Monthly Archives: December 2012

Buy-Nothing Month

Back in my former days working for a great online high yield savings account, I had the opportunity to help run a national campaign and meet some really wonderful people – all while learning tips of the trade about saving money.

Crazy concept. I know.

One of the people I was so fortunate to meet was the lovely Liz Pulliam Weston and one of her ideas struck me as insane. It was for the people who just spent money without thinking about where it went. Everyone knows how they are spending money… right?!

When I first started ‘banking’ I had a checkbook and every purchase I made was written down. You always had to think before you bought something, because you had to account for it in a register. But now, with debit cards and online banking it’s so much easier to lose a grasp on what you’re spending, as long as you still have money in your account at the end of the day. Tools like Mint.com will help you oversee where your money is going – how much you’re spending in various categories – but unless you’re actually logging in and looking, you’re not learning.

And truth be told, I’ve realized I have no idea where I spent my entire salary last year. Sure, there’s mortgage, taxes, insurance, gas bills, electric bills, trash bills, car payments… but then there should be some leftover plenty leftover… and I had zero leftover.

buynothingmonthSo I introduce to you… the Buy-Nothing Month. I’ll give props to Liz by letting you read about it though her newsletter or if extra reading isn’t your thing, you can watch a video about it here. (And yes, if you watch the rest of the PYFChallenge videos, you will find me in one very awesome call to entry video…)

Anyone else looking for a challenge in January? Feel like a kick-start to savings success (whoa that’s cheesy former bank writer Betsy coming back out)? Want an excuse to use up all of the food in your freezer and all of that extra store pile of shampoo? Or do you just want to find out how much extra you really COULD have at the end of the month?

I’m in. I’m sure you’ll all be hearing about it. It’ll be especially interesting since I have one ski trip planned (using Christmas money) and a friend coming into town (outlet malls anyone?). But I’ll be planning on bringing my meals into work, not buying non-necessity items (even at the outlet mall), and will focus on being a budgeting genius. See you later drive through dinner. Adios random new nail polish from Target. Get gone you unnecessary coffee purchase.

Getting a handle on what I need versus what I want sounds like a brilliant idea. Let’s get creative in how I solve problems instead of just spending money to fix something. Then I’d like to say that I’d deposit the extra money at FNBO Direct – the  amazing wonderful awesome high yield savings account with a 3.50% APY as my blurb from Ms. Weston states… but sadly… the days of 3.50% are long gone. I’ll just have to settle for a 0.65%. It’s almost the same. Waa waa.

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My Favorite Word

My Favorite WordJoy.

It’s my middle name. It’s my favorite feeling. And it’s said to be the emotion my mother felt when I was born.

There’s two times of the year that I feel this emotion so much more than any other: My birthday… and Jesus’s Birthday.

I adore Christmas. I love the reminder of God’s love. I love the decorations. I love Nativity sets. I love that the word ‘Joy’ is everywhere. I love that it’s an excuse to see family and friends.

AND I LOVE PRESENTS. Both giving and receiving. Seriously, what a JOYFUL season.

And reflecting on this incredibly joyful season on the way home, I realized that all in all, it was actually an incredibly joy filled 2012. And here’s what caused it…

  • My incredibly supportive friends. The ones that laughed with me in the highs and cried with me in the lows. The ones that shared a meal with me. The ones that listened to me gush about a new boy. The ones that chuckled as I realized I was maybe a wee bit lactose intolerant. The ones that listened as I debated about moving across the country. The ones that told me to follow God’s path for my life. The ones that encouraged me to pray when I was unsure. The ones that packed a UHaul. The ones that brought coffee and treats for the trip. The one that helped me move and settle in my new home. And the new ones that have taken me under their wing and showed me around my new town.
  • Netflix and HuluPlus. I get it. Some of you are early adaptors. You’re so cool. I wasn’t. But for someone without cable for the past 3 years… I must say… those are both pretty amazing and can bring a ridiculous amount of joy.
  • My family. I love them fiercely. We may not be perfect, we absolutely have our moments, but their outpouring of love through change this year has been astounding. We had some crappy family stuff this year, but seeing my families band together was truly amazing. We invited someone new to our family meal table.  We kicked brest cancer in the a$$. And when I called sobbing because my checking account was overdrawn, my brothers were there to bridge the gap. I am so joyful for each and single member and so blessed to be a part of such a strong clan.
  • My house. Sure, it’s not in this town. But I spent 5/6th’s of my year there. I love that house. Pulling up in the driveway brings me joy. So does the fact that it’s now housing people who needed it.
  • My new job. Waking up and being excited to go to work is such a blessing. My coworkers are incredible lovers of the Lord and have inspired me in so many ways. My boss it great. My boss’s boss is great. Every day brings a new level of joy at work.
  • My apartment. Downsizing is possible everyone and guess what? It can be joyous. It’s prompted a whole new level of frugality. Do you need 400 t-shirts? Do you need 8 sets of bedding? How many bottles of shampoo can you possibly use in one years time? No use in storing earthy treasures.  Yesterday, when I pulled up to unload everything from my trip home – some guy was cleaning his truck and blaring Jock Jams from the speaker while another (older) gentleman was yelling at him from the third floor to turn it down. Guess what? That sort of thing doesn’t happen in my old neighborhood. And I loved it. Joy. In. My. Heart.
  • My special friend. It may be a year later, but I’m still getting introduced as his special friend. He makes me laugh, allows me to be fiercely independent, drives me insane and then puts up with my crazy. He’s great. And very private. So that’s that.
  • Beyoncé. I’ve listened to her music on repeat for hours on end while driving back and forth between states. Yes I’m singing at the top of my lungs. It keeps me awake at 5am. For that I’m both thankful… and gets her on the joy list.

And so many other things that seem trivial but make this year incredible. The concerts, the board meetings, the shopping trips, the road trips, and the adventures.  I have a roof over my head, food on the table and plenty of clean water to drink. What a lucky girl.

So to that – I’d say it was an abundantly blessed and joy filled year. I can only pray that 2013 will be half as wonderful, as incredible, as blessed and as joyous.

Living with Brothers

My family is classier than your family. Hands down.

I have four brothers and I love each and every single one of them fiercely. We’re silly. We’re loud. We sit on each other. And, if I do say so myself, we’re awesome.

I go home for holidays and get so excited that we’ll all be together again.

I love them. I loved living with them. Boys are great.

And every time I get home, I think, “My goodness, I wished we lived together again. Living with boys is too darn easy. They are great.”

 

And then I sit down and fall into the toilet because the toilet seat is up.

And I remember how great living alone is.

(If you don’t have brothers – I’m sad for you on so many levels – also, please ignore this post. Or if you have well-trained brothers that put the toilet seat down – I don’t understand your life – also, you too can please ignore this post.)

Nickels and Dimes…

So here’s the funny thing about gas prices… a few cents can make or break your mood.

Normally, I’m pretty easy going about the entire process. I won’t drive across town over $.05 cheaper gas, because I’m maybe filling 16 gallons and that $.80 savings just isn’t worth it.

Now… driving home for Christmas and being on a budget… that’s another story. That’s 1100 miles… and that’s a whole 50ish gallons in my small SUV.  On $.05 that’s only $2.50… but… My first drive out here was at $3.87 so when I saw THIS price today I was elated.

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Would you just LOOK at that number!

$3.01?! You’re kidding me! That’s $.86 cheaper and that means $43. Forty-mother-flippin-three dollars back in my wallet.

So I’m thinking I’m big stuff. I’m saving $43. I’m awesome. God is good. Thank you Santa… and then I drive a block and see this:

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Stop it. Stop the maddness.

And all happiness and joy immediately disappeared. Gas for under $3 a gallon. AND I MISSED IT? Stop. Santa whyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?!

All the rationale of “Betsy this gas is only $.12 cheaper… you really only lost $1.44 because you only got 12 gallons” vanished. There was gas for under three dollars and I missed it… by a block!

This frugality is new to me. And so is the anger that comes with the missed bargin.

You’d better believe that I’m so pumped to drive eastward bound tonight to see all of my loved ones back in the great state of Nebraska. I’m so thankful that it’s Christmas time and I love that I’m working for an amazing organization that celebrates the reason for the season and had an actual Christmas party and not a holiday gathering. I can’t wait to drink egg nog and give gifts and sleep in flannel pajamas.

Can I look past my anger in the name of baby Jesus and get over the amazing gas price that I stumbled upon too late? Most likely yes. But will I continuiously tell this story to friends and strangers alike for the next week? Absolutely.

Here’s to safe travels to all… and to ridiculiously low gas prices!

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The Dog Park

Now if you know me at all, you’ve probably heard me gush over my pets. I can’t help it. Some people gush over boys, children… but me? It’s my pets. Why? Well, they are adorable. Obviously.

Meet Kate Spade (because she is, get it?) – weighing in at 95 pounds. She’s part Newfoundland and part mystery – the fun in rescuing a dog. Kate is a freight train covered in hair, the girls got some serious power and when I adopted her they said she was sassy. I thought “oh please, how could a dog be sassy?” Well. I’ve learned. The girl is sassy.

Kate

This is what two days of shedding looks like in the spring at our house. Jealous?

And then there’s Phoebe. Phoebe may be the most talked about cat I’ve ever known. Simply because she has a mustache. That and she’s been featured on the world famous Cat’s That Look Like Hitler website.  Other names for Phoebe include: Phoebs, Hilter Cat, Kitler… Poor kitty, she hates the attention.

I mean really, the girl has a mustache, how can you not love her?

I mean really, the girl has a mustache, how can you not love her?

You’d better believe that both of these furry four-legged friends will be referenced in posts to follow – and I thought an introduction may help set the scene. So I apologize for the long post (ahem, Katie Becker), but it was completely necessary. Especially for this next story.

Let me start by saying I adore Kate. K (as I call her in shorthand format) is quirky, loud and a completely believes she’s a 5 pound lap dog. She’s loyal, she’s a furnace and she just loves having your full attention. But, I don’t think anyone would mistake K for a well-behaved dog. She knows sit, stay, down… but she’s sassy, and she may or may not choose to listen. Unfortunately, her mother (third person reference) is perhaps not the strongest of disciplinarians… and makes for a terrible enforcer. But please, no pity, we have a perfectly worked out relationship where she does what she wants, and I obey…

Knowing this, I’ve never taken K to the dog park. Truth be told, it sounded like a complete disaster waiting to happen. K not on a leash + Lots of dogs + No way to catch her = Impending Doom.

Now though, I haven’t been left with much of a choice. There are mountains all over and one million outdoorsy types surrounding me… people just do dog parks.

Crap.

It wasn’t until I’d found a seasoned dog park vet to agree to go with me that I even began to feel remotely confident that this could work. 1) Because he knew where the dog parks were and how they worked. 2) Because I was coming off of the high of a really great church service. 3) Because he assured me it would be fine.

And it was. In fact, it was better than fine. We got there, we entered through the double gate, and after I removed the leash, K turned into the perfect dog. We walked along the path (because that’s what you do at dog parks? who knew!) and K followed along. Other dogs came into our path and she politely said hello and then continued along her merry way. There was a giant stream in the dog park, I told K no and she didn’t run into it. It was incredible. We had a ball.

Shockingly, the best part of this story isn’t about K. It’s about my new friend Jared and his lovely dog Ranger.

There’s not an ounce of retriever in K. You throw something and she laughs at you (okay, she just stays sitting next to your side, but if she could, she’d be laughing). But Ranger, Ranger fetches things. In fact, he looked so great that some film crew there asked Jared if he’d throw the frisbee around and let the dogs fetch it. See:

The secret dog whisperer. Just look at those dogs lining up to be his friend.

The secret dog whisperer. Just look at those dogs lining up to be his friend.

You know that moment when you just know something is going to end poorly? Well, it was on one very strong throw of the frisbee by Jared that I realized I couldn’t see Ranger, but I could see a white and black blur coming from behind me.

Oh no.

Oh yes!

I braced. I bent my legs. I know the drill, K runs freight speed and knocks into me all of the time. I was prepared.

However, I wasn’t prepared for the dog to hit right behind my knees. Causing me to buckle. Before you could blink, I was on the ground. My keys, phone and dog treats flew from my pockets. My headband came off my head (explain that?) and I was flat on my back.

My reaction? To laugh. Hard. Because how could you not?

Had Jared been a close friend, he would have laughed at me with me, taken a picture, and posted it everywhere. But sadly, Jared is a southern gentleman and that leaves me without any photographic evidence. Sigh.

I’m certain that there will be many more adventures at the dog park. From now on, I’ll warn my partners in crime to have their cameras ready. Because really, in my life, at any moment something hilarious might happen and truth be told, I wouldn’t want you to miss it. For now though, we can only hope that some unknown documentary camera crew was able to capture some girl in a pink jacket fall flat on her back in the background of some amazing dog chase…

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Pinterest Challenge – Potato Pizza

I feel like everyone complains of a full Pinterest board – but no time to try anything.

Guess what folks? This girl has time. And plenty of it.

So each week, I’m going to make/bake/cook something off of Pinterest. And I’m going to invite friends over to help me try it, because let’s face it, I absolutely can’t eat a whole crock pot full of enchiladas… and I love dining with friends (and their dogs, but that’s a blog post for later).

This week, I was inspired by Liren and Roxana over at Roxana’s Home Baking Blog by the tempting and amazing potato pizza that Liren made for Roxana. Back home, my absolute favorite restaurant has a to die for potato rosemary pizza. I miss it like crazy and I thought this guy might be the solution to that craving.

Bad news: I was reminded that no one can compete with the amazingness that is Bread & Cup. The pizza, the dessert, the simple salad, the wine, the friends… but I digress. Good news: thanks to Liren, I have a pretty tasty runner up!

So here’s the recipe (with a few of my edits):

Ingredients:

  1. Pizza dough (yeah, I bought it from the store, and it was still wonderful)
  2. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  3. 1/3 2/3 cup gorgonzola cheese (oh please,  I adore cheese and if you’ve got it, use it)
  4. 2-3 SMALL potatoes (if they are large, use 2) –  thinly and evenly sliced (get a good knife)
  5. Kosher Salt (sea salt, whatever salt you have in the back of your spice closet…)
  6. Freshly ground black pepper (yeah, or the kind from the can)
  7. Fresh thyme (if I was doing it again, I’d consider using Rosemary instead...)
  8. (I made two pizzas and on the second one, I put chopped Walnuts, a tasty additon)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and place an oven rack in the lower half of the oven.
  2.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pizza dough to your desired shape, about 1/4 inch thick.  Transfer the dough to an oiled baking sheet and press the dough with your fingertips, creating dimples and a 1 inch border around the perimeter. Take a cookie sheet, spray some cooking spray on the pan and roll your store bought dough out. Pinch the corners up about an inch to create the crust.  Sure, it’ll be a rectangle, but guess what? It’s still tasty.
  3.  Top with the cheese and potatoes. Brush the potatoes and the crust bordering the pizza with olive oil (turns out, if you don’t have a brush, a spatula will work nicely!). Season with salt and pepper, and scatter the thyme (or rosemary and walnuts!).
  4. Bake for about 15 minutes (mine took 25), or until the crust is golden brown and the potatoes tender. Remove from oven and let it sit for about 1-2 minutes before slicing. Serve it with a salad for lovely and simple dinner.

And for my “real life” photos of the project:

I’ve owned a potato peeler for years. First time I’ve used it. There’s pride in that.

Yes, it's from a can. Yes, that's the cheaters version. But guess what? It was delish.

Yes, it’s from a can. Yes, that’s the cheaters version. But guess what? It was delish.

I suppose the continous opening of the oven may be the reason it took a bit longer to cook...

I suppose the continuous opening of the oven may be the reason it took a bit longer to cook…

It looked amazing. Probably helped by my super fancy photo taking skills. Well, that and Instagram...

It looked amazing. Probably helped by my super fancy photo taking skills. Well, that and Instagram…

It was tasty, it was fairly easy (prep time 25 minutes, cook time 25 minutes), it was inexpensive (total cost for two pizzas: $11.95 – with extra potatoes and thyme) and got rave reviews from the five people it fed. I’m calling it a win and I’ve officially pinned it with positive reviews on Pinterest.

So tell me, are there Pinterest projects/recipes that you’re dying to try? Let me know in the comments section and I’d love to add them to my weekly Pinterest Challenge board!

It just got cold here. Real cold. And blizzardy. And I’m thinking after Christmas celebration next week, a nice easy meal of crock pot something or other might do the trick…

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It’s all in the game…

I can’t tell you the last time that I went shopping and came home empty handed. Not because I needed anything (trust me, just visit my closet), but because I adore shopping. I love finding new things, having new things, wearing new things… and just the thrill of buying new things.

Yes. I’m materialist. Moving on…

With my recent move, life change, career switch – the previous mindset of buying anything and everything I wanted, has changed. And ladies and gentlemen, that’s an awfully large adjustment for a former spoiled girl. After a few scares with a very empty checkbook, I’ve come to terms with it and I’m thinking it’s just one way my life can amuse God a little bit. And hey, if it’s giving God a smile, it gives me a smile…

A few new friends invited me on a shopping adventure this weekend. To a beautiful mall. One may call it my own personal mecca. May I just say, it was beautiful.

And. I. Didn’t. Buy. A. Single. Thing. Well, scratch that, I didn’t buy a single thing for myself. I did, however, buy a $20 shirt (on sale) as a Christmas gift for someone else. But had it not been Christmas season, I would have come home empty handed.

You know what helped? Having someone tell me that I couldn’t do it. So today, I’d like to give a shout out to my loving boyfriend, who told me it was impossible to come home empty handed. Who knew, apparently all I needed to get my finances on track was a bit of a challenge. Making a game out of not spending money. Now there’s a new idea…

The Power of a Runza…

runza (2)

I think one of the most incredible things about food is the power it has to bring people together. A meal is a wonderful way to spend an hour of your time catching up with an old friend, laughing with close girlfriends about your weekend adventures, or on a date with your special someone. Because no matter how much time you have… everyone has to eat. Grab a quick lunch, spend hours dining at somewhere special, whatever it is – I adore having a meal WITH someone else.

Which, conisidently, is one of the strangest parts about moving somewhere new. You instantly cut out all of your dining partners. But what I’ve learned, if you’re cooking for one, you might as well cook for four… and asking people to join you for a meal is an amazing way to try out new friends (and inspire people to want to spend time with you)!

So last night, I decided to go big or go home and invite people over for a meal. And my dining entree of choice? Frozen Runzas.

Here’s the thing, if you know me, you know I adore Runza. It’s a Nebraska thing that I’ve always had a hard time describing – because – well – it’s a Runza. But all of my new friends had never had the pleasure and so I threw a bunch in the oven, got a few snacks and put on a Christmas movie. The best part of the night (besides finding out I did in fact have friends that would come over for a meal)? The reactions to the Runza.

“It’s like hamburger helper in a hot pocket.”

I would never have considered that as a description… but… it’s maybe not too far from the truth!

It was a night of comfort food, new wonderful friends, and a little White Christmas. I think it’s maybe my favorite night to date in my new city! Next time, my goal, is to make an actual meal… 🙂

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And so it begins…

I’ve always said I like life a whole lot. Because it’s true. I have an amazing family, I have the most wonderful friends and I am abundantly blessed by Jesus.

I’ve always led a hectic life. The word ‘no’ has never been in my vocabulary. But even further than that – I thrive taking on new tasks. I love going on new adventures. I love meetings, boards, and spending time with people. I enjoy operating on a full schedule. I spring out of bed, conqueror the day without taking a break and crash into bed at night. Those people who have free time? I didn’t understand them. Not in the least.

Until recently when my day after day crazy hectic life came screeching to a halt and my schedule became WIDE open after moving to a new state and leaving the familiar behind.

With all this free time I was left to ponder, what do I WANT to do with my time? Not – what are you required to do this evening? Not – what obligations to someone or something do you have? But – what is it that you truly want to spend your time doing? As someone with a full plate, I’d never consider what I would do if I were handed free time. I finally had all the choice in the world, what would I spend my time doing?

And I had no idea. None. Zlich.

After a bit of soul-searching, I found that among my amazing and abundant blessings, there are a few areas in my life where I was less than blessed… Mainly domestic and mainly consisting of baking, cooking, cleaning… and organizing.

But here’s the beautiful thing about free time. When you have time, you can spend an hour making a meal. You can take the extra time to color coordinate your closet. You can spend 5 minutes a day wiping off the counters. And suddenly, you’re an organized person.

Do I still take my coat off and throw it over the chair in the dining room? Absolutely. Do I sometimes leave a pan in the sink overnight because I just simply don’t want to wash it? Of course.

Because life is a journey. Why jump from complete chaos into absolute perfection? That can’t be right. I want to enjoy every step of the journey. I want to learn to bake. I want to enjoy making food. I want to find the absolute best way to organize my socks.

And then I want to share it. All of it. With those that have less time. And for those that want to laugh at my missteps and my failures with me. Because even miles away from my home, I want to connect.

I can’t promise it’ll all be funny. I can’t promise every post will be worth it. But I can promise it’ll be a heck of a journey!
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