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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Italian Sausage & Roasted Tomato Pasta

Let me just start out by saying that this turned out ahhh.mazing! I had some cherry tomatoes that the neighbor gave us from their garden and knew I couldn't eat enough salads before they went bad, so I perused on Pinterest and tweeked this a bit to come up with this yummy concoction!
First, you'll need your ingredients:
1 whole yellow onion, quartered and sliced
2-3 cups of cherry tomatoes or roma tomatoes cubed

1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon of crushed garlic (in jar)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
basil - for spinkling over top
-Toss above ingredients in a bowl to coat the veggies.
-Prepare a baking sheet with foil (or not - I do it to reduce on the cleaning)
-Pour the uncooked ingredients from the bowl that you coated, onto the baking sheet...let the oil drip until its about gone. :)
-Slow roast on 250 for about 3 hours.I didn't pre-heat, I just threw it in there about 5 minutes or so after turning on the oven.

When the veggies have about 30 minutes left to roast - you will want to cook 1 pkg of spaghetti or linguini as per package instructions.
Brown 1lb of mild Italian sausage with a sprinkle of brown sugar. (brown sugar optional)
When the sausage was done I added alfredo sauce (just plain classic alfredo - I used the sauce in a jar but feel free to make from scratch with flour, parmesan and milk) and let it simmer on the stove - by this time your veggies should be roasted - add them to the alfredo/sausage sauce. Let simmer covered while you waited for the noodles to finish cooking.
Once the noodles are cooked and drained. Return noodles to pot or large serving bowl. Stir in the roasted veggies alfredo sauce and toss with noodles. I added some more red pepper flakes.
Maybe top with some fresh parmesan cheese or bacon!

You're ready to serve!

Make sense? I'm not the expert on recipe writing - I'm better just showing you - :P so please forgive me if something sounds confusing but please let me know so I can edit it!


This turned out so good! Let me know how it turned out for you and if you made any adjustments! Bon Apetit!
Until next time!
I always love hearing from y'all!

Friday, January 22, 2016

USDA - Rural Housing Loans

USDA Rural Housing
Whenever I tell people that our mortgage is through the USDA they automatically think "beef".....LOL Not the case. If you are a rural resident, USDA offers an amazing opportunity for funding where you may otherwise not be qualified through FHA, your bank or other lenders.  Here are the two types of residential loans, and my two cents on the one we got for our first home.

First off, let me just tell you that people love to say no. They love to tell you you aren't ready or do this first or you need this....I wasn't having it....If there is a will there is a way, damnit! :P Seriously, I had already tried 2 times to get buy our first house, each time being turned down, but learning some valuable things. We had even gone to our banker about a car loan, but also talked to him about buying our first home. He looked at our credit report and of course told us that we would  need to save 20% and pay off some of the debt and increase our score well over 650, etc., etc....This was the Summer of 2009...In August 2010 we closed on our first house. I'll tell you how.....

Our situation was something like this:

#1. We had lots of old debt - so here's what I did over the course of several months: I went through our credit reports, you can get a free copy from all 3 bureaus once a year. I used annualcreditreport.com , wrote letters to creditors listed in my reports (be sure to check for misinformation or duplicates)  either disputing or asking for proof that it was even my/hubs debt. This takes a month or two to start hearing back, but because some were so old, they were not verifiable from being sold off so many times, they were deleted from our reports. The debt that was verified, I went through and offered settlements. I found some letters/templates online and just customized them. Because some were so old like over 3 years, I offered ridiculously low settlements and was accepted on all but just a few. For example, Hubs owed an old Verizon phone bill that had been sold off to a debt management company several times over, the bill was over $1,000, I settled it for $25. No lie.  You just need to be diligent, write the letters disputing and then offering settlements, you do not have to be a lawyer or know one, just find the right letter to imitate online for free and make your offers. (that you can afford to pay promptly upon their acceptance).
Other debt we made payment arrangements for and within about 6-8 months, our credit score went from being in the 400's to 580, which awesomely is acceptable for a USDA loan. Also, USDA will somewhat dismiss or forgive debt that is over 3 years old, medical or school related.

#2. We had no $ saved for a down payment (I had just spent anything we had on resolving our debt) but I was determined to buy a house, I was sick of renting from slumlords and I went ahead and applied for a loan, provided all the information they required to make a decision and waiting on a pre-approval letter so I could start house hunting (although, I was already house hunting - but to let the sellers and Realtor know we were serious and qualified buyers, you need this letter)...Seriously, the loans can be up to 100% including closing fees, so don't freak out thinking you need 20% down, because you don't always need a down payment.

#3. Realtor or Not - We had a realtor that we had working with us, and I say "with" not "for" because I did about  95% of the work. She pretty much just printed MLS sheets for us and opened doors. I found all of the houses and did the research for the area, vendors, etc. We are a family of 6..She was wanting to show us 2 bedroom houses...Grrr!
We eventually found our new home - for sale by owner and she did not want to use a Realtor. This was fine. Her and I both did what we could to get things done for the title company, USDA and whatever else needed to be done. We learned a lot along that way, too! Especially, trying to understand the inspections report! :P I wish I had a better realtor, but hey, she inspired me to know what is expected from a home buyer, especially a first time rural homebuyer.  She had no idea the programs available to me. I was actually telling her. This is a huge investment and you will need to do a lot of reading and asking and comparing....Its worth it, you should not go into this assuming other people will let you know what you should or trusting that everyone is working in your best interest. Always prepare and educate yourself.

Here are the Single Family Housing Programs offered through the USDA.  Click on links to be directed to the USDA's website on the topic with the details you need to find out if you qualify and how to apply.  These loans are directed to low income families in rural areas (now, don't assume you are or aren't low income, Click here for Income Eligibility. )

Direct Home Loans

Guaranteed Home Loans: (this is what we have)

Housing Repair Loans & Grants:

USDA offers hope where you think there may be none anytime soon. Spend some time on their website for details on eligibility and where/how to apply and answers to other questions you may not realize you have.  I encourage you to at least talk to someone about your options and as always, message me with questions! I'd love to help you!

Was this post helpful? Have your own tips or resources? Comment below or ask me about being a guest blogger!
 Until next time! 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Realtor: Journey of a Gonna-Be, Pt. 1

Since I was a little girl I have been fascinated with real estate as a whole.  From abandoned houses, historic and modern architecture, home decor, cultural living, investing, people, I just find passion in it..... My grandfather was in Real Estate and so is my mother, and my Dad was a contractor....So, I'm no stranger, yet there's always something to learn and improve on.
Sparing you the major event in which finally inspired me to just do this, its time. 2016 is my year for big change - after all, if your goals don't scare you, they aren't big enough, right?! Besides...how else will I reach millionaire status by the time I'm 40?! LOL

Since both my father and grandfather are passed and my mother lives in another state, I've had to do a lot of my own research and footwork, thus, I'm sharing with you what I think will be helpful if you too, are thinking of or already started your journey.

First, I'm in Texas and most states have their own requirements and things for becoming a licensed real estate agent, so I'll mostly be writing about what to do, how and where to get it done and how much it's going to cost you...in Texas....Here's to you and a kick ass journey of your own!

1. Education
Yeah, well, you have to do this part. There's no way around it.  You will see that when you search "how to become a real estate agent" or "Real Estate Schools" you will find a wide array of choices and pricing. If you are like me, I'm looking for the least expensive accredited school!
I attend the MLM360Training.com use my link below to get up to 35% off of your courses. The discount will leave you to pay less than $400 for the complete set of courses required in Texas.  I did a 2 payment plan of $179 each to complete mine. The courses are very easy to follow, you can chose to receive your text books in the mail or PDF copy digitally, work at your own pace, great study guides & support - and when you are ready for the course exam...Its open book! Seriously, you shouldn't fail.
MLM360Training Course discount link  
(this link has an expiration date, so if you find this and it has lapsed, just message me! Ill getcha a new code)

2. License Application & Fingerprinting, TREC
In Texas, once you have finished up and passed all your courses, you will need to visit the TREC website (or your local real estate commission)and put in your license application. This is around a $250 fee that includes your required fingerprinting fee. You will need to send in copies of proof of all your completed courses when you submit your payment and application, just attach in your email (trust me, this will save you time by just sending it all now rather than waiting for them to tell you to do it.) You will then need to schedule a test time to take your final license exam and have your fingerprints recorded, this too, needs to be done through the TREC or your state's real estate commission.

3. Realtor Association and other fees
There's a difference between a Real Estate Agent and a Realtor, you know this, right?! An agent is a licensed sales person and a Realtor is a licensed sales person whom belongs to the Board of Realtors and pays their dues quarterly ($150 per quarter here in TX). Here's a list of fees to consider:

Real Estate office: You will want to spend some time deciding what agency is the best fit for you. Plus you will need a broker tp sponsor you as a new agent, as well.  Each one has their own office/desk fees, etc. For example, Keller Williams in Tyler, TX. Fees are $130 initial then $55 month thereafter, this includes, training classes offered by KW & associates (not including paid special guests, of course), use of office software, computers and other machines, Omissions & Errors insurance.

MLS: $150 per quarter.

GTAR, NAR & TAR: Greater Tyler Area Realtors - you will pay your national, state and local dues through GTAR. (Including your MLS) Visit here to find the application and pricing - including a prorated list. Expect to pay around $860-$900 for the year just in fees/dues....You will have other costs, too...Like your business cards, marketing costs, signs & sign riders, the list goes on, but that is with any business.

These are just some basics, yet some of the most important things to consider when deciding to become a real estate agent/Realtor....
If you have anything to add, please comment below or ask me about being a guest blogger.
I wish you much success in your endeavors!
Part 2, coming soon  - Helpful forums, websites, tools....
Be sure to follow me! You'll find my social links to your right :)

Monday, January 18, 2016

3 Ways to Stay Focused

Oh lawd, can I tell you a thing or two about staying focused errr better yet, how NOT to stay focused.......Squirrel!
I'm definitely a creative mind - I go from one thing to the next being inspired and motivated to losing that mojo and vegging in front of the TV in defeat from lack of whatever it is you need to stay focused or rather because the new season of New Girl is out...... lol Either way, I have vowed to do it....I have so many big goals that in order to get them done and not look back in a year at how far I could be...I'm putting these three things into strict practice:

1.  Write it down and make an inspiration board
I have always written my goals and I usually do it over and over, several times...with revisions almost every time...and that ok. Except, I'd lose sight of that list and forget about some great things I wrote down that I wanted to accomplish but didnt....So, to fix that - I have a composition book labeled "2016" . In here I have daily, weekly, monthly up to 5 years goals jotted down along with my weekly/monthly budget planned out for 6 months. This helps me know what I need to save and what to expect ahead. Again, this list changes and gets edited, but for the most part, I know what I can and cannot spend and how long before I get to where I'm going.
The inspiration board - this is an old hack but I jacked it while watching Happy Endings on Hulu. All those newspaper, magazine, photos, menus, etc. that Ive hoarded through the years and for those to come, Im putting on the board. This board is a trifold (You can find them at Dollar Tree) - so I have it broken down to  1 year, 3 year and 5 year goals for now.....

2.  Get off your phone! (and other devices)
Seriously, I don't have my phone anywhere near me when Im working on a project. I turn the ringer up so I can hear if anyone calls, but I have turned off all notifications so Im not tempted to read an email, text or see what my neighbor posted on Facebook. Then my laptop is super slow, so having social media tabs open just slows it down even more.  I have up my necessary sites and work offline whenever possible while Im needing to focus on whats in front of me. I promise you - all the distractions can wait and you will be so proud to discover what you can accomplish without all that temptation.

3.  Get Comfy
Take off your shoes, put on your favorite music or none at all, get yourself some hot tea or whatever you like and a snack to much on.  I have found that when I need to focus, I need to be comfortable, too. Even if Im not at home, I take my shoes off, pull one leg under my thigh, and get comfy! It allows you to relax, therefore enabling you to focus on whats in front of you.

I could go on to about 50 things for this list, but for now, I think these 3 should help you get focused at any time of day.  
Do you have a ritual or certain things you do to get and stay focused on whatever you're working on? Please leave me a comment or send me a message! And as always, follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest! 
Be sure to subscribe, so you can get my posts right to your email.
Talk soon!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Antiques and Good Food - Mineola, TX

So, when you are in Mineola it is just about impossible not stop in one of the little antique shops or malls...You'll find all kinds of inspiration and goodies and of course, the best places to eat! Mmmm! Its fun to enjoy while visiting or just something to do if you live nearby..... Its every flea market lovers dream...
Here are a few of the booths and shops I enjoy when shopping Downtown Mineola!
Be sure to stop in next time and tell them you saw my blog post!

P.S. I Love you,
This is a newly opened shop that is perfect for the Shabby Chic lover in you.  The atmosphere is so cozy and sweet. Not to mention the shop owners are the friendliest. The girls have some beautiful furniture, that they actually antique/age themselves - you will find many treasures in this shop - so be sure to stop in a visit, I promise you'll love this sweet little shop. You can find them on Facebook, too!

Becky & Terri @ PS I Love You

Karen's Korner, at the corner of Broad and Johnson St.
This shop is soooooo cool! Its actually an antique mall - two stories with several little booths inside that have things from jewelry, candles, vintage linens and memorabilia and so much more to mention. Be sure you follow all staircases and peek into all the little hidden corners. Be sure to "Like" them on Facebook!
Shabby Chic-ness at Karen's Korner

East Texas Burger Co., & La Waffalata  & Antique mall attached
Ruben @ La Waffalata
The La Waffalata is a cute bakery and tea room style restaurant nestled between its brother East Texas Burger Company and the ----- antique mall. The Burger side is run by Ken Davis and La Waffalata by Debbi Davis. Debbi has had per hand in TV shows, a morning segment at the local news station, cookbooks and more. This company is very family oriented. They have great food, great atmosphere and is a must visit when you are in town.  You can order a burger from ETBC while sitting at the La Waffalata, that by the way, offers many gluten free menu options. My favorites are the Philly Steak and the Rueben. And as always, I love seeing Angela - she's the sweetest hugger you will ever meet.....PS. my hubs will probably be the guy on the grill when you order a burger. ;) So be sure to say hi and tell them you read this post!
Check them out on Facebook and their Website

These are only a couple of many many shops and restaurants to see and indulge in while in Mineola. If you have a favorite spot you want to share please comment below? Would you like to be a guest blogger?! Just message me!
Be sure to follow me on here, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. See you soon!