Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Budget Cuts.

One topic I consistently get e-mails, text messages, twitters, and calls about is budgeting. It turns out that many of my blog readers are trying to meet financial goals and trying to make cuts in their budget to get there. While out to dinner last week one of my neighbors as well as my friend Jessica were asking me about leading another Financial Peace University class, apparently they'd be the first two to sign up! The next night I had a scheduled phone call with my friend, Mer, in Chicago to help her start towards a budget as well.

For now, it's not looking promising that I will have the time needed to play hostess to an FPU course BUT I would like to continue to share with you all what I've learned along the way in hopes that each of you will meet your goals too! And as always, keep the e-mails coming. I love talking through your budgets with you, I really do.

I'm pleased to share that 2012 has been my best year financially yet. I know it's early in the year but my hardwork at learning the system in 2010 as well as my gazelle intensity to get debt free in 2011 have paved the way for 2012 to be fabulous (on a budget still, of course). However, there's no resting in your current situation...getting ahead and staying ahead takes work. So here's some resources and hints you might find helpful...

Total rookie? Need to make a budget? Start here and make yourself a 'quickie budget'. Note: this is a free resource, take advantage of it!

More of a techie? Try this one. This helps you use to get your catagories right. I have several friends who use this and love it! There's an app on your phone that will automatically update when you use your debit card. It does alot of the leg work of budgeting for you. Once you make your catagories, it tells you when you're out of money. This is a thing to know, clearly.

If you feel like you have money oozing out of your house it might be time to look at how you can cut your at home expenses. If so, take a look at this:

Cut your costs by room: via pinterest.

One of the big ones for me that I was pleased made the chart? Making your own coffee! I buy amazing gourmet coffee at Marshalls (yes, Marshalls) for 7.99 which lasts me more than a month v. Starbucks at 3 bucks a day. This is a big money saver. I should, however, confess that I hit up Sonic Happy Hour pretty much daily to the tune of 1.23 per day. I rarely eat out, but this is my splurge. Diet cokes. And you can't judge me because they're in the budget!

If you've been on this blog for a while then you've read a lot of my budgeting advice but what I may not have touched on before and want to make sure you know now is this: pay yourself first. Wait, maybe I should start by saying that if you're a believer - tithe first, pay yourself second! But anywho, put what you've determined into savings BEFORE you start paying bills, spending, etc. And let me go ahead and say for those of you who are anything like me, don't take it out (some of you just started sweating). Pay yourself before you pay your bills because let's be honest, there are never leftovers!

Also, never ever forget to weigh out needs v. wants! This is key. But to assure you that I put my money where my mouth is I will tell you that I've decided to cut my cable as of March. It costs me $108 bucks a month and I watch less than 2 hours of TV per week (on average). So, it's going goodbye in honor of being a good steward of the money I have. I am KILLING my savings this year, blowing my goals per month out of the water and it feels great.

So loves, make those budgets, cut those expenses, pack those lunches, and manage those wants because I want to see you all reach new levels this year!



Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Getting a System: Revisited.

I awkwardly borrow this photo from here.

This is a follow up to this post.

What I learned from your comments on my 'getting a system' post, is that many of you are desperate for the same, an organized system that keeps you on top of everything. For those of us who are working at LEAST one full time job (or in my case 1.5) - it's tough to make sure we keep our house company appropriate and our sanity intact! I'm gone 6 nights a week for work, bible study, etc and if I don't keep organized things don't get done.

I wanted to revisit this because there's an aspect to getting a system that I'm still very much a rookie at...this is the friendship portion of having a system. I made 2012 the year of no excuses so I'm no longer allowing myself to use my crazy life as an excuse not to be the kind of friend I desire to be and this includes faraway friends!

I'm not a great phone talker. I usually dodge my phone, especially on the rare nights I actually get to be at home and awake for more than an hour. But I desire to contribute to my long distance friendships and not to be a slacker about 'catching up'. I'm great about sending cards, I do well at face-to-face, and I'm a loyal texter and facebook stalker...but phone calls really are important!

Last night I finally caught up with my sweet friend Jon (if you're on twitter follow him - @JonBausman) he's smart, funny, solid in his faith, and he gives great advice. Jon entered my life in what can only be called God's timing as both of our family went through really similar, tough situations. It is my dream that someday our families will finally meet and we'll be able to tell them how hard we've been praying for them these past 2 years.

I not-so-jokingly shared with Jon last night that he is one of the only people I don't dread calling! I LOVE when we catch up on the phone. I always leave our conversations feeling uplifted, encouraged, inspired, and spurred on towards my goals. That being said, why don't I call him every week? Seriously.

I also had an amazing catch up chat with my original college roommate last night. Alyssa is awesome and again, I love when we catch up but I am an epic failure of a long distance friend at times. Our lives have headed in very different directions both geographically and really, all around. She's up in New Jersey now, married with an adorable son. Obviously I am in Tampa, alternating between refusing to go on second dates and only dating long distance (because it takes less time) and still holding on to the idea that I will never have a child. But as always, halfway through our chat I thought, 'I love this, so why don't I call more often'?

So maybe the answer is that I need a system. Maybe I need some sort of weekly carved out time for phone calls. And maybe I don't actually hate talking on the phone after all, it just depends on who it is?

My first thought is that this may start taking place when I lay out by the pool on Sundays - might as well combine it with something I love, right?

How do you make sure that you stay in close contact with your faraway friends? What do you do to ensure that you're a great friend and not at epic failure like I sometimes am?

I finished off a great night of phone chats and bible study with a fro yo date with my sweet friend Kayla who I am so proud of! We got to celebrate an extension of what was originally a temp teaching job. Couldn't be happier for her and glad I finally got to see her pretty face and hear all about her life.

I raise my coffee (because it's 7am) to all the good friends out there. Make time for what and who is important to you. Don't make excuses because friendships are too important for that. And a special thank you to my patient friends who like me even when I'm a horrible friend!


Monday, February 27, 2012

Weekend Recap: Purchases, Productivity, and Style.

Well Happy Monday to all -

Hope your weekends were fun, productive, and restful. I also hope you all start this work week feeling as prepared as any of us every feel for our weeks! ; ]

This weekend was anything BUT restful for me considering Saturday night I slept for less than 3 hours BUT what it lacked in rest it made up for in productivity (this is the part where you pretend me be shocked).

I worked A LOT this weekend but inbetween I managed to get a few other things done. I finally broke down and bought the towels from Nordstrom Rack I have been stalking weekly for MONTHS. These will be for the guest bathroom and they are huge and plush as all guest towels should be, in my opinion.

If I haven't shared before this is the bedding for the guest bedroom which will be black, white, and kelly green....

As of the end of a weekend spent working I'm over halfway in my savings for having my whole place painted in the spring (April or May) AND I've made some headway on saving up to furnish the guest bedroom hopefully before my summer company influx. I'll keep you posted on that but I'm feeling good about the progress.

I did find time to put together and try out my new vacuum which I also saved up and bought in cash (delayed gratification is so HARD) - Dave would be proud.

I will enter the honest box long enough to say I'm impressed with this beast of a vacuum BUT vacuuming the stairs is still a pain in the rear. Such is life with 2 carpeted staircases I suppose.

Since I worked the majority of this weekend and drank caffiene like it was my JOB I pretty much looked like this all weekend (yes, I'm drinking out of someone else's Annie mug):

I did take a break from working to attend a NASCAR party on Sunday. I had nothing to wear (my mom suggested cut off jean shorts and showing my middrift would be most appropriate) so below you can find my NASCAR party wear and my feelings about A. having nothing to wear and B. the race getting rained out and ruining my neighbors party....

Who doesn't love a good mirror pic? I sported a flowy tank top, skinny jeans, and sandals. Though I was completely unfestive - I did get several compliments on my top.

The food was amazing, which spoiled my dinner @ the Lodge with Joy and her new hubby! I ended up having to opt out of dinner (which was probably a good thing considering I sat too close and therefore ate a whole place of nachos at the NASCAR party...oops).

I'm feeling good about starting off week two of the daily cleaning crew with the girls prepared! My mom stocked me up with all the household essentials via Sam's Club last week (thanks Mom!) and I not have a year (literally) supply of TP, paper towels, laundry soap, dishwasher tablets, etc. Whew. Let's do this, work week.



Sunday, February 26, 2012

Red Velvet Cookies and Creme Cupcakes.

After a tough week there are few things that fix my mood like baking. I also hate to let items just sit and sit in the pantry, so frequently I will work with what I already have. I had previously made a version of this recipe from Bakerella - at the recommendation of a coworker who gave me a recipe for a chocolate cake mix I liked better than the one used by Bakerella.

I decided on Thursday night to make a red velvet version for a few reasons: A. I like easy AND delicious to come as a package deal and B. I had a red velvet cake mix that had been sitting.

The experiment was well received by my belly and that of my coworkers (Happy Friday!) and I kept a cute box aside for my Saturday clients who I adore, and will be delivering those as well. So here's a quick how to:


- Red velvet cake mix
- Eggs
- Oil
- Water
- Double stuffed oreos
- Shortening
- Powdered sugar
- Vanilla extract
- Milk
- Cupcake liners
- Icing kit (I use disposable bags, a 1M tip, and coupler is what I used)

Go ahead and mix your red velvet cake mix as instructed.

Place cupcake liners in your trays, place 1 double stuffed Oreo in the bottom of each one. I use an ice cream scoop to put one scoop on top of each oreo. Then I baked them for 19 minutes on 350 degrees. (don't overfill - one scoop will be enough).

I food processed about 4 oreos for the icing and then followed these instructions from Bakerella (credit where it's due!):

1 cup shortening
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3-6 Tablespoons milk
2 or more teaspoons Oreo cookie crumbs

For the frosting:
Beat the shortening in a mixer until smooth.
Add vanilla and mix until combined.
Add the powdered sugar in three additions, scraping down the sides after each addition.
Add a Tablespoon of milk at a time and mix together until you achieve the consistency you like. Add the cookie crumbs and mix until completely combined. You can add more if you like, but I just wanted a light speckling to show off the white frosting.
Place frosting in a decorator bag with a 1M tip and swirl on top of each cupcake.

If you want to go oreo crazy, you can insert one in the icing on top of each of your cupcakes (I did this when I made the chocolate version, I did not when I made my red velvet version).

My argument for the red velvet way: it's cheaper, it uses less ingredients, red velvet is super moist, AND it made 24+ cupcakes where Bakerella's recipe made 12. I like to go big.

Here's a peak at how I did the first batch which were complete with an oreo on top, for those of you who might like that better:

Happy baking!



Saturday, February 25, 2012

I'm 'Getting Around to It'.

If you've ever seen the movie 'He's Just Not That Into You' you know exactly where today's title comes from. And if not, well, I found ya a picture. Ben's character in the movie is hanging a picture when Anniston comes home and asks what he's doing. He says, 'I'm getting around to it'.

We all have a running list of things to do when we 'get around to it' don't we? Here's a few I've gotten done recently (and I think many of you will relate):

- Under the kitchen sink. Sometimes you have to face it, clean it, organize it, and hope it doesn't suck you into the black abiss.

- Clean out your car. My neighbor mocks my dirty, disorganized car. I think because in comparison to my house he finds it shocking. Anyway, it no longer looks like I live in it. I took everything out, vacuumed, armor all'd, spot shot my floor mats, etc. It even has an air freshener. I'm trying hard to take my junk out of the car with me every day now.

- Clean out the garage. Another never ending black hole (like my purses). I finally purged, organized, and even swept my garage this month.

- Filing. Gr. There's nothing I hate more than filing warranties, service notices, receipts, etc. But I finally filed all of 2010 and 2011 (yes, they were in a giant pile for 2 years).

- The great wardrobe purgery. This is when you actually go through and you face the cold hard truth that something things will never fit again, some things never looked good on you, and somethings that you've never worn you still won't wear if they sit there for another year. Goodbye.

- Spot cleaning. I finally shot all the spots on my carpet. Which weren't many but you know how you think 'I should spray these spots that pop up on the carpet' and you respond to yourself 'when I get around to it?'. Well, I did. Finally.

- Oil change. This is the ever looming task I hate. Even though with a Jiffy lube literally on my street, this shouldn't overwelm me...I hate it. BUT with a free night, finally, I decided it had to be done. You're welcome, car.

The yet to get around to list:

- Going to the dentist (blah)

- Reading every book on my shelves (working on it)

- Organizing my cleaning closet (pinterest style)

- Phone calls (I always have a running mental list of people I need to call - sorry if you're on it)

- Menu planning (I've been lax for a few weeks now, time to get back on it)

- Updating my recipe books (doesn't this always kind of hang over your head?)

- Pantry organization

What have you been meaning to get around too?



Friday, February 24, 2012

Getting a System.

If you follow me on pinterest you may have noticed I have an OCD/Organization board. I love love love to try out new ways to keep my life in order so I make sure I live each day to the fullest. I promised myself that 2012 would be the year of no excuses - that I would stick to my budget, I would travel, I would keep my house clean, I would drop more weight, I would workout, be healthy, and sleep enough.

I was pretty half hearted about my pinteresting at first but when I realized how many great organization and cleaning ideas can be gained there, I basically fell in love! I'm literally constantly adding to my 'to organize' list (next up: my cleaning supplies closet and under my kitchen sink).

I pinned the weekly cleaning calender pictured below because I realized that for my house to stay clean, I really need to be doing a little bit every day. Right now with averaging 55 hours a week of work plus bible study, workouts, friends, reading, blogging, cooking, etc I just don't have a huge chunk of time to devote to scouring the whole house AND I don't want it to look like a bomb went off the rest of the week. I also HATE rushing around trying to get it clean enough for company at the last minute. And so I present to you the new plan:

Found here.

Now, we all know I hate to do anything alone. I have Mia to keep me accountable to my morning workouts (at least 2-3 days a week I workout in the AM). I have Jess and Kayla to report my weight loss to every week. I have my small group to keep me accountable to reading my bible, praying, and finishing my homework before our Monday night meetings. You get the idea, there's safety in numbers! And so, I was thrilled with 3 of my sweet twitter friends: Mia, Joey, and Emmy agreed to try this new everyday cleaning with me ( I linked to their blogs so you can follow them, they're awesome).

So how's it going? Well, first off, I should say I think this chore list was made for a family of 5 - laundry 3 days a week seems excessive to me - at least for one! I also don't vacuum three days a week - since I don't have pets, children, or a messy husband to clean up after. BUT otherwise, I've been really pleased with this list! Tuesday morning I felt great at work all day because I'd windexed my bathroom counters and mirrors after my morning workout and before I left for the office!

I love staying on top of the dishes AND keeping the counters clean! It makes the kitchen so much less overwelming. Though I should admit here I pretty much put everything in the dishwasher.

I've nixed mowing since I don't have a yard but I do love that it makes me sort my mail on Fridays. Gr, I hate when mail piles up and feels overwelming (oh wait, that's always). I added a few things of my own: like trash on Mondays and Fridays, cleaning out my car on Sundays (so I don't drive around looking like I live in it), and changing the sheets (I admit, I'm surprised that didn't make the list...).

It's been fun keeping up on twitter with how the other girls are doing with their daily chore list. I think it's safe to say we all agree, we feel great about having a clean house! It's also fun to brag, celebrate, or whine to each other along the way.

How do you keep your house clean? Do you do a little cleaning every day or have one day a week you do it all?


Thursday, February 23, 2012

It's Ok Thursday.

Its Ok Thursdays

First off let me apologize that I didn't participate last week...I actually got some complaints! Turns out my readers love it's ok Thursdays just as much as I do! Well rest easy loves, it's back. And this week may just be a doosie....

This week I would like to go on record as saying it's ok... eat chocolate before 10am. have coffee AND a diet coke before noon. want to redecorate your bedroom once a week. be thrilled about your new 500 thread count sheets (like sleeping on a cloud). need someone to do everything hard with you (work out at the same time, read the same books, agree to clean everyday...) feel proud everytime I log in to Goodreads and it says 'Wow, you're 6 books ahead of your reading goal'. buy really nice beach towels, at Marshalls, because they're so much bigger and softer (hello Michael Kors, Lacoste, etc...) be giddy with excitement about all the guests you're hosting this summer. I love company! be obessed with your local blogger friends. NOT post on facebook, twitter, or your blog about your dating life, even though you overshare about everything else (lesson: learned). let go of friendships. Sometimes you have to burn a bridge and move on. hate the phone but love FaceTime. feel jealous when your family gets together without you. do countdowns to the day of when your upcoming trips are (Raleigh - 44, Haiti - 59, DC - 85). be hype about getting a fresh coat of paint done in your whole house (silly homeowner excitement) in May. be constantly planning and saving for home projects lately. barely watch any TV. love having guy neighbors because they will always eat with you when you cook too much.

Hey, it's ok.



Monday, February 20, 2012


Much of my thoughts and efforts of late have gone into who I want to be in the various roles of my life. Yours 20s are crazy. Your life changes drastically every year of your 20s, or so I believe. And your roles within your family, your friendships, your church, etc are always changing. Each year I value more the roles that I am in and doing them with as much excellence as I can muster.

Friend. I want to be a reliable, thoughtful friend. I love being the one my friends come to for advice, support, a good cry, prayer, or a laugh (usually about budgets, dieting, or bad dates). I desire to be the kind of friend who is always adapting to keep up with my friends growing, changing friendship needs. As my friends move, get married, make babies, change jobs, and go through the best and worst of times I want to be there with sound advice, endless encouragement, and thoughtful gestures.

I was recently touched by a sweet guy friend who texted me, 'that is what I love about you'. I was caught off guard as I responded, 'what?!'. He came back by telling me that when he comes to me for advice I never judge. I purpose to give open, honest advice but I am trying desperately to learn the value in telling the truth in love.

Aunt. I am in my first year of being an Aunt. My newest and potentially most important role. As an aunt I want to be loving, gracious, fun, encouraging, thoughtful, wise, and in the future - always waiting with some raw cookie dough to hear what's new in her life. My sweet niece, Noa, brings so much light to my life. I want to be there for her big moments and I want to always keep her at the top of the priority list. I want to faithfully pray for her, love her, and visit her.

Sister. I am a sister to the most precious gifts the Lord has even given me - my sweet Rae & Ruthie. As the lucky middle child I have both an older and a younger sister whom I couldn't love anymore than I do. I want to be consistent in my calls, texts, pictures, and letters. I want to be diligent to pray for them and to know what is going on in their lives. I always want them to know my love for them is endless.

Daughter. The older I get the trickier this role becomes. It's fun that my parents actually call me for advice some now (usually about electronics). I love being a part of their lives as both a daughter and a friend. I love praying for them, encouraging them, and cheering them on as their lives go through changes as well.

Writer. My role as a writer is always growing. I started writing letters diligently last year and I've grown to have over 20 pen pals. I try to faithful write encouraging, inspiring, and whitty little numbers. Obviously, my writing is held here but in the past year I have taken on the role of writing for my church's women's ministry blog with great excitement. What a joy to use my love of the written word to share with the women of my church!

Hostess. As I work hard to develop my entertaining skills with new recipes, crazy cleaning tips, and purposing to always be welcoming - I have fallen farther and farther in love with playing hostess. I hope to be someone who doesn't have to plan ahead, who's willing to put an extra place at the dinner table to tote an extra towel to the pool. I look forward to hosting many a friend this summer who needs 'a little sunshine and summertime'.

Sinner. As I study Roman's with my bible study I am reminded of my role as sinner. That I am saved by grace. That I am redeemed. That my life was bought at a costly price. I am humbled and encouraged by this. There is freedom in knowing that I cannot save myself, and I don't have too.

Neighbor. Perhaps one of my most exciting new adult roles has been being a neighbor. Few things bring me greater joy that my weekly interactions with the sweet people I do life with on a regular basis. Each of us our in such different phases in our lives, but I cherish the wisdom of those who are farther along in life than I. I love baking them goodies, or having them over for dinner. I'm touched by how they are constantly working to make my life easier. I am blessed with great neighbors.

This entry doesn't scratch the surface of the roles I'm playing...but it gives you an idea of what's on my heart lately. I want to be a person who recognized their opportunities and takes advantage of chances to show love.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

I Just Have to Confess...

I thought it would be a brilliant idea to sell a few Coach bags I bought in my days of working retail and being the ultimate consumer (you know, working for the discount, spending more than I made). Since graduating college and moving into the work world, my taste and needs from a bag have changed, so it seems like an obvious time to unload a few in favor of making room for the ones I'm actually carrying.

After deciding to save up to have the batch pad painted (hopefully in April or early May) I decided to try eBay. I figure e-bay is the Craiglist of the brand name ...enthusiasts. Mind you, I'm not nearly as internet savvy as most people give my credit for and I've never, ever bought anything from eBay (mostly because I am a chicken). So I used my sheer brilliance to google 'how to sell something on ebay' and went from there.

What I didn't count on in this process was being OBSESSED with watching my item be auctioned for 5 whole days! My bag will finally have a new owner at 2:07 (exactly) today and I can finally return to my usual insanity, void of waking up in the middle of the night to see how many bids (3), watchers (11), and views (87) I have. Whew! It will be nice to have my life back.

No one who knows me EVER encourages me to put all my energy into anything because A. if they could find a way to tap my energy they could light entire countries after my 6am workout and 645am coffee and B. because everyone who knows me is terrified of me when I'm on a mission. So it shouldn't come as a shock to any of you that I've literally become obsessed with selling these 2 bags.

Crap. While we're confessing...I've also considered selling every single bag for the sheer joy of this ridiculous waiting game of the auction. Clearly, I need meds. Happy Saturday from your neighbor ebay creeper and congrats to whatever sweet young thang takes home my Coach bag-of-the-day.


Yard Sale Morning Vlog.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Yard Sales, Lunch Dates, and Chic Lit - Oh my!

I would like to wish my Momma a very Happy Birthday today to begin this entry. She is one incredible woman and for your sake, I hope you each get to meet her someday. What a fabulous Mom she is. I hope she feels special and loved on this big day.

By the time you read this it will be the weekend! Congrats on successfully completing another work week, with excellence, I hope!

I'm staying busy this weekend, per my usual. Friday - lunch with my sweet friend Toni at Seasons 52. Love her, and love their delicious food. Greatly looking forward to starting my weekend off right.

After work I will be headed with leftover pizza in hand to finish up the yard sale prep with my sweet friend Jess who graciously signed on to host this yard sale for me. We will be using the proceeds to pay off the remainder of my Haiti trip (which is in April). We are planning on eating pizza and salads, prepping, and then watching a Lifetime movie. The one where Rob Lowe plays Drew Peterson. Anyone seen this? I've actually watched it once and he's super creepy and convincing. Yikes.

Bright and early tomorrow morning I will be back at Jess's to sell, sell, sell! I'm so grateful to everyone who has donated their trash/treasure to benefit my trip as well as all the ladies and gents who have offered to help my hauling it up to Jess's and/or helping with the day of festivities! In Tampa and hoping to come by? Text me for the address!

After a book about the downfall of Haiti, one about the holocaust, and a prison memoir I decided it was time for a little chic lit - so I'm currently devouring (and I mean that, as I've almost finished it 2 days later) this little number:

This book is darling and each chapter has a cupcake recipe...yum! If you haven't read it and you're looking for an easy poolside read (ok, showing my Floridian nature here) - pick this up.

Here's to wishing each of you a great weekend - and if you're social networkers you can watch for funny yardsale pics tonight and tomorrow.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Time Management & a New Strategy.

I've griped before about my annoyance with people who always make excuses for themselves. Of these excuses I am most irritated by the excuse of 'not enough time'. Now I recognize the need for boundaries where our time is concerned and for staying on track with our priorities. But making the time excuse ignores the fact that we CHOSE our priorities in life.

If I had a nickle for every person who said they wished they had 'time' to read as much as I do, I'd build myself a library off the back of my townhome. No really, I would. And it might look like this:

Assuming that you haven't found someway to have more or less than 24 hours in your day, you have exactly as many opportunities to read books as I do. In college I gave up cable for 2 years in an attempt to refocus my time. Watching hours of TV per week is a habit I've never picked back up. Now, in the spirit of full disclosure here I should share that my TV hour per week goes up noticeably during football season - since I usually watch at least 2-3 games per week (the colts, SNF, and MNF).

Working out is another area people love to make excuses for, right? 'I'm just not a morning person' is a good one. Several days a week I workout at 6am, because after work I have to go to do more work til about 10 pm. I confess that working out at 6am and then working a 12 hour day is BRUTAL and not for the faint of heart. But it is doable. So the moral of this post is really, don't make excuses about your time - sit down, determine your priorities, and go at them hard.

I love having a clean house. I love that if a friend calls me last minute and wants to lay by my pool or stop by to watch a movie, my house is always company appropriate. But I'm trying a new idea I got, also from pinterest, for doing a little cleaning every day. This is my first week trying it. On Saturday I vacuumed my room and bathroom and mopped the bathroom floor. Sunday I changed the sheets and did the laundry. Monday I cleaned the bathroom. Tuesday I dusted. Wednesday I paid bills. Tonight is cleaning the inside of the microwave and cleaning out the fridge.

I'll have to report back a little farther in, but so far I'm loving it! There was a list on pinterest (check my OCD board if you're interested) on how to do this. I made my own way, per my usual. But I love the concept and so far, the results!

How do you manage your time to get in all the important things?


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentines Day.

Happy Valentines Day loves! I hope whether you think this is a lame hallmark holiday or not - you feel loved today and everyday.

I was feeling extra festive this year so I bought myself this shirt on Groupon (yes, groupon):

The words say 'get in here'.

I also made cupcakes for my neighbors, who I adore:

I was incredibly proud of them since the cupcakes were dark chocolate made from scratch with and Oreo baked into them AND the icing was homemade as well. They were of course topped with half an oreo. Yum! They were a huge hit and my neighbors were so grateful for my special Valentines Day delivery!

This week is going to fly by in prep for this weekends yard sale but I wanted to pause today to tell you all how grateful I am for your friendships and that I hope you celebrate all the people in your life you love today.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Media, Football, Fame, and Faith.

After a perfect weekend away it was hard to return to the ‘real world’. I hit the ground running at 7am on Tuesday, after a midnight flight home on Monday and haven’t slowed down since. Thankfully, I don’t feel physically tired and I came back having slept more over my vacation then probably in the 2 weeks before it combined. What I have been feeling the weight of this week is emotional exhaustion.

There’s been a lot over the past 2 months I haven’t been able to share with you here, or for most of you, at all. The nature of the industry my family is part of, is that I frequently have to hold in the details. I feel blessed to have a few close friends I can trust even with the secrets, as well as a few who are in the same spot. But it’s hard for someone, like me, who wears their heart on their sleeve to pretend like nothing is going on.

I was chatting with my Mom the other day about the media. I shared a few months ago a great article that was written about my Dad towards the end of this football season. It was truly a testament to his love of the Lord, his family, and mentoring his players. After exchanging e-mails with the writer from work, I felt extremely grateful for the media who use their power for good. For truth.

After the end of the season there is always a bustle of hiring’s and firings and overall chaos in sports teams around the country. I want to pause here and say that I would never wish unemployment, moving, and public firing on anyone and my heart broke for so many people we know who experienced that this year. But what I find so horrific at times like these, is the overall disregard for the feelings of people involved in the public domain. I shared with my Mom that my experiences over the past few years have made me sad for A-list celebrities children. If it’s this tough for those of us who have to hear it ‘in season’ on the much smaller scale of the sports arena – then what must it be like for, say, President Obama’s children?

I was talking with a great coaching couple I’ve gotten to know over the past few months and they were asking me what their son (who’s a toddler now) will experience. What is it really like to be the kid of a coach? Something about that question has stuck with me in the weeks since. My memory isn’t good enough to give you my verbatim response but it went something like this…

I would never wish on any child to experience the insensitivity of sports fans. What I realize as I get older is that no criticism you will experience of yourself from peers, parents, or coworkers can scratch the surface of the hurt you feel when it’s the people you love most. The desire to defend the people you love is powerful. You feel a fierce sense of loyalty to your family and no matter how many times you stuff down that desire to defend, it never goes away. Over the years I have found that people most frequently say ‘but it’s not true anyway, so you can’t let it get to you’. Ah, yes. Truth. Too bad there aren’t any rules about the media printing the truth, huh? Or fans…there’s no cap on the false things they can say. When people say hurtful things to you, true or not doesn’t really factor in though, does it?

Worse perhaps than the media and these strangers with cameras and clipboards are the people you ‘know’. I could write a tell all book of the things people I actually know have said to me. Turns out that if your Dad has a semi-public job people think they have a right to pry into your business. That all is fair in family and football. I’ve heard it all from ‘I hope they fire your Dad’ to ‘how much does he make’ to ‘tell your Dad to call this play…hire this guy…cut so-in-so’. You’d think after so many years of this, you’d get used to it but now, twenty six years later, I’m sure that you never do.

I guess what I find most amazing is how people survive without faith. When I think about the tough side of the game, of life really, I always remember that the Lord called us into this. That his purposes are bigger than wins, loses, criticism, or glory. His plan is bigger than fame or fortune. I take a step back and realize that our rewards are in heaven and that the Lord is the ultimate defender of his people. And while this doesn’t take the sting out of the words, there is a level of peace in that. I feel grateful that each of my family members has a healthy relationship with the Lord and try though I might I can’t imagine doing life without that relationship.

When I was a kid my Mom had me memorize Psalm 91, and I’ve never forgotten it. Here are a few great verses for any of you who might have felt similarly recently:

14 “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”



Thursday, February 9, 2012

It's Ok Thursday.

Its Ok Thursdays

Highlight of my week! Love these. It's ok... cry when your vacation is over. love your job AND love the weekends. bribe yourself with diet coke to do your taxes and chores. hate doing laundry. HATE! be in the second month of the year and still obsessing about your goals for 2012 every day. love being ahead on your reading goals (dear Goodreads, love seeing 'you're three books ahead'). be excited at every offer/opportunity you get via e-mail related to your blog, even if you turn most of them down. read 4 books at once. already have picked out another set of flights to be with your bff, 3 days after returning from your last one. scrimp and save into your travel fund because it makes you giddy everytime you look at that line in your excel sheet. drink diet coke with breakfast.

...and coffee. put things on your to do list you've already done, just so you can check them off. have a piggy bank at work you put your change in and dream of what you'll spend it on when it's full. hate talking on the phone. hate e-mails. love face-to-face chats with your bffs. wish real life involved daily nap times. love twitter. LOVE!


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Scottsburg, IN.

Well my first vacation of 2012 is complete. It was perfect. In fact, I cried the whole way through the airport to board my plane because I wanted to stay longer. The month of January held many challenges and by the time I boarded my February 3rd flight for Kentucky I was sure the Lord had known I'd need a few days away when I bought that sale fare in October for this trip.

For 3 days I didn't set an alarm, workout, do chores, go to work, or feel any stress! It was amazing...and this morning several of my coworkers commented that I 'looked good and rested' upon my return.

I wanted to share a few pictures from the trip...

I arrived Friday night about 6:45, grabbed my bags and Candy I headed straight to meet the crew for dinner. It was so fun to be with Candy & Josh as well as Chris & Ellen (Ellen is in the middle of the picture above), Chad & Tyler (Candy's brother-in-laws). We ate dinner at 'The Roadhouse' where I believe I mentioned before Candy worked throughout high school and on breaks from college. Afterwards we went to 'the Hill' where the people watching is ah-mazing. Roadhouse and the Hill have quickly become two of my favorite spots and I feel like no trip to the burg would be complete without them.

Candy and I had breakfast Saturday morning at The Coffee House in their town square. This is where Candy's rehearsal dinner was held before her wedding almost a year and a half ago. I love everything about the square (think Gilmore Girls). The food is delish, the people are friendly, and having a late breakfast on a Saturday morning was divine.

Saturday night we talked some very special people into driving down to join us for dinner...

My parents! For those of you new to the blog - meet my fabulous parents Deb & Clyde. They drove down from Carmel, IN (a little over an hour drive) to take Candy, Josh, and I to dinner at 'Jeeves' in the square (of course).

Dinner was amazing. I hadn't seen my parents since Christmas and it was so nice to get a little hangout time in with them. I am so blessed to have them and to be close to both of them. It also melts my heart that they've taken such a love to my best friends and my best friends to them. I love that Candy & Josh are part of the fam. With a crazy couple of weeks in the Christensen household it was a timely encouragement to just be together (and stuff our faces).

After dinner Saturday night Chad and his friends obliged me by organizing a poker game because I was dying to play. I hung tough for a while but in the end, didn't win (we all know how much I hate to lose). But I had a blast! For those of you from cities like Tampa, I have to say the people of Scottsburg, Indiana are the friendliest! I always feel right at home and part of the family while I'm there and I LOVE it. My only wish is that they'd all come down to Tampa and let me return the favor!

A few other high lights worth sharing....

Tyler & I kept our four wheeling tradition, started on my first trip to the burg. Thankfully this time without ice!

My 'just dance' skills are vastly improved but still leaving a few things to be desired.

It get harder and harder to say goodbye as my friendships in the burg grow! I could have stayed much much longer but I feel grateful for the time I had. It meant so much to me that everyone went out of their way to spend time with me, and that they always welcome me into their lives with open arms! I'm not officially in the market for a 4th of July weekend flight to be back in the burg with my favorites.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Super Bowl Sunday - Flashbacks.

In honor of Super Bowl Sunday I thought it would be fun to relive the two Super Bowls I've been lucky enough to attend.

On our first Super Bowl trip the Colts beat the Chicago Bears. This picture is so old school to me now! I look wicked young (and chubby) and sweet little Ruthie!...she's now 21 and a junior in college!...
That first super bowl it literally rained the entire game. The ENTIRE game. By the end we were drenched, exhausted, and victorious! It was slightly bittersweet to beat some of our friends who were on the opposing side. But it was a certainly fun to bring home our first ring!

Our second Super Bowl we lost to the New Orleans Saints (boo) but it sure was fun to be back in Miami for the big game, again.

This is my older sister, Rachel, and I during that game...

It didn't rain, thank goodness - but I would have taken the rain and a victory over the nice weather and a loss any day. By this Super Bowl I was living in Florida so I drove down instead of flying with the families. We had a great couple of days as a family in Miami and despite the loss, managed to make it a great vacay.

Happy Super Bowl Sunday! I hope you're enjoying some 'football food' (yum) and friends. I will be rooting for Eli and the Giants today (not like any of you believed I'd root for the Pats).


Friday, February 3, 2012

Weekend Plans.

Happy Friday to All!

After a wicked early start to work a Cambridge Christian All Pro Dad's Day chapter meeting this morning (the highlight of my work month on many occasions), I will head out early this afternoon to depart on my first 'for fun' trip of 2012. I have lots of upcoming travel as previously mentioned on the blog and highlighted in the right column. But this is the kick off trip. Booked in November during a Southwest Sale - I've been anxiously counting down the days until now...departure day!

I will depart at 4:30 on a non stop flight only to be picked up on the flip side by my best friend, Candy! I am literally thrilled. Were headed tonight to 'the roadhouse' for a late dinner at the restaurant Candy worked in growing up in the 'burg.

I'm really looking forward to some downtime, with a few of my favorite what has quickly become one of my favorite places on earth. Let's just hope I can semi stick with my diet and exercise plan while away for a few days. There will be blog posts still, so you won't have to miss me too much, and I promise to have some fun photos and stories when I return as well.

In my carry on for this trip I will be taking two new books to read:

This is the 7th book in the Women's Murder Club series which many of you who have been following the blog for a while and/or are my friends on GoodReads already know about my obsession with all things JP and this series. So I picked this up from the library this week after being on hold between books 6 and 7, and will begin this while away (and possibly finish it too).

Actually both of the books I'll be traveling with this trip are by JP but #2 is a love story, not a murder mystery. Some of you may be unfamiliar with Patterson as a love story author but he's actually had several famous, non-violent novels. This one was gifted to me by a client who knows about my love of JP and reading in general.
Here's what amazon has posted about this one:

From Publishers Weekly

Unlike Patterson's Alex Cross thrillers, this sentimental tale does not translate well to audio. The plot twists seem all the more absurd when read aloud, and the audiobook's maudlin music, inserted during the story's poignant moments, is as distracting and disturbing as a TV laugh track. Jennifer, a newspaper columnist who's grieving the death of her husband, has more reason to mourn when her beloved grandmother, Sam, falls into a coma. Jennifer rushes to Sam's home in Lake Geneva,Wis., where she finds a packet of letters addressed to her. The letters detail her grandmother's life story, including an affair she had with a mysterious man. Jennifer takes comfort in the letters, and at the same time, embarks on her own romance with Brendan, an old friend. Heche's thin, mousy voice is perfect for the perpetually worried Jennifer, but she rarely varies her intonation, not even for Brendan's dialogue. Alexander does a better job as Sam, conveying the elderly woman's concern for Jennifer, but her performance isn't sufficient to elevate this flawed audiobook.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Alright well, it's about time I wrap this up and allow you all to continue with your Fridays (I'm probably working or traveling when you're reading this) but I hope you all have a great weekend.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

It's Ok Thursday - Travel Edition.

First off, let me start by saying a one day late - welcome to February! I finished January having read 7 books (towards my goal of 50) and down 9.4 lbs (towards my 20lbs before Haiti goal). I'm feeling good about welcoming February with room in my jeans and a mind swimming with new words to be played on WWF.

I'm headed on my first vacay of 2012 TOMORROW but first let's celebrate Thursday with a little it's ok...

Its Ok Thursdays

I'm making this week about travel because as of tomorrow - I'm outta here til Monday (you know I won't be totally disconnected, right?)

So this Thursday it's ok... make all your 'beauty' appointments for the week before a trip (Tuesday - haircut Thursday - eyebrows Saturday while away - pedi) over pack. Every. single. trip. (this is especially sad coming from a girl who travels almost 20 weekends a year!) always plan your next trip before your current trip is over, so that you always have something to look forward too. (I've already confessed that between dieting and budgeting I've boarder line lost the will to live!) feel self conscious carrying cash, even if they say you should. over tip the baggage guys to make sure they won't weigh your bag (don't judge me!) use the 'party seating' style of Southwest as an opportunity to sit next to the best looking guy on the plane AND...

...sleep on his shoulder (thank goodness my Dad doesn't read this!) buy yourself a few new clothing items for trips, even if you don't NEED them (as long as they're in the budget). baby powder your hair when you travel to keep from looking greasy upon arrival.

This next one may shock some of you but it's ok... use the bathroom when the seat belt sign is on. They actually let you if you have to go REALLY bad. carry your ipad AND your kindle. feel like your in vacation mode from Monday til Friday on the week you leave. hate basically all link ups except it's ok Thursday, where you find all your favorite people by their quirks.

Thanks Neely and Amber - I sure do love doing this.




Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Tampa Bloggers Meet Up.

If you write and/or read blogs or have a twitter account you've probably had one of those moments where you think, 'man, I wish these were my friends in real life'. Nichole and I had that moment and then realized, hey wait, we could be. We started an e-mail thread with other Tampa bloggers to see if they'd be interested in meeting up with us as well and low and behold we weren't the only ones who wanted to be friends.

We met up last Friday night at one of my personal favorites, Fly Bar. It had that feeling of a giant blind date at first but I have to say these girls are awesome! I literally left thinking 'I would hang out with them every weekend'. What I love about bloggers is that they share my love for reading, writing, photos, and fun. I'm looking forward to many more hangouts with these amazing girls in the future. In fact, I'm hosting the next Tampa Bloggers meet up!

If you're a Tampa blogger and you want in on the future action shoot me an e-mail and I'll help you get connected. So excited for new friendships!