December 31, 2011

Our 2011

It's been a good year. We haven't really had any major events in our lives, but we've gone on several trips and had a lot of fun together.

Nathan gave me a special birthday.
We had our first fondue date night.
We decided to stay in our apartment for another year.

Nathan wrote a blog post.
We figured out our first joint tax return.

We saw Michael W. Smith (one of Nathan's favorite artists) and Amy Grant (one of my favorite artists) in concert. We teared up as soon as they walked on stage.
We went to the Cheesecake Factory for Nathan's birthday.
We paid off the last of our debt, except graduate school loans. 


I bought a bike.

We went to Florida so I could see where Nathan went to college.

We went to the Indianapolis air show.
We went camping with my Uncle John and Aunt Kathy and our dogs.

There was a huge flood in our apartment complex.
We celebrated one year of marriage.
On the same day, Nathan graduated with his MBA.

We went to Chicago for the July 4th weekend.
Nathan's car window got smashed.
We went to Arkansas for our friends Kayla and Austin's wedding.
Nathan lost his job.

We went to GenCon.
We started tackling reorganizing and decluttering.
I met Crystal from Money Saving Mom and experienced a huge spike in page views.

Our friend Eddy got married.
Nathan started working a second shift job.
We got our first smartphones.

Nathan switched jobs again, this time back to first shift.
I finally finished our wedding album.
We started Couch to 5K.

We visited two pumpkin patches.

We celebrated Thanksgiving with my family, and Nathan's family the day after.
My car window got smashed.

We signed the lease on a rental house and started packing for our move.

We visited Nathan's brother and his family in California.
We celebrated Christmas with my family, and Nathan's the day after.

The theme for the first part of 2012 will be boxes, boxes, and more boxes since we're spending our New Year's weekend moving everything (hopefully) into our new rental house. After that? Who knows.

Happy New Year!

December 15, 2011

Ready to Move On

I haven't felt much like cleaning lately. Or cooking. Or blogging. Or crafting. Or doing much of anything really. It's not depression or illness. The problem? Want-to-move-itis. 

I've been doing my best to be content here. I know this apartment is much nicer than what many people have. But when I open up a dryer in the community laundry room and find something, uh, unmentionable, or when we come back after Thanksgiving and see my car looking like this...

...after Nathan's was broken into five months ago...well, it's hard not to want to get out of here.

The good news is, we are getting out of here very soon! While I had a list of the pros and cons of staying here a year ago, there is no way we could renew our lease for another year. Next month, we're moving into a rental house. It has a garage, a fenced in back yard with a deck, and washer and dryer hookups. The overall square footage is a little more than we have now, with a master bedroom as big as I could ever want. And, quite possibly the most exciting part for me, the house is only a half mile from where I work. After a year and a half with a 30 minute commute, I'll now be able to bike or even walk to work.

Although it's wonderful knowing how close I am to having so many new conveniences in my life, it's also making it much more difficult to live in the present. I'm trying to focus one major event at a time, and we have a few of those in the last half of this month! Tomorrow, we're getting on a plane to go visit Nathan's brother and his family in California. Once we get back, I'll be getting things ready for Christmas with both of our families. Since I have a company wide shutdown the week of Christmas, I'll have a week to work on getting everything packed to start moving our things in January.

I'm excited about all of it!

December 6, 2011

Recycled Wedding Invitation Ornament

Wondering what to do with your extra wedding invitations? Or need a Christmas gift for a newlywed? Here's one idea.

One night I was going through my DIY Ideas board on Pinterest and making a list of what I would need to actually make some of the crafts I had pinned. When I came across this invitation ornament, I realized I already had everything I needed and got started right away. I was finished in about an hour.

All you have to do is cut the invitation into strips, curl each strip, and put them inside an empty glass ornament. If you have an X-Acto knife, you can use that for the cutting and then curl the strips around the handle (after removing the blade of course).

Nathan was a little disturbed when he saw me cutting up our wedding invitation, but I assured him it was okay since we still had a bunch of them. Then he reminded me we had gotten rid of all the extras and that was the only one we had left. Oops. Good thing I still have the original files and extra paper.

I realized I never actually blogged about my wedding invitations, so here's what they looked like before I mutilated them.

I actually cut up the entire suite, but I ended up just using the strips from the invitation and a few of the more interesting ones from the other pieces. The ornament was plenty full.

It fits right in with all the other mismatched ornaments. Our tree looks mostly the same as it did last year.

I wanted to buy one new Hallmark ornament this year, and we picked out Tom and Jerry.

Another change is that we're using Bob and Larry as our tree topper this year. Maybe someday I'll buy or make a real tree topper, but it's kind of fun to decide what to put on top as we're decorating it.

Did you do anything with your wedding invitation?

December 1, 2011

5 Goals for 2011: November

1. Exercise for 30 minutes 3 times a week. 
The last four weeks we accomplished this, even when we were out of town for Thanksgiving. This week we'll probably only make it two days. Our first attempt this week, during a snow storm after dark, went fine until I stepped in a puddle of icy cold water.

2. Go to bed at 10:00 each night and wake up at 6:00 each morning.
This hasn't gone well lately. I'm shooting for 10:30 and 6:30 now that we're not running in the morning, but the holiday weekend threw me off.

3. Complete my daily chores and leave no dishes in the sink at the end of the day. 
I haven't focused as much on this one this month, but things have at least been mostly presentable.

4. Spend less than $200 a budget period on food (groceries and eating out). 
I set and achieved this goal the month we were living on just my income but haven't had success with it since then. As much as I try to avoid lifestyle inflation, having nearly three times as much income makes it difficult not to spend a little extra.

5. Write at least 2 blog posts a week.
Due to one of our computers being down, Nathan and I have been sharing my computer for the entire month. In other words, I haven't had a computer this month. He's working on an online graduate certificate in accounting (he will most likely be in school forever, in case anyone was wondering), so it's more important that he has the computer. We should have the part to get the other one back up and running by the end of the week. I have ideas for a dozen posts that I can't wait to write.

One more month to go! How have you done with your goals for the year?

November 16, 2011

Getting Serious About Getting Fit

If you've read any of my posts on my goals for this year, you know I've been trying to start an exercise program all year and failing month after month. Now that it's November, I'm finally starting to find success, and it's really exciting.

Finding Motivation
Even though I've known for years that regular exercise is healthy, I had no desire to do it. Besides, I was thin without exercise. But I know I won't stay this thin forever living the lifestyle I have been. While I would walk up to three miles a day around campus in college, the only exercise I get at work now is walking up and down one short flight of stairs to get to the restroom. Something had to change. I read once that we're in our physical prime at age 18-24. I don't know if that's true or not, but with 25 just a couple months away, I'm determined it won't be true for me. I want to be in the best shape of my life at 25! Another huge motivation is making a habit of exercise before becoming pregnant.

Finding Time
I really didn't think I could fit exercising into my schedule. It wasn't even that I didn't have enough free time but that I couldn't figure out when to fit it in. Getting up before 6:00 wasn't working out, I was hungry by the time I got home at 5:30, and by the time dinner digested I was too tired. My solution was to eat a bigger breakfast, eat lunch as late as possible, and exercise as soon as I got home. Eating a bigger breakfast is healthier anyway. Dinners are either made ahead and put in the oven as soon as I'm done running, or really simple. Last night was boxed macaroni and cheese with carrots.

Finding What Works
I'm not a naturally athletic person. At all. In kindergarten, I did outstanding on everything except throwing and catching a ball. In sixth grade, I was the kid no one wanted on their team. When Nathan and I had tried to go running in the past, it didn't work well for me because I'd be gasping for air after running a minute. Now I'm halfway through the Couch to 5K program, and I still feel great after running multiple sets of five minutes at a time. Running 30 minutes straight still sounds scary, but I'm beginning to realize that my body can do a lot more than my brain thinks it can.

Finding a Partner (or Two)
I honestly don't know how I could get through these runs on my own. Nathan has gone with me every day but one (when he was working late). When I feel like there's no way I can go another two minutes, Nathan encourages me to keep going. Even though he could run a 5K right now if he wanted, he's doing this program to help me. Nenya has also been going with us. We didn't think she would make it past the first couple weeks, but she's been doing better than I have. It turns out this progressive running program works for couch potato Corgis too!

If you exercise, what helps you stay serious about it? If not, what's holding you back from exercising?

November 11, 2011

Keeper Recipes {Biscuits & Apple Crisp}

I don't know what it is about biscuits, but I haven't had much success making them. My first attempt was so bad that Nenya wouldn't touch them, and she's eaten radish and wasabi peas before. My imitation Red Lobster biscuits weren't much better, and neither were these. I've tried a couple other recipes, but I pretty much just stick with Pillsbury.

The other night I wanted to make biscuits but had no milk. I came across a recipe that used just flour, salt, butter, and oil, and it turned out to be the best one I've made so far. You can get the recipe here. Nathan was surprised when I told him I'd made them from scratch. They weren't amazing, but they were at least good.

My first attempt at making apple crisp was also not very successful. I tried a new recipe this year, and it was amazing!

I'm so glad I didn't just give up on either of these dishes the first time I made them. I've hardly mastered them, but at least I know there's hope.

For more recipes that have worked well for a beginner cook and baker like me, check out my Top 10 Recipes for Beginner Cooks and my Favorite Recipes board on Pinterest.

Are there any dishes you've tried and tried again to get right?

November 8, 2011

Adventures with Pumpkins: Carving & Cooking

Can you guess whose pumpkin is whose?

Our approaches to pumpkin carving were a good example of our varying approaches to most things in life.

I kept my design simple since I had never carved a pumpkin before, but I still put a lot of thought into it. I sketched out my design, created vector art in Illustrator, printed it out, taped it to my pumpkin, and traced over it with a pushpin. 

Finally, I was able to start carving.

Nathan grabbed a knife and went at it, with no plan whatsoever.

"Are you making a dog or an alien?"
"I'm not sure yet!"

We're good for each other.

I toasted most of the seeds, but I wasn't impressed with how they turned out. I'm not sure if I did something wrong or if I'm just not a fan.

I also put all the cutout pieces into the crock pot and made puree out of them. I got about a cup and a half out of it. Now I just have to decide what to do with it. I've made four pumpkin recipes so far this season, but I still have several recipes on my Pinterest pumpkin board left to try.

Have you had any adventures with pumpkin this year?

November 4, 2011

Gazelle Intensity

“Give no sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids.  
Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter
and like a bird from the hand of the fowler.”
- Proverbs 6:4-5

You should have as much energy escaping from debt as a gazelle has when escaping from a cheetah. Dave Ramsey calls this gazelle intensity.

Run! Escape!

But sometimes, I get tired of running. Sometimes I don't want to live like no one, living in a cheap apartment and packing my lunch every day. When we go through periods of lost income, I feel like we'll never be out of debt. Why bother trying to escape?

If you've ever felt like that, here's some inspiration.

November 1, 2011

5 Goals for 2011: 2 Months to Go!

1. Exercise for 30 minutes 3 times a week. 
We were going about this one all wrong. Nathan and I were trying to get up before 6:00 so we could exercise before work. Now we're working out as soon as we get home from work (working opposite shifts didn't last long after all). We started Couch to 5K this month and I'm loving it. After completing the the first day of week 3, I feel like there's actually a chance I could turn into a runner.

2. Go to bed at 10:00 each night and wake up at 6:00 each morning.
Now that I'm exercising after work instead of before, this isn't as important. I'm still aiming for at least getting ready for bed at 10:00 though.

3. Complete my daily chores and leave no dishes in the sink at the end of the day. 
I've actually done away with my daily chore schedule in favor of a new method I might blog about later. It's working so far. I've also done well with the dishes, thanks to a lot of help from Nathan.

4. Spend less than $200 a budget period on food (groceries and eating out). 
That didn't happen. I knew it was a lofty goal when I set it; the point was to spend much less than the $300 we had been spending, which we have done.

5. Write at least 2 blog posts a week.
I almost made it, but other activities took priority last week and I only published one post.  I'm hoping to up this slightly over the next two months so I can make 100 posts for the year (this is #79). 

I'm actually starting to feel like I have some balance in my life! Who thinks I should have a baby now to throw off everything? :-)

October 31, 2011

This Week's Menu Plan

Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas

Now that it's been over a year since the first and only time I posted our weekly menu, I decided it was time for another look at what we eat around here.

We've started exercising after work on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, which means the dinners for those days need to be either something I can throw together in minutes or something I can make ahead of time. 

Me: Plain yogurt, fruit, whole wheat bagels
Nathan: Cold cereal (He doesn't want to eat anything else. I buy mostly healthier ones, with the occasional Reese's Puffs so he still loves me.)

Leftovers or whatever else we can find to pack

Tuesday: Crunchy Garlic Chicken (My new recipe for the week. I always try at least one.)
Wednesday: Sour cream chicken enchiladas (adapted for anti-spicy folk)
Friday: Baked Potatoes
Saturday: Dinner out
Sunday: Crock pot cheesy chicken and rice

I made some trail mix for us to take to work to keep us away from the vending machines.

Although we're still not eating super healthy around here, we are slowly moving away from processed foods to more natural ones. Now if only I could get some vegetables in my husband! If anyone has ideas on how to get him to eat more than a few bites of veggies a day, I'd love to hear them.

More menu plans at Organizing Junkie.

October 26, 2011

Enjoying Fall

Not too hot...not too cold...beautiful colors. It's a great time of year for having fun outside. 

 You can conquer a corn maze

Hug a tree

Cuddle together for warmth

Build a house

Dine al fresco

Pick the perfect pumpkin

And most of all, just escape from the city and enjoy the SPACE. As much as I love where I live now, the city can be a little suffocating after growing up with cows for neighbors.

What are you enjoying this fall?

Shared at Things I Love Thursday and Finer Things Friday.

October 21, 2011

The Illusion of Healthy Food

As I try to buy healthier foods and cook healthier meals, I've realized how little I actually know about healthy eating. I recently read through Eat This, Not That! 2012  and found shock after shock as I flipped through the pages. Did you know that Oscar Mayer turkey bacon actually has more fat than their regular bacon? Would you have guessed that Kix cereal has less sugar and fewer calories than Life cereal?

Which sounds healthier: 
Two beef patties with pickles, onions, ketchup and mustard on a toasted bun
Smoked white meat chicken with mozzarella, tomatoes, onions, basil and chipotle mayonnaise on Focaccia? 

How about eating two of those burgers with two beef patties? Surely the chicken sandwich would be healthier than that, right?

Take a look at these two items from McDonald's and Panera. Neither is healthy. Although you get less saturated fat and no trans fat with the panini, you're still consuming more calories than there are in two McDoubles. Panera might use more natural ingredients than McDonald's, but there's nothing natural about 1,910mg of sodium. Even though it's served on fancy dishes, Panera is still fast food. If you want to eat healthy, look at the nutrition facts (available on most restaurant websites). Or, better yet, just avoid eating out.

(Images from here and here)

October 17, 2011

Why worry?

It doesn't get you anywhere.

90% of worries never happen.

It solves nothing.

And tomorrow will care for itself (Matthew 6:34)

So why worry? I don't know. I still do it, but I'm working on it.