25 July 2013

Checking In

Greetings from 66 degrees-in-July Vermont!  I didn't mean to go so long without blogging, but every time I sit down to post, I just kind of stare at the screen with nothing to write.  I figure this is one of those get back in the saddle things, so I'm just going to get this first post over with and hope that inspiration follows.

So far, we are absolutely loving it here.  Minus the nonstop rain our first week here and the less-than-ideal conditions of our temporary rental, everything has been wonderful.  We've met wonderful new friends, started a running list of restaurants to try and checked several off the list, and enjoyed our unbelievably beautiful new city's weather.

I'm still searching for a job and I'm about to hit my breaking point. I have my third interview today with one company and a phone interview with a different company today.  I have every possible extremity crossed in the hopes that one of these will pan out and I can actually make some money.  I quickly learned I am not cut out for the ladies who lunch lifestyle.  The first week of not having to work was pretty fun.  Sleeping in, baking cookies, running errands whenever it suited me...all very enjoyable.  But not I'm just bored.

The dogs are settling in nicely.  Honestly, they're doing better than we expected. Ozzie is still...Ozzie, but his anxiety attacks haven't been anywhere as severe as I had prepared myself for. Jake is a champ...he's fine as long as he has his bed and food dish.

I'm hoping to ease back in to some regular posting if I can get my act together. As crappy as our temporary living arragements have been, our neighborhood is a dream come true and I'd love to share some pictures of the adorable houses that we drool over on our nightly walks.  That said, M has to have outpatient surgery on Monday, so I will be playing nurse most of next week.

I promise I'm still here and still reading.  Stick with me!

24 June 2013


Hola! It's been awhile since I checked in.  Things are absolutely bonkers around here right now.  Today begins my last day of work at my current job. Which is mild-moderately terrifying since I'm still searching for employment in Vermont. {If you have any connections in Burlington, feel free to send them my way.}  One week from today I will be waking up in a different state where we LIVE. Crazy talk.

We have lined up two places to live. Because we really love drama, we are moving into a temporary home on July 1 and then again on August 15 into our permanent residence. Which means for 6 weeks, we'll be living out of like 3 boxes. Very exciting. I love our permanent place...at least, what I've seen of it in pictures since I haven't actually been.  It looks like the neighborhood and location will be a great fit for us and it's a similar layout to our current house.  Now if we can just find someone to rent our current place so we can get out of our lease...
I've been such an emotional basketcase the past few weeks that I'm wondering if this is what pregnancy hormones will be like.  I'm all over the place. Really hyperactive and happy and packing and dreaming of nesting one minute, overwhelmed, stressed, and crying hysterically the next.  Last Monday I have a cry session the likes of which haven't been seen since my toddler days. And I'm an ugly crier. No bueno.  I really am tickled to bits about our move, but heaven forbid I mention that there's anything I'm stressed/scared/worried about and everyone I know is like, "But you wanted this!"  Yes...yes, I did. And I'm thrilled that it's happening. And I know it's all going to be worth it in the end. But just because we pursued this doesn't make a 600-mile move in 3 weeks any less stressful.  So please everyone...just let me have my pity party cake and cry over it too.  K?
Mainly I'm just getting emotional at leaving Virginia. I have never left. Ever. All of my life is here. My family has been here for generations. We're talking back to George Washington's time. Virginia is in my blood.  I grew up here, I've experienced all of my joys and losses here.  All of my firsts and lasts have been here. I graduated from high school and college here. I had my first "grown-up" apartment here and I adopted both of my sweet dogs here. I met, fell in love with, and married my husband here and we started our life together here.  My entire being, who I am and everything that has shaped me, is inextricably linked to Virginia. I know we'll be back. And it's not as though we're moving that far away; we're in the same timezone and just a quick flight home.  And I have never thought of myself as someone who was afraid to be far some home. I'm still not afraid...I'm just sad. I feel like I'm leaving a large part of myself behind.  It truly is the closing of a chapter of my life, in a way that feels more tangible and permanent and defined than any other chapters.
But with all of that said, I can't wait. We are so excited to just go somewhere as us and, in a way, start our life together all over again.  Away from where we grew up and met and had all of these experiences. It's a chance to redefine our marriage, our careers, and ourselves. What an adventure that will be.  
I don't plan to post again until we've made the move. I want to enjoy every last second in Virginia and then there's that business of never-ending packing.  Enjoy your week and see you in Vermont!

11 June 2013

Third Time's A Charm

Yes, that's right, we're moving again! For the third time since our engagement. {The fourth time if you count the fact that we moved in together 2 weeks before M proposed.}

I haven't made it much of a secret that we've been pretty unhappy with our living situation for the past 2 years. We knew that if an opportunity presented itself this summer, we had to jump on it and go. As it happens, just such an opportunity presented itself a few days ago in the form of an incredible job offer for M.  So in a little less than 4 weeks, we'll be driving our dogs and all of our worldly possessions to Vermont.  I'm becoming a Yankee!  After our somewhat nomadic lifestyle over the past couple of years {4 moves in 2.5 years}, we are looking forward to putting down roots in New England.

I am a bundle of nerves right now. I'm excited and scared and stressed and happy and stressed and nervous and stressed.  Did I mention stressed? Coordinating a 600-mile move on 3 weeks' notice to a place I've never set foot in is causing me to consume a lot of Tums. It will absolutely all be worth it and we're lucky to have friends and family connections in the area, but woof. Throw in the 100+ pounds of neurotic coonhounds who will be moving with us and I am a bonafide mess.

Things I Am Excited About:
*Christmas in Vermont {Hello..."White Christmas" is only one of my all-time FAVORITE movies.}
*Fall in Vermont. Duh.
*Summer in Vermont. Goodbye Southern heat and humidity. Won't miss you at all.  Except in months November-May.
*Proximity to Canada. No, seriously. I have never been. And we will be 90 minutes from Montreal. So basically 90 minutes from France Lite. Just go with it.
*Proximity to Boston. 3 hours from many dear friends and one of my favorite cities. Yay!
*Proximity to seriously amazing skiing. Can't wait to hit the slopes.
*J. Crew, Trader Joe's, Williams-Sonoma, and TONS of adorable little locally-owned shops and restaurants. {I realize I've probably just committed a major Vermont sin by listing large corporations as a reason I'm excited to move there.}
*Being the most conservative person in political conversations for once.
*Finally justification for my obsession with coats.
*Living in a fun city with lots to do and lots of people our age. I am going to go on a friend binge. I can't wait.

Things I Am Nervous About:
*I have never lived outside of the state of Virginia, let alone outside of the South.
*I have never lived more than 3 hours away from my parents.
*Winter in Vermont. I am terrified.
*Our heating bill. See above.
*Lack of Duke's mayonnaise.
*Lack of "y'all" in the vocabulary.
*Moving somewhere I have never been and renting a house I have never seen. All the makings of a potential disaster, or at the very least, an interesting living situation for the next year.
*Finding gainful employment. Vermont has a rather small economy and people hold on to full-time jobs with both hands.
*Money. As if I wasn't already nervous about that, we're moving to a place with a higher cost of living.
*ALL THE CHEESE. {I don't do moderation very well.}

The positives far outweigh the negatives and we are both over-the-moon excited. I've promised the dogs that Mummy will buy them some snow boots and jackets and they're not so sure about the whole thing, but I promised them there would also be dog treats, so they're on board. This will be an exciting adventure for us and a place to start over after a challenging couple of years.

Native New Englanders, any advice on what cold-weather gear I should start stockpiling now?

07 June 2013

Friday Favorites Lite

It's been light on the blogging around here lately. We've entered the home stretch in our fiscal year at work and things are crazy. Add in M's crazy schedule this time of year and I'm lucky to stay on top of the laundry.  In lieu of anything more substantial {or as substantial as my usual FF posts about clothes and decadent food treats are}, here is my current favorite commercial. I dare you not to smile.

Happy weekend, everyone!

06 June 2013

Budget Bride


I've come to the decision to sell my wedding dress.  I've gone back and forth about whether or not I want to keep it for sentimental reasons, but it just seems like a pain in the ass to have to move it with us wherever we go in life on the off chance that a} we have a daughter{s} and b} said daughter{s} would even want to wear my dress.  If we do have a daughter who wants to wear a family dress, we still have my mom's dress, which is beautiful.  So that solves that problem.

So if you know a bride-to-be who's in the market for a wedding dress for less than $1k, please share, tweet, email this info!  The link to the Once Wed posting can be found here, but here are some additional pictures and information:

Designer: Manuel Mota for Pronovias
Purchased at Betsy Robinson Bridal in Baltimore, MD
Purchase price: $1910 + alterations
Asking price: $975 + S/H
PayPal Only
The dress came with optional straps, which I used and had sewn in, but they can be removed to make the dress strapless.
Dress size is 8, altered to fit a street size 2/4.  I am 5'2"; it was hemmed to fit 5'6" with heels. 
The dress has been professionally dry cleaned.  There is some faint staining along the bottom of the dress and underside of the train, but it is only noticeable upon close inspection.  

Please send this on to anyone you think may be interested. 

29 May 2013

Road Trip Diet Busters

road trip tunes

Last weekend we packed up the whip {again} and headed off to North Carolina {again} for a long weekend at Topsail Island with my parents and my sister.

We're big on squeezing every last minute of fun out of any trip, even one as short as this one, so we elected to make a stop at Wilber's Barbecue in Goldsboro on the way to the beach.
 One thing you should know about us: we are really into BBQ. And I mean real BBQ. M doesn't really discriminate, but I am strictly a Carolina BBQ girl. I prefer Eastern-style, but I'll settle for Lexington-style or South Carolina if need be.  And Wilbur's is the gold standard for Eastern.

The food was, of course, AMAAAZING, but the real gem was spotting this guy...
In case you can't tell from the blurry picture, his shirt says, "Gas costs so much I can't afford to fart."

We were at the beach for exactly 48 hours, which was enough time to read both of these...
To get my mom hopelessly addicted to Candy Crush...
 To drink plenty of these...
And to enjoy this absolutely beautiful view...
We continued the tour o' delicious with a pilgrimage to Bojangles on the drive home.

Bojangles is strictly a Southern thing.  So Southern, in fact, that it {wisely} does not darken the doorstep of our locale waaaaay up in northern Virginia. So when we see a Bojangles, we pull over.  There were cajun filet sandwiches and seasoned fries had by all.  The only thing preventing Bojangles from achieving fast food nirvana is the fact that they carry Pepsi products. Disgusting. We are Coke people.

Needless to say, we arrived home late Monday night, exhausted and full of sodium,  but happy and relaxed.

How was your Memorial Day weekend?

28 May 2013

Menu Tuesday

Only two new recipes from last week.  Our other dinners were leftover BBQ from my sister's graduation party and cleaning out the fridge/freezer/pantry of leftovers and random ingredients before we left for our long weekend at the beach.  Enjoy!

ZOMGGGGG SO GOOOOOOOD. I didn't change a thing, although it may be worth noting that I used our favorite whole wheat tortillas and it was still AMAZZZZZING. I am a cheese freak and didn't miss the dairy in these at all. Can't wait to make them again!

Mushroom and Maple-Smoked Cheddar Quiche {made up by moi, inspired by Elefantitas Alegres and Jenny Steffens Hobick}
I took Jenny's idea of a mushroom and cheddar quiche and used Kate's formula of a Wholly Wholesome whole wheat pie crust, 3 whole eggs + 2 egg whites, 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, and cheese measurements. Et voila! I used Cabot Seriously Sharp cheddar in the quiche, along with a package of sliced cremini mushrooms and a handful of chopped scallions.  I topped it with some maple-smoked cheddar.  One thing I should have done was sauté the mushrooms first. When they cooked in the oven, they gave off a lot of water and make the crust kind of mushy. Still tasty! 

Bon appétit

24 May 2013

Friday Favorites

I need a new work tote bag in the worst way {damn you, budget} and this one is just so classic and chic and simple.  And surprisingly affordable.  AND 25% between now and Monday. Anyone feeling generous?

Summertime means Campari to me. On our honeymoon, I had a pre-dinner Negroni every night. This herb-infused version looks like it could become a summer staple.

Seriously dying over this perfect, perfect baby girl nursery inspiration board via Snippet & Ink.

Rolling out this Memorial Day classic recipe: Ina Garten's Flag Cake. Festive AND delicious!

 I'm sure most of you have seen this video, but I just had to post it {If you're reading from Google Reader, you'll have to click on the post to see it. Any idea how to fix that?}. Our dogs are our family members and I can't even begin to imagine how this discovery provided a bright spot in an otherwise devastating situation. Get your tissues handy.

Have a safe and wonderful Memorial Day weekend!

22 May 2013

Nothing Could Be Finer Than To Be In Carolina...

...with my faaaaaaamily.

Last weekend we packed up the whip and headed south to one of my favorite cities, Asheville, NC, to see my little sister graduate from college!

My sister and I are about as polar opposite in personal style as one can imagine. Whereas I prefer to keep my inner granola-crunchy hippie carefully hidden up my preppy-yuppy sleeve, she has it tatooed for the world to see.


So while she may have started her college career at our mama's uber-preptastic alma mater, University of Richmond, she graduated from a much more her-appropriate school: Warren Wilson College.

Warren Wilson claims to fame: James Franco {although after this fiasco they prefer not to claim him} and Bill Pullman's kids.  True story: Bill {we're on a first name basis} stays at the same B&B as my 'rents when they're all visiting their kids. My dad and Bill talked local history for ages over breakfast one morning, and my dad had absolutely no clue who he was talking to.  I would've wanted to know what it was like to work with Devon Sawa {my ultimate 90's-girl crush}.


We took a little tour of campus and my favorite part was the field where the sheep are. I love sheep. They are a big part of my bucolic dream life. Some day...

I only took two pictures during the weekend {I discovered Candy Crush and spent most of time trying to get the hell out of Lemonade Lake}.  M and I took my sister and her friend {below} to dinner at Curate to celebrate while my parents stayed at the house with the grandparents.

If you're going to be in the Asheville area anytime soon, you MUST make reservations at Curate.  If I had stopped to take pictures of each course, I wouldn't have been able to eat anything. We scarfed down everything the second it landed on the table.  Our favorites:
patatas bravas {basically home fries with a spicy sauce. These were M's favorite.}

the berejenas la taberna {fried eggplant drizzled with honey and rosemary. My favorite.}

chistorra and chips jose's way {chorizo wrapped in potato chips and deep fried}

espuma de chocolate {it tasted like warm brownie batter + hazelnut praline and raspberry sorbet}

We were in Asheville for less than 48 hours but that was long enough for me to drink a 12-pack of my beloved Diet Cheerwine...
one for the drive home!

photo credits: 1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5

20 May 2013

Menu Monday

Only two new recipes this week. We had a repeat on Monday night, leftovers on Thursday, and were traveling for the weekend. One recipe was a dud, one was a definite keeper. Both were budget-friendly.

Simple Portobello Pasta {Budget Bytes}

Meh. Not bad, not great.  Honestly, just not a lot of flavor or texture. We ate all of it between the two of us at dinner and leftovers the next day, but I don't think we'll be having this again.

Ranch Pork Chops with Creamed Spinach and Thyme-Roasted Potatoes {Budget Bytes and Ina Garten}

MAJOR winner here.  I used thin, center cut pork chops and baked them at 425 for 30 minutes. I ran them under the broiler for 2ish minutes on each side. They probably could've baked for only 20 minutes since they were so thin, but they were great anyways! 

The creamed spinach was leftover from Monday night's dinner {a repeat of Budget Bytes' Egg Florentine Quesadillas} and I just used dried thyme in place of rosemary in the roasted potato recipe.  The potatoes cooked in the oven with the chops, so they only took about 45 minutes, instead of the one hour in the recipe.

Bon appétit!

17 May 2013

Friday Favorites

It's been awhile since I've done a Friday Favorites and after all that money talk, I'm ready to indulge in a more frivolous post!

This peplum sheath dress may be my first purchase with my freshly budgeted fun money {and a discount code!}? Perfect for work AND for spring and summer weddings.

Pretty sure I need to order this kit and have this little guy sitting on our bar. 

Mmmmmm.....I love cannoli! Cannoli ice cream? Can't even handle it.

I die. So great for Memorial Day weekend and the 4th of July.

I want to get my hands on Martha's new book . There was a sneak peek in the latest Martha Stewart Living and it looks wonderful, just like everything she does. 

What are you up to this weekend? We're celebrating my little sister's college graduation!

16 May 2013

Summer Slimdown Part III

So we've talked about goals.  We've talked about the plan of attack.  And now we need all the help we can get.  Short of posting our address so that y'all can send all your extra cash our way, here are some things that have been helpful/motivational/educational thus far:

Budget Bytes/meal planning: As you know, I cook most every night and do so from a weekly menu.  I don't need to rehash the details for you {you can find them here}.  Meal planning in and of itself helps save quite a bit of money and it certainly did so for us when I first started on our meal planning journey 2.5 years ago.  But now we need to me more aggressive.  Budget reduction has forced me to do two things: have up to the minute knowledge of what's in our pantry/fridge/freezer and hunt for more inexpensive recipes that are still healthy and fall in line with our food values.

Enter the Budget Bytes website.  You may have noticed that a LOT of my Menu Monday recipes as of late have come from her website. There are so many delicious ideas and they're all realistic and wallet-friendly.  I still use my other usual recipe sources, but I have to analyze them more closely to make sure they fit within our grocery budget.  The good news is that the budget reduction has helped me in my goal to reduce our meat consumption.  Meat ain't cheap!

Any other websites or resources for real food {i.e. no packaged, processed junk} recipes on a budget?

Dave Ramsey's website: While we have no plans to enroll in any FPU classes or purchase any of the materials, there is a wealth of information on Dave Ramsey's website that is available for free.  Information on the cash envelope system, the seven baby steps, home buying, and more is there for the taking.  Honestly, I haven't even scratched the surface with the available information.

Nancy Ray's website: I found Nancy's website through Em for Marvelous and it's been very inspirational.  This post in particular has links to resources they found to be helpful.

Excel: OMG this would NOT be possible without my handy dandy Excel spreadsheet.  I have one document for our budget.  There is a different worksheet for each month.  Each worksheet is broken down into the following categories: Fixed Expenses, Minimum Credit Card Payment, Envelopes, Debt Pay-Off, and Income. Depending on any special circumstances that month, there may also be columns for Gifts {even though the money is coming out of the Gifts envelope, I use these columns to budget exactly how much to spend on each gift} or Travel or, like this month, M's Parking Tickets.  At the bottom of each spreadsheet I have what our total amount of debt is at the beginning of the month. That helps me keep an eye on the big picture.  I get a really sick pleasure out of updating my little Excel workbook. I love it.

One thing that hasn't worked: envelopes. Not to be confused with the Envelope System. Since this is our first month and it seemed a little contradictory to purchase a special wallet for a system that's supposed to help us STOP spending money, I just used plain ole paper envelopes.  FAIL. This worked for M's envelopes {he has one for his gas money, one for his fun money, and he has the one for pet supplies} because he just keeps them locked in his car.  For me, it just meant that I had loose change falling out into the bottom of my purse. Disaster. It caused some serious stress in the check-out line at the grocery store last week.  I'm going to have to get me one of these pretty little things to help with the organization.

So that wraps up our money talk for the week!  I'd love to know what resources have been helpful to those of you workin' your family budgets. I get distracted easily, so I need mucho assistance in staying on task during our journey to being 100% debt-free.  I'll be checking in periodically on our progress, mainly when we've crossed something off the checklist or hit a major milestone.  We're hoping to reduce our total debt by 10% by the end of this year.  Fingers crossed!

15 May 2013

Summer Slimdown Part II

Growing up I was told that it wasn't polite to talk about politics, sex, or money.  We're not talking politics or sex today {you're welcome, Mom}, but we are continuing our chat about money.  I realize there are some of you who find this mind-numbingly boring, but I love, love, LOVE reading about the way other people, especially people my age, manage money. It's the financial equivalent of peeking into someone's medicine cabinet.

It's a little {maybe a lot} scary to be talking about our finances in such detail on here. Money is such a private thing and it's not something I sit around discussing with anyone other than M.  But I'm hoping through sharing our experience and our goals that this will provide some accountability and support.  I'm such a typical fire sign. I'll make a plan and have goals and get all pumped up for them and then a month later I'm totally off the bandwagon.  Maybe the fear of public shaming will help me get back on board when we inevitable fall off.

So.  When we left off yesterday, I was talking about how the hard part of all this is turning all of our exciting goals and dreams into plans and actions.  The first thing I did was pretty basic: add up how much comes in each month and add up how much goes out.  I added up all of the obligatory recurring expenses {rent, utilities, gas, car payments, student loan payments, car insurance, cell phone bill, etc.} and put them into one category.  Minimum monthly credit card payments were added up and put into another category.  Then comes the new part: the envelope system.

I vaguely remember my parents using the envelope system at one point in my childhood and I know I've seen other bloggers {the Duchess of Fork comes to mind} who use it.  But it wasn't until I read Emily's guest post from Nancy that I thought, "Hey, we can do that!".  And do that we did.

We are half way through our first month of the envelope system.  I can already see that I'm going to need to make some adjustments {I under budgeted for a number of items}, but that's OK.  We'll make the necessary changes and try again next month.  Most everything I've read says that it takes a few months to really get the hang of it, so perseverance is the name of the game.  I have to say, it is REALLY strange to be carrying around so much cash and see the resulting teeny tiny balance in our checking account. It's unsettling, especially because I rarely ever carry cash.

Here are the envelopes we have:

Groceries: pretty self-explanatory. Prior to our budget adjustment, we were spending about $400/month on groceries.  I cook pretty much every single night, plus we pack our lunches and eat breakfast at home.  We rarely eat out, not because we don't like it, but because the only restaurant options in our town are Arby's, McDonald's, and Denny's. I'm challenging myself to go down to $300/month.  I'd love to go even lower, but we're taking baby steps.

Pet Supplies: We have two dogs, one of which is on a special diet and medication due to allergies and anxiety. Right now I've got $100/month budgeted, but that may be able to scale down to $80 or $90. We'll see.

Pet Boarding/Vet: Again, pretty self-explanatory. I've got $100/month budgeted for this.  Depending on how much we scale back on our traveling, I may be able to trim this to $70/month, but it adds up quickly.  Two nights in the kennel for our two boys is $84.  This is a rollover envelope, meaning anything that doesn't get spent in a month just stays in the envelope.  The idea being that it builds up a back-up to our emergency savings should anything major happen to one of our boys.

Household: This envelope is for things like toilet paper, dish detergent, hand soap, etc.  This is outside of our grocery budget, which is new for me.  I budgeted $15/month this month, which was not nearly enough, but that was because we ran out of everything at once.  This will be a rollover envelope.

Personal Care: This envelope is for haircuts, highlights, body wash, shampoo, toothpaste, make-up, etc.  Right now I've only got $25/month budgeted. Some months that will be more than enough, but some months it won't even come close.  This one may need to be adjusted, but we'll see. This will definitely be a rollover envelope.

Fun Money: I'm sticking to the diet philosophy that if you deny yourself any and all treats, you're much more likely to crash and burn. I've budgeted a total of $80/month, or $40/each.  This may be a bit too generous, so depending  on what adjustments need to be made to the other envelopes, this may go down to as little as $50/month.

Date Night: Not negotiable. I see our de-debting plan not only as an investment in our financial future, but in our marriage. Money is a top cause of divorce and we want to be mindful of that, but I don't want to neglect taking care of our relationship as a means to an end.  I'm allotting $40/month, so not much more than a pizza night at home and seeing a movie.  But this is an important one that I want to try not to cut back on.

Auto Care: This envelope is outside of the money budgeted for gas for our cars. The idea is for this to build up to pay for routine maintenance like oil changes and inspections, as well as a back-up to our emergency savings should anything more major happen with one of our cars.

Gifts: Pretty self-explanatory.  I've budgeted $40/month.  Some months we'll spend it all {it's already forcing me to be extra creative with our gift-giving occasions this summer!}, some months it will rollover to save up for things like our anniversary and Christmas.

OK, so some people refer to their fun money as blow money. But if I had an envelope for blow, I would assume someone was funding a yet-to-be-discovered cocaine habit.  Maybe for some people it's one and the same?

So I add up the recurring expenses, the minimum credit card payments, and the envelopes and subtract the total from our income.  Everything else goes to paying down debt.

We have a ways to go to really get the hang of this.  I can already tell there are going to be times when it really sucks {i.e. not a lot of built-in $$ for my drive-thru McDonald's Diet Coke habit}, but I can also already tell that it is going to be hugely helpful for us in reaching our goals.

Do any of you use the envelope system or some version of it? As a newbie, I would LOVE any tips/tricks/advice you might have.  And if anyone would like to help prettify our envelope system, you are more than welcome to buy this lovely wallet for me :)

Tomorrow is the last financial post of the week {I promise}. I'll be posting the different resources that have been helpful so far...

14 May 2013

Summer Slimdown Part I

A few weeks ago, I mentioned in a recent post that we were cutting back on both calories and spending in our house. Katie commented that they were doing the same and Mr. Perk was referring to it as the Summer Slimdown. I love giving things a title {makes it feel more official and, dare I say, fun?} so I'm stealing theirs! The cutting back on calories is pretty self-explanatory {not-so-subtle plug to come follow me on My Fitness Pal at username GessHoo07!}, but I thought I would share a little more on our budget reduction.

Debt is something we've really struggled with from early on in our relationship.  M came into our marriage with no car payment and next-to-nothing credit card debt, but a ton of student loans.  I was the opposite; I came in with a car that was half paid for, student loans that were half paid for, and quite a bit of credit card debt.  It's something that's constantly hanging over our heads.

Up until recently, I've kind of kidded ourselves into thinking we were relatively financially sound.  We make more than enough to pay our bills, we have some emergency savings, and we have quite a bit squirreled away in our retirement accounts.  But it always came back to the debt.  Inspired by the Em is for Marvelous posts on money, I sat down and took a brutal look at our finances and came up with a strategy and timeline for paying off our debt.  Paying off all of our credit card debt was one of my 101 in 1,001 goals, but honestly?  Kind of a wimpy goal.  Now the goal is ALL debt. The cars {we ended up buying one for M in October so now it's 2 car payments}, the credit cards, the student loans.  Every last bit GONE by the time I turn 30, or hopefully sooner.

On our timeline, we should have 3 of the 5 credit cards paid off by September and my car paid off by October.  The next hurdle are the remaining 2 credit cards, which carry most of our credit card debt. The plan is to have one paid off by the end of the calendar year and the other one paid off by March 2014.  Then we'll tackle my student loans, M's car, and finally his student loans.  Once all those are paid off, we plan to build up 3 months of equivalent of our salaries in savings and save for a down payment on a house.  Within 5 years, we want to be able to purchase a house on a 15-year fixed rate mortgage and have no other debt.

For those of you paying attention, this kind of loosely follows Dave Ramsey's plan.  We're not actually enrolling in any of the classes because A) I feel like I can get enough of the information online to figure out a plan for us and B) I don't need any preaching alongside of our debt diet.

Still with me? I know many people's eyes roll to the back of their heads when anyone starts number crunching, but I absolutely LOVE this stuff. Comes with the territory when both of your parents are accountants.

Talking about our goals is really fun and exciting.  You may daydream of tropical vacations and handbags, but I daydream of being totally debt-free with bank accounts busting at the seams from lots of savings.  {OK, I dream about the handbags and vacations too.}  The hard part is actually changing our spending patterns and habits and putting plan into action.  To be continued tomorrow...

13 May 2013

Menu Monday

Another two-recipe week here.  M was out of town two nights last week, one night we had a repeat {Hawaiian quesadillas}, and one night we had leftovers.  Here are the two new meals I fixed last week:

Slow-cooker Pinto Beans {Tammy's Recipes}

I had a few cavities filled last Monday and knew I needed a dinner that would be easy to gum down. M put these in the slow cooker at 9:30am on high heat and by 5:30pm they were ready to go.  No overnight soaking required.  I mashed mine up and topped with hot sauce and a little shredded cheddar, so it was basically like eating a big bowl of refried beans.  In a good way.  Delicious and filling and comforting.  M made quesadillas with his beans.

As we try to drastically cut down our budget {more on that later this week}, I have a feeling I'll be making these many times. They're so cheap and it makes a ton.  That said, I don't want to get stuck in a bean rut.  Any suggestions on different ways to prepare or serve pinto beans?

Salsa Chicken Casserole {Budget Bytes}
Definitely a new favorite meal around these parts.  This was unbelievably delicious, unbelievably easy, and had very little clean up.  An all-around winner!  A few notes:
*I pretty much exclusively use brown rice, but it requires more liquid and a longer cooking time.  I used 2 cups of chicken stock and gave the rice and salsa mixture 40 minutes in the oven before I added the chicken.  It took another hour after I added the chicken.  
*I used boneless skinless chicken thighs. They're cheaper and taste better. 
*It's tempting to skip the green onions at the end since it seems like a garnish.  Resist the temptation. They are a big part of the tasty factor.  

Bon appétit! 

06 May 2013

Two Recipes and A Horse

Most of last week's meals were either repeats or already posted in last week's Menu Wednesday post, but there were two recipes I wanted to share with you today.  

Pasta with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes {Dinner: A Love Story}
DALS is one of my all-time favorite websites and gives me the warm fuzzies about the day when I will have an expanded family to cook for.  Regardless of our DINK status, I am always finding great meal ideas for just the two of us from Jenny and Andy.  This may be one of my favorites from them.  And it is STUPID easy.  I used farfalle instead of penne {it's what we had in the pantry}, dried thyme instead of fresh, and I added the dollop of ricotta at the end. I only used about half the amount of Parmesan called for.  Definitely a new go-to pasta meal.

Stuffed and Grilled Bananas
We didn't use a recipe for this, but I think there are several floating around the interwebs.  We grilled chicken for dinner Friday night and had way too much charcoal going.  M wanted to make the  best of it and we had two bananas sitting in our fruit basket.  We had some graham crackers, shredded coconut, and a Hershey's bar in the pantry.  I crushed up one sheet of graham crackers and mixed with a handful of shredded coconut.  I slit the bananas down their sides, lined each slit with half of a Hershey's bar, and then stuffed in as much of the cracker/coconut mixture as possible.  Then I wrapped each banana individually in foil and we put them on the grill for 15-ish minutes and dug in with spoons. WOW.  Great way to make use of the grill after dinner.  Would be even better stuffed with Nutella...

On Saturday we attended the Virginia Gold Cup with some friends who were visiting.  This was the spread we came up with for 4 people, plus more food in another cooler in the car.  We barely managed to eat half of it, but you better believe we ate every bit of that fried chicken.
While wondering around Member's Hill, we saw a group of people playing something called Bear Pong.  They invited our guys to play.
Which ended in a picture of what appears to be my husband kicking a small child dressed as a pirate. As one does.
I snapped this pic moments before another jockey was thrown from his horse right in front of us. They had to bring the medics out onto the course and it was awhile before he moved, but he was able to walk into the ambulance himself. So scary!
 We NEVER seem to get any photos of the two of us, so I was thrilled to have one to remember such a wonderful day {and to show our grandkids what a stud their granddad was}!