Five on Friday: Furniture, Workouts, GSC, GHD, and EOM

Friday, February 28, 2014

Once again, I'm thankful that Friday is here, though I've had a great week overall. What made my week so great? Apparently, a bunch of acronyms.

One. New couch! It was backordered for a long time, but it was finally delivered last weekend. (Ikea or Pottery Barn? I'll never tell! Ha!) Anyway, getting the couch for our "formal" living room (aka a room that has been empty since we moved in) means that I finally feel our house is full - not done, but getting there. It's a great feeling!

Two. I've been doing Barre 3 workouts for a few weeks now and I'm hooked. They're easy - but really hard. Know what I mean?  I bought them a few weeks back with a Living Social deal and I think they cost $49 for a set of 5 DVDs and a workout ball. That's a lot cheaper than paying $20 a class at Pure Barre. Can I get an amen? Couple these workouts with my running routine in preparation for my first race, and I'm feeling preeeeeety strong.

Three. Girl Scout Cookies. I found some last weekend at a market in town (finally). There's something about those Peanut Butter Patties with their crispiness, creamy peanut butter, and waxy chocolate that takes me back to elementary school every time. And what's a GSC without a glass of milk? #dairyfarmersdaughter

Four.  After much deliberation, internet scouring, and extensive qualitative research with my girlfriends, I broke down and bought a GHD flat iron -- and lemme tell ya, it was a good $150 spent! At least I got 20% off (thanks, Ulta!) and it comes with a 2 year warranty. I can tell that me and GHD, we're gonna be best frans.

Five. Tomorrow starts Essentials Only Month in the Hamilton Household. Watch your back, pantry - I'm starting with you. EVERYTHING MUST GO! J/K - just the things we should eat this month before they expire. And the boxes of brownies I have in there because I have a feeling I'm going to need some chocolate. Even though I won't be able to indulge in my usual weekend shopping for entertainment (which is part of the problem), I'm SO looking forward to getting some projects knocked out around the house and saving some cashola along the way!

That's me in a nutshell. Have a fabulous weekend - and I hope you're having some spring-ish weather, wherever you are!


Linking up with
 AprilChristinaNatasha and Darci

Essentials Only Month, comin' at ya

Thursday, February 27, 2014

What would you do if you found an extra few hundred dollars in your account at the end of the month? 

Save it? Invest it? Spend it on something you've been eying? Take a weekend getaway? Put it toward a debt? Blow it all in one trip to Target?

For the last 2 years, Alex and I have been self-inflicting an "Essentials Only Month" upon our house once a year. We're about to do it for a third time, starting Saturday. Why Saturday? Well, it's the start of a new month (AGAIN - those months, they just keep coming, no?), so why not? The last time we did it, we were in the midst of a few big changes, so although that wasn't even a year ago, I'm ready to do it again. And, the practical reason: February was an expensive month for us, as we were hit with property taxes, car insurance premiums, and some expensive car maintenance. 

What the heck is Essentials Only Month? [That sounds lame.]

I drew my inspiration from the fabulous Rachel at If you've never checked out this blog, you should. Rachel has very no-nonsense solutions to simplify life. As far as I can tell, she coined the term "No Spend Month" several years ago, and has been "hosting" a NSM every year since then. The premise of her No Spend Month - much like my Essentials Only Month - is to cut out the excess spending for 30 days in order to:
  1. Save money
  2. Eat what you've got in your fridge and pantry
  3. Find entertainment in inexpensive or free things
I cannot tell you how much I've actually enjoyed dong this. Mainly because I've found the results to be:
  • A cleaner home because A) I'm using up the foods in my fridge and pantry, and B) I have more time to clean/organize since I'm not out spending money
  • I'm not shopping for entertainment as I often do, so more projects are completed around the house (how many craft projects have I already bought the stuff for but haven't done? How many pictures still need to be hung in the house we moved into 7 months ago?)
  • More fulfilling "date nights" - because we're either cooking together, or doing something we wouldn't necessarily do if we weren't watching every penny
  • More appreciation for the things I own - which in turn, means I analyze everything (Why am I still holding onto this sweater? Do I really need to buy this fillintheblank?)
  • More money: obviously. There is simply more money left in the bank at the end of it all. 

The rules!
Set a tight budget for all the things in your life that you spend money on day to day. This can include gas, food, entertainment, clothing, toiletries, eating out, lunch break shopping out of boredom, etc. Stick to it by using cash wherever possible. 

Typically, I define "Essentials" - things that must be paid, and therefore do not come out of your allotted amount - as the following:
  • Bills: mortgage/rent, car payments, utilities, insurance, cell phone, etc. 
  • Medical costs: co-pays, prescriptions, medical bills
  • Home or car repairs/maintenance
  • Gifts for other people: your family/friends shouldn't have to suffer :)

How much? 
The first time we did this, I set a limit of $200. Last year, I budgeted a measly $75 (which didn't include gas), but that was due to a few special circumstances

This year, I'm setting a budget of $225, which is for all the non-essentials outlined above. 

A few things to note: 
  • Alex and I will both be traveling for work some, so gas usage for work isn't part of the budget (since we get reimbursed)
  • Similarly, Alex is out of town for work several weekends this month, and all of his meals are covered when he's away
  • I'm flying to Florida to see my family in March, but I already bought my tickets (and, I'm flying for $88 round trip. Pretty hard to beat). 
  • I typically spend about $60 a week at the grocery store, and about $50 every 2 weeks on gas. These expenses alone add up to about $340, BEFORE eating out, entertainment, clothing, and Target trips. 
  • I am not "stocking up" before March 1. That would totally defeat the purpose. I'll be shopping for groceries like I normally do this week. 
  • We have a few gift cards that we got for Christmas that we'll probably use when we're craving a dinner out

To be clear, everyone has to make up their own rules. What works for me might not work for you. There are just 2 adults and 2 furbabies in our house - obviously, a house with a couple of kids in it would need a bigger budget. That said, it's supposed to be a challenge - so if you want to join in on the fun, challenge yourself accordingly! 

Once a week, I'll give a report of what we spent and where we spent it. So if you're interested in the spending habits of others, feel free to get up in my business this March. Totally fine. 

Anyone want to join in? Let me know - I'd love to hear how your Essentials Only Month is going!


Five on Friday: flowers, smoothies, organizing, a good read, and running

Friday, February 21, 2014

I am terribly happy it's Friday, friends! Last week was kind of a break, since we had a few snow days, and I guess that made this week feel extra long. Whatever the reason, it's Friday now, and that makes me happy!

ONE. Since we spent Valentine's Day with my in-laws last week, Alex and I had a mini V-day on Tuesday night (he flew to Texas for work on Wednesday). He not only planned and made dinner, but showed up with flowers. Random flowers trump Valentine's Day flowers, any day.

TWO. I've been on a green smoothie kick lately and although they ain't cute, they taste good. I'm trying to drink one each day to help reach all of my servings of fruits and veggies.

This recipe is my favorite:
2 cups (tightly packed) spinach
1 cup water
1/2 cup Diet V8 Splash (I use Tropical Blend)
1 banana, frozen
4 strawberries, frozen
1 peach, not frozen

Blend the spinach and liquids, then add the fruit and VOILA - you've got 2 smoothies! I keep the second one in the fridge for the next day so I can just grab it, shake it, and drink it up.

THREE. Over the weekend, I began to tackle a task on my list of 14 things to do this year: organize my life! I started with our office files. This was the scene in the study while I was underway. I'm still not 100% satisfied that I've found the perfect system, but I'm getting there. Why is organizing so therapeutic?

FOUR. I finished reading the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin this week, and I highly recommend it. It's a great read and I promise you will take something away from it. Some of my favorite takeaways: a clean house is a happier life (see #3 above), use the pretty stationery (why do I "save" it anyway???), tackle a nagging task first, and be a storehouse of memories (which I guess explains my obsession with Shutterfly).

FIVE. I got closer to crossing off another one of my 14 goals: I registered for a 5k! I'm no runner, but I'm trying to pretend to be. I'm doing the Couch 2 5k program for the second time, and I intend to culminate this one with an actual race. The 5k is April 12, so I still have plenty of time to train (and I'm already on week 4 of the 9-week program). I'm feeling great about it, and I even signed Alex up, too! I cannot believe I am so excited about running. Who is this person?

On another note - I'm thinking about doing our annual Essentials Only Month in March to jump start a savings goal. Is anyone interested in doing it alongside me, so we can challenge each other and hold each other accountable? Maybe with a weekly link-up? Let me know if you're down!

That's it for me, ladies. Y'all have a wonderful weekend!


Linking up with
 AprilChristinaNatasha and Darci

If I had a dime for every flat iron I've broken...[HELP]

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

My natural, no-heat hair (with product in it, of course)
Actually, I haven't ever  technically broken a flat iron. I've just "used them up," I guess.

I'm on my second CHI, and it's dying. So I can say with confidence that I really don't think CHIs are the way to go.

A loooooooong time ago, I had a Paul Mitchell iron that I really liked. I've also had a Babyliss that was good. But that was so long ago, before the "technology" improved, and before so many competitors entered the market. Now that I need yet another new flat iron, I am totally confused.

Titanium? Tourmaline? Ceramic? Do I really need it to heat to 40000 degrees? One inch, two inches? Ultra, mega, super, uber...the adjectives go on and on.

I have naturally wavy to curly hair that is medium-fine in texture. I could probably get away with just blow-drying it with a good brush except that I have three lovely cowlicks that like to throw a kink (or 12) into the style. I also need an iron that can create flat iron curls easily (since my CHI currently cannot get hot enough to do that).

What do you have that you love (or what do you have that you would NOT recommend)? I need advice before I drop a good chunk of a paycheck on a new one!

Thanks, dears!

Valentine's Day with an Earthquake on top

Saturday, February 15, 2014

We had a pretty quiet Valentine's Day: the day started slowly, as we were just emerging for the first time since the winter storm. Our driveway and the roads were still really icy in the morning, so I went into work a little late. Which gave the hubs and I an opportunity to have a little V-day photo shoot. 

You can't read it, but Penny's shirt says "Little Valentine" <3

He was thrilled, naturally. I told him this was his Valentine's Day gift to me!

After work, we headed down to Aiken, SC where my in-laws live to celebrate Valentine's Day with them and go out on a double date. My how Valentine's has changed from a few years ago when we were dating! It was fun though, and I know they loved getting to spend the evening with us. 

When we got home from dinner, we enjoyed some of the festive cupcakes I made earlier in the week, and were going to go to bed early (Alex had a flight out at 5:30 am for a recruiting trip). I was upstairs getting ready for bed when the floor started to shake. I thought Alex had just slammed door or someone had opened the garage, but it got stronger and the rumbling got louder - so much that an old wind-up music box from Alex's childhood played a few notes! After about 8 seconds, it stopped. I ran downstairs and said "What was that?! Did we just have an earthquake?!" And sure enough, we did! Turns out the center was about 30 miles away from us, in Edgefield, SC. It was a 4.4 on the Richter Scale, so thankfully not major at all but pretty cool to feel. My very first earthquake experience, and on Valentine's Day of all days, in South Carolina of all places. I seriously do not know who ticked off Mother Nature this week, but she is taking out some frustration on South Carolina, y'all! Snow two weeks ago, an ice storm this week, and then an earthquake. Yikes. (Sidenote: perhaps I shouldn't have watched the Day After Tomorrow during the snow days this week. Just sayin'.) 

I hope you enjoyed a lovely Valentine's Day with your sweetheart - with or without the ground moving! 


Five on Friday: happy Love Day!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy love day, friends! It's no secret that I love this day. Candy, flowers, and lots of pink, frilly stuff - it's a fun holiday, even if it's wayyyy over-commercialized! It's just a good excuse to say "I love you." Preferably with wine and chocolate.

I've been cooped up in the house since Tuesday afternoon due to Mr. Winter Storm Pax who decided to wreak havoc on the South and beyond. We were very fortunate - no power outages and no damage due to the ice! Which is amazing considering how much of it we got, along with sleet, freezing rain, and snow. Fun fact: Columbia had four consecutive days with snowfall for the first time since 1899 - so this is a rarity, y'all. 

Which brings me to my Five on Friday! 

I first want to say that I scheduled this post before I knew about the "Team Teddy" challenge, but I wanted to mention it to do my part in spreading awareness. This darling 7-month-old baby boy has been diagnosed with Menkes Syndrome, an incredibly rare genetic disease that is terminal. No one should ever have to lose a child. It's a terrible, horrible, very sad thing. I lift this family up in prayer that they may find peace and understanding in the tragedy, but joy in the rest of Teddy's life! Read more about Teddy's story here.

One. I'm thankful for snuggle time with my furkids and husband during the storm! We didn't get out and play as much as we did two weeks ago (hello, ice!), but it was a nice break from the ordinary. 
Me and Ellie playing in the ice/snow/wintry precipitation

Two. Ellie cut her paws on the ice, poor baby. The silver lining in it is that it reminded me of what a wonderful Golden we have, who will let us do anything to her, like bandaging her paws time and again. She's such a good girl. 
In good spirits!
Is this a pitiful face or what?!

Three. It's not every day that I get to see my man shovel snow (with a ghetto garden shovel, no less). But it's pretty hot to see my golf coach husband in bean boots, jeans, and 2 days of unshaven face. 

Four. The cabin fever made me bake. I have no other explanation. Calories don't count on snow days, right??

Five. It's Valentine's Day! So tell those you love that you love them. Say something nice to a stranger. And be thankful for your blessings! 

Linking up with
 AprilChristinaNatasha and Darci

When you're "iced in," make cupcakes

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Today is not what I thought it was going to be. If you would have asked on Sunday afternoon what I'd be doing right now, I'd have said running around like a chicken with my head cut off during my work event that was planned for today. But good 'ole Pax had other plans, which effectively canceled mine, forcing me to postpone the huge event I've been planning since I started my job in August, involving 15 speakers from around the state including the Governor, which had over 200 attendees who'd already registered and April 24. April flipping 24th. That is an eternity to have this event hanging over my head. I want so badly to be able to cross it off my list and move on. However, given the absolutely terrible conditions we've got here in Columbia today, I'm glad we didn't risk it. Postponing was the right call.

Bakery-style cupcakes using a cake mix as the baseAnyway, I'm enjoying my second winter weather day in as many weeks, working from home with intermittent snow/snack/pup-cuddling breaks. We've gotten about an inch of solid ICE in the last 24 hours, along with another inch of miscellaneous precipitation (so far) that has frozen, providing an igloo-esque situation and a very real threat of power loss. Since the news keeps saying that loss of power is "imminent" and it might be out for a few days, I figured I better jump on my Valentine's Day baking while I still had an oven.

I decided to make cupcakes, since I had some cutsie cupcake liners and festive sprinkles to use. If you want to make cupcakes that aren't technically from scratch, but have that bake shop consistency (and don't crack or balloon up to epic proportions), this recipe is the bomb.

Bakery-Style Cupcakes from a Cake Mix
1 box of cake mix (I used Betty Crocker's SuperMoist Triple Chocolate Fudge)
1 cup of water
1/2 cup of sour cream
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
(yields 20-24 cupcakes)
Mix all ingredients together for 30 seconds on low, then 2 minutes on medium. Scoop into lined cupcake tins using an ice cream scoop, filling a bout 3/4 full. Bake at 350 for 18 minutes. Let them cool, and then frost and decorate!

I'm feeling generous on this frigid day, so I'll share my frosting recipe, too. I've been using this recipe for several years now and it's to die for. I get so many compliments on this frosting, and it's embarrassingly easy to make. I will not judge if you eat it with a spoon. Because I have.

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 package (16 ounces) confectioner's sugar
(yields enough to frost about 20 cupcakes)

Beat butter, cream cheese, and vanilla extract at medium-high speed for 2 minutes, until light and fluffy.  Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar at a low speed. Once mixed in, beat at high for about 2 more minutes until fluffy.

Place the frosting into a plastic bag, snip the tip, and frost!

Ain't they purdy??
Now dig in. Or share with your Valentine.

And just so you know I'm not exaggerating, here's how much winter precipitation has taken place at my house! Sadly, it's 75% ice. And it's still coming down!


Having faith greater than fear

Monday, February 10, 2014

I'm getting personal today. Alex and I have recently started thinking about having a baby.

We've been married two and a half years. We both have good jobs. We're in a solid financial situation. We done those "Twenties" things like staying out too late or having too much to drink. We've taken the dream vacation to Italy we talked about for years. We've raised two dogs, which although nothing like child-rearing I'm sure, does prove a moderate capability of responsibility. We've done all the things you're "supposed" to do, in the "right order" - high school, college, love, marriage. We feel ready. Or as ready as I suppose anyone ever feels when contemplating whether or not to bring a life into the world.

I am a control freak. I like to have a plan, and stick to that plan. I am extremely motivated by to-do lists and accomplishing goals. And the more I understand (and re-learn from 9th grade health class) about the complexity of what actually has to perfectly align to conceive a child blows all of my planning and to-do lists to bits. I mean, seriously. You start reading this stuff and you think, "How does anyone actually get pregnant?!" I guess that's why it's called the Miracle of Life, huh?

I am a worrier. I have struggled with intense worry many times in my life. Matthew 6:25-34 has been one of my favorite scripture readings for years because I cling to those words: "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"...

I don't want to worry about the things that might happen. I have no reason to believe that I will not be able to conceive, or that I will have a child born with complications, or will lose a child. Alex and I are just getting started on this journey, and it's different for everyone. Three consecutive posts in my Facebook feed last week prove this. Three women who I went to college with, all sorority sisters of mine. All love the Lord, all have an intense faith.

The first woman is a mom of 2 healthy, perfect little girls.  She was pregnant with her 3rd, a little boy. She found out around 24 weeks that he had Trisomy 18 and would likely be stillborn. She delivered him last week, a tiny, stillborn baby boy who will never have an earthly life. She and her family are mourning the loss of a child, grandchild, and little brother. Her faith throughout this ordeal has been incredibly inspiring. She was literally bracing herself for the sure loss of a child for 9 long weeks before it actually happened. I cannot imagine.

The second woman found out a few months after her wedding that she was expecting triplets. Natural triplets! Although she had no problem conceiving, she delivered the babies - 2 girls and a boy - very early and, as with most multiple or premature births, there were complications. She just brought the last of the babies home from the NICU a few weeks ago after a nearly 3-month stay. Thankfully, everything looks good now and the babies seem to be doing fine.

The third woman has been trying to conceive for more than 2 years. She recently started writing personal blog posts about she and her husband's struggle with infertility, and the possibility of adopting. They had an adoption in the works, but it fell through. Then, a picture popped up in my newsfeed: she was holding a darling, squishy infant and the caption was "It's a GIRL!"She literally woke up one morning and found out that they were getting a baby that day - no time to prepare a nursery, no time for a baby shower, no time to even tell her job! She is now a mommy, and seeing those pictures makes me well up with tears of joy for her.

These cases are all amazing. They are all sad, terrifying, and uplifting in their own ways. I could go on and on about the many women I know who have miscarried, been unable to get pregnant, have had complications with pregnancy or birth, or have had truly terrifying health scares with their children.

But you know what? I know even more women who have had no problem conceiving, have had beautiful, healthy children, and the only pregnancy "issue" they had was gaining a little too much pregnancy weight.

I must choose to have faith greater than fear. If I start to think about all the things that could go wrong, I'll make myself crazy. And in the end, it's in God's hands. It's all in His perfect timing, in His perfect way, in His perfect plan.

So here we are, beginning this journey that will end one way or another, by God's grace, in parenthood. Which is the start of another journey. I don't know what the future holds. I don't know if I will struggle to become pregnant. I don't know if I will have a healthy child. I don't know if I will have a baby at all. But I DO know that God has a plan. Faith greater than fear.

Here we go! Wish us luck (*wink*)

I feel like I just totally updated my wardrobe

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Notice anything different? Young & Southern got a whole new look. It's simple, it's fresh, it's classic. I love it!

I've also added some social icons over there on the left, so if you'd like, follow along.

 photo instagram-4-32_zps89544637.png  photo pinterest-4-321_zps917314d7.png  photo twitter-4-32_zps8e14082b.png

I'm still changing things around a little, but I'm liking what I'm seeing so far.

And besides the blog redesign, I really do feel like I have a whole new wardrobe: I scored two pairs of work pants, a blazer, and a blouse for a grand total of $32 today. Have I ever mentioned I'm a Maxxinista??

Hope you had a wonderful weekend!

Steppin' up my game

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Hey friends. I finally got with the program and joined Bloglovin'. Do me a favor and follow along? Promise I'll reciprocate as soon as I figure out what I'm doing.

PS - I'm in the midst of some changes around here (clearly). Pretty pumped :)

Five on Friday!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Happy Friday! 
This week has absolutely flown by. I'm gearing up for a big event at work next week, so I've been going hard for the last few weeks. I'm down to just 3 business days before this big annual event, so I'm a mix of relieved/anxious/excited/exhausted. Let's just say that I'll be happy when Thursday rolls around and it's over!

Let's jump into these 5 things that are making me super happy!

ONE. Alex and I went to Hilton Head last weekend for a mini-trip. Actually, we went because he was going on a recruiting trip anyway, which meant our hotel, travel, and half our meals were covered. I just went along to enjoy to beautiful HHI scenery (below) and to hit up the Outlets.

Which brings me to my next point...

TWO. I am still on a shopper's high from this purchase. Yes, you're reading that correctly: I saved $461.01 and only spent $57.23 at Off 5th, which means I saved 90%. YES. I know. Amazing. And even better? For that $57.23, I got an adorable Yumi Kim blouse and TWO pairs of Jack Rogers sandals. Shopping success doesn't get much better than that, friends.

THREE. This might seem ridiculous, but I am extremely pumped that Richland County finally got their stuff together and gave all residents an Herbie Curbie for recyclables! Not only is it bigger than our trash container, they're picking up recycling more frequently AND it's all mixed load, meaning you can throw everything in there together and they sort it at the recycling facility. I work with a lot of recycling clients and have recently been made aware of the economical impact of recycling. It's amazing how many jobs recycling supports!

FOUR. My Gator boys are on FIRE right now. After the horrendous football season we had, I was very much looking forward to basketball season, and the Gators have delivered! Is it March yet??

FIVE. This has been my mantra lately! More about this soon! 

Have a fantastic weekend, y'all! 

Linking up with AprilChristinaNatasha and Darci

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