Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Goal Update

As the year draws to a close, I figured I should see what my goals were this year and how I did with them. Let me just say right now that I sort of forgot about the list sometime in February until just now so.... my expectations are pretty low! Updates are in purple, because what isn't made better by purple?

Blog goals:
  • Continue to grow my readership. Did it! I don't remember how many I had last January, but I've at least tripled it, even with a currently modest following.
  • Continue to seek out blogs of people living the way I am and/or the way I want to for encouragement, support, and ideas. Did it! Still doing it. 
  • Meet the local bloggers. Did it! I met FIVE bloggers/Cathsorority sisters this year! That's pretty good for a group of about 135 women from all over the country!
  • Make, and use for inspiration, a list of post topics I want to eventually write. Did it! I wrote them all, went listless for a while, and just started the list back a few weeks ago. 
  • Review some products (one book review in the works but I need to give myself a deadline!). But also only review products that have something to do with my blog! Did it! I love free stuff, so I did quite a few reviews this year- especially book reviews. 
  • Do a few more guest posts and eventually host someone here (I have an idea I'm throwing around... we'll see.) Did it! I hosted two series and guest posted for a few other bloggers. 
  • Not let my love of reading and writing blogs get out of hand (in other words, if I am neglecting household chores or, uh, late to work in order to read blogs, I need to reel it in!). Fail! Um, that could use some improvement. I need to spend more time reading books and less time reading blogs/social media,


Health goals:

  • Get my recipe book together so I quit using my phone in the kitchen to look them up! Flour embedded phones aren't that easy to clean. Fail! I have the 3 ring binder in the kitchen with one recipe haphazardly stuck inside. Otherwise, I've been taking my computer in the kitchen and pulling up Pandora and the recipe. It's worked well except, yes, I do have flour permanently in some crevices of the laptop.
  • Continue to add more whole grains, lean protein, fruits and veggies; continue to reduce empty calories, unhealthy carbs, and sugars/sweeteners. Work in progress. We did way better with this during the first half of the year, and so so the last half. There are some things that are just normal for us now (reducing sugar and artificial sweeteners, avoiding processed foods), but others (increasing intake of fruits and veggies, avoiding carbs) are a work in progress. 
  • See the NaPro dr (already scheduled). Did it! Well, *technically* he's not Napro but he audited the course. And yep, I've been going to him for almost a year now and have another appointment coming up in January.
  • Continue charting and meeting with our NFP practitioner. Did it! We last saw her in August and have our 6 month follow up in February, where I can sing my version of the Lambchop song, "This is the cycle that never ends. Yes, it goes on and on my friends...."
  • Exercise 5 days per week (doing this now for the most part, but sometimes have slack weeks). Fail! I was doing it 5 days a week through our wedding, then got slack. Then I started back early fall, hurt my ankles and saw the doc about it, and slacked up BIG TIME. I've basically been a potato the last month or two.
  • Explore the greenway past the two paths I've taken so far. Fail but this is only sort of my fault. We bought a house mid year and moved away from the greenway that ran behind the apartment. I have explored 2 local park trails though! 
  • Buy us bikes to use on the greenway. Fail but, again, we moved away from the greenway. There's a greenway here that we haven't explored much and we decided to wait on bikes til we had rugrats. For now, we're hoofing it around the neighborhood when we aren't laying on the couch eating bonbons.


Personal/Faith goals:

  • Learn to sew, knit, and crochet (at least elementary knowledge of each)... I'm already signed up for a knitting class (after debating for a week whether to take the knitting or crocheting class first)! FAIL!!! Biggest fail of the year, possibly. I took a knitting class, hated it, and promptly quit knitting when the class was over. That left a bad taste so I never took the sewing or crocheting class, though I did get a sewing machine that I have yet to figure out how to thread. I desire craftiness, but wish I would just wake up with the knowledge. 
  • Finish my 2010 and 2011 scrapbooks. I don't even know if I did this or not... I think I finished one of them. The bigger scrapbook fail was that I have yet to scrapbook our wedding festivities, even after discussing the guilt in our 6 month wedding post. 
  • Attend all holy days of obligation. Done! Funny how when I used to skip them, they seemed like such an imposition. Now that we go to them, they feel like such a nice break from the normal grind of life. 
  • Continue celebrating the liturgical seasons at home. Done! We need to improve on the Easter season next year (we pretty much let it go after Easter day) but we rocked Lent, Advent, and Christmas. 
  • Pray the rosary more often. Done/work in progress. I was part of the 24 hours of the rosary with Cathsorority for a few months, and then gave up my hour because Saturday seems to be the only day that isn't consistent/able to be planned around. We slacked for a while and now pray a Rosary every Friday in lieu of the no meat penance. 

Finance goals:

  • Develop and use a joint budget (we have separate ones til we get married). Done! It was difficult in the beginning but we are doing pretty well now.
  • Combine bank accounts the week or two before the wedding. Done! One of my favorite perks of married life! It's so nice not discussing who pays for what and being on the same page financially. 
  • Get back to substantially saving after the wedding . Done! We are saving even more now than we were when we were saving for the wedding.
  • Continue to find ways to save (free entertainment, good deals on the foods we buy, re-purposing things, thrifting). We slacked up on this a bit, just because we have a false sense of security with the above goal met. We definitely do frugal dates, but we need to work on it a little more. 
  • Make a plan for the future regarding living on one income (books reserved at the library!) and the smartest decision to make regarding my student loan. Done! I never did check out that book (lol!) but I do still want to. We are saving like 97% of my paycheck, so we are way ahead on this goal of just making a plan. Regarding my student loan, there basically isn't a non-crappy option but we did make a decision on it. I think I might post separately about it one day, although that's a LOT of personal information on the interwebs.

Relationship/Marriage goals:

  • Finish our pre-marital workbooks... we have lots so we will have quite a bit left to do after we get married, but we really enjoy them and I think will be glad to have them through our first year of marriage. Fail. We did most of them, but technically did not finish them nor go back to them after our wedding. 
  • Begin our prayers for couples book. I can safely say this is a fail since I'm not sure what book I was referring to...
  • Continue to improve our communication through new communication techniques we have learned. Done! I'm not saying we don't argue, but I am saying that we argue much less and much better since being married. It was kind of like a light switch... like it clicked that we are really on the same team, for better or for worse. The pre-martial workbooks were a big help.
  • Pray the rosary together more often. See above rosary goal. Whenever we pray it, we do it together.
  • Continue to read and discuss daily Mass readings together. I'm not calling this a fail, because we made the decision to stop doing the daily readings and start doing the Catechism. Once that's finished, we want to tackle reading the Bible in a year. 

Future goals:

  • Continue discussing where we want to live long term (the options we are considering is staying here or moving closer to Charlotte- not in Charlotte, but somewhere like Kannapolis or Concord) since we need to decide soonish if we will buy a house or not (no sense in buying if we are moving in the next 3-5 years). We are pretty sure we want to stay here, but need to really flesh it out. Done! We bought a house here, and Steven recently got a promotion, so we are here for the indefinite future :).
  • Continue researching things like homsechool curriculums (yes, I know I won't have a 5 year old for a long time, but I am so much less stressed in life if major plans are made way ahead with tweaks where needed, rather than put off until the decision needs to be made... I pretty much know the curriculum I want to use, but I want to have an arsenal of information book marked for me to go through when it comes closer to the time), and how I want to live life as a stay at home mom/wife so I don't feel lost when I wake up one day and my home and family has become my job. Done! I've found some cool stuff via Pinterest and blogs, but it's just something I look at here and there, not routinely.
Now I have to decide if I want to do this for the 2013 year or not! It wasn't as depressing to update as I thought it might be, so I might give it a go in the next few days. If you have 2013 goals or resolutions, leave me a link in the comments so I can check them out! 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Happy 5th Day of Christmas! Also Known As: Our Christmas in Pictures

I think this Christmas was one of the most wonderful yet. It was my first married Christmas AND first time actually being with Steven on Christmas day, plus the joy of watching my brother's new family at Christmas gave me goosebumps. He has a 9 year old step son and 7 year old step daughter, and it was really my first experience watching children open presents, since I'm the youngest in our family. I always sort of feared I might be a terrible mom because I still feel like a kid at Christmas, and wondered if I would be jealous about 'passing the torch'. I got my answer Christmas morning as they ripped through their stocking, oohing and aahing over the toys and candy. Ah! Melt!

We started Christmas by going to Mass at the Cathedral where we got married, before making our journey to SC. I was adamant about a picture, because we hardly have any pictures of us together since our wedding.... you know, that whole 'there is no one to take it' issue. So I saw a lady sitting in the front pew after church who looked like she was waiting on someone in the choir, and I walked up to her asking her if she would take our picture. She looked concerned for a split second and then began adjusting her bag to get up and take the picture. Oh wait, that wasn't a bag. It was her days old infant in a wrap. Only I would pick the one person with a tiny baby to ask a favor of! I tried to make her sit back down but she wouldn't hear of it. If I look slightly sheepish in this picture, you now know why!


After finally finding somewhere to grab food after Mass, we headed for my parents house. Next year, I will pack dinner! We got there about 1:30 am and my sweet mom had made us plates of Christmas Eve foods, but we were too exhausted to do anything but go to bed! It made for good snacking between candy and dinner on Christmas, though :). I had trouble falling asleep, as exhausted as I was, and managed to sleep from 2:30 until 6:30, at which point I couldn't take the excitement anymore! 

I had to wait for everyone to get up, so here's what I did at 6:30 instead. There is no right or wrong time for a cupcake, so quit judging! And also, I should never allow pre-shower photos to be taken.

My brother and his new family reveling in wrapping paper and trinkets!

This is one of my favorite pictures: Rachel face timing Dad opening his presents for Nicole, who couldn't come last minute. She watched us open her presents, and watched Rachel open the ones for her! Technology is really helpful, sometimes.

Cuddling with the new 'phew. You know how I said no pre-shower pictures? Well, this one is post shower (clean jammies) and isn't much better. I think there should be a no pictures before powder rule instead. Anyway, Dylan was super excited to show me his Sonic DS game, and I was excited to watch seeing as it was my jam on the Sega when I was only a few years older than him!

My dad shows Kaitie the antique train that we have up every year. It belonged to my mom's brother (who passed away in 1958, I believe) and is a family favorite.

My mom played Santa this year, and she makes my favorite Santa!

Steven and I opening our stocking! Well, you can see the stocking to the right... the red bag is an extension of the stocking since my mom bought way too much to fit in there. Seriously... best stocking filler ever! 

This was Steven's first Christmas away from his family. I got him a Captain America lego set and, after presents, he got on the floor to put it together (clearly, with help). Later he told me that he was really happy I got that for him because his mom always gets him some Lego thing and his tradition is to put it together after presents are over and everyone is just hanging out. So he had that tradition even though he was with a different family in a different place. *Melt* I was so happy for us to be together this Christmas. It really made it feel complete.

My dad took us out in the garage for a rousing, Panther themed game of Cornhole, which we all enjoyed quite a bit. Here's me forcing love on Dylan. Sorry kid. We're a touchy feely family!

I got lots of really awesome and heartfelt things, but I just had to share this book that my mom got for us. Cutest thing ever or what!?!?!


Friday, December 28, 2012

7 Quick Takes


--- 1 ---
This is the first week that it dawned on me on Friday morning that I only had one take done! Usually I work on them slowly throughout the week, but this week has really gotten away from me. I'm sad that a week of my week and a half off of work has already flown by!

--- 2 ---
Have you seen the movie "The Bells of St. Mary's"? Am I the only person who could not get into it at all? It had nothing to do with it being an old movie (I loved the one about the flying monk...The Reluctant Saint, I think), but the plot was just so scattered that I had trouble staying interested. There were good moments, but we started watching it last night around 8pm, and turned it off at 9:30 in favor of heading to bed. It's too bad; I had high expectations!

--- 3 ---
I have eaten soooo much candy this week. I'm starting Weight Watchers on the 2nd, and will have no problem finishing it before then (and really, it will probably be gone after today!). I hate to be on of those cliche people who vows to lose weight in the new year, but I knew starting around the holidays was a sure way to fail, so I decided to wait until everything died down. Luckily, I'm very familiar with Weight Watchers, though I will be doing it online this time and did the meetings last time, so it shouldn't be too much of a shock to get started.
--- 4 ---
Speaking of, I can't even tell you how excited I was to find out that fruit is 'free'. On my last go round, I always got really angry when I would run out of points and was hungry. I would defiantly eat an apple and say "people don't get fat off of fruit!". Now I can eat my apples un-defiantly.

--- 5 ---
I wish Ikea was closer. They have these dressers we wanted to eventually get (like when we have a baby and put mine in that room), but they are switching suppliers and we found out on our quick visit Wednesday that they will be going away. We didn't have room in the car to buy them that day, so we are hoping to go back Sunday. It's 2.5 hours each way, but we'll make it fun. This all only matters if they actually have both dressers in stock by then. Apparently we weren't the only people eye-ing them up this last year because every time I check one or the other is out of stock. I'm hoping they get a shipment tomorrow, and then we can get there when they open Sunday. If they don't have it, I will stress and check the website 5 times a day til they come in, but enjoy a day off together. First world problems, I tell ya.

--- 6 ---
Our tree looks to be in good health, so I'm thinking it will last until the epiphany! My mom sent me home with some Christmas decorations she didn't want anymore, and it was fun putting them out knowing that I could enjoy them for 2 weeks. I still have my advent stuff out, but it all goes in the same containers so I'm not sure if I'll put it away or not. I might at least set that stuff in the guest room so I don't see it. I mean, we waited in anticipation for Christmas for a reason, I don't want advent candles staring at me at dinner during Christmas!

--- 7 ---
Alright people, I'm bringing out the big guns. I need your help! I love scrapbooks... like love them. But I rarely make them now (I'm quite behind) and don't see that track record improving once we have kids. Part of me feels like the world is just going to online albums and I need to move with it... upload and done! It would save so much time and sooo much money. But the other part of me says that, unless I'm paying for online photo storage, I could lose those photos with the slightest policy change AND isn't a hard copy always better? I just don't know what to do! How are you preserving all your family memories? Online, on paper, or some combination?

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

On Being That Cheesy Married Couple

You know how sometimes you read or see something about marriage on a blog or facebook that makes you a little nauseous? Like, multiple posts about how awesome someone's husband is or pictures of someone's perfect marriage? And you're kind of like "Make it stop!". Yeah, I occasionally feel that way, too. And that makes me think twice sometimes when I post things about my marriage and my husband. I don't want people rolling their eyes or grabbing for the puke bucket (oh, you didn't have one of those growing up?). But here's what bothers me. I feel like it's socially acceptable to rag on your husband and people actually enjoy  that. We take this sick pleasure in being able to think, "Nice that their marriage isn't perfect either!" or "Ha, their husband does the same thing!". I'm including myself in all of this, just so you understand that I'm not pointing fingers. I have actually found myself making comments that I do not think or feel when people ask me "So, how do you like married life?" because I don't want to eye rolls or *knowing looks* if I respond, "I am loving it! Marriage is wonderful!" which, despite its imperfections, is exactly how I feel!

Anyway, I decided something a while ago but never stated it until now, because the thoughts have been evolving. I am going to try my absolute best not to talk badly about my husband or marriage. It's one thing to have an issue that my husband and I are having trouble working out, and turn to someone I love and trust for advice or feedback. But I don't want to be 'that wife' who routinely complains about her husband to her friends, or makes deprecating remarks about her husband and marriage. I don't want to further the societal norm of pushing husbands down, and including them in your child count- you know, "I have 2 kids... well, 3 including my husband". I don't want to whine about my husband's flaws to my girlfriends for the sake of 'girl talk' and then wonder why he doesn't take a leadership role in our household or why masculinity seems to be a thing of the past. I know that there are many contributions to the lack of strong, moral males today but I do think this is one of them. I don't want my husband to ever feel like he has to prove himself because I've cut him down. I don't want him having to be a jerk to me in front of people because I've belittled him to the point that it's the only way he feels he can get some of his manhood back.

Instead, I want to build him up. I want to go to him if there is an issue, and if I go to someone else, like I mentioned above, I will never do it without first going to him. Most importantly, I will never do it in a public forum. I want to try my hardest to honor my husband and my marriage, and be part of a growing movement to build our husbands up, to stop acting as if our husbands are children, and to show the world that the beauty of marriage doesn't mean that there aren't flaws or issues, but that we focus on the good and work on the bad.

So if you get sick of hearing me talk about my husband, please know that yes, we do have flaws and issues like everyone else, but that I'm not going to use social media as a place to belittle or unintentionally tear down the man I love, nor the institution of marriage. Know that when you see sweet things I write about him, that we are like most other couples, but that I choose to focus on the beauty of marriage, not the pitfalls. Please resist the urge to roll your eyes, because I'm not pretending that I have the perfect husband or perfect marriage, I'm just honoring what I do have. Try to push that thought of "Ha, she's only been married 8 months. Let's see how she feels in 8 years!" out of your head, because this is a standard I want to hold myself to, and if you see me slip because I'm sure I will at some point, (gently) call me on it!

This isn't a new or novel idea, and I know quite a few other women who feel the same way, and I hope it will someday be more common to hear women rave about their husbands rather than rant about them. I occasionally participate in the Wedded Bliss Wednesday link ups for this reason. I want to be a tiny part of showing the world the amazing things about marriage. We have enough examples in this world of negative examples without my adding to that.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve Past

My Christmas Eve's will never be the same again (but that's ok!), so I thought I would participate in this link up as a way to commemorate my past 26 Christmas Eves, as I move into the changes that married life brings. Since my husband will work most Christmas Eves, we'll eventually make our own traditions at our house. For this year, we are heading to 7:30 pm mass, then making the 4 hour journey south to be with my family. My family will be doing their traditional celebration, and it's the first one I've ever missed. Of course I'd love to be there, but I'm not terribly sad about missing it, only because I would be even more sad if Steven had to make the drive alone, and I would spend the evening wishing he was with me. So while I'd love to be there, I'm content with seeing them all tomorrow, and reminiscing through Cari's link up tonight!

So welcome to Christmas Eve Past! Christmas Eve starts with my dad and me going to Mass. We usually head out to the 4pm one. We call on our way home and my mom begins setting out The Spread. We are famous for snacking like crazy on holiday eves. It's a Big Deal. My mom makes all kinds of deliciousness (veggies, fruit, chocolate covered nuts, crackers and cheese, brownies, cookies, NOM) and we snack on and off for hours, until we finally decide to go to bed. Often times we watch a Christmas themed tv show or movie, sometimes home videos. We chit chat and catch up, as it's usually a random assortment of people (there are only 3 of us kids plus 3 kids-in-law, but hardly ever are we all 3 there!). The house is oozing with decorations and we soak in the holiday feeling. It's simple but delightful. 

Christmas 2012 (my dementia kicked in... this is probably 2010): My sister, Rachel, me, and my brother, Adam

Christmas Eve 2011: As you can see, my parents' house is appropriately decorated in all things cat AND Christmas! Complete with a cat hanging out in the window.

My dad and me headed to Mass Christmas Eve 2010. I totally almost set this shirt out for Mass tonight. Awkward.

My mom shows her dedication to the festivities by donning her antlers each year (you haven't seen anything- she wears a turkey at Thanksgiving!).

Christmas Eve NOMS! If you read my post from earlier today, you'll understand why I have multiple plates. And yes, I do go back for 2nds. And 3rds... 

So I'm missing out on it this year, but my mom has promised to have a plate of snacks waiting on us when we arrive in the wee hours of the morning tonight <3. 

Merry Christmas!!! 

Christmas Eve Oddities

So, I'm sitting here waiting to make a Lowe's run and the reason why I haven't left yet got me thinking about my oddities. Then I thought, "Hey! I should share my weirdness with my readers so they can know me better!". But it doesn't stop there. I want you to let me know some of your oddities and quirks in the comments so I can feel better about myself get to know you better!

Side note: Why am I posting on Christmas eve? Because my beloved hubs is working a 12 hour day today (6:30am to 6:30pm) and I'm killing time til he gets off and we can go to Mass, and then head to SC for Christmas! My tasks include packing my stuff and packing gifts, so I have lots of time to kill!

Stacy's Oddities 
  • I won't go anywhere while the dryer is on. I have a fear of lint induced fires, even though we empty the lint trap regularly. Luckily for me, my husband does the laundry 99% of the time so I'm blissfully unaware of the goings-on with the dryer (usually I'm at work). But this is the reason why I haven't left for Lowe's yet, and what prompted this post. You can thank my lint trap later.
  • I hate when foods touch. If all the foods are of the dry-ish variety or big enough that they won't mix, it's ok. But if it's a saucey or juicey food, or if it's something small like corn, my skin sort of crawls for them to all share plates. My family makes fun of me because I tend to have 2+ plates at once during holiday dinners to prevent touching.
  • Long sleeves give me the heeby jeebies. I don't wear short sleeves year round because I'm clueless of the weather (though I am a weather optimist... see below), but because I don't like the feel of shirt sleeves on the wrist to elbow part of my arm. Jackets are the exception, because the sleeves are looser than shirt sleeves.
  • I'm a weather optimist. If the high is 65, I'm dressing for 65, regardless of the fact that the first 6 hours of the day might be in the 40's. It gives me something to look forward to... you know, not freezing.
  • Meat with bones in it freaks me out. It was a BIG. STEP. to start preparing and eating whole chickens in the crockpot. It still makes me a bit queasy, but it's getting better. I won't put bones on my plate though. I give Steven the legs/wings and just pull meat off to put on my plate. For this reason, you will rarely see me eating fried chicken, even though I loooove the fried goodness. Chicken tenders FTW.
  • Two oddities I inherited from my mom: I have to double check that the door is locked when I leave the house, even if I locked it myself or watched Steven lock it. Poor guy humors me and does it himself now because he knows I'm antsy if he doesn't. My other inherited one is that I hate my face being touched. I
  • And to round it out, here's a Christmas oddity. I'm creeping towards 30 and STILL can't sleep on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. I was up today at 5:30, full of excitement, even though I'm spending my day hanging out at home until church at 7:30 tonight! Silly childlike internal clock... It should be fun when we are on the road well past midnight tonight! At least my car is loaded down with Christmas cd's and snacks... :)
So spill! Tell me one or two of your most quirky traits :)! 




Sunday, December 23, 2012

What I Wore Sun...Saturday!

So I think this might be my last What I Wore Sunday. I love the link up because it's helped me be more mindful of how I present myself in front of the Eucharist (today I ironed!), but I also get stressed out by it because I don't like the way the pictures look, it takes a million tries to get one where something of me isn't cut off (Steven seems to never be here when I'm doing it), I routinely wear the same few outfits to Mass; and the biggest reason is that, while I want to continue looking nice for the banquet of the Lord, I just don't get into fashion that much, and have the tiniest bit of that 'trying to fit in' feeling that I used to get in high school and college. No bueno. It has nothing to do with the link up.... it's all me, girls! I'm just not one of those people who loves fashion. I mean, I want to be presentable and I want my clothes to be flattering and feel comfortable, but it pretty much ends there. I have way more fun picking out stuff for the house! But, since I spent about 20 anxiety filled minutes getting the pictures, I figured I might as well participate this week ;).



 First, here is my reject pile of clothes. I originally had on the vertical zebra striped shirt with a black silk scarf (that my friend recently brought me from Thailand!), but I couldn't get the scarf to look right, and the shirt was sleeveless and I didn't want to wear a cardigan and jacket, so I decided to find sleeves. So then I put on the black long sleeve shirt but I just wasn't happy with it. I'm kind of weird with sleeves. Long sleeve shirts = the opposite of warm fuzzies. Looser sleeves like jackets or cardigan are fine. So I ended up with a plain black short sleeve shirt, but then I changed out the scarf....from my giant collection of 4 scarves, and I wore the cardigan.

 I wore my wedding day lip gloss for fun. And also because I just found it 8 months later. I switched to the turquoise scarf because it's longer.

This is the picture that causes me anxiety! I never know what to do with my hands. I never can find a flattering angle. I suck at the timer and positioning of the camera. And I never like how they turn out. 

So I pulled this bracelet out for the first time in 3 years. I really love the look of it! There is one small problem with the initials though.... We'll see if Steven notices! 

Details:
Shirt: Belk or Macy's... whoever has the Kim Rogers clothes that are cheap and comfy.
Cardigan: Old Navy
Pants: Target. Hate. Hate. Hate these pants. I like the color, but that's it. They grow multiple sizes within about 30 minutes of wearing them and they wrinkle like crazy. But I have a shortage of pants right now so they'll have to do.
Scarf: Who knows! 
Bracelet: bridesmaid gift in 2009
Shoes (not pictured): same black ones as always... they are sooo comfy!

We actually went to Mass last night (Saturday) and then had a wonderful date night, even though my poor hubby is under the weather. We had free pita and free baklava coupons so we went out to dinner after Mass, then to Trader Joe's for a few necessities, and to Adoration for a 30 minute quiet time sesh. It was a wonderful evening! 


Friday, December 21, 2012

7 Quick Takes



--- 1 ---
This week, we began doing the O Antiphons which is a first for both of us. In fact, we hadn't even heard of it until my NFP instructor said something about it last year! That being said, what do you do with them? We are just reading them straight from the website, but I was wondering if there is something you 'do'. I've seen some kid-related things, but not too much for adults. Maybe that means we are just supposed to read them :).

--- 2 ---
We tackled another house project this week... recaulking the kitchen and master bathroom. And boy, was there a learning curve! We scraped off the old caulk, which took some of our 6 month old paint job with it. So, we had to tape, spackle, sand, and paint. Then it took us forever to figure out which edge we wanted to use, and then we began caulking. Well, we quickly realized that it was not going to look professional so Steven suggested we tape it first. We did that, and it worked much better... until the 30 minute dry time was actually about 10 minutes and we were having to scrape and redo sections that looked funny. We started the project Sunday afternoon and didn't finish until Monday night! All I have to say is, how do people live without their kitchens in remodels? We were kitchenless for just over a day and it made me so anxious!

--- 3 ---
Steven totally made me faith-swoon last week. We went out to dinner Friday for his friend's birthday. It was hibachi style and there were 10 people there. We pray before meals 99% of the time but, honestly, in that setting I wasn't even thinking of it since it was 'his' event with his friends. Just as I picked up my fork, he took my hand and asked me if I wanted to pray, and then said a prayer. It was a really sweet private moment, even among so many people. I love that man!

--- 4 ---
This has been such a feel good week at work. We get donations every year to give my people Christmas presents. They are adults, but this is the only present most of them get all year round, so they are VERY excited about it! The donations were above and beyond this year. I always send 2 choices in case whoever adopts the person can't find one. Well for quite a few of our people, the adopters got both items. They really know how to make someone's Christmas! I spent all week dropping off the presents and seeing lots of smiles. What a great way to enter into the Christmas season! I am officially off work until January 2nd after today... YAY!!!

--- 5 ---
Speaking of the holidays, we'll be out of town for a very short time, but I'm still worried about security. I know people unfortunately tend to get robbed more during Christmas time because a) people are gone from their homes and b) there is usually new loot. I think I'm going to buy one of those light timers that turns lights on and off in different rooms, plus one of our cars will be in the driveway. Hopefully our neighbors will be on the lookout, too. Any other tips for securing your home while you're gone? I never worried much in apartments because I always lived in units that were kind of inconvenient to rob for one reason or another.

--- 6 ---
Irony: paying more for the Seventh Generation dishwasher powder and then realizing that the Target brand has a 1/3 of the ingredients AND the 3 it has are all in the Seventh Generation detergent. And that, folks, is why you shouldn't just blindly choose things that appear to be more natural.

--- 7 ---
Last but not least, I want to wish my fabulous readers a very Merry Christmas, a few days in advance! 


For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

PCOS, and Hypothyroidism, and Hormone Imbalance, OH MY!

I have a new diagnosis to add along with PCOS... hypothyroidism. Yaaaaaaay. I had bloodwork done sometime early this year and everything checked out fine. My first hint that something was off is that I gained 25 lbs in just a few short months. I knew I wasn't eating as well as I should, but Steven was convinced that I wasn't eating badly enough that I should have put on more than 5 or so pounds. Then last week my neck started hurting, sort of in my lower throat/neck area. It wasn't like a sore throat, and my first thought was thyroid, except I remembered that my bloodwork had checked out fine. So then I started thinking of worse things! Steven pushed me to make an appointment (which is good, because the pain disappeared the day of the appointment and hasn't come back, so I probably would have let it go!), and I went last Thursday. The doctor... ahem... physician's assistant palpated my thyroid and said she could feel a small lump. I tried not to freak out and went down the hall for my labs. Today I got a call from a nurse that I had hypothyroidism and where would I like to pick up my Synthroid prescription?

Ok, let me break to say that that type of thing really puts me off. First of all, you are telling me there is something wrong with me. So can you explain what is wrong and ask if I have questions? And THEN tell me about the prescription with, oh I don't know, maybe some information about side effects, dosage, and alternatives? I asked a few questions and got off the phone. Then I started googling. I looked into coconut oil but I can only find anecdotal information about it. I won't ditch the medicine route unless I find solid research, something peer reviewed, which I haven't. But I did discover that there is a natural medication, made from pig thyroid *shudder*, which I would prefer over the synthetic. So I'm waiting to hear back from the doctor as to whether or not she will write the script for that. I've been told to be prepared for a fight because there aren't kickbacks for prescribing it and because it hasn't been marketed the way Synthroid has.

I'm going to start the coconut oil anyway and, if it works, then we can adjust the medication down or get me off of it. If it doesn't, no problem because I'll already be on the medication. My "I want to try natural options first" side and my "The doctor is going to roll her eyes at me, and she clearly knows more than me" side clash. Often. It's hard work getting the two sides together to find a compromise, but I think I found one.... if my doctor will play nice :). Six weeks after starting the meds, I'll go back for follow up bloodwork.

And to draw this out more, my gyn was going to start me on Clomid in the next few weeks to induce ovulation and then have me give myself hcg after ovulation to replace the progesterone and estrogen levels I'm missing, so I'll ovulate on my own each month. But now I'm thinking that the reason my regular-for-me 45 day cycles disappeared is because of my thyroid. They were regular-for-me from when I went off the pill Nov 2011 until our wedding in April of this year. After our wedding, the pounds packed on and my periods disappeared. So my next step after getting the script figured out is sending all of this info to my gyn so he can decide if he wants to play the wait and see game longer or continue with the original plan.

Hi my name is Stacy and I'm a medical malady.

Friday, December 14, 2012

7 Quick Takes


--- 1 ---
I'm probably a nerd for saying this, but I bought a chiropractor groupon this week and I am SO. SO. excited about using it! My mom has always had really good results and, having not the best back in the world, I've wanted to try it for a while but didn't want to pay the higher copay my insurance would require. I am getting the xrays and 4 adjustments for $36! My copay would have been $50 per appointment so that is a definite WIN.

--- 2 ---
Is it me or is this month FLYING by? I feel like I'm going to blink and it will be Christmas. And the year too, for that matter. Today we have been married 8 months. EIGHT months! That's crazy to me. I know we were super busy for the first few months after we got married (buying the house, getting it ready, and then moving) but I still feel like time has flown. We like to celebrate our monthivesary's this first year, and tonight we are going out for hibachi for Steven's friend's birthday. Since it's more expensive of a meal than we would usually go to, we are going to let it double for our monthivesary :).

--- 3 ---
Is it normal for a Christmas tree to look different throughout the season? It isn't dropping needles like crazy or anything, but I do notice that it looks slightly less full than it did when we first bought it... maybe a tiny bit anemic in some parts. We have no experience with real trees so I don't know if that's normal. I'm watering it daily and recently switched to lukewarm water because I read that cold water makes the sap hard, and makes it harder for water to get up the trunk.

--- 4 ---
I saw an idea on Pinterest (did I tell you I finally joined!?) where you cut a slice from the trunk, put a ribbon through it, write "Our First Christmas Tree 2012" and use it as an ornament. I want to do that SO BADLY but we don't have a saw and I feel ridiculous buying one just to make the ornament. Any ideas?

--- 5 ---
Speaking of social media, I still don't get twitter. Don't get me wrong, it was super fun watching the Pope make his first tweet, but so far that's about all I've gotten from it. It just seems pointless and redundant.

--- 6 ---
This weekend we're having my in laws over for lunch on Sunday. I'm a little nervous because we've never cooked for them before, and his mom ALWAYS cooks for us. Here is the menu so far: paprika chicken (Steven will make), homemade mac and cheese (I'll make), green beans, yeast rolls, and I will make some type of simple dessert... maybe cookies. I know they will love whatever I make, but I have this unfortunate problem where most everything I make for Steven and me rocks but when I cook for other people it tends to bomb (do you remember the pecan pie I was supposed to take to my in laws for Thanksgiving?). So we'll see how it goes!

--- 7 ---
I bought purple curtains. For the living room. I love my husband for not caring! I think he actually called them 'pretty'. Or he might have said 'nice' which I will choose to interpret as 'pretty'. Hopefully they'll be ironed and on a rod next week so I can show a picture! 

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Book Review: Catholic Family Fun

I'm excited to review Catholic Family Fun for you because I have enjoyed it so much! I know my regular readers are probably scratching their heads, wondering why I'm reviewing a book geared towards families with children. Well, as soon as I read about this book, I thought it would be cool to show a unique perspective about it, and that's that the book is very diverse. Like I already stated, it would be perfect for families with children. But it could also be used in youth groups, faith formation classes, homeschool groups, family get togethers, and countless other situations. And as I'm about to show you, it can be used when there are no children at all!

My husband converted less than a year ago and I reverted not too long before that. For adults who feel somewhat clueless in their faith, it is really easy to be intimidated. So that's why I was excited to read this book. There are some activities that are better left for children, but there is a lot that can apply to people in our situations! And after all, it is called Catholic Family Fun... and we are a family who is Catholic and loves to have fun!

So let's get into the actual book. It's organized in a very easy-to-use way. There are things to do both at home and away from home, activities that appeal to all ages, and range from quiet to loud to hands on to experiential. The book is just packed with ideas! One thing that is really helpful for those of us who are *ahem* less creative, is that everything is spelled out completely. There is no guess work. At the same time, the activities and ideas are totally customizable for what works for your family.

A few of my personal favorites were the Ways to Serve chapter, and Ora et labora. My husband and I have been looking for ways to give back together, but our work schedules don't line up for us to do much volunteering together. This chapter gave us some practical ways to serve and even led to some donations for a local crisis pregnancy center. We had a lot of fun using the chapter to come up with ways to give back, right from the couch! We hope to use the more hands on suggestions in the near future when we have some time off together. I also really enjoyed the Ora et labora, which is the idea of praying through work. We used some of the suggestions in the book, such as praying during chores, and 'made it our own' by turning on a Catholic radio station while we clean the house together. This concept helped us to incorporate faith into areas of our life that we never would have thought of and that, in the past, we spent doing somewhat begrudgingly!

 One of my very favorite things about this book is that there are food ideas connected to almost everything. My husband and I make every effort to have one meal together each day no matter our schedules, so this is a time of togetherness and bonding for us. So having ideas to incorporate our faith into this time, besides saying grace before eating, was particularly fruitful for us. I would absolutely suggest this book for families with children, but also for couples wanting to grow  in a more childlike love for God!

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Catholic Family Fun. The Catholic Company has great gift ideas for all seasons of the liturgical year, be sure to check out their Advent selection and Catholic Christmas Gifts.

I was given a copy of Catholic Family Fun at no cost to me in exchange for this review but, as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own and a positive review was not required! 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Another Day, Another Dollar Guest Post 3



Welcome to the 3rd guest post in my "Another Day, Another Dollar" series! You can check out the first and second posts if you missed them. I'm always looking for new contributers, so email me at buttercup419@gmail.com if you'd like to guest post. Today's poster is a bit different than our last two because she's a single gal! I'm excited to have different demographics so that all of my readers will find a post they can relate to! 




My Scenario:
I am a single woman in my mid-20s living in a big city on the East coast. I have a Master’s degree and have been working at my current job for 8 months. While I am not currently in a relationship, I really do feel that I am called to marriage someday, so many of my financial habits are based on the hope and desire that I will be getting married and starting a family in the near to way-too-far-away future.

Income
Income (after taxes, health insurance premium, retirement, and pre-tax parking): $3844.75/month
Savings: $15,000 (seeing as I was unemployed/temp working for almost a year in 2011, I’m not sure how I didn’t deplete my savings completely… it’s a mystery).

My insurance premium is pretty low as I am single. I contribute 5% to my TSP retirement account and another 5% is matched by my employer. I also have $90 a month withheld to pay for my parking at work. 

Recurring Monthly Expenses:
Rent: $1320 + $10 for insurance (paid in a lump sum once a year)
Student loans: $1000
Cable/Internet: $100
Car Payment: $278.78
Car Insurance: $73
Gas: $100
Food: $150-$200
Tithing: $70-$100

Frequent Monthly Expenses:
Travel: $300
My Shopping/Thrifting Obsession: $200
Being Single: $50

Total Expenses: ~$3700 (calculated with the high end of the ranges)

This leaves very little leftover each month for emergencies, but that’s what my savings account is for as well as I’m able to cut my shopping/travel budget if I need to pay a doctor bill or something.

The Breakdown:
Rent: I live in, shall we say, a rather expensive part of the country! I live in a very cozy but spacious one bedroom apartment, where all of my utilities are included in my rent. I can’t even imagine how much money I save per month by not having to pay for electric, gas, and water!

Student Loans: Before you all freak out and think I must have the worst school loans EVER, let me preface this by saying that my monthly school loan required payment is just under $300 per month… if I want to take the next 10 years paying them off. However, as I deferred my loans for 2 years while I got my master’s degree and then another year while I was unemployed - all the while accruing interest at 6.85% and 4.8% - I have to say that my #1 financial goal is to pay off my student loans as quickly as possible. Thanks be to God, I have a great job where I earn enough money that I can afford to triple-quadruple my loan payment each month, meaning that my loans should be paid off in less than 20 months. I can’t wait for the day when I no longer feel weighed down by that debt! I also think it’s important as a single woman for me to be preparing financially for my future - and I think having this goal of paying off my loans in less than two years allows me to be better prepared to purchase a house or get married in a couple of years.

Cable/Internet: This is an expense I would like to cut down, but unfortunately, only one company serves my apartment complex, which means they drive up the prices. I’m also way too addicted to cable to get rid of it, so I obviously am not too bothered by paying what I do for my time to relax after work. I’m still on the family plan for my cell phone, so I do not have a cell phone bill because I’m so cheap that my parent’s don’t make me pay them $20 a month!

Car Payment & Insurance: When I got my new job earlier this year and more than doubled my salary, one of the first things I invested in was a car. I had been driving my mom’s car, which she very graciously let me use for three years! I love having my own car, because it makes me feel truly on my own and independent. I put $5000 down from my savings account and was able to replenish that in two months. I have an excellent credit rating, so I got the lowest interest rate possible. Again, I live in an expensive part of the country, so despite my stellar driving record, I pay a bit more for car insurance because I live in such a high traffic area.

Gas: It costs about $50 to fill up my car, and I drive 4 miles to and from work each day in addition to other errands and activities. I get pretty great gas mileage, so I fill up every 2-3 weeks.

Food: I bake too much. That’s really why that cost is so high! Otherwise I am a very simple eater, I promise!

Tithing: I tithe about 2.5%… I know, I’m judging myself right now too. When I started my current job, I thought hard about how much I wanted to tithe in comparison to paying off my school debt, and I decided that it was important for me to pay off the school loans as quickly as possible, so that I can be open to my vocation in a couple of years as well as increase my charitable contributions. In the meantime, I try to give back in other ways. I volunteer to teach catechism to fourth graders, work with a Girl Scout troop, cook and bake for friends, college students, and co-workers, and participate in pro-life events. I’m a big believer in tithing with your time and prayer!

Travel: I moved out to a different part of the country away from my family and friends a few years ago, so I tend to travel a lot. This year alone, I have flown home and to weddings NINE, 9, NUEVE times. Yes. You read that right! That doesn’t include the THREE, 3, TRES times I have driven home (about a 7 hour drive) this year. So plane tickets are expensive, and are almost a monthly expense for me.

Shopping Bug: This is my weakness, and sometimes I am better at controlling it than I am at other times. I truly do only buy what I can afford, and I tend to spend about the same amount each month no matter what I am buying.

Being Single: This includes money I spend to go out to eat with friends, check out a movie, or grab a drink after work. It’s all about living the single life while I can, right?

What I Wish I Did More:
Savings. Savings. Savings. Thankfully, I was able to build up quite a nest egg while I was in graduate school and when I first started my current job and wasn’t making school and car loan payments. However, since I decided to put so much towards my school loans, I put anywhere from $10-$500 a month to my savings account from whatever is left over each month (if I shop less or don’t have to buy a flight, I’m able to put a lot more into my savings account), and I wish I could save more because I know that I won’t be able to save as much if/when I get married. I hope to be able to figure out how to cut some expenses next year so I can be able to put a bit more into my savings account each month.

Time to be honest…
I am really bad at tracking my budget. When I was unemployed/temping, I was a pro at it - I tracked every single purchase I made with receipts and Excel and graphs and everything! I did this because I had to do this - it kept me accountable when I knew that wherever I swiped my card, I was going to have to track it later. Now that I am working a job where I make a pretty nice income, I don’t worry too much about tracking my individual expenses. I have found that even though I stop tracking, I still spend about the same amount every month, even if it’s on different expenses.

My Financial and Budgeting Tips (If you want them!):
Credit Cards: I have a credit card through my bank and cards to a few different stores where I tend to shop frequently. I pay off my credit card IN FULL every single month. Even when I was unemployed, my credit card was paid off in full every month. I have always done this and hope that I will always be able to do so - it means that I don’t just go around swiping my card wherever, but makes me actually think about where I am spending money and what I am spending money on. While I know this is not feasible for everyone, I think it’s important to work towards not having any credit card debt, because interest rates can be steep!

Sales, sales, sales: I have nice things, that I am proud to own. I also have nice-ish things that I got as hand-me-downs from people. No matter what, I am proud that I am such a thrifty spender. Where someone else might spend their entire $200 monthly clothes budget on one pair of jeans, I buy almost everything on major clearance, with lots of coupons, or at thrift stores. Yes, this means I can buy more! Not always a good thing, but I think that if I’m going to have a family someday, it will be a helpful quality to have.

Loans: Obviously, make the minimum payments on any of your loans, but from that point, if you have some money, put more towards the loans that have a higher interest rate. Also compare the interest rates on your loans to how much you would make if you put that extra $100 into a savings account or other investment fund. Since the interest rate on my student loans is 6 times what I earn in my savings account, I find it makes much more financial sense in the long run to be stingy with my savings account for a couple of years to make those student loans disappear - but you have to evaluate your own situation and figure out what makes sense for you!

Save up and buy: When I make larger purchases (furniture, electronics, etc.), I save up money beforehand and pay in full when I purchase the item. This allows me to pay off my credit card each month, as well as plan out larger expenses as opposed to impulse buying a new expensive thing!

Be adaptable: When I was getting ready to graduate from school, I thought I was going to find a job fairly quickly… 8 months later, I was still unemployed. I had to quickly change from a mentality of “Things I Could Use” to “Things I Need”. I had to adapt my spending habits to live within my means and drastically cut my spending. While the time I was unemployed was spiritually and financially difficult, I truly believe that this time was given to me to better prepare me for my future vocation. I can now say that if someday I am chasing around 5 or 6 kiddos as a stay-at-home mom with my husband supporting our family, I can look back on the different financial times in my life to best care for my family.

I hope that you found something helpful through my financial planning! I welcome any suggestions any of you have for how to better save money and plan for my future. No matter how much I have made over the past few years (anywhere from $0 when unemployed to $20,000 a year as a graduate student to what I make now), I think it’s important to live within my means as well as try to find ways to be thankful to God for the things I have! If we give everything back to him - either with our money or the things we do with our money - He will pay it back to us with interest... in Heaven, I pray!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

What I Wore Sunday

Welcome to What I Wore Sunday! 


What I Wore Sunday linkup


 Details:
Black cardigan: a la Old Navy on sale 
Shirt: clearance somewhere.... Belk or Macy's probably
Pants: full price at Old Navy many, many moons ago as you will see below
Shoes: not pictured, but same as last week (by the way Rachel, I wore socks with them last week at work and they were actually cute! So that solves my inappropriate-for-the-weather shoe problem.)


I never know what to do with my hands. That's why I held the cat last week (plus, she's cute) but she refused this week. So hands on the hips it was. I love how my tree watering cup photo-bombed me.

I like the bunchy/flowery detail on the shirt, and the texture of the shirt material in general. 

Another bracelet that I got at a craft fair at some point, and probably have worn once. It has some purples in it that don't show up well in the picture. The bracelet is sort of blah, but I have a very limited collection.

These are my AWESOME sewing hemming skills. The hem on these, ahem, antique pants fell out at work last week. So I taped them up with plans to hem them when I got home. But somehow, the hem of the pants is invisible, which I don't know how to do. And I don't want pants with half of one leg having a hemline so.... the tape remains! It's doing the job for now. I'll probably buy some of that no sew iron stuff at some point... when the scotch tape hem fails.

Last but not least, here are my Jamberry shields over a week later! The ends are just starting to show a little wear but, as you can tell, the shields are holding up so well! I have some coming in the mail to me that are sparkly... I am crazy excited about putting them on, but also want to leave these on longer just because I can! Last chance to join my Jamberry giveaway (benefitting Catholic Relief Services)

Next week I think I'll try to wear something a little different. I don't wear dresses or skirts to work (it's kind of a long story) so I tend to default and wear pants to church, too. But I think I might challenge myself to pull something different out of the closet! We'll see how it goes. See you next week!


Friday, December 7, 2012

7 Quick Takes


--- 1 ---
Did you enter my Jamberry giveaway for charity!? The entries are fairly low so your chances of winning are pretty good! They would make an excellent gift... that is, if you can resist using them yourself (I bet you won't be able to). If you can't wait to find out the winner, you can purchase some using "likejamberry" for 10% off AND buy 3 get 1 free. The best part is that 25% of your purchase will benefit Catholic Relief Services!

These are my Jamberry shields the day after putting them on, but I'll take an updated picture for WIWS to show you the lasting power!

--- 2 ---
So, if you read my post about our Christmas and Advent decorations, you already know that my dad had to anchor our tree to the wall because it started to tip mid-decorating. I'm proud to report that she is stable and sturdy! I have, so far, remembered to water her daily. I kill all green things, so it's only a matter of time.

--- 3 ---
This week has FLOWN by. I haven't had a week go this fast in a while! I've got a friend coming in town tonight and I'm excited for girl time. We are going to go to the local coffee shop tomorrow morning, followed by shopping and lunch, and then The Nutcracker. December is just not right without at least one performance of The Nutcracker! I replaced it with Handel's Messiah ballet one year, and with the Transiberian Orchestra another year, and came to the conclusion that I *need* The Nutcracker yearly!

--- 4 ---
Did you celebrate St. Nicholas' feast day this year? We decided to move stockings to St. Nicholas day, and we had a blast celebrating! We filled and hid each other's stockings the day before, and then played the 'hot/cold' game to find them Thursday morning. Steven totally rocked because, along with an atrocious amount of candy, he put "The Lamb's Supper" in my stocking. I put all candy and secular toys in his. Convert: 1, Cradle Catholic: 0.

Buttercup finding her stocking!

--- 5 ---
Also on St. Nicholas Day, our Advent calendar activity was "watch 30 minutes of a Christmas show", which really should say "Advent show" but, hey, we're still learning. Anyway, I found Veggie Tales Story of St. Nicholas on Netlflix so that's what we watched. Two childless almost 30 year olds watching Veggie Tales? No, nothing abnormal about that.
--- 6 ---
Ready for a daily dose of cuteness? Steven was at his "That Man is You" meeting this week in the church's school, and texted me this picture. CAN'T HANDLE THIS LEVEL OF CUTE!


--- 7 ---
PSA: Tomorrow is a holy day! Get thee to a Mass today or tomorrow!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!