June 27, 2011

We Made It!

After a lot of hard work, and an especially rough few weeks, Nathan has completed his Master of Business Administration degree! 

The graduation ceremony also happened to be on our one year anniversary, so it was a very special occasion.

We celebrated with a cookies and cream ice cream cake at our apartment after the ceremony and managed to fit seven guests in our living area.

It's been a fun year. Although I can't say we've loved every minute of it, married life has been a wonderful experience thus far.  Now that we should be able to have a little more quality time together, I almost feel like we're newlyweds all over again!

June 13, 2011

How Do You Do Tacos?

A taco isn't a taco without hard-boiled eggs -- if you're Nathan, anyway. The ground beef should be saucy beef, like the kind you would use for sloppy joes. There should be tons of cheese and sour cream, but absolutely no lettuce or tomatoes.

I prefer my tacos more like taco salads, or haystacks as my mom calls them. I start with a base of lettuce, then add beef, tomatoes, black olives, salsa, and cheese. I crush tortilla chips or taco shells on top. I like my beef plain - no seasoning, and definitely no sauce.

I had avoided making tacos up until last week because I didn't want to deal with making saucy meat or boiling eggs. Thankfully, Nathan ended up being content with beef that was seasoned but not saucy. I attempted to boil eggs, although I managed to only boil them halfway (Nathan boiled them the rest of the way for us). I had my lettuce and tomatoes, and we were both able to enjoy our tacos. He thinks my way is nuts; I think his way is nuts. This is clearly a dinner that allows for some individuality.

So, how about you? What is essential for your taco night?

June 9, 2011

Using Your Other 8 Hours

Eight hours at work. Eight hours sleeping. What about the other 8 hours? My biggest struggle with achieving my goals has been finding the time to fit it all in. Reading The Other 8 Hours by Robert Pagliarini has really helped me think about how much time I really have and how I can make better use of it through setting priorities, setting a schedule, and setting limits.

Setting Priorities
My goals are to exercise on a regular basis, wake up earlier, keep our apartment clean, increase income and decrease expenses, and write at least 2 blog posts a week. If I'm spending time on something that won't help me achieve one of my goals or benefit the well-being of myself or others, why am I doing it? If a book on my reading list will not help me reach my goals or at least be a good read, why on earth is it on there? Obviously, my husband has to come before all of these things. As I've learned, being a good wife for him has very little to do with cleaning. If he needs me to look over something he's written or just wants to talk to me, I'm not too worried about how much blogging I get done that day.

Setting a Schedule
I've resisted making a daily schedule for myself since I prefer to have spontaneity during my free time. But since making a chore chart and a menu plan have helped me stay on track, I decided having at least a general guideline couldn't hurt. If I really want to keep our apartment clean, I need to plan time to do chores each evening. If I want to write two or more blog posts each week, I need to schedule writing time. And when it's time to go to bed, I need to go to bed. That way, I can actually wake up on time and get 30 minutes of exercise that's a little more strenuous than hitting the snooze bar.

Setting Limits
You know those things that just suck away your time and suck the life out of you? Robert Pagliarini calls those Life Leeches. You want to get rid of those. He suggests eliminating activities from your life for three weeks and then deciding whether you want to resume it. While I haven't identified anything I want to eliminate from my life, I have set limits on some things. To help combat wasting time online, I've set limits on the amount of time I spend online each evening and have also set limits on the number of sites I follow with Google Reader (25) and Twitter (60). I only follow with Reader if I absolutely don't want to miss a post on that blog, and the rest I follow on Twitter. I've also removed a few nonessential Facebook friends, but I'm still at 200. That one's a lot harder.

Needless to say, I got a lot out of The Other 8 Hours. This is only the second book I've read this year that I'm considering buying for future reference. As the title implies, it's more applicable to those working full-time, but others could easily skip around to sections that interest them. I skipped through the parts about starting a big business venture involving investors but read the sections on blogging and freelance in detail. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to "get more time, get more money, and get a life," or any of the above.

Do you struggle with using time in a meaningful way? If not, what are your secrets?  :-)

Other Books Read in 2011

June 6, 2011

The End is Near

In less than three weeks, on June 26, Nathan and I will celebrate our first year of marriage. As exciting as that milestone is, I'm mainly looking forward to June 26 for an entirely different reason: the conferral of Nathan's MBA. We knew Nathan's grad classes would make the first year a little rough, but things have gotten really rough now that he is in his capstone course, which is writing a 60-80 page business plan. It's a group project with 5 other people, and Nathan is in charge of the finance portion as well as editing the entire paper.

I haven't exactly felt like Nathan's top priority lately. One of his team members was telling him how great he is and that his wife is lucky to have him. I know I'm lucky, but it's kind of ironic hearing that from someone who has spent as much time talking to him this past week as I have. The frustrating part is that I know this project has to take top priority for him to do well in the class. If I want him to do well, do I really even want him to spend much time with me? I'm trying to keep busy doing things by myself, like taking advantage of this great opportunity to get lots of reading done.

Although I do my best to be the supportive wife, sometimes I get tired of being the cheerleader all the time. Nathan's stress is enough to push me to the breaking point, so much that I once sarcastically told him, "Yes, dear, you are going to fail!" No, he's not; I just fail at being a wife sometimes. If nothing else, this has been a good learning experience.

Soon...soon it will be over...just not soon enough!

June 3, 2011

The Triple Coupon Experience

Doubling coupons up to $0.50 is nice, but what about tripling coupons up to $1? That's what Marsh was doing over Memorial Day weekend. It actually took me awhile to decide to go since Marsh's standard prices and even sale prices are fairly high. I'd only been there once in the past year, and I wasn't sure that I could get good enough deals even with triple coupons. The deal that ultimately got me in the door was the Era detergent - on sale for $2.99, and I had a coupon for $1 off! I couldn't pass up free detergent.

Here's what I ended up buying, and the prices I paid after the coupon:
  • Popcorn, Indiana Popcorn$0.99
  • Popcorn, Indiana Chips$0.99 
  • Era detergentFREE 
  • Uncle Ben's Ready Rice — $0.14
  • Hormel pepperoni — $0.94
  • Kraft mayo — $1.49 each
  • Heinz ketchup — $0.39
  • Yoplait yogurt — $1.45
  • Classico alfredo sauce — $0.50 each
  • Dole fruit crisp — $0.99
  • General Mills Milk 'n Cereal Bars — $0.49
  • Covergirl mascara — $2.99 (Is that even a good price? I never replace my mascara until it's basically solidified.)
  • Kraft sliced cheese — FREE

Before I went shopping, I set a few guidelines for myself. I didn't follow them perfectly, but they kept me from getting too crazy.
  1. Only buy items with matching coupons. I had no trouble following this one. I went to a quiet aisle before checking out and actually placed the coupons I was using on the items to make sure I had them all ready.
  2. Spend less than $1 on items we wouldn't normally buy. Well, we wouldn't normally buy white cheddar popcorn or chips, but since Nathan and I both LOVE white cheddar popcorn, I couldn't resist.
  3. Spend less than $10 total. My final total was $13.33. I could have put a few things back to bring that total down, but I was really excited about everything I was getting, as I knew would be the danger.
I was hoping for more free or nearly free items, but several of the items I had $1 off coupons for (Endust and Heinz 57, for example) weren't anywhere in the store. I may have had better luck at a bigger Marsh.

So, while this wasn't exactly an "extreme" couponing experience, I was pretty happy with my 77% savings and had a lot of fun doing it.