Easy Cranberry, Almond Biscotti

As promised in a previous post, here’s a step-by-step of how to make Gale’s famous Cranberry, Almond Biscotti.

This is one of my favorite go-to snacks for my family. It’s not loaded down with sugar and shortening, it lasts nearly a week and it satisfies our sweet tooth.

As with most yummy things, start with butter, 4 tablespoons this time. It’s best if it’s at room temperature.

Add one cup of sugar.





Cream the two together.

Add two teaspoons of almond extract.

And 3 eggs.

Mix it all up.

In a separate bowl dump in 3 cups of flour.





Add in 2 teaspoons of baking powder,

and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.





Mix it up with a whisk.

Then add it to the wet mixture in three batches, mixing it up in between.

Until it looks like this:

Measure out 3/4 cup of dried cranberries,

and 3/4 cup of slivered almonds.



Wait, those aren’t slivered, those are whole almonds! I know. I’m cheap, I mean frugal. So I chopped them.

Add them to your batter and mix them up.





Sprinkle a clean surface with flour.

Drop the batter on the flour.

Smooth it out and cut it into two separate halves.

Then roll each half in into a 3″ by 12″ log.

Sprinkle with sugar, decorator’s sugar, if you have it. And gently press the sugar into the mixture.

Bake at 350 on a cookie sheet that is lined with parchment paper.

After about 25 minutes check them to see if they are ready. Your knife should come out clean. If not, put them back in a for a few minutes and check them again.

Once they are ready, put them on a cooling rack.





Once they are completely cool, cut them in 1″ slices.

Place them back on the lined cookie sheet and pop them back in the oven for 8 minutes. Then, take them out again, turn them over and put them back in for 8 more minutes.

That’s it! Biscotti’s that easy!

 

 

 



Finding a great deal while on a tight budget

On a tight budget and looking for a deal? Here’s how I found some of my best deals.

The Habitat for Humanity Restore

This is by far my favorite! The Restore is a place were people can donate their unneeded building supplies, items they’ve taken out during a remodel, or just things they don’t need anymore. It’s kind of like Goodwill for remodelers.

The money raised supports Habitat for Humanity. It saves items being tossed into a land fill. And, you get things cheap. Literally, EVERYBODY WINS! 

Lucky for us there’s one near my day job and one near my home. There’s also two more within driving distance. We found some amazing tile for our backsplash there. You know those sheets at the big box stores that go for around $14 a square foot? Well we found them for $3!!! We also found subway tile for 20 cents a tile. Yup, 20 cents.  And I found this $250 raincoat shower head for $20!

Auctions

My second favorite is auctions! In our neighboring town there’s a monthly liquidators auction. They have everything, and I mean everything. Tools, flooring, doors, faucets, lighting, vanities, bathtubs, gas grills, dog crates, hammocks, cabinets. I could go on. BUT, pay attention here, BUT THERE’S A 15% BUYER’S PREMIUM attached to each sale. That means, whatever you buy, add 15% to the price. So, something that you get for $10 is going to cost you $11.50 plus tax. Your $100 item will cost you $115 plus tax. So, shop around and know the price of things before you go. Not all auctions have buyer’s premiums.

Online garage sales, marketplaces, apps

A lot of communities have online garage sale pages on Facebook. I know of at least four in my small community alone, and that doesn’t include all the towns in my county.  Facebook’s Marketplace is another place to look.

I’ve also found items on the app OfferUp which sells things locally. On there people list what they’d like to have for the item and you can either pay full price or offer them less. Sometimes they’ll deal, sometimes they won’t.




Shop the big box stores

I hate to say it, but shopping the big box stores can save you money. I know, I hate them too. But sometimes you can’t beat the prices. Often they will price match and then give you additional money off. At least one of them will offer you 5% off if you use their card.  But make sure you PAY THE CARD OFF when it’s due or you’ll be paying MORE! If you’re doing a flip, you can do 6 months or 12 months same as cash.

Don’t just shop the circulars, go into the stores. You’ll find things on clearance that are not advertised. Also, sign up for their rewards programs. They will often send you coupons. And sometimes you’ll find coupons in your junk mail.

Oh, and you can bring your dog.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount

You’d be surprised at how much autonomy clerks have at some stores. Don’t be afraid to ask for money off, especially if you’re buying in bulk, buying the display model or if the only one they have left is a little damaged.




Ask around

Ask your friends and family if you they know anyone selling what you’re looking for. Put it out there on social media. You’d be surprised by the results. I was talking to the woman who sold us our house about a week before the closing. I mentioned that we were going to a big box store and buy a vanity to replace the one in the master bath. I’d seen one on sale the day before and they only had a couple left. She told me of a local store that was having a huge sale the following weekend. This is a store that typically doesn’t sell vanities and was a very rare deal. We went over there that day and talked to the sales man who made us a great deal, in advance of the sale! I mean, we got a $300 vanity for $75!  It’s going to look amazing in the new bathroom! And it came with the sink!

Your turn

Tell me how you find your deals on home improvement items.




9 Tips for removing wallpaper

I’m going to say it. I hate wallpaper. It’s too permanent for my tastes. It’s hard to put on, it’s hard to take off. It dates a house after just a few years. The flipper house has two whole rooms of wallpaper. The dining room and family room. And the people who put it up were very good at it! Here’s my tips for removing wallpaper.

1 Buy a scoring tool. This tool is used to put tiny cuts into the paper so when you apply the water, steam, or chemical to the outside it can get between the paper and the wall to loosen the paper. We’ve had the red one, made by Zinsser, for about a dozen years. And it still works great! Now, we haven’t used it every year but we’ve used it about half a dozen times and it’s still cutting like new.

The orange one, made by WP Chomp, we bought for this job. It lasted about three swirls around. It was junk. We returned it. Spend the extra 12 cents and go with the Zinsser.

2 Buy a scraper. Previously I used a putty knife because I’m so cheap. This week the Mister went behind my back and bought a scraper. And boy am I glad he did. It had a more ergonomic handle than my old putty knife and my hands were very thankful.

3 Rent a steamer. I thought we could get by without one, remember, I’m a cheap skate. But I’m so glad we got our hands on one. It made our work go so much faster! To save on the time we had it, we used it just to get the outside layer off. Sunbelt Rentals is my go-to rental place. They have everything there! And the experts there are super knowledgeable! Be careful with the steamer, follow all the directions carefully. It gets very HOT. I know, Mr. Obvious. 

4 Skip the chemicals and make your own remover solution. I mix hot water and cheap fabric softner together and put it in a spray bottle. I’ve seen some posts that use vinegar. Spray an area, wait about 4-5 minutes, then spray the next area and scrap the first area. Repeat. The recipe I use varies. Usually it’s 1:1 fabric softner and water. As I start to run out of softner the ratio shifts and it still works.



5 Use a drop cloth. Live and learn, you can see we didn’t. We left the tack strips in because we plan to install carpet in this room. It made a huge mess, and this picture was taken after I swept up!

6 Protect your trim. If you don’t cover it, be sure to wipe it down as you work. The water or chemicals can ruin it.

7 Protect yourself. One of my besties was over helping me and she took one look at the walls and said, “you have to wear rubber gloves.” Our walls are heavily tobacco stained. She sited a recent case of a man who was restoring a bar and ended up in the hospital with nicotine poisoning. She’s a doc so it wasn’t some fake news story she read somewhere. It was legit.

8 Speaking of besties. Ask your friends for help. It’s always more fun working with a team than alone. And believe it or not, pealing wallpaper can be somewhat soothing.




9 Gotta have the tunes playing. The old CD player filled the rooms with Michael Martin Murphey’s Cowboy Songs; Mary Mary’s The Sound; Don Henley’s Building the Perfect Beast; and a mix tape featuring old school Newsboys our son made for me. I ventured away from memory lane for a bit to treat my ears to some new AA Sound of the Saints. That’s an incredible record! Their title track features images from their trip to Haiti. It just touches my heart so much. I love and miss our Haitian family.  Perhaps I’ll more about that another time.

What tip did I leave out? I’d love to hear from you!





 

 

 

5 Tips for Buying a Home

Editors note: We asked our friend and realtor Jill Collins to share some tips on home buying with our readers.

In today’s market homes are moving faster than ever! With the average home showing a pending status in 24-48 hours after listing, there is no time to waste. Here I’ll share 5 tips for buying a home.

Tip 1. Find an agent that you can mesh with and who makes you comfortable. You should never feel like you are inconveniencing them or asking dumb questions. We have all or will be first time home buyers.

Once you’ve found the right agent be sure to use only that agent. In our field, loyalty means a lot and we want to be your go-to for any future transactions. Most of us even get emotionally invested in our clients and therefore work even harder to get them to where they want to be.

Tip 2. If you want to search for home listings in Indiana go to MIBOR.com. While some apps and websites like Zillow and Trulia are easy to use, they aren’t always accurate. Listing agents update MIBOR.com and then the other sites are updated later. So to keep up on status changes or price changes stick with MIBOR.com and you won’t be at the mercy of a slow server. If you’re outside of Indiana, ask your realtor which site they recommend.




Tip 3. It may take you one showing, it may take you 50. But when you find “the one,” sit down and work out the details of your offer with your agent. Keep in mind, your agent is the professional and will guide you along the way with this big step in life. You may be nervous but they do it every day. Part of the offer process is deciding if you will be reserving the right to an independent inspection. This inspection is for the buyer’s information only and does not have anything to do with the loan process.

Tip 4. Once an agreement is reached between the buyer and seller the buyer will start to work with their lender to gather all the documents needed to finalize the loan on their new home.  Time is of the essence!  When a lender says they need a document, they mean they needed it yesterday.  Remember, the longer it takes you to get them the necessary paperwork, the longer it takes you to get to the closing table.




Tip 5. The day you close on your home is an exciting one! It can be overwhelming! Take a deep breath, enjoy the moment and remember everyone who helped you get there whether it be family, friends, or the professionals.

And, take a stress ball to the closing table for when your hand cramps while you sign your life away 🙂

Jill Collins
(317)586-0121
w/ Re/Max Realty Group
jillshome4u.com




7 Tips to buying a home without a realtor

I’m just going to say it, buying a home without a realtor is risky business. But if you must, here’s some tips that I found helped with the process.

Top 7 tips to buying a FSBO property:

1. Get it in writing. I can’t stress this enough. Your lender should be able to provide you with a purchase agreement. Go over it closely, fill out every field, leave nothing blank and spell out everything (i.e. it must appraise, it must pass inspection, etc.). This is your opportunity to negotiate everything. If you have questions about an area on the agreement, ask your lender or consult a real estate attorney.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. The great thing about a realtor is they can do all the negotiating for you. They can offer a lower price, they can tell the buyer you don’t like their carpet or wallpaper and ask for replacement money, they can address that weird smell coming from the back bedroom. When you’re FSBO, you must do all of that yourself. Put on your big girl or boy pants and just address it. The worst that can happen is they’ll say no.

3. Keep excellent records. Save a folder of all the communication and paperwork between you and the seller, you and the lender, you and the title company, etc. You will likely need to refer to one or more of them again. I saved one on my desktop so when my lender said, “I need the insurance document.” I could send it again. Yes, I said again. Expect to send them documents more than once. There are so many, I’m not surprised they get lost. If you’re old school and are faxing the documents, get a pocket folder to keep them in.




4. Don’t skip the inspection. This is vital. You need to know what you’re getting into. You may find the most beautiful home, in your price range, but you may not want it if the foundation is crumbling, if it’s infested by termites or the electrical is bad. Don’t trust Uncle Ralph to give it “a good once-over,” hire a professional.

5. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Stay in touch with your lender and your seller. You may need to help coordinate the inspection, the appraisal and any contractor quotes you want done. Texting may be fine, others may prefer a phone call. This is not the time to be shy. See number 2.




6. Use a reputable title company. If you’re getting a mortgage your lender will be able to recommend someone one. If you’re paying cash call a local realtor and ask who they recommend. Title work is something you don’t want to mess around with, it can wreak havoc if not done right. Hire someone local if possible.

7. Make sure you have an “out” if the property doesn’t appraise. A lender won’t lend over the appraised value. To protect yourself, include an out in your purchase agreement if the property doesn’t appraise.

I’d love to hear from you. What tips do you have when buying a FSBO property?