Wednesday, June 25, 2014

In Escrow

After months and months of searching, we are finally in escrow!  And, because I'm a procrastinator, we're actually almost all done with escrow.  We should be signing all the docs on Friday, the loan will fund Monday, and then it should be recorded Tuesday, July 1st, aka: The Day We Become Homeowners!

It's been a really bumpy road getting here, but I'm happy to report that since entering escrow with this home, everything has been going relatively smoothly!  No crazy real estate agents or weird sellers.

When we started looking, I told Jason, "I'd love to buy a house in Burbank..."  I didn't expect it to actually happen because:  (a) homes in Burbank are typically a tad bit more expensive than other areas, (b) the ones that are for sale (in our price range) are what we affectionately call "Frankenhouses" due to the illegal, weird room additions, and (c) the market is so crazy, we never expected to actually win a bid in such an in-demand area.

Well, what I thought would never happen is happening.  We are almost owners of a home in Burbank!  It's a 3 bed/2 bath house in the flat part of Burbank.  It's about 1,800 square feet with a spacious 2 car garage in the back.  And in true SoCal real estate fashion, it needs some cosmetic work, plus central air.  The sellers have lived in the house for the last 40 years without air conditioning.  Shocking, really...

We have a long list of things we'd like to do.  Once we get keys next Tuesday, we'll have to go and figure out what we "need" to do before we move in.

Here's a picture of the front of the house:

More to come!


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Buying a House in Los Angeles

We've been considering buying a home in Los Angeles.  Actually, more than considering... we looked for a few months last fall, bid on a couple houses... one we really wanted, but didn't get.

Here was the situation:

The home was listed for $599K.  We really liked it and knew that they already had multiple bids, so we bid $631K.  The sellers put out multiple counteroffers for $640K, with the add-on of removing the appraisal contingency*.  We responded to the counter accepting the increased price and agreeing to pay up to $20K over the appraisal price in cash, if the home didn't appraise for $640K.  Well, the sellers ended up going with other buyers.  Who can blame them?  They chose the buyers who had ALL CASH.  Crazy.  Who has $640K in cash lying around to buy a house?  I can only assume people who just sold their own homes in this crazy market... And this is a fairly typical scenario in the Los Angeles housing market the last year or so.


After that, Jason's job was a little tenuous and we knew there was a very good chance the company would run out of money (being a fairly new start-up).  So, we took a break during Christmas to re-think everything.

And now we're back.  Starting to look at houses again.  When we're at these open houses, we see kids younger than us (get off my lawn!), browsing the same houses we are and I think to myself, how can they even afford this house?  We have a good down payment saved up and decent paying jobs and even then, we're like "wow, this is going to be a stretch!"  I just don't know how they're doing it.

I'm so tempted to stay in our apartment.  I have the added bonus of being the apartment manager and only paying $950 in rent!  So it's hard to imagine going from that to over $3,000/month with the mortgage, taxes and insurance.  I keep crossing my fingers that a 2 bedroom will open up in my building and allow us to move within the building (keeping the building manager discount).

As it stands now, we're looking.  It took almost three months last year to find one we both really liked, so who knows how long it will take this year.  We can bide our time, waiting for the right home to pop-up.  Or maybe that two bedroom apartment will open up... :-)  Either way, I'm going to enjoy my below-market rent while I can.


*Side note:  The appraisal contingency is there to "protect" buyers from overpaying.  If you bid $900K on a house worth only $500K, you can use the fact that it didn't appraise for enough to either back out or renegotiate your deal with the sellers.  And if you're financing the home with a mortgage, then you're pretty much stuck because the bank isn't going to lend you more than the home is worth and not getting financing is definitely a way to back out of a real estate deal because there are usually financing contingencies as well.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Food Challenge: Eating from the Pantry and Freezer

As I've been trying to take advantage of various sales, I've realized I have no room left in my freezer to freeze meat!  I pulled out a prime rib roast to cook this weekend, just so I could make room for something else.  My pantry is also pretty darn full.

And as a random side note, I hate the way my spices are in my cabinet because it's so hard to read.  I bought a plastic drawer thing that is *really* to be used as a filing cabinet.  It has two shallow drawers on top and then one bigger drawer on the bottom for files.  I'm planning on putting the spices in the top two drawers with the spices lying down so the labels will show when you're looking down. I'm thinking about putting the potatoes and onions down the in the big drawer.

So, back to the freezer and pantry... I think I'm going to try to start cooking my way through it.  And clean it out on an as-needed basis.  I need to make space!  We usually spend about $300/month on groceries.  So maybe I cut that budget in half for January and try to use up the stuff in the freezer/pantry?  With the holidays and actually being in-town, I think we'll need our full budget of $350 (added a buffer due to Christmas/New Year's).  

I think it's worth a shot! I'll bet I have things in my freezer that I've completely forgotten about!  What I really need is a better system for keeping track of what I have in the freezer to cook.  I'm going to research that and I'll post any techniques that work for me here.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Non-Baby Update

We've been trying for a baby all year, so far no luck.  So we decided to take the advice of Jason's parents to just get checked out and make sure everything is functioning properly.  We both went for some tests.  His was pretty simple. Meanwhile...

My tests included:
  • Pelvic ultrasound to check out the status of my fibroids (especially my biggest one which is now 12 cm all around!),
  • Vaginal ultrasound to then check for more fibroids - apparently I have even more in my uterine walls.  Some of them are near where the baby would implant, so I had to go for another test (HSG) to check the lining because he couldn't tell if the fibroids were disturbing the lining of the uterus around the implantation area,
  • Ovarian blood test - This tested a few different levels and everything here checked out normally,
  • Hysterosalpingogram (HSG) - to check the lining of my uterus and the status of my Fallopian tubes.  This test was to check the area around the implantation site to make sure those small fibroids weren't causing a bigger problem than the 12 cm one.  Turns out, the lining at the implantation site looked good.  And my Fallopian tube by the big fibroid is stretched out some, but it's not blocked or being squished.  
The bottom line is that everything appears to be functioning normally. So now we're just wrestling with the next steps.  My doctor is recommending taking Clomid for one cycle.  It's an oral medication that should make me "drop" 2-3 eggs instead of just one when I ovulate.  If that doesn't do the trick, then we can try injectibles which will "drop" several eggs instead of just one.  The Clomid is supposed to help my chances of getting pregnant like 10% and the injectibles like 20%.  

We're definitely not doing anything for November.  The time that I would be taking Clomid would be exactly when I'm at BGG.CON in Dallas and I don't want to be worried about having hot flashes and everything else while I'm around 1,000 of my closest friends.  So the earliest we would try the Clomid would be December.  And who knows?  Maybe I'll get pregnant by then?

We've also been seriously considering doing foster care, but I was informed by someone who deals with the foster care system that if we got pregnant during our licensing process, they would put us on hold until our child is one year old.  So, I think we're going to have to give getting pregnant a little more time (both naturally and with the pharmaceutical help) before we decide to follow through with the foster care process.  The foster care stuff requires its own post, so I'll save that for another day...

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Budgeting

I went out to lunch with my BFF Shane today. We met up to catch up and do a little shopping. While we were out, I looked up how much I spent at Maggiano's the last time we did a liquid Saturday lunch. This got is on the subject of mint.com and budgeting. 

Jason and I put all the money in a joint account and budget from there. She and her hubby (we each got married two weeks apart) have separate accounts and then put a set amount into a joint account to pay bills out of. 

I am not a huge fan of their method, at least not for myself, but it seems to be working for them. There are so many different ways to budget and I think they're like outfits. Each fits in a different way. 

The thing we can agree on is that we like Mint, which was not the case when I started using it. I hated it. There are certain things I still don't like but overall, it's been pretty great as we finish up 10 months of budgeting!  

I think having the monthly budget meetings has been good for our relationship. We do talk during the month about how we're doing, but having that monthly check-in time is good to make sure we're still on the same page. 


Friday, November 01, 2013

NaBloPoMo 2013

In theory, I'll post a blog entry everyday in November.  I'm this post at 11:45 pm on the first day of the month.   I'm not sure this bodes well, but it's worth a shot anyway. 

I may not post everyday, but I miss writing about the various events happening around here. 

Topics to cover:
Being married a year!
Pregnancy quest
Foster care info
The Great House Hunt
Saving
Retirement
Puzzles

And given that BGG.CON is in a couple weeks... Games!!

Until tomorrow, aka: 9 minutes from now...


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How to Cancel NYTimes Crossword iPhone App Subscription

I'm not great at crosswords, but I wish I were!  A lot of my cool puzzle friends are also crazy-good at crossword puzzles.  I try to do them more often, which I'm hoping will lead me to be better at them.

Enter the NYTimes Crossword app for my iPhone.  I wasn't sure if I'd use it much, so I subscribed for a single month for $2.99.  It auto renews, but I thought I'd remember to turn it off.  I didn't.

I just spent at least 10-15 minutes trying to figure out how to cancel the auto renewal, so here's how to do it for anyone else out there in the same boat.

Open iTunes and connect to the iTunes Store.  Under the very small "Manage" at the bottom, choose Account and log into your account.  Pick Subscriptions and turn it to OFF.

The app developer MagMic makes it practically impossible to figure out from their "knowledge base" on their website.  Probably so they can milk you for $3/month.

You're welcome.

Meetin' in the Ladies Room

I need to write a post about my trip to my first National Puzzlers League convention, Contex.  That will come later, maybe even tonight!  In the meantime, I thought I'd tell you about my weird encounter in the ladies room at Black Angus the Friday after I returned from Contex.

First, I was REALLY tired the week after Contex.  I didn't sleep enough at the con, but it felt worse than that.  It didn't help that I didn't get a solid 8 hours until after my trip to Black Angus.  When I get tired, I get cranky.  I complained more than maybe I ever have during our Wednesday night gaming playing Era of Inventions.  Yes, I went last and got screwed, but I think the crankiness level was way up because I was just exhausted.

When I get tired, I'm also much more emotional and will start crying at the drop of a hat.  So, Black Angus... We're having dinner there for the first time ever together.  I think the last time I had been to a Black Angus was with Dave, when we used a coupon out in Northridge and that was probably 3-4 years ago(?).

I got upset about something and started getting weepy so I went to the restroom to just cry for a few minutes and get it out of my system.  While I was in my stall, a mom and young daughter went into the big stall next to me.  Their conversation went something like this:

Daughter:  I'm done!
Mom:  Um, I think you said you needed to go poopy...
Daughter:  Oh yeah. Well, I don't think it wants to come out.  It's afraid.
Mom: (laughs)

Thirty seconds go by...
Daughter: It's coming out!!  My poop is coming out!!

It's really hard to cry when there's a 3 (maybe 4?) year old next to you that is really excited about their poop coming out.

So, I came out of the stall and started washing my hands.  The mom said, "Are you okay?"  I said, "I've been having a rough week..."

She kept washing her daughter's hands and then said, "I know this sounds weird, but can I give you a hug?"

Hmmmm... "No, I'm okay, thanks..."

"Are you sure?  Sometimes they help!"

"Fine..."

And then I was hugged my this complete stranger while her daughter hugged my legs.

And you know what?  It did help.

I've seen women crying in the bathroom before, but I've never had the guts to actually offer them a hug.  Next time, I will.

We then exchanged numbers (her suggestion) because she doesn't know too many people in the area except for her mother-in-law and she's lived in Burbank for a year.

Her first text to me after I met her that night was "Hi.  My name is Cyndi. I think we're meant to be friends. :)"

I think she might be right.

I rarely eat at Black Angus.  I rarely break down and start crying in a restaurant.  And she happened to be in the bathroom at exactly the time I was (with no one else there).   The timing is all there.

We made a "date" for this Friday to grab dinner and drinks.  I have no idea how it will go, but I'm looking forward to getting to know her better.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Jonathan Gold's 101 Best Restaurants in LA

My favorite kind of to-do list... The ones that involve food!



View Jonathan Gold's 101 Best Restaurants on latimes.com

Here are Gold's top 20 restaurants:

  1. Providence - I've been here several times and it is amazing! 
  2. Urasawa 
  3. Spago 
  4. Mozza, etc. - I've been here 
  5. Kogi 
  6. Lucques 
  7. Animal - Jason and I went and it was okay. Not so great ever went back though. 
  8. Cut 
  9. Jitlada 
  10. Shunji 
  11. Rivera 
  12. Spice Table 
  13. Ink 
  14. Baco Mercat 
  15. Tasting Kitchen 
  16. Sea Harbour 
  17. Night + Market 
  18. Bestia 
  19. Hinoki and the Bird 
  20. Melisse

Monday, May 06, 2013

Budgeting Update - Fun Money

We just had our budget meeting for May.  A little later than usual, but still in the first week so that's good.  This month was a breeze compared to last month.  April had some growing pains in it, but it was definitely worth it.

We started budgeting in January 2013, using Mint.com to set-up different categories and allocate our spending.  What we didn't have during January, February and March was "fun" or "blow" money as people out in the blogosphere like to call it.  We had categories for shopping, entertainment and restaurants which probably encompass most of our normal "fun" money type expenses.  Well, those plus travel, especially for me and all my game conventions!

In April, Jason specifically asked for a category that would be his own so that he knew exactly how much he could spend rather than having a nebulous amount in the aforementioned categories.  So, we picked an amount and I set-up two new categories in Mint:  "Jason Fun" and "Stephanie Fun"!  We have equal amounts to spend on whatever we want.  We also have the amount carry over from month-to-month so that if we don't spend the full month's worth, the surplus will roll over to the next month (and vice versa).

For April, we both finished with a surplus, mainly due to birthday presents from his family that we didn't deposit into our bank accounts until April.

I had kind of resisted the idea, but I'm glad we did it.  It helps remind me that I have money that I can actually spend!  I tend to spend money in mini-sprees.  I'll hit up a few places all in one week and then chill on spending (other than groceries and eating out) for the next few weeks.  So knowing that there's this amount in the budget that I can spend is kind of liberating.  It's also nice because I don't feel guilty about spending it.  I know it's an agreed to amount in the budget, so it's not like I'm spending money we don't have!

I think he likes it too because he can buy his video games or books or whatever else and not have to worry that I'm going to be upset that he's spending all the money and I'm not.  I was getting upset about him spending our "restaurant" money on going out with his friends, so now that comes out of his fun money, so that avoids all arguments.  And I can go out for my BFF lunch with Shane and not worry about Jason being upset that I spent $50 on lunch.  It's a win-win!

Overall, I've been actually enjoying the budgeting.  It's a little weird, I know, but it's nice to talk about it actively, instead of just sort of talking about it whenever a problem comes up.  I like that we're on the same page.  We both know exactly how much is coming in and going out and where it's going.  It prompts discussion about the future, both short-term and longer.

Next up:  Should I roll over my 401(k) to Vanguard?