Road trippin'

Friday, August 31, 2012

Just a little snapshot of my fur babies today while we're on the road. They're great passengers and are content to be amidst all the junk in the trunk. Penny especially likes to scale the mountain of crap in the rear (haha). Anyhoo, although they really are my children, my REAL future babies (one day) will have slightly more legit child restraints, promise. Although I'm sure it will be tempting to put a screaming toddler in the back on top of the Vera Bradley rather than directly behind my head. But that's a worry for another day!

Happy Friday, lovelies!

Friday's Letters


Dear Lesley: I can't wait to see you and your baby bump this weekend. It makes me a little sad that this will be the last time I will see you before you are a MOM! Life is changing and it's so exciting! Dear Lindsey: I can't wait to see your new place and meet your new roomies! Dear Mom: I can't believe you slipped and broke your arm this week. Poor Mommy. As someone who has broken both arms, I definitely feel your pain. Dear husband: You are thisclose to what you want and I couldn't be prouder of you. Dear Gainesville: I'm coming home! Dear Penny and Ellie: please be good little passengers on the trip this weekend and please behave yourselves at Aunt Lesley's. Dear birthday: thanks for coming around again on Monday - while I'm thankful you're here (it beats the alternative), can we stop counting after next year? Dear Lord: thank you for loving me, for forgiving me, and for blessing me far beyond what I deserve. God is so good.

It's a House Divided

Thursday, August 30, 2012

When I was little, I dreamed about the man I would marry. I pictured a handsome guy who opened doors for me, took me out on nice dates, and loved me unconditionally. I also pictured a Gator fan. Well, 4 out of 5 ain't bad I guess.

Yes, I am a die-hard Gator girl: I grew up in Florida cheering for my Gators, and it was only natural that I chose UF for college. I loved it so much I went back for grad school. And then I met a South Carolina graduate who is as much a Gamecock as I am a Gator, and I had to go and fall in love and everything. Sigh. What's the worst that could happen when two worlds collide, right?

Since both our teams play in the SEC, it's inevitable that our teams will play once a year. And on that Saturday each year, we don't speak. Just kidding, sort of - the truth is, we usually sit across the stadium from each other (for realz) or we do something totally random, like the year we went to the movies during the game instead.

giving each other a hard time last year at the game in Columbia

Overall, we have come to appreciate and respect each other, and we just thank the Lord that the other is not a Florida State Seminole or Clemson Tiger (not hatin', just sayin'!). Therefore, Penny has both a Gator and a Gamecock cheerleading uniform to don while watching games, and I'm sure Ellie will acquire some sort of equal-opportunity game day bandana or collar before long. We try to go to at least one Florida and one USC home game each year. And we really do cheer for each other's team (except for that one Saturday every year).

tiny Gator princess

And starting's College Football season, y'all! I get pretty into into it, not gonna lie. 
in a nutshell...

New for our house this year is a fancy-dancy dual-team wreath for our front door. I really struggled with what to do about the team pride situation. Have 2 wreaths and swap out every few days during football season? Stay totally neutral? Fly two mini flags out front to announce our allegiance? Then I perused Etsy and got the idea for this House Divided wreath and went to town. 

team spirit!

Now our neighbors will have no doubt who we cheer for in this house. They might be confused as to how this partnership ever came to be; alas, I love my Carolina boy and he loves his Florida girl. It might not be a match made in college football heaven, but we live happily in our house divided.

It's OK Thursday

Its Ok Thursdays
It's that time again! It's OK...
  • that I have almost completely fallen off the calorie counting train this week. Correction: I have been counting calories but not watching what I eat, like at all...
  • to look forward to Mondays because that's when Bachelor Pad comes on
  • that I want to order my new Erin Condren planner NOW but that means I wouldn't use my current EC planner for the rest of the year, which makes no sense
  • that I want to act like I'm 21 again while in Gainesville this weekend, but am scared to death I will look like one of those "old people" we used to comment about when I was in know, the ones who wear orange and blue non-stop all weekend and try to hang with the college kids
  • to buy bananas for the sole purpose of letting them get realllllly ripe so you can make banana bread. And chocolate-banana bread. 
  • to look forward to "sleeping in" tomorrow morning until 8:30am (today is my Friday, holla!) before hitting the road for Florida
  • that college football starts TONIGHT and although I'm pumped, I know life is about to get crazy and I won't have a chill Saturday for the next 3 months

Have a fantastic Thursday, peeps!

Friday's Letters

Friday, August 24, 2012


I'm on a's another link-up: Friday's Letters from Adventures of Newlyweds!

Dear friends: I'm excited for a fun weekend at the lake and making memories. I hope we wear enough sunscreen and don't drink toooo much wine! Dear husband: I love you and I am so proud of you for all the effort you are putting forth right now for your career. It is all going to pay off! Dear Ellie: I know you are technically still a puppy and all but must you slam into me at 35 MPH while I am sitting and relaxing on the couch? Dear office building: WHY do you freeze me out? Yes, it's August and hot outside but that doesn't mean it has to be slightly above freezing inside. Dear 28: I see you - you are creeping up on me and are about to pounce. I will make the most of my last 10 days as a 27-year-old! Dear college football: I love you and I can't wait to spend my Saturdays with you starting in just 8 days. It's been too long, my friend.

Happy Friday! 

It's OK Thursday!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Its Ok Thursdays

I LOVE the "It's OK" section in Glamour Magazine, and Neely at A Complete Waste of Makeup has a link-up every Thursday. Today's a great day to begin!

So here we go. It's okay...
  • that I want to get my Fall decorations out of my attic and it's August 23
  • that I have already planned out my front door wreath rotation through the end of the year
  • to be REALLY FRUSTRATED that school has started back and the traffic is nutso, adding 10 minutes onto my morning commute. Kids don't need edumacation, right?!
  • to save some of my precious calories (via my calorie counter on my iPhone) for a glass of vino at the end of the day instead of more food
  • that I really want to find a cute new orange and/or blue dress to wear to the Florida game next weekend, even though I already own several and this is probably the only game I will attend this year
  • to feel like I am behind on my Christmas shopping and we have 4 months to go
  • to want to blow my diet on consuming an entire Papa Johns cheese pizza. By myself. In one sitting. (So far, I have resisted. Go me.)
 Have a wonderful Thursday (tomorrow's Friday!)

A late bloomer

Saturday, August 18, 2012

My young hydrangea bloomed beautifully this summer, with big blue blooms starting in early spring. Even though it's still a small bush and only about 2 years old (and has been in the ground at our house for just over a year), it was blessing us with bigger and bigger and bluer and bluer blooms week after week.

Sadly though, it stopped blooming in late June and seemed to be done for the year. By early July, all those pretty flowers had dried up into brown balls of grossness. The plant is right by our front door and it plainly was not a welcoming sight. So I did what I heard you aren't supposed to do and clipped off all the dried up blooms (is that wrong? No clue. Google gave me conflicting answers).

And you know what? My little hydrangea has blessed us again with a few late blooms. Here we are, the summer days waning and fall just a few weeks away, and I have a few bursts of color by the front door. I'm going to enjoy my last blooms of summer food long as I can.

My Bestie's having a baby

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I have lots of friends who have children. I have been to dozens of showers and bought so many baby gifts in the last few years that Buy Buy Baby regularly sends me coupons (or maybe they do that for everyone? Hmm). At this point in my life, it's not uncommon to hear of another friend or family member who is expecting. But it hits home when it's your very best friend.

My best friend Lesley and I have been through a lot. We met in middle school, and surviving middle school together would have been enough to bond us for life. But we also went to high school, college and technically even grad school together (or at least at the same school. She was an education major - I was an advertising major - we didn't have too many classes that overlapped). Together, we've been through first boyfriends and last boyfriends-turned-husbands; going to the prom and graduations; 21st birthdays and bachelorette parties; my parents' divorce and her terrifying cancer scare and surgery. I stood beside her on her wedding day, and she stood by me on mine. Our friendship not only survived but flourished when I moved almost 3 years ago to follow my heart to South Carolina. In short, we've done it all together, or at the very least, been through it all together.

Last year, she and her husband decided it was time for a baby. As scary as it was that my bestie would soon be entering parenthood without me (which is totally, completely fine by me - we are not near the baby-phase of life quite yet), I also agreed with them that it was time for them to become parents. As a kindergarten teacher and a pediatric nurse, what two people could be better-suited to bring a person into this world? But getting pregnant was a struggle for them. At the beginning of this year, I wrote a prayer list for the people that are closest to me of things I wanted to happen in 2012. A baby for Les and Chris was at the top of that list.

I didn't have to wait long for that prayer to be answered. One February day, Les called early on a Saturday. I knew what she was calling to say before I answered the phone. I screamed when she told me and my eyes got a little misty. We laughed and talked about the news, and I said a prayer of gratitude when we hung up. God has it all in His good and perfect plan.

So here we are in August, and she's about 10 weeks away from her due date at the end of October. She's having a baby GIRL! Her little baby bump is the cutest thing I've ever seen. Of course, I don't get to see her much because she is in Florida and I'm in SC. But last weekend, I flew home for a whirlwind 34-hour trip to the Sunshine State to shower the mommy-to-be.

I hosted the shower along with my Mom (it was at her house, my childhood home) and another friend, Miranda. I borrowed the adorable decorations from my friend April's daughter's first birthday party (that she made herself. SO cute.), and friend Megan made the AMAZING cake to fit the theme. Since it was a brunch shower, we had quiche, breakfast casserole, yogurt parfaits, muffins, fruit, and monkey bread (and of course that lovely cake!). It was all delicious and the shower turned out fantastic. Les got tons of great loot to fill the nursery and to prepare for the baby.

While Lesley was opening all those pastel pink gifts, it began to sink in that this was really happening. Not in a bad way - I can't wait to meet that baby girl! - just that we are adults, seriously. It felt like we were grown up when we graduated from college. And when we got married. And when we bought houses. But bringing a new life into this world takes it to a whole new level. My Bestie is having a baby!! I couldn't be happier for her and can. not. wait. to see what an awesome Mama she's going to be.

We survived: Essentials Only Month wrap-up

Friday, August 10, 2012

Today is August 10, which officially means Essentials Only Month  in our household is OVER! Wow, what an experience. Our grand total was -drumrolllllllll...... $200.09. Yep, we went over budget by a lousy nine cents!! But I would call it a success!

While there were many little lessons learned along the way (like the importance of keeping an organized pantry so food doesn't pass expiration because it's shoved in some dark corner...), here are the main things I learned:
  1. Cash is good
    Well, obviously cash is good. But for this experiment, cash is what made it work! Without tracking our spending due to the amount of cash we had left in our pockets, it would have been tricky to stay on task and on budget. Using a debit or credit card just makes it too easy to cheat. And there was some cheating, trust me (see my last post about that). Using cash can be a pain - like when Alex went to the grocery store this week and I had to make sure he had enough of the cash to pay - thus the invention of debit cards. Still, I think we were able to stick to the plan by using cash. And there is something about handing over bills  that make a purchase seem more...real.
  2. Meal planning is the bomb
    I've gone through bouts of menu planning before where I've listed out the meals for the week, checked to see what items I needed, made my list around it, etc. But it's something I really need to stick with. It is SO helpful when I've had a long day and thinking about dinner is the last thing I want to do! Having a plan for dinner is half the battle. Plus I have an idea of how long it will take to prepare, so I can plan any post-work to-do's, like working out or errands, around dinner prep times.
  3. I sometimes buy food items just because they're on sale
    I said at the beginning of the month that I was a pretty savvy grocery shopper and we are good about staying within budget for groceries, largely due to shopping around Publix's sale cycles and using coupons here and there. Well, I realized that I was buying some items just because they were a good deal. And some of those items were not things we needed nor necessarily liked. From now on, I'll think twice before I buy something at the grocery store just because it's super cheap. It must be something we like and something that's good for us, OR just a special treat that we love (like Peanut Butter M&Ms - Alex's favorite!).
  4. I sometimes buy clothes just because they're on sale...
    Notice a pattern here? During Essentials Only Month, I cleaned out my closet and realized I have a lot of clothes that I don't wear. And the one thing 90% of those items have in common is that I bought them for little bits of nothing. (Target and TJ Maxx tempt me SO BAD). I have decided it's truly worth it to splurge on nicer things that you really, really love and will wear for a long time versus something that's just alright (but seems awesome at the time because of the price tag). I think I will be happier with my wardrobe in the long run this way. I'm not saying I'm going to blow it out on designer goods all the time - trust that my frugal soul and I will still shop the clearance racks! But I only want to buy things I really LOVE. 
  5. Having some "fun money" set aside each month is a good idea
    This goes back to the love-of-cash. Alex and I have decided that we will each get a designated amount of fun money - kinda like an allowance - in cash each month to do whatever we want with. This will cover little treats here and there, like coffee or nail polish for me or breakfast or a book for him: the little things that chip away at a household budget. Once the money is gone, it's gone until the next month. I think it will give us the freedom to feel like we're treating ourselves without overdoing it.
  6. We like to eat out - and hey, it's okay!
    I said from the beginning that our downfall is going out to dinner. It's a social thing - meeting friends for drinks or dinner out is part of life and we love to do it. Unfortunately, it can add up so fast, and without knowing what's hit us, we've racked up an $80 dinner bill. However, it was recently brought to my attention that we shouldn't beat ourselves up over spending money on our social lives and on date nights. Why? Well, when we have kids (which is so not in the near future, but in the eventual life plan for sure), we won't be able to spontaneously head out for Mexican or meet friends for drinks, dinner, then drinks again. So with a little more planning  and allocating of the funds, we've decided that going out is something that matters to us and is worth the spend.
  7. Essentials Only Month was supposed to feel restrictive - but in some ways, it was freeing
    Yes, it was hard not to buy stuff I wanted. Yes, it was tough to refrain from my shopping norms. But overall? The feeling I felt most was freedom. What I mean by that is the fact that I knew we had both money in the bank and cash in our wallets: whatever we were buying day to day was coming out of the cash, and the money in the bank was for monthly bills and...what else? Exactly. There was excess. I found that I wasn't extra-excited about my next payday. because we had plenty left over from the one before! It's amazing what money you can find in your budget when you go on a little spending diet for a month. Such a great feeling to get back on track. It literally feels like we've started over where budgeting is concerned. 
If you are considering a No-Spend or Essentials Only Month, I highly recommend it. I think it's something we'll do annually (although I think we'll choose a different month next year - maybe June? I think it would be easier to do it in a calendar month instead of a 30-day period like we did it due to our Anniversary being July 9). Saving is hard. Not spending money is hard. Saying No to dinner out with friends or to a weekend away or to a new outfit you really really want is hard. But it is worth it when, at the finish line, you've learned new things about your habits and have been reminded that you can survive on a little less if you have to. 

I thought many times this month about families that have mandatory no-spend months every month because things are that tight. I am blessed that although sometimes things feel tight, Alex and I are blessed with more than what we really need. It's all about keeping things in perspective and being happy with what you have. 

Essentials Only Month: the finish line is near

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tomorrow is the last day of our little experiment known as Essentials Only Month, and I'm pretty excited to regain some spending power and ability.

Or am I?

Honestly, this hasn't been as tough as I thought it would be. We still have a ton of stuff in the pantry that I could create dinners from, and we still have a ton of deer meat in the freezer (there's only so many times in a week you can eat venison sausage or cube steak).

Our pantry surprisingly still has a lot in it! A testament to how full it was at the beginning.

The fridge is a little more bare (a word about all the beer: we clearly have plenty of that left. It is what we have left over from our beach trip! Promise we have not spent any precious EOM cash on alcohol!!)

I will admit that we have cheated a teeny bit. Alex and I had Chick-Fil-A for lunch yesterday that we did use our cash for; I was in Dallas over the weekend and used my debit card to buy lunch at the airport; and as I mentioned before, I got my hair cut last week and used my debit card to pay. So there. Being honest here.

As of today, we have about $20 left in cash. Alex is going to the grocery store today to pick up a few things to supplement our meals this week and next, so I am anticipating ending the month tomorrow with $0 in cash and a lot of lessons learned.

Side note: if you're a reader, I would love for you to follow my blog! I'd love to know who's reading my thoughts so I can read yours (your blog, that is), too! :) I really appreciate it! xo

The Magnificent Seven & the Fab Five

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

I am an Olympics nerd. Definitely. I get ridiculously excited over swimming, running, and synchronized diving for about a two-week period every four years. My Olympics-mania really began in the months leading up to the 1996 Games in Atlanta. My family purchased tickets for several events wayyyy in advance (possibly years in advance? I'm not sure - I was a kid). It had been planned that we would take a trip - by car, since we didn't want to brave the ATL airport with tens of thousands of international Olympics fans - and cheer on Team USA in the Peach State.

The summer of the Olympics, I was 11 years old and about to enter 6th grade and begin Middle School. I was on the sometimes-awkward and almost-always confusing cusp between childhood and my teenage years. My interests included cheerleading, dancing, pageants and gymnastics, which is why my favorite Olympic sport unquestionably was and likely always will be women's gymnastics. 

Leading up to the games that year, we watched the women's gymnastics trials as the team was decided. I got to "know" the team by watching them in the trials. And then - the Games were finally here! My mom had literally planned for months in advance the coordinating red, white and blue outfits my family of four would wear while in Atlanta (hey, when in Rome...). From home, we watched in anticipation as the opening ceremonies began the Games that Atlanta and the US had been waiting for. We were glued to the TV, watching as American athletes humped hurdles and swam the breaststroke and played basketball. Then we watched in horror as a bomb exploded that killed 2 people and injured a hundred others. Would we still go to Atlanta? You betcha. My parents had planned for this for too long to let some sicko ruin our family fun.

So we hit the road two days after the bombing, pumped full of Team USA pride and the American spirit, woo hoo!! I guess we were SO full of American spirit that there was no room in the car for our suitcases, because mine and my brother's were left in Florida on the kitchen floor. Oops. All the planning of patriotic outfits my mom had done - "for Christmas cards!" as she would exclaim - was for nothing. So we made a little stop in at an outlet mall en route, where we went school-shopping a few weeks early (and everything we bought was red, white and blue. Let's just say I was looking very patriotic when I made my middle school debut).

Our time in Atlanta was amazing. Everywhere you looked were people from different countries, or signs with writing in 10 different languages, or the Olympic Rings, or bottles of Coke (Atlanta took its hometown drink very seriously). But I can't tell you what it meant to attend the one event that I had been looking forward to for months: the Gymnastics Exhibition. At this point, we were near the end of the Games, and Team USA had already won it's first Team Gold in Women's Gymnastics (more on that below). The Magnificent Seven were almost like friends to me: I had watched them through both the trials and the Games and I knew their routines by heart. I adored those girls and their confidence, amazing abilities, and sparkly 90's-esque scrunchies and leotards. I wanted to be just like them. Although they weren't much older than me, I looked up to them and, let's face it, basically idolized them. To see them perform their medal-winning vault, floor, beam and bar routines was this girl's dream come true.

Now back to the night they won: I was in my living room, and my whole family was in front of the TV watching live - no tape delay then! - as our girls competed for the Team Gold. It had never been done before by an American women's team, and we were good. We knew we were good. But could we really beat the Russians and Romanians who had dominated the sport for decades?

I will never forget watching as Dominique Moceanu fell on her vault and our hopes of gold seemingly went up in a puff smoke. My dad even got so animated about it that he threw something at the TV (wowzers). Enter Kerri Strug, with a hurt ankle no less. I will admit that Kerri wasn't my favorite and I was not feeling too optimistic with the team and country's (and my) hopes and dreams placed on her small shoulders. But she did it. She stuck the landing. We won Gold.

It was an amazing thing to witness, a moment I felt patriotic and proud and excited and happy, for no other reason than my country won a gold medal and those girls who I felt I had come to know were being rewarded for all those years of training and practice and injuries and time away from their families. What a moment to be an American 11-year-old girl watching with all the hope and admiration that an American 11-year-old girl can have. The Magnificent Seven were my heroes. To this day, there is a poster of the team hanging on my closet wall at my mom's house. I think I'll always keep it there to remind me of the inspiration and pride I felt watching the 1996 Olympic Games.

Last night, some of those same emotions flooded over me and I felt like I was that girl again, wishing and urging our girls on to victory. I was home alone since Alex was traveling, and it's probably a good thing since I got embarrassingly emotional over the whole ordeal. This time, Team USA is 5 women strong - hence the nickname "the Fab Five" - and they seem so young to me now. I see the pressure on their teenage faces and I can understand and appreciate the sacrifices they have made to train and compete for our country. Last night, their dreams were hanging there, ready to be realized, but a step out of bounds or a slip off the beam could have changed all of that - not only for themselves, but for their teammates. Fortunately and wonderfully, the girls gave it their best and came away with the second Team USA women's gymnastics team Gold in history. And as a 27-year-old woman, it felt surprisingly similar as watching those 1996 Games. I guess some things never change.

I hope that one day, I can watch with my little girl or boy and tell them what it was like watching history in 1996. I hope they will share my passion for cheering on our country during the Games every four years (or every two if you count the Winter Olympics!), and will recognize how cool it is that the whole world can set aside differences and gather to compete in an array of events. The premise of the Olympics is remarkable, and really quite bazaar when you think about it, but one thing is for sure: this girl will always have that Olympic spirit, regardless of age. And in another 16 years when I am 43 (holy. moly.), I can bet you that I'll be cheering for those little gymnasts as hard as ever.
The Magnificent Seven, Team USA's original golden girls

Team USA's 2012 Women's Gymnastics Gold Medal Team: the Fab Five

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