Thursday, April 28, 2016

open letters

i am linking up with Julie and Victoria for the first ever open letters link up!

dear Spring,

thank you for being awesome, and for always being so faithful. no matter how long the winter is, you never fail to show up. i know i can always count on you to thaw out the winter chill, and to bring sunshine back into my life. now that you are here, there is much rejoicing to be had! it's so good to see you, friend!

dear Accounting,

it's not you, it's me. the truth is that i've found something i never knew i needed until now. but now that i know i can't ignore it, i've got to chase after it. i've appreciated the time that we've spent together and all that you have taught me. i've grown as a person these past four years, and for that i am ever grateful. but it's time for a new chapter in my life, and you're just not a part of it. maybe we can stay friends. i really do wish you well.

you never cease to amaze me with your crazy antics and your full personality. or how even if you have 3 bones laying on the ground you still find "unique" things to chew on - like a wooden coaster or a bag of binder clips. i'll give you this, no one can ever claim that you are not creative! and you really crack me up when you jump on pillows for 5 minutes before finally getting comfortable. as if having a couch and pillow to lay on in the first place isn't good enough! oh, and by the way, when i call your name and you continue laying there snoring louder, i know you're really awake! i pulled that trick long before you came along! ;)

what letters are you writing today?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

what i've learned from budgeting

many a date night has been had thanks to Groupon and i think they are awesome! which makes the fact that they sponsored this post even better!

at the beginning of this month, i made my last student loan payment and it felt so good! when i graduated from college, i owed over $50,000 in student loans and managed to pay them off in just under 3 years thanks to a little thing they call budgeting! so i am a firm believer that budgeting works, but you have to stick to it! there are a few things i've learned along the way, so i wanted to share some thoughts on getting into a budgeting groove!

1) put what you need to save in savings & then live on the rest. then absolutely do not touch your savings for anything other than emergencies or huge purchases that you've purposely saved up for. live like you have to live paycheck to paycheck & then if you are ever in a situation where you have to, then you already know how to do it! plus, you have that safety measure of savings to fall back on if you get in a pinch!

2) decide up front what is a "need" and what is a "want" - especially if you have a spouse that shares the budget! even if you are only budgeting for yourself, when you define things beforehand, there's no decision to make in the moment and you are less likely to justify or overspend. if you know before you walk into a store that items A and B are needs, but items C and D are wants, you will be less likely to splurge on C and D on a whim!

3) at the same time, you should build fun money into your budget! if you're not familiar with fun money, my friend Julie explains it very well in this post, but basically it is money you budget to blow on fun things! the only difference is you're not "blowing" it because it is accounted for in the budget! it's important to have some money set aside for things you find that you want, so you feel free to spend a little bit on those things. if you only spend money on things you need, you will feel too constricted and probably hate living on a budget. it is kindof like dieting - if it's too strict you can't handle it, but if you incorporate cheat days, it is more tolerable!

4) use coupons! yes, the coupon may only be for $.50, but if you use multiple small amount coupons, they will definitely add up! plus, a lot of stores double coupons on certain days or allow you to use store coupons & manufacturing coupons on the same item, increasing your savings! no coupon is too small to be worth your time. if there is something i want to buy, i almost always wait to find a coupon before purchasing it! i use a lot to find coupons as well! 

5) speaking of coupons, take advantage of Groupon Coupons! date night, travel, and even shopping doesn't have to take a hit just because you are on a budget - you just have to be smart about how you spend your funds! Groupon even has coupons for stores like Kohl's and aerie - so you could make your fun money go a long way! i love that these coupons can be used in store or online and that there is such a variety of stores included. there is basically a coupon for any occasion, so be sure to check the current deals when you are planning on doing some spending! for instance, today you can get a coupon to save you 15% off on a TOMS purchase, and there is also a coupon through tomorrow for 20% off Carter's for anyone needing a baby shower gift! you can also check out Groupon Coupons on facebook and twitter - so stay connected and find great deals!

what are your budgeting tips and tricks? did you find any favorite coupons on Groupon?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

a letter to my future self

to the me i'll be in 10 years,

what's up? (do people even still say what's up?) what is it like to live in the year 2026? did you ever think you would see the day? do you ever miss the you that you used to be? do you think back to 2016 as "the good ole days"? or are you glad that you're in a better place now?

you know that decision you made that completely changed your life? well, i just made it and i am so excited to see where this next journey takes me (you? us?)! 10 years separates us and i can only imagine the adventures you've had during that time. i'm almost sure that you're in a job you love, doing hard but rewarding things, and building a family with Thomas

i bet you still have tons of pets, even though the ones i know and love now are probably gone. and hey, did you ever get that duck?! i've been working on Thomas, so please tell me he finally gave in & got us a duck! or maybe even that miniature donkey! ;)

i am turning 28 in a few months, which means that you will be almost 38 when you read this. that is just super crazy. i know a decade is 10 years, but it seems like 10 years is an awfully short amount of time for an entire decade to pass by in. i guess it's true what they say, the years just go by quicker with each year that you get older. 

i hope that you still remember what it's like to be young & free, where you feel like your whole life is ahead of you. i hope you still feel that way, because it is! i know people tend to say that college is the best 4 years of your life, but from my experience life just gets more rich with age, like a good bottle of wine. i know the best years are ahead of me, and i believe they are still ahead of you too! not to say that the years in-between aren't good, because they really are! 

so, mainly i'm writing to say that i hope you are still chasing your dreams! i hope you are still as excited about this career change (and life change) as i am. and i hope you are still finding new paths in your journey that surprise you and challenge you, because that's how we grow afterall! 

the me that's still learning a thing or two :)

p.s. i am joining in with Kiki and Leah for The Circle link up! and Julie and Victoria for the Open Letters link up!

baked southwestern eggrolls

have you ever had the southwestern eggrolls appetizer at Chili's? it is one of my favorites and sometimes i get that as my meal! a few months ago i found this southwestern eggrolls recipe and was really excited to try it out. we even bought all of the frozen/canned ingredients, but then life got crazy busy and we never made it. 

while our house was showing we stayed with my in-laws. my mother-in-law is a vegetarian so i pulled out some of our vegetarian recipes to try. the first one i suggested was this eggroll recipe, and it has quickly become one of our favorites! we actually made these at my parents house last weekend too and they loved them as well! we made a side dish of quinoa & my dad made guacamole which paired with these eggrolls really well!

2 cups frozen corn, thawed
1 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 10oz package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and dried
1 1/2 cup shredded mexican cheese blend
1 4oz can chopped green chiles, drained
4 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 package egg roll wrappers
1 egg, beaten for sealing egg roll wrappers (can substitute water)

1) preheat oven to 425 degrees and coat baking sheet with cooking spray.

2) in a large bowl, combine everything but the egg roll wrappers. place about 1/4 cup mixture in the center of an egg roll wrapper and fold bottom corner over filling. fold sides toward the center over the filling and continue to roll tightly to seal. moisten remaining corner with egg to seal. repeat until mixture is gone.

3) place the seam side of the egg rolls down on the baking sheet and brush tops of egg rolls lightly with olive oil. bake for 10-15 minutes until lightly brown. turn egg rolls over halfway through baking.

4) serve warm & enjoy!

what is your favorite southwest dish?

Monday, April 18, 2016

when dreams become reality | an announcement!

it was a day like any other, the day it all changed. there was a subtle shift in the air, like the stillness before a storm. she had no idea that one simple conversation that day would change the entire direction of her life. she didn't know yet that she'd been preparing and waiting for this moment for a long time. 

the day passes like any other day would. she asks her husband if they can go out for a coffee date like they sometimes do. it's early fall and the slight chill in the air has her longing for long talks over coffee, like the one that started their relationship just four short years ago. 

there is something about drinking a hot beverage in a cozy coffee shop that makes her heart fill up with joy, and makes her feel as if she can do anything. it's a simple pleasure in life really, but it has such a profound affect on her. as if she could dare to dream anything, anything at all. 

this conversation had become almost routine over the last year:
"i just feel so unsettled all the time. i want to do work that matters, work with a purpose. i'm good at my job and i like it, but it feels like there is something missing."
"i'm realizing that i'm just not motivated by the same things that other people in the corporate world are, and that i need to do something i am passionate about."
"i think the constant stress is changing who i am. i feel so drained and worn out all the time. i can't imagine having a job like this when we have kids."

she can't pinpoint exactly how she feels, but she knows these feelings are there. and that they are there for a reason. he asks her if she left accounting what she would do, and she says what she has always said "i would love to work with adoption or social work in some way." and then he says the words that change everything, he simply asks "why are you not doing this?"

it finally clicks. she has always thought about this in a "maybe someday" sort of way, but never allowed herself to believe she could actually do it. it isn't until his encouragement and confidence in her, that she realizes "someday" could actually be today. it isn't until this moment that she understands changing careers and chasing a dream is not a failure, it is just a new journey. and in fact, life tends to change directions constantly, it is not a solitary path. as they continue to discuss their life goals, starting a family, and what they want life to look like, nothing has ever made more sense.

over the next few months a million things come together seamlessly. door after door opens, and things quickly fall into place. what seemed like a far away dream at first, is quickly becoming reality. she is free to chase the dream she is finally allowing herself to have, and it is so exciting!


so, there you have it! in June i leave my job as an accountant, in July we move to a new city, and in August i officially become a graduate student earning her Masters in Social Work! i thought it would be fun to make the announcement in story form, but more details will be coming very soon to a blog near you!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

DIY crayon art

last friday night, my mother-in-law had a girls craft night with college girls from her church. since thomas & i are living there, we got to join in and it was so much fun! everyone came up with unique ideas and it was fun to see what everyone came up with! this is a super easy craft, the hardest part is unwrapping all of the crayons! especially if they are older crayons, some of those papers i swear were super glued on! i'm sure you've seen this craft all over pinterest, but if you haven't tried it yet you need to!

boxes of crayons
hot glue gun
hair dryer
tarp (to protect your floor from the melting wax!)
patience (to unwrap all of the crayons!)

1) decide what you want your design to be! if you want parts of the canvas left untouched, tape those off! maybe you want to do a silhouette, so you should paint that part first before adding the crayons.

2) once you've decided on your design, get to unwrapping all of the crayons you want to use.

3) when your crayons are unwrapped, hot glue them on to the canvas. (you can also melt them over the canvas to get the color on there without leaving the crayons as part of the finished project - whatever you decide!)

4) turn your hair dryer on high and melt away! use a diffuser attachment if you have it to help spread the heat!

5) once your melted crayons have cooled, peel off your tape and finish your painting!

so you can see that this is super simple to do once you finally get all of the crayons unwrapped! and it doesn't make too much of a mess either, as long as you use the tarp to catch the runaway drips! there are also endless possibilities of what you can make! i love the silhouette ballerina that my mother-in-law did, and my favorite of the night was definitely the elephant! of course, i love our little rainy cafĂ© too! ;) 

have you ever done any type of crayon art?

Monday, April 11, 2016

the big move | showing the house

we are very fortunate that Thomas's parents live 5 minutes from us and were gracious enough to let us and all of our pets move in with them while we show the house! this helps us not to be under so much pressure to clean the house every morning after we get ready for work, and the stress of having to leave the house at a moment's notice for a showing. our house was listed on a thursday, and the first weekend we had 9 showings, so we would have had to constantly clean the house & leave. we still go over to check on the house each day, but since we aren't living there we don't have to do as much tidying up each day.

when you have pets, realtors tell you that you don't want prospective buyers to be able to tell that you have pets since they may not be pet people. if they don't like dogs and they are touring a house that has dog bowls and toys all over, they can't easily see themselves owning the house. also, they say pets should be out of the house a few days prior to showings so the house won't smell like the pet. so we figured it would just be easier for us and our pets to move out temporarily while so many showings were going on.

the way showings work with our realtor is that a third party handles scheduling the showings. any realtor in the area can request to show the house, so the requests go to the third party company, and they then send me & Thomas the times of the showings. we are then able to accept the showing, decline the showing, or reschedule the showing time. since we are temporarily living somewhere else, we have the freedom to be able to accept every showing request that comes through because they don't affect our schedule.

after a buyer and realtor walk through the house, the third party sends a request for feedback. they also send a reminder request if they don't get anything the first time. if feedback is filled out, an automatic email is sent to us with the results. this is really helpful because we are able to know what the buyers liked, didn't like, what they thought needed improvement, and if they were interested in the property or not. the biggest thing we've heard on the feedback is that they don't like the neighborhood going in next door, which is completely understandable but unfortunately not something we can change. it's nice to get the feedback though and know what buyers are thinking, so if it is something we can change, then we have the opportunity to!

all of these photos were taken by Connie Rice & Partners

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

the big move | documenting our yard

one of the biggest selling points for our house is that we have almost 2 acres and that is hard to come by these days unless you are 45 minutes from civilization. plus we have 3 barns which add storage and character to the property. in the back of our yard we have a little field that is framed by trees, which could be a cool place for a garden or fire pit! almost everyone that comes over to our house says that they love our yard & the barns, so i wanted to share a few pictures of our yard too!

we built the fence the week after we got married because the fence that was already there was a smaller area and rotting under ivy. when i moved in my basset hound moved in too so we needed a nice fenced in area for her to stay during the day... of course she never let that happen and lives it up inside while we're at work, but we have still enjoyed the nice fence! 

honestly, our yard is one of the things i will miss most about our house because it is just so unique and loaded with character. the house is loaded with character too, but in a different way. i love our yard any time of the year, but our yard is especially gorgeous when it is covered in snow with the red barns to contrast the white. and i am really going to miss the barns as picture backdrops because they are in many a photo i have taken! 

but the good thing is our first house is well documented & we've made plenty of memories here that we will always cherish. and even though there are things we will miss about this house, we are still looking forward to our next house! i am really excited about picking out a house together, because Thomas lived in this house 8 years before we got married so we have never had that experience. we made this house our home, so in a way it is our first house, but in a way our next house will be our first too! :)

Monday, April 04, 2016

the big move | staging the house

our realtor actually told us that our house looked great staged the way it already was, so we didn't have too much to do once we got the clutter out and cleaned. we took down a few picture frames that had our wedding pictures in them, cleaned out our cabinets so they didn't look overflowing, and took out some of our non-general decor. 

last week, the photographer came to take pictures on tuesday, the realtor took measurements on wednesday, the house was officially listed on wednesday night, and we had our first 3 showings on thursday! we had 9 showings through the weekend, so things moved pretty fast and we are officially on the market now! i'm sharing the staged pictures that our realtor's photographer took. (click here to see our lived in house to compare - basically just a little bit more clutter!) i am so amazed at how the official pictures came out - they really turned our horrible lighting into a bright house!








all of these photos were taken by Connie Rice & Partners

walking through our house now, it just feels really open! we've added a lot of storage in some of the rooms & now that they aren't completely full it just feels like we have so much space! and even though the inside of the cabinets aren't pictured, all of those are thinned out too! so when we open our cabinets it just feels like we have a lot of open space, which i've heard is what you want potential buyers to feel so that's a good thing! now i kinda want to stay here a little bit longer to enjoy all of this space and openness! ;)

i'm actually going to compile all of these pictures and make a shutterfly photo book of our first house! i do a photo book of each year of our marriage and we love having the memories to look back on! i have also done a photobook of our engagement pictures, my bridal shots, our wedding pictures, and our passport to fun dates! shutterfly has coupons and great deals all the time so we get so many books for great prices!

so, tell me, would you buy our house? ;)