Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Year of the Giveaways

I know. I've been MIA for years. 2014 almost took my husband from me, and 2015 brought us a sweet new little family member, and I don't yet know what 2016 will bring.  It's been crazy already, but I love it. And all along I've been working. That's mostly why I haven't been around.

Today I decided that because I have been away from my business facebook page, and from here, I was going to do a giveaway. I've been meaning to do it for ages. We had that crazy flood in October and it seems like it has been raining ever since. I needed a pair of good rain boots and wanted to share.

You see, I have the best of intentions when it comes to client gifts. I purchased 50 apple pies to give to clients at Christmas and got tired after traveling to 30 clients (and many were out of town). I bought 20 awesome lip exfoliation/balm sets to make some of my favorite ladies "kissable" for Valentine's day, but then we had a death in the family and were out of town.  Last Christmas I made 60 hot chocolate mason jars and spent lots of time away from my family over the holiday because I was making deliveries.  So I've come up with a better plan...

I'm going to try to do smaller-scale pop-by's throughout the year. But instead of trying to hit everyone each time, I'm now going to be doing a bigger monthly giveaway on my Facebook page. I don't know why this Marketing major didn't think of this sooner. This is the definition of working smarter. And who doesn't want the chance to win something fabulous?  I'm going to come up with what to give away throughout the year, but here's what I have so far. I'm not set on these, so please let me know if you think something else would be better.  I'm SO EXCITED!!

Do you have the Luck of the Irish?  Test it out with this month's **giveaway.**  In preparation for bikini (or board short) season, I'll be giving away a lululemon gift card.  Comment with what you would buy if you win for your chance to enter. Aren't into working out?  I got the Vinyasa Scarf for Christmas, and I L-O-V-E it. And the men in my life can often be spotted in lululemon crewneck tees, so this isn't just a giveaway for the ladies. As always, sharing gets you an extra entry. A review on Zillow or Yelp! is worth 10 entries (but you have to comment, too). Feel free to share with your friends!

My favorite sunglasses are sitting at the bottom of Lake Murray, and I need to replace them for the summer of 2016. I love the classics, so this month I'm giving away a pair of Ray-Ban Original Wayfarer Classic sunglasses (in black). Where would you take these glasses?  Comment below with your favorite summer vacation destination for your chance to enter. I have lots of favorites, but this year we are trying out Lake Tahoe. I'll let you know how it stacks up.

School is almost out and the beach is waiting. This month we'll be giving away a pair of OluKai Sandals for the guys OR a pair of Jack Rogers for the gals (Hampton, Palm Beach, or Nantucket styles in currently available colors). Comment below with your size/color/style choice and favorite beach to be entered. My favorite beach in the world is in Southern Maine.

This is my biggest **giveaway** of the year, so we are ending June and beginning July with it. One lucky winner will have it just in time for 4th of July festivities! What is it, you ask? Why it's a YETI Cooler.  Not the huge one, I'm not insane, but the 35 qt version will keep your drinks cold in this SC heat. Comment below with your favorite summer beverage to be entered. My favorite beverage is always Dr. Pepper.

Back to School! It's amazing to me all that needs to be ordered to get my wee ones back to school. To help with your shopping, I'll be giving away an Amazon Prime membership to one lucky winner. Not to worry if you already have one. It will just be a $99 gift card for you.

It's officially autumn, my favorite season. Step into fall with a pair of Bean Boots! These boots and I share a birthplace (Maine), and my Grampa has had the same pair of Bean Boots for more than my lifetime. His get an actually workout in those New England winters, unlike mine that keep my toes dry instead of cozy. Anywho, I'd like to share a pair of these awesome boots with someone out there. You should know the drill by now. Comment below with your shoe size AND your favorite season (and why). Mine is fall, as I said, because of the colors of the leaves, the start of "sweater weather," my birthday, and my favorite holiday.

If I can pull it off, this one will be B-I-G. Just need a little help from my friends. So it's staying a surprise for now.

Thanksgiving 2016 and the celebration of my birth both take place this month. I'll help you with Thanksgiving prep (and, duh, making cupcakes for me) by giving away a KitchenAid Mixer. To enter, comment below with your favorite Thanksgiving treat. Mine is, and always has been, Apple Pie with homemade Whipped Cream.

Gift-giving is among my favorite things. With a November birthday, I could always spend my birthday money on Christmas gifts. So for this month's giveaway, I'd like to make a donation to the charity of the winner's choice. Comment below with your favorite charity, what they do, and why they deserve the donation.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


It's a new year!  We have high expectations of 2015 as 2014 was so crazy.  As you can imagine, many of my resolutions are health related.  We are busy people... both working full-time (more than full-time) with a 4 year old and a baby on the way.  Sometimes we look at each other and say "Let's order [Moe's, Jimmy John's, McAllister's Deli, Zoe's Kitchen, etc]."  It isn't as good for us as home-cooked meals, obviously, and it isn't great for our wallets either.  So cooking at home is my top priority.  It's only been 5 days, but we are doing it, and it isn't as difficult as I imagined.

The key for me is to reuse leftovers.  Last night it took me 15 minutes to make burrito bowls (including clean up) because I used leftover sirloin from the night before.  I've made our menu for the entire month.  We live near lots of grocery stores, but there are a few items that I can only get at Whole Foods (like Wes' favorite organic and low-sodium Chipotle Ranch Dressing and Stonewall Kitchen BBQ sauces and marinades).  I have been buying things from WF in bulk so that I only have to go there once per month, and I always end up showing homes in that area anyway.

A few friends have been interested in what we eat.  Sodium limitations are 2000mg per day.  This is actually higher than the American Heart Association recommends (1500mg) for all Americans.  We eat way too much sodium in this country.  If it's low in fat or calories, it is a sure bet that they have upped the sodium.  Check out some of your food.  It's awful.  We have been in a dinner club for four years, and the ladies have been so sweet about making sure that Wes can eat what they prepare each month.  I've promised for ages that I would post some of the recipes that I use, so I'm finally getting around to that.  And sometimes I cheat by making Wes have 0mg sodium oatmeal for breakfast so that we can save those 650mg for dinner.  My brother's girlfriend is a registered dietitian and says this, "You have money in the bank (2000mg) and it is up to you how you use it, you just can't carry it over to the next day."

This is what our menu looks like for this week (we are two days in):

We used organic grass-fed sirloin in place of filet.  I served it over mashed cauliflour (with low sodium chicken broth, parmesan cheese, garlic, and unsalted butter) with a side of green beans.

Copycat Steak Burrito Bowl Recipe
I used the leftover sirloin and heated it on the stove with no salt added black beans, frozen instant brown rice from whole foods, frozen organic corn, a dash of taco seasoning, and a touch of organic mexican blend cheese.  I served it over a bed of organic greens and topped with Chipotle Ranch dressing.

Orange-Glazed Salmon Fillets with Rosemary Recipe
The recipe at the link is for orange glazed salmon, which looks delicious.  Unfortunately I have to write a contract at 4 and have a listing appointment at 6, so dinner prep will be up to my husband. Years ago I found the perfect glaze for almost all meat (from Wed's recipe below).  We love it on salmon.  It's equal parts mustard (deli or yellow) and maple syrup with a dash of rosemary.  He knows how to glaze the Salmon in this and will make brown rice and green beans from the freezer for sides.

Maple-Glazed Stuffed Roast Pork recipe
This is my favorite holiday recipe.  It's the same glaze that we use for the salmon above.  We replace the pork tenderloin with a turkey tenderloin as it is lower in sodium.  We use low-sodium chicken flavor stove top stuffing with organic granny smith apples.  A simple side of green beans are enough.  It's SO GOOD and so simple, but it makes me feel fancy!

 My mom was an amazing cook.  Unfortunately my brother got all of those skills.  Quiche was one of my favorite things that she made, and thankfully I can follow a recipe pretty well.  We will add a little bit of low-sodium turkey bacon as well as spinach, green pepper and mushroom to this recipe.

Friday and Saturday
We have an event this weekend that will cause us to eat out on Friday and Saturday nights.  Wes has learned to ask for no salt in preparation of his meal and to ask for everything on the side (this gets him a funny look when something is supposed to have fancy cheese melted over it).  He is always proud of himself at the end when he uses only a fraction of the sauce/glaze/dressing/etc. provided.

Another favorite from childhood, but this one is completely reworked.  It uses no-salt added ketchup and bbq sauce instead of the Manwich brand sauce.  There are veggies hidden in there for the little one.  I'm really excited about this recipe.  And Wes will be able to have two sandwiches if he wants and still be within his limits, which always makes him smile.  It's really difficult to find low-sodium bread products, but King's Hawaiin is lower in sodium than anything else we have found, so we keep a few versions of their rolls in the freezer (dinner rolls, sub rolls, hamburger buns).
*I'm going to cook double the turkey and have a ground turkey meal the next day as well*

With a baby arriving in less than 8 weeks, I'm hoping to prep some freezer meals over the next few weeks.  We'll see if I get around to it or not.

Monday, September 15, 2014


Last I wrote, my friend attended an awards ceremony with me since my husband was sick.  Little did we know that his "illness" was a symptom of Congestive Heart Failure (CHF).  He went into the hospital on 3/10 for some swelling and chest pressure/pain.  He came home 12 days later with an external defibrillator, a new diet, and the hope of healing.

It was a whirlwind that I'll never forget- and never fully remember.

Things seemed normal that Sunday night.  We had cleaned out the garage that day, and then got ready for bed.  He tossed and turned, and finally got up to go watch TV in his office.  Around 1:30am, he came in to tell me that he wasn't feeling right and was going to go to the ER.  I half-heartedly asked if he wanted us to come, knowing that he would want E to sleep.  I didn't fight him, rolled over, and went back to sleep.  Here are the text messages from that night:

Me, 3:46am: Update?
W, 4:48am: I am ok... doc thinks it's edema... too much water in my system... just need to take med to lower the fluid level.
W, 6:32am: Just running all the tests... there have been a lot of trauma patients this morning so I am waiting behind them... I should be home soon.
W, 6:58am: Nevermind. They want to do more cardiac tests.  They think I got a virus with my chest congestion and they want to do more tests.

I called him at that point, and he promised that he would be home in the afternoon.  Around 11:30am he mentioned that his heart was a "little large."  I freaked out.  I called his parents who were in Brazil to tell them what I knew, and I brought E to my dad's.  My husband didn't want me at the hospital since he said that nothing going on was a big deal and he would be on his way home before I got there.  Clearly those docs were excellent communicators, right?!  I cancelled my appointments, and sped to Lexington Medical Center.

Around 1pm, he lost pulses in his feet.  His legs turned completely white up to the knees.  He was in excruciating pain, and it took what felt like forever for anyone to worry.  Dr. Norton, the vascular surgeon, came to check on him.  He was excellent.  He was concerned about blood clots, but thought the chances were very low due to Wes' age.  Even still, they prepared Wes for radiology so that they could take a look.  What "take a look" means, I'm not sure.  Cameras?  I don't know.  It was around 5pm when they rolled him up to radiology.  The radiologist told me that it would take 20 minutes if there was nothing, and an hour if they found something.

Two hours later, while I was waiting by myself in an empty radiology ward, a nurse walked by and I asked what was going on.  He didn't know.  Some dear friends arrived with dinner for me, and my dad came with my laptop and car charger.  At that point, the radiologist came out to tell me that Wes' legs were full of clots and that they didn't know if they could save him.  His heart wasn't functioning the way it needed to be, and was spitting out clots.  There was a lot more to it, as you can imagine.  The medicine they had him on to break up the clots can cause a stroke, but a clot can cause a stroke if you don't take the medicine.  It was awful.  One of the very worst moments of my entire life.  I remember clearly saying through tears, "We have a three year old.  You just have to save him."

Wes made it through surgery and they rolled him up to the ICU.  Crazy things of all crazy things, his nurse had gone to our high school.  He had a new job and it was his last night at LMC, but it was so nice to have a friendly face in all this.  The nursing staff that took care of us was amazing.

Wes was on morphine while his body broke up the clots.  He had nerve damage in his feet from the clots for a few months, but it has since cleared up.  He was in and out of consciousness.  I was, thankfully, allowed to stay by his side.  My brother was in his third year of medical school, and my sister-in-law was a cardiac care nurse for 10 years, so we called both of them more than we should have!  My brother told me to write every single thing down.  Keep notes from all of the doctors.  Date them.  It was really good advice, though now I know that the cardiologist at LMC kept us mostly out of the loop. My sister-in-law knew how bad an ejection fraction of 20 was, but never told us.  I was blissfully ignorant to the danger that Wes was still in.

There's so much more, and these are just the highlights.  In August, Wes had a device implanted so that he could get rid of the external defibrillator.  Eating a very low sodium diet is getting more normal to us.  I don't wake up every morning and wait for Wes to stir to make sure he's alive.  There is a long road ahead, and he'll never be back to "normal," but God allowed me to witness miracle after miracle and I'm so thankful.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

money, money, money, money... MUN-AY!

So "awards season" is over for me.

My husband attended the Regal Awards for the Greater Columbia Home Builders Association with me.  It was mostly attorneys and bankers, only a few agents, but we had a good time.  A husband of a fellow agent did ask why we get awards just for doing our job.  It made me laugh.  He's exactly right.  But in real estate it's all about production.  Why should someone use you instead of someone else?  There are 4,000 agents in the Midlands.

Last night was the Circle of Excellence event for the Central Carolina Realtors Association.  My husband has been really sick, so I brought a friend.  I brought home a Platinum award.  Super humbling since so many people in that category have been selling since the 80's and others are basically famous in this area.  But the experience was eye-opening.  I didn't consider how weird this industry is until seeing it from someone else's point of view.

1.  BIGGEST ONE: Many agents, including me, have become desensitized to the faux pas of discussing money.  I grew up knowing that it was a topic to be avoided (along with politics; religion got a pass since my dad was a pastor).  When working with a client, I know how much they are qualified to spend, their salary, and they know my commission since it is listing on their closing statement.  My income is a calculation.  A percentage of sales price is the gross commission.  Gross commission - company take = my income.  Then we are awarded based on the amount of commission that we make, so it isn't exactly a secret.  The difference between me and every other agent in the room is the percentage split with the company that varies from brand to brand.  So people will call and say that I should work for their company because I'll make 10%, 20%, 30% more.  Everyone talks about money.  Weird, huh?

2. It is an aged industry.  I am the youngest agent in my office and one of the youngest full-time, top-producing agents in the Midlands.  At 29, I'm not exactly a baby.  Nationally the average real estate agent is 56 years old.

3. Out of 4,000 agents in this area, there are only a few who make a good living at real estate.  The awards room was mighty small.  Nationally, the average agent makes $22,000.  Could you live on $22,000?  Especially with self-employment tax, dues, marketing expenses, etc.

It was fun to get all dressed up at these events.  I'm blessed to work for the same company as some wonderful, wonderful people.  I hope that I won't ever believe that this success has anything to do with me.  I have been blessed, and I'll continue to serve my clients to the best of my ability.  I'm so grateful.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Those who can't do...

try to sell Real Estate?

That's how I fell into it.  I had a business degree, customer service and contract experience, loved real estate, and was competing with PhD's for every job in a down market.  But it is also the career-of-choice for many of your favorite reality tv stars.

Reality shows about this industry have a growing audience and remain popular (as referenced in this Wall Street Journal article).  But not just real estate reality shows feature real estate agents.  Just on an early cast of The Real Housewives of Orange County alone, there are four real estate agents (that I know of).  So I guess it goes like this: create your own clothing line, put out a cheesy song, and sell real estate.
courtesy of tvguide.com
What caused thoughts about this random topic?  Tonight I watched the "Southern Charm" preview episode.  I'm always interested to see how SC will be portrayed nationally on these types of shows.  It is usually less than flattering.  To my surprise Cameran Eubanks (remember her from Real World: San Diego?) is unemployed and decides to start selling real estate.

This industry is scary every single day.  Maybe they have huge reality television salaries and don't actual have to sell.  Each day I wonder, When these deals close, will there be more?  Will we have another dip and people will stop buying/selling?  I absolutely love what I do.  Each day presents new and exciting challenges.  Would I recommend it?  Never, but then again I have a huge aversion to risk and thinking about commission-only pay gives me hives.  But I wish her the best of luck in her new career!!

Is anyone else planning to watch this show?  Hopefully it will be better than "Welcome to Myrtle Manor" and "Party Down"!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Pet Peeves and other stuff

WARNING: Wordy with no pictures.

I am pretty laid back.  Try not to sweat the small stuff.  If there isn't a hard deadline involved, I'm not going to freak people out.  For instance, the South Carolina sales contract gives a 10 business day due diligence period.  In that time you are allowed to have inspections and verify any important information (square footage, schools, and restrictions are a few good examples).  There are agents who will start emailing me three days into the due diligence period asking if I have the repair requests ready for them.  Why, man?  Why?  If you are asking, you probably have your clients in a huff waiting.

I always tell my sellers in the beginning that buyers have ten business days for inspections, etc.  I'm not going to bother them until that tenth day.  They aren't doing anything wrong by taking those days.  If it's ready before then, awesome.  But many good inspectors take a full week to get you on their schedule.  If they find an issue with the HVAC system or the roof or any number of things, those are more inspections to schedule.  I've never gone over a contract deadline.  If you do in the case of repair negotiations, you are accepting the house as-is (buyer) or agreeing to do all requested repairs (seller).  It's dangerous, and one of the most important ways that agents need to protect their clients.  The sales contract lays out a specific timeline, and it's always the same (unless crossed out, changed, and initialed).

Ok, so on to the pet peeve thing.  Here it is: All I ask is that people take responsibility for their mistakes.  Many people either make excuses or shift blame.  Have some sense of personal responsibility.  If you mess up, it isn't the end of the world.  Say it, pay up whatever the damage is, hopefully learn from it, and move on.  Is that so hard?

I made a deal with myself when I started in real estate.  I promised myself and God that I would always do the right thing.  In all cases if I make a mistake, I pay for it.  I don't go around making tons of mistakes, and I've never made the same one twice.  One that comes to mind is when a freezer was repaired on the day of closing.  It didn't have time to freeze so that the inspector could make sure it was repaired properly and we went to closing anyway.  I should have advised my buyers to wait on closing until we were sure the repair was complete.  It was still broken the next day, so I paid for the repair.

You'd be surprised how many agents don't work this way.  I hear all the time, "I won't cut my commission, I never do."  Well dude, if you messed up and it's going to cost your clients money, you should cut your commission.  I probably take responsibility that isn't mine on occasion, too.  I'll never be rich, but hopefully people will know that I have their best interests at heart.  And I'll always be able to look myself in the mirror and hold my head up high at the grocery store.  It never fails that I run into clients when I go in my pajamas.

Morals of the story:

1. Don't stress unnecessarily
2. Take responsibility
3. Do what is right
4. People will remember

Phew.  (as I jump down from my soap box.)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Oh Happy Day!

...Oh happy Day-ay... when Jesus washed (when Jesus washed)... he washed my sins away...

Thinking of Sister Act 2 now, right?

It is a happy day in this house because Jesus washed our sins away, yes, and because we finished our purchases for the living room.  I am a happy girl.

We loved our former sectional, though the light "linen" color wasn't working so well with a toddler and a dog.  That was my spoken excuse, but the real one is that I was ready for a change.  It happens every so often, and five years with the same sofa is a record for me.  I've promised my husband that these leather sofas will stay for at least seven years, and I know I can keep my promise.  They are my new boyfriends.  I've been sitting on them since they arrived, testing out each cushion to see if that will be "my spot."  I have been doing my office duties from the living room couch.

The sectional is now living in my husband's office.  He feels like a sardine, but I can't bear to part with it.  We may move someday and have a living room AND a family room, or a bonus room, or any number of rooms that our little ranch doesn't have.  I don't want to get rid of a perfectly good sectional and need to buy a new one.  So that's the plan for now.  We'll see how things look in a month.

You may remember when I posted about what we were purchasing.  I get an idea and run with it until it comes to life.  That is how every room in our house has been decorated, good or bad.  We stayed pretty true to the mood board with one minor change.  Let me explain- while I have been working on my house, I was also re-furnishing (is that a word?) a sorority house at USC where I'm the housing and facility advisor.  I had found the perfect rug.  A 9' x 12' flatweave beige and navy stripe.  I wanted it for my house AND for the sorority house study.  Sadly Overstock sold out.  So the sorority house is getting the flatweave beige and navy stripe, and my house is getting a navy and ivory stripe.  Though the lighter color would probably be better for college girls than my baby girl, the rug is only 8'6" x 11'6" and was too short to be able to slide out chairs in the study.  I'm armed with five gallons of Scotchgard to three-year-old-proof it.

My day started out not great.  I had a continuing ed class and I went to the wrong location.  Rookie mistake.  So I got to spend the day working on things that I really need to get done, and looking at my newly mounted television (Geek Squad came this morning) and my new living room setup. 

So what's left?

1. Paint walls greige and paint trim white
Valspar's Oatlands Subtle Taupe courtesy of involvingcolor.com
 2. Add gallery wall around the television
courtesy of Pinterest.com
3. Paint frames navy and enlarge photos of E for them
courtesy of etsy.com
 4. DIY a coffee table that is large enough for the space (thinking a rectangular dining table from CraigsList with these legs and a barnwood top like the one pictured)
courtesy of cityfarmhouse.com

5. New window treatments (thinking bamboo shades with navy drapes)