Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Protect Yourself!

When I became an adult and moved into my first apartment, I had renters insurance that covered me in the event of a disaster such as fire, flood, burglary, etc. I also started keeping my own personal documents like my Social Security Card and passport so that my parents didn't have to keep up with them anymore. These are two things that we must be responsible for as adults, but exactly how responsible are we really being with them?

As a renter or homeowner, it's important to document the items in your home that would be covered by your insurance in the event that you lose it all. Your insurance company is much more likely to cut you a check if you can prove that you did indeed have a $2,500 flat screen TV hanging above your fireplace. A few ways to document these items are:
  • Video tape each room in your house. Go around each room and document every single thing in that room.
  • Take photos of each room. Again, photograph every single thing in each room.
  • Keep an Excel spreadsheet of your belongings. Most importantly, record large items like furniture, electronics, etc. Save this document to a flash drive, your hard drive and maybe even your work computer (if it is secure).
  • Keep these videos, photos and/or spreadsheets in a fire safe box.
A fire safe box is critical for your home. It's like the "Black Box" on an airplane. We have one like this:


This box should contain all personal and private documents such as:
  • Insurance inventory videos, photos, spreadsheets (per above)
  • Social security cards
  • Passports
  • Birth certificates
  • Immunization records (as applicable)
  • Property deeds
  • Vehicle titles
  • Bank account information
  • Other personal treasured items such as jewelry, coins, etc.
Place the box in a location that is private but a place you will remember, such as a closet. Keep the keys in a separate location, but again, a place that you will remember.

Fire safe boxes are fairly inexpensive and come in a variety of sizes. Be sure to pick one up and store your important items in it! Document your belongings. You just never know what life my throw your way, and the best way to tackle any situation is to be prepared.



Monday, February 27, 2012

Milo Monday

Hey guys, Milo here! Mom asked me to start hosting "Milo Monday," so I'll be here each Monday to say hello and give a recap of what my humans and I did over the weekend.

This weekend was awesome! Mom and Dad took me for a ride in the car (one of my favorite things to do EVER) to pick up dinner at Zaxby's. Boy, it smelled great but the air smelled even better as I hung my head out the window and let the breeze blow through my ears. I just love sniffing the air as we drive around town. There's so much to smell!! We got home, ate dinner and then it was PAJAMA TIME! Do you know how happy it makes me to see Mom and Dad put on their PJs? I run around like a crazy dog because I know this means they aren't going anywhere else, and they are staying home with ME! We watched some TV and snuggled down in bed for the night. I love snuggling almost as much as I love tennis balls.

Saturday was so cold and SO windy that I didn't want to go outside at all! We stayed inside most of the day, but Mom and Dad did have to leave me for a little while to go run errands. They came home with the biggest bag of MY food that I've ever seen! My food is so good, and I was excited to see so much of it in one place! Daddy turned on the vacuum after they got home, and I showed that thing who was boss! I barked and charged that vacuum so it would know who the real man of the house was! The three of us spent the rest of the day and night together. I even helped Daddy cook burgers on the grill! Having Mom and Dad home totally makes my life day.

Sunday is always a bittersweet day for this boy. I am happy because Mom and Dad aren't at work, but I am sad because I know Monday is coming soon. I pout and lay on my spot on the back of the loveseat most of the day. Pouting equals extra snuggles. Daddy had to go back to church that night for a long meeting, and I was so sad. Wherever I laid, I had to be facing the door so that I could jump on him as soon as he walked in. When he came home, we were the happiest boys in the world. We are best friends.

Monday morning came early, and I was not ready to get out of bed. Neither was Daddy, so I tried to hide from Mommy by cuddling extra close to Dad. It didn't work. We had to go outside in the cold and start getting ready for the day. I'm at home today having a party with my pals catching up on my snoozes while Mom and Dad are at work. I can't wait for them to get home!

Hope you and your humans had a great weekend too!

Never-ending Belly Rubs,
Milo

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Teamwork



When our niece, Reagan, was younger, she loved Wonder Pets. They sang a little ditty about teamwork: "What kind of work? Teamwork! What kind of work? Team work!" The Wonder Pets were onto something.

I think John C. Maxwell said it best, "It takes teamwork to make the dream work." Before I was married, I was living the single life all alone in the big city. I believed I could do everything all by myself. I have come to realize that's not always true.

The hubs and I have big dreams. Some are attainable; others are not. It will take both of us working together to make any of our dreams reality. You see, I believe that a marriage (or any committed relationship) takes two things:

1. Love, passion, fireworks, commitment, etc.
2. Unemotional partnership.

Some parts of relationships need to be approached without emotion and more like a business. Our relationship works toward life goals that don't always involve how we "feel" - it's more about how we can be successful in life (being successful in love is another thing entirely). It's about TEAMWORK!

Some of the ways we work as a team in life are:

1. Regular family business meetings - These are usually held quarterly and discuss primarily finances.
2. Listen - We have two ears and one mouth for a reason.
3. Delete emotion - It's hard to keep things practical and realistic with all that goopy stuff in there.
4. Remember needs v. wants - Wants are selfish and emotional. Needs are, well, necessary.
5. Agree to disagree - Sometimes, ladies you aren't going to get your way. Deal.

How do you work together to achieve your goals and dreams? Are you able to take out your feelings long enough to make realistic decisions? How's it working for you?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Guest Post: Making Sense of Cents

Michelle over at Making Sense of Cents is doing a guest post on my blog today. If you haven't seen her blog, go check it out!

How to Make Your Monthly Budget

Hi everyone! My name is Michelle and I blog over at Making Sense of Cents. I blog A LOT about personal finance, but I also talk about my life, fashion and my hopes for traveling.


Budgets are very important. I hope you all have one! It's much easier to control your spending when you know where you're coming in every month. There are many ways that you could start your monthly budget.

Without a budget I don't know where I'd be. I'd probably be spending like crazy and I would most likely have credit card debt because I wouldn't know what any of the numbers are.


Things you should keep in mind when making your budget:
  1. Make sure it's realistic. Don't have a budget full of unrealistic expectations. You most likely won't be able to cut your food budget to $50 a month, gas to $0, etc. A budget isn't going to make money grow on trees!
  2. Make realistic cuts every month if you can.
    • Most likely, there are things you can cut. Conserve water, heat, electricity, etc.
    • Don't eat out as much. Try making a meal plan so that you buy only what you need!
    • Cut out any unnecessary cell phone, cable, etc. expenses.
  3. Don't exclude something from your budget when you know that you're going to buy it anyway. For example, DO include entertainment or miscellaneous. Most likely you're going to want to go out with friends, go to the movies, eat out, etc. Something might even come up in your budget. Be prepared!
  4. Allow for room to breathe. This goes hand in hand with the other bullet points.
  5. Last but not least. Look over your budget at the end of the month and see where you came in. Make any adjustments that are needed.

Thanks for reading everyone! Check me out at my blog.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Smartphone Choices

Annddd the time has come for me to choose a smartphone. March is the final decision time, and I really have no idea. Here are my options:

Option #1: Verizon Droid Bionic

Option #2: Iphone 4

Option #3: Iphone4s

Option #4: Verizon Droid Razr
Verizon is our carrier, so that's who my service will be through. Let's be honest, I don't know the difference between any of these phones. I told John to choose one and I'd be happy with it.

What do you have? What do you like/love? What would you recommend?

Foxy!

While cooking dinner last night, I realized I didn't have any cheese to top our Buffalo Chicken Pizza, so I ran out to the grocery store to pick some up. On my way back, I turned on our street and came across a FOX!

John told me last week that he had seen a fox when coming home from the gym and that he was going to start going with me to take Milo out to potty at night. I was surprised to see the fox myself, as it's probably my first encounter with one. I pulled the car over and grabbed my phone to snap a photo. He was in the process of killing his dinner and didn't seem to notice me at all.

Perhaps this is just preparation for living out in the country one day...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Real Housewives of....

I must make a confession to you today: I want to be a housewife. 

It is not because I hate my job and want to stay home eating bon-bons and watching soap operas all day. It is because I want to focus on my home and family while following my own schedule and doing the things that I do best.

While I realize the 1950s housewife was often oppressed and unappreciated, I believe that there were many housewives who were the exact opposite - happy, recognized and in thriving marriages. The Feminist Revolution brought about "girl power" and helped send women into the workforce to pursue their own careers and independence. Women earned respect from men that they may have never obtained otherwise. This is a wonderful thing.

But I feel like women have spent so long trying to prove themselves, trying to achieve this equality that is somewhat unattainable, even now. I believe that this rush of women from their homes and families into the working world has been part of the reason that the family unit has suffered over the years. (This is just my opinion, and I am in no way a sociologist with all the answers.) I think women are starting to get tired of trying to "have it all". I think there are a large number of women who long to be back at home, focusing on cultivating their marriages and raising their families.

I am one of those women. While I do not wish to have any children right now, I do wish that my primary job responsibilities were at home. My current inspiration is The Pioneer Woman - she makes her living at home, maintaining her house, feeding her family and raising her children. I dream of a life where I cook, clean, organize, volunteer, run errands and focus on my family each day.

Call me crazy, but I even have a "House Wife Life" spreadsheet where my days are mapped out. Each hour has something different for me to take care of - very little time is spent on the couch. My day would begin at 7am by waking up with John, cooking him breakfast and getting him out the door for work. The morning and afternoon is sprinkled with various tasks, depending on the day. Each day is concluded by cooking and cleaning up dinner.

In preparing this blog post, I did a little research and was surprised to find a number of blogs of women who are housewives. Most have children, but some do not. It made me smile to know that there are other women out there who have the same desires that I do. Perhaps one day this dream of mine will come true.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Giveaway Winner!

And the winner is...

Jessica Killette

Congratulations Jessica! I will pass your email address along to the owner of A New Creation Bows, and she will see you an e-gift certificate for $10.

Thanks to the two of you everyone who entered to win!

Stay tuned for the next giveaway, coming soon!!

Healthcare Costs

Over the past few months, I have had several visits to the dentist and doctor for a tissue grafting and check-ups, respectively. While I have fantastic insurance through my employer, these visits still cost at least a co-pay. After a few visits, these co-pays start to add up!

Last year, my company started offering "wellness credits" that I could earn by participating in several activities including (but not limited to) annual physicals, health assessments, wellness counseling programs, nutritionist visits, and participating in walks/runs (i.e. Relay for Life). These credits are added to an FSA card each quarter, and I can earn up to $275 each year! I do not contribute any of my own money to this FSA - it is completely funded by my employer for the wellness activities I complete.

Although I do not contribute to an FSA, John does. It is a fantastic way to pay for medical and dental expenses throughout the year. These accounts basically work like this:
  • During re-enrollment each year, you decide how much you want to put into your FSA account for the next year: $300. $500. $1,000, etc. This total amount is loaded into the account by your employer at the beginning of the following year.
  • Then, the total amount [you decided to put into the account] is divided among your paychecks throughout the year (it's kind of like making a payment). For example, if you are paid bi-monthly and choose to put $500 into your FSA account, approximately $21 is deducted from each paycheck ($500 divided by 24 pay checks = $20.8333).
  • The FSA card can be used for most medical and dental costs. For me personally, my 2011 FSA funds paid for all but $44 of my tissue grafting procedure. My 2012 FSA funds will cover the copays I have had to pay out of pocket. These funds will also cover any prescription costs I may incur.
  • Some FSA accounts will issue you a debit card; some will require you to pay up front and submit for reimbursement.
  • Be sure to tell your dentist or doctor to provide you with proper paperwork so that you can submit for reimbursement accordingly. Even if you pay up front with the FSA debit card, sufficient documentation should be kept on file should the insurance company need it in the future.
  • FSA funds are only good for that calendar year. They do not roll over. Most companies will allow a grace period during the first quarter of the next year to file for reimbursements, but generally speaking, you need to use those funds or you're gonna lose those funds!
Regardless of how your FSA or Wellness Program may work, choosing these options is a great way to keep your medical costs down.

Do you have an FSA? Has it worked well for you?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Kitchen Tips and Tricks

Have you ever wished you could decrease the amount of time you spend in the kitchen? I know the last thing I want to do after working all day is spend over and hour preparing dinner when I get home. Here are a few things I do around the kitchen to get me in and out in no time.

Keep frequently used items on the counter. I use olive oil, salt and pepper everyday. These items stay beside the stove so that they're easily accessible. I don't have to get them out every time I need them, which cuts down on how long it takes me to prepare food.

I keep ground pepper and Kosher salt in condiment cups for easy access. All I have to do is pinch out whatever amount I need and keep moving! Sometimes I prefer fresh ground pepper, but most of the time I use it already ground up. I always use Kosher salt, as it's better for you than iodized salt because it contains no iodine and less sodium, but it has a stronger flavor so you use less!

Each week, I make a gallon of sweet tea for us to drink with dinner. I add sugar in 1/3 cup increments, so I leave a 1/3 cup measuring cup in the canister. If I make two quarts, I add two scoops. If I make a gallon, I add three scoops. This also makes it easier when I need to get John to make sweet tea: I just tell him how many scoops and keep on going!

I also make minute rice on a pretty regular basis, so I keep it in an air tight container with a 1/2 cup measuring cup. Minute rice is made with equal parts rice to water, so if I need to make 1/2 cup of rice, I boil 1/2 cup of water and add one scoop. Again, makes it easier when I need John's help.

There are times when I just don't have time to get out measuring spoons to measure out exact amounts, so measuring with my hand is much easier. Here is what one teaspoon looks like in my hand. Keep in mind, I am pretty petite, so a teaspoon fills up about half of my palm.
 


A tablespoon fills up almost my entire palm. When cooking, you can easily use your hand to measure approximate amounts, but be sure to measure exact amounts with a tea/tablespoon when baking.


Another way to speed up your time in the kitchen is to stay organized when it comes to your drawers. I keep smaller items inside larger items so that they don't get lost among everything else rolling around in the drawer. For example, I need corn cob holders, bag clips, garlic press cleaners and pan scrapers inside these coating dishes in our gadget drawer. They're at the front of the drawer so they never get lost.

For obvious safety reasons, I keep steak and pairing knives in a small basket in the gadget drawer as well.

Finally, I present you with our "junk" drawer. Everybody has one, and this is ours! It is home to a variety of things, but again, I use baskets to keep up with the small stuff like batteries, pens, nails, paper/binder clips, pet meds, etc. Larger things have free reign of the drawer because they're easier to thumb through a locate quickly. And yes, I love me some Tic-Tacs.
Those are just a few of the kitchen tips that help me get in and out as quickly as possible. Happy cooking!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Giveaway Friday!!

Hey ya'll! I am finally getting back to normal after having a nasty cold this week. Summer, come soon.

My good friend from church, Dawn Boyd, of A New Creation Bows has joined up with me to do a giveaway on this glorious Friday! Dawn makes awesome hair bows, head bands, sculpture clippies and tutu's for girls. Check out some of her work below:







Her prices range from $2 to $15. To order, you can visit her Facebook page via here or here. Simply comment under the photo of what you want to order or send her an email at anewcreationbows@gmail.com. Leave your Pay Pal email address, and she will send an invoice to it.

But today is your lucky day! No need to leave a Pay Pal here!  

You can win a $10 Gift Certificate to A New Creation Bows by doing the following:
  • "Like" A New Creation Bows on Facebook
  • "Follow Me" on this blog by clicking on the link at the right side of the page
  • Leave a comment on this post telling me about the sweet girl in your life who would love one of these bows AND let me know that you've "liked" the Facebook page and "followed" this blog.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Breathing Through My Mouth

This morning, around 1am, I awoke to a very sore throat and a stopped up nose (more so than it normally is). I decided to get up, drink some ice water, visit the potty and see if I started to feel better. No such luck. I woke up at LEAST every hour until it was time to get ready for the day.

There is so much pressure under my eyes that it feels like my face is about to explode. As soon as I get the "okay" from work, I am leaving to hit up the Minute Clinic to hopefully get an antibiotic for the suspected sinus infection. I'm also thinking about picking up a Neti Pot. Has anyone used one? Does it help?

Our Valentine's Day evening was wonderful. I made cheesy chicken, rice and fried okra. John surprised me with smores for dessert. They were delicious! We didn't exchange gifts this year, and it was really nice. Just spending time together is gift enough for us.

In other news, I'm really excited about the direction my blog is going. If you have not already done so, PLEASE click on "Join This Blog" under "Follow Me" on the right hand side of this page. 

Also, please update your web address for my blog to www.houseofsykes.com.

Have a great day!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Monetizing the Blog: What You Need to Know

One of my favorite blogs is Making Sense of Cents. She offers practical financial advice that are very much in line with our beliefs about personal financial responsibility. A few weeks ago, she wrote about how she purchased her own domain and was stepping into the field of direct blogging instead of using a third party like Blogger. Last week, she posted about how she makes extra monthly income through her blog and other resources. I knew these things were possible but had never investigated how to make it happen for me.

I was so intrigued and inspired by her detailed posts about monetizing her blog that I decided to look into it. Over the past week, I started doing some research and decided I was ready to take the leap today! What this means for you:
  • I have purchased my own domain. I can now be found at http://www.houseofsykes.com. Please update your links, bookmarks, Google reader, etc. Blogger should forward you to the new site, but updating your information would probably be helpful too.
  • You will start to see a few ads on my page. Please do not be offended - I blog because I love to write, not because I want to be a millionaire. Crystal at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff is helping me with this, and she is fabulous. If you're never visited her blog, head on over!
  • I will occasionally write a sponsored post. It may be about something you're interested in, and it might not, but isn't that how blogging goes anyway!? 
To produce a little extra monthly income in addition to blogging, I have also signed up with Epoll.com (online research surveys), Bestmark.com (mystery shopping) and Swagbucks.com (surveys, etc.).
Thank you to Michelle and Crystal for their help in getting me started. I look forward to what's to come! If you have any questions about how all this happens, let me know. I'm happy to help you get started too!

Valentine's Day on a Budget

With the traveling we have coming up in the next month along with other large necessary expenses like vehicle insurance, tax, inspection and registration (all due in February - areyoukiddingme!?), we like to keep Valentine's Day low-key. John is forbidden to send me flowers ($100 for flowers is CRAY) or buy me any jewelry. I'm not really a candy person, so that takes care of that. Here are a few ideas to keep your Valentine budget to a minimum:
  • Eat dinner at home - I am cooking John's favorite meal: Cheesy chicken, rice and fried okra. He said he's taking care of dessert.
  • Make a card - This may seem elementary, but how fun is it to make your honey a homemade card!?
  • Turn the lights off - Eat dinner by candlelight. Watch your favorite show or a movie by candlelight. You get the idea.
  • Buy flowers at the grocery store - If you must. Flowers are not a necessity for everyone, but if you just gottahavethem, pick some up at the grocery store and put them in a vase at home.
  • YouTube origami and make your own roses - After dinner, pull out the computer and learn how to make your own paper roses. How fun is that!?
  • Show love everyday - Love can, and should be, expressed everyday.
Happy Valentine's Day to all! Enjoy this day with your loved ones, no matter who they are.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Rambling

We had a pretty uneventful weekend. I won't bore you with the errands we ran and chores we did, but we got a lot done. It feels good to accomplish so much on those precious two days off.

I'm feeling overwhelmed today. Our finances are about to completely change, and while that is a very good thing, it just has me feeling a little uneasy. You see, I don't really like change. Routine is my thing. So change, be it good or bad, makes me a little anxious. John starts his new job on Thursday. We leave for Mexico in 47 days. We leave for Vegas 47 days after we return from Mexico. We leave for the beach 47 days after we return from Vegas. (Wow, that's kind of cool - I've never written it out like that!) All this equals a lot of debits and credits in a short amount of time.

Not coincidentally, I just looked up Psalm 47, and it reads:

"Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph! For the Lord Most High is awesome; He is a great King over all the earth. He will subdue the peoples under us, and the nations under our feet. He will choose our inheritance for us, the excellence of Jacob whom He loves. God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; Sing praises with understanding. God reigns over the nations; God sits on His holy throne. The princes of the people have gathered together, the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; He is greatly exalted."

This is an encouragement to me to praise God through the anxiety I feel today. Anxiety is short-lived, as is this time of transition for us. We have so much to be thankful for - we have been abundantly blessed.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Weekly Menu

Sunday - Chili and cornbread

Monday - Leftovers

Tuesday - Cheesy chicken, rice, okra

Wednesday - Pork chops, roasted potatoes, corn

Thursday - Chicken, macaroni and cheese, roasted asparagus

Friday, February 10, 2012

LWFC Easter Production

This year, I am Assistant Stage Manager for our church's Easter production. We are doing the one set play called "Baggage Claim". I'm so excited for this opportunity to use my knowledge (and love) of the stage and my administrative skills to share the Gospel with people who may only be at church because it's Easter Sunday. The play will be performed at LWFC South Campus in Garner on Easter Sunday (April 3) at 10:15pm and 6:00pm. Join us!

For a summary of the play:

"Baggage Claim lays out the Gospel of Jesus Christ in imagery that can be grasped by today's audience. The story is built around the D'Baquel family on vacation at a much-publicized bed & breakfast. Their stay goes awry, however, when they find the lodge full of animated goofballs, and a screwy bellhop keeps tossing their luggage into the cavernous canyon that lies below the hotel. Sam, the father, becomes increasingly unraveled as he keeps traversing the 347 flights of stairs to retrieve his belongings. Comedic beginnings segue into a darker reality as the pain and inner conflicts of the family members surface. One by one they begin to willingly turn over their baggage to the bellhop, gradually recognizing that he is Jesus Christ. Sam keeps resisting - until, just one stroke before midnight, he is stunned to realize that the bill is too big for him to pay. When the bellhop sacrifices his own life to pay it, Sam finally understands." ~Amazon.com

Thursday, February 9, 2012

How to Potty Train Your Puppy

Good heavens! It's almost 4:00, and I haven't written a thing today. It's been a busy one, indeed.

A good friend of mine and her family are thinking about getting a puppy after their sweet dog of 10 years passed away a few months ago. It got me thinking about Milo and how easy he was to potty train. Here are a few tips based on what was successful for us:
  • Crate train. Crate train. Crate train. - This was the perfect method for us. Milo stayed in a crate any time I was away from home and at night. I always left a towel in his crate, and while he was a baby, he would pee on it and shove it into a corner so he didn't have to lay in it. He never pooped in his crate. Ever. After a year of no peeing in the crate, he was crate free!
  • Devote the first few months of your puppy's life to their potty training - Just like you would be with a baby, be attentive to your dog's potty needs. For several months, I came home everyday at lunch to let Milo out. I would set my alarm for 2am just to take him out. I would take him out immediately when I got home from work. I would take him out after every meal, nap or play time. It's important.
  • A puppy can hold his pee for as many hours as he is months old - If your puppy is 2 months old, he can hold his pee-pee for 2 hours, and so forth and so on. The puppy can not help it if he messes up in his crate or in your house because you didn't let him out for 10 hours and he's only 4 months old. Do not get mad at him for his - it's your fault.
  • Take your puppy to the same door every.single.time you go outside - This will teach him what door to go to if he needs to tell you it's time to go out. If he goes to that door, don't ignore him. Take him out.
  • Take your puppy to the same potty spot every.single.time you go outside - At first, this is critical. It will teach the puppy that THIS is where we potty, not where we play.
  • Encourage the puppy to potty - As crazy as I probably sounded, I would repeatedly say, "Let's go potty! Let's go potty!" when I took Milo outside as a puppy. Once he pottied, I would make a huge deal out of it and praise him with my voice and affection. It's important to tell your dog why you're outside and to let him know he did a good job when he's done what he should do.
  • Accidents will happen - Sometimes an accident is the puppy's fault, but I believe that most of the time, it's the owner's fault. Many of Milo's accidents were because I wasn't paying attention to how much time had passed since his last visit to the potty. If the accident is the puppy's fault (i.e. - behavioral), discipline right away. Dogs live in the moment, so it's important to discipline your puppy at the time of the misbehavior. Otherwise, he won't have a clue why you're spanking him. I popped Milo or stuck his nose where he peed if he had an accident in the house. I never really yelled or anything like that - he caught on quickly.

These are a few things that worked for me when potty training Milo all those years ago. He did such a great job and had very few accidents. Those first few months were rough for me, but that's the choice I made when getting a puppy. It's like having a baby - it takes a little bit of sacrifice until you both get the hang of it!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

How I Plan to Use My 2012 PTO

I have been working at my current company for five years. With that tenure comes extended PTO (paid time off)! This year, I get five weeks of PTO, three floating holidays and eight regular holidays! This time does not differentiate between sick and vacation, so I have those weeks to use for both. Five weeks and three floating holidays is a lot for me, so here's how I'll be using that time off:

1. Riviera Maya, Mexico
Glory, hallelujah, we're leaving in 52 days! We can't wait to relax by the pool and beach, shop in Playa del Carmen and snorkel off the beach at the Mayan Ruins in Tulum. What's making this trip even more awesome is that our tax refund and John's unused vacation time from changing jobs will (unexpectedly) pay for the entire trip!

Beach at Tulum

2. Viva Las Vegas, Baby!
We are meeting up with John's parents in Las Vegas in May for a few days of fun! John has been before, but I haven't, so I'm really excited to be 100% tourist and take it all in. We are planning to go to Hoover Dam and Red Rock Canyon. What else are "must see and do's"??


We are staying at Treasure Island - right in the middle of it all!!


3. Family Beach Vacation to Emerald Isle, NC

Thank you, Lord, for this annual vacation. It is 100% a chance for us to truly unwind and rejuvenate in the middle of the Summer. I look forward to this time with family at my favorite vacation destination of all time. The tropics are fabulous and so is Vegas, but nothing will ever compare to the seven days of relaxation with my family at "our beach".


4. Christmas

I started taking a week off at Christmas about three years ago. It is one of the best weeks of my year. Because I am all ready for Christmas, I get to sit around and eat bon-bons all week if I want to! John and I get to spend some wonderful quality time together with Milo, just relaxing, cooking and spending time with family.


I keep one week open just in case I get sick (it happens every year at some point). There are also a few days sprinkled in for random stuff like a trip to Ikea in a couple of weeks and a day for Christmas shopping in November. I am blessed to work for a company with such generous time off and a focus on balancing family and work life.

We're very excited about all of our travels this year. We are so fortunate to have the freedom to travel together and see parts of the world that we are interested in!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is a week away!

We are doing very little. At least, that's what I've asked for. Valentine's Day is a great way for some folks to spend a lot of money on food and flowers. I told John that if he insists on buying flowers, he can do so at the grocery store on the way home from work. We will very likely have dinner at a new sushi place in town with a BOGO coupon. We'll exchange cards and maybe even kiss. I want to keep it low key this year since we are leaving for Mexico exactly 46 days after Valentine's Day. This trip can be our love celebration for V'day and our anniversary in July.

What are you and your honey doing to celebrate!?

Random Home Musings

You guys remember the blog I posted last September about dreams? It's funny how so many of those have changed in five months! Many of the dreams on that list included updating our current home. With John's new job starting in just over a week, we are now on a 5-8 year plan to build our forever home. Because of that, we've decided not to make any major investments in the home we live in now. Due to certain situations with the builder in our neighborhood, we're just not sure we'd see the return on those investments at the time of resale.

We affectionately call our forever home "The Plantation". It's not because we want to build a gigantic house (Lord knows we don't need it!). It's because we want our home to be on 1-2.5 acres of land, preferably semi-wooded and out in the county. We want an all brick home with 3-4 bedrooms (two of them will have the ability to be converted to a mother-in-law suite if needed), 2-3 bathrooms, 3 car garage (one of these spaces will be for a home gym). We also want an in-ground pool and detached garage/storage building/pool house.

Sound like a lot to ask? Maybe it is. But, as long as John and I keep working and saving as much as possible, we'll have a fine down payment for "The Plantation" in 7 years. An advantage we have is that John grew up helping build houses, so we have a large network of people to help us sub out the work and build the home ourselves.

We are really excited about our forever home, but it definitely makes decisions about our current home difficult. I have a hard time justifying making any changes (structural or decorative) because I know the day will come when we will move. I hate to invest too much and not be able to take those with us in the end.

Are you in your forever home? If not, do you hope to have that one day? How do you handle making home improvement decisions if you know you'll eventually move?

Monday, February 6, 2012

My "Beef" with SmartPhones

I do not own a SmartPhone. Sometimes, I feel like the guy in this cartoon. I especially feel this way when I ride up the elevator in the brand new corporate building I work in and everyone's doing something on their phone.

They're doing everything but TALKING on it.

Isn't that what phones were designed to allow you to do in the first place?

My cell phone contract is up for renewal in March. John upgraded to a fancy phone a couple of years ago, and now it's my turn. John thinks that if I don't upgrade now, there won't be simple flip phones that only call and text two years from now. I am resisting.

I just don't want to become one of those people who lives by their phone. I don't want to have a panic attack if I can't find it. I don't want to have it run my life. Right now, my cell stays in my purse when I get home from work. I hardly ever use it. If you need me after 5:15pm, call our house. That's right - we have a land line house phone!! We always will. I just do not want to go down the Smart Phone route.

When did you get a Smart Phone? What kind do you have (we are on Verizon)? What do you like about it, and what do you dislike about it? Does your phone run your life??

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Weekly Menu

Is this getting old/boring??

Sunday - Chili Cook-off at Church for the Super Bowl

Monday - Chicken piccata, noodles, roasted asparagus

Tuesday - Grilled chicken, rice/roni, green beans

Wednesday - Country style steak, roasted potatoes, broccoli

Thursday - Chicken roll ups, rice, corn

Friday, February 3, 2012

Gum Tissue Grafting, Round II

My mouth won Round I of the gum tissue grafting match up. I am determined to win Round II.

You may recall that back in December, I had tissue grafting on my lower two front teeth. It was probably one of the worst surgical procedures I've ever had. Not only were those teeth out of commission, half the roof of my mouth had been cut out and I had sores inside one cheek from only being able to eat on one side of my mouth for two weeks. I couldn't bite into food or eat anything solid for almost two weeks. I couldn't brush my front bottom teeth and worst of all, I couldn't make out with John (sorry Mom and Dad).

To my horror, the dentist told me at my two week check-up that the graft didn't take on one of those teeth. There wasn't enough bone on that tooth to attach the tissue to.

We'd have to do it again.

John and I decided to give ourselves a break in January and go for the second surgery in February. Today, to be exact.

While you are reading this, I am likely laid back in a dentist's chair with my mouth wide open while a periodontist attempts to make this new graft successful. Not achieving success could result in the eventual loss of this particular tooth.

Please pray that everything goes well and that the graft takes. Please pray for Milo today too - he is having his teeth cleaned at the vet, which requires him to be under anesthesia for about 10 minutes. I'll pick him up this afternoon, and we will snuggle and eat jello and feel sorry for ourselves the rest of the weekend. :)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Tag! You're It!

I got tagged to answer the following 11 questions and then tag other people with blogs to do the same. So here we go...

1. What is your favorite way to spend a Saturday.
My favorite way to spend a Saturday really depends on the season. If it's Summer, I like to spend several hours at the pool. If it's Spring, I like to spend Saturday in the yard. If it's Fall, I like to watch football, cook or deep clean the house. If it's Winter, I like to cry until the warmer weather returns I like to run errands and get stuff done around the house.

2. Which food do you wish could be calorie-free for all time?
Potato chips. I could eat potato chips all day everyday, preferably with a side of homemade ranch dressing or dip to dunk them in. Deeelicious!

3. What is your favorite Christmas gift from childhood?
Perhaps the three-story Barbie house with elevator. You know the one I'm talking about. How awesome was that thing!? I'm pretty sure I played with it until I was 14. Don't judge.

4. If you could be a parent of as many children as you wanted, how many would you have?
Who wrote this question!? Can we change children to dogs? Yes? Okay. I think having 2-3 dogs would be lovely. We might need a bigger bed for all the pups, but that's okay.

5. Who is your favorite Disney princess?
This is a toughy. Let's go with Ariel.

6. What's one of your favorite stories in the Bible and why?
I love the story of Jesus' birth. It's such a beautiful story about our Savior's birth and the bravery of two young people who followed God's calling without worrying about what other people thought of them. Would we do the same if we were in Mary and Joseph's situation?

7. What is one item you feel you couldn't live without.
What a hard question for a woman to answer. Of course, I HAVE to have Chapstick at all times. One other thing I can't live without is my Becky Bunny. Although I am a grown, married woman, I can not sleep without my beloved bunny. She is the one thing I would grab if our house was on fire and we were all out safe.

8. What did you want to be when you grew up and do you think you will ever be that.
I wanted to be a Mommy. We'll see how that turns out...

9. What is the worst/most embarrassing CD/Albums you've ever owned and do you still have it?
All my CDs were cool, at the time. Looking back, Alanis Morisette was probably not an awesome choice, so let's go with that one.

10. What would you call yourself if you could choose your own name?
Mom and Dad did a great job, but I really like my legal name - Rebecca. it's pretty and feminine.

11. What is your favorite item of clothing and why?
I love, love, love my sleeveless racer-back cotton nightgown. I can't wear it in the cooler months, but it's perfect for when it's warm outside! It's something I can wear when I take Milo outside in the mornings without having to cover up. It's light and loose, and I absolutely love it!

I wish to tag:
Michelle at Making Sense of Cents
Meredith at Merdeezy Hollas
Katie at Oui Bien Sur
Jessica at Edwin, Jessica, Peyton

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Playing Football with Daddy


video

From Nascar to Drivin' Miss Daisy

Let me share a little story with you.

I grew up with brothers. While my parents did a fine job of teaching me how to drive, my brothers did a fine job of teaching me how NOT to drive! They showed me how to speed, pass, change lanes and all the other dangerous things I could do in a vehicle. I zipped around town, flew down highways and interstates and made sure I was ALWAYS first. I managed to do all this without a ticket or being in an accident that was my fault.

And I had a BLAST!

Fast forward to April 2010 and October 2010. Within a period of six months time, I rear ended two people. I hit both of them in the exact same way:

While being the second car in line to turn right at a stop light, the person in front of me let off the brake to make their turn. Assuming they were actually going to move, I looked left and gave the car a little gas to wait my turn. Problem was, they didn't move. That little pump of gas slammed me right into their back bumper.

Winning.

This series of unfortunate events is what slowed me down. I've made great strides toward changing my driving habits since these accidents. I've learned to use turn signals and check my blind spot. I've learned to leave with extra time so I don't feel hurried and tempted to speed. I've learned not to get angry when someone cuts me off. I've learned not to follow so closely because if they slam on brakes, the ensuing accident is my fault. I've learned not to slam on brakes if I'm being tailgated instead, I turn on my windshield washer and let the car behind me get sprayed. I've learned to stay off the phone as much as possible. I've learned that driving is not a race, and I do not have to be first. I've learned to be patient in traffic because I'd rather be late to my destination than not arrive at all. I've learned and implemented a lot of things I should have done a very long time ago.

Be safe out there, folks.

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