Shopping With your Dog

Fun fact, we are coming up on our one year anniversary of adopting our dog, Dorothy! Not-so-fun fact, for the first 6 months we had her, she had extreme separation anxiety. We went through numerous crates and cages, tried home remedies, music and even hired babysitters to keep her calm in our absence. When my husband was out of town, I felt defeated and panicky at the thought of not being able to leave my house for the smallest errand. curry

During that period, I began researching places that I could either work with Dorothy in tow, or take her with me if I needed to pick something up. Around the Triangle, we were welcomed at certain coffee shops, most breweries and restaurant patios and outdoors-y type stores. I knew that Home Depot was a safe place for us to venture, but never imagined the plethora of other dog-friendly stores that were out there. We credit Dot’s calm demeanor to getting out and about in public and keeping it cool while on leash. Here are a few of the places I was surprised to find, and am making my way through!

Just a note: I always call ahead to the individual store to ensure that the manager will allow us. I also consider how long I need to be there and what I’m actually getting to evaluate if it’s the best place to bring her. Also, she is incredibly calm and friendly and never ruffled or destructive in public. If she were, I’d definitely find another option rather than subjecting everyone to bad behavior!

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A Local’s Guide to Cary

Thanks to Money Magazine, my own little piece of the Triangle is the #5 best place to live in the whole country! If you’re thinking of relocating here, or if you’ve already planted your roots, I wanted to share some of my favorite things I’ve discovered since moving here. Without further ado, here’s my top list! Anything I missed?! Let me know in the comments!

Where to Stop in Cary, NC (3)

Crispy Summer Gnocchi

Y’all we are almost rounding out the last month of summer, how crazy is that?! I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t the sliiiightest bit excited for it to cool down a bit and get fall in swing. But for now, in honor of the dwindling days, I wanted to share one of my all-time favorite recipes using some of summer’s best veggies.

This is something I almost always have the ingredients to whip up, as I have most of the veggies and herbs in my garden and onions and gnocchi are pretty long lasting in the pantry. I can’t decide what I love most about this recipe- the funky gnocchi texture, the light sauce or the fact that it’s packed with veggies but doesn’t taste a bit like it! Hope you enjoy as much as we do!

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Spruce Up your Rental

While of COURSE I am a huge homeownership cheerleader, I know that it’s not always the right time for everyone to buy a place of their own. I know how it feels to live in a rental but desperately want to make it your own. Here are a few tips that can make a huge impact on a rental without breaking the bank or losing your deposit!

Hardware & fixtures: One of the best ways to make a quick impact around your place is lighting and fixtures. As long as you save the originals, you should have no problem easily swapping out drawer pulls, changing out the blah light switch covers, introducing new doorknobs or even installing a trendy ceiling fan or light fixture. You can also consider alternatives like plug-in sconces, swag lighting or big floor lamps. Always get professional help with anything electric and check with your landlord about big projects, but you may even find they love it and want you to leave it when your lease ends!

Mirrors: Dated, giant mirrors in your bathroom can make your space feel impersonal and old school. You can CAREFULLY remove them (make sure to put duct tape in an X over the whole mirror) and install a more chic version. If you have a double vanity, adding two smaller framed mirrors goes leaps and bounds! If you’re not quite ready to take that risk, get a removable frame like this MirrorMate one that snaps into place around your existing mirror.

Walls: At some point, you’ve probably considered painting a wall or two to warm up your space. However, many times that isn’t feasible with requirements to paint it back or restrictions on what shades you can choose. Consider removable wallpaper or a gallery wall to take up maximum space with minimum effort. In the kitchen, employ a solution like TicTac Tiles to temporarily get the Pinterest kitchen of your dreams!

Bathroom: For me, the bathrooms in my rentals weren’t so much a cosmetic problem as a logistical nightmare! I added cute Command Hooks (they make SO many options these days) right by my shower to avoid dripping across the floor to where the DUMB towel bars were installed. If you are lacking a ledge for shaving, this suction-cupped step saved my life! Lastly, a new shower head can make you feel like you’re in a spa in no time. Again, save the original and talk to your landlord, and if that doesn’t fly you can at least give it a good cleaning using this technique to get it running better than ever.

While where you live now might not be your forever home, I hope this inspires you to make a few homey changes!

Thanks to the gals at The DIY Playbook for letting me borrow their image from their swag lighting project. They have tons of their own awesome tips about projects you can do yourself to make your space your own! 

Red, Red Wine

The Best Stain-Fighting Tips for a White Couch

As a family that loves red wine, black labs and white couches, something terrible was destined to happen to us. Seriously, it was only a matter of time. Now, if you know me offline, it’s easy to assume that I was behind this Cabernet display. I can’t legally name names, but y’all, this was actually, really, truly, not my fault.

I DID place the wine on a table of suspect sturdiness, but ultimately I was not responsible for its unruly end. That’s all I got to say about that.

And unruly it was. There was wine dripping from the mantel, in between the fireplace grates, down the walls, and covering the arms and the cushions of our couch. I had to act fast. Here’s how:

  1. I started by BLOTTING the spots with a dry towel to remove as much as I could. I followed with the same motion using a towel drenched in ice cold water. No scrubbing, no rubbing, just consistent up and down motions. Keep in mind, at this point for some reason the couch was turning BLUE because it’s got feathers in it?! There was a lot of sweat and outdoor voice action happening.
  2. Once I had removed as much as I could, I reached for my Dryel pen. This is the craziest component, because it comes as part of an at-home dry cleaning kit. This specific pen was recommended to my mom for upholstery by a long-time patron of JoAnn’s Fabrics, and those ladies don’t PLAY. I have since used it on all stains and it is an absolute wonder.
  3. For the walls,  I actually let the red wine dry, much to the absolute terror of my husband. Once it dried, I hit them with a Magic Eraser and it looked as good as new.
  4. The carpet trick came from something I learned in college during an “informative speech” day in my public speaking class. I taught the class how to make breakfast in bed, and James Adams taught everyone how to remove a Jungle Juice stain from the carpet. MAY GOD BLESS YOU JAMES! Please note, I have since verified this with ApartmentTherapy and Bob Vila and all parties agree that it’s legit.

The Best Stain-Fighting Tips for a White Couch (1)

You simply fill a spray bottle with 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water. Next, plug in your iron to the highest steam setting. While it’s heating up, spray the stain liberally with the vinegar mixture and lay an old white towel over top of the stain. Press the hot iron over top of the stain and move it around until you see steam appear. When you move the iron, you should see that the stain transferred on to the towel like MAGIC. Continue moving the towel around and repeating until all of the stain gets transferred.

The last thing that I will rave about during this stressful time is our amazing furniture company, Discount Furniture of the Carolinas. When we purchased our couch, the owner Bradley advised us about this program called Guardian. It’s an insurance that cost us a whopping $150, and lasts for 5 years. It covers rips, tears, stains, pet mishaps, you name it. There’s no deductible, so I thought there HAD to be a catch. After sending a picture to Bradley (that I’m sure is up on their Wall of Shame), he sent out a whole brand new half of our couch. Normally they’d try to replace or repair cushion by cushion, but ya know, we really brought the house down with our stain.

I can NOT say enough good things about Bradley and this company in terms of selection, customer service, integrity, communication, and the list goes on.

I hope this never ever happens to you, but if it does, I hope this helps!

My Favorite Library Hacks

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The only time I actively ran away from my family was inside of a library. I was begging my mom to take me to the “playground” (a modern art structure… still don’t really understand that style) outside and she had no idea what I was talking about. I quietly excused myself, brought some reading material and was found by my frantic mom reading on a sculpture beside one of the busiest roads in the city. My high maintenance, nerdy ways haven’t changed a bit- I devour everything from biographies to cookbooks to DIY manuals and I have a thing for that “new book smell”. While I have had my fair share of mockery on airplanes and by friends, the tips I’ve picked up are worth their weight in gold!

  1. Check out magazines: Most of the libraries I have been a member of offer apps where you can download nearly any magazine you can think of. As much as I love a new paper copy in the mail (Christmas morning!!), sometimes I need inspiration on the fly. Through the Zinio of RB Digital app, I’ve been able to download current and back issues of everything from Cooking Light, to Southern Living, to Martha Stewart Weddings, to Oprah. My husband was shocked to find The Economist for free as opposed to his costly subscription- talk about economically sound decision making! Also, for my NC friends, you have access to a full library of Our State Magazine (I paid about $40 for this myself!). Download a few to your phone or iPad for offline reading before a trip and you’re good to go!
  2. Listen to Audiobooks– In addition to the magazine apps, my library in Virginia offered a free service called Hoopla for immediate downloads of audiobooks. Their selection was amazing and much more updated than the regular library catalog. Every library also offers an online download library as well (most use Overdrive) that features eBooks, audiobooks and music.
  3. Download eBooks- Most of my friends say they’re aware the library offers free digital downloads for eReaders, but have never given it a try. It’s honestly one of the easiest things ever! Overdrive works through Amazon, so you can simply download a book from the library catalog and send it directly to your Kindle in seconds. They’re also available offline, so you never have to worry about connectivity when you’re reading on the beach! As soon as a new book comes out, I get on the waiting list on the eCatalog and have it automatically download the minute it’s available.

The best eReader secret I’ve ever received is to turn on Airplane Mode on your Kindle if you aren’t finished reading a book before it’s due. That keeps the book in your personal library until the next time you connect to the internet! A little scandalous, but hey, one does what one must.

My routine is to start by scanning the Amazon best seller list, Goodreads, Pinterest and my favorite blogs every month to find out what I want to read. Then, I’ll go on to my library and hop on the waiting list. I set each one to be picked up at my local library, and then I get an email as soon as they’re available. It couldn’t be easier!

(Background image via Evelyn Henson)

In the Dog House: Buyer Edition

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So, it’s no secret that Dorothy June runs our life and we joke (sorta..) that we bought her a back yard for her birthday. And honestly, with 1/3 of millennials agreeing that they purchased a home for their pup vs. marriage or stability, it kinda feels nice to know we aren’t alone. Whether you’re buying or selling a home, there are important considerations for every member of the family. I’m going to share some of the highlights today to keep in mind when you’re buying:

  1. Research the Community- One of the best things about moving from an apartment is no longer having to answer to a leasing company. However, many homes you’ll see are part of a Homeowner’s Association where you’ll pay dues for them to do a variety of things from maintaining your lawn to planting flowers in the shared spaces to planning the 4th of July BBQ. Many of these associations also have restrictions on whether or not you can fence a home and what styles are allowed. ALWAYS make sure to get a survey of your lot so you can see where the property lines are, and if there are any easements or setbacks that would keep you from fencing in your land. Also make sure to take leash laws, noise ordinances and other restrictions into account from the local government.
  2. Scan for Dangers- This isn’t a dealbreaker by any means, but you should 100% scan your new backyard and take note of anything dangerous for your pup. For instance, I heard a story recently of someone losing two pets in the same day after they ate poisonous mushrooms in their new backyard. Are there plants you don’t recognize? Holes that could belong to snakes? Woods for wildlife like coyotes? All these things are great to run by your agent, the sellers and your vet.
  3. Be Open to Tradeoffs- I sometimes find it’s difficult to satisfy my pet owner clients, because obviously our babies deserve the best. However, sometimes you may end up loving a house with a small yard. Be sure to take a spin around the neighborhood and look for walking routes, parks, and other dogs to play with that could lighten the pressure of having the perfect outdoor space. Also be sure to note things like stairs and hardwood floors that could be challenging for older dogs, or exciting and great exercise for young pups.
  4. Update All Records- Once you land on a new place, update your dog’s microchip information immediately. With all the new sights and smells, there’s a chance that they’d run off and be uncomfortable in their new neighborhood. Also, take some time early on to interview new vets, find new caretakers or dog walkers, and transfer any records and medications to the new doctor.

As silly as it may sound, it helps to find an agent that understands how hard it can be to find the perfect match for your WHOLE family when your dog runs the show. We all know animal lovers are among the most trustworthy and beloved, so never hesitate to ask any questions necessary during the interview process!

Staging Secrets with Minted Spaces

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I was so thrilled when Aryn at Minted Spaces reached out to me to meet up. I had swooned over her work for the longest time, and it was so fun to get to sit down and chat all things home over a cup of coffee. The most interesting takeaway, and what I really think sets Aryn apart, is that she has a background in psychology. It’s hard to realize until you’re in the moment, but we are so attached to our homes and our belongings, whether buying, selling, or even decluttering. I asked Aryn to share the scoop on her process and how you can get that perfectly staged feeling in your home without driving yourself insane and selling all your things online. Keep in mind, many of these suggestions are awesome to keep in mind day-to-day, even if you don’t plan to sell your home!

What is the first thing you think a buyer notices when they walk into a home?

I think the first thing buyers notice is more of a feeling than actual tangible items. Most buyers want to walk into this magical “ah this is home” feeling. While that might look a little different for everyone, overall you can accomplish this by creating a neutral and warm space.

What is a quick way to make your home feel “staged” in under an hour?

First, remove all personal photos. No one is going to have that “ah this is my home” feeling if they see the current homeowner on the walls. Next, focus on the main rooms: kitchen, dining, master bedroom, and living room. If you have a partner, it may be best to split up to cover more ground.

In the kitchen and dining room, make sure all surfaces are clear of clutter and clean. Don’t go overboard though, you want a few décor items out to give it that cozy feel. In the living room be sure the couch has pillows placed near the arms, and a throw blanket over the arm or back of the couch for an extra cozy feel. Sweep/vacuum the floors before finishing up in this room. For the master bedroom, be sure to make the bed (preferably with light colored bedding), toss a throw near the foot of the bed, and clear the surfaces of any vanities, dressers, and nightstands. Adding some flowers (real or faux) helps give this space a retreat feel.

Bonus tip! Have some Scentsy, diffuser or other flameless candle options strategically placed in these main rooms. Vanilla and jasmine scents are proven to be relaxing while lifting people’s moods. If you’re listing in November and December, using cinnamon and pine scents will evoke a cozy feeling. Just be sure to not have them be too strong, as some people get migraines when the scent is overwhelming.  

Is there any advice you find yourself giving over and over to clients? 

Everything I listed above is in nearly every staging consult list I give to clients. Another one is to add real or faux plants to rooms to bring texture and life to a space. Snake plants are excellent for staging. They are tough little buggers and can handle being forgotten about for weeks. They’re also very trendy. There’s no need to repot them, you can simply stick them as-is into a wicker basket and bam! You’re living room is Instagram worthy.

What tips do you have for keeping your house organized and show-ready but also livable? 

The first is to de-clutter. This is easiest to do by season. If you’re listing in the summer, go ahead and pack away all those sweaters, coats, boots, and sleds. This should empty out the closets some.

Next, wicker/cloth baskets are your new best friend. These make closets and cube storage spaces look put together when really, the inside of those baskets can be a hot mess. These are perfect for throwing all the shoes into, then placing in the entryway closet. Toys in the living room? Wicker baskets with lids are your friend. Tuck one under a window and add a pillow on top, and now it’s a cozy area for showings.

Finally, have a plan and delegate. Everyone who lives in the home should have their own set to-do list before leaving the house. This eliminates the frantic, random cleaning where you and your partner are going over the same spaces. If you have pets or children, have a bag packed and ready to go near the door with snacks, toys, treats, and whatever else they may need over the course of a few hours. Doing all of these should help get you and your family out the door with minimal stress.

Hopefully you can implement some of these tips to make your home magazine-worthy, whether you are listing or just nesting!

Market on the Move: NYC vs. Wake County

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My husband and I are avid travelers, so I knew that when I picked a company to work for that I had to find one with a strong national and international presence. While my company is local and independent (a huge plus for me), we are part of a network (Leading Real Estate Companies of the World) that spans the US and all over the world. The tagline “I’m local, I’m global” had me sold!

When I was planning my recent trip to New York, I couldn’t resist reaching out to a local Leading RE partner to get the inside scoop on the market there. I was quickly paired up with Ross from Stribling, who was so accommodating, informational and hospitable. While the New York and Raleigh markets are INCREDIBLY different, like… DIFFERENT, I was shocked to find how much overlap we actually had.

I knew that New York, like Raleigh, was comprised of many small, fiercely independent pockets. I loved chatting with Ross about how one street could divide two neighborhoods and the vibe was so unique that it felt like another world. It was awesome to pick his brain on how he educated buyers about all of the options and personalities of the unique areas. We discussed how we both worked with people from out of the state and country and love partnering with first-time homebuyers. We swapped tips on managing expectations and helping buyers understand tradeoffs that could find them the right home in their price range.

Before we met, we also shared our local market statistics. I know that might not be for everyone, so here is a top line view:

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New York has incredibly different taxes and stipulations that buyers and agents navigate in the city. The nerd in me hung on every word about the mansion taxes and monthly fees that accompanied many purchases. The buildings we toured were mostly condos, so the ownership types also differed greatly from what I’m used to in North Carolina.

The best part of being a part of such a robust network is meeting other people I admire and trust to help my own friends and family. The LeadingRE network is active across the country and the world, so if you ever are overwhelmed with the prospect of downsizing, diving into the real estate market or relocating, even outside the Triangle, let’s have a chat! And- if you ever think about purchasing in the New York area, please give Ross a call.

If you follow me on Instagram, you got to drool along with me as we toured a few of the most expensive units on the West Side. Now, without further ado, here are some of the properties we hit on our tour. I’d love to hear your favorites below!

 

 

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Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Homeowner

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Helping a friend plan a wedding can be one of the most selfless, emotional and exciting investments of your 20’s and 30’s. This year alone I will either be in or attending 13 weddings, and y’all, I get it! It’s overwhelming! So many of my friends are delaying homeownership in the interest of helping their friends’ dreams come true but it’s rarely so black and white. Today I’m going to share with you how it’s not only feasible, but actually PRACTICAL to spring for a home in the throes of your bridesmaid duties.

First of all, your organizational skills are at an all-time high. If you’ve never tried to plan a bachelorette party complete with t-shirts, dinners, activities, deposits, and EMOTIONS, then you can’t call yourself a multi-tasker. Let’s all be honest, getting your friends to move in the same direction is like herding cats- vegan, gluten-free, sometimes pregnant, opinionated cats. As a bridesmaid you are constantly meeting deadlines, providing feedback and staying in contact with multiple people. All of these skills are necessary in buying a home and take time to sharpen. Therefore, there’s no reason not to strike while you’re at the top of your game! Plus, if you choose the right Realtor, the pressure will be totally off. They’ll be the ones searching for properties for you, going to bat in negotiations, and even booking appointments with contractors and inspectors.

Next, for every wedding you participate in as a guest or a maid, consider the number of events you’re contributing to. Add up all of the time you spend looking for restaurants with private rooms, begging your apartment complex to extend the time you can have that little room off the lobby, and throwing money at bartenders because your friends drink Prosecco like water. Now, consider a venue that’s free of charge, has no restrictions or time limits, and requires NO Uber for you when you’ve deservingly hit the “Miss-mosa Bar” like a train. That place could be YOUR HOME! You could have the freedom to decorate how you please, avoid hauling decorations or food into someone else’s space, and have free reign to stay as long and be as loud as you’d like. I promise you, when you start to see the dollar signs add up for brunch buffets, gifts and venue deposits, you’ll understand that you could save you and your friends upwards of $1,000 per wedding.

I see you out there with your cute punny hashtags and your t-shirt designs. Girl, you are CREATIVE! Why not apply that creativity to find your home? If you find a flexible, innovative Realtor, you can be open with them about opting for an AirBNB space, garage apartment or in-law suite. Imagine offering a place for your girls to get ready, for local college students to crash or to house family from out of town before a big weekend. Whether you side hustle on Etsy with those “Bride-to-Be” sashes or gain passive income with a short-term rental opportunity, you have options to rake in the dough you need to buy that extra Kitchenaid attachment.

Lastly, if you aren’t capitalizing on the trips you book and the dollars you rack up on your credit card, you are throwing away money. Now, I am by NO MEANS saying to go open up a new line of credit without talking to a mortgage lender or trusted advisor. However, you can upgrade a current account to get flight miles, refer a friend to your preferred card for a bonus, or redeem your accrued points for gift cards and travel perks. You might be bleeding money like no other at this time in your life, but it can pay to spend wisely if you use the right credit card. I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which has allowed me to redeem multiple plane tickets, hotel stays and gift cards to Nordstrom/Lowe’s/Wayfair.

The bottom line is that homeownership sounds intimidating and is one of the easiest things to put on the back burner. Doing so can be doing yourself a major disservice long term! There’s no reason to build equity for your landlord by investing too much in rent when you could potentially be spending less on a mortgage and a space to call your own!