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Little Happies: A Visit, Haircut, and Puppy

July 15, 2014


Sorry about going MIA on the interwebs! We launched our Adoption page, left town, came back and moved…which halted everything web related. We are just now getting back on the grid.

Quite a bit has been going on in the past two weeks and we have a lot of updating to do here on True Good and Beautiful! In the next couple of weeks we promise to get updates on the house, adoption, and fundraising front! For now, here are a few Little Happies that snuck in along the way.


photo 1


In the move, I rediscovered this little gem.

My morning coffee and bowl of cereal just got a whole lot more enjoyable with Belle’s presence!



On the left is Cristiano Ranaldo. On the right is his stunt double look-alike.

Actually it’s just Jonathan…who recently joined a men’s soccer league and wanted to look like a World Cup soccer player. I gave him this cut a hour prior to the game. Complete with hot pink cleats, I would say he’s ready for the season.


photo 1

I am in love.

This pic was sent to us by the family who’s raising the pups currently. I am not sure if that is our little guy or not but I don’t care. We pick up our pupper THIS upcoming Saturday!! 🙂



It wouldn’t be a complete move without Mom and Dad Nissen coming for a visit.

My dad is a handyman, so he helped Jonathan get various projects done around the house  that I would have been no help with. My mom is a shopper, so she helped me run around town buying things we still needed for the house and various projects.

A lot of our visit was spent knee deep in project work but we did manage to get away for some fun. On the left – celebrating Mom’s birthday at Hibachi Grill. On the right – selfie while hiking Aderlfer Three Sisters Park.



Apparently our attic is full of exposed nails.

Friday night Jonathan and I were attempting to put some items into the attic for storage. Up the ladder went Jonathan. Next thing I know, he’s turned around and blood is literally gushing down his head all over his face (photo would have been too gross for the blog…and actually I didn’t snap a photo because you don’t do things like that when someone is bleeding, so good job to me).

Thankfully, I kept my cool and took him into the bathroom to rinse his head to assess the wound. Turns out it really wasn’t a very big gash at all…but boy did it bleed!!! The photo above is after it was rinsed and we held pressure for at least 2 minutes to stop the bleeding.

Items still needed to go to the attic, so next time around, Jonathan was prepared! 🙂


photo 2

Cow Appreciation Day at Chik Fil A!

If you fully dressed up as a cow, they gave out FREE meals! Not just a sandwich but an entire meal! WHOA!! Thankfully they have a nice gluten free menu so both Jonathan and I were very happy. And that lemonade…mmm.

That’s a Little Happy wrap!


Little Happies: BY JONATHAN

June 2, 2014

Time for this week’s Little Happies, and I thought I’d take a turn recalling some the things that made me smile this week.


Memorial Day. We office was closed and we spent the day with another missionary couple.

We spend the day by:
Playing Bocce (lost and then found 2 balls in the last round!)
Grilling burgers and dogs
Playing Dominion.

A good day.



What’s better than a 3-Day Weekend? (thanks Memorial Day!)

A 5-Day Weekend.

Not sure what this smells like, but it smells good.

Not sure what this smells like, but I’m guessing top notes of fresh laundered pillows and maple-topped pancakes, followed by a base of playing cards, with slight under notes of sweaty runs. Mmmmm!

Working at the FOCUS office has some cool advantages. Among those are a chapel, daily Mass, fun coworkers, and days off. We get a certain number of days we can use when we’re sick, vacationing, or just need a day to chill. The policy governing these days states we must use 10 days per year. The FOCUS fiscal year runs June-May (aligned with the academic year), so the year ended this week. Turns out I had only used 7 days so far this year. If I didn’t use 3 more, I’d lose ’em. So, after being at work one day (Tuesday) I took the rest of the week off.

And I’m glad I did, because we have a MOUNTAIN of paperwork to do as part of our adoption process. Thanks to the time off, we have most of it done. I also had a great time hanging out with Amanda a ton. A lot of our adventures lately have been related to Happy #4.



Running again.


I love running. I was a sprinter in High School, but got lured onto the cross country team with the offer of delicious brownies after practice every Friday. To this day, Coach Berkowitz’ wife’s brownies are the best I’ve ever tasted. By a long shot. Anyway, that turned me into a runner. The weather started getting nice around my birthday at the beginning of May, but then I got sick for 2 weeks, then it snowed, but now it’s sunny and I feel great, so I laced up my shoes (a great pair courtesy of our mission partners at Greg Baum’s Flying Feet) and hit the road. I downloaded a new running app, Zombies, Run! which is an audio story that unfolds between songs. I am “Runner 5” and I go get supplies for our base. Of course, throughout the missions, I encounter “Zombs” and have to increase my pace 20% for a minute or so to outrun them. It’s really fun, AND it can run at the same time as Nike+ (which I’ve been using for years to track my runs) and Stitcher, which I use to stream podcasts.




The complex in which we currently live HAS A POOL. We finally took the plunge and visited the pool. You might think we were hesitant, but regarding this decision, we jumped in with both feet. Aaaaaaaand that’s all the pool puns I have.

Anyway, it’s been really hot this week in Denver, and it was quite refreshing to take a dip in the pool. Our friend Lindsay came over so Amanda, Lindsay and I hit the pool. We hung out at poolside, swam around a bit, and then when the girls went back to lay poolside, I grabbed my kindle in it’s waterproof case (A.K.A. a ziplock bag) and read IN THE POOL. I started reading Zero to Maker, a book that chronicles a man’s journey from passive consumer of technology to active maker and co-creator of openROV, an open-source underwater robot project. After that, I paged through an Arduino project book, Make: Simple Arduino Projects to get some ideas for my next project.

Pool Books:



As you may have seen in some of our other posts, we bought a townhouse and will be moving in about a month. As of late, we’ve been doing our best to sniff out deals for furnishing the new house. Hunting for these deals has been a lot of fun and the bulk of our fun adventures lately. I’ll hold off on most of the details because we’ve got a full post coming up explaining “How We Furnished Our New Home for Only 1/X the Cost!” It’s felt like a game trying to get that fraction as small as possible. Each little success there has certainly been a happy, but I won’t share them all and ruin the upcoming post.

But, since you asked nicely, here’s one (very) small preview:

We wanted a sectional for the basement. We found one on Craigslist that would perfectly fit our smaller space down there, so we jumped at it. Here’s what it looked like on Craigslist:


And here’s what it looked like when we finally got it in the small SUV we borrowed from friends to haul it home:


It fit! Kind of…

We made it safely home and the couch is chilling in our garage (along with a number of other sweet deals waiting until they move into their (and our) new home.


Thanks for checking out my week! How was yours? Leave it in the comments below.

Money, The Home Buying Process

House Hunting: Dave Ramsey Style: Part 3 – Buy Your House

May 26, 2014

This is Part 3 of a 3-part series. Be sure to learn How to Prepare, and How to Find Your House.

Welcome to the third and final post in the House Hunting: Dave Ramsey Style series!

In this last post, we will discuss the ins and outs of the home buying process from the offer all the way to taking possession of a property.

boredNo, this is not the most glamorous part of home-buying. It’s not as simple as just giving someone money and getting keys to a house in return. If only. I will not attempt to bore you. Actually I will attempt to do quite the opposite and keep this topic fun and informative!

Let’s dive back in where we left on in the last post…we chose the town house strategy.

What happened from that point forward?

lazyDid we laze about, dragging our feet, and cross our fingers together that we would get the town house?

In a dream world maybe. And definitely NOT in the Denver market.

Thankfully our real estate agent (who’ve I’ve been raving about all along) is up to Dave Ramsey standards of being “high-octane and high-protein… meaning she rocks! This is what our last week has looked like in a nutshell:

race car

An intense collaboration of several people under tight timelines.

This past Sunday afternoon (one week ago…wowzers!) we saw the town house and really really liked it. We felt like we were at home. The next step was to tell our realtor we wanted to put an offer in and everything got accelerating from there. Now, I really wish I could tell you everything Barbee, our agent, pulled together in the following 36 hours…but I can’t give away all her tactics! She’s that good and I can’t compromise her edge by revealing all on this blog.

Before she would allow us to offer a bid on the house, we were advised to go back to the neighborhood we wanted to buy in and spend time walking and talking with people. Jonathan and I hopped in the car, went back to the town house development, and walked around for nearly 3+ hours. We met lovely people and asked them LOTS of questions – we wanted to research the good, bad, and ugly before we committed to wanting to live there.

Fortunately the people were great. Lots of families in the area. The HOA is very healthy and we actually met the VP of the Board. I asked if I could apply to get on the board and she said there was a spot that just opened. PERFECT! When buying into a townhome, you need to get on the board!!!!! Who else but YOU will make sure they are spending the money correctly, honestly, and in a healthy way? We won’t let our largest asset be at the mercy of others ideas and opinions. We are planning to get. in. there. and be part of the choices.

We also want to get involved, meet people, and serve the community in a meaningful way. Bonus!

After walking around, we wanted to move forward with the bid…although we were getting nervous. We watched at least ten others tour the town house while we walked around! I know it’s over reacting, but this is how big the crowds were in my mind.

crowdWhen we called our agent that evening, she already knew there were already three offers on the table (all over asking price) with anticipation of four more by the end of day…and they were going to take offers for two more days. GULP!!!

Translation of that information in the Denver market = Any bid we offer had to be competetive ie. over asking price. But, we don’t just have money to give away like Aladdin…

throw money

Our agent gave us some suggestions and advised somewhere in between $5,000-$9,000 over asking price. I got online and research all other town homes in the area for sale and the past month’s worth of sales and from that information we came up with our number within her recommedations. We felt good offering it but knew it may not be enough…

This is where Barbee’s expertise came in. She’s never lost a house unless it was a over money. That gave us tremendous confidence since we’ve heard friends tell stories about losing houses. We weren’t worried about that with her…but we also knew our offer might be less than others. This is the part where I can’t reveal exactly what Barbee pulled together but I can tell you the outcome:

They chose us and we beat out TWO cash offers for more money!!!!!! 


That is incredibly hard to do but Barbee did it. I am confident that without her we would not have gotten this town house. We were actually sitting at Ikea when we got the news. Amazingly, we walked out only having bought a french press. Who goes under contact on a home at Ikea and doesn’t leave with new furniture? I think we were too in shock.

Here’s where the post gets technical. I provided links to general summaries of a few things I mention, in case you have not heard of them before.

This past Tuesday night, minutes after hearing we were chosen, we got to see our contract online with not only our signatures but the seller’s!!! 🙂 We watched Redfin update our property to “pending.” EEEP!

This past Wednesday morning we dropped off the earnest money at the Title Company. Down the line we can purchase title insurance. Dave Ramsey says DO IT!!! We plan to.

This past Thursday morning we did the home inspection. A few minor things came back. For example, a bathroom door didn’t shut all the way (not because of structure issues -watch out for those!!). No biggy. We also checked radon levels and they came back in the “safe” zone. Whew!!! We measured all the rooms and began to dream about decorations. Pintrest will be my new best friend!

Yesterday we reviewed the inspection report with our agent and submitted requests for the seller to fix various small things throughout the house. We hear back on if and what the seller will repair this upcoming Wednesday.

Tomorrow we meet with our mortgage broker to lock our rate and sign a few other documents. She then orders the appraisal for the property.

Then we wait.


The seller has to purchase another home in the meantime and we wait to hear about when closing will be scheduled based off that. This is where we are slightly vulnerable…what if they don’t find a house? Then we lose this town house and are out some money. Very unlikely but a possibility.

And more waiting….

The Lord knows I need it.

When the seller finds a house, we will then set up our closing date where we’ll become the owners!! Now the seller may need a day or two in the property (while we own it) to move out before she can get into her new home. We’ve drawn up a contract for how that time will look – utilities, who’s insuring the property, etc. Should be a smooth transition with little risk transferred to us.

From that point, it’s just signing papers at closing, packing, and moving into our first home! 🙂

For those wanting the bullet point version, here you go:

  1. Research the area. Meet people. Weigh Pros and Cons. Study recent sales and know what the dollar buys in the area.
  2. Buying a town house or condo? GET ON THE BOARD!!!
  3. Draw up an offer and have your agent submit to the seller’s agent. (You want a high-octane, high-protein agent on YOUR side) Get an Endorsed Local Provider.
  4. Go with a mortgage broker over a bank (in most cases) as they can close quicker, communicate more personally, and advocate for you.
  5. Put down your earnest money if you go under contract. (Varies but ours was $1,500)
  6. Schedule an inspection. ($300-$500) Make sure they look for mechanical, electrical, and structural issues thoroughly.
  7. Check radon levels and don’t forget to do a sewer evaluation (unless sewer is owned by the HOA…which it is in our case).
  8. Submit requests for repairs by the seller. Accept or end contract based on response from seller.
  9. Get title insurance. ($300-$500)
  10. If buying more than basic sub-division, get a land survey.
  11. Lock-in your interest rate (if taking a mortgage). Find out exact closing costs. Calculate if it’s worth to “buy down” your interest rate. To buy down, you pay more at closing but your interest rate is lower over the life of the loan. For us, the cost difference between our rate and buying it down would take us 6 years to recoup. Not worth it since we don’t plan to stay in the town house that long. We’re better off paying more at principal monthly. If we were staying longer? I would buy it down.
  12. Come prepared to sign documents and provide money due for down payment (hopefully you have at least 10%) and closing costs (can range from $1,000-$5,000).


I hope that was fun and educating, as that was the goal!

When we finally move, yall will get some photos! 🙂



Money, The Home Buying Process

House Hunting: Dave Ramsey Style: Part 2 – Find Your House

May 23, 2014

This is Part 2 of a 3-part series. Be sure to read Part 1 – Prepare.

Welcome back!

Jonathan and I are documenting our home-buying journey here on the blog for all the Dave Ramsey followers out there wanting to see someone follow his guidelines. Yes, it can be done! 🙂  In case you didn’t read part one of this series, you can catch up here.

Last time we discussed all our preparatory steps as we geared up to purchase a home. In this post, we will explore the actual house hunt, which in some ways can be the most exciting part! This is how many people look when they get to start actually looking at houses.



But it can quickly turn to this.


Our realtor told us that we shouldn’t go looking for any home until we have our pre-qualification done and ready to go. Who knows when you will find “the” house, right? She wanted us ready to offer if we loved it, especially since we were looking in the foothills – an area where properties are gone within hours.

You read about the snafu of getting Jonathan’s credit cleaned up in post one. Once that was done, we wanted two quotes on mortgage interest rates. We first asked a local broker recommended by our realtor. We were blown away by her customer service, dedication, swiftness, and that heart of a teacher quality that is so rare. She wanted to help us meet our goals by getting a 15-year fixed rate mortgage with as much down as we could save up.

The second quote was from our credit union.  First they told us that we could “afford” a house $200K over what we were considering. Then he said, “Since you have no debt, most of your income is available for a mortgage payment.” To which I replied, “Yea, if we wanna be house poor, never adopt, send our kids to college, or retire!”

no way

Sigh. Yes, we are weird. No we are not putting 40% take home pay towards a house payment. Geesh!

He couldn’t understand my concerns and thought we were rather odd for wanting a 15-year fixed rate loan and for the payment to be less than 25% of our take home pay, as this puts conservative limits on our “buying power”. Now I understand WHY the housing market crash of 2008 happened! People (and banks) were taking way too much risk and way too high of mortgage payments compared to their income. I would MUCH rather live in a modest home well below our means than live in a house that sucked my income dry every single month.

Not. Gonna. Do. It.

We dropped the bank lender like a bad habit and decided to move forward with the local mortgage broker recommended by our realtor. Between those two, we are in as good of hands as we can get.

Last Friday was our first time looking at homes. We hopped in our agent’s car and she had waters and treats waiting for us – so sweet and thoughtful! Another way I could tell she goes above and beyond in her work. That afternoon we looked at seven houses and in each one, our agent was continuing to provide an education:

“Look, this is how water damage can occur.”

“Ranches will be the most expensive homes we see because they take up more land.”

“I can feel this house is slightly tilting because of the bentonite in the soil…common near the mountains.”

I loved how she wasn’t going to hold her opinion back. She wanted us in the right house and that’s all there was too it. Anything that needed to be said, she said. She truly is a “real-estate mom!”

That day we learned a few things. First – photos always look better online. Second – you can’t smell the house in photos! Smoke, cats, mildew. Gross. Third – location, location, location. I saw a “deal” online only to pull up in front of the house to find it across the street from a ginormous construction thing/highway. Four – if the price is too good to be true (in this market at least) it’s too good to be true.


We didn’t find anything we loved that day and quickly found ourselves going from excited and pumped up down to discouraged and exhausted. Does “our” home even exist?!?!

On Sunday afternoon we got picked up again…this time with Starbucks and she even went way above and beyond by getting delicious gluten-free chocolate dipped almond horns at a specialty bakery in town. YUMMY!!! We saw a couple different properties on Sunday and fell in love with BOTH! The first property was a town house that was beautifully remodeled inside and the second was a mostly updated brick ranch with an immaculate yard and cozy sunroom.

Now we were just confused.


You couldn’t have found more opposite properties for us to fall in love with. Sure both were beautiful and had charm. The town house would be a 3-5-year strategy since it’s 3 bed/2 bath, 1,300 square feet, and no garage. The ranch would be where we’d raise a family at 5 bed/2bath with a 2 car garage and nearly 2,700 square feet.

We could see ourselves in both homes…BUT we had to sit down and look at the facts…and filter them through the Dave Ramsey lens.

The town house was a no brainer. We can afford it (since it’s basically the same cost as we pay in rent monthly…so no budget impact) and keep saving for things like adoption, retirement, and future home purchases. We could do a 15-year fixed rate mortgage with more than 10% down and the payments would not be greater than 25% takehome pay. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.

The house (with it’s plantation shutters…sigh) was actually out of our price range on a 15-year fixed rate mortgage. Ruh Roh!


I wanted to see…JUST ONE potential dream home. Even upon pulling up, our realtor looked at me and said, “Are you sure you want to go in there?” She knew it was a temptation in the making even by seeing the exterior alone. I allowed my heart to be tempted though…bigtime. The dream house would require us to do a 30-year mortgage and even at that, the payments would be 35% of our takehome pay.

Jonathan and I got dropped off and needed to talk strategy. Were we going to follow Dave’s advice and take off a modest bite as we incrementally work towards the dream home someday? Or would we jump into the dream home and sacrifice other lifestyle/savings in order to have that now…while violating Dave’s principles and knowing it.


The decision about our strategy wasn’t actually that hard. In five minutes I realized that talking about the town house, we were just excited and happy. A team. In talking about the dream house, we fought. Argued. Lost our peace. I turned to Jonathan and said, “If this is what life looks like in the dream home, I don’t want it!” I refuse to have money fights. We don’t have money fights ever and I don’t want to start. The entire Dave Ramsey program is designed for FINANCIAL PEACE. I will not trade that in for anything.

Drum roll please……

We chose the town home!

thumbs up

This past Sunday afternoon we began the buying process by putting in an offer…knowing there were at least seven others on the table. We will get into all of that in part three.

Stay tuned.

For those wanting some nice bullet points to wrap this post up:

  1. Compare mortgage interest rates with at least two lenders 
  2. Do your homework on how quickly each lender could close (Our bank would take 30 days where the local broker could pull it off in 7 days.)
  3. Don’t look at homes outside your price range. (Of course the more expensive one will be better, that is why it’s more expensive!)
  4. Stay objective while touring a property.
  5. Don’t overlook things like deep smells, location, sunlight, or any other quality that you can’t really change. It’s not all about the resale value but keep it in mind.
  6. Have an open mind and be willing to look past changeable qualities that aren’t to your taste – you can change them!



Saving for a Down Payment

April 26, 2014

Jonathan and I sat down in August to have a conversation about where we were going financially. In the process, we reviewed the Total Money Makeover and we were technically in Baby Step 3B – time to save for a down payment. I was feeling like I needed more encouragement, as the Denver housing market is pretty intense.

So I called Dave Ramsey himself. In his own words:

“The Denver market is white-hot and you should scrape together a down payment as soon as possible.”

He also said that he could tell we were focused and intentional about our finances – how did he know?!?! 🙂 I guess he has a sense about these things. It was the highest compliment we could get from Dave himself.

Into Baby Step 3B went we!

It’s not technically one of the “7 Baby Steps” but it’s between Baby Step 3 and 4. For those wanting a refresher on Dave’s Baby Steps:


We didn’t quite go back to beans-and-rice-gazelle-like intensity but we’ve been close. We have definitely lived like no one else so later we can live like no one else. As you can guess, we won’t be doing this home buying process like the average American.

Check out Dave’s home-buying standards:

  • Be completely debt-free and have a Fully Funded Emergency Fund of 3-6 months of expenses (otherwise Dave says Murphy will move into your spare bedroom and bring his cousins Broke, Desperate, and Stupid)
  • 100% down is preferred (OK being realistic, we are NOT doing this)
  • 10-20% down payment minimum (20% preferred to avoid PMI aka wasted mula)
  • Total payment <25% of your take home pay (most Americans qualify for a MUCH higher monthly payment…making them susceptible to being house poor)
  • 15-year fixed rate mortgage (Dave has studied how the 30-year mortgage hurts people long term. He also says if you think you will pay a 30-year mortgage like a 15-year mortgage, you are kidding yourself)

Pretty different approach to the typical American home-buying behaviors. Sure, Dave’s advice is fairly conservative but I know this – it will never lead to our harm. Will we follow ALL Dave’s recommendations? I really hope so but sometimes I get impatient and want to compromise…as there is so much to factor in. For now, things feel a little touch and go. Currently the Denver real-estate market is the 7th most overpriced in the nation. Ouch. There is talk of a “bubble” happening again. Maybe. Maybe not.

What do we do? Get in quick or wait? Buy a house (the most overpriced type of real-estate) or a town home (priced more appropriately)? Do we buy something we will have to move out of in 4-6 years as our family (PLEASE GOD) grows? Or do we buy the bigger house we could stay in for 10+ years that would require us to take a 30-year mortgage (at this point in time)? Or do we go for the cheaper fixer upper on a 15-year fixed mortgage but have to put $30K in updates/repairs during it’s first couple years? Or do we wait one more year, hope interest rates don’t climb and the market doesn’t keep inflating? What are the longterm affects of delaying retirement savings another entire year? So very many options. Enough to make ones head spin.

We will be using this mortgage vs buy calculator for many varying scenarios to calculate the smartest move possible. But there will always be risk we just can’t get rid of. Dave’s standards help minimize that risk, thankfully.

We are currently going through the “pre-qualification” process and from there, we will either begin looking at homes in there area or decide to wait and save longer. We are committed to that 10% down minimum but are going to shoot for as close to 20% as we’re able. Join us as we continue this home-buying journey! I will keep yall updated as we make various decisions.

Anyone out there have any advice? Regrets? Encouragement? I look forward to hearing from yall!