Feeling Uplifted!

Somehow it's the last day of March… Could someone please explain that to me? It doesn't matter what I try, time continues to go faster and faster every year. That is a sure sign of an old person…crap. That's not good, considering I'm pretty sure I start every blog post at the end of a month the same way. I guess all we can do is hang on and enjoy the ride, no matter how fast it's moving!

This weekend was awesome. I mentioned Friday that my mom and I would be attending a women's conference and it was honestly the best time ever. I left feeling so uplifted and just plain joyful. Friday night and all day Saturday we got to hang together hearing amazing speakers like Kay Robertson, Pam Tebow, Karen Kingsbury and Margaret Feinberg. Plus there was incredible music all weekend by Jeremy Camp and Michael O'Brien.
There really aren't enough words to describe how much I learned, how much I was impacted and also how hard my mom and I laughed all weekend. I picked up an awesome book at the conference that I absolutely can't wait to dive into this week! If the Extraordinary women's conference ever comes to a city near you, I highly recommend attending :)

Our schedule was go-go-go and we may have stayed up just a tad too late watching Kentucky beat Louisville Friday night in our hotel room. By the time I got home Saturday night I was absolutely beat, falling asleep on the couch again so I finally gave in. I went to bed at 8:30. EIGHT. THIRTY! I'm either a toddler or a grandma, I can't quite decide; however, the 11 hours of sleep I got were absolutely glorious and I felt ready to go Sunday morning!

Sunday was filled with church and running errands with Jared. We hit up a few discount clothing stores while we were out, including Gabriel Brother's, do you guys have those near you? It's always hit or miss, and you never know what you're going to find there so of course when I was on the fence about a dress, I had to snap my SIL and get her opinion. I laughed SO HARD when she sent me a picture of herself THE DAY BEFORE trying on that same dress in the same store. Great minds, right?! ;) Neither of us ended up buying it but it just cracked me up.

Other than a little shopping, Jared and I came home to relax and make delicious ground turkey tacos will all the fixin's. As much as I miss carbs, these are always a tasty alternative!

How was your weekend? Did your March fly by as fast as mine seemed to??
PS- My birthday MONTH starts tomorrow ;) 

A Little More Imperfect

Oh, hey, blog. It's been awhile since I took two full days away from you. It felt weird, but also like a weight off my shoulders. I just didn't have anything to write and didn't have the energy to write, so I didn't! And look, my blog is still here and hopefully you are too. To be honest, the past week has taken a toll on me. I've been so exhausted- to the point that I fell asleep half-sitting-up Wednesday night for a solid twenty minutes or so. Yes, Jared caught a picture of it. No, it will not be posted here.

So anyway, I wanted to focus on some awesome stuff this Friday, and get you up-to-speed on my super exciting life.

1. One thing I AM super excited about it this weekend. My mom and I are going to the Extraordinary Women's conference tonight and tomorrow and we've been looking forward to it for a long time now. I am really excited to hear some amazing speakers, talented musicians and spending that quality time with my mom!

2. We are just a few days away from April, which is my very favorite month of the year. My birthday is in April andddd it happens to fall right on Easter this year, my favorite holiday! I already have so many fun things planned with family and friends so I know this April is going to be one for the books. I might just disappear from this blog completely for awhile with all the fun I'll be having. ;)

3. Sweet things from sweet bloggers. Jasmine knows I'm probably going through Disney withdrawal (still) and sent me the cutest headband to rock on my long runs! It's perfect for holding back these crazy bangs and baby hairs, and obviously anything with Mickey on it is a winner for me. You can check out her Etsy shop here and see all her designs!

4. Jared. Bless his heart, he's really the absolute best. We have our ups and downs like any couple, but he gets me and I love love LOVE being his wife. Sorry, I didn't warn you I was getting mushy today, but sometimes it just sneaks out of me. Even with my 17 nervous breakdowns this past week, Jared can always put a smile on my face and remind me that life truly is good.

5. Life is good, I said! Life is messy, imperfect, crazy and sometimes downright ugly- but life is still a precious gift that I want to embrace. Last weekend Kayla and I got a little picture-crazy and laughed until we cried over some outtakes we shot. Please note, it was much colder and windier than we anticipated.
Apparently footballs are VERY funny
It got us talking about how we wish everyone could just relax a little more... lighten up, act silly, not care what people are thinking! My life is not glamorous at all, not even close to it, but I LOVE IT! There are dirty dishes in our kitchen, I'm not at my goal weight yet and my job is making me insane right now. I have nothing to hide, yet nothing to gain by only showing the 'picture-worthy' parts of my life. Plus, you'd never get to see this photo of me if I lived like that ;)

I'm not that person who will pretend things are perfect, but I will tell you I 100% love my life. Life is not perfect, and I'm living mine the best I can; I hope you can hold onto that mentality as well. Have a little extra fun this weekend and live your life a little more imperfectly :)

Friendly is Fun

Yesterday was a GOOD Monday. Yes, you read that correctly and yes, it is possible to have a good Monday. If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen me tweet the following: 

If that doesn't make a Monday pretty darn tolerable I don't know what does ;) Clearly Katy Perry and I have the same hair/eye color and that's where that comparison stops, but gosh darnit I was excited someone noticed I've lost weight. I almost hugged said coworker when she said that. I'm definitely on my way, and it's definitely taken a lot of work. 

I've lost around 16 pounds since I was my 'biggest' ever, which was probably last year around Thanksgiving and I'm feeling better than ever. Clothes are fitting me that I haven't been able to wear in years; that gross, bloated feeling is something I'm forgetting; workouts are a regular part of my life… I truly feel like I've made a lifestyle change! Even with the hip pain I've been dealing with, I'm still making it a priority to stay active and I'm still making it a priority to eat healthy things.

Do I crave pizza and cake just about every day? Yes, absolutely. Will I eat those ever again? Oh yes, absolutely. But not yet, I'm not there yet. For now I'm doing what's best for this body and it's finally starting to pay off. Seeing the number on the scale go down feels AMAZING, but having someone actually notice and point blank say, "You've lost weight, haven't you?" feels even better. I still have weight to lose and goals to meet so that's still a priority over cake. Although I have been pinning a lot of dessert recipes lately… apparently I'm living vicariously through Pinterest? Oh, dear! ;)

So the point of this post? Well, I'm not sure there was one in particular, but I will say this:  If you feel like complimenting someone on something, anything at all, DO IT! I try to be really vocal and tell people when I like something they're wearing, or their haircut is adorable, etc… even if it's a perfect stranger. 

I have probably embarrassed Jared a time or two, like when I go out of my way to tell a random woman I love her Minnie Mouse purse (It happened last week at the Yankee Candle store) but hey, why not speak up?! Why not make someone feel good on that crappy Monday, or Tuesday or Friday? My girl Erika blogged recently about how everyone overuses the words creepy and awkward and she was spot on:  It's called being friendly! Adults can do that and there is nothing creepy or awkward about it, I promise! 

You never know when just a few kind words could make a difference in someone's day or week. 
I challenge you to compliment a stranger this week!

Boost Your Mood

Happy, Happy Monday! This weekend was one that actually felt long and relaxing, which is so rare it seems. It was nice to unwind with no major plans. Friday Jared and I stayed in and did absolutely nothing-- it was glorious :) Saturday I had fun trip to the salon with my SIL and we both got to grab lunch with my mom afterward. 

It's amazing what a mood-booster a quick trip to get your hair done can be! I hadn't cut my hair in honestly, who knows how long?! Probably at least 6 months, maybe more. The most amazing hair stylist in the world trimmed me up, gave me bangs again and basically made me feel like a celebrity! I'm sure every stylist compliments their clients to make them feel good (and I'm totally okay with that!) but she repeatedly told me how gorgeous my hair was and dang, does that feel good! Now if only I could actually style it the way she does… sigh, I'll never learn.

My fabulous new hair got me thinking about other things are InstaMood-Boosters… because certainly I should enjoy more of those whenever I can!

Like when you sing or dance for a little kid and they just clap and laugh and smile like you are the most entertaining human on the planet. For those few minutes, I always believe I'm hilarious.

Or soaking in a long, hot bath with new epsom salt that is scented with eucalyptus and peppermint. Whew, talk about feeling refreshed!

Getting something organized. Whether it was a day-long project you took on, or something as simple as a desk drawer with fun new, colorful trays… seeing something organized makes me happy.

A quick YouTube video you never get tired of laughing at. I may be immature but I never get tired of this one or this one. Also, watching any cute little kid on the Ellen Show is sure to boost your spirits too!

Working out is always a mood booster, as long as I can motivate myself to get it done. Getting started is the hardest part, but once I'm sweating it out? I feel great, I feel strong and healthy!

Photobooth. I've mentioned my love for this silly program time and time again, but it truly can make me laugh in a matter of minutes. Sure, it's fun to snap a cute picture of your new hair, but it's even funnier to play with the filters and laugh until you cry :)

What boosts your mood??

Running Gear Rocks

Happy to be linking up again with Amanda and Beka today and talking more running stuff. Even though I feel a little out of commission this week with my hip injury, that half-marathon is still coming up and today's post couldn't be more perfect. 

I've actually been on the hunt for new running shoes, as I've been wearing my current Nike's forever. I mean, we're talking yearssssss. With the mileage I've started putting on them, I'm going to have to pull the trigger on a new pair of shoes. I've been getting lots of recommendations from runners and it seems Brooks and Saucony are the tops choices. I'd love to hear more from you runners stopping in from the link-up!
I shared a few of my favorite running gear items in this post from January, and I still stand by them. Nike dri-fit socks seem to be the only ones that don't slip down during a long run. Wondering if that could have something to do with my shoes or my feet though... Do I have weird feet?! 

And my Under Armour Victory Tanks are just the best! So comfortable and when you get them at the outlets I can usually snag them for around $11 bucks. Soon I shall have the entire rainbow ;)

My birthday is coming up next month (hint.hint.) and I'm kinda' lusting after one of those pretty Garmin Forerunner GPS watches all the "legit" runners seem to have. I'd love to know if you use a watch like this, what brand/type and if they are worth the hefty pricetag! My post is turning more into a "Help! Tell me what gear I need to be a runner!" post, but I think that's okay, right?! Happy Friday, friends!

Spring Bucket List

Spring is HERE!! Happy first day of Spring, wherever you are, even if it doesn't quite feel like your weather got the memo yet. It's 55 here today in Ohio, so I'll take it. Yesterday was a gloomy, rainy day, but I secretly loved it. Spring showers are the best! Now if only I could have left work to take a nice long nap during that rain, THAT would have been the ideal way to kick off Spring ;)

I try to embrace most seasons (okay, except winter... I'd be okay if I never saw a snowflake again!) but Spring is definitely my favorite. The weather, the flowers, my birthday, our anniversary, Easter... I just love it all so I wanted to make a Spring bucket list to be sure I fit in as many fun activities as possible. Some are fun, some are simple but here's to checking them all off the list!

1. Hit up our local farmer's market.
I cannot wait for all the freshy-fresh produce to make it's way to our market. I'm looking forward to picking up some local, yummy and healthy items soon!

2. Fix up our yard/plant some flowers.
Feel free to drop this into my backyard- thanks.

Jared and I have definitely put our yard on a back-burner in the past few years, so we're ready to really make it look good! We want it to be a lot more inviting for when we…

3. Have people over for a backyard BBQ!
I don't think we hosted an outdoor type of party once last year, yikes! Time to change that up, whip up some yummy food, play cornhole and just had a good time enjoying the warmer weather.
This is from Easter at my in-laws a couple years ago- such a fun day!

4. Go hiking and/or biking with Jared.
While Jared and I work out and run together pretty regularly, we both want to mix it up and do different 'active' things together. We aren't far from a really great bike trail and also many parks we could walk/hike in, so it's a shame we haven't done it more.

5. Make some Easter crafts.
Easter is my favorite holiday. Yes, you read that correctly and yes, I might be the only person who loves Easter this much! Yet somehow we have hardly any Easter decor in our house so that will be changing very, very soon. And if my crafts fail? I'll hit up Hobby Lobby ;)

6. Attend a baseball game!
Another something we love to do and barely made time for last year. We can get Reds tickets so cheap, so there's really no reason not to get to a few games this spring/summer. Looking forward to picking one out and having a fun date at the ballpark with Jared!

7. Keep up with our Spring cleaning.
At least we've gotten a good start on this one! We've filled up quite a few bags and donated to GoodWill, and still have a long way to go. We just need to go after it little by little or I get overwhelmed by how MUCH there is to do.

8. Have a yard sale.
Our first official yard sale WILL happen in the next couple of months. Even though we've donated a lot, we still have a ton of things we want to try to sell. Sallie & Perkins would happily take that extra cash to speed up the debt repayment, as well! Fingers crossed people want to buy our junk! 

9. Find a free/cheap local event to attend.
There are so many things going on in our community this Spring! I've already written down most of them in my planner so we won't miss them. Some of Jared and I's favorite dates have been just the random days we wander out to do something or see something we've never done!

10. Wash/detail our cars!
My car is disgusting. No sugar coating it, it's bad. I'm waiting for a nice, warm Saturday to put the car in the driveway and go to town on it. Whew, it needs it!

What's on your list for this Spring??

Sallie & Perkins Believe in Vacations

Sallie & Perkins are getting controversial today. Yep, you heard it and you better buckle up because it might get a little bumpy! Ever since last June when we truly, seriously started this journey to slash our debt ASAP, we've been on our A-game. We try to motivate others to take control of their own debt situations, to stop spending, to pay extra on loans, etc... So what happens when Sallie & Perkins take a vacation?

I had a few people make the comment to me that they were shocked we would spend money on a vacation. (They were referring to our recent trip to DisneyWorld.) That got me thinking about our situation and it seemed like a perfect time to take a step back and look at what underlying principles guide what we do. To sum things up we believe in the power of KISS.

No, not that kinda' kiss. Keep It Simple, Stupid! Ever since Perkins and I sat down at the dining table last year we both decided to make a plan about our finances (using ideas from the likes of Dave Ramsey), talk about our spending habits regularly and most importantly to keep it simple sweetie! Perkins adaptation of the phrase ;)   We knew that if we tried to make it complex with charts, data-mining software and some financial advisor's 27 simple steps to debt freedom we would get discouraged as we would most likely fail to achieve them all.  That's why we chose to keep it simple and have some fun along the way on this debt journey.

Perkins and I researched and crunched numbers and analyzed and over-analyzed taking vacation this year. We truly put a lot of time, thought and prayer into it... and I'm not exaggerating. It took us quite a while to make a decision and I thought I'd help take away the shock factor for you all and fill you in on our process:

1. We came across an incredible deal for the trip. Disney deals are few and far between, but I did my research, knew the date/time the deal would be released and you better believe I was sitting at my computer at 5 a.m. when it went live to make sure we were able to book at the lowest rate.

2. We paid cash for the trip and still continued paying extra on our student loans each and every month. Our trip was completely paid for well in advance of our actual travel dates. 

3. My job. Due to my work schedule, I'm not allowed to take extended vacation time (more than 1-2 days) from mid-July until mid-January for the most part. That leaves a pretty small window of travel time and if we'd waited until our debt was paid off (shooting for August) we'd be waiting until the following Spring to even plan anything.

4. We looked at our budget and our projected end-date, and realized that by not going on vacation we'd only pay off our debt maybe a month or two earlier. One or two months?! Was sacrificing a vacation worth one more month of student loan debt? We decided no.

Now I don't say all this just say you can justify any type of vacation at any cost or at any given time, but I thought I'd share why we felt comfortable doing so. In fact, I'll just go ahead and put this out there right now:  We're going on another vacation before this year is over. And it fits into all the same reasons above that "allowed" us to go to DisneyWorld.

Most financial people, even Dave, would probably tell us this isn't the best use of our money, but it's just something we didn't want to miss out on. Long before we got married, we talked about all the places we would travel to as a couple, all the things we'd experience, all the new places we'd get to see together. It's something we've wanted for a long time! Jared Perkins and I will only be young and without children for so long and something we love doing together is traveling! To me, I'd much rather sacrifice eating out for a few months or a new Spring wardrobe if it meant a trip somewhere was possible. 

What are your thoughts? Do you spend money on vacations though you own someone money? What would you do if you were in Sallie & Perkins's shoes?

A Weekend Update

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone! I have an Irish name… and that's about as far as my celebrating goes this year. Oh, and I am wearing green to avoid any annoying, pinching co-workers, but that's definitely it. The only time I've ever 'celebrated' was a couple years ago when Jared and I ran a 5k, the Shamrock Shuffle and we got coupons for free food afterwards so we went to a local Irish pub. Because, really... who turns down free food??

This weekend I got to meet the adorable, real-life Becky! She came to visit my sister-in-law and I got to meet up with them both for a fun Friday night of mexican food and just a good time. Blogging is amazing, truly! Also, does anyone else have other experience with resizing photos for blogger and not losing quality? My account randomly wants to make everything super blurry now when I resize and I can't figure out for the life of me WHY!

In other news, I've got my first runners injury =\ My hip had been feeling a little sore for the past few runs, but I didn't think too much of it until Saturday's run. After I got done I had some shooting pain in my hip that was unlike anything I'd felt before and as the day went on, the pain increased. I took some Advil for the pain and I've been attached to the heating pad like it's my best friend, so I'm hoping with a few days of rest I'll be alright. I've only got another 7 weeks until my half-marathon so I don't feel like I can afford to take too much time off; but I also can't afford to seriously hurt myself! Runner friends, any insight to hip injuries is much appreciated!

That's all for today, I suppose. I won't bore you with an updated word-count on my novel (I worked on it a lot this weekend!) or a summary of the book I just finished (A Wedding in December- highly recommend) but instead, I'll invite you to comment :) When a little email pops up with a comment I probably enjoy it more than I really should… but that's okay! That's what this bloggy world is about and I hope you'll say hello on this Monday!

Just 5 Things

It's Friday and that's really all that matters today. I try not to be one of those people who only looks forward to the weekends or someone who complains all week long about how long it's been… but  goodness gracious this week has been long!! I am more than ready for a few days of fun and relaxation. And on that note? I want to leave you with my Friday 5.

ONE. Happy Pi Day, friends! March 14th. 3.14. Get it? Fun fact of the day. My 9th grade geometry teacher was absolutely crazy and had zero control over our class ever. Nothing ever got accomplished and I don't think I learned a thing all semester long with her. Other than memorizing 20+ digits of pi, that is. You see, this nerdy math teacher had a banner that went around her entire room of pi that probably had over 100 digits. I had enough time sitting and staring at it all day I could recite quite a bit of it. I have never forgotten it!

TWO. Protein Balls! Everyone and their momma has a different version of these but I'm convinced Jared and I came up with a pretty magical recipe last weekend. We've been eating these for breakfast all week, yum!

THREE. Kissing Student Loans goodbye! Jared and I paid off another student loan last night and it might have been the most exciting one yet. It started with a pretty hefty balance so knowing that it's finally gone is a HUGE relief. Plus, the loaner has been THE most difficult one to deal with… they really don't want you paying back your loans early. Proof is everywhere- including the fact that our next payment wasn't going to be due until 2024 since we were ahead of schedule!! 2024?!!!

FOUR. Spring, Spring, Spring! I'm wearing pastel colors today, it's going to be 60 and I'm just grinning from ear to ear about that. Our backyard is becoming home to so many gorgeous birds, I think we need to put up a bird feeder so I can get this little guy to come a little closer ;) So pretty!

FIVE. Friends, old and new. I get to meet a blog friend for the first time this weekend (yay!) and I also enjoyed an amazing conversation with one of my college roomy's last night (Hi, Amanda!). I miss that girl like crazy and even though we are terrible about getting together and making plans, it's like we never miss a beat. So thankful for a friendship like that!

Happy Friday, friends!! What's on your list of 5 things today?

My Life Lately

Since all I've done is talk Disney and vacation for the past couple of weeks, I thought maybe I should fill you all in on the rest of my life. I feel like a million things have happened and changed, but at the same time everything's remained the same. Funny how life works like that!

I've talked about my obsession with cauliflower multiple times here (I'm pretty sure it's a search term to find my blog these days... awkward.) and that certainly hasn't changed. Over the weekend Jared came up with our BEST cauliflower creation to date. Do yourself a favor and purchase some Truffle Oil. The price might scare you at first, but you only need a tiny bit to go a long way. All Jared did was toss the cauliflower in a little bit of the olive oil, salt and pepper then popped them in the oven at 400 degrees for about an hour.
Once they come out of the oven, toss them in a little bit of the truffle oil and fresh chopped parsley. Voila! We INHALED an entire head of cauliflower in minutes. Minutes, people!

Now that I just geeked out over a vegetable... We also have revamped our little office space a bit. Our house is small and the bedrooms aren't exactly a spacious area to be super creative in. There is also no overhead lighting in any of the bedrooms, so we found a great new floor lamp at Target that we love and a couple other small accessories to brighten things up a bit and hopefully stir up some extra creativity.

Sure, I'd love to re-do our entire office, but that's just not realistic right now. Although Sallie and Perkins haven't posted in awhile, they are still hard at work chipping away at those student loans! Jared and I are both pursuing a dream of becoming published so we need an inviting space to work in and I think a few more personal touches will seal the deal!
I'm looking forward to so many different things right now. My job hasn't been the most fun lately, so I'm really grateful I have exciting things on the calendar coming up. Friends coming to visit, a women's conference with my mom, local events, birthdays and hopefully Spring's real arrival. We've been getting teased with warmer weather so I can't wait for it to be here to stay. I need some sunshine and flipflops ASAP! 

Life lately has been weird. I've been having lots of overwhelming feelings about things and sortof just feeling like I'm at a crossroads in my life. I don't mean to be vague, and please know NOTHING is wrong, I promise. Life really is good! Just one of those times in life you feel like you're changing, reevaluating, thinking, dreaming, wishing, hoping... I don't know, it's hard to put into words. I feel challenged to do new and different things lately and take charge of what I want without holding back. These feelings excite me and puzzle me simultaneously. Maybe I'm growing up after all? :)

Final Day of Disney {Animal Kingdom}

My traffic and blog comments have slowwwwly decreased each Disney post. I guess there aren't as many Disney nerds following my blog as I thought ;) Well this is the final recap of our amazing vacation, so you're either sad to see these end (me) or possibly happy I'll go back to being a "normal" lifestyle(ish) blogger now. Either way- I present you with, the Animal Kingdom!

*Disclaimer, I look like death in these photos due to spending 12-15 hours walking in parks for the previous 5 days and not really sleeping more than 5 hours a night.*

We had SO much fun at this park... it was the best weather day by far. A nice, crisp morning turned into a gorgeous, sunshine-filled day. The first thing we always do (you know, in our two trips here together) is head straight for the Kilimanjaro Safari. It's perfect to ride early when there is no line and when the animals are out and about. We saw just about EVERY animal on our early morning safari ride.

The couple other biggies we hit up early were Expedition Everest (which we rode, and immediately got back in line and rode again instantly!) followed by the Dinosaur ride. Both resulting in fun ride photos and memories.
Lunch that day was at a place we've heard a TON about so we were excited to dine there. I won't lie, this was the only place in Disney that the service was lacking a little. However, the drool-worthy food and cheesecake with mango/strawberry topping? Made up for it. Holy yum!

The rest of the afternoon we walked and explored. That's something I love about Animal Kingdom, but a lot of other people (i.e., people with double-wide strollers) complain about. There are lots of pathways that wind and twist all throughout the park so navigation isn't always super clear. If you're childless and have the whole day ahead of you like us though, it's fun to meander and see what you can find. The Pangani Forest Exploration Trail goes right alongside the gorilla habitat and it's incredible and thrilling to be that close to such massive creatures!

Animal Kingdom is also host to Mickey's Jammin' Jungle parade- a must-see! So much fun music, awesome floats and more. If you're lucky to catch Timon on a good day, he's absolutely hilarious and interacts with parade watchers like us! Oh, and those costumed guys on stilts? Sign me up for that job too!
And that, my friends, concludes Erin & Jared's 2nd annual Walt Disney World vacation. Are you exhausted just from looking and reading?! It's a big trip, and there is always something new to do when you're there. I think we will always be looking forward to the next trip we can make there, no matter how far away it might be. If any of you are ever considering a Disney vacation, don't hesitate to email me. I love talking Disney and would be happy to share any information or helpful tips I can!