Lessons from a First Time Home Buyer

Lessons From a First Time Homebuyer_Cover_Sara From Scratch.jpg

Lessons from a First Time Home Buyer

If you’ve been reading or following me for the past few months you’ll know that at the end of December my husband and I purchased our first home. It’s been a learning process (both on the construction and relationship front) but ultimately we are so happy with the choice we made and look forward to creating so many memories together here. I cannot wait to share more photos with you all as we begin to wrap up on projects and entertain family and friends in the upcoming warmer seasons but before I get to those (well….I actually need to finish them first) I wanted to share with you the experiences that got us here today hence, my lessons from me to you.

I originally created this article for Forsyth Woman magazines, a local publication in my area. When I was approached and asked to begin writing for their monthly magazine we were two weeks out from closing and so nothing but house was on the brain. You can find this content in their February issue here. (P.S. my meal planning post is featured as well!)

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I hope that if you, or someone you know, is going through the house hunting process that you find these useful and insightful. Trust me when I say everything will turn out the way it is intended!


We did it! My husband and I successfully purchased our very first home! And while it may not be perfect, it is 1,700 square feet of memories to be made, and we are over the moon with excitement!

When we started the house hunting process, we had no idea what to expect. We thought we knew what we wanted, we thought this process would be easy and simple, we thought we would be moving out of our cramped apartment into a bigger and better living situation in 3 weeks’ time – and while some of that may have turned out to be true, I can’t be honest without saying purchasing a home has quite a few twists and turns for something commonly seen as a normal step in the progression of life.

We searched for months (six to be exact), we went to showings and open houses and even looked at the updated internet listings several times a day. We were determined. And while it may have taken a little longer than anticipated or desired, I am confident in saying everything worked out the way it was intended. I feel quite fortunate that our experience was overall positive and want to share the lessons we learned along the way.

Chapter One: Find a rock star buyer’s agent. My husband and I highly recommend Chrystal Yates of Allen Tate Realtors (if you’re in the Triad area!). Chrystal was honest, yet encouraging; eager, yet patient. She was everything we needed and looked for in someone to navigate us through the complex and overwhelming world of real estate transactions. I stress to any first time home buyer that you should select an agent that you enjoy being with, that you feel comfortable posing questions to and that you can confide any concerns to. A good agent will always have your best interests in mind!

Chapter Two: Find an even more of a rock star mortgage lender. The process took various amounts of paperwork, quite a few answers to questions and piles of bank statements, but I recommend using a company that is responsive, forthcoming and is there to help you. Keep in mind that these companies are wanting your business and not vice versa. Remember – they are there to work for you. You should feel comfortable asking those ‘silly’ questions, giving them a quick phone call, or doing whatever you need to do to make this uncomfortable process as comfortable as possible.

Chapter Three: Thoroughly understand your needs versus wants and what is important to you. Although we searched for nearly six months, we had a clear understanding of the items that were absolute must-haves and those that we could forgo. Could you do without granite countertops? More than likely yes, but do you have to have at least two bedrooms to hold your furnishings? Stay true to must-haves while being clear about the items you can remain flexible on.

Chapter Four: Keep calm and carry on. Patience is a virtue and, frankly, isn’t one of my strong suits. But patience and persistence will ultimately lead you to the perfect fit. Stick to your gut!

I hope that if you, too, find yourself on the hunt for your first home, that you will keep these thoughts and considerations in mind. There is always a light at the end of the dark tunnel, and that tunnel may just lead you home.

Lessons from a First Time Home Buyer

Our At Home Valentine’s Dinner


Our At Home Valentine’s Dinner

We ate, we drank, we celebrated each other and it was so much better than going out and dealing with crowds!!

If you read last week’s post you’ll know that Mr. and I opted to stay at home this year for Valentine’s Day. I went grocery shopping Monday evening and stocked up on our feast. I’ve been brainstorming our menu for past month, planning items that we don’t have on a regular basis (i.e. mostly the cheesecake) so that regardless of location we were indulging.

Here was our menu:

Appetizer: toasted baguette with olive oil and balsamic dipping sauce (I added a few garlic cloves, red pepper flakes, fresh chopped parsley, dried thyme and salt and pepper).

Mains: reverse seared rib eye and my Memaw’s barbecued shrimp

Sides: creamy truffled spinach and Julia Child’s mashed potatoes 

Dessert: homemade vanilla bean cheesecake and some impromptu chocolate covered strawberries



I was adventurous in the sense that this was my first time making a lot of these items but would recommend all of the recipes I linked to above. It was my first time ever making a cheesecake let alone even using a vanilla bean but give me a glass of wine, relaxing music and I feel like I can accomplish just about anything in the kitchen.


And calling my fellow pinot noir lovers out there I highly recommend the Castle Rock Pinot Noir California Cuvee. It was the perfect accompaniment for our rich meal and for a $10 price tag it did just the trick.

How did you celebrate Valentine’s Day?

Our At Home Valentine’s Dinner

Chocolate Cupcakes with Whipped Ganache Topping


Chocolate Cupcakes with Whipped Ganache Topping

Love is in the air…can you feel it?! I’ve been planning our Valentine’s menu for a few weeks now…I’m ahead of the game I understand but I do love Valentine’s Day. We’re a no fuss, no frills couple when it comes to celebrating this national day of love and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We usually just enjoy a nice dinner out with no gifts, just some much needed quality time together to enjoy each other’s company.

This year I made a request that we stay in. I’ll cook, he cleans, and we enjoy our new home with a dinner made with love. I’m sure when the kitchen is a mess I’ll be wishing we would have made reservations but if you know me, I love any opportunity to plan a meal, put together a themed tablescape and enjoy a full glass of wine over candlelight. So, to appease my love of entertaining and to appease Mr.’s budget we’ll be spending next Tuesday together at home. I’ll be sure to post next week on how we celebrated!

To hopefully prepare you with some Valentine’s inspiration I wanted to share a two recipes I blended together into one. My holy grails of Ina Garten and Martha Stewart never set me up for failure. I blended Ina’s Chocolate Ganache Cupcake recipe with Martha’s Whipped Ganache Topping into one scrumptious chocolate confection that will make you and your loves full adoration. And full warning theses babies are rich and chocolate heavy. 

Whether you’ll be spending your Valentine’s with a group of girlfriends or with your special one close by I hope you feel full of love for all of the wonderful people in your life. I am full of love and appreciation for all of you that continue to follow me and this creative outlet of mine! 


Chocolate Cupcakes with Whipped Ganache Topping

Yields: about 18


For the cupcake:

  • ¼ pound unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1, 16 ounce can of Hershey’s chocolate syrup
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules

For the whipped ganache topping:

  • 8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarse salt


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 18-20 cups of 2 standard (12-cup) muffin pans with baking cups.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the chocolate syrup and vanilla. Add the flour and coffee granules and mix until just incorporated. Don’t overbeat or the cupcakes will be tough.
  3. Scoop the batter into the muffin cups and bake for 30 minutes, or just until set in the middle. Don’t overbake! Let cool thoroughly in the muffin pan.
  4. For the ganache, coarsely chop the chocolate with a serrated knife and place into a mixing bowl.
  5. Bring the cream just to a boil over medium-high heat. Pour over chocolate then add the salt. Let stand for 10 minutes (do not stir).
  6. Stir with a whisk until smooth and shiny to break up any pieces and emulsify the cream and chocolate.
  7. Chocolate will often settle on the bottom or sides of the bowl. Scrape the dish with a rubber spatula to incorporate all of it.
  8. Let ganache cool to room temperature, stirring often, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Beat it with a mixer on medium-high speed until paler and fluffy, about 2-4 minutes. Transfer to a pastry bag and use to top cupcakes.

Please note that I include all of my posts on my Sara from Scratch Pinterest board if you would like to save these recipes and ideas!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Whipped Ganache Topping

Buffalo Chicken Pinwheels


Buffalo Chicken Pinwheels

T-minus 7 days until Super Bowl Sunday. The Sunday where Americans buy over 49 billion cases of beer, indulge in 125 million chicken wings and use 71 million avocados to make guacamole – crazy right? Whether you’re staying at home or heading over to a friends this recipe is a different take on the traditional  buffalo chicken dip.


These took about 45 minutes to make from start to finish. Use leftover chicken, add cream cheese, tailor it to how you like it!


You can adapt these to pizza wheels using pizza sauce, mozzarella and pepperoni or BBQ chicken using red onion, BBQ sauce and Mexican-style cheese.

I’m ready to #RiseUp for the big game – who are you rooting for?!

Buffalo Chicken Pinwheels


  • 1 cooked chicken breast, shredded
  • 1/4 cup buffalo sauce (add additional sauce to make it more spicy)
  • 1 green onion, chopped finely
  • 3 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  • 3 ounces Extra Sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tube crescent rolls


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and cover a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Mix chicken, buffalo sauce, onion, cheeses and seasonings.
  3. Roll out crescent dough, pressing seams together on the sheet of parchment. Spread chicken mixture evenly across dough. Starting with the longer side, gently roll the dough from one side to the other, pinching ends together at the end. Put in the fridge for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from fridge and slice into 1-inch pieces using a serrated knife. Place pinwheels onto baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and puffy.
  5. Serve with ranch, buffalo sauce or blue cheese.



Buffalo Chicken Pinwheels

Broccoli Cheddar Soup


Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Winter is coming to an end (sort of) and I’m trying to cram in as many soup nights as I can before the weather starts warming up again. Soups are so satisfying, filling and cozy. Not to mention they can be so easy. Easy to make ahead of time, easy to freeze and easy to eat.


This recipe belongs to my mom, which I believe she has inherited over the years, and was something we grew up eating throughout the cold months. I’ve really begun to enjoy recreating the recipes that I ate as a child. I find so much comfort in reading these recipes and making them for my husband…and you all of course.


I made a giant batch this Sunday evening, froze 1/2 and will send the other 1/2 off with my husband for lunch this week. I hope you all enjoy this recipe as much as I do and soak in the last few weeks of winter temps (or count them down until warmer temps).


Broccoli Cheddar Soup


  • 2 bags frozen chopped broccoli
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cans cream of mushroom soup
  • 3 cans milk (I recommend using whole)
  • 2 tubes Velveeta cheese, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons pickled jalapenos, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced


  1. Saute minced onion in butter until translucent and cooked through. Add cans of soup, milk, garlic, jalapeno and cubes of Velveeta cheese, stirring continuously to prevent scorching on bottom of the pan.
  2. Meanwhile, steam frozen broccoli until crisp, about 6 minutes.
  3. Once cheese has completely melted add steamed broccoli. Let simmer for 30 minutes stirring periodically to prevent scorching on bottom of the pan.
  4. Serve with toasted bread or saltine crackers.


Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Our 3 Day Kitchen Makeover

Whew….the last few days have been taxing. My body aches and my mind is exhausted but I’m seeing the light! It’s amazingly satisfying to see our visions and plans come to life to transform our house to a warm and welcoming home.


While we’re still unpacking, things are slowly coming together. The one room that is complete however  is our kitchen. Fortunately, our kitchen came with a fantastic deep sink, fairly new appliances and granite counter tops. It had the best bones we could hope for, it just needed a fresh coat of paint, some new hardware and a good clean to help bring it to it’s full potential. I am so thankful Evan and I were able to see it’s potential from the beginning.


We started the night we closed…the ‘let’s get the biggest pain out of the way’ mentality  :). We thankfully managed to get it 98% completed in just 3 days, 3 long days. I joke that we were still on the high of home ownership to even notice the amounts of labor and time we were putting forth. The sanding, priming, priming again, painting, painting again and then one more time – it was more than intense! But so worth it in the end.


We painted the cabinets, spray painted the existing hinges, swapped out a door knob and purchased new cabinet hardware. I’ve sourced items below in case you are interested. Everything ended up perfectly, aside from my original cup bin pulls that were too tall, but we are so happy with the results and feel it brings a much more updated feel to the kitchen.




We also changed out the light fixtures which made a world of difference not so much in look but in brightness! They’re a warm white LED so it’s not too harsh on the eye.



I’m still on the hunt for a piece to hang over our breakfast table but for now the view out the window does just fine. Particularly when there’s 10 inches of snow on the ground.


I cannot wait to share other rooms as we complete them one by one. We’ve been sharing our progress along the way with the hashtag, #wileslovenest on Instagram.

Cabinet color: Benjamin Moore’s ‘Simply White’

Wall color: Benjamin Moore’s ‘Navajo White’

Cabinet pulls: Liberty Hardware Mandara Oil Rubbed Bronze Cabinet Pull

Cabinet knobs: Liberty Hardware Hollow Oil Rubbed Bronze Cabinet Knob

Hinge spray paint: Rust-Oleum All Surface Spray in Oil Rubbed Bronze

Rug: Safavieh Mahal Natural/Navy Area Rug

Desk lamp: Threshold Turned Wood Column Lamp Base

Desk shade: Threshold Gold Lined Ebony Lamp Shade

Light fixtures: Commercial Electric Bronze LED Flushmount with Frosted White Globe

Our 3 Day Kitchen Makeover