Six Entire Years

How someone as great as Jared has put up with me for this long now is completely beyond my understanding. Today marks six years since we officially said we were, well you know, official.

We were young, crazy college kids from the same hometown who found each other at the same college three hours away. It's crazy to think of how we actually got together, so many little details orchestrated the timing of it all. God sure knew what he was doing, putting us together when he did.

So we're celebrating tonight in a special way that I look forward to sharing next week. Sure, we have a "regular" anniversary on that oh-so-special day in May that we got married. And we absolutely celebrate it big! I just can't help but hold onto February 28th and smile every time I think back to where it all began. On a tiny, college campus

Thanks Jared for loving me unconditionally and for making my life as amazing as it is. Seriously couldn't imagine what life would be like if a mutual friend hadn't shown me your Facebook profile picture ;) You are my best friend and as we like to say, "teammate for life!"

Do you celebrate a special date in your dating history??

Oh, Monday

Oh, Monday! I have no reason to complain about you today. I've really had no reason to complain at all this year! Hard to believe two entire months of 2014 are just about over though... I mean, really. If time keeps going this fast I'm going to blink and be 72, instead of 27 this April, eek!

This weekend Jared and I got to spend some quality time with my parents which was a lot of fun. We only live an hour away from them, but believe it or not, their social calendar is just as busy --if not busier-- than ours, so meeting up sometimes is hard thing to do. We had a lot of fun with them, despite Jared and I both having gross colds and using every single tissue in their house. Thank goodness for parents, right?!

I won't be quite as present in the blogworld this week, as I've got a lot going on and darnit, I've got a life to live every once in awhile! I've definitely felt the pressure lately from blogging as well as designing blogs, so I'm looking forward to relaxing a little this week, and not obsessively checking my email for comments and questions and inquiries. Don't worry, I'll answer you all eventually- but this week? I plan to be a little bit unplugged from the blog and social media world.

Why I Started Running {Link-Up}

I wrote a post about being a new(ish) runner a couple weeks ago, so I was really excited to see Amanda's link-up she started all about running! It's going to be a new topic on the 21st of every month, so plan to be a part of it. I'm already looking forward to reading everyone's post and hopefully finding more runner buddies to keep me motivated! 

This week's topic: How/Why You Started Running, in 250 words or less

Sometimes, I really don't know the answer to that question! ;) I kid, I kid. Honestly, running is something I feel like I can be good at. I'm not there yet, I'm definitely not a "good" runner yet, but I feel like it fits me, my personality, my body type, etc! It's something I've always known that I could get good at, if I put the effort and time into it. As terrified as I was, years ago I signed up for my first ever 5k. I did horribly... I was so slow, I'm pretty sure I walked and overall just felt like a slug. But you know what? People along the streets still cheered for me when I trudged by. The gatorade and the bagels afterward were delicious. Being surrounded by other people of all ages, sizes, athletic levels was so awesome! I loved being a part of the running community, even if I was barely a part of it yet!

Since then, I've had my ups and downs with running. I went months and months without lacing up the running shoes. Yikes! However, those days are long behind me and I don't ever see myself ditching the running world again. I'm officially signed up for my first ever half-marathon and I'm excited that every day I feel more and more like a real runner. It's exhilarating to have such a lofty goal and to push myself each week to get closer and closer to accomplishing it. Who knows?! Maybe one of these days I'll even be a "good" runner.

I'm the Kinda' Girl...

**Linking up with my fellow Ohioan Holly today!

I'm the kinda' girl who....

...Always has to be planning something

...Obsessively plans to a fault, at times (Hello, Type-A!)

...Loves having long hair, but yet I never fix it

...Cannot walk in heels

...Loves football more than anything but is still a girly-girl

...Laughs every single day, over the silliest of things

...Works hard at her job day-in and day-out no matter what

...Has so many dreams and ambitions that it's hard to choose what to focus on

...Believes writing in colored-pens makes life more fun

...Wants a huge family one day

...Hugs everyone, often

...Never has her nails painted

...Could live off Mexican food

...Would rather take a silly picture than a "real" one (but you know this by now!)

...Dreams of living in other cities, but probably never will

...Loves houses and floorplans so much that I really think I should have been an architect

...Never knew how much joy blogging would bring

...Wants to know what kinda' girl you are!

Broccoli Spaghetti Slaw

I have really been enjoying trying out lots of new recipes lately and sharing my favorites on this blog, so I hope some of you are enjoying them and trying them out, too! As I continually head down the path of a healthier lifestyle, I'm constantly on the lookout for new meals that sound delicious and healthy, without being boring. It definitely can get repetitive being healthy if you don't branch out! Luckily, the blog world is a huge melting pot of awesomeness and you all have great ideas too! What would I do without you?

What would I do without Kristin is the more specific question. I've discovered she is my long-lost twin and we've been motivating each other a lot lately in the 'get healthy and be our skinny selves again' department. She shared her week in food last month and I got some great ideas for my own meal planning. Broccoli Spaghetti Slaw included!
I'll be the first to admit, I'd never purchased or used broccoli slaw in my life. But at less than $2/bag I figured I'd give it a shot and see what happened! And something delicious happened, that's what!
Don't be scared off by this... seriously. If you want a way to feel like you're eating pasta noodles, give this a try! Also, Jared loved this and absolutely inhaled it so it was a big win at our house.

Here's what you'll need:
-1 lb ground turkey
-1 bag of Broccoli Slaw
-15 oz tomato sauce
-3 or 4 oz tomato paste
-Garlic, Oregano, Basil, Salt & Pepper (all to taste)
*Optional - half an onion, diced

Brown your meat in one pan, and start making your "noodles" in another. Just add the bag of slaw to pot/pan and 1 cup of water. You'll want to boil until the water has completely evaporated. You want your noodles to be soft but not wilted, either.

I took my meat from the pan to drain it, and then basically tossed the directions out the window at this point. Not intentionally, of course, but it did happen. You can really just add the other ingredients to your meat while on the stove and let it simmer awhile longer in the pan- but after draining I just mixed and added everything in a bowl. Use as much or as little of each seasoning as you wish. I used a TON of oregano and basil, yum!

It still tasted great, so do whatever you darn well feel like, you little chef, you! ;) You can top with some grated parmesan cheese to complete the dish.

So, what do you have? Any good recipes using noodle substitutes? I've seen some great recipes using zuchhini as noodles but haven't tried it yet.  I'd love to collect some recipes from you all! PS- If you're looking for a recipe with real noodles, you have to check out Allison's Lemon, Parsley & Parmesan Pasta recipe today! 

Most Creative Husband in the World

Jared wins. Everything. Hands down. No questions asked. As I sit down to start this post, I don't think my descriptions or even my attempt at pictures will do his Valentine's Day surprise justice. It doesn't matter though, I know the memories we made Friday night will never, ever leave my mind.

He is seriously the most creative man ever and never fails to amaze me. Friday I knew I was supposed to stall a little bit so I happily spent some time at Target and waited for the 'all clear' to come home from Jared. Let's just say, there may have been tears when I saw what Jared had been working on all afternoon and evening for me. 

You should know by now that we are outright Disney nerds and aren't afraid to let that be known. If you remember, one of our favorite meals from DisneyWorld last year was in the "Be our Guest" castle. Obviously one of our favorite movies, but the atmosphere and the food were both incredible. We talk about it often and how we can't wait to eat there again one day… little did I know Jared had plans for us to eat there sooner, rather than later.

He completely transformed our lower level into a pretty darn amazing replica of the restaurant and castle. From the pillars and night sky backdrop, to the chandelier, romantic candlelight everywhere, our pals Mrs. Potts and Lumiere, and even the dark West Wing where the enchanted rose was hidden! Oh my gosh, Jared thought of every last detail!

But it doesn't end there, of course! Jared searched and scoured the internet for the closest possible recipes to what we ate in the castle, and I'd say he nailed it! A gourmet filet mignon, pommes frites and even the grey stuff for dessert! 

Is there any detail Jared didn't think of? I highly doubt it! He even had Beauty & The Beast cued up in our DVD player ready to go after dinner. I mean, we couldn't eat in the castle and not pay homage to the movie. My husband is absolute perfection, I swear! I truly don't feel like I deserve him most days. (Hashtag, I'm annoying myself with this gushy post!)

In all seriousness though, this was the most creative, fun way ever to spend our Valentine's Day at home.  Like I said… no pictures or words can truly depict this incredible night and the one truth I know for certain---I'm one lucky gal!

Today is All About Love

Happy Friday and Happy Valentine's Day to each and every one of you! Today is a day all about love, in all forms- so instead of completely grossing you all out with the mushy "I love my hubby" stuff, I thought I'd share with you all the things I'm loving right now, and today especially.

(Okay, I lied-- just a little mushy stuff, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!) Jared is planning an at-home date night for tonight and I cannot wait to get home tonight for a romantic night in. He's been super secretive and excited about tonight, so I'm looking forward to see what he's planned for us!

Blogger friends turned real-life friends. Last night I got to have dinner with the sweet Allison from Nestful of Love. Who knew when we went on our first 'blate' over a year ago we'd be meeting up regularly and chatting like old friends. 

In addition to having great conversation… I had my first-ever Chuy's and Ohio has been severely missing out. That was the best taco salad I've ever had in my entire life! And don't even get me started on the Cilantro Vinaigrette dressing! I will be visiting again soon and making Jared try it… I'm sure he won't complain ;)

Blogger friends who send way-too-adorable-and-generous gifts as a thank you for revamping their blogs! Sweet Kelsey sent me the best goodies ever yesterday. She must know me pretty well because notebooks and fun pens are right up there with Christmas and birthdays on my list of things I love.
This year! I seriously feel like I'm grinning ear-to-ear every day lately. I have so much to be thankful for and truly just feel joyful every day. What a refreshing feeling it is! I hope it never leaves.

Upcoming travel plans! I cannot wait for a change of scenery, especially since we're getting MORE snow today. I think it's safe to say most of the country is sick of the 'blah' weather and ready for some flowers and sunshine.

Losing weight! I'm finally getting there, slowly… very slowly. But if that's not something to love on Valentine's Day, I don't know what is!

What are you loving this Valentine's Day??

The $1 Valentine's Day Gift

Jared and I typically don't do anything extravagant for Valentine's Day. Either a nice dinner out, or a nice dinner at home and maybe small gifts. Oh, head's up for all you Valentine's Day haters. This post is about Valentine's Day. Perhaps I should have led with that? Too late now, I suppose.

So I wanted to do something cute and crafty for Valentine's Day but nothing that would require too much time or money, either. So when I stumbled upon an idea that would cost me less than $1? You know I jumped on that faster than you could say 'conversation hearts' and set out to make it happen. Enter, the easiest, cheapest Valentine's Day Craft in all the land.

Valentine's Fortune Cookies!

Stuff you need and already own:
- Mason jar (or small bowl, but let's be serious... you're a blogger. You have at least 15 one mason jar)
- Marker
- Scissors
- Paper, any kind will do
- Hot glue gun (this could be a stretch, but hopefully you have one! You can get one for $5 though!)

Item you need to spend your dollar on:
-1-2 sheets of felt, depending on how many of these bad boys you want to make
-Cute box to put them in, if you want!

Put your mason jar on the felt, trace with your marker and then cut. I felt the circles were tad small with the mason jar, so I used a large mug to trace some too- you can do different sizes!

Fold the circle in half to form a semi-circle. Put a small line of glue along the center edge, in between the layers and press sides together.

Put your index fingers inside the fold and bend the semicircle. This is awkward and took me a few tries to get the 'bend' right, but even if they aren't perfectly symmetrical they turn out cute! Add another dab of glue at the crease to hold that "pinched" shape... aka, fortune-cookie-shape.
Cut your strips of paper, write a fortune on it (silly or scandalous!) and tuck it inside the cookie.
Ta-da!! Adorable and simple!

Are you crafting anything this Valentine's Day Weekend?

Taco Soup in 20 Minutes

Probably 2+ years ago, I went to a Pampered Chef party where I purchased one of my absolute favorite pieces of cookware. Yes, you can have a favorite piece of cookware and be under the age of 60, I promise. And, no, I don't sell these products or anything like that- so no worries, no sales pitch here. Unless you count me trying to convince you that you should make this recipe in the near future as selling. If so, I'm guilty!

Anyway- this deep covered baker by P.C. comes with a hefty price tag, around $85.00. However, considering we use this bad boy regularly, almost every single week- it's been well worth it. It came with a HUGE collection of recipes specifically for it too, including things to make both in the microwave and the stove. It's magic, I tell you! Now obviously you don't need this specific piece of cookware to make the following recipe- but I just needed to address my love for it before I really got started.
easy taco soup recipe
Yes, you read that correctly! This taco soup can be made in the microwave and from start to finish should only take you about 20 minutes. It's the perfect meal to make on a week-night and the leftovers are even better!
Pampered Chef covered baker

You will need:
1 pound lean ground turkey or beef (We use ground turkey!)
1 small yellow onion 
1 package taco seasoning mix (Or make your own using this recipe)
15 ounces whole kernel corn, undrained 
15 ounces beans in chili sauce, undrained  (Sometimes I add these, sometimes I don't. Just depends on what we have on hand!)
1 can Rotel chilis and diced tomatoes, undrained 
1 can tomato soup 
1 soup can of water 

But seriously, just buy the taco seasoning packet-- this is too much work ;)

Place the meat and your chopped onion in the deep covered baker, or whatever your not-as-awesome cookware piece is ;) Aren't you excited I got a picture of raw turkey meat and a raw yellow onion thrown together in a dish? Clearly this is a really intricate step… don't mess up!

Cover and microwave on high for 4 minutes. Remove and crumble/chop/mix. Be thankful that Erin didn't take a picture of half-cooked meat at this point. No one wants to see that! Gag.

Cover and return to microwave for another 2 minutes. Remove and crumble/chop/annihilate the meat until it's at desired consistency. Drain the excess liquid from your dish. Then throw anything you can into the dish! Okay, okay just go ahead and add the remaining ingredients on the list. Or add your own… this really is one of those "can't mess it up" type of recipes. Jared loves to throw in some Frank's red hot sauce, and really that stuff goes with anything, so why not?!

Stir everything up thoroughly and heat in your microwave about 10 minutes or until hot.  Serve up this deliciouness with tortilla chips, extra salsa, sour cream,  grated cheddar cheese, cilantro- the possibilities are endless!

Getting Rid of Stuff

Friday night Jared had a guy's night scheduled and I had every intention of catching up on blog emails, writing and designs. I hit the gym hard after work that day  and by the time I settled in with my veggies, hummus and water, my creativity was long gone. So I did the second best thing… I logged into Pinterest and wasted hours of my life pinning away. That, and starting the very large task of cleaning up my pictures on my computer. That's an overwhelming task right there. I've got years and years of digital images on here that could be gone in an instant if something were to happen to my precious computer. That scary thought is motivating me to keep working on these yearly photo books and also to back up my images on CD. One day I'll get caught up… or is that even possible, considering I add another 200 images a week to my computer?! #bloggerprobz

Now that Spring is on the horizon -- okay, who am I kidding?! It's still 20 degrees in Ohio and green grass and flowers could easily be more than two more months away. However, I'm choosing to be optimistic and think Spring! Jared and I have already started a little bit of our Spring cleaning and decluttering and it's already making a big difference. We live in a smaller tri-level and I swear every closet, drawer, nook and cranny has been stuffed full of just that, STUFF. 

We definitely have way too much stuff in general, it's shameful actually. So it's been fun getting some of it out of our house little by little. We took an entire day and sorted clothes to keep, donate and throw away. I'm happy to say we were able to take THREE garbage bags full of clothes to GoodWill.

There are SO many decluttering checklists/spreadsheets on Pinterest and they have definitely been a huge help in keeping us focused. Jared and I plan to live in our house another 1-2 years tops, and I know I don't want to take a bunch of unused stuff into our next home. Since Pinterest can be overwhelming with information at times, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite organizational links/blogs.
My all-time favorite right now is the 52 weeks to an organized home challenge. I've printed a copy out and you don't have to go in order (I'm not!) but it's a great reminder of all the things big and small that need organized in our house. Of course they don't all apply to each of us (I could eliminate the week of pets, homework area, kids' closets) but I've been trying to pick at least 1-2 of these a week to make some progress on. It's always fun to cross one off and hopefully by the end of the year my house is perfect ;) Some of the tasks you could knock out in an hour or two, others will be on-going projects- but it's an easy way to keep track of what needs done.

A couple other favorites? Simplify 101 - Monthly goals/lists; a great starting point! Also, Two Things in Common - I love her deep cleaning schedule. Rather than doing ALL these things each Spring, she gives you one area/thing to deep-clean each month of the year. What organization projects have you taken on, or do you NEED to take on this month or year? :)

Never Stop Setting Goals

My husband is an intelligent guy. He is always teaching me something new, he can have conversations on just about any topic and hold his own no matter what's being discussed. He's just an all-around smart guy… which is super sexy if you ask me ;)

So it should come as no surprise to anyone that Jared said something pretty profound the other day that has stuck with me ever since. We were just at home one evening talking about our week thus far, and some of the goals we hadn't quite reached in the past month. No earth-shattering types of goals… just the small week to week things we'd wanted to get done and hadn't. I was a little disappointed in myself.

Then Jared said, "Erin… even if we fail every single week, over and over again, I never want to stop setting goals and working on them with you." Wow! I mean, how many of us do new years resolutions, or even just monthly goals and when we don't reach them we beat ourselves up or just abandon the goal completely? I know I've been guilty of that in the past. But we're never going to be perfect! We are never going to set a goal and effortlessly and perfectly achieve it. That's not realistic! Why would we set goals if it wasn't a challenge?

So many of my friends and I have had conversations about goals and aspirations lately. It seems we all want more out of life than just our normal 9 to 5 jobs. We have those things we feel are just dreams, but we also feel like we can make them a reality if we work hard enough. It's exciting to share my dreams with friends, and just as exciting to hear them talk passionately about something THEY want to achieve.
This is just my personal reminder I'm passing along to all of you:  Keep setting goals. Keep failing at them. Keep picking yourself up. Keep trying. Keep working. If you want something out of life you CAN achieve it. You might fail for weeks and weeks and weeks, but don't let that stop you. Never stop setting goals!

Happy Friday, friends. Go accomplish something great, I'm cheering for you!

Little Pieces of "History"

If you spend any time on my Pinterest boards you'll see that the majority of what I pin is food. Sure I post clothes I wish were in my closet, and baby stuff that of course I'll want to come back and use in three years… but food and recipes win by a landslide. Pinterest is an incredible resource and some of Jared and I's favorite meals are things I found there. Yes, it's true… I do actually make stuff I pin ;)
recipe cards
However, if you spent any time in my actual physical kitchen, not my electronic one, you'd see a plethora of recipes. Hand-written by me on post-it notes, printed out from various websites and my favorite- actual recipe cards given to me by family and friends. At my bridal shower almost three years ago, my sister had everyone write down a favorite recipe or two to bring with them to the party to start my collection. I'll definitely admit that my desserts section is the most full right now.

And I tell you what, those are some of my most treasured possessions. I know, I know… you're confused by the fact that I love these little handwritten lists of ingredients that are smudged with food. But these recipes were given with love! They were given to me as I started my new life, with my new family. 

These cards were meant for me to eat, to enjoy, to pass down to other family members and to make for friends. I have some of my favorite recipes written by my mom, my grandparents, and a couple extra-special ones from my Great-Grandma "Nina" who passed away almost one year ago. 
recipe cards

Sure, Pinterest is great, but knowing these adorable cards with their personal handwritten meals are now in my posession? There is something so cool about that to me. Maybe I'm old-fashioned… I mean, does anyone still use a recipe box anymore besides me? Maybe I'm just a big ol' sap (like my mother and grandmother! ;)) but family stuff means so much to me.

Now I have a cute recipe box to fill with all my favorite meals and add to year after year. I can only hope that I get to pass down little pieces of family "history" one day and that they can appreciate them as much as I do! 

Do you have favorite family recipes that have been given to you?
recipe box

The Spending Freeze Results // One Big Accomplishment!

I'm SO excited about today's post and that lots of you (I sure hope, anyway!) have joined forced with Sallie & Perkins and friends for a no-spend month. What better way to start 2014 than by teaming up with other like-minded people to work towards your financial goals?? We're pumped to be sharing our results, and even more pumped to read all about how your month-long spending freeze went. Don't forget to link up your post below!
So let's cut to the chase, shall we? Here are the non-necessities we spent money on this month:

-- Bengals Playoff Gear: $56.00 Biggest splurge of the month. Let's not discuss how I did this just 4 days into January ;) I thought for sure our boys were going all the way and had to grab a few AFC North Champ items for me and the family.
-- Gift for niece: $5.12
--Snack-size bag of pretzels from the gas station: $1.09
--Jimmy John's: $15.98
--Pizza + breadsticks from PapaJohns: $12.80 (I mean, we had a 50% off coupon, how could we not?!)

Total Spent that was not budgeted for/necessary: $90.99.

As you can see, our weakness is almost always food-related! We love to go out to eat, and how easy is it to order a pizza (or subs!) when it's 10 below and you just really don't feel like moving?? Too easy! Overall though, I really feel like we kicked some butt in January despite a couple minor incidents. We eat at home so much more now than we did when we first got married, and that has been probably the biggest impact on our budget and on our journey to be debt-free.

Speaking of debt-free, you don't mind if we brag just a bit here, doyou? Sallie & Perkins had their BEST EVER month as far as how much debt they eliminated in one month's time. Do keep in mind, we didn't pay off as much in December due to Christmas, and we also received a few year-end bonuses and cash as gifts which was able to be included in January's debt payment. So although this is not going to be the norm, it felt incredible to kick off 2014 in a big way.

Sallie & Perkins paid of $5,079.98 worth of debt in January 2014!!

Holy Moly are we excited!!! When we started this journey of focused, aggressive debt-slashing back in June 2013, we never imagined how quickly we could shrink our debt. We actually ENJOY sitting down and looking at our bank account at the end of the month and deciding exactly how much we'll be able to pay off. We ENJOY seeing those huge chunks of money leave our bank account, because we know it's just another step closer to the ultimate goal. The end is in sight, that's for sure.
There's the end!! I see it!!
We have no plans to let up now, we're going to keep on keeping on! Our goal to be debt free by August 1st is still a pretty lofty one, but I think we can do it. Cheers to the year we become debt free, and cheers to the year YOU make a change in your financial habits!! :)
Love, Fun and Football

Short & Sweet

My weekend in a nutshell? Sushi. Healthy baked treats. Sleeping in. Outlet mall shopping. Steak dinners. Church. Working out. Celebrating an 80th birthday. Super Bowl party. Did you catch all of that? I go from doing nothing picture-worthy and exciting to having a jam-packed weekend of so much fun with my husband, with family and with friends. It doesn't get better than that folks.

So since we're all probably grumbling that we stayed up too late watching the Super Bowl, I'm going to keep today's post short and sweet. We're all too tired to focus on a lot of words anyway, right? And because I know inquiring minds want to know… my quick thoughts on the Super Bowl:
  • I feel bad for the Broncos… what an embarrassment.
  • Bruno Mars would be so fun to see live.
  • Commercials were just so-so this year; I did love the Doberhuahua (Audi) commercial though and could totally relate to the Prom/Sean commercial (Turbo Tax).
I got to spend some quality time with Jared at home Friday night. We picked up sushi after hitting the gym hard and popped in a movie. But not before Jared tried out a recipe for 2-carb cookies… yes, you read that correctly. Healthy Almond Spice cookies with cool whip?! Yum!

Saturday after I deep-deep-deep cleaned our kitchen (wow, did it need it!) Jared and I headed out for a fun afternoon just wandering about and playing the day by ear. We ended up at the outlet malls where I snagged some AMAZING deals on running/workout gear. I am beginning to feel like a real runner these days and I'm loving it. We ended our night with delicious steaks from Outback, somewhere we hadn't been in forever!
Sunday was an awesome church service, followed by a quick workout and then we were off to celebrate my Mamaw's 80th birthday! I love that woman so much and goodness I hope I've got her spunk and smarts when I'm her age. She still seems so young to me, it's hard to believe she's the big eight-zero!
Not the most flattering shot of me… but seriously, how beautiful is my grandma??? :)
Oh, and there's a really good chance my parents may kill me for posting this… but it might just be my favorite picture I've ever taken of them. It's their "selfie" pose. Do you know where I get my crazy from now?? ;)

Like I said, short on words today, but you get the gist. I hope you all had a fun-filled weekend as well. Last reminder… don't forget to link-up your tell-all posts about No-Spend January TOMORROW!