Monday, June 29, 2015

Relationship building through giving

One of my personal goals this year was to increase our spirit of generosity by looking for ways to give to others every single week. 
Since January, I've posted recaps that included some of the things we have been doing such as bringing treats to friends, giving unexpected gifts, dropping by with dinner or restaurant outings for those going through a difficult time, and a mix of uplifting gifts for strangers on our travels and babysitting for friends with the hopes of inspiring others with an idea to bless others as well.

This summer I really wanted to seek out ways to build my relationships with others by identifying their needs and helping resolve problems if we are in a position to do so. Here are some of the things we have done in the past month:
*Mailing cards and notes of encouragement to family and friends going through difficult times each this month
*Bringing meals to friends during difficult life events
*Hospital visits and family support for a sick relative
*Baby gifts, including one to a young unwed mother, that we are loosely acquainted with, but who is in dire need of extra support at this time

Next month we plan to stretch and do some big giving!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

June and July Goals

The goals I set for June were right on target. They were exactly what I needed to be doing this month. They all started with Rs, funny enough. And July's goal: Rinse and Repeat. More of the same. So without further ado, June/July goals...

1) Read more-- I read 9 books this month. I posted about books I've read in the past month here and here and here for any bibliophiles following along today. I also read a few cookbooks that I didn't post about but will probably refer to this fall and post some recipes (easy, homemade recipes that can be packed quickly into lunchboxes for busy school days!). I cut through one nightstand stack and have loaded up another large stack in its place for July. This goal is definitely on repeat for July and my goal is to finish 10 books next month (knowing that I'll only have time for 2-3 month in the fall)!

2) Run more-- I had to take a few weeks off this month due to some family health issues that had me spending my free time caring for my dad who was sick and I got out of the groove of self care/exercise but I'm already back on the bandwagon and looking forward to picking up my mileage in July. At the end of the month I'll see where I am at and whether I'm ready to commit to a race this fall or whether I should postpone this marathon goal until next year when my schoolwork is completed and just continue low mileage and exercise videos until then.

3) Register for my next course-- done, but I need to follow-up next month and make sure my tuition reimbursement gets approved. In July, I will register DH for his fall courses and submit his tuition reimbursement forms. It's a never ending cycle my friends!

4) ROTH-- I brought in my check for 2015 so one account is already fully funded this year! However, we'll keep recording daily expenses in July and closely monitor our spending habits to see if we can scrape together enough for the other ROTH by the end of this year!

5) Relationships-- Baby showers, family get togethers, a sick family member, and a few dates for coffee/exercise this month were really good for me. I spent time talking on the phone and texting my closest girlfriends to keep in touch this month and tried to do special things for them. I also reached out to my close girlfriends with kids and offered to babysit this summer to give them private time with their husbands to do dinners and dates. My husband and I are consistently doing 2 date nights weekly and spending time together as well. Weekly acts of kindness continue. In July, birthday parties, bbqs with friends, and continued efforts to reach out to both sides of our family and my girlfriends are on the calendar as well as some babysitting for friends who have accepted our invitation to take the night off from parenting.

I'm hoping that July will be even more restful than June because in August... the big push towards finishing my graduate degree begins. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What's Up Wednesday: June 2015

Once again, I'm linking up for What's up Wednesday with Mel, Shay, and Sheaffer.

What we're eating this week:
Lots of low carb meals-- omelettes and scrambled eggs for breakfast, turkey meatballs and brussel sprouts and Bessinger's bbq chicken breasts and green beans for dinner along with some fun meals out (pizza and such by ourselves and with friends this month), and curried tuna salad or egg salad with whole wheat crackers and veggies like celery or cukes for many lunches. I have to say this curry tuna salad is not pretty but tastes AMAZING so I encourage you to try it out here.

What I'm reminiscing about:
Years ago we visited Amish Country, Pennsylvania in June and I found a photo album I'd made of the trip while cleaning out a closet this month. It was so peaceful and lovely. We always enjoy trips to that area of the country! This photo is similar to a postcard I picked up during that first visit!
What I'm loving:
Lots of reading, some sunny days, getting healthy by working out regularly again

What we've been up to:
My dad was sick earlier this month but is healing well now. Thank you for sending private messages and special thanks to those who said prayers. I made it a special focus this month to spend quality time with my family, my friends, and my husband. We never know how long we will have with the important people in our lives-- make every moment with them count and let them know you love them!

What I'm dreading:
House projects. Last month I dreaded having to make the calls and arrange all the house repairs. Now I'm dreading allocating funds and picking projects. Decorating and planning is fun but functional home repairs are not, especially because they often come with big price tags. YUCK.

Or as Walter would say... 

What I'm working on:
Increasing my running mileage

 What I'm excited about:
Another month off before I have to dig into schoolwork- more reading, more running, more relaxing coming at me!

What I'm reading:
I've been reading a lot of books this month. I posted about some of my reading this month here last week. Anybody else have J. Weiner recommendations for me? I loved this book!

What I'm listening to:
The breeze, the cars passing by occasionally, and the sounds of my house because when I've been home during the day I've tried to have windows open and not to have t.v. or radio on and it's been really peaceful!

What I'm wearing:
We had to completely take apart one of our closets (see money pit comments above!) so most of my clothes are in bags in a spare room. I've been rotating between 4 pair of yoga pants and 6 tank tops all month long. Hello, minimalism! When I'm out and about I've made a special effort to grab a dress (from another pile in the room) and wear those since we only get a few short months to look cute in dresses. I've worn this one (from LL Bean) several times this month as it is versatile enough to dress up with a cover and nice shoes for going out with friends or dress down with sneakers for casual day wear.

What I'm doing this weekend:
Going to a good friend's baby shower and spending time with my husband, maybe at the movie theater though we haven't looked lately to see what's playing. Anyone see a good movie at the theater lately that they wanna recommend? I'm putting my foot down- no Jurassic world!

What I'm looking forward to next month:
More time with friends, more reading in the sunshine, and more quality time with family (not at the hospital!) celebrating birthdays and having bbqs

and this month's bonus question, What are you doing for 4th of July?:
I'm actually helping out some friends by caring for their kids that weekend so it will probably be low key and involve celebratory food (burgers, dogs, berries?) at home :)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

What are you reading?

One of my goals this month has been to do more reading. So today I'm linking up with Narci's Carpool Book Club for the first time to share my June reading.

Here's a quick review of what I've been reading lately:

This book was really wonderful. Once or twice a year I get my hands on a Danielle Steel book and I always devour them. I remembered mentioning "The Cottage" way back in 2013 and I also read Big Girl and The Long Road Home about a year or so ago. This book takes place in Europe during the early 1900s with the world wars set as the backdrop. It is very interesting and also fun to read. If you like Danielle Steel, I highly recommend this book!

Obviously John Steinbeck is best known for his work on classics like of mice and men, grapes of wrath and the pearl all of which are wonderful books in their own right and essential classic American literature. But this book takes the reader on a personal trip across the USA travelling in a camper with the man and his dog, meeting real life Americans in their hometowns, over a period of 3 months. It is the perfect trip for those who like reading about life in America and some of the distinctions of different states and regions. It actually reminds me a lot of another book I loved, Charles Kuralt's America, which I read last year. 

Both are highly recommended!

I've also read this book, which is interesting, especially given some of the political issues the US has been facing lately.
This book is based on the true story of life in 18th century NYC when colonists were still trying to figure out how to run the land in a democratic way. Do you like history? Do you like turning history on its head? Do you like court dramas? This book is for you. This account is well researched and a very quick read that will keep you turning pages. The Great Negro Plot was informative, especially considering that after 20 years of formal education I had never heard of it! It was a witch hunt, based on gossip, that went way too far.

And finally, I'm working through this book right now:

I haven't seen the movie so the book is really interesting to me. It's silly chick lit, sure, but I have a feeling it will also be heartwarming and it's the kind of book I like to pick up during the summer and do some escaping with. This book is the story of 2 sisters, who are very different, but find a common bond. I have not found their common bond yet (I'm only 40 pages into 400) but I hope to have it finished by the end of the week as I'm setting aside some serious chunks of time for reading this week.

So, it's summer, and we should all be relaxing. What are you reading?

Monday, June 15, 2015

How to host a virtual yard sale

Is anybody in the US dry right now?

We have had so much rain here during the past month. I'm grateful we're not flooding. But it has made yard sales very challenging. So, we decided to host a virtual yard sale and I thought I could share some details here for anyone else decluttering. 
Where to sell:
We put our stuff up on the local Craigslist as we have had pretty good luck getting rid of large items (furniture, appliances, household items, and yard items) in that way. I know some people have had a lot of luck with facebook groups too. We have purchased a television from such a group with no problem! Another option might be listing a group of items on an internet related board or hobby site if you have specialty items. Ebay is an option but they have a lot of rules and I try not to sell often on ebay due to commissions, rules, and the possibility of returns which are annoying.

What to charge:
Typically we underprice things so people come and pay for them (and take them away) quickly without too much hassle. We're looking for an easy way to recycle, not to make money off our stuff. I know we could hold out for more money, but seriously, we just want the stuff gone and putting it out for free is always a last resort for us because we've found it goes quicker if you sell it for a few bucks and people don't have to wonder "why" you're giving it away free. I do know of a lot of people who have sold things they bought for more than they paid (when they got a deal on it) so if you're willing to hold onto stuff and be patient you could really make money buying and selling items.

How to exchange:
At some point, you need to exchange money for stuff. I let my husband handle this part. He either arranges a meeting at a local commercial spot or invites buyers to our home. We are generally firm on prices because we are basically giving things away. However, as I said, we sell nearly everything for under $10 and even a bunch of items for just $5. we could throw it away but we don't want to fill up a landfill with perfectly usable items if someone else needs it. Those $5 and $10 sales declutter our home and provide us money for date nights or little travel luxuries for our next trip (fancy breakfast or coffee on morning, a nice sub or pizza at lunch, or if they add up and we sell a bunch of stuff at once it might even provide one way gas for a getaway). 

I'll report what we make at the end of next month as it will probably take us a few weeks of posting a series of pics and item listings in batches to get rid of it all. Best of luck on your summer yard sales!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Father's Day

Father's Day will soon be here. My dad has been hospitalized this month. It's times like these that we need to close our eyes and remember how important it is to embrace your loved ones and let them know how important they are to you.

prayers welcome...

Monday, June 1, 2015

June 2015 Goals...brought to you by the letter R

Photo gathered from

June is upon us and I am ready for summer goals! Note that they all start with R. Hmmmm.... relaxation anyone?

But it's summer time, and I have just 2 months off from school so I want to keep my goals focused on what's important to accomplish before I go into CRAZY, FINISH UP A GRADUATE DEGREE, OMG IS IT ALMOST TIME TO GRADUATE? mode this fall. If you're looking for me this fall, that's where I'll be.

But right now, ahhhh... summer.

1) Read More
Read the large stack of books at my bedside that I've been meaning to read for months. Read in the sun. Read on my days off. Read before work. Read before bed. 

2) Run More
I've just started training for my first marathon. I have 4-5 months to pickup my mileage. Read more about the training plan here

3) Register for my next course
This should be easy. Then I'll submit a tuition reimbursement form at work. And then I wait and continue to enjoy a peaceful summer without school work!

I want to set aside enough money to fully fund my ROTH by the end of June or early July. This will take some thoughtful spending restraint (we've been a bit unrestrained spending on things we hadn't budgeted for the past few months, which along with the splurges we had planned kept us pushing this goal back a bit). I may also talk more about our financial journey with Dave Ramsey on here if anyone is interested.

5) Relationships
Weekly dates with friends to walk, drink coffee, watch The Bachelorette, whatever! Invite some friends to our home to bbq or play games or watch movies- again, whatever! Reach out to both sides of our family. Intentionally nourish relationships with my best 4-5 girlfriends to keep my supports strong. Weekly intentional acts of kindness or generosity towards others. And of course, weekly dates with my husband as we start our marriage improvement course! 
So yeah, this is a pretty fun list. But it also helps me towards some of my stretch goals this years and relaxes me before the big push to the end of my degree. And I'm still working a demanding job 30-40 hours weekly so my days are not only filled with respite and relaxation...