Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Adventuring on a Budget: A Guest Post by Emmeline

Good morning, good morning, good morning! 

I'm happy to say that, according to the calendar at least, spring has officially sprung! It's been warm here in Houston for a little while, but maybe knowing it's spring will bring you hope if you're living in cooler climates, and hopefully this post will help whisk you away to less frozen parts of the world as well!

This morning I'm pumped to share with you a guest post from my friend Emmeline! She and her husband up and moved to France a little while ago and she started a blog called "The Unadventurous Go Adventuring" to chronicle their excursions. Emmeline is so relateable and she's a hoot! Definitely check out her blog, especially if you like traveling and/or France and/or humor. Which should be just about all of you. 

Today, Emmeline's going to be sharing with us a few money-saving tips that'll allow you to travel without having to sell both your kidneys! Hurray for that! 

Without further ado, here's Emmeline!

IMG_1439.JPG
Dat babe. Dat view.

Before I got married I wasn’t much of a traveller. My husband, Wade, was, on the other hand. He had been out of the country many times, and he knew what he was doing. About a year and a half into our marriage, he thought it might be fun to teach English for eight months at a high school in France! That’s when I became a reluctant adventurer.  Looking back, I’m glad he yanked me (at times, literally kicking and screaming) out of my comfort zone! We decided that since we were living in France, it might be a good idea to travel to other European countries. I’m not an expert, but I can share some travel trips that have helped keep us sane and have been kind to our bank account.  

Flying:  This seems like a good place to start. Go to Google, type in your destination, and let the magic begin! Google is a great tool for just about anything, but it’s really helpful when looking for the cheapest flights. It will show you on which days flights are cheaper. If you’re waiting for the flights to go down in price, you can set up Google Flights to notify you when the price drops. For your sanity, avoid long layovers and bring your favorite snack on the plane.

Transportation: Okay, you’ve reached your destination! How do you get around? You have a few options: train, bus, or car.  
Train: Get your ticket in advance, the earlier the better. If you’re planning on using the train a lot, look into a train discount card for the country you’re in. We ride trains a lot, and if we’re going somewhere that’s more than an hour train ride, we book first class. I know--gasp!  But honestly, first class tickets are only about five dollars more, and it’s definitely worth it. 
Bus: Chances are it will be cheaper than the train. However, I don’t have much experience with buses.  
Car: Renting a car honestly will probably be cheaper than a train and possibly a bus. When renting a car, consider the cost of gas and the limit on the number of miles that are included. It might be cheap to rent the car but expensive to fill it up. It depends on where you are! 
Last but not least, here’s a form of transportation that I forgot to list--walking!  Walking may be tiresome but hey, you’re saving money and getting exercise! "You go Glenn Coco!"

Hotels:  Alright, we’ve figured out the transportation. Let’s talk about hotels! I know that there are hotel booking websites that claim if you book with them, you’ll get the lowest price. We have figured out that if you go to the actual hotel website, the rooms are cheaper than the discount sites, and sometimes they’ll toss in free breakfast! I know, weird, but it’s true! Try to find a room that has a small kitchenette. Trust me, it’ll come in handy! We also like to use Airbnb; it’s cheaper sometimes and you have all the amenities that a hotel sometimes can’t provide. If you’re hardcore, which I am not, you can do a hostel.

Food:  Guys, this is one thing that can literally eat away your travel budget! (Wink, wink.) I get it. You’re on vacation, so you want to enjoy yourselves. But it can get out of control pretty fast! I’m telling you this as a fellow traveler and a food lover. A good way to keep food costs down is to go the grocery store for food. Remember how I told you to get a hotel room with a kitchenette? It’s much easier and cheaper to buy food at the store than eating out all day everyday. We usually buy breakfast foods, snacks, and sometimes dinner. I do enjoy eating the local cuisine, but we try not to spend too much money on it. If you decide to eat out, it might be a good idea to share a plate instead of getting two entrees. We figured that out the hard way (the expensive way) when we ordered chicken for each of us and they gave us entire chickens each! Learn from our mistakes! I do have to say, as someone who turns into a monster without food, bring snacks wherever you’re going. You want to enjoy your time--not be grumpy because you’re hungry!

Traveling is so much fun!  You don’t want to feel stressed about money while doing it. Know how much you want to spend and try not to go over that set amount. If you do, don’t worry too much about it. Relax, smile, and enjoy the moment. You deserve it!

I hope this was helpful!  Bon voyage! 

-Emmeline


Isn't she great? Now I really want to book a trip somewhere! What are your tried-and-true travel tips? Let me know in the comments below!


If you're interested in writing a guest post for my blog, let me know! I'd love to have you!


Thanks for reading, and I'll see you on the flip-flop!


Melissa

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Meal Planning & Sticky Chickpeas: A Guest Post by Jillian

Good afternoon! I hope you're all recovering from the bout of Daylight Saving Time that we've had recently. It's always an adjustment, isn't it?
Good news! Today is Pi Day, so I hope you're whipping up something delectable! I really want to make a pie (key lime, because it's my favorite), but I don't know if that'll happen (no key limes. Boo). What's your favorite kind of pie? 
Also, good news! I have a new sister! My in-laws adopted a cute little gal from China this week! I can't wait to meet her.
And here's even more good news! I have a great guest post lined up for today! My amazing friend Jill is gracing us with her presence today. She is a dietician, a darling, and one of the best home cooks I know! Recently she started a food blog called "From Her Kitchen" that you really need to look at. Like now. As soon as I read it I knew I needed her to write a post for me before she got too famous and busy and started charging big bucks for her words of wisdom. Thanks Jill! I'm calling it right now, you're gonna be on Food Network.

Now, over to Jill for an awesome post on meal planning & a delicious Sticky Chickpea recipe!

Thanks so much for asking me to write a post for you, Melissa! I loved your post on meal planning with a budget in mind (let’s be honest, who doesn’t have at least some type of budget, right?!), and I’m happy to add my two cents on the subject.

How Meal Planning Works for Me
First of all, I have to mention that I truly enjoy meal planning. I love sitting down on a Saturday night with a bunch of cookbooks all around me, watching a movie, and planning what I’m going to feed my family for the upcoming week. Picturesque, right? I realize I’m definitely in the minority on this. Most people I talk to at best don’t love meal planning, and it may even be something they honestly dread each week. But, we all have to eat something, and most budgets and cardiovascular systems can’t afford to eat out every night, so here are a few tips that have really helped me hone my meal planning skills. For me, a good meal plan means that I will be cooking for my family instead of being tempted to eat out because my plan didn’t really help me. Bad plan = wasted food and money.
A few notes first – I plan for a week at a time. I’ve found that this is just the right amount of time that all the fresh produce I buy will stay fairly fresh but not too long that our schedule changes significantly. I like meal planning, but coming up with 14 dinner ideas in one sitting is a lot. Also, I just plan dinner, one weekend breakfast idea, and one dessert idea. Breakfast during the week is typically quick and easy things that I always keep around (fruit + yogurt, cereal, eggs + toast, etc.) and lunch is leftovers or a quick salad or sandwich.
  1. What’s your schedule?
I base everything on our schedule for the week. I think it’s super important to be really realistic about this part. How much time are you willing or able to devote to making dinner? Do you usually have about 30 minutes, all day, or something in between? Do you have more or less time on specific days of the week? If you plan to cook things that are too challenging or time consuming on days that you’re busy or simply don’t feel like cooking, the chances are you won’t end up making them at all.
One example for me is that whatever I plan for dinner for Fridays must be easy to throw together and require a minimal amount of dishwashing at the end. By the time Friday night rolls around I’m DONE and need a weekend and am super tempted to just go grab some sushi. While tasty, this doesn’t really work toward my goal of feeding my family delicious nutritious homemade meals.

  1. What do you already have?
I always do a quick inventory of my cupboards, fridge, and freezer before I start my menu for the upcoming week. This way I can incorporate items I already have into my upcoming meals. I don’t love leftovers, so I try to scale recipes down by quite a bit to avoid them. If you do have leftovers and you don’t really feel like eating them as is, repurpose them into something new. Leftover roasted vegetables are excellent in omelets or grain salads. When in doubt, pretty much anything will work in a taco or on top of pizza.

  1. Plan out proteins
Once I know my schedule and what I already have, I try to plan out my proteins for the week, which are usually the building blocks for my menu and really help me focus my efforts. I like a few vegetarian days mixed in with pork, beef, chicken, and fish. If you (or your husband!) are pretty traditional meat and potato people, this many vegetarian days may not work for you, but I do encourage you to try at least one day as meatless. There are so many different ways to do vegetarian that are legitimately delicious (see recipe below!) and don’t have anything to do with tofu :)

  1. Don’t be afraid to try something new… sometimes
I’m all about trying new recipes. I think it’s really important to always be trying new foods to stretch our palates and our kitchen skills. Don’t get too crazy, though. If you throw in too many new recipes you’ll end up overwhelmed and straight up not want to cook anything, which defeats the purpose. I always try for at least one new recipe a week and feel like it’s a good place to start.

There are lots of other tips for meal planning, but these four are where I always start. A few notes on where I get my ideas… I love cookbooks and cook from them often. They are great to pick up at a second hand book store, or you can check them out from the library to test them out before you commit to buying one. I also have several food blogs that I would try almost anything from and everything always seems to turn out really well. I also use Pinterest sometimes, but it can be tricky to find good, reliable recipes, and I often catch myself wasting far too much time monotonously scrolling through the endless recipe overload.
As I mentioned previously, I cook quite a few vegetarian dinners. One of my favorite vegetarian proteins is chickpeas. They are affordable and incredibly versatile. These Sticky Chickpeas have an Asian flare, but you could use a more traditional BBQ sauce here instead. Use these in Asian bowls as I did here, as a salad topping, or just pop them straight into your mouth. No judgement here!



Sticky Chickpeas
1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 tablespoons hoisin
Preheat oven to 425°F.  While oven is preheating, put chickpeas on a baking sheet and place in the oven. This will help them dry off really well so they can get crispy. Once oven is preheated, take chickpeas out and toss with olive oil. You can do this right on the baking sheet – no need to get a bowl dirty. Roast the chickpeas for about 40-45 minutes, or until they are a nice deep golden brown. You’ll want to shake them every 10 minutes or so to get even crispiness.
Next, toss the chickpeas with the hoisin. Again, you can do this right on your baking sheet. You want the chickpeas evenly coated with sauce but don’t want a lot of extra, so add a little hoisin at a time and stir as you go. Turn your oven to broil and broil chickpeas for 5 minutes until they are sizzling, sticky, and smell amazing. Eat immediately and enjoy! 
 -Jillian


Such a great perspective on meal planning! I made the chickpeas for dinner and they were seriously tasty. I am going to go to the store and buy 10 more cans of chickpeas. What are your favorite meal planning tips and tricks? If you're interested in writing a guest post please contact me! I'd love to have you. 

Thanks for reading, see ya on the flip-flop!

Melissa

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

27 Secrets About Me

Good morning! I would like to report that after a 3 week hiatus we worked out last night! I also ate a super healthy breakfast of greek yogurt, strawberries, walnuts, honey, and chia seeds, then washed it down with two raspberry and white chocolate muffins. Girl's gotta eat.

I have been trying to figure out what to write about this week, but couldn't think of anything! I asked for suggestions, and they're going to make some dynamite posts in the future! Thanks for contributing all the ideas. I loved them! I have limited time today, so I'm going to write about something I know well: myself.

Excuse me for being self-indulgent, but this is my blog, afterall. I'm not sure if this is exactly what I should write about today, but here it is, nonetheless. Also, Jesus loves you. There. That feels better.

Here's 27 things you might not know about me, AKA secrets. This was inspired by two friends who have been sharing some awesome stuff about themselves on FB and Instagram! Thanks Todd and Madeline!

I don't have a whole lot of recent photos of myself, so this particularly attractive photo Tina took of me will have to do.


1. I have two birthmarks, one on my right arm that looks like a chocolate chip cookie, and one on my back that looks like Africa. They're both pretty big, but they're harmless.

2. From 6th grade until I graduated college I picked the same 3 electives almost every semester/trimester: Spanish, choir, and LDS Seminary/Institute.

3. I participated in a pageant when I was 19 and I was an embarrassment to us all. True story.

4. I was a Congressional Page for the House of Representatives in Washington, DC. I made some pretty great friends there, got to be on CSPAN, shared an elevator with Kristen Bell, went to Obama's State of the Union Address, and saw Harrison Ford up close. 

5. I sing and play the piano. Not as much anymore, but I used to be pretty good.

6. I love people. I get along better with kids than adults, but I love adults, too. Regardless of how old you are, I can--and will--talk your ear off.

7. I was insanely boy crazy growing up. I had a boyfriend in kindergarten and I kissed him on the bus ride home almost every day. Don't worry guys, I got baptized. That one's covered. 

8. This one also goes along with #7.  In middle school and high school I used to use Facebook to meet guys online. I was pretty good at hiding it, so I don't think my parents knew about it. I gave out my phone number, home address, and met quite a few of them in person. I even ended up dating one of the guys I met on Facebook for several months. I am not proud of any of this AT ALL.  I was naive, and I was and still am an extremely trusting person. What I did was as stupid as you can get, not to mention dangerous! And I regret it SO MUCH. However, I am so thankful to God that nothing bad happened to me! Others are not so lucky. Parents, teens, kiddos, whoever is reading this, please be careful whom you talk to and whom your loved ones talk to online!

9. I'm left-handed. That's pretty underwhelming compared to the previous secret.

10. I love laughing. Some of my favorite shows are The Goldbergs, The Office, and Malcolm in the Middle. 

11. Ever since I was little I have wanted to be a pastry chef! I used to watch cooking shows on Discovery Channel and videotapes that my mom checked out for me from the library. She was also great at letting me help her in the kitchen. I have finally started an Instagram account ( @sugar.llama ) for my baking, in hopes that one day I will have a business! I have catered two weddings, and if I never do another event again, I can at least say that one time somebody liked my cupcakes enough to fly me on an airplane to bake for their wedding. Thanks, Dickmans! "You make my dreams come true." Name that reference.

12. That last one wasn't a movie quote, but if you have noticed from my past blog posts, I love movie quotes. I used to talk in movie quotes at dinner when I was little, specifically Little Rascals. I still have most of that movie memorized. So good.

13. Also going along with the last one, when I was little I would talk so much during dinner that everyone would finish theirs and leave the table. I wasn't allowed to leave the table until I was done eating, so I'd have to sit by myself and eat my dinner every night. Eventually, I wised up and ate my dinner really fast so that I wouldn't have to sit at the table by myself anymore. I could leave and do fun things, like watch Little Rascals. 

14. I get motion sick easily. Always have, probably always will. I can't play videogames because they make me sick. I can't read in the car or look away from the road for too long, and it's especially bad if I'm hot and I'm hungry. If I'm driving I'm okay, so I knew I was pregnant with Lil Spits because I drove through a round about and it made me nauseous. 

15. Step Up 3 is my favorite Step Up movie. 

16. I have a hard time with patience and speaking loudly. I have a quiet voice, therefore people tell me to speak up, and then I get mad. 

17. Do you remember that color personality test? I used to be a red/yellow when I was younger and last I checked I'm a blue/white.

18. I identify as a conservative, but I don't believe any political party is correct. There are good and bad things about all of them. Everyone just needs to be nice, value all life, work hard, be honest, and share. Sharing is caring.

19. I used to be self-conscious about my teeth, but I've had a lot of people tell me one of my best features is my smile. I've had 3 different dentists/orthodontists try to convince me to change it by adding caps on my teeth. I told them all no, because so many kind people have reached out to me, taken one of my insecurities and turned it around. Now, I am happy to have the smile I have. Just don't ask me to do lipstick. Not gonna happen. 

20. I know I'm going to lose a few blog followers over this, but I hate Grease and The Notebook.

21. Most of my wardrobe comes from thrift stores, hand-me-downs, and clothes people have given me. Thank you very much if you have contributed to my closet. 

22. I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor's Degree in Family & Consumer Sciences from Utah State University. There was a joke that two of the requirements to graduate from that major were getting married and having a baby. When I graduated, I was married and 6 months pregnant with Tina.

23. The weirdest things I've eaten are blood pudding and chicken hearts. I liked them both. 

24. I used to model for fashion shows at the local technology college. Never went pro, though.

25. My dad used to do my hair when I was little. He was really good at it, then suddenly in fifth grade I was expected to do my own hair! What's up with that? Anyway, I wore it in a slicked back ponytail every single day because it was the only hairstyle I knew how to do.

26. My parents got divorced when I was 15. It was rough, but a lot of good things have happened because of it. It taught me what I wanted in a marriage. If you know me, I had a lot of anxiety about getting married to Spouse Unit because I wanted to make absolutely sure that he was who I wanted to be with for eternity. Good news, he is. Also because of the divorce, I got an amazing stepdad and 6 stepsiblings. I don't know them as well as I should by now, and I'm sorry to say that. If you guys are reading this, I am sorry I haven't been very good about getting to know you and your families. You are wonderful people and I should have spent more time with you when I lived only a few hours away. I'm grateful for social media, though, because it lets me see what you guys are up to. I love you all. I hope you know that.

27. A lot of the things I post about on my blog are things that I struggle with. Budgeting, meal planning, cooking, baking, etc. You could call me a hypocrite, because I probably am one, but this hypocrite is also really good at rationalizing. And I say that I'm just human. 


Thanks for reading! See ya on the flip-flop,

Melissa

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Strawberry Mango Chicken Salad

Hello, hello! Today, I'm going to share with you something you'll definitely want to make this week, whether for lunch or dinner, or for every meal. It's healthy, super yummy, and comes together fairly quick!

If you've been to Rumbi Island Grill (a chain in UT, AZ, & ID that serves tasty island-inspired food), you've probably had the Aloha Mango Chicken Salad. It's one of the most popular things on the menu, and for a good reason. It's huge and it's awesome. If you haven't tried it, no fear! I have a recipe you can whip up at home that tastes very similar. We'll just call it Strawberry Mango Chicken Salad in case there's a trademark on the "Aloha" part. Hope you enjoy it!


STRAWBERRY MANGO CHICKEN SALAD

  • 1-2 heads romaine lettuce, rinsed and chopped (depends on how many people you want to feed and how hungry you are. One head of lettuce usually feeds our family of 2 adults and 2 kiddos)
  • Sauteed Chicken Breasts, cut in strips (1/2-1 breast per person. Rub raw chicken with salt and pepper both sides, saute over medium high heat in olive oil for a few minutes per side, until no longer pink in center. Take off the heat, let rest for a few minutes, then cut into strips and set aside)
  • 1/2 lb strawberries, sliced
  • 1-2 c. frozen mango chunks (we buy ours at Sam's Club and they're really good, but Trader Joe's has incredible frozen mangoes if you're willing to pay more)
  • Feta cheese, crumbled, to taste
  • 1/4 red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, deseeded and cut into thin strips
  • 1 carrot, peeled and shredded
  • 1 c. roughly chopped toasted almonds (toss whole almonds in a saute pan and put on medium heat until aromatic, moving around occasionally so they don't burn. Remove from heat. Let cool, then roughly chop them, and set aside) 
  • Crushed tortilla chips, to taste
  • Pita bread cut into wedges and toasted (serve warm)
  • Poppyseed dressing or creamy dijon vinaigrette (dijon mustard, white sugar, mayo, and white vinegar-- start with a little of each and tweak it until it tastes the way you want. For a little kick, add a pinch of cayenne pepper)

Starting with the lettuce on bottom, start arranging the ingredients in layers on top. I would recommend lettuce, then peppers, strawberries, mangoes, onion, carrot, then chicken, tortilla chips, feta, and almonds. Serve pita bread on the side and top the salad with dressing.

You can either arrange them in a bowl like this:


Or put the ingredients in individual bowls and assemble personal salads like this:



They're a little different from each other because I made these on two different days and didn't have the same ingredients. For the individual plate I cheated and used some Mediterranean chicken skewers from Costco that you just heat in the oven for 10 minutes before serving. You could even use rotisserie chicken if you wanted to save some time, but the sauteed breasts in the first picture are easy to do and are super delicious!  


This is one of our favorite ways to eat salad! What are your favorite salads? I'd love to get some new recipes! 

If you have any requests for recipes you'd like to see, let me know!


Thanks for reading, and I'll see ya on the flip-flop!

Melissa

 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Recognizing Answers to My Prayers

Lately I've felt like a hormonal beast-of-a-mom, and an extremely blessed one at that.

Last week was especially bad for everyone. My kids were at their worst, and I was at mine. I felt so much guilt from how I treated my children. I prayed for patience, then when I felt like I was too impatient and couldn't handle it, I prayed to be able to control my temper. When I was too mad and felt out of control, I prayed for grace instead. I felt like I barely survived last week, but we survived, nevertheless, and had some fun moments regardless of the chaos. After the week from the infernal pit was over, I was sitting at church and realized that the previous Sunday I had specifically asked in my prayers for "challenges that I could handle." 

I recently prayed for opportunities to help bring income into our home, and I put my name out there for babysitting on a local Facebook page as well as my old ward's e-mail. I received messages from 6-7 different women about babysitting jobs. I now get to take my girls to work with me and we're working on building up our savings so we can take out less money in student loans next semester.

My girls have been taking turns being sick for the past month. I have been praying for good health so that I can take care of my family. So far I haven't really gotten sick. I have sneezed a few times and had a sore throat for maybe a day. 

I got a group email from a lady from my old ward saying that she had little girls' clothing that she was getting rid of. I talked to Spouse Unit and told him how we were running out of clothes in upper sizes for Tina (baby showers are great, but you only get clothes up to a certain point and then you're on your own, ya know? It's like people expect you to raise your own kids or something). I also told him that I'd like for her to have some plain white shirts because all of hers were stained. He pointed out that she'd probably stain new white shirts, too, but I still wanted some. In my heart of hearts, I was thinking that maybe some new panties would help her try potty training again. Guess what? I got a garbage bag full of clothes the next size up that Tina needed, including 3 white shirts and 5 pairs of opened, but unused, princess panties.

I went out during the girls' bedtime because I needed some time to myself. We had had a great day, but I had felt exhausted and a little guilty from how I had reacted to some discrepancies between the girls and I earlier in the day. I got in the car and said a very humble and heartfelt prayer. I shared my frustrations about my inability to be the mom and wife I wanted to be, and asked for God to help me be the mom HE wanted me to be. 
I started the car and tried to put on an audiobook I was interested in. When it wouldn't work, I put on some October 2007 LDS General Conference talks instead. I chose them at random and I heard exactly what I needed to hear: a simple testimony from Boyd K. Packer that brought me to tears, and another talk about my current church calling in Young Women.
On my way home, I received a text from Spouse Unit containing a video. I pulled over to our old apartment and watched it. In the video, Tina was sitting on a chair with a picture of Jesus Christ. She said, "Jesus loves Mommy!" and then named off the other members of our family. She asked, "When is Mommy coming back?" and then they sang "I Am a Child of God" while Tina plunked out random keys on the keyboard. Spouse Unit, Lil Spits, and Tina each told me that they loved me, and the video ended.

I had felt so much love, comfort, peace, and reassurance in such a short amount of time from the people that I care for most: my husband, my daughters, my Savior, and my Heavenly Father. 

I can honestly say that I know that God is real and that He is completely aware of us. These experiences I've shared are only a handful that I have had to let me know that He is there and that He has my back. He knows my needs, my concerns, the desires of my heart, and the simple things that I want or need, but might not ask for.

The same goes for you. God loves you. He knows your needs, your concerns, the desires of your heart, and the simple things that you want or need, but might not ask for. 

I don't care who you are, if you are struggling, alone, frustrated, or even feeling extremely happy and grateful, Heavenly Father wants to hear from you and He wants to hear it all! He is eager to hear from us and bless us with what we NEED to help us become better people. When we pray, we have a loving Heavenly Father that is listening, intent on answering our prayers in the way that is going to be most beneficial for us.  
Please try to find a place today where you can be by yourself for a minute and say a little prayer. It doesn't have to be an elaborate prayer, just a simple and heartfelt one. It can be a prayer of gratitude, or just to ask if He's really there. You can pour out your heart if you want to or need to. Regardless of the type of prayer you give, I promise you that if you are sincere, you will receive an answer.


Thanks for reading,

Melissa

Monday, February 13, 2017

Mommy Style Monday: Keeping Romance Alive


Good morning friends and new friends! Today is Mommy Style Monday! Basically it means that today I've collaborated with a bunch of babes on how we keep our marriages great! If you're interested in joining in on the next Mommy Style Monday, contact Kiana or Madeline.


Spouse Unit is the best. He really is my other half. We don't have a perfect marriage, sometimes we get a little too sassy with each other, sometimes we are selfish, and we have differing opinions on things, but we love each other a whole lot and we have tons of fun!



Here are a few things we do to keep the love alive:

1. Humor. We love to make each other laugh, and will do just about anything to make that happen. Usually it means embarrassing each other on the dance floor (me), sporting a ridiculous getup, acting like Gollum (him, but I do make a pretty great Gollum) or doing a funny walk, making jokes, writing funny poems (him), and speaking in a weird voice. We do stuff like this often! I'm really happy we ended up together because I don't think anyone else would have appreciated our sense of humor half as much as we do.




2. Acts of service. They don't always have to be big acts. My service for Spouse Unit is usually doing laundry and cooking meals, but sometimes doing something big is needed. Last night I had a meeting for church, so Spouse Unit gave the girls a bath, put them to bed, cleaned the house, and when I got home there was a trail of lit candles leading through the apartment. He surprised me with a night to do whatever I wanted! He rubbed my feet and scratched my back (two of my favorite things, he does them almost every night), brushed my hair, braided it, and painted my nails for me. We also ate pupusas on our bed, listened to Spanish guitar, and talked. It made me feel so good! 
I need to step up my game. Maybe I can start with ironing. ;)

Not to mention writing me butter love notes. He knows what I like.

3. Working out together. We like to play sports together when we can, and currently we (are trying to) do P90X in the evenings after the kids are in bed. Sometimes we goof off, sometimes (a lot of the time) we don't do the whole workout, but the fact that we're working on something together helps us strengthen our marriage and our bodies. 

4. Communication. This is everything. Frequently we will check in with each other on how we're doing. We ask questions like "So, like what are your hopes and dreams?" (Name that movie), "How are you doing, really?", "What can I do to be a better spouse?", "How can I make this easier?", "How do you feel/what do you think about...._____________?" We communicate about finances, what to eat (I ask, he usually doesn't have an opinion, but still!), how our daughters are doing and funny things they do, how we can improve as parents, how we can improve as individuals, our self-doubts, our fears, our frustrations (and when we're frustrated with each other), what our day was like, simple things we enjoy, our childhoods, how we can reach our goals, EVERYTHING! I don't think that anything should be exempt from our conversations as husband and wife.

5. Intimacy. This shouldn't surprise you--we have 2 kids, after all. It is important and it strengthens marriages, and I'm going to leave it at that.

6. Date nights. We have joined up with a few other couples from our old ward/church group for something called "Kid Party!" Basically, we each take a turn watching each others' kids on Friday nights for a couple hours while the other couples go on dates. You have one night of babysitting a month and the other 3 Fridays you get a kid-free date! When you babysit, the kids eat a snack and do an activity (we usually have a movie night with popcorn or something). The kids love it, and the parents love the one-on-one time they get. Win-win. Sometimes we take the girls on dates, too, though. What's important is that you make the time to go!

Valentine's Dance 2017
7. Trying to be good parents. I can't tell you how attractive it is to me to see Spouse Unit interacting with the girls. I love seeing him read books to them, sing to them, teach them new things, chase them around the apartment, and invent new games. I know he feels the same about me when I'm patient with Tina and Lil Spits (even though it can be really hard), when I let them help me in the kitchen, snuggle them, and make them laugh. 


8. Public Displays of Affection, also known as hugs, kisses, and holding hands. We're not gross about it, but we love each other and want our kids and everyone else to know it. That ain't ever gonna fizzle, for shizzle.



9. Working together on projects. Every night Spouse Unit and I clean the house together. We also love coming up with killer Halloween costumes (get it? Killer? HAH.) eons in advance together, he gives me really helpful tips when it comes to my baking (I always sass him that I know better, then end up using all his ideas), we make awesome White Elephant gifts, and love cooking together (our favorite is homemade pasta and doing Iron Chef competitions). We also support each others' goals and try to work on achieving them together (school, baking business, speed skating, etc.).

See? Told you I make a great Gollum.


10. "Thank-you's, sorry's, and I-love-you's". The phrases are short, sweet, to the point, and they make a world of difference. Sometimes it's hard to say any of those things because we're just so dang mad or feel like everything the other does is to spite us. We know how to push each others' buttons but we rarely do it on purpose. Sometimes we do, but not often. When we get past our pride and selfishness and notice the nice things the other has done, that maybe they were right after all, and how lost we'd feel without each other, those three phrases seem to make everything sweet again. I also like to throw in a "nice bum" once a day.


There are so many things we can do to love our loved ones, but these are ten from us! What types of things do you do to keep the romance in your marriage?  


Check out these other lovely ladies' blogs to see how they keep the flame burnin' their relationships!

*Kiana at Glitter & Donuts
*Madeline at CaseyLand
Chandler at Life as a Larsen
Rachel at Tutus and Heels
Kahana at A Beautiful Life
Monica at It's All About
Andrea at Snow by Heart
Erica at Good Job Momma
Cayli at Nightchayde

 *Contact to join Mommy Style Monday

Thanks for reading, and see ya on the flip-flop!

Melissa
 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Five Steps to Improving Your Financial Situation: A Guest Post by Caroline

Howdy!

I hope you are all doing swell! Things are going well here! Spouse Unit is rocking school. I have a fun new calling at church! I'm now serving in Young Women as an advisor with the oldest group of girls. I have been babysitting up a storm, I'm going to start cleaning a lady's house once a week and she has cute kids my girls can play with. Lil Spits turned one! Yay! And I get to do a butt ton of baking this week. I'm so pumped. Also. Still potty training. This is taking for-err.

There's your update on me, and now, I am so excited to introduce a new guest writer on my blog today! This fine woman is Caroline! 


She and I have known each other since 6th or 7th grade when we used to stir up trouble at the amusement park by hitting on unsuspecting prepubescent boys. Good times. She's a great friend and has the cutest family and clothing business, Poplolly Clothing, which you can find on Instagram and Facebook if you please!

But today, she's not sharing clothing stuff with you. She's going to share with us some awesome tips for improving your financial situation! Hurray! Without further ado, here's Caroline's "Five Steps to Improving your Financial Situation!"



FIVE STEPS TO IMPROVING YOUR FINANCIAL SITUATION

By Caroline Peterson
Client Service Manager for Legacy Private Wealth Advisors, Business Owner, Mother, Sister, Aunt and Friend



You know how you look on Facebook and see all of the wonderful places people are traveling to? You see a friend who just got a new car, a new puppy, new clothes, a new hairdo, etc… and you think to yourself “How do they afford all of that?” Well the answer is… they don’t. 


Okay…so there may be a small percentage of people who actually can afford those things, but I don’t know of very many.  Now before I start, I should say that I am not a financial expert, and I didn’t get my degree in finance, I just happen to work for a financial advising company and have been fortunate enough to pick up a few things. 


There is a report by the Pew Charitable Trusts finding that 8 in 10 Americans are in debt. When it comes to millennial and the Gen X generation (18-35 year olds) they are racking up debt and falling behind because they have distrust for the market and lack financial knowledge.  


I don’t know about you but I still don’t fully understand stocks, bonds, CD’s, etc… but going through college, having  a family, buying a home, financing a car, and enduring multiple financial emergencies,  I have decided to create a list of steps that encourage a healthy financial lifestyle. They will SAVE your life! And BUY you more time! Haha… See what I did there… Okay let’s get to it.


STEP ONE:  SIX MONTHS RESERVE


I don’t care who you are! You have to make it a priority to save six months worth of income. You cannot predict the future. As much as you like to plan, you also understand that nothing goes according to plan. You never know if you are going to lose a job, have unexpected car problems, go to the doctor's, etc…  I didn’t think having a reserve was that important until Stewart and I went from making $1200 a month to $600 a month right after getting married! AND… our apartment was $525 a month. We literally had $75 to buy gas, groceries, pay for utilities, tithing, etc… We wouldn’t have survived the next few months without savings. Now a lot of you might be thinking, “But how can I build savings when I live paycheck to paycheck?" 43% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. If this is you, I have a recommendation, but first let me say this: “The problem is not how much we earn, but how much we spend.”  


How many times have you heard somebody say, “If only I could make more money,” How many times have you said it yourself? Well, it simply isn’t true. Ask anyone who got a raise last year if their savings increased. In almost every case, the answer will be no. –The Automatic Millionaire


So what do we do? In the book Automatic Millionaire by David Bach (seriously one of the best books I’ve ever read) his first recommendation is to PAY YOURSELF FIRST! So I want you to think of an amount or a goal of what you could realistically set aside or save each month. I don’t care if its $100 dollars or $5 you are at least saving something.  People say to me… “But it’s so hard… it’s right there in my savings account and then I end up transferring it to my checking because I overspent or something came up and my savings never really grows… it just stays where it is at.” This leads me right into my next step. 


STEP TWO: OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND


Your savings account should be something that isn’t easily accessible. The best thing that worked for my husband and me was automatically contributing to an E-trade account. Some of you might be thinking, “What’s that? Or isn’t that when you want to buy stock?” 


An E-trade account is an account you can use to buy stocks, but you don’t have to. You can open a trading account and transfer money into it and not invest it if that’s what you want. The best part is it takes two to three days to transfer back into your banking account (six if you have to sell stock). 

When you go to the furniture store and you say, “Look honey! This table is only $300 dollars! I’ve been wanting a new table,and your spouse says, “We can’t afford a new table!! What am I? Daddy Warbucks!?" Just kidding. They will really say, “Well, let’s go home and look at our savings account and see if it’s something we really want to do.” By the time you go home, watch a show, clean a room, cook a meal, and then eat at the table you think, “Well maybe I don’t really need a new table.”  OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND! 


STEP THREE: AUTOMATIC PAYMENTS


Now I used the word “automatic” a few times in the previous section. I don’t know about you but I HATE when my husband comes home and he says, “Have you paid the gas bill?” and I say “Yup, I did it today.” (As I frantically log on to my account to submit a payment thinking to myself the whole time, “Oh crap!! How did I forget to do that?” I click submit, “Do you think he noticed? Nope… oh yeah… way to go girl… you are one slick wife.”)  How many of you have forgot to pay a bill and BOOM… you’re hit with a late fee. “Oh but I guess it wasn’t that much?” I don’t care how much it was!  You’re wasting good hard earned money over just being forgetful. That’s why I highly recommend making your bill payments AUTOMATIC. 


I am going to refer to the book the Automatic Millionaire again. I read this book my last year in college and I was hesitant to implement it because I thought, “Well what if they withdraw too much and I am not expecting it? I like knowing what my gas and electric bill is going to be for the month.” But I went ahead and did it. I made our gas automatic, our internet automatic, our savings account deposit, etc. You get the point. AND MAN… it has saved me so much time and stress. 

Now you don’t need to do this if you are one of those amazing people that pay their bills on time every month… but I will say this: “In order for Pay Yourself First to be effective, the process has to be automatic.”—David Bach.  

He goes on to say that having worked with clients as a financial advisor for many years, the only plans that worked were the ones that were automatic. Clients would tell him all the time, “I’m super disciplined. I will write the checks each month, set aside the money for savings, etc…” and he says in nine years, only one client was disciplined enough to stick to it. Long story short: If you decide to do one “automatic” thing from the list of bills, payments, etc., make sure it’s the payment that goes to your savings! 


STEP FOUR: TAKE ADVANTAGE OF WORK BENEFITS 


This includes 401K plans, stocks, HSA accounts, insurance, etc… If you currently are working and your company offers a 401K, Please! Please! Please! I beg of you! Sign up this week and start contributing!! Time Money wrote an article titled “1 in3 Americans Has Saved $0 for retirement!” 
My husband and I say to ourselves all the time, would we rather travel now or later? People say to me, “But I want to do it while I am young and can enjoy it.” Those are also the people who 60 years down the road can’t even fly to Colorado to visit their grandchildren because they can barely scrape by on what they get in social security. YOU HAVE TO START SAVING FOR RETIREMENT TODAY!! 

“So what you are telling me Caroline is that I need to save up six months of income, and save for retirement? But I don’t have money sitting around to do this?” back to the two things I brought up earlier, “out of sight, out of mind” and “The problem is not how much we earn, but how much we spend.”  If it is getting deducted from your paycheck each month I promise you won’t notice. It’s as if this is what you made each paycheck all along, and it is super fun to see your own money grow! You start seeing it build for yourself and now you get excited for all the possibilities! SO PLEASE TAKE ADVANTAGE OF SOME TYPE OF PROGRAM and start preparing for your retirement today.

Here is a "confident retirement check" my financial company offers. It’s super quick.



STEP FIVE:  BE GIVING  


“We make a living by what we earn—we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill 


I talk about this last, but in the end I think it is the most important. There is more to life than money. We all know this, so then why do we spend so much time and energy worrying about it? Because it’s natural to worry, it’s natural to want more financial security, it’s natural to want to afford nice things, but really in the end does it make us happy? Someone once said to me, “Well sure money doesn’t buy happiness, but it buys stuff that makes us happy.” Yes I agree, but to those who feel that way I encourage you to really think about what makes you the happiest. For me, I notice I am happiest when I am around family and serving others. 

The Automatic Millionaire brings up a point that I love: “The more you give, the wealthier you feel. And it’s not just a feeling. As strange as it may seem, the truth is that money often flows faster to those who give. Why? Because givers attract abundance into their lives rather than scarcity.”  I find so much joy by donating to my church. It’s not easy writing a check each month or week, but once I do, I feel like I am ready to conquer the world. I also find so much purpose in serving my family. I would encourage you if you’re not already doing so, to find an organization, family, friend, etc. that you can give to. It doesn’t have to be a lot; just a small act will suffice. Living for a purpose greater than yourself will lead to discovering who you are and who you truly want to be. 


If you enjoyed reading this or have any questions, our financial office would love to be of assistance. We offer free financial consultations.WOO HOO!  If you are interested, just email me and I can help you out!

-Caroline



I read The Automatic Millionaire in school and it really is an awesome book. I love her steps and hope to implement them more deliberately in my finances and life. I wish that we could go back to the days when we bartered for goats with bushels of apples and stuff, but since that's not how things are we need to make the best of it. We need to be good stewards over the money we're given so we can take care of ourselves and help others out. It's important, people.  

Thanks for reading! If you're interested in writing a guest post on my blog, please contact me! I'd love to have you!

See ya on the flip-flop,

Melissa