and closer to the fair value of our house so we were quite relieved.

Now, another learning point:   The bank has a Loan to Value Ratio they calculate based on credit and/or how much you are borrowing.  We were told if you’re borrowing under 100,000 they will lend at an 89% LTV ratio.   This is there to protect the bank in case you default and they can’t sell your home for what they thought they could (recession probs)

Here is how the formula works:

Let’s put some fake numbers in here as an example:

 

*Bet you won’t find another home blog that has a spreadsheet copied and pasted in…. #accountantlife

Friends! If you have an old house you have done work to it is WORTH your while to look into this for yourself.  Your fixer upper can bank roll your next investment project.  We were over here sitting in this house we had done a bunch of work to, but didn’t want to sell, and didn’t realize we could put our equity to work for us already.

When you get a home equity line of credit you have a closing at a lawyers office with the bank just like you would on a mortgage.  In SC there is a 3 day period for you to collect your head and think through what you’re doing so you can’t spend any money for 3 days.  This is important if you’re using your money to purchase another house.  You can expect your closing costs to be about 1% of what you borrow….maybe less if you don’t have to order a full appraisal.

Now a line of credit means it is there but you aren’t borrowing it unless you decide to.  There are home equity loans where the bank gives you all the cash up front.  A line seemed better for us.  You do you.

Anyways, you receive a checkbook from the bank and you can spend the money on whatever you need to spend the money on.  In our case, our share of the house we’re partnering on and some renovation costs to get it going.  But other’s use them for things like college (the interest rates are cheaper than actual student loans).  As accountants though…we have to say, be mindful to use it on things that will return on investment 😊

I really just wanted to share our experience with this because we were clueless about the process of this lending vehicle! I really thought we would have to sell this house to reap the benefits of our work.  Tell me fellow DIY friends, did you already know the ins and outs of home equity lines?  How was your experience?

Questions for us?  Drop them in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer!

Jeweled Flats

This post has nothing to do with our house but rather it’s the tale of how one of my favorite necklaces found a new meaning in life.

I bought this necklace at Ann Taylor on major clearance shortly after Everly was born.  I loved it and was actually excited to wear it when I returned to work after maternity leave…sounds silly I know…but, hey, it’s the small things.

I wore the necklace once and then a jewel fell out.  Let me do the math for you…it’s been nearly THREE YEARS.  I lived in a place of denial regarding the necklace.  For a while I decided I would just repair it…after all I had been the buyer for an online bridal store in college and dealt with jewelry  like this daily (random, right?? I did their buying and their accounting).  So, I figured it wouldn’t be that hard to find the extra stone and paint it to match.   Riiiggggghhhhtttttt. I got right around to that as you can tell.

Then I went through a phase of thinking I could conceal it’s loss.

Y’all.  I would wear the necklace and then wear a shirt with a collar or a blazer and tell myself as long as it stayed hidden no one would notice.  As I’m typing this I’m laughing at myself because I don’t even think I actually paid $10 for the necklace.  For some reason, I’m just attached to it.

I’d like to be able to say this is the only time I’ve attached myself to a jeweled item.  I once had a pair of jeweled flats that I wore until they were FALLING APART. Things went way past unprofessional.  So I decided I would buy a new pair of plain flats, pry the jewels off the old flats and then glue them on the new shoes.

That works beautifully for a while and then one day one side of the jewels fell off.  I obviously had a breakdown somewhere in my process of attaching those.  Anyways…

Yesterday in the closet I looked at my necklace and I looked at my shoes and all of a sudden I realized I could make myself a new pair of shoes.  I split everything apart using tin snips.

Maybe I’ve been watching too much Doc McStuffins or maybe all the broken toys in Toy Story finally got to me….but I decided to give these couple things one last go round before I finally have to part with them.

My favorite part ended up being the little embellishment I put on the backs of the shoes.

I feel pretty great about it 🙂  Have you ever done anything like this? Or do you have some broken or messed up things you refuse to part with because you “might” fix it one day?   Tell me I’m not alone here!

Painting the Foundation

Happy Friday everyone!  I have FINALLY finished painting the most visible side and front of the house from brown to charcoal!  And also three cheers for  almost totally pulling out that overgrown bush tree AGAIN (this is the last time, we swear).

Before: 

After: 

We are so excited to build up some landscaping and start letting our house look a little more lived in cared for!

This paint is a Howard custom as we started out with a Sherwin Williams color called Sea Otter but Blake thought it was still too brown so we mixed black until we found a shade we liked.  I then painted a thin piece of wood with our test pot and had it color matched.

We still have another side to do but it’s not as visible so I’m not in as huge of a rush….maybe next week (The back of the house is actually white and it’s going to stay white because it’s under the porch and already dark enough).

SKETCHY: 

Someone who lived here before us actually painted all the basement windows a dark red from the inside so I’m going to work next to correct that look.

We totally understand the need for privacy but the red needs to go….I think it makes the house look scary.  I’m going to try and remove the paint so I can repaint from the inside.  If I can’t get the paint off I actually may have to paint from the outside….the goal would be to repaint the trim white so things look nice and clean and give the illusion that the windows are operable but the lights are off! Still have a little scraping  to do on this one below from the other side of the house.

So that’s where we are now (notice from the last post we finally got those second floor shutters up! Still a ways to go but it’s felt so great to make some strides in fixing up the outside of the house!  I’m hoping to get some planters out on the new wing walls this weekend and finish brainstorming a game plan for what to do to the right of the door.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Spot the Difference

Friends,  we are far from being done out here but we’re having fun with some recent changes!  It reminds me of a spot the difference activity from Highlights magazine…

We’re finally tackling painting over the brown foundation (TOTALLY wish it was still brick!! I talked to a Mason about sandblasting the paint off but that honestly just seemed a little more intense than we are prepared for right now).

We’re putting on shutters….I say that in the present tense because we are putting them on the top window I just ordered the wrong size (can I blame lack of sleep?) so we are waiting until those come in.

My favorite update is actually the wing walls flanking the front steps! It’s hard to see in the first picture but because the stairs didn’t span the whole width of the porch area  (because that covering wasn’t original) I always felt the house looked disproportionate.  These walls to me make the area look much more substantial and I can’t wait to put some big planters on them! (Jesus take the wheel on my black thumb!)

For fun, here is a picture of our house the day we bought it!  Seeya later shingles, plain white door and funky little window!   Hello gutters!…so glad you stopped our basement from flooding every time it rained!

It’s another game of spot the difference between the day we bought it and an original rendering!

Future plans include finish painting the foundation,  overhaul that area to the right of the door, landscape to the left, hang shutters on the top window.  We actually bought and assembled a wall pergola to go over the window to the right but I’m having second thoughts about it (don’t tell Blake)….and we also have some railing we had planned to put back on the front stairs but it’s not original and also not sure if that’s needed now that we have wing walls?   And Lord have mercy we need to get something to wind that hose up on that’s all over the driveway LOL

I’m also trying to decide if window boxes really are in fact just a place for plants to go to die?  I’m pretty sure they are.

 

Just put on that pot of chili!

I had this whole big post typed out tonight and then I read something that virtually smacked me in the heart.

“Making your home pretty is nice, but making it nourishing is holy. Sister, paint that chair or hang that mirror, sure, but for the love, don’t wait until everything is done before putting on a pot of chili and inviting new friends over for football. Your neighbor wants to belong far more than she wants to be impressed.”-Jen Hatmaker

On one side of me is a box of things and two suitcases to unpack and the other side is a box to take to Goodwill.  Near the front door are tracks of dust coming from a little brick project we have going on out front…and to the other side is a kitchen that is still giving me the side eye about when we are going to get around to fixing her up!

I really WANT to get back to blogging house stuff.  “Once a week! You can do it!” I tell myself….MONTHS go by.  “You really should set aside time to write” Blake says.  And he’s good on his word…he would totally carve out time for me to write.  It’s me stopping me.  The excerpt from Jen’s new book made me realize I have been not wanting to share things because I’m waiting around until they are done and perfect (is anything really ever?) Call it the Pinterest effect I suppose.

By not just putting on my pot of chili I’m totally missing out on the whole reason I started this blog in the first place!  It certainly wasn’t for Pinterest! So at least for tonight, I’m reclaiming my teeny tiny little piece of the internet.

We’re hoping the rain can hold off this weekend so we can hang some shutters…something this old house should have had long ago! I scrolled through my camera roll as I put Hollyn to bed and picked the first 9 pictures I saw of projects we have done or are doing! Who else has a fun project going on right now?  Are you in the middle….or waiting around for things to be perfect? Do you need to put on your pot of chili, too?  We can have a chili cook-off…..that’s a thing right?

🙂

Disney with two under 3!

So I just took a casual NINE MONTHS off here…… is this thing still on? Mom, Dad, can you hear me?

We recently went to Disney with a 2.5 year old and a 9 month old when the crowd scale was measuring a 9 out of 10 and the result was worth resurrecting the blog over. I’m here to share a few tidbits of info others may find helpful or encouraging before they embark on taking mental terrorists to the happiest place on earth. This post is over 3000 words so grab a cup of coffee and dive in or feel free to skip! I have a lot to share about our house that I need to circle back to! It only took me an hour to remember the password to login to this bad boy and a little longer to remember how to post…

The most important part of going to Disney with babies: Ready your heart, Mama.

I kind of joke (but not really) that I set my expectations at rock bottom going into this. When I thought of Disney I thought of crowds, a lot of crying, a lot of sweating, and a lot of waiting and to be honest a week or two before we went when we realized the crowds were expected to be almost at a 10 we questioned if we had lost our sanity. (This little trip was tacked on to the end of a family vacation in at a Florida beach) It is expensive right? You feel like you have to sell an arm to go and you can’t do that right? Because you need that arm! For holding a kid or two! And what do we adults do when something is expensive? We want to get our money’s worth of course! So you want to savor every minute? Come away with a treasure box of photos where everyone is smiling and wearing adorable matching Disney clothes? You want to ride all the rides and do all the things? Hold it right there. Order the tickets, set aside your cash to spend in the park, and forget about it completely. Don’t think about it again. You’ll get your monies worth but it won’t at all be in the places you thought you’d find it. So mamas, let’s recap step one. Ready your heart. Start each morning being grateful you’re there and remember that your kid won’t be the worst behaved one there that day. TRUST ME. They won’t die if they have cotton candy for breakfast, sunscreen WILL find a way into their eye despite all your effort, and there might be tears…they might even be your own but you’re about to see your kid have the best time of their life. The image of Everly’s face after she left Tinkerbells house is forever burned into my memory.

Dad’s—The best thing you can do is be a little extra attentive to your lady in the mornings. They are preparing for battle so tell them they look nice one extra time, for the love help them pack those bags for the day (Mom’s will likely forget the things THEY need for themselves…does she have her sunglasses? Does she have an extra shirt for herself for when the baby spits up or poops on her mid day?), and remember the pace you’re setting…slow it down partner. You will not ride all the rides and see all the things (because, kids) so trust me when I say it’s fine if your toddler can’t find her shoe and you miss the parking shuttle 3 times because of it. Your wife will be SO thankful if you don’t act like you’re in a hurry to get everything right and perfect the first time. Breathe in, breathe out…it’s only 8:30am. Oh, and try to snap a few pictures of your wife with your kids…I bet she’ll take a million pictures of them, a bunch of you too, and she’ll treasure the ones you got of her with the babies! (I swear we weren’t really holding up this line this badly!)

Diving straight in…..

EATING

What is your #1 defense against cranky tired tiny humans? SNACKS. Disney is gracious enough to let you bring in your own snacks and drinks so you don’t have to sell your other arm (you need those arms, remember??) for a lemonade the size of their head and a pretzel they’ll declare is “nasty”. We brought in the kid’s favorite things right down to the apple juice. In a completely overstimulating environment I think having 5 minutes of something familiar helped re-center everyone. In the Magic Kingdom at the end of main street before the castle are some little AstroTurf areas that were my favorite spot for the girls to chill out for a minute.

So lets talk food. If you want to eat in a sit down restaurant you most likely need a reservation. We just didn’t do this…I was not at all impressed with the food in the Magic Kingdom…I’m not a hot dog and fries girl on a hot day so maybe it was just me.

We found the best place for food options and value was actually the Starbucks on Main Street. They had sandwiches and salads that seemed not only healthier but just more appetizing for hot weather. The prices were better for what you were getting ($10/person/meal) vs. $10 for a hot dog. The coffee prices were also very similar to what they would be anywhere….we were surprised at the lack of mark up. An iced coffee in the middle of the day was clutch. And if your kids can handle getting off the routine just a little it helps tremendously not to be eating meals at the usual meal times because it will be a lot less crowded!

NURSING

Speaking of feeding….Each Disney park boasts that they have a baby care center for nursing mothers. This was the only thing I found disappointing about the trip. It’s a TINY space at the very front of the park that smells like the worst dirty diapers you’ve ever smelled and only has two stalls for nursing. I assumed it would be like a big room for mothers where they could nurse…false….it was a small “waiting room” full of dads and other kids and a line of mothers waiting for the stalls. I gave up on it because I’m truly in the camp of my kid shouldn’t have to wait in line to eat in a stall so the rest of the world isn’t offended. It took us a few minutes of walking around to find a bench that wasn’t smack in the middle of 600 teenagers. Hollyn won’t take a bottle so that was our only option. Even if you have bottle fed babies taking breast milk I’d choose wisely because I can’t imagine finding a place to pump there. Just a heads up to nursing moms, choose your own outfits with all this in mind. I found myself in a dress one day feeding Hollyn in a bathroom stall while 100 toilets flushed simultaneously around us. YUCK….but because of my dress (which I thought would be cooler for me) I was locked in to this.

POTTY BREAKS

Regarding bathrooms. The very first show we went to was Disney Junior Live at Hollywood Studios and we had such high hopes for Everly loving it. We had a fast pass (more on this below) and so we got all situated inside and Everly announced she had to pee. Of course, right?? That’s how this thing works. My Disney rookie self panicked a little and asked her if she could hold it (what was I thinking??) So, I went to a “cast member” and told them our situation and she flashed a huge smile and told me there was a bathroom right through a nearby set of doors. It was the nicest bathroom I saw while at Disney and we were back in our seats just in time for the show to start. It was there that I first noticed how tailored Disney is to small children and I counted that as the start of the magic. When it came to diapers I changed Hollyn’s wet ones in the stroller quickly. There were changing tables in all the bathrooms for more complicated changes but I avoided it as much as I could because I just am not a fan of public changing stations….ya feel?

At the advice of a friend I got this little potty seat a while back for use in a public restroom. It folds up small and makes it easier for a tiny one to sit on a big potty and keeps them off of it. Just keep it in a zip lock bag along with some wet wipes and potty breaks will be a breeze.

DON’T CRY OVER SPILT BEER

While in Epcot one day we decided to try a beer in the Mexico section. At $10 a pop it was a little cheers to us for surviving (and enjoying) our trip! Before Blake could even take a sip from his Everly accidentally knocked it over. No crying over spilt beer right? Blake said “I wonder if they’d give me another….” I laughed and said “no way it’s not their problem we spilt it!” He went to the counter and explained what happened and pointed to the park bench where we were with a wet ground under it. Wouldn’t you know it Disney replaced his beer for him at no charge….I’m telling you…they are dedicated to your family having a magical time 🙂

PARKING & STROLLERS

If you stay off property (we did) parking will cost you $20/day and you can reenter as you would like. This is just a fun fact in case you’re staying off property and trying to get an idea of budget together. The parking lots have little tram looking shuttles running back and forth which you will have to fold strollers up to get onto. Just an FYI don’t deck out your stroller to perfection just how you want it for the whole day as soon as you get out of the car. Because 20 yards later you’ll be folding it all up and then having everything checked at the entrance.

You don’t have to fold up your strollers on the monorail or the ferry which is definitely a plus if your kids are snoozing away in them. Everly hasn’t napped in a stroller in well over 2 years and she was sound asleep in hers by the end of the day all 3 times. Disney World is magical like that!

Speaking of sleep….we stayed out pretty late with ours (9ish each night) and Everly went straight to her bed and straight to sleep every night. Do not pass go, do not collect $200…she was absolutely ready to sleep so that’s a win to not fight a toddler bed time after you’ve walked 14000 steps that day. The baby on the other hand….I’d say whatever kind of sleeper you have at home you’ll probably end up with at Disney as well. Hollyn still got up to feed at night the same way she does at home.

Stroller parking was something I’d read about before going but was a little unsure of to start with. Everyone just leaves their strollers and all their contents while they go into shows and on rides. I was nervous the first time so I took in our fans and a couple other items but quickly realized parents are so totally on the honor system there I wasn’t worried. There are also attendants constantly reparking strollers so don’t be alarmed if yours is in a little different spot when you come back….count it as lucky someone was looking out for your stroller I guess. I walked by a stroller one day that had two big YETI cups in each cupholder….if that’s not trust in society I don’t know what is.

We own a double stroller but we opted to take two umbrella strollers instead because they take up less room in the car. I’m happy with our decision because we could split up if we wanted to and it seemed easier to maneuver around crowds. If I had it to do over I may have purchased one of those universal stroller organizer bags and a cupholder? We were just throwing all of our stuff in the baskets under the stroller which was fine but a little disorganized at times. Also, we spotted this squirrel in Epcot feasting on snacks he could reach.

Unfortunately he actually chewed through this stroller basket despite us shewing him aggressively away….we left a note on their stroller that their apple had been contaminated.

A must have for a warm weather visit is a stroller fan!

We had one already but got this one on Amazon and everyone in the park was asking us where they could buy them. The park sells the fan mister bottles for $20 each but those were the only in park options we saw.

DISNEY WITH AN INFANT

I really didn’t realize that Disney let’s you take your baby on pretty much whatever you want. Hollyn rode nearly every ride that Everly rode which I was surprised by…we figured one parent would have to wait at each ride. It was so much fun to ride everything as a family. Some of the rides I just turned Hollyn in to me because I felt like they were too stimulating for her. We also rode Pirates of the Caribbean which has a little drop in the dark that no one warned me about…..I held her tight and it was fine but just FYI if you go on that ride holding a child….I was surprised about it. Here I was trying to take a family selfie on the Toy Story ride.

FAST PASSES

We were new to the fast pass game but caught on fairly quickly. You get 3 fast passes you can schedule ahead of time and <em>after you use all three </em>you can get one more at a time. Because of the way this works it would benefit you more to schedule your fast passes during the first part of the day. People constantly pick up and drop rides so every time you refresh the fast pass options new rides may pop up…it’s worth constantly checking. We used these for nearly everything we did there and we were able to do everything we wanted to do in Magic Kingdom without standing in lines (for longer than 10 minutes). There are kiosks in the park you can check fast passes with or you can download the Disney app and do it on your phone. It may be worth taking on of those extra battery chargers for your phone because if you use it for your camera like we did our batteries were very low towards the end of the day.

WHAT WE RODE

Our favorite rides (for a two year old) were the jungle boat, the little mermaid, magic carpets, dumbo, people mover (in Tomorrowland…there’s like no wait for that), it’s a small world, swiss family tree house (no line…just walk through), Mickey’s Philhar magic (this was AWESOME), the carrousel, teacups. This may not seem like a ton but ya’ll…it took the ENTIRE DAY. We ended up being there for the 9pm light show which did not disappoint but it was actually the perfect time to see some princesses. If your little one wants to see princesses and could do without the fire works head to the Princess Hallway during the night show….we walked right in with no line to meet Cinderella and Rapunzel and a couple others.

Things that we didn’t love—peter pan (WHAT is the hype over this???), the laugh floor (Monsters Inc comedy thing…it all went over Everly’s head).

We didn’t get to do Winnie the Pooh because it closed but we heard good things! We visited Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, and Epcot. I’ve listed the things we did in Magic Kingdom just because it was largest but if anyone has questions about the other parks feel free to ask!

Another thing I had no clue about was the playground at Dumbo. When we went there was a 35 minute wait (we had a fast pass though so it was maybe 5 minutes for us). However, if I’d known about the playground inside the circus tent I wouldn’t have wasted a fast pass on this. You get a buzzer like at a restaurant and your kids can play in a really cool black light playground within the circus tent until it’s your time. To me, an indoor playground would have been a great spot to hang out and a bonus!

WHEN IT RAINS

I haven’t mentioned yet that it rained every day we were there. At some times it was POURING. We knew they were calling for rain so we bought ponchos at Walmart prior to the trip for $4 a piece instead of the $10+ ponchos you can by in the park.

It’s a pretty nasty feeling strolling around when it’s raining but it’s another one of those “adjust your attitude” moments. It is what it is and you’re there and can’t do anything about it so just don’t let it get to you. Your kid definitely doesn’t care about the rain and it’s still really warm outside. Have towels in the car (and we had pajamas to change the girls into) and it’ll all be ok. The parks do allow umbrellas but that just seemed like such a hassle. Take a zip loc bag to put the wet ponchos into when done. And trust me, you’re going to look like George Bush a few times fighting with those ponchos haha!

WHERE WE STAYED

So I mentioned previously that we stayed off property (near Sea World). This wasn’t any big deal for us. We drove in each day with no trouble, parked and were in the park with little hassle. The day we went to Magic Kingdom the monorail was down in the morning and it took nearly two hours to get into the park because they could only take people by bus or shuttle. Even those staying on property had to do this so that still wasn’t an advantage. Kids were absolutely losing their minds, parents were at their wits end by 10am but Everly thought the ferry boat was the first ride and she was PUMPED about getting on it. We had snacks and it wasn’t ideal but we just kept getting Everly excited about the “ride” (the ferry) and she was fine. We are just lucky she didn’t pull a “I have to pee moment” in THAT line.

You can definitely find affordable rooms in the park as well! For us, with the two kids we prefer the hotels that are more like a suite style where Everly can sleep on a pull out sofa. If you have Hilton points or something where an off park hotel would be better for you I would definitely not feel discouraged at all about the convenience of it all. With small kids you’re going to be moving at a slower pace no matter where you are! I mean, who would be in a rush to get this babe out of her Minnie pjs??

DISNEY SPRINGS

The last day we ended up leaving Epcot early and going to Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) to have dinner at Rainforest Café. I would highly recommend this for small kids! We had read the reviews saying the food was terrible but the atmosphere is just so cool for kids! We ordered a really large appetizer for dinner and drinks and actually thought everything we ate from the sampler platter was really good food! So I was again, pleasantly surprised!

We didn’t spend much time at Disney Springs but it seemed like a fun atmosphere and there is a GIGANTIC Disney store where your little one can pick out just about any Disney toy they could dream up! There was also a cool Lego store. Parking at Disney Springs is complementary and the best place to park we thought was in the “Lime” parking deck.

We had such a fun time and will definitely be taking the girls back! Maybe next time we’ll aim for the off season but if you find yourself going during peak season, with two small kids, and only rain in the forecast…FEAR NOT! You can have a great time!!!! I’m so happy Blake snapped this picture of me and the girls before we headed out for the day… Even though by the end of the day everyone was a wet mess, this is how I’ll remember it! For those wondering where I found the girl’s ears, here is the link for the hair clips. The headband is under that same link. Both stayed in really well for us given a day of running around the Park!

Anyone else have any great hacks for doing Disney with babies? I’m sure people would love to know them (I know I would!) So feel free to drop them in the comments!

Look Ma, No cords!

We committed a design crime around here recently and I love it!  We mounted a 60 inch black hole over the fireplace …all the interior designers shook their heads in their hands and all the husbands said “amen”!

tv-over-mantle

tv-over-fireplace

It’s something we have wanted to do for a long time but we have plaster walls so there really wasn’t going to be a pretty way to hide all the cables… womp womp! but we did have one outlet on the mantle which gets used once a year when I plug in my Christmas garland.  It just so happened the all the cable Gods and plaster wall Gods got together at a conference this year and decided they wanted the Howards to be able to move it on up! So DirectTV brought us the new wireless cable boxes.  One TV in the house has to be the “master” and that one does have to be wired into a physical cable, but y’allI, it had our living room TV with hands in the air singing “my chains are gone, I’ve been set free”.  We ordered this mount from Amazon (yay for cheap!) and then the only other stuff we needed were some zip ties and a power strip.  Of course you’ve got to make sure you get the mounting bracket hung in your studs but hanging the TV only took about 15 minutes.

Hanging the TV allowed us to have twice as many options for furniture placement in the living room and also got it up away from the toddler who, for some reason, is in a constant state of sticky hands (HOW does this happen??)  An FYI for those people whose TV looks like it’s constantly being censored across the bottom 3 inches due to hand print smudges, water and vinegar will gently clean it right off–no need to buy those special wipes.

tv-mounted-in-living-room

From the side it’s very discrete what all is happening behind the screen.

tv-mount

slim-tv-mount

Anyone else thinking about hanging a tv? It’s something that ended up being a lot easier than we thought it would be and we’re so pleased with the change!! Just in time to curl up with my babies and watch Christmas movies!