Friday, August 31, 2012

7 Quick Takes

--- 1 ---
I've been cooking up a storm lately and LOVING it. I cook most nights, but I go through periods where I just do it because we have a need to eat, and then other times where I thoroughly love the process. I think the fact that the weather is cooling down is really helping me enjoy it! There is nothing like baking with a cool breeze coming in the kitchen window (especially since I haven't had a kitchen window in years!). Last weekend alone I made shrimp alfredo, macaroni and cheese, blueberry waffles, and apple muffins. I was on a roll and it didn't let up through the week. I am guessing as winter approaches I will spend more and more time in the kitchen!

--- 2 ---
The apple muffins were my very own recipe and I posted it here. Steven is a huge fan so I see lots of apple muffins in our future this fall!
--- 3 ---
I've been thinking about making some changes to my blog for a while now. Part of what has taken me slow long is that I have a huge fear of messing it up beyond repair. I'm not tech savvy or blogger savvy in the least, so it has taken a LOT of googling to figure some things out. The only obvious change for right now is that I added "About me" and "PCOS Information" tabs at the top. I have ideas for a few more, but I also don't want the tabs to be too busy. There is a bigger change coming, but I'm not quite ready to unveil it yet!

--- 4 ---
Did you read my review of table grace die that I posted this week? We've had some Cathsorority discussions about the awkwardness of praying together with your family/spouse when you haven't done it much, and this dice really takes the stress out of it!

--- 5 ---
How's about a few crunchy takes? We have drastically lessened our use of paper towels and it has saved us SO much money. We still keep a roll around just in case, but we are using old wash cloths and dish rags for all kinds of things like cleaning/spills/cat throwup incidents. It takes us weeks to go through a roll, where we used to use at least one a week! We also have cloth napkins now, which helps out a lot with our paper towel usage. We bought plain/not fancy off white ones from our registry and LOVE them so far. We actually re-use them for a few meals unless they get really messy from a saucy dish or something. Eventually I want to get off of paper towels all together. I'm looking for some super handy container to put all our old cloths in that can stay on the counter. Maybe I will find something at a yard sale!

--- 6 ---
 I think our next jump into crunchydom is going to be making our own dishwasher detergent and laundry detergent. So if you have some tried and true recipes, will you please share them in the comments? I have googled and found a bunch, but I'd like to know about any that you personally use and love! 
--- 7 ---
I have SO many reasons to be excited about this weekend. First, I go off call- YAY! Second, Steven is off ALL WEEKEND! Third, a bunch of Cathsorority girls and hubbies/fiances are getting together this Saturday evening! Fourth, Steven and I are having a day at the lake with my parents and a family friend on Sunday! This is going to be one fantastic weekend!!!!

#7b: Forgot to write about C25k! Still going strong!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Review: Table Grace Die

I had the exciting opportunity to review something from Catholic Family Gifts, and I chose the table grace die. First, I have to mention the stellar customer service provided by Catholic Family Gifts. When I didn't receive the dice, they contacted me to double check, and then promptly sent another one out. Now that  is a company I want to do business with!

The dice arrived in a sweet little purple bag. As a lover of all things purple, this was a nice touch. I was very impressed with the size of the dice, which makes all the prayers very easy to read. I would recommend rolling the dice on a soft surface, as it has a bit of weight and size to it. This is a good thing; this means it is perfect for small hands and is sturdy. But it also means that it's very loud if you roll it straight onto a hard topped table! We solved the issue very easily by rolling it on a placement. In a world full of plastic, I love that this is made from wood! It seems like an item that could easily be passed on to your children to use with your grandchildren.

The hubs trying out the dice!

There are SO many reasons why I love this dice. First of all, it introduced us to some new prayers. We already have a new favorite dinner time prayer that we learned from this dice! It's nice to have some new prayers to add into the rotation. We have noticed that if you say the same prayers over and over, you tend to pay less attention to what you're saying. Adding new prayers in from the dice helped us to focus a bit more. Second, this dice is perfect for couples or families who want to begin praying together. Sometimes it can be a bit awkward to start praying out loud with your significant other or children when you aren't in the habit. You can start by adding in prayer before meals and using this table grace dice so no one feels 'on the spot'. And third, though we don't have children yet, we can definitely see how it would help kids to become even more involved in saying grace before meals. It adds an element of fun and lets them take ownership of the prayer.

The only thing I would change about the dice is that I wish the words were etched into the wood instead of printed on it. Having said that, the ink doesn't look like it's going anywhere any time soon, so I don't have any concerns that the prayers will wear off. Also, for the unique prayers that are on this dice, and the fun it adds to saying grace, you really can't beat the price! This is a must have for families, and also is a great item for couples!

I received the table grace die from Catholic Family Gifts at no charge in exchange for a review. However, the opinions above are 100% mine. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Adventurous Cooking and Baking

Also known as, What To Do With Those Fall Apples

I'm sort of adventurous when it comes to recipes. By that, I mean that I'm not a big fan of recipes. It's way more fun for me to bake and cook if I don't have to keep looking at a recipe card/website/book a million times. I'm an obsessive overchecker (it said tablespoons right? *checks* Yep!... walks back to bowl. It said tablespoons right? *rinse and repeat*). There are some things I just have to follow the recipe for, but sometimes I like to get a bit creative. For example, most of the dinners I make, I don't follow a recipe for. I just find things that I think will go well together. I'm not a super talented chef, but I make pretty tasty, somewhat simple meals. I try really hard to use as many real foods as I can when I cook and bake. This often times means that if I do  find a recipe to try, I have to tweak it so I don't use shortening, white flour, or other ingredients like that, that we don't keep around. A downfall is that I'm only brave when it comes to Steven and me. I actually get really nervous when I'm cooking for other people! Steven loves almost everything I've ever made, but that doesn't mean guests will! So I do have to get a bit more brave about that. And maybe expand my dinner-with-guests repertoire to more than 2 meals. (So that I can have you over more than twice.)

Anyway, my mother in law gave us a ton of apples last week when we went to her house. They have an apple tree in the backyard and the apples were beginning to drop, so she filled an entire grocery bag full for us to take home. I was looking around online for something to make, and most recipes were desserts. Seeing as we need another dessert around the house like I need another pound clinging to my waistline, I thought muffins would be better. I try to get us away from eating cereal, even the healthier kinds, any chance I get, so muffins would be good for that. I find muffins made with healthy ingredients to be more filling than many cereals, plus we suck at portion controlling cereal. Plus, we can eat them as breakfast or a snack and not have to feel guilty since we use whole wheat flour. Specifically, we use white whole wheat, which is just as good for you as whole wheat, but has a softer taste. It's comical that I'm saying "we" since Steven probably couldn't identify the flour if his life depended on it :P.

So,long story long, I searched around but couldn't find anything that was just right. Instead, I came up with my own recipe (some ingredients I took from the tons of recipes I perused, and some I came up with on my own from past baking experiences). These are so delicious that they could almost count as dessert! These muffins are light and spongy, and very moist! Here it is:

Whole Wheat Apple Oat Muffins

Mix together:
1 1/4 c. white whole wheat flour 
1 c. old fashioned oatmeal
1 tbsp. of brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 dash of nutmeg 

In a large, separate bowl, mix:
1 large egg
1/2 c. whole milk 
1/4 c. sunflower oil, or oil of choice
1/3 c. honey

Peel, core, and run 6 medium sized apples through the food processor, or chop them very finely. When using the processor, you want it to be applesauce consistency. Mix the apples into the wet bowl, and then mix the dry bowl ingredients into the wet bowl. Put the mix in a baking dish or muffin tins. Bake in a dish for 22 minutes at 350 or in a muffin tin for 17 minutes at 350. Baking times may vary slightly. 

Yields: ~15 muffins

Some tips:
We use Trader Joe's brand white whole wheat flour. King Arthur's is just as good, but more expensive in our area.
You can up the ante on the real-ness of these muffins by using steel cut oats instead of old fashioned. I think I might try that next time!
The brown sugar is the only thing that disqualifies this recipe from being real, so you can feel free to leave it out. I try to avoid sugar as much as possible, but brown sugar is so good!
You can probably use whatever percent milk you want. I switched over to full fat dairy products (in moderation) after reading studies about them aiding in weight loss (versus skim/low fat which did not), and reading that full fat dairy is way less processed (which shouldn't have surprised me).
Use more apples than you need and throw some applesauce in the fridge! It is DELISH and so easy!

If you make these, please let me know what you think! 

Friday, August 24, 2012

7 Quick Takes

--- 1 ---
Last weekend, we drove to SC for my friend's bridal shower. She is the last one of our high school group getting married (we had 3 just this year! Mine in April, our friend Brittany in June, and Jennifer in October), so it was bittersweet for me, and I'm sure the wedding will be! Weddings and showers have provided us a way to get together many times since we graduated. Although babies are a good excuse too, so I guess as more baby showers roll around (two in the picture are expecting!), we will continue having opportunities to get together. I love that we see each other only once a year on average and pick right back up where we left off. Next year will be 10 years that we have kept the friendships going after all going our separate ways! On a side note, I learned just how much of an introvert I have become after I needed many hours of solitude on Sunday to recover!

Pictured are: Alice (housing baby Atticus), Cortney (housing baby Maggie), Elizabeth (she went to HS with us, but isn't technically in our group), Jennifer the bride!, Lacy, me, and Jennifer... missing are Brittany (newlywed who lives in Oregon) and Amie (who has a little baby and couldn't make it)

--- 2 ---
On Tuesday, we went to my in law's house for dinner. Now that we have moved, we added about 30 minutes onto our trip. An hour and 30 minutes feels SO much longer than an hour! We had a good time and his mom always makes a delicious, bajillion course meal, complete with packed up leftovers for us. She also gave us tons of bell peppers, tomatos, and apples from their back yard. They grow okra, too, but we don't eat it. She also gave me a sewing machine (I need lessons!) and hand held vacuum, plus an entire box full of glassware and a crystal serving plate that belonged to Steven's grandma, who passed away about two months before our wedding. I've got it all up in our glass front cabinet and now I'm looking for an excuse to use it! We aren't fancy people at all, but I might just have to make a fancy dinner for two one of these nights!

Oh if you could smell those peppers! The grocery store ones almost have no scent; these smell SO peppery and fresh!

--- 3 ---
Yard work is very satisfying when it's your own home. I hated. hated. hated. yard work growing up. Especially weeding! But, though I'd rather be eating bon bons, it's not so bad when it's your own yard that you take pride in. Yes, I'm proud of our lawn of weeds! I weeded the front tree bed while Steven mowed on Monday night. Then I sprinkled more ant killer on the fire ant piles. They are wrecking our yard! The "killer" doesn't kill them... it just makes them pack up and move a few feet away, leaving a giant mound of red dirt/mud in their wake. We have spent the last month playing chase with the fire ants all around the yard. Me thinks we are going to have to buy something stronger.

--- 4 ---
I think I've figured out my blogging groove. I tend to do one post plus the quick takes each week. I used to post more, but I also used to have more time and more to say. I also used to keep a running list of topics that I can't find. Maybe I'll post a bit more once I locate that or create a new one. What's your blogging groove? I want to stay relevant but also not just ramble. This week I posted about tidbits from our wedding that got left out of other posts. You can check it out here. Erica corrected my stance on a fashion faux pas that is actually correct! Here's to hoping my husband doesn't read it so I don't have to say those three dreaded words. You know.... "I was w#*@&" with my tail between my legs.
--- 5 ---
Just because.
--- 6 ---
We are technically on our 3rd week of Couch 2 5k, but we decided to repeat week 2. So far week 2 of week 2 (did I blow your mind yet?) has been wayyyy harder than week 1 of week 2. Part of the problem is that we ran two days in a row, which the program recommends against. But we needed to switch from our Tues/Thurs/Sun running we've been doing, to Mon/Wed/Sat due to our schedule this week. Lesson learned.

--- 7 ---
The good news about this weekend? One of my dearest friends from grad school, Jean Marie, is coming for a visit with her boyfriend. I haven't seen her in probably two years! She has been in Mexico studying since January, got swept off her feet by a fellow, and now he has a temporary visa so they are in the states. I met her the first day of orientation and we haven't looked back! 

The bad news? I'm on call. Yuck!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Random Wedding Memories

Since the wedding, and since writing multiple wedding blog posts, I've thought of a few random wedding memories that I missed, and don't want to forget. These might not make sense or mean much to you, but I'm really documenting it for myself :). I was going to post this after alllll my wedding posts were done, but I haven't even started the honeymoon posts yet, and wanted to post this since it's finished. I'm sure I'll get to the rest before our annivesary :P.

Steven and I have always had this ridiculous inside joke about a man named Bill. I can't remember exactly how it started, but it was some joke about me running off with Bill, because he could pay my bills. Since then it's been an on going joke. So who was the deacon's helper guy/overgrown altar server at the wedding? A man named, you guessed it, Bill. And in EVERY. SINGLE. kiss the bride picture, Bill has his arm up in the way. He was trying to get something from the deacon, who was watching us and not noticing, so his arm is extended in alllll our first kiss pictures lol. So now on ongoing joke includes the fact that Bill ruined our kiss picture because he was angry that I was marrying Steven :P.

Luckily there is one where his arm is almost down, so not really noticable to someone who isn't in on the Bill joke.

Apparently when the guys were getting their pictures taken at the beginning, some had their jackets unbuttoned and some buttoned. The photographer told them he didn't care which way they did it, but they all should be the same. Somehow the guys came to the consensus that they should button the top button and not the bottom. And this is why husbands needs wives lol! So fiancees, go ahead and let your betrothed know that they should button both buttons or none... but not just ONE, lest your pictures look a tiny bit silly. Luckily you can't tell in most of them!

The groom? Handsome. The one button thing? Not so much.

I'm not sure if I ever wrote about how Steven went to pick up his tux the day before the wedding and they had a shiny blue vest all ready for him. Yes... BLUE. And many sizes too large. Now, they should be careful with ALL tux orders, but a groom's especially! In one of the few instances where lying is ok, he lied to me about it to keep me calm and fabricated an intricate story so that I wouldn't worry. I later thanked him! He gave them an earful and they had his tux ready the morning of the wedding. I was so glad I didn't know anything about it until the situation was fixed, because now I can laugh about it.

The majority of Steven's family were turquoise/shades of bright blue and no, it wasn't planned. It was the funniest thing ever! We didn't notice until the reception and then we looked at each other and were trying to figure it out... did they think it was our wedding color? Did they all plan to coordinate? Nope, apparently they just all happened to choose turquoise!

Not pictured is his grandmother, who was also in turquoise!

You know what's ironic? I'm pretty sure I had a way harder time choosing the men's outfits than picking out my bridesmaid's dresses and even MY dress! We settled on the tux/shirt/vest combination and I'm pretty sure I changed it 3 times before I finalized it! First, we thought the matching clover green vest print was really silly looking. So we went with silver. Then we realized that wasn't going to look good, so we went back to clover green but with ivory shirts since my dress was ivory. Then we read about how ivory shirts look dingy in pictures, so we switched them back to white shirts, and made Steven's vest ivory. I'm pretty sure Men's Wearhouse hated us! It was a tougher decision than I thought it would be, but I ended up being very pleased with the final choice!

Steven and his best man, Rob (who is getting married next month!)

I thought it was bizarre that we didn't have to sign anything on our wedding day. At every wedding I've ever been in, I've seen the bride and groom sign the marriage license right after the ceremony. Usually there's some cute photo made out of it, like with the woman doing a thumbs up over the man's shoulder. So at the very end of Steven and I taking photos in the church, when most everyone else was gone to the reception or outside for a few last pictures, it hit me that we hadn't signed it. I freaked out momentarily because the deacon was gone by then. I said something to one of  the wedding coordinators and she said it had already been signed, sealed, and was ready to mail off on Monday. I was a bit confused until I got our copies in the mail when we got back from the honeymoon. We had signed it the day we got it, but that was the only time, in our state, that we sign it. The only people who sign it on the wedding day is the officiant and two witnesses. Who knew!?

Friday, August 17, 2012

7 Quick Takes

--- 1 ---
This is the first time that I haven't started quick takes until Thursday. I'm not sure how you people start and finish on Friday. I generally think of things throughout the week and just add them as I go, but this week has flown by!
--- 2 ---
If you missed it, check out the guest post I wrote about living on half your income over at Sarah's blog. It's something we are working on and I would love your tips, if you have any! She has a whole series going on so make sure to check her blog out often.

--- 3 ---
Work has been a bummer lately. We have a new executive director and so far two changes have been made:  I have been put in charge of our entire Christmas gift program (when usually I am only responsible for delivering to my 33 folks). This is on top of my normal, daily work and the program starts in October and ends the day we leave for Christmas. The other change? They are taking away our week off at Christmas. We get 3 weeks of vacation plus that week off, but starting now I guess, we won't get that week. I know it's more vacation than a lot of people get, but we also work for peanuts so it has always sort of evened that out. I think it may be time for me to see what else is out there.

--- 4 ---
This weekend we are headed to SC on Saturday for a couple's wedding shower. I'm excited for Steven to spend more time with my high school friends since we were a bit preoccupied at our wedding! It'll be nice to just hang out and relax with good friends! I only wish it didn't involve a 4 hour drive each way, especially since we will get back around 1am and Steven has to work at 6:30am!

--- 5 ---
It's probably silly of me to bury this in the middle of my quick takes, but I am looking for some guest posters on the subject of PCOS and pregnancy. I'd really like to spotlight some stories of women who became pregnant with PCOS.... what helped you get pregnant and what helped you sustain the pregnancy? Email me at if you want me to include your story! 

--- 6 ---
Last night we had a double date with Kendra, hubby, baby. Henry is SO.STINKIN.CUTE! We went to the free, outdoor concert at the front of our neighborhood. I gotta say.... I will be super sad after the concert in September because then they are over until next summer!

--- 7 ---
We are almost done with Week 2 of Couch 2 5k. Oh man, 30 extra seconds of running felt like 5 extra minutes! I'm so glad the hubs and I are doing it together. If I was doing it alone, I'm not sure I would have made it through Week 1 Day 1. Seriously. I'm sort of a giver upper like that. And for added motivation, I'm assigning you faithful followers a job. If I don't mention Couch 2 5k in my quick takes on a given week, call me on it! It might mean that we were both weak on the same day and didn't do it that week. In that case, I will need shame to get motivated. If I update on a given week, you'll know we are on track. 

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

More Than a Budget

*This is cross posted over at Sarah's blog who will be hosting guests posts all about finances and budgeting, some with faith perspectives. Check out her blog and all the pictures of her sweet baby girls!

Since I started my blog last November, I've written quite a bit about being frugal and being on a budget. Though budgeting isn't always fun, and sometimes I would love to live more carefree like I used to, I actually get a lot of satisfaction from staying on budget and finding ways to save money. I really can't stand waste, and that applies to our finances, too! When I first moved to Raleigh, and until about a year before the wedding, I didn't really budget. I lived fairly smartly, but didn't keep track of purchases. And yes, that was freeing. But I also probably wasted a ton of money on stuff that I don't even know about, since I never tracked anything. I also had no accountability to my savings or any real financial goals besides a cushion of money I like to not dip below. We started budgeting to hardcore save for the wedding, and now it has turned into preparing for me to stay home one day. Since I make just about 50% of the income, it makes things a bit complicated. It would be SO much easier if I made less and we had less to figure out how to do without... BUT... it also gives us a wonderful opportunity to build our savings. Any bit of my money that we can quit depending on will go into savings until I stop getting a paycheck, so our savings should be pretty decent by that point. You have to look for the silver lining!

Here are some suggestions of living on half of your income, for others who may have similar goals. Keep in mind that we are not completely at that point. We have cut out about 65% of my income, but still have that pesky 35% or so left! So that means that any help you want to give in your comments will not only be appreciated by other readers, but by me, too! I can tell you this... it will take more than just a budget!

Tips for living on half of your income:

First and foremost, create a budget!  If you haven't, this is a must. Make a budget of all your bills, and use it for a month. After that, you should be able to tweak it so that it's fairly accurate. Figure out how often you will update it and keep up with it. We update ours every Monday (having a set day keeps us from forgetting!). Even if we go over on a given month, we still write everything down. That way, even if we go over budget two months in a row, we can still see if we improved or pinpoint specific line items that need work.

Start slowly! If you have the option, slowly cut back so you don't feel deprived and impoverished. We cut back a bit more each paycheck, instead of trying to cut out a huge amount all at once.

Leave a bit of wiggle room in your budget. You will ALWAYS have unforeseen expenses, so there should be a line item to account for that or else you will be discouraged by constantly breaking your budget. 

But on that note, your wiggle room money is not fun money! If it doesn't get used each month, pat yourself on the back and quickly transfer it to savings. If you high five your spouse and then head to Wendy's, you're doing it wrong (and not just because you chose Wendy's).

On that note, you should transfer into savings the money from any line item that you DON'T use up that month. If you see a trend on a certain category after a few months, lessen the amount in that category! We had a few line items that had just a couple dollars left over each month. For a while, that would just get eaten up by other categories, but that was really just careless spending. The better option is to not even know that money exists, so you won't use it for frivolous things. If you consistently have $3-4 left in your grocery budget each month, lower that line item by $3. It may not sound like much, but any amount you stop spending is that much closer to your goal!

Pay off small debts (and big debts, if possible!). If you owe on a dental bill, for example, pay it off as quickly as possible. Then the money you allotted for that each month can now go to savings. Any time you pay something off, that money needs to be put in savings, not used for another category. And certainly don't start a new category unless you absolutely have to! If you use it for something else, you're not closer to your goal of cutting out 50% of your income.

Use coupons and deals! No, you don't have to become a crazy couponing lady (though you certainly can!), but using coupons and deals on things that you NEED and ALREADY USE will help. But remember: If you use coupons and deals to buy things you wouldn't have normally bought, then you're still spending money you wouldn't have spent! Whatever money you save should be put into savings! 

After a few months of strictly living on a budget and working on the above items, find 'creature comfort' line items and start making them smaller. Again, doing this in moderation, if you have the time, will make it easier to get used to. If you have x amount in entertainment or eating out, take 10 or 20% of that and switch it to savings. Do that every few weeks until you get down to a small, doable amount. Keep in mind that, depending on your income and goals, you may have to completely eliminate these creature comforts. At least doing it slowly will make it less painful. You really need to be a cheerleader for your spouse during this, and vice versa. You will both have times of being frustrated and you have to count on one another to give reminders about why you are working to accomplish this goal. Also, focus on free things to lift your mood, like going to the park, festivals, taking walks, free outdoor concerts, etc. You will feel less deprived if you and your spouse are still doing fun things together and not just sitting in the house wishing for more money!

So what are your tips for going to one income/living on half your income? If this is something you have already done, please share in the comments anything that you found helpful!

Friday, August 10, 2012

7 Quick Takes

--- 1 ---
I've been one of those annoyingly blissful newlyweds lately. Everything has just fallen together it seems, in every area of life, and we are having an absolute blast being married! Sometimes one of the gazillion wedding pictures that I have in the living room will catch my eye and I get really overwhelmed (in a good way) at the reminder that Steven is now my husband, and that we are married. I didn't 'feel married' right away (well, I did on the honeymoon, but not as much once we got back to normal life), and it stressed me out a bit. And I can't pinpoint when I did start feeling that way, but now the feeling washes over me multiple times a day and it feels so good.

--- 2 ---
Last weekend, since my parents ended up not being able to visit, we decided to spend Sunday at the beach. Sunday is the perfect day to go because the beaches are much less crowded! Win #3,298 for having a Saturday night Mass option! We couldn't decide whether to go to Carolina Beach (our personal favorite) or Kure Beach (way easier parking). We didn't decide until we got there, and the parking won out! We had a wonderful day of swimming, reading, talking, relaxing, and picnicking. The weather was perfect and the company even better!

--- 3 ---
 My husband must really love me because he set down his bag, cooler, umbrella AND chair for this picture I just had to have at the Kure beach pier.

 Our view for the day! We learned an awesome tip for when we have kids.... hang out under the pier and leave the umbrellas/baby tents at home! Those parents were geniuses! 

The hubs taking a load off. And waiting for snack time.

--- 4 ---
I'm a big believer of appreciating the simple things in life. It truly makes life that much more amazing when you are thrilled with the little things. My latest 'simple thing'? I searched high and low for this magnet at Ikea last time I went and thankfully found it. It is SO much better than a knife block (unless you have a ton of knives, but I store the ones I don't use often elsewhere and just put my most used ones here). Why? Because it doesn't take up any counter space. I'm one of those people that wants as few things on the counter as possible.

I was going to apologize for the terrible picture quality, but you never thought I was an artsy-fartsy blogger anyway!

--- 5 ---
My parents are coming to visit this weekend, since they couldn't last. Sadly, Steven's work schedule sucks, but he'll get to see them some. I can't wait for them to see our house put together! They did a TON of work painting, so it's about time they see it moved in and decorated. We are also inheriting their kitchen table and chairs, an edger, and a leaf blower. We don't have a shed yet, so it might look like a landscaping business moved into the future baby's room!
--- 6 ---
On Tuesday, we started the Couch 2 5K program where you start as a couch potato (I won't try to hide it) and end up as someone who can run a 5k. It's a 9 week program with 3 work outs per week, which increase in intensity and amount of jogging/running versus walking. The first 3 workouts are 20 minutes of jogging for one minute and walking for 90 seconds. Here's what I want to know. Why does a day at the beach fly by in what feels like 2 hours and jogging for 60 seconds feels like an eternity? At first I thought Steven was being cruel and unusual with his time keeping, until I realized that couldn't be true because it would mean he had to jog for longer, too. I have no desires to be a runner AT. ALL, but walking 5-6 days a week wasn't cutting it (I was only maintaining) so I figured the C25K would step it up a bit. *Cries*

--- 7 ---
Last, but not least, if you haven't yet checked out 1flesh, do so now! And guess whose story was spotlighted on Tuesday? Shameless, I know!I was super excited because I submitted the story a while ago and had forgotten about it until one of my Cathsorority sisters pointed out that it was posted! Check out my story on 1flesh! I have to admit, I got really excited when iusenfp shared it on their page, and then the Creighton facebook page shared it on their page! Which, by the way, I didn't know existed and immediately 'liked'. I love reading other people's stories and I'm so glad I could share mine! 
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Date night link up!

We seriously love us some date night around here. My favorite thing we have ever done was take turns planning surprise dates for each other. They didn't have to be anything extravagant; in fact, the less money spent the better. But they couldn't be the typical dinner and a movie (which is expensive!) type date. We would do things like visit museums, try out new places to eat, go for walks in new parks/places, or see exhibits at the local university. We haven't done it in a while; we stopped when things got too crazy near the wedding and then with house buying afterwards, but we have plans of starting it up again soon. We aim to each plan a date once a month. Of course we go on other dates in the month, too, but they are more typical like the Stimulus Tuesday that our local $2 theater has each week.

For Mandi's link up, I thought I would post about one of my favorite dates, which is super affordable, relaxing, and provides so much bonding time. Without any further ado....

~Date Day in the Park~ 
I started out calling it 'date night', but this date is MUCH better in the day since you can, you know, see. Technically, this date can be completely free (minus the gas to get you where you're going). And if you end up spending money, it shouldn't be much. If you are a parent, you are probably thinking "What's special about this? We take the kids to the park all the time!" But I encourage you to try this date sans children, if you can.... after all, if the whole family goes, it's not really much of a date! Fall is just around the corner, which is the perfect time for this date! But really, any season could work unless you live somewhere with massive amounts of snow. We have had tons of park dates, so we don't do everything listed here in one date. But this way, you can run through the list and pick and choose what you and your significant other might like to do, or what's available to you. 

  • If your city has multiple parks, pick a different one each time you do this date. It really provides a sense of adventure when you aren't sure what the park will be like! I don't think we've been let down yet, though some parks are way cooler than others. If you have less park options, try out different areas of each park. We also have an arboretum, which fits the bill for the date, so be creative when looking for spaces and places!

  • Take bikes and go for a ride! In a big park, it's a great way to explore as much as you can, and of course it's great exercise, too.
  • Be a kid again! Jump on the swings, ride the kiddie train or carousel, race down the slides! You might get a strange look or two, but you will be having so much fun. If you go during a non-peak time, you might even have the run of the playground.
One of the many parks we have here used to be a land fill that they repurposed into a park... I think it's completely awesome! Here is the view from the top!
  • Pack a picnic lunch. If you're feeling lazy, pick up some ________ (insert your favorite sub shop here) on the way and eat as soon as you get there. Otherwise, pack sandwiches, fruit, and a salty snack. You can class it up by using real dishes and cups... and create less waste! Our picnic set comes with precious wine glasses that aren't breakable. We just drink water out of them, but it makes it feel fancy. (I can't say I recommend my picnic basket since it's been outlawed in California for it's cancer causing qualities.... what the what!?)
  • Take books and games. This is probably my very favorite part of the date. You can really make a day or at least afternoon out of this date, and it's SO frugal! Lay out a blanket in a shady area of the park and have some reading time. Just enjoy being with one another. Then, when you're wanting some more interaction, throw a frisbee or play a few rounds of UNO. We've also taken relationship enrichment books and done them in the sunshine... in fact, that's one of my best park memories! 
He gets an award for willingly posing with my super cute picnic stuff!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Wedding Night (NSFW... Kidding!!!!!)

Here we are at 3.5 months married and I am *finally* getting around to posting more about the big day! I actually love doing these posts because it brings back such wonderful memories of a day that feels like it was forever ago! If you're new here, I wrote about wedding memoriesbachelorette day the rehearsal and rehearsal dinnerthe morning ofthe actual wedding part I, and part II, and the reception part I and part II.

So the reception ended and we were in our fancy ride on the way to the hotel. The top was down, the breeze was cool, and we felt like a million bucks. We were both glowing from the day (literally! we did a lot of dancing!) and were on the biggest emotional high. We held hands on the ride to the hotel and I think talked more about how we couldn't believe we were married, and enjoyed some waving and honking from passing cars. Now to lead up to my wedding night story, I have to explain to those of you who don't know that I am a super detailed planner and have some... ahem.... control issues. So I had planned out every detail of what needed to be packed in what bag, where that bag should be, when it should be there, well in advance of the wedding day. So when we walked through the front doors of the hotel to go to our room, all I could do was laugh lovingly at my brand new husband when he told me that the bag I had planned out so well, down to making sure he got a copy of the room key so I wouldn't have to worry about having something to carry mine in, he had accidentally left in my parents' car. Without our hotel key in it. So, there we were, newlyweds dressed to the nine's in the hotel lobby, waiting at a desk (with no employee present) to get a key so we could go up to our suite! This made for awkward laughter from us as we figured all the people passing by (and the maintenance man who had to go find an employee) were feeling bad for us being locked out of our room on our wedding night. It was pretty funny!

So we finally got the key made and got up to the room, and I made Steven take lots of pictures before we got undressed. In fact, I made him sit with me in our wedding clothes for quite a while. I knew once they came off (minds out of the gutter, people!) the wedding was officially, officially over and I was sad about being done with my dress! Plus, Steven looked so dang handsome in his tux. But finally, I relented. At that point, I called my parents to come get some stuff from our room that we didn't want to take on the honeymoon. I figured we might as well get that out of the way so we could have our privacy. Then my dad asked if I could pack up some of the leftover food I'd had for the bridesmaids that morning, because he and his relatives would be visiting in the hotel bar. It was no problem at all, but it sort of cracked me up. So, I packed up a tray of food (which I'm glad they ate because it would have been tossed) and they came up to get everything. Then they headed back down to the bar to meet some of our wedding guests for an 'after party'.

I believe it was at that point that Steven realized that he didn't have any shoes. The boy had no shoes! Just the ones that came with his tux, which of course we couldn't take on the honeymoon. Luckily, two of my bridesmaids were staying at the apartment that night, so I called and asked if they could bring us two pairs of his shoes. They came about 30 minutes later with the shoes, just in time for my vision to go blurry and me to become dizzy! My bridesmaid Jessica is in nursing school, so she sat me down, took my pulse and watched me for a bit. We determined that it was probably just the excitement of the day taking a toll on my body and I wasn't well hydrated. After giving Steven instructions to not let me poo by myself (I can't recall why, but I do remember thinking "awww, his first husbandly task... how lucky!"), they left. I was still feeling a bit off, so I laid in bed eating leftover cake while Steven went and took a shower. Yes, I can feel like crap and STILL have an appetite when it comes to cake. It was probably 20 minutes later that I looked over and saw one of their phones sitting on the coffee table in our room. It was like the biggest joke ever was being played on us that night, but luckily we found it fairly funny. So, I called the other bridesmaid repeatedly but wasn't getting any answer. It was at this point that I began to panic because we certainly couldn't take her phone to another country with us and we were leaving for the airport at 4am! So finally I called my mom's cell phone because I figured she would find a way to get the cell phone delivered. Well, come to find out, my bmaids didn't hear the one phone ring because they were hanging out in the hotel bar with my whole family, which I thought was both cute and hilarious. So I had been sitting upstairs fretting about the phone for like 30 minutes and the owner was right downstairs! So they came and got it and finally, FINALLY, it was just me and the hubs! It was a hilarious ending to an amazing day!

Friday, August 3, 2012

7 Quick Takes- Day by Day Edition

I decided to switch up my style this week and do a take from each day!

--- 1 ---
Saturday: we went to the NFP mass, which we really enjoyed. The priest had a wonderful homily. I was disappointed in the turn out, but very happy with the amount of young couples there. We sat with another newlywed couple and an engaged couple at the luncheon after and had SUCH a good time with them!!! We are usually very socially awkward, so I was proud that we pushed ourselves to meet new people. And can I just say how wonderful it is talking NFP in real life with someone!? It was SO refreshing and the other newlywed couple also don't know the meaning of TMI, so we got along really well ;)!  I had been so afraid we'd be the only ones without kids lol. Even better, my doctor came! I have been praying for him to stop prescribing birth control so he can be NaPro and I was so happy to see him there. He hugged me after Mass, which was awesome because he seems a bit stand offish in the office. How awesome to share faith with your healthcare provider? As a side note, please pray for him to go NaPro only!

--- 2 ---
Sunday: was supposed to be our loungey/get things done around the house day. Except there was a problem at work and Steven had to go in from 11pm until 7am. He slept until about 12:30 and we still managed to have a wonderful Sunday together. We started watching two shows on Netflix, Who the Bleep Did I Marry? (crime/investigative type show) and Raising Hope. We also did some work in the yard... since the fire ants we ran off from the front yard relocated to the back yard.... times ten.

--- 3 ---
Monday: is usually not anyone's favorite day of the week. But my Monday afternoon was so peaceful. Now that we're finally settled in the house, I keep having waves of overwhelming happiness roll over me (had one Sunday sitting out on the deck in the perfect breeze!). Monday I got home from work, put on jammies, warmed up a muffin and a cup of coffee, and finished up some work while a storm brewed outside. I could have lived in that moment for hours! Don't you love the simple things in life like that?

--- 4 ---
Tuesday: we attended a meeting about the Cathedral moving. It was fascinating to hear so many different perspectives and to see the emotional connection that so many people (including both of us) have to the physical church. Many people want it to remain a parish, instead of just a chapel for weddings and funerals, and people can choose whether to stay there or go to the new Cathedral. It doesn't seem things will go that way, but it does sound like a nice idea! We have no clue what we want to do as far as which parish to attend (the current Cathedral if it does become a parish, the new Cathedral, or some other church).
--- 5 ---
Wednesday: was a bit of a rough day. My parents called to cancel their visit because my poor dad is getting put back on shifts for a while. Then I had a fiasco attempting to get my car inspected (the good news was I didn't need one, it just took me multiple inspection stations to figure that out!). Plus work was a bit crazy. BUT two great things happened. One, a director at the main chapter's office told my boss (who is just our interim executive director so she doesn't know me that well) that she wishes she could steal me away to work for her instead. That made me feel good since my job is super autonomous with very little feedback. Then, Steven told me that we were still going to have a great weekend and go to the beach! YAY! So we will spend the day at the beach Sunday.
--- 6 ---
Thursday: was deal day. I don't know what got into us, but we were in a spontaneous roll matching up sales and coupons with a few things we get at regular stores After sales and coupons, we got 3 containers of kitty litter for $12 (usually around $7 each), 5 boxes of cereal for some crazy low price that I don't even have figured out yet, and 4 bottles of my no dye/perfume free body wash for $2.01. We are nerds (and I'm ok with that!) because we had a lot of fun finding good deals on things we need and use.

--- 7 ---
Friday: ahhhh Friday, you are here! I'm not sure why, but I've been craving Friday since about Tuesday! We have another entire weekend together! Steven was supposed to work most of the day Saturday, but since he had to work overnight last weekend (remember, we were supposed to be off together all weekend, and for the most part we were, but he had to work from 11pm-7am because of an emergency at the store), he is now off this entire weekend. YAY! I look forward to the weekend a million times more when I know we will get to spend it all together! Saturday we have a meeting with our NFP instructor, we'll go to Mass, and just relax. Then Sunday is off to the beach for the day! What are your weekend plans? 

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Seasons of Life

Are there seasons of your life where you wonder what in the world God was doing, and just what His purpose was for that time in your life? I've been wondering that big time. When I was in grad school, I absolutely loved it. The content was fascinating to me and I could have spent way longer than 2 years there. In fact, I wish I spent 2 years on the bachelor's and 4 on the master's. I made a great group of girlfriends from all walks of life and changed in so many ways. But looking back, I think I was about as far from God at that point as I've ever been. I was searching, searching, searching but in the wrong places. I sort of became who I thought I should be based on the mass majority of people around me rather than based off of my values and ideals. Then I moved to Raleigh, got a job, met my husband, and got married. We had it all planned out. I would get the 10 year student loan forgiveness by working in a non profit for 10 years, we would have children, and live life.

Me with the grad school girls on a girls' weekend trip to DC

But somewhere along the way we decided that I would stay home with our future children. I can't tell you how ecstatic that decision makes me, but after probably only 4-5 years using my master's, I'll be at home for the long haul (at least until the last kid finishes high school, hopefully). And we'll still be paying off the *gulp* $65,000 worth of student loans that it took me to earn a bachelor's and master's, with the bulk of it being from my master's. Yes, that will get forgiven in 25 years but anything that's forgiven (and get this.... it will be MORE than $65,000 because my monthly payment doesn't even cover the interest) we have to pay taxes on like it's income. You don't even want to know that figure. And so I sit here and wonder, why did God lead me to grad school? I really feel like it was something I was led to, versus me taking total control and saying "listen here, this is what I'm going to do!" because I actually said "listen here, there is NO way I'm doing more school after these 4 years!" until mid first semester of my senior year. All of a sudden it just clicked and it felt right.

Same group of girls at my wedding, minus Jean Marie who was living in Mexico at the time

I have to believe there was a purpose to that season in my life. Steven and I always say that it was because it was in grad school I decided to move to Raleigh after finishing, even without a job lead. I just felt like I needed to do that and that it was the place for me to be (which obviously it was). So maybe I went to grad school to eventually move and meet my husband? But man, that was an EXPENSIVE way to meet him! Or maybe I went to meet the girls that became such a huge part of my life. But that doesn't make a ton of sense, because we still love each other dearly, but mostly just keep up through facebook these days. Maybe it was because I'm going to have super challenging children that I need the social work expertise to handle? Geez, I hope not! It could have been because Steven and I both needed more time to grow and learn and change before meeting each other. Or because I had to see who I didn't want to be to know now who I am and want to grow into being? Or maybe it was because at some point we'll need my degree so I can get a job again in a particularly difficult time or so I have something to go back to when the kids are grown and I want something for myself. I just don't know and it doesn't seem obvious at all. If I had to go back and do it over again, would I? It's a dumb question to answer because that will never be an option. And I don't answer it, because I don't think I want to know the answer myself.

 I don't know if I'll ever know for sure why I was led through that season of my life, but I know that I have to trust that there was a good reason for it. And that means letting go of the guilt I have over the student loan burden I brought into our marriage and family. It's something I will continually have to work on as we struggle with finances and I think about how much not having that monthly bill, and not having to worry about that payoff amount in 23 years, would help our situation. But I can't go back and change it, and don't know if I should given the chance, so I will just believe there is a reason for it and focus on, and appreciate, where I am today.