About Me

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I have two kids - a girl and a boy - and live in north-central Minnesota, land of snow and ice. Well, for 9 months of the year, that is. I work full-time for a local government, and on my "free time" I enjoy cooking, baking, hanging out with my kiddos, and RELAXING.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

family budget

I'm an accounting major.

I like numbers. And budgets.

My husband doesn't understand it, but I just can't help making a budget. (Sticking to it is another matter entirely.) Since we've been married I've been tracking our expenses. We don't have a budget, per se, but I've tracked every single penny we've spent and earned for the last five months. And you know what, it's a huge eye-opener! I can't believe how much we spend on some things.

With that in mind, and the knowledge we'll soon be jobless and paying rent, I decided to look at my expense tracker and create a "real" budget. Or at least find some areas we can trim down. With some simple changes we can save almost $600 a month!

I cut our grocery amount by $40, because hey, we're only two people and our cupboards are already very well-stocked. (If you ask Darren he'd say I have a sale-price obsession when it comes to food.)

I cut our eating out expenses by $49--they averaged $89 a month! I didn't know we ate out that much, but the numbers--they don't lie!

We spend a lot of money on gas station food/other random food/etc. so I eliminated that entirely, averages $24 per month.

We average $81 a month on "home supplies" (kleenex, TP, paper towels, ziploc baggies, and God only knows what else) and I cut that by $11.

We spent about $19 a month on video rentals/purchases and I cut that back $4 to $15, which is about the price of a new movie, or three older ones on sale.

We spend a whopping $285 a month on gifts. Believe me, I didn't know I had that many friends. But between baby showers, bridal showers, weddings, birthdays, Mother's/Father's day...there's a lot of gift-giving. We have slowly started to be better about it by limiting what we spend on people, but I cut out $185 of it and dropped our budget to only $100, excluding Christmas gifts. So we'll have to be more choosy. And no more buying Hallmark! If you get a very lovely handmade birthday card from me in the mail...well, now you know why.

I cut our toiletries cost by $20. I don't feel like I buy that much shampoo, but clearly I was wrong.

Darren and I make decent money and have actually relatively few fixed expenses, so we tend to spend a lot of money on ourselves. About $513 per month, in fact. It's all under the appropriate heading of "Fun" on my expense tracker. I didn't know fun was so expensive. I chopped off a nice chunk of change from that category--$263 to be exact--bringing our limit of "fun" to $250 per month. (I should mention that "fun" includes money spent on guns/ammo, fishing supplies, pictures/scrapbooking, books, and fun kitchen gadgets, among other things. We don't just blow it on bowling and concerts.)

The grand total comes out to be almost $600 ($596 to be exact). I think these surprisingly simple changes will really help us save some money these next couple months. And really help us deplete our savings less quickly while we're jobless students in the fall. We only put into savings about 17% of our income and I would like to see that number reach 25%, which will more than happen if we make these easy changes.

I was reading an article on MSN today about savings in your 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s. (Yes, I admit, that's what brought on the mad budget makeover.) The advice in the article was to "live like broke college students for as long as you can." Wise, I must say. We definitely spend more money just because we have more money. Sometimes it's hard to get into the mindset to save, save, save. I'm making it a priority for next month. I'll let you know how it goes at the end of July.

Monday, June 29, 2009

yet ANOTHER car repair

This morning I started my car and backed out of my parking spot when I heard a terrible grinding sound. Lovely.

I though something was dragging from the bottom of my car so I got out to go check it out and noticed my tire. It was flat. Not low. I'm talking rim-on-the-ground-flat.

Darren came to change it for me. (And to teach me how to change it while he was at it.) I was hoping to just get it patched, but no luck. Darren pulled it off and the whole inside of the tire has a huge gash. All the way around. The mechanic said some spring broke and that's what ripped it. So I need a new spring and a new tire.

I'm very tired of car repairs.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

5 months

Darren and I have been married for five months today. I can't believe it's been so long! Five months ago this very moment I was preparing to walk down the aisle. I had on a gorgeous white dress and my handsome husband was waiting for me at the front of the church. We were so in love and ready to start our life together. I have such wonderful memories of my wedding day. I love to think back and reflect on it. Of course, when I mentioned we had been married five months already to him he said, "It feels like forever." And that's a direct quote.

Loving husband, eh??

wednesday weight loss

Down half a pound from last week, yay! And the best news is I'm at my lowest since before I went to Grand Cayman! How sad that it took me three months to recover from that...well, not even. I STILL haven't recovered. One more pound and I'll weight what I weighed before we even went on vacation. Sad. I just wrecked my good mood...

So I'm 8.4 pounds away from my life-long goal. Okay, maybe not life-long. But definitely many-years-long. I'm kind of bummed because I've just been hovering around the same point for a little over a year...dang you, chocolate. It doesn't help that I have a desk job now and all I do is sit on my tush all day. Hopefully once we're back down in the cities I can kick it in gear at Snap Fitness. I miss Snap. I miss the elliptical.

I've been religiously eating SlimFast for breakfast and lunch every Monday-Friday. I just can't bring myself to eat it on the weekends too. Darren and I usually cook up a big breakfast on Saturday and I LOVE breakfast food. It's my favorite food group. Except chocolate.

The weekends are where I get in the most trouble. And sometimes evenings. Last night I ate a TON. I couldn't believe my weight was so low this morning (which makes me question the accuracy of my scale). But ya never know. Sometimes I feel like I'm being so good and the scale definitely disagrees, and other times I think I'm just a total pig and here it's not so bad at all. I like those times better, but then I always ask myself, "Well how low could it have been if I had actually behaved myself?" I hate that question.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Surprise! Another trip to the mechanic...

Darren's truck is at the mechanic. Again. And my car was there last week. Again. Does anyone else spend this much time at the mechanic??

My car needed a new brake pad. The brakes were grinding.

Darren's truck has a rattle. The part had to be ordered so it's still there. Which means my mom had to pick my up for work today. And then my sister brought her car up to work and it wouldn't start, so she took my mom's car. Mom and I had to borrow a co-worker's car to go home for lunch. I think I'm cursed.

That's it.

I have a broken car curse.

Friday, June 19, 2009

hemming my jeans

I decided to be ambitious. And cheap.

I decided to hem my own jeans.

You can see what a sad state they had reached. I was embarassed to wear them in public.

Fortunately Darren's grandmother gave us a sewing machine for a wedding present. At the time I laughed and thought "when will we ever use that?" Not laughing anymore.

You can see how long my jeans are...er, were in my 3-inch heels. (Side note: Notice how the floor is crooked but it looks like I'm standing up straight in the picture. Wanna know how I did that? Yeah, me too.)

Let's take a moment to admire these shoes.

They're so pretty.

These are my jeans. I got them at a second hand store. I don't know why they're called Boy Jeans, and I don't know what brand they are. You can imagine how difficult it is for me to find more. Every time I Google "boy jeans" I get, literally, boy jeans. It's a constant source of frustration in my life. If you know where to find them, I would be eternally grateful.

First I measured the distance from the inseam. It was 33". I'm 5'6". A 33" inseam is actually half my height. I told you they were really long jeans. (Notice how ripped the bottoms are. I had to cut off 2" to even have decent material to work with.)

I marked them with a Sharpie at 31" and started cutting.

Gulp. No going back now.

I don't own a serger (nor would I know how to use it if I did) so I zig-zagged the ends to keep them from fraying. Which they did. Immediately.

Slightly uneven. I didn't think it mattered, but oh, it most definitely did.

My instructions said to pin a 1" hem and sew it.

So I did. And then they were too short. Thank heaven for seam rippers.

I repinned a 3/8" hem and sewed right down the middle of the zig-zag. (And that's why it was important it wasn't crooked. Oh well.)

And, now for the finished product...

Drumroll, if you please...

Okay, before you see it...my jeans were really baggy after three straight days of wear, so they look awful. Pretend they're dryer-fresh.

And, my butt looks big because I'm standing awkwardly trying to make my stomach look small. Hah.

Still shorter than I like (I had to cut off SO MUCH because they were shredded) but I guess you are better able to see the cute shoes.

it was a stormy night in the neighborhood

Darren had softball last night. He's on a team with his dad. His mom wasn't going to be there so he said I didn't have to go either. He's so generous... :)

He left. I cleaned up the supper dishes (leftover chicken shish-kebobs, twice-baked-potatoes, corn on the cob), hemmed my jeans (more on that to come later), and read a book.

About 8:45 there was this sudden gush of wind and the trees outside were blowing like crazy. It was really dark and I correctly assumed a storm was coming in. The weatherman had been saying we were supposed to have scattered showers all day, but not a drop had fallen. You know how that is. All of a sudden it just started pouring! Like stop-your-car-on-the-side-of-the-road-pouring. I texted Darren and he was already on his way home from the game, fortunately. The power kept flickering on and off. He made it home and honked the truck horn so I would come and open the front door for him. It wasn't locked; he just wanted me to hold it open so he could run as fast as he could inside. That's how bad it was raining.

We finished our episode of Grey's and got ready for bed. The power went out for good around 9:30, right after I had put a load of laundry in the dryer, of course. And before you think I'm crazy for doing laundry in a storm, I started it before it started storming. That's just how long my washer takes, unfortunately. So we lit some candles and finished getting ready for bed. I had to use makeup-remover wipes on my face, which I hate doing, but it was better than nothing. Fortunately I'd already brushed my teeth so I didn't have to deal with that nastiness all night.

It was another sleepless night for me. Darren wasn't tired so we talked in bed for a LONG time. I was so tired. The storm kept on going. One thunder was so loud Darren and I both jumped and sat up in bed. We probably didn't go to sleep until around 11:00, and then both woke up around 12:45 when the power came back on and the lights blinded us. I dinstinctly remember pulling my covers over my head thinking "Is it morning already??!" Darren had to get up at 4:30 so of course I woke up. I managed to fall back asleep pretty quickly only to wake up to my phone ringing. At 4:42. Darren locked himself out of the house so I had to go downstairs and let him in. And that definitely woke me up. I tossed and turned until about 5:45 and then skipped working out and got up at 7:00. So I'm tired today, after all of that. What an eventful night. At least we've gotten quite a bit of rain this week. We sure need it.

This weekend will be another busy one, like usual. We're going out to dinner and bowling tonight with some friends. Actually the photographer for my wedding and her fiance. They're getting married in July. Tomorrow we need to get the camper out and cleaned up for camping next weekend. I would also like to see a movie sometime this weekend, since it's been a while and there are a couple out I've been wanting to see. Sunday is Father's Day and we're invited to my aunt and uncle's for lunch. My mom also said something about a fish fry Sunday night, I think. We also need to do something with Darren's parents over the weekend. He and his dad were going to go to a Twins game for Father's Day but they haven't gotten it organized yet, so I'm not sure what we're doing with them. All my summer weekends are quickly filling up!!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

my favorite blogger

A couple weeks ago I put up a post about The Pioneer Woman blog and recommended you read her story, "Black Heels to Tractor Wheels." The final installment was posted today and I thoroughly enjoyed it! If you haven't checked out PW yet, get yourself on over there!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hamburger Helper Deal

My local grocery store has Hamburger Helper on sale this week for $1 a box. It's a SuperValu and I believe most SuperValus have the same sales each week. With the $0.80 off 3 coupon you can get here you'll pay only $0.73 per box! Darren and I really like Hamburger Helper, so we eat it fairly often. I always make sure to stock up when it hits $1.00!

wednesday weight loss

Well, weighed the same I weighed two weeks ago. How annoying. I guess I should look on the bright side and realize that means I didn't GAIN any weight on vacation. Sometimes it's hard to see the silver lining, especially since my husband lost TEN POUNDS in the past month. So unfair.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

i shoulda been a boy scout

It definitely would have prepared me better for my life with my husband. He informed me the other day he's thinking about adding more time onto his contract with the National Guard.

Great. Just what I wanted to hear.

And on top of that, he might decide to VOLUNTEER for the deployment to Afghanistan next fall.


Life with him is teaching me to "always be prepared" for whatever future he decides to throw at us.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Keratosis Pilaris

I swear I have more diseases than the average person.

Since my pre-teen years I've been bothered by unsightly bumps on the backs of my upper arms. They don't itch and they don't hurt. They're just there. And ugly. I've tried a couple different things to get rid of them: Eucerin cream, regular lotion, tanning, exfoliation...anything anyone said would help. Nothing did. Well I finally found the name today, inspired by facebook of all things: Keratosis Pilaris, also called chicken skin. If that doesn't inspire a great image, I don't know what does.

There are a couple creams I can try for $8,000 a bottle. I'm a little skeptical, based on past experience. Keratosis Pilaris is some kind of genetic (of course) skin disorder cause by an excessive production of keratin on the skin, compounded by dryness. So it gets worse in the winter. An estimated 40-50% of adults have it; most don't even know. Their's must not be as bad as mine, lucky dogs. There's no cure (of course) and treatment must be constant, otherwise the bumps can come back. I just hate that greasy cream...

At least my diseases are educational.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

new haircut

I love getting my hair cut. I love it when the stylist shampoo's my hair. I love it when she massages my scalp. I love it when she combs my hair. Pretty much I love it when anyone touches my head. I liked getting mandatory lice checks in elementary school, for crying out loud.

So I got my hair cut today after months and months of debate. I had my hair chopped short my freshman year of college and HATED it. I was skeptical about this cut but my hair was backing me into a corner. I may win occasional battles but it had definitely won the war. Here is my "before" picture.

My hair actually cooperated--it probably knew on some level it was going to die today--and I almost backed out of my hair appointment. But within 40 minutes it was as flat as normal and I wanted to chop it all off again.

After much internet research I gave up on figuring out my face shape and just picked out a cute short hairstyle. It looks nice.

It'll probably only be a week before it gets the better of me again.

US travels

Okay, I was bored. Boredom is the basis for most of my posts, I'm not gonna lie. I thought it would be fun to make a little color-coded picture of the states I've been to, just for kicks. So here you go. :)

Wow, poor quality. Anyway, the red states are where I've actually been and the orange states are where I've actually been in airports. I didn't really think it would be accurate to count them, seeing as I never stepped foot outside the terminal. I've only been to about half of the states, so there's lots more to see still! Oh, and actually I haven't been to Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, or Pennsylvania yet but I colored them in since I'm going there next week. I'm really on the ball today...

wednesday weight loss

The scale suprised me this morning. Finally. I'm the lowest I've been since before we went to Grand Cayman, so that's good. What's not good is that I weighed this a year ago. Yes, I keep track, and yes (don't laugh) I keep a chart...but why should that suprise you if you know me?

Anyway, in 2007 I lost 28 pounds, in 2008 I lost 7 pounds, and so far in 2009 I've gained four pounds. Hmm...anyone see a problem there? I really really really want to lose these last 9 pounds but they've been hanging on since May of last year. Well I got within 5 of my goal before Christmas but gained some back.

I'm a little worried about going on vacation next week. I always gain weight on vacation. And on weekends. I'm bringing my slimfast though and I'm going to try really hard to stay on top of things. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

photography 101

Lesson one: You cannot have an extraordinary photo without editing. It does not exist. You can have a good photo, maybe even a great photo, but you cannot have an extraordinary photo without editing. No exceptions. Lucky for me Adobe Photoshop CS4 is only $699.00. Yeah, right. I'll start with Adobe Photoshop Elements 7 software at $59.99 after rebate. Considering I have no idea what I'm doing it's probably a wise idea.

Lesson two: You will need to understand advanced concepts to be able to take a decent picture in the first place. ISO speed, shutter speed, white balance, aperture...they all work together in one enormous equation and there is no right answer. Don't even get me started on all the different lenses. And who knew you should NEVER EVER use a flash if you can help it? Then what IS its purpose??

Lesson three: You will need to be a millionaire to fund your hobby. With a nice 10-12 megapixel digital camera upwards of $400 (much cheaper than the $800 I paid for my 8 megapixel three years ago...ugh) and lenses upwards of $200 (and there are about five different ones) you're talking big bucks just for the camera. Plus photoshop software and plug-ins, plus printing/developing, plus scrapbooking (because who is going to pay $700 for photoshop software if you aren't going to do anything to your pictures??).

Am I sure I want to learn how to do this?? Yeah.

irrational fear

I have an irrational fear of zombie movies. I never watch them unless I can avoid it. Last year Darren took me to see I Am Legend with Will Smith. And I like Will Smith. But I DID NOT know it was a zombie movie and I WAS NOT pleasantly suprised. A couple months ago I sat down to watch Resident Evil on the recommendation of a friend (you know who you are). She said it was good. I turned it off the second that dead girl floating the the water opened her eyes. Talk about being freaked out. Nobody told me it was a zombie movie! (Later I told myself I was being stupid and managed to finish the movie, alternating between hiding under the blanket and closing my eyes.) After I saw The Ring I had nightmares about that creepy girl for weeks. The ones with children scare me the most. I can't even watch scary movie previews in the theater. I close my eyes (and cover my ears if they're way out there) and tell Darren to hit me when it's over. I know, I know, I'm pathetic.

Anyway, last night I had zombie dreams. I'm not sure why since I haven't seen a zombie movie since the Resident Evil mistake. Although I was watching the third season of Alias a couple weeks ago and the very last episode has some minor zombie-like tendencies... Anyway, I kept waking up and thinking to myself "stop thinking about it and you won't dream about it." It didn't work. Every time I went back to sleep I had the same zombie dream. And I kept waking up. (Needless to say I didn't sleep very well for the second night in a row.) The bad thing was I had to go to the bathroom. Okay, don't judge me for this, but I was too scared to get out of bed and go to the bathroom. The zombies would eat me! I don't want to be a zombie! Somebody save me please! So I went back to sleep, and kept waking up, and waking up, and waking up. By then I wasn't sure if I was waking up from the zombie dreams or because my bladder was going to explode. Eventually it was light enough that the zombies would seek cover, so I figured it was safe to go to the bathroom. I slept fine after that. I told you it was irrational.

Monday, June 1, 2009


A fear of pictures?

Not quite.

Photophobia is actually a condition where your eyes are overly sensitive to light. (I have to admit, until today when I did some research online I thought I just had some off-the-wall genetic eye disease. Turns out other people outside of my family have it too.) In the same way my skin is overly sensitive to the sun (PMLE) my eyes can't handle too much brightness. Seriously. And I'm pretty sure I'm on the extreme end of the spectrum.

I can't handle bright sunny days. I wear sunglass all the time, even when people say it isn't bright out. My dear sweet husband always makes fun of me for wearing sunglass when it's overcast, but just because the sun isn't shining doesn't mean it isn't bright out! It's not night time, is it?? (As I sit here typing this I'm wishing for some sunglasses. The clouds are really white today and they're hurting my eyes. I told you it was bad.) I can't tan in the summer on a lounge chair because it's too bright even with my eyes closed. It physically hurts. If I don't have sunglasses while I'm outside in the summer I'll start to get a headache from squinting.

My aunt has the same problem. My dad did too. We are (were) all light-skinned with light-colored eyes. Darn you German and Swedish ancestors. I tell you, being light-skinned with light-colored eyes is a prescription for all kinds of strange diseases. Maybe this could have been prevented by the excessive eating of carrots as a child. But back to the main point.

So why did I decide to do some medical research today? Well, let me tell you. Last night as I was trying to sleep my husband (annoyingly) kept turning on lights. First the downstairs light when he came home late. Then the light in the upstairs bathroom. Then the light on his nightstand. And each and every time I woke up. And I always wake up when the lights get turned on at night and can hardly ever fall asleep unless it's dark. And ZAP! Suddenly there was a connection between my horrible day-time light sensitivity and my inability to sleep at night in a lightened room.

I very specifically remember one time on a family vacation I tried to take a nap in the truck. It was the middle of the day, we had been driving for hours on end, and I was tired. Unfortunately it was sunny. I told my mom it was too bright out to sleep (I was a little crabby) and she told me it didn't matter because my eyes would be closed. I didn't dare tell her I could still see the light with my eyes closed (my dad would have whopped me one) but I remember having a very difficult time falling asleep. Yes, I know it's weird to still see the light when your eyes are closed. I told you it wasn't normal.

According to the unreliable self-help internet sites, I could take some ginkgo biloba (which I thought was for memory) or some omega-3 fish oil (which I thought was for better skin, hair, and nails). Or I could just wear my sunglasses and be teased mercilessly for the rest of my life. Good thing sunglasses will never go out of style.

if you're bored...

I just discovered the most hilarious story ever here. I highly recommend spending a few hours reading it. I laughed and laughed and couldn't wait to read the next section. I'm nearly finished and have never enjoyed a blog post more. It reads just like a novel even though it's a true story. I wish it was a book. :)