Bits & Pieces

My 10 Tips Before Looking to Buy a Home

My 10 Tips Before Looking to Buy a Home | Vanilla & Velvet Greg and I have decided to invest in a home. We recently totaled up the money the two of us have spent on rent over the last few years and realized it was an investment we should make. I don't think we are quite ready for all the work that comes along with a house so for now we are in the market for a condo or town home. This is a completely new experience for us and we have already run into several set regulations and processes.  In case you are thinking about doing the same I wanted to share a few of tips we have picked up so far.
  1. Credit Score: This is the reason why you spend years keeping your credit score pristine.  It's never to soon to start working on improving your credit score.  I am fortunate enough to have an amazing father that made sure I was building good credit score by age 18 - thank you dad, you are amazing.
  2. Start Early: Get your ducks in a row early - Don't wait until your lease is up in 2 months.  You will feel rushed and stressed.  And it's not something you want to rush.  Our lease is not up till June so we have given ourselves 8 months.
  3. Lender First: Before you even begin looking at houses - meet with a lender or two.  Don't risk finding a place you love without your financials in order.  Write down a list of questions before you meet - and make sure it is someone you can trust.
  4. Wants List: Sit down and make a list of the "must haves" and "would be nice to haves" for your new place.  If you are purchasing with another person make sure they do the same and talk through your list in detail.  Communication is key.
  5. Identify Areas: Scope out areas and neighborhoods - see what kind of place you can afford in each neighborhood.  Does that make one more appealing than another?  What type of development is happening in the neighborhood in the next few years?
  6. Meet Relators: Similar to a lender, you want to trust this person.  Look online for ratings and review and ask for referrals from family and friends.  Find a relator that specializes in the area you are looking at and who is experienced.  And make sure you like them - you will be spending a lot of time with them.
  7. Scope Out: View a few homes and reevaluate your list of wants.  Has anything changed?  After Greg and I looked at a handful of places we realized that a few of the items on our list changed.  Has your price changed?
  8. Communication: Communicate with your relator - if you change your mind about anything make sure to tell your relator.  If you keep your opinions hidden they will not be able to narrow in on your dream home.
  9. Control Emotions: Don't get overly excited (I am guilty of this one).  If you are searching in a competitive market it is easy to let your emotions grab hold of you.  Don't let this happen or you are just setting yourself up for disappointment and a lot of unneeded stress.
  10. Have fun: Have a positive outlook and enjoy the process.  It's a big purchase!
Let me know in the comments section if you have any other useful tips!
Bits & Pieces

Yoga Teacher Training 11/14

Yoga Teacher Training 11/14 | Vanilla & Velvet Worn: Wunder Under Pant *Full-On Luon, Lululemon.  Cool Racorback, Lululemon. The Matt, Lululemon. Pose: Handstand or Adho Mukha Vrikshasana (sanscrit).  adho= face. mukha = downward. vrksa = tree I was a bit ambitious thinking I could recap yoga teacher training each week while I am in training all weekend and studying/practice takes up 100% of my free time during the week.  The last weekend is here and I have missed several weeks... Hearing all of your stories about how my posts have encouraged you to take up yoga or increase your yoga practice makes me extremely happy (keep sharing!) and has made me realize I need to continue expanding out the yoga section of the blog. Which I am crazy excited about! Because as I continue learning about yoga I want to inspire and educate all of you on the benefits and how developing a practice can change your life. Shall we call it Vanilla, Velvet & Vinyasa? Something to think about... So although my teacher training class ends this Sunday, I plan to build out the blog to cover more yoga topics.  Please let me know if there are any topics you want to see, or if you have any questions about yoga.  Share in the comments section.


Want: Alpaca Long Classic Cape Coat, by Cuyana - I love how simple and timeless this cape is. Love: I have created a new habit of practicing YogaGlo at least 3 times a week.  Provides me with inspiration and extra motivation when my home practice is feeling blah or I just don't feel like doing much thinking. + they have the best teachers! Do: …

Hearty Pumpkin Seed Granola Bars

While at yoga teacher training 2 weekends ago we stopped by Highland Bakery, a local Atlanta bakery with the best baked goods, for an energy boost.  I ordered a coffee and nutrition bar; this granola bar was one of the best I have ever had.   After examining the ingredients I decided there were 3 ingredients that were making this granola bar stand above others: the texture from some sort of Rice Krispy cereal, pumpkin seeds, and the fact that peanut butter was holding it all together.  I immediately decided this is something I had to recreate. I was wiped out of these these wholesome granola bars in less than a week!  Not only did they taste delicious while being packed with healthy ingredients, but grabbing an individually packaged bar out of the freezer couldn't be easier when you are on the run. Don't get caught up in all the ingredients and feel free to use your favorite nuts or dried fruit- I added in flax seed and chia seeds just because I had them on hand, but no sweat if you don't. Hearty Pumpkin Seed Granola Bars | Vanilla & Velvet
Peanut Butter Energy Bar
Author: Gina Mueller
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 cup natural creamy peanut butter (my favorite is trader joes)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup crisp brown rice cereal
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup flax seeds
  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped dates
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. wrap a 9 by 13-inch baking dish with parchment paper
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine honey, peanut butter, maple syrup, coconut oil, brown sugar, cinnamon. Stir and cook until mixture is melted, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.
  4. In a large bowl, combine oats, rice cereal, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, peanuts, dates and salt (add dates last so salt doesn't stick to just a few).
  5. Pour peanut butter mixture over oatmeal mixture and stir gently with a spatula until well combined.
  6. Transfer to baking dish, cover with parchment paper and press firmly into dish.
  7. Allow to cool completely (i put mine in the freezer to cool) .
  8. Cut into squares or bars, warp individually and store in freezer
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Yoga Teacher Training Week 4

A video posted by Gina Mueller (@gina_mueller) on

To advance in yoga you have to let go of your ego and agenda - if you stay dedicated advancement will just happen.  Yoga doesn't care how advanced you are, it cares about what kind of person you are. -- wisdom from Damian Domingo, Yoga Teacher and Thai Yoga Massage at Hotlanta Yoga, this weekend Injuries are probably the most intimidating part of being a yoga instructor.  This week we learned a lot about injuries: where common injuries happen and how to avoid injuries in class.  In the past few weeks we have broken down each asana (posture) and learned which part of the body is most easily injured from misalignment, how to see it, how to speak a student back to safety, and how to adjust it.  Knowing what to look for in my students has made me a lot more confident as a teacher and I know this is an area I will try to learn as much as possible around once teacher training is over "In yoga you can the only way you can hurt yourself is by ego & form -- Your ego is an injury machine" another beautiful quote from Damian. We also learned about twists, backbends and counter poses.  So what is a counter pose?  It is a pose that returns your spine to a neutral position and your body to center by stretching your spine in the opposite direction from a previous pose - it should never be as deep as the original pose.

Ginger Tofu and Vegetable Farro Stir Fry

Ginger Tofu and Vegetable Farro Stir Fry | Vanilla & Velvet I hope you all had a nice and relaxing weekend.   Fall is finally here and although it’s been pretty warm during the day, it’s starting to cool off a bit once the sun goes down - giving me an excuse to wear all my favorite chunky knit sweaters, boots and scarves.  Greg has been traveling a lot lately, which I hate, fortunately  I haven't had much time to notice except for in the evenings because i'm busy every day with either work, school or yoga teacher training.   The plus to Greg traveling is that I get to cook whatever I want - and tofu happens to fall into a food group that he sticks his nose up at.  I found inspiration for this recipe over at Pinch of Yum. Happy fall!
Ginger Tofu and Vegetable Stir Fry
Author: Gina Mueller
  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice or farro
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 14 ounces extra firm tofu
  • 2 cups chopped asparagus
  • 2 cups thinly chopped carrots
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 green onions, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons honey (more to taste)
  • ½ cup low sodium soy sauce
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  1. Puree all the sauce ingredients together in a food processor until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Cook the rice or farro according to package directions.
  3. Press tofu for a couple hours to remove excess moisture.
  4. Cut the tofu slices into small cubes.
  5. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.
  6. Add the tofu and about ¼ cup of the stir fry sauce-- Pan-fry the tofu until golden brown. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towel lined plates.
  7. Return the pan to the heat and stir fry the vegetables with a bit of oil. Mix in the remaining sauce
  8. Add farro and mix together
  9. Top with tofu and a sprinkle of green onions
Ginger Tofu and Vegetable Farro Stir Fry | Vanilla & Velvet My technique for pressing tofu - just fill a pot with water and sandwich the tofu between two plates. Ginger Tofu and Vegetable Farro Stir Fry | Vanilla & VelvetGinger Tofu and Vegetable Farro Stir Fry | Vanilla & VelvetGinger Tofu and Vegetable Farro Stir Fry | Vanilla & VelvetGinger Tofu and Vegetable Farro Stir Fry | Vanilla & VelvetGinger Tofu and Vegetable Farro Stir Fry | Vanilla & VelvetDon't mind the strange looking techture.  Thats what happens when you whip coconut oil.  You won't be able to tell it ever looked strange once you heat it up Ginger Tofu and Vegetable Farro Stir Fry | Vanilla & VelvetGinger Tofu and Vegetable Farro Stir Fry | Vanilla & VelvetGinger Tofu and Vegetable Farro Stir Fry | Vanilla & VelvetGinger Tofu and Vegetable Farro Stir Fry | Vanilla & VelvetGinger Tofu and Vegetable Farro Stir Fry | Vanilla & VelvetGinger Tofu and Vegetable Farro Stir Fry | Vanilla & Velvet  

Yoga Teacher Training Week 3 – 8 Limbs of Yoga

In this weeks teacher training we dug deep into the meaning of yoga and how to live a life of yoga on and off the matt.  When we hear the word "Yoga" it is often only associated with the physical practice of postures (asanas), when this is only 1 of the 8 limbs of yoga. These 8 limbs, or stages set a specific path to enlightenment and are made up of ethical codes, physical practices, breathing exercises, and mental practices.  Here is a short description for each of the 8 limbs of classical yoga: 8 limbs of yoga | Vanilla & Velvet
  1. Yama: is made of 5 restraints that control our external relationships-- Ahimsa (non-harming), Satya (non-lying), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (self control), and Aparigraha (non-clinging)
  2. Niyama: is made up of 5 observances that control our relationship with ourselves: Shauca (cleanliness), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (zeal for yoga), Svadyaya (self-study), and Isvara pranidhana (surrender)
  3. Asana: postures
  4. Pranayama: breath
  5. Pratyahara: withdrawal of the senses
  6. Dharana: intense focus
  7. Dhyana: state of meditation
  8. Samadhi: state of oneness

I don't think it is a bad thing to begin practicing yoga just for the physical aspects --I personally started my yoga practice for the physical benefits. With the right teacher you will eventually learn the benefits of controlling your breath, and you will see how it compliments the postures. And by just showing up to your matt you will begin to practice the Yamas and Niyamas, without even knowing what they are.  Slowly the others will fall into place when and if the timing is right. My teacher pointed out a insanely beautiful Iyengar quote in one of this weeks readings - too good not to share:  “Happy is the man who knows how to distinguish the real from the unreal, the eternal from the transient and the good from the pleasant by his discrimination and wisdom. Twice blessed is he who knows true love and can love all God’s creatures. He who works selflessly for the welfare of others with love in his heart is thrice blessed. But the man who combines within his mortal frame knowledge, love and selfless service is holy and becomes a place of pilgrimage, like the confluence of the rivers Ganga, Saraswati and Jamuna. Those who meet him become calm and purified.” — B.K.S. Iyengar, from the Introduction to Light on Yoga. If you are looking for more information on the 8 limbs of yoga I recommend checking out one of these articles Get to Know the 8 Limbs of Yoga, patanjali and his eightfold path of yoga or reading the book The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.