Monday, October 31, 2011

Happily Ever After

A year ago today, Jeff and I were having our engagement session at Ha Ha Tonka State Park. Since then, a few things have changed. 

We went from a long distance relationship to (finally) living in the same ZIP code.

We moved in together and realized my tiny apartment wasn't big enough for the two of us.

We found a great place to rent that would be our first home together.

We adopted Kevin into our little family.

We got married!

We lived happily ever after. OK, maybe we haven’t quite hit ever after yet, but we’re definitely happy, and I'm looking forward to another great year.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Have a great weekend!

Pinned Image

As you probably know by now, we're trying to buy a house. Since it's totally consuming my thoughts, my usual Friday wrap-up will be house-themed today.

This weekend I'll be dreaming of paint colors and decorating ideas. Do you have any fun plans?

Here are some links I enjoy from around the web. Maybe you will, too.

Pretty paint combination and ceiling detail.

Gorgous home tour. I love every room.

Great way to recycle wine corks.

Pretty decorating ideas. I especially like the red twin beds in the turquoise room.

Towel bars as lid racks.

Sliding storage system for the garage.

Never lose a bobby pin again.

Photo via my Pinterest.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thrifty Thursday - Rethinking the budget

How to Use Dave Ramsey's Envelope System to Budget and Get Out of Debtthumbnail

This whole trying-to-buy-a-house thing has Jeff and I thinking more seriously about long-term financial goals. Taking cues from Dave Ramsey, the Christian financial guru, we've written out a plan for knocking out our smaller debts first, and working our way up to the larger ones.

It's less daunting once you sit down and look at your debt piece by piece. It's actually relieving to see it all there and have a plan for eliminating it.

We've decided to make the move to one bank account to help us keep better track of what we're spending and get us on the same page. No more, you buy this and I'll buy that just one transaction from our joint account.

Here's the plan. We have a few small debts that can be knocked out in a few months. We'll make the minimum payment on the larger ones and put any extra money towards the smaller debts. We'll have the lowest one paid off in no time. Then we'll take the money we would've been spending on that payment and add it to the next highest payment on the list, and so on. Soon we'll be down to just a few payments, build our credit, and have piece of mind knowing we're getting better control of our finances together.

I think it's good for us and for our marriage. I'm excited to begin implementing this plan. It's going to take a little work to get any automatic withdrawals switched over to our joint account, get new checks and new debit cards, and get used to keeping track of more than our own withdrawals. We're up for the challenge though.

The next step is getting the envelope system down.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The inner thoughts of a potential first-time homebuyer

Right now it's so hard to think about anything other than buying the house. We've laughed about how ahead of ourselves we are - last night we were talking about paint colors, landscaping, and how our furniture will fit there. We laugh because we still have no idea if we'll even qualify for a loan. Even more ridiculous, two weeks ago we weren't even thinking of buying a house, we saw this one, loved it, and decided to make an offer. Is that normal?

It's hard not to think about all the reasons we may not get loan approval. It's frustrating to add up all our student loan debt and know that it may hold us back this time. Our debt to income ratio isn't exactly spectacular, but we pay our bills on time and are chipping away at our debt. That's all we can do, but it's all I can think about.

I think it's really hard not to be discouraged. We just have so many questions. We want to know what our options are. We'd like to talk to a person about a loan, not just put our information into a computer. We want to set up a meeting with the bank, but they open at 8 a.m. and close at 4 p.m. How do they expect working people to ever meet with anyone at the bank? Ugh. I'll stop ranting now.

Have any of you bought a house? Do you have any advice or home-buying tips for us? Are we crazy?

Photo via online listing of our potential home.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It's almost like HGTV ...

Well folks, we've decided to venture further into adult life and try to buy our first home. I feel like Sandra Rinomato from Property Virgins should be waiting around the corner to tell us the right thing to do ... at least I wish she was.

It's kind of scary and nerve-wrecking, but we'd like to be able to put money into a long-term investment (and have a super-nice house), rather than continuing to pay rent (in our little rented townhouse). I never thought we'd be able to afford a mortgage, but payments on a house would only cost $150 more per month than what we're paying in rent.

Here's what's so scary. We found a house close to my work that we LOVE (seriously, you should see it - it's gorgeous). We've submitted a loan application to see if we can get pre-approved, put $500 in escrow (so nobody else can bid on it for now), and made an offer on it. The offer is contingent on if we get financed, but until we know anything, I'll just have to continue fighting my anxiety (my stomach is in knots and my heart beats fast when I think about it).

As excited, nervous and anxious as I am, I know it may not work out. But everything happens for a reason. I think I'll just be relieved to know either way and find out what we can do to help the process in the future. Keep your fingers crossed!

p.s. If we get the house, you're all invited over for a party!

Photo via Google Images.

Magnetic Nail Polish

Have you seen this? Magnetic nail polish! It makes creating a design in your nails as easy as swiping a magnet over fresh polish. Genius.

See the original post here - spotted on Cool Hunting.

Buy it here.

Monday, October 24, 2011

X-Rated Fizzy Drink

I love trying new drinks and making up concotions with different liqueurs. One favorite I keep coming back to though, is X-Rated Fusion Liqueur. It really is as girly as it sounds. Its a mix of blood orange, mango and passion fruit flavors. Here's my favorite recipe using it (I use "recipe" very loosely ... technically I just pour in what looks right to me - it'll probably taste good no matter what you do).

Pour in a little Red Bull.

Pour in a lot of booze.

Fill the glass with club soda.

And, voila! Delicious drink.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Have a great weekend!

Happy Friday! Have any fun plans for the weekend? Last weekend some friends and family came to visit. We spent lots of time on the boat, went go-carting, explored castle ruins at Ha Ha Tonka State Park, took a nature walk, and ate way too much. It was a blast.

This weekend will be less eventful. No visitors are planned, and since Jeff and I are still tired from last weekend, we’ll probably just watch the World Series and sleep. Something I’m looking forward to though – Jeff bought a lazer light for Kevin last night – it’s hilarious to watch him chase after it. Each time we shut the lazer off, we do it when it goes over the vent so he thinks it’s down in there. After it’s shut off he still looks around for it. It might be my new favorite thing.

Here are some links from around the web.

Recipe I’m going to try this weekend – pretzel tots with pumpkin flavored cream cheese.

Gorgeous bridal inspiration photo shoot.

Soups for fall.

33 ways to stay creative.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Adorable Online Shop

I’m always a sucker for cute packaging, glittery embellishments and clever cards. D.Sharp has a shop that’s adorable, inspiring and makes me wish I had a letterpress machine.

See all the products here.

Thrifty Thursday - Cooking vs. eating out

One way Jeff and I save money is by cooking our meals at home. About once a week we’ll order pizza or go out with friends, but most nights, we’ll cook.

On average, I’d say we spend about $100 a week in groceries. That includes extra items on sale that are canned or we can freeze and keep on hand. If we went out to eat every night, we’d probably spend about $30 a night – $210 a week! And, that doesn’t include breakfast or lunch!

Cooking at home is more affordable when we plan meals, make grocery lists based on weekly ads, and buy generic brands whenever possible. As hard as we can, we try to stick to our grocery list (occasionally ice cream or an extra bottle of booze will end up in the cart. It's OK. We enjoy both enough to justify it). I also take any extra canned or frozen items into consideration while making the list. We spend way less if I actually have a plan for everything we buy. Also, it reduces waste when I don’t throw out a head of broccoli or some other produce I thought we would eat.

An added bonus of cooking dinner ourselves is making it together. Jeff probably doesn’t love that I ask him to help sometimes, but it makes the time so much more enjoyable. It’s fun being in the kitchen as a couple and laughing when we do silly things – kind of like the couple above who for some reason are super happy about their ridiculously large pile of vegetables.

What are ways you save money?

(Photo via Google images)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Happiness Help Flow Chart

Are you unhappy? Here’s a genius flow chart to help you.

Buy the poster here.

(Photo via Moodgadget

Chocolate Monogram Placeholders

What better way to mark a reserved place setting than with chocolate? These cute chocolate monogram placeholders could be used for any event from weddings to birthday parties, maybe even Thanksgiving and Christmas!

Spotted on Oh Happy Day. Get the full how-to here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bookshelf Inspiration

I am crazy about bookshelves and wish my house had one (that's where Pinterest makes me happy and sad at the same time). When I get one, I can't wait to fill it with pretty books and thrift store treasures.
I really like the combination of big books, little books and different sized knick
knacks. Also, I need that chair.

The pillows are an interesting choice, but I love the bar shelf and the framed
and matted black and white photos.

I really like thow they used color to create uniformity.

They broke up the shelves perfectly with photos, storage containers, books and fun objects.

Really, I'm just jealous of this entire room.
I need a fireplace. Bad.

I love library ladders. I really like the furniture, too, but I'm afraid of white.
And, I've been seeing a trend of hanging pictures or mirrors on the outside of the
bookshelves. I like it, but I think I prefer smaller things to hang. Thoughts?
(photos via Pinterest)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Smitten with Glittens

I think glittens, the glove/mitten combination, are one of the best winter apparel inventions ever. Why yes, I’d love to stay warm, still be able to check my phone, and look cute at the same time – thanks.

Here are a few of my favorites. 

one   two   three   four   five   six   seven   eight

Friday, October 14, 2011

Have a great weekend.

Hello! Have any fun plans for the weekend? We have some friends coming to visit from NW Iowa. Also, Jeff’s parents are headed this way to stay with us Sunday and Monday. I’m excited to relax a little and get out on the lake. In reality, I’ll probably spend most of the weekend cooking and cleaning my kitchen. That’s the price you pay, I suppose. If I’m lucky, next week I’ll be able to tell you how smoothly my in-laws first visit went. Pray for me.

Here are some posts I enjoy from around the Web. Maybe you will, too.

Three cute DIY nail designs.

If you’re a girl who likes romantic comedies, this article will probably make you laugh out loud.

Great ways to display art.

Fragrances for fall.

Things you should make or buy.

Makeover for your ugly chandelier.

(Illustration via Happiness, Etc)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thrifty Thursday - Visiting KC

Last weekend, my friend Lynna and I met in Kansas City to hang out and spend some time together. Jeff and I used to meet there when he lived in Omaha and I lived at the lake. We really enjoy exploring the city and finding low-cost or free things to do.

A few of my favorite free things are touring the Boulevard Brewing Company (the tours were booked full for this trip – if you ever want to go, check the online reservation board three months ahead of time, if you still can't get in, try calling or e-mailing them – they're good about squeezing in a few extra people), visiting the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum and browsing the Power and Light District, the Country Club Plaza and Union Station. On this trip, we also walked around the City Market.

On my to-do list of free things to do in KC is tour the Harley-Davidson factory and visit the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.

For low-cost attractions, you can't beat going to a Royals baseball game. I've bought tickets for as low as $6 a person! Last fall, Jeff and I visited the KC Zoo and really liked it. I would definitely recommend it.

I really want to tour the new Kaufmann Center for the Performing Arts and go to Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun. Look around for coupons for those – I've seen them out there.

My favorite accidental stop was Ameristar Casino. We were using our GPSs (yes, two) to navigate our way to some delicious KC BBQ. The first restaurant we went to was dark and dingy and in a sketchy neighborhood – we were scared and looked up another place to go. We thought we were about to our second destination when we ended up under train tracks in the middle of nowhere – awesome.

We decided to give up our search and just go inside the casino we passed. Neither of us are experienced casino goers so we were amazed at how cool it was inside! After getting the most giant plate of BBQ ever, we decided to try our luck on the penny slots (we felt like big-ballers pulling the levers on the slot machines). Lynna broke even – I ended up $6 in the hole. It was a good time though. We were however, the youngest people in there. That was a little awkward.

Here are a few pictures from the trip.

Giant plate of BBQ at Arthur's
Just inside Ameristar Casino (I love the fake sky ceiling – it reminds me of Vegas)
Lynna winning big! ($4 is big, right?)
At the art museum
The giant shuttlecock on the lawn at the art museum

I really love Kansas City and enjoy weekend getaways there. Check out for other places to visit, more free things to do, suggested itineraries and coupons!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Simple Caramel Custards

It's been a long time since I've made custard, but I remember really liking it. When I saw this recipe in Martha Stewart Magazine I decided to try making it again. There are only a few ingredients, and I already had everything I needed in the house.

Caramel Custards
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 1/4 c plus 1 tablespoon water
  • 3/4 c whole milk
  • 1/4 c heavy cream
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • Coarse salt

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Heat sugar and water in a saucepan over medium-high heat, swirling occasionally, until deep amber, about 7 minutes. Carefully whisk in milk and cream.*
  2. Whisk together yolks, vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Let the milk mixture cool a little.** Slowly pour caramel-milk mixture into yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Skim any bubbles from the top. Divide evenly among four 6-ounce ramekins.
  3. Set ramekins in a 9-inch square baking dish. Pour boiling water into dish to come a third of the way up sides of ramekins. Bake until custards are just set but jiggle slightly, 27 to 30 minutes. Remove from water using tongs. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Whipped Cream
  • 1 c heavy cream
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 2 T confectioners' sugar

  1. In a large bowl, whip cream until stiff peaks are just about to form. Beat in vanilla and sugar until peaks form. Make sure not to over-beat, cream will then become lumpy and butter-like.

My first attempt at boiling sugar and water was a disaster. I set the temperature too high and didn't pay enough attention. The recipe said boil for about seven minutes on medium-high heat. Well, that's a crock. In five minutes I came back to a pot of black, boiling caramel with heavy, burnt-sugar-smelling smoke rolling out of it. Really, I think I should quit my day job and just become a professional chef.

After opeing all the windows and turning on all the fans, I tried again. This time I used medium heat and didn't take my eyes off if it. Perfection!

The second batch was going much better. Here it's still too light. The recipe said cook until it's deep amber.

I mixed the eggs, vanilla, and sea salt while waiting.

Deep amber if I've ever seen it.

*When I dumped in the cold milk into the hot caramel, the caramel solidified, and frankly, it about scared the crap out of me. I just wasn't expecting it, and I thought I screwed the recipe up again. Eventually it melted and all was well.

*The original recipe should tell you to let the hot milk mixture to cool a little ... I didn't think about it until I dumped a little in and a couple little lumps of cooked egg appeared. Bummer.

Apparently I have the biggest ramekins ever made. I had to use two water-filled baking pans to fit them in.

I had leftover egg whites, so I made white scrambled eggs. They looked weird, but tasted about the same.

While the custards were cooling, I made whipped cream to help use up the rest of the heavy whipping cream. 

And ta-da! Yummy little caramel custard with homemade whipped cream! Even with the few lumps of cooked egg, they were really good.