Financial Advice for Couples.

In marriage, money is the number one reason for argument. If you haven’t argued about it at least once, I commend you… but I don’t believe you. 
When J and I married we chose to tackle the topic of money head on. This was not easy and required a lot of tongue biting for me (I mean I just don’t understand why Kate Spade purses aren’t always in the budget?!?) and required a lot of listening for J (he clearly doesn’t understand why I need another bag, period.). 
Through discussion, we realized our marital success was dependent on having some serious conversations and creating an action plan. Our plan was created before marriage by doing the following:
We talked openly about our future. 

Where do we want to go? What do we want to do? How do we want to get there? Each of these “big idea” conversations led to another and we had to chat about how to merge all of our awesome ideas.
We merged our bank accounts.

In order to have total marital transparency and actively work on our future together, we decided to merge our bank accounts. This wasn’t the original plan but has been great for us. Accountability is important in marriage. A merged bank account helps make this happen.
We enrolled in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University
We learned a lot during the course and were able to chat about financial topics before they became an issue. Furthermore, for the spender in me and the saver in him, the course gave us the ability to safely share our opinions without fear. Complete Life Changer.

I believe the number one way to avoid financial stress in your marriage is to talk about it. Our solution might not be right for you but without a conversation, you will never know. For us,  this plan saved our marriage before it even started. 
Do you and your spouse openly talk about money? 

Birthday Festivities + Balloon Wishes.

My love’s birthday was Saturday and we celebrated all weekend long. 
In J’s birthday card, I told him I wanted him to feel special and loved all weekend because he made people feel loved every day. I told him his loved stretched across the nation and through the world and it would be made evident all weekend long.  
We started celebrating on Friday with my family. On his actual birthday, we went to the UK game and then had a small party at our house. Sunday we celebrated with his family and his mom served the cutest ice cream cake!
Since J isn’t a big fan of material goods, I had to get creative. I ended up giving him four gifts and used the kiddo Christmas gift giving methodology for them.
Something you need: Two new pillows for our bed.
Something to wear: New soccer shorts for his coaching season.
Something you want: I pre-ordered a video game.
Something to read: Birthday Balloons. 
The birthday balloon idea came from The Dating Divas
Here’s what I did: 
Early in January, I sent out a facebook e-mail to his closest friends and family inviting them to participate in a balloon surprise for him on his birthday. 
If the friends chose to participate, I mailed them a balloon and a return mailing envelope. 
When the balloon was received, the individuals wrote on the balloon and returned it to me. 
On his birthday, his BFF, filled the balloons with helium and brought it to his birthday party. We had exactly 32 balloons for his 32nd birthday! Yay! 
It was so awesome to see him read all of the birthday wishes. It also was a cool thing for folks at the birthday party to read. Some of them were sweet and some of them were funny. We had balloons from Arizona to Florida and many states in between. (I am trying for wife of the year here, friends!).
And then to stretch across the ocean he received this special surprise came from a little Haitian girl we sponsor. My friend went to Haiti the week before J’s birthday and had her pose with this message. Isn’t she precious?!?
We had a great time! And I think he truly felt like a king! 
(Check him out with his mustache, crown and little king beer- a friend gave those items to him as a gift. SO FUN!)

I spent a lot of time planning and organizing for my man in hopes to make him feel super special. I think it worked… 

P.S. I am partying at the Kurtz Corner today! 

Broccoli Cheese Soup

Since January is showing off and reminding us how cold it can be, I thought it was appropriate to bring some warm yumminess to the dinner table. 
This meal was created by shopping my fridge and pantry and as a result could easily be doctored. 

Ingredients: 

2 Bags of Frozen Broccoli Florets
3/4 Large Onion
2 Cans of Cream of Something 
(I used one potato and one chicken since they were in my pantry).
1 Can of Milk 
2 Cans of Evaporated Milk
Salt & Pepper to Taste
Cheddar Cheese
Method:

Dump broccoli, chopped onion, cream of whatever soup, milk, evaporated milk and salt and pepper into your crock pot.
Cook on High for 4 hours or Low for 6 hours in crock pot.
Top with Cheddar Cheese.
(P.S. I used two bags of shredded cheese as I put one bag in the soup 30 minutes before dining and then used one bag for topping. If I would have had Velveeta, I would have put 6 oz of cubed cheese in the crock pot instead of shredded cheese.)
Serve with Cornbread from a cast iron skillet and you’ve made the perfect winter meal! 
Enjoy! 

Action List {Young House Love Book Edition}

I don’t know if you follow Young House Love but their blog is funky fresh and the book exceeded my expectations in every way. Sherry & John truly have it goin’ on! 
I picked up a copy of their book at the library (go LPL!) and was inspired to make an action list based on the tips I found in the book.
Our House Love: {Long} Action List

Inventory Texture in Living Room: Our living room feels flat. We need to buy a few items to freshen up the space including: sheers to add softness, new lamp shade and a woven basket to house doggie toys! 

Add Chalkboard Paint: The example in the book inspires you to make over a bar cart. AMAZING! However, I feel inspired to revamp a mirror into a chalkboard for our dining room. 
Consider a DayBed: I’ve wanted a daybed in our home for a while. I want to place it in the bonus room/J’s office to create a more comfortable environment in the space.
Rearrange the Living Room: This needs to happen ASAP! Our space is stagnant. 
Sofa Update: Add pillows and a throw to the sofa to update it’s look. I am working on the pillows (sewing them currently!). 
Don’t Forget the Hallway/Replace Blah Light Fixtures: We repainted our hallways recently and haven’t gotten around to adding new light fixtures to them for added interest. Also, I would like to hang a couple some art to jazz it up a pit. 
Refinish Wood Furniture: I have a rocking chair in the garage just waiting its turn for some lovin’. 
Backsplash: We don’t have a backsplash in our kitchen but adding bead board or frames would be a nice way to add a little charm to the space.
Paint Kitchen Cabinets: Are cabinets are bland. A fresh coat of paint would certainly update the space.
Bedroom Update:  I cannot be satisfied when it comes to bedding. We have three dogs, they jump on the bed it makes me crazy. I need to invest some time & money into creating the perfect space for us. 
Replace Bathroom Faucets: Our bathroom faucets lack style. I will be keeping my eye out at Habitat for Humanity ReStore and E-bay. We don’t have a lot of money to invest in this project but I am certain it would change the entire look of the room.
Frame Bathroom Mirror: A builder’s mirror (that’s us!)… Framing it can help create a more dramatic look!
Framing Arrangements: We currently have two sets of frames waiting to be arranged and placed on various walls. This needs to happen. 
Hang Plates: I’ve been digging this style for a while. 
Add Wooden Planters: I want to add colored wooden planters to our front porch this spring. By adding color it will POP.
These fifteen items all varying in price and effort will definitely help our home become a reflection of our personalities and style. 
I am so excited to get started on this action list. I’ll keep you updated along the way! 
P.S. A special thanks to Sherry & John for inspiring so many! I mean seriously… awesome! 

Little Black Bag: January.

Have tried Little Black Bag? I adore it! 
They haven’t asked me to advertise for them but after purchasing three bags over the last several months, I think it is important to recognize a good thing when I see it and share it with all of you so you can get in on the action! 
Little Black Bag is an online accessories, handbags, and such website. It allows you the opportunity to purchase a bag each month at $49.95 or $29.95. You select an item of interest based on your “style profile” and then the LBB stylist surprises you with additional items. If you are not totally satisfied with the items, you have a chance to swap with other LBB folks and create a perfectly customized bag.
I adore it because…

I can select fashionable accessories at a seriously reduced price.
It’s easy to use.
I can skip a month anytime I want.
They ship quickly. 
For example, this month I chose this Catherine Stein multi-strand bauble necklace to add to my gold/black accessory collection! 
Then I added these mocha flower gold stackable bangles. 
But I didn’t like the third item selected by the stylist so I swapped and was able to score this Big Buddha cross-body to add some bling to nights out on the town. 
After the swap ended and I felt super excited about the bag, LBB shipped it quickly. 
Every time a new LBB arrives in the mail, I am always over the moon with excitement. And normally, I get some serious compliments when I rock the LBB stuff. It’s like a double dose of AWESOME! 
You should try it.

Happies & Crappies.

 The Vintage Modern Wife: Happies and Crappies Link Up
I am so excited to link up with one of my fave bloggers, Stephanie over at The Vintage Modern Wife and her blog friend Sarah at Scissors and a Whisk (how stinkin’ cute is that name?!) for their first Happies and Crappies Partay! 
Happies:

Planning a few surprises for J’s birthday coming up on the 26th. 
Attending the UK Vs. TN basketball game and actually WINNING! 
My boss giving me a hug and telling me I do a great job!
An awesome committee meeting for our upcoming Arthritis Walk.
Going to a Murder Mystery Theatre at a local restaurant with my folks. 
Crappies:

Being so grouchy before bed on Friday night, I had to put myself in time out on the couch. 
Sitting in the back of the classroom on Wednesday without my glasses.
Not having the energy I want to complete a HUGE to do list. 
At work I was so busy, I had to work late on Friday just to accomplish a few things. 
Not making time to get more than one work-out in. 
Ah, I feel better. Getting out my weekly highs and lows… This. is. therapy. 

Meal Planning {Advice}

J and I have been using EMeals for about a year. We integrated this meal planning process into our home as a way to organize our work week and take the guess work out of dinner. 
For the most part, this simple tool has helped us tremendously. However, until recently, I was still finding myself scrambling to get meals ready. WHY? 

Let me outline the process: 
Each week I go to the grocery with my EMeals list in hand.
I return and put the groceries away. 
(Meats in the freezer, stuff in the fridge, pantry, etc).
I forget to lay out the meat. 
I come home from work. 
Meat is not thawed. 
Then frustrated I say, “WHO WANTS PIZZA?”
It is possible I am the only person on the planet that does this… But a couple of weeks ago, things changed. A friend of mine, one of my mentors actually, told me how she planned for her meals each week and something clicked. A light bulb went off and I was like oh my goodness, we need to start this routine ASAP! 

As a result, a new process has been created:
Each week I go to the grocery.
I return and put the groceries away.
The meat for the week go in the fridge.
I come home from work.
Meat is thawed.
EMeals saves the day! 

By simply looking at the calendar and only buying meat I know I will use in a seven day period, I save myself a load of trouble. You see, a meal plan only works if you plan it all the way through…. Before, I simply went through the motions of picking up the supplies and then when dinner came along I still wasn’t ready. Now things are purchased, thawed and waiting for me to prepare. It’s a beautiful thing! 
My advice young wifeys and mamas, make sure you learn all you can from your elders, they will rock your world in so many different ways! 

Galaxy S3.

Early in December, I took a plunge and disrupted my entire apple ecosystem by purchasing the Galaxy S3. My iphone 4 kicked the bucket after suffering a slow and painful (four months) death due to water damage and I needed something new. After attending a Christmas party where only two of us had iPhones, I was curious about the newest Android product and sat down with the Verizon dude to chat about it. He essentially talked me out of buying an iphone 5 and as a result I fell head over heels in love with the new Galaxy. 
Here are a few reasons why I adore this new phone:
1. When the phone is ringing, I can put my hand over the screen or turn over the phone to quiet the sound. No button pushing or sliding ignore. 
2. The apps update automatically. I don’t have to go into the app store and manually perform this function. Hallelujah!
3. The motion sensor does not permit the screen to go dark on me as long as I am looking at the phone.
4. It’s crazy customizable. For example, I am not used to the swype keyboard so I downloaded an iphone keyboard to help with the transition.
5. I can share pictures with others by touching phones. You’ve seen the commercials. 🙂 
6. The camera has best shot which recommends for me the best shot based on color and lighting. Super cool! 
7. You can search on Google right from your home screen, no need to open Safari or any other web browser. It’s there, waiting! 
I am not an apple hater but I will say to you this, if you were wondering if the Galaxy S3 is worth the hype, the answer is YES it is! I thought I could never love a phone as much as I loved my iPhone but friends, I think I love this more!