Adding Character to Your Home

Many real estate agents advise their clients to make safe and neutral finish choices when updating your home.  Though you are less likely to make a mistake this way, you can also end up with a house that looks like everyone else’s.  Not the best decision when it comes to getting buyer’s attention and commanding the most for your home on the open market.

Instead, we advise carefully wading through the more interesting options and choosing those that enhance the character of your home.  This is best done as part of a cohesive vision for your house which brings together your flooring, finishes, and paint colors.  Here are a few things you may consider . . .

Non-Typical Tiles & Patterns

There are so many options beyond the classic square and rectangular tiles we commonly see at home improvements store.  Why not choose something with more character?

Colored Moldings and Cabinets

Think outside the white molding and neutral cabinet box.  Select a few strategic areas to add a splash of carefully-chosen color!

Moldings at Various Heights

Also consider installing moldings at non-traditional heights as well as wrapping the top wall color up and onto the ceiling.

Horizontal Fencing

A simple turning of the boards on a vertical fence can a world of difference and usually cost little more.

All photos thanks to Pinterest.

We can’t emphasize enough how these elements need to be part of a cohesive overall vision.  However, we are confident if you take the time to bring it all together, details such as these can bring tons of character to your home and make sure that future buyers won’t be able to pass it up.

Lastly, here is a video of how we are incorporating these ideas into our own home:

Experiences Protesting Taxes

People often wonder what the process of protesting your taxes is really like.  Below are a couple of experiences shared by our friends and past clients.  If you protested your taxes whether successfully or unsuccessfully, we’d love to include your story.  Just email me at jill@mysolis.com.

“Filing a protest on our property tax was really easy once I got started. The e-file system with Travis county sent me a nice settlement before I even uploaded evidence. Within 24 hours I received a reduced appraisal of $224,742 down from $240,000. Thank you so much for your assistance! You guys are the best!!!”(homestead located in Travis County)

“We filed a successful protest on our Property Tax Assessment this year. They had our square footage off by about 600 sq. ft. We didn’t pay too much attention last year because the homestead exemption, but we got hit with the bulk of the increase this year. My husband said it was a super easy process, he just went to the office with a copy of our mortgage appraisal with the drawing and measurements. The appraiser then did a new comp and brought us down to ~$326K from $358K. We had always heard that it was such a nightmare to protest, and one of our neighbors with the same plan tried to last year. He didn’t bring supporting docs with him and basically just dropped it when they pushed back. After seeing our success, 3 more neighbors, including the one from last year, successfully protested their Assessments. That was a pretty cool feeling, felt like we won the lottery!” (homestead located in Williamson County)

“Filing property tax assessment protest is quite easy when working with a realtor that can help you research comparable sales in the prior tax year. I was hoping to protest online and have them offer me on the spot a reduction as I have seen it done with other neighbors homes. In my case, they required an informal hearing as there wasn’t enough historical data online for their automated system to use. Unfortunately, there were no comparable sales in my condo’s neighborhood within the past month, but I was armed with similar sized condo sales from the past six months and normalized their price per square feet to show what my condo unit’s valuation would be. My unit was appraised at $197k for 2014, a 20.8% increase from 2013. The adjuster had shown me which properties they had used to make their valuation, as they were all from the first half of 2014. three were larger units from my neighborhood who’s price per square foot was much lower than my current valuation and three were similar size and sold for much higher than my appraised valuation.  They like to use data from the same neighborhood, so he didn’t use the comparable properties that I had brought, but he did use data from one of the larger home sales from my neighborhood that had a lower price per square footage. It brought my appraisal down to $191k which was within $2k of my goal.  I was happy with the outcome.” (investment property located in Williamson County)

Over 1/4 Acre Corner Lot

Complete Virtual Tour

http://www.tourfactory.com/1784664

Details

Immaculate move-in ready home on over a quarter acre corner lot, with a park-like backyard shaded by legacy oaks. Attends highly sought after schools Jo Ann Ford and Douglas Benold. Open floor plan with living, kitchen, dining and office downstairs. Bedrooms and huge game room upstairs. Recent vinyl plank floors, carpets, interior/exterior paint, water softener, and reverse osmosis system. Conveniently located to shopping, restaurants, amenities, and easy access to major thoroughfares.

Address

301 Wind Hollow, Georgetown, TX  78633

Showings

Jared Crecelius, 512-771-9129

 

 

6 Ways I Cut My Dinner-Making Time in Half

I cook dinner every night.  It’s healthier and more economical than going out, and it’s an important way I give to and connect with my family.  So naturally I’ve been on the search for methods and tricks for making a nourishing meal in less time.  Most of them are simple but surprisingly impactful.  Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

SilverwareSilverware on the table

Every dinnertime, I was setting the table, and it seemed awfully repetitive.  Anytime I find myself doing something over and over, I look for a way to simplify.  My solution was to put store silverware and napkins as a centerpiece on the table.  And now everyone can help themselves!

Kitchen Purge

I am a big fan of Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  In case you haven’t read it, essentially, Marie questions all the reasons you keep things and by the end of the book you are ready to throw away half of your stuff (or at least that’s what I did).  My kitchen was no exception.  I scrutinized everything in my cabinets and pantry and even my fridge and freezer and kept only those things I use.  This resulted in 25% of my stuff going to friends or Good Will.

With the new found space, I wanted to be strategic about where the remaining items were organized.  I thought of my workspaces like a restaurant kitchen.  Display could come later but it needed to function extremely efficiently.   I took my veggies out of the bottom crisper drawer and put them on a shelf at eye-level since these were the quickest to go bad and therefore I need to keep them at the forefront of my mind.  My sparced-down pantry was arranged in rows so that at a glance I could see which things were running low.  I moved olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pepper, and other such pantry items that I use almost daily to the open shelves around my kitchen sink.  These are just a few examples of personal tweaks I made to suit my needs.  The important thing is that your kitchen is equipped with what you need and all within close reach.

Super SaladSuperSalad

At the beginning of the week I create a great big salad.  Making a large salad barely takes longer than a medium salad but it will feeds us for three days.  On the first evening, I add ground beef or buffalo or grilled chicken and make it our meal.  On the second and third evenings, it is used as a side salad to accompany soup, chili, pasta, or pizza.

For instance, here’s what we had last week:

Day 1:  Salad with Ground Beef

Day 2:  Carrot Soup (from the freezer) with a side salad

Day 3:  Zucchini Pasta with Pesto (from the freezer) and Grilled Chicken (also from the freezer) with a side salad

Most salad ingredients will stay fresh for three days however I do wait until serving to add nuts, cheese or dressing.  In order to avoid soybean oil and canola oil, we mix our own salad dress (1 part balsamic vinegar to 5 parts olive oil plus a generous helping of fresh ground pepper and a squirt of brown mustard).  This too can be mixed ahead of time in a glass bottle to last the three days.

Freezer Friendly Recipes

I know it is the oldest trick in the book but it is still a good one:  find recipes that freeze well and make double batches.  This is still a work in progress for me, however here are some freezer-friendly recipes I’m currently using:

I’m still working on my Tomato Basil soup recipe.  I will share when it is ready.

Frozen and Rotisserie Chicken

Nothing compares to marinated chicken fresh from the grill.  However, when chicken isn’t being served as the main dish, but rather mixed in with pesto or tossed on a salad, a good frozen grilled chicken breast (or rotisserie) is a life-saver.   I’m talking about the kind that are already cooked and all you are doing in the oven is essentially defrosting them.

For that matter, it is extremely helpful to have a handful of main dish options that require no defrosting for those days when it just slips your mind.  On such occassions, I usually reach for frozen grilled chicken, canned tuna, or deli meat (all natural, uncured, no nitrates, of course).  I’ve also found that bacon and salmon can defrost quickly in a bowl of warm water and ground buffalo and bison can defrost as I’m cooking it in the pan.

HEB Curbside and Amazon Pantry

For five extra dollars I can order my groceries on-line for curbside pick-up at my local HEB.  This is a serious game-changer and must for anyone with young children.  The site easily allows you to reload previous orders and make changes which makes ordering pretty quick and painless.  I’ve also used Amazon Pantry for many of our dry goods and both have saved me tons of time and gas money.

Chili in an Acorn Squash Bowl

This chili is super simple and quick to make without any sacrifice in flavor.  Though the acorn squash isn’t a must, it really adds to the depth of the dish.  I usually eat mine as an acorn squash bowl, but Jared prefers to peel off the skin, chop it up, and mix everything together.

1 pound ground beef or buffalo

1 – 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes

1 acorn squash for every two people you are serving

4 tbs. chili powder

1 tsp dried oregano

1/8 tsp cayenne

1 bay leaf

1/4 tsp cinnamon

I preheat the oven to 400 degrees while I cut the acorn squash in half and carve out the seeds.  Then place them cut-side down on a baking dish and bake them for 40 minutes or until the skins are blackened and the squash is tender.

Meanwhile I brown the ground beef.  Then I add the chili powder and let the oils of the beef simmer the chili flavor into the meat.  Next I add the rest of the spices and the dice tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes or so.

And just like that, you are done!  As mentioned, I serve the chili in the acorn squash, sometime with a sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Any left over chili gets frozen for another night.

Adapted from Jenny Rosenstrach’s recipe for Turkey Chili.

 

Pesto Recipe (Without Garlic)

If I had to choose one food to eat for the rest of my life it would be pesto.  There’s only one problem, my stomach and garlic aren’t friends.  Below is my recipe for pesto that uses garlic-infused olive oil (widely available at grocery stores) instead of garlic.  It retains all the flavor of regular pesto with the added bonus of avoiding garlic breath!

One more note, if you’ve never made pesto before it takes A LOT of basil.  So much that you’ll want to be growing it or have a neighbor who is.  It would be exorbitantly expensive to buy from the grocery store.  Keep in mind that basil picked at the end of the day will be sweeter than basil picked in the morning.

1/2 cup nuts (usually pine nuts and walnuts but most others will work too)

5 cups basil leaves, packed

1 1/4 cups garlic-infused olive oil

1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (the good stuff, no green bottles)

1 tsp ground peppercorn

I put the nuts in my food processor and process until they are small bits.  Then add the peppercorn and basil leaves and process again.  Next I pour in the olive oil and process.  And finally the parmesan cheese and process yet again.

Honestly making pesto is more work than I would do on a week night for dinner.  I try to save it as a weekend project and make several batches since pesto freezes nicely if you simply add a thin layer of olive oil on top to seal in the beautiful green basil color.

I usually serve pesto over a bowl of zucchini noodle with grilled chicken but it is also a great dip for veggies.

Adapted from Ina Garten’s pesto recipe.

Carrot Soup Recipe

This soup is a big bowl of fall.  I ignore this fact and still make it during the rest of the year because my spring garden brings lots of carrots and when it doesn’t they are pretty cheap at the store.  This recipe usually makes enough for us to have two extra portions left over for freezing which is a huge bonus in my book.

4 cups of chicken or vegetable broth

2 pounds of carrots, peeled and chopped

1 – 14 oz. can full fat coconut milk (crucial to get the good stuff)

2 tsp curry powder

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

handful of toasted nuts

As with all puree soups, I put the broth in a large pot and begin heating it to a boil while I peel and chop the carrots.  Once the carrots are ready I add them along with the spices and let everything simmer until the carrots are tender (about 20 minutes).

Next I puree the carrots in my food processor and return them to the cooking pot (sometimes it is nice to leave some of the carrots non-pureed so there are chunks in the soup).

Last I add up to 14 ounces of water until the soup has the desired thickness and serve garnished with some nuts I’ve toasted in my toaster oven, usually pecans.

Taken with a few minor adjustments from this recipe on allrecipes.com

Butternut Squash Soup Recipe

With only 5 ingredients, this recipe is super simple, totally healthy, and one of my all-time favorites.  Though it may seem like a fall comfort soup, I enjoy it all year long and always make enough to freeze half for dinner another night.

6 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed

4 cups of chicken broth

1/2 tsp dried marjoram, ground

1/4 tsp black pepper, ground

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, ground

I like to get the chicken broth heating in a large pot while I peel and cube the butternut squash.  Then I place the squash and all the spices in the boiling broth and cook until squash is tender and the liquid has reduced by about half.

Next I puree the squash in my food processor.  It usually all fits, and I don’t have to divide into batches.  This mixture is poured back into the pot and reheated if necessary.

I serve with a sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan cheese and black peppercorn.

Adapted from this recipe on Allrecipes.com

A Video Tour of What’s Growing in Our Garden

Vegetable gardens are always works in progress.  Experiments.  I’ve found it helpful to hear how other people’s experiments are going – what’s thriving and what’s not – so that I  can add those lessons learned to my own and hopefully produce more food for our table.  In an effort of sharing, here’s the current state of my garden.

Now Eating

  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Summer Squash
  • Banana Peppers
  • Jalapeño Peppers
  • Strawberries (although most are going to the bugs)
  • Basil

coming soon

  • Delicata Squash
  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes (grape and cherry)
  • Bell Peppers
  • Blackberries

a ways off

  • Green Beans
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Butternut Squash
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Acorn Squash
  • Raspberries

Done for the season

  • Kale (thanks to a mob of caterpillars)

We were fortunate to have such luck with kale, spinach, and lettuce early this season to have salads almost every day (something that thankfully Jared and Little Guy enjoyed and didn’t get tired of).  It seems we are just around the corner from switching from salads to squash and tomatoes, and I’m feeling the need to expand my recipe repertoire of soups and sauces.

What’s growing in your vegetable garden?  Anyone have tomato or squash recipes to share?

Peacock Mating and Cougars Climbing Cages

The Austin Zoo is anything but glamorous (as discussed here).  But what it lacks in fancy exhibits, it more than makes up for in up-close-and-personal experiences.  Our trip there last week may go down as our favorite adventure this spring.  Here’s why:

1. Peacocks doing mating dances right next to our picnic table (above)

2.  A cougar climbing her cage:

3.  Lions leaning up next to the fence:

Lions

4.  Feeding the deer, goats, and llamas:

Deer

We also loved seeing the ostriches which were so much bigger than we imagined with their huge prehistoric-looking feet.  And couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw a black bear living with chickens and ducks (clearly a well-fed bear).  Throw in a breezy train ride with friends near the end and this outing hit everything my son could have hoped for.

After such a great day at the Austin Zoo, it has us wondering about other zoos in the area.  We haven’t been to the Waco or San Antonio Zoos yet.  Anyone have opinions or recommendations?