Friday, August 26, 2011

7-Day Challenge

As you might remember from this post (and here & here), months ago we challenged ourselves to create enough meals within 30-days using mostly our pantry and fridge leftovers. Well, with this pending move (closing was moved from today to next Wednesday; thanks, Irene and FEMA), I would like to do the same thing 7 days.

We've been in and out of town this summer so things have been building up again, though I will say, it's not as "bad" as before. I just perused our fridge and cabinets, threw out expired food (almost always condiments), and created The List. Please see below!

7-Day Challenge Official Food List

- fat-free sour cream (2 partially used containers, approx. 9oz)
- hummus (2 partially eaten containers)
- spaghetti sauce (2 partially eaten jars, approx. 16oz)
- crab meat (2 cans, 8oz each)
- salsa (1/2 jar)
- French dressing (1/2 bottle)
- Simply Potato red potato wedges (**do not recommend this brand! very difficult to cook)
- Mission tortilla chips (2 partially eaten bags, approx. 1 full bag if put together)
- refried beans (1 can)
- no-salt sweet corn (1 can)
- lasagna (5 noodles)
- orzo (1/2 box)
- ronzoni noodles (1lb)
- vegetable broth (32oz)
- jasmine rice
- baking potatoes (4 large)
- low-carb wheat tortillas (1 tortilla)
- Mission flour tortillas (8 tortillas)

I already have a few meals forming in my mind. Time to go shopping!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Post-PACNW Financial Wrap-up

Like our Out West financial wrap-up, I wanted to share the costs of this trip. For the past five years or so, the most-asked question from friends is, How do you do it? Sometimes they are referring to vacation time and sometimes they are referring to economics.

As a full-time staff RN, I am required to work three 12-hr shifts per week. If I arrange my schedule so that I work the first three days (U/M/T) of the first week and the last three days (R/F/S) of the last week, then I have 8-days off. And if I arrange travel departure on the night of that Tuesday, then I have even more time in the city/place I am visiting. I know I am very blessed with my flexibility, but keep in mind that the odd hours I work (between night shift and day shift) makes for less time spent with my husbamd, family, friends, and it is difficult to 100% commit myself to something due to the variability of my schedule. What I am trying to say is, there are pros to cons to my type of schedule and your M-F 8-5 type of schedule. I used to be very jealous of that latter type and it took me almost 12 full months to really accept my work position, the time and energy it expects of me, and how to work that into my life. On top of my scheduling benefits, I have really great PTO (paid time off) benefits through my employer. Last year I didn't use but one 12-hr shift of PTO, which means this year I started all of our vacations with 144-hours of PTO. I don't know exactly how much time off I get per shift worked, but I am happy with what is given and think it is plenty to work with.

When it comes to economics, of course, that will depend on each person's financial situation. I will say that the biggest thing in traveling/vacationing is to budget for it. JP and I have an ING account that we budget money into every month for different things, like travel or emergency savings. I firmly believe that any working person with an income can budget for these things, no matter how tight money is. Everyone feels the pressure of money, but most people feel it because they aren't budgeting within their means. As a full-time student and full-time employee, with rent, car payments, and credit card debt, I still traveled. At that time, paying my debt off was less important than having fun. I didn't plan for travel as much as I do now, scrutinizing every little penny, but I also went on less-extravagant vacations. I have low-budget travel policies that I still use even now when our budget is a lot bigger; responsibility is huge.

The first principle of money management is to know and understand that the money in this life only comes from God (even if you don't believe this, you can insert your own higher being source, whether you think it's your boss or the government or your parents...) and it is our responsibility to manage it properly. So, if you are trying to travel on a budget, I would recommend you look at your finances. Where are they being poured? Do you have a within-means home or are you really just spending too much (this is said with a Western perspective, because honestly, we could all survive in shacks...we just don't think we can)? I recommend paying debt off first. We budget a huge amount of our income toward that, and it feels really really good knowing that we are being responsible for what we owe others. You can pay off debt and travel, but I would only put about 10% of what you are paying toward debt into your travel fund. If you simply do not have the money to go to France, then you will not go. Look into local adventures - they are out there, and if you are in the States reading this, you have to know how blessed we are to live in a country that has so many visually stimulating places. My point is this: any one can travel, you just have to set priorities, and budget accordingly.

And now, after that tirade (which I would love to discuss more if anyone wishes), here is our breakdown:

Pre-estimated Costs (for one person)
- Airfare: $247.30
- Car Rental: $0 (our other friend, J2., will be letting us borrow hers!)
- Lodging: $42.33 ($127.00 is the total for camping reservations, to be split between three or four people; I went with three people.)
- Fuel: $75.00 (based on approx. 1400 miles of travel @ 25mpg -- J2.'s car likely gets more -- for $4.00/gal. divided by three people)
- Food: $150 (budgeting $20/day)
- Activites: $172 (this includes a 4hr white water rafting trip down class III/IV rapids, a 3hr whale watching tour, a few museum admissions, and two ferry rides)
--TOTAL: $689.63

Post-vacation Real Costs (for one person)
- Airfare: $283.30 (+$36.00) *Totally never had to check a bag and I didn't even have to worry about lugging my 40-lb carry-on on the plane! Thank you, completely full air carriers. The difference in cost is accounting for the CLT airport parking fee.
- Car Rental: $57.50 (+$57.50) *Our friend, J2., started to feel uneasy about us borrowing her car after a few mechanical problems prior to the trip. We were more than happy to dish out the extra bucks for a reliable rental car. We even had Hawaii license plates! The total cost of the rental for 7 days was $230, by the way.
- Lodging: $31.75 (-$10.58)*We were able to split the original $127 cost between four people the entire time.
- Fuel: $58.93 (-$16.07) *We definitely traveled more than 1400 miles, but we did get better gas mileage than predicted and we also were able to split the fuel costs between four people the entire time.
- Food: $218.96 (+68.96) *Like our last trip, this is just an area that I am terrible at either predicting or budgeting! Grocery costs, which included breakfast + lunch (most days), beer, firewood and ice totaled around $30/person, so I definitely went over budget with eating out. Chilis @ ORD really upset me when they charged $10 for a Blue Moon on draft (absolutely ridiculous). At any rate, on my next trip should probably budget about $25-30 for food per day, so hopefully I will be under instead of over.
- Activities: $178.05 (+$6.05) *The unaccounted money from the pre-trip cost was probably tax from our whale watching tour, which was well worth the $80.85 we spent per person!
--TOTAL: $828.49 (+$138.86)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Introducing: The House




(in the kitchen, looking into the breakfast nook)

(in the breakfast nook, looking into the kitchen)


(in the living room, looking down the hall into the bedroom)

(currently being used as an office)


(attached to bedroom 1)


(could the vanity get any larger?)

(pretty sweet granite, though! please note the white 40s tile that will be replaced.)




(carpet to be replaced with hardwood)

(future crafting space / brother's study area)




(planning to remove this "insert" and tile instead)


(where will our vegetable and rose garden grow?)

(planning to border the chainlink with a wooden fence for more privacy)

(driveway up to the 1-car garage that will be used for storage)


What do y'all think?

**apologies for the poor scale of the bedrooms; the lens I was using wasn't wide enough so it's hard to capture the entirety of the rooms

Monday, August 8, 2011

On Purchasing Your Own Home

I don't think I've really talked about (at length, anyway) our house buying fun that we've been experiencing for the past couple of months. I was wary of getting too excited about it in fear that something wouldn't work out. Our friend K. wanted me to kind of blog about the process (probably while the process was happening), but to be honest, you wouldn't have wanted to read about it. Aside from a few gleaming possibilities, most of the house "shopping" was torturous. I never thought I/we would be this way, but we're one of those typical couples you see on Property Virgins that drives you crazy because they want the Perfect House.

One house I fell in love with immediately. It was over a century old, in an older part of town, closer to work and parks, and I don't know...seemed very "us." And though it was old, all of the major upgrades (read: kitchen & bath) had been taken care of. Cork kitchen floors? Yes please! I was sharing my excitement with a coworker and instead of encouraging me, she did just the opposite and told me how terrible it is to resell your house. She is moving with her husband and kids to Florida (her husband is in the service) and she is very excited to be renting an apartment. Basically she told me every possible horror story there could be about selling your house and it totally freaked me out. So, on our second visit to House #1, I couldn't get over the negatives (weird floor plan, poor insulation on second story, not as good of school district) that could possibly impede a resell. Sad, because my husband was just starting to warm up to it. (See, I am the difficult person in this situation.)

We decided to take a second look at another house we liked, which is in a different part of town with better schools, and generally a better resale area. Called our realtor to set up an appointment and found out twenty minutes later that the house was under contract. Booo. I was very sad that day, but worked it off with a exhausting game of tennis in 110-degree heat, and came home to pleasant and encouraging messages from friends.

Well, the next day we were at it again, visiting every house in this city with our dear and patient realtor, Earl. He is seriously so patient with us and deserves every penny from the sale. Going out to look at houses was quickly becoming a tiring thing and not the way I wanted to spend my days off. I told my husband that if we didn't find something in a month, we were calling it quits and just renting. The realtor and owner of one house we wanted to see weren't returning Earl's phone calls, so instead we looked at another ten. The next day I was to fly out of Charlotte and into Seattle and I wanted to get it over ASAP.

And this is the part where y'all call me/us crazy.

While I was out of town, the realtor for that one house (which will now be called The House) finally contacted Earl and they set up an appointment with my husband. JP excitedly texted me that night, "I have warm fuzzy feelings about this house and I knew it was ours right when I entered the door." I had only seen The House from the outside and the photos from Zillow or, but I told him to make an offer. I figured after us seeing about 80 different houses together (yes, that many), he knows what I like and I trust him. For some people that is too huge of a thing to trust somebody on, and I wouldn't have predicted I'd be doing it if you had asked me at the beginning of all of this, but boy... He did good.

The House was built in the mid '40s, is a 4/2, just a little over 2000sqft, has a chain-link fenced in backyard, is landscaped, with original hardwoods inside, and completely remodeled bathrooms and kitchen. It's our dream house and we close on the 26th (assuming everything goes as planned).

My dear husband got everything rolling while I was touring the Pacific Northwest, from securing interest rates, to scheduling house and termite inspections. We now have a Google Document of things to do before closing, things we want to work on, and things we will probably need to buy. It's all happening so quickly, and I do feel a bit overwhelmed, but I have faith that God is in this and I have been praying every day for serenity in this situation. If I start listing my life to-dos on top of The House to-dos, I get very anxious, so I have been taking it one day at a time.

I am heading out for the termite inspection in a bit and am toting our camera along. The next post will have photos plus a grand list of projects. Happy Monday!

Multitude Monday, Week XX

221. end of the semester
222. birthday celebrations
223. gifting my husband
224. spending quality time with friends
225. witnessing a person's vitality of life increase immediately in front of you
226. our begonias multiplying their blossoms
227. seeing old pictures of newer friends
228. a reliable vehicle
229. improved lab results
230. making Florida travel plans

Friday, August 5, 2011

Multitude Monday, Week XIX

[belated, because I was away without internet access]

211. feeling adventurous (by sitting at the front of a raft during Class IV rapids & jumping off of 25' bridges!)
212. recognizing myself as a sinner and knowing there are parts of me that can change through Christ alone
213. the serenity of observing Orcas swimming gracefully through the Puget Sound
214. this b-e-a-utiful world God has created for our pleasure..and being able to enjoy it!
215. being able to afford a comfortable living space
216. my smart, financially-wise husband
217. more answered prayers!
218. coming home to my lover/husband/best friend
219. my dear, wonderful coworkers
220. re-bonding with old friends