New House: Take 2

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Our mobile home is 26 years old and has recently begun to really show its age. It has gone from the home of an older, single lady (the former owner) to housing 2 adults, 2 children, 2 cats, and a dog (not to mention a few mice and possibly a rat). The added wear and tear is becoming increasingly obvious.

We knew when we bought this property that the mobile home would serve as temporary housing. However, as I wrote in a recent post, our dream of building a new house changed when we learned that our next-door neighbour might be willing to sell to us this year. If she goes ahead with her plans we will buy her property, move in to her house, and rent out our current house with about an acre or so around it. But the reality is, our current home is in poor condition and not suitable for a rental.

There is no value to be gained by renovating the current home. And given its age and condition, we’d still likely have to make regular repairs on the place. Even with a reno we could not command much rent for this place given it’s age and the fact that it is a 2-bedroom home. So I decided to check out what it would cost to replace this mobile with a new one, and how the financing works for such purchases. I headed to our local manufactured/modular home dealership which has been in business here for over 45 years, got some numbers and a handful of brochures, and sat down with a cup of tea to figure out our options.

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It turns out that you can roll a new mobile home purchase into a mortgage the same way you would a conventional new-build home. And since mobile homes are very inexpensive, it doesn’t add hugely to the monthly mortgage payment. As an added bonus, the rapid turnaround from delivery to occupancy means a very short bridge financing period. For those who may not be familiar with the new home process, that is the time between when you have to actually pay for your house and the time when the mortgage company allows you to roll it into your mortgage and effectively pays you back. When you are building a home conventionally that period could be up to a year or more. In the case of a manufactured/mobile home, it’s about 2 weeks. This allows one to consider even high-interest sources of credit for bridge financing.

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I also took a look at what rents are going for in our area, confirmed them with an experienced landlord source, and then compared these to the cost of various mobile homes. I discovered that we would be better off replacing our single-wide 2 bedroom home with a double-wide 3 bedroom home. The added cost to the mortgage is less than the increase in rent we could charge for the bigger home.

This solved a second issue as well: what if our neighbour doesn’t sell this year? The thought of spending another winter in our current home was dreadful to me. If we bought a bigger home, we could live in it ourselves until such time as we might buy and move next door.

And here’s where it gets even easier to decide: the difference in price between a smaller 3 bedroom home without fancy upgrades versus a larger 3 bedroom home that would suit our family for years to come if need be, is truly negligible when one considers that cost amortized over the life of our mortgage. So from a host of possibilities, none of which could be counted on (will she sell? will she sell this year? if not, how many years will we have to wait?) I have narrowed it all down to one smart decision: replace our current mobile home with a larger home that would suit our family. We can stay here for years if need be, or if we move next door we can rent it out for a good price. Either way, I will be getting a brand new home before this year is over.

This is where I pause in my story to do a little happy dance around the room…

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…okay, I’m back.

Now, it’s true that these factory-built, assembled-on-site homes are not really comparable to a custom-built home IF you are picky about what sort of materials go into your home. And I would certainly consider myself to be picky about those things. When we were planning a custom built home I wanted all natural materials, breathable natural wall systems, low VOC paints, etc. I can’t say I’m thrilled about the idea of living in a brand new home made of plasticky stuff and other potential nasties.

But the bottom line is simple: we need a new house. We cannot go on living in this mould-ridden, rodent-infested home much longer before it will start to impact our health anyway. It’s already impacting my sanity and my social life (I don’t invite people over unless I know them really well). If we want to be able to buy the place next door if and when it comes up (which we do), and given our current financial situation, we simply cannot afford to build the way I’d like to. Given the choice of remaining in this dump for who-knows-how-long or going with a brand-new almost-custom home that we can readily afford no matter what happens in the future, it’s not a difficult decision to make.

Today I dragged my better half to the dealership and we looked at some of their show homes. I was very impressed by the PVC kitchen cabinets. I expected something that looked cheap and plasticky. Instead they were sturdy, attractive, durable, and I could tell they would be very easy to clean. In fact the homes were all so much nicer (and bigger!) than what we are currently in that I couldn’t help but get all giddy at the prospect. I’ve already picked out my floor plan: a 1600 sq ft 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom home with a family room and a small den for my sewing/crafting stuff. Tomorrow the agent is coming by to check out our property and offer further suggestions and options based on what he finds. At that time we’ll also go over the option of getting a modular home instead of a mobile (the former is the same plan built on a standard foundation; the latter is the typical “trailer” home on raised blocks). I will then have a few weeks to choose all my finishing options while Husband deals with some critical work and related stuff. By this autumn we will be in a new home, whether here or next door. I’m so excited!

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Grain-Free, Gluten-Free, Basic Muffin Recipe

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Husband and I are on a low-carb diet, so we don’t eat grains at home. Son is on a gluten-free diet as it helps with his autism. Making gluten-free muffins that taste great is easy, but I wanted to partake in some muffin goodness myself. Plus a GF diet tends to be very carb-heavy when your kid will only eat sandwiches and other things that come on bread products. Making carb-laden muffins wasn’t my idea of adding good things to his diet, so I rarely made them (Daughter won’t eat any kind of muffin that doesn’t border on being a cupcake).

So, in search of a decent grain-free muffin I have perused the web and tried many different recipes. Most use either almond flour or coconut flour or some combination of both. Honestly, none of them have impressed me very much and the likeness to a real muffin was remote enough that it really wasn’t worth the effort.

I recently stumbled upon a wonderful muffin recipe that uses coconut flour, not almond flour. It was by far the best recipe I’ve tried and, frankly, is just about as good as any flour-laden muffin ever was. It has that moist, spongy texture that a muffin should have. As if that weren’t good enough, coconut flour is less expensive than almond flour and you use less of it because it absorbs a lot of liquid (1/2 cup will make about 12 – 15 muffins). Almond flour is also higher in calories than coconut flour (160 vs 120 per 1/4 cup) so less chance of overeating with these babies.

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What’s even more wonderful is that I – having no talent for divining recipes from taste, or experimenting by “throwing a few ingredients together” – found a second recipe that was basically a slight variation on the first. From these I was able to determine the basic ingredients, and now I can make pretty much any kind of muffin I want: carrot, zucchini, banana, lemon poppyseed, blueberry…you name it.

I’m so excited about this recipe, and so thrilled that I can finally treat myself to muffins without having to feel guilty, AND so happy that my son loves them…well, I just had to share. Okay, so I shouldn’t be eating these every day. But with the low amount of sugar (in the form of honey or maple syrup) they are a guilt-free indulgence once in a while. And a great way to introduce new flavours and foods into Son’s diet!

 

Basic Recipe:

The Dry Stuff

1/2 cup coconut flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

spices (e.g. for pumpkin I use 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon allspice or cloves; I use the cinnamon for carrot muffins and nutmeg for banana)

 

The Wet Stuff

6 eggs (no, that is not a typo)

1/2 cup melted coconut oil (see notes below)

1/3 cup maple syrup or honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

Optional:

1-2 tbs zest (lemon, orange)

1/2 cup of purees or shredded stuff (e.g. pureed pumpkin, mashed bananas, shredded zucchini, shredded carrot)

* if  you are using any purees or shredded stuff then decrease coconut oil to 1/4 cup

 

The Extras

1/4 cup chopped nuts or dried fruit (e.g. walnuts, pecans, raisins, apricots, cranberries)

1/2 cup blueberries (note: I haven’t tried this myself so use your judgement for the amount)

1/2 cup gluten-free chocolate chips

2 tbs poppy seeds

 

Mix the wet stuff, add the dry stuff, mix with a whisk until there are no lumps. Fold in any Extras you are using. The batter will be a bit thick, but shouldn’t be too thick or the muffins will be dry. Since I cannot convey texture well in words, you’ll just have to experiment for yourself. If they are too dry then next time use more coconut oil.

Bake for about 15 – 20 minutes at 375 F.

Oh, and they stick a bit to muffin liners. But since I’m too lazy to really clean my muffin pans, let alone grease them, and I refuse to use that spray stuff (God knows what’s in it) I use liners anyway.

 

Enjoy!

 

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Clay Miniatures

Emily has been fascinated by miniature sculptures for several years now. Her favourite medium is polymer clay and I’m always blown away by the things she is able to create. Here are some photos of a little bird she made recently. Please excuse my crummy phone camera that doesn’t do close-ups well. There are “feathers” on the wings, and the eyes are white with black pupils…How does she get those details so small?!

The diameter of the container lid is just over 2 inches (6 cm)

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Mood Regulation

One of the things autistic kids struggle with is mood regulation. Our OT (occupational therapist) has been working with the kids on this lately, getting them to think about what state their body/mind is in (hyper/excited or slow/lethargic) and then think about ways to move that state back to the calm, alert state that is good for learning and listening. Recently, Emily made this “mood gauge” as a tool to get her thinking about her current mood. Just getting her aware of how she is acting/feeling is a good first step, and from there she will learn ways in which she can make herself more alert or more relaxed.

The mood gauge is simply a piece of pipe cleaner with small piece of drinking straw that slides up and down to indicate mood. Emily has described her hyper state as “hysterical-insane”. This is when she gets really hyper, may laugh uncontrollably, or just generally be really annoying and push everyone’s buttons! She describes the ideal state (in the middle) as “perfect – in control and alert”, and the lethargic state as “zombie – bleegh”. I have already noticed her becoming more aware of her moods since she did this exercise.

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Sasha has not made his mood gauge yet, but they have been working with one that the OT already had. He is more resistant to learning about this, which is consistent with his age and emotional maturity. But the seeds are being planted in his mind, and that is what counts for now.

For him they are referring to “engine speed”. When he is lethargic his engine is running low, and when he’s fidgety and unable to focus his engine is “too high”. In the middle is “perfect” (sorry about the blurriness in this photo).

 

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Science Fridays: Identifying Minerals (IRL)

IRL = “in real life”

We received our first kit from the Young Scientists Club this past week. It was a mineral identification experiment with five real mineral samples. Emily was very excited to get started in this. It was really neat to see real life examples of such things as the acid test (we used vinegar). Plus this kit had an added test (compared to the virtual mineral identification experiments we did with Gizmos), using a magnet.

In this photo you can see her (in her pajamas still, she was that eager to get started!) with the five mineral samples laid out on a piece of paper. She is administering the “scratch test”, using a coin, an iron nail, her fingernail, and a piece of glass to test the hardness of each sample.

 

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Here she is testing each sample with a magnet to see if any have a magnetic charge.

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And here she is looking up the flow chart to identify her minerals, answering yes or no questions about each property she measured. Her only regret was that there were only five samples!

 

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